Experts: A harsh, bloody winter awaits Ukrainian and Russian soldiers News of the Russian-Ukrainian war

This winter is likely to see a long and bloody stalemate in Ukraine, with neither side backing down from attacks and counterattacks, but it could sow the seeds for negotiations next year, experts tell Al Jazeera.

Retired Colonel Seth Kromreich, who is now vice president of security consultancy Global Guardian, told Al Jazeera: “Winter will enhance the misery… Neither side will be able to achieve a tactical or operational breakthrough.”

Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive in early June, in which some estimates regained half of the territory Russia had seized earlier in the year.

But it failed to achieve its strategic goal of dividing Russian forces into two parts, and isolating Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the Crimean Peninsula from Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv. Senior Ukrainian leaders said the counteroffensive would continue through the winter.

Last month, Russia tried to respond with a new set of attacks in the east – heading towards the cities of Kubyansk, Liman, Avdiivka and Marinka. None of them succeeded, but Russia continued its attacks despite the snow and frost Proven Near Kubyansk on November 21.

“I think they’ll try to push through the winter,” Krumrich said. “The ground is freezing, [they’ll] Try to make some moves because they are desperate. I don’t mean Ukrainians. I mean the Russians. Soldiers won’t want to do that. It will be a disaster. “There will be more bodies.”

This is already clear. According to estimates by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the number of Russian deaths reached 6,260 in the week extending from the twentieth to the twenty-sixth of November, meaning an average of about a thousand dead per day – as a result of the continuing Russian attacks in the east.

“This is a war that lacks a high strategy,” Konstantinos Grivas, who studies weapons systems and geopolitics at the Greek Military Academy, told Al Jazeera.

“Russia has become trapped in a war of attrition, which has its own logic… It is a war on autopilot.”

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Grivas said both sides failed to find a technological or tactical advantage that would lead to a breakthrough because the defense was dominant.

“Firepower and passive defenses — minefields and trenches, for example — appear to have neutralized the capabilities of mechanized and airborne forces,” Grivas said. “If there is a decisive development it will be a collapse due to fatigue – like a boxing match where one fighter simply cannot take the blows, but not from a knockout punch.”

Both sides have had strategies for success, but all have so far been repulsed.

Russia was hoping for a rapid collapse of the Ukrainian armed forces when it invaded in February 2022. When that failed, it rained down 10,000 missiles on Ukrainian cities to break the country’s will to fight.

Last winter, Russia targeted power plants, causing power outages, and in July it began targeting port infrastructure to stop the export of Ukrainian grain.

Ukraine’s Western allies responded with air defense systems, spare parts and emergency generators to keep Ukraine’s power flowing. They have provided Ukraine with medium-range missiles as well as its own domestically manufactured drones to return Russian naval power to its shores, creating a safe corridor for commercial shipping.

Ukraine tried its own offensive strategies. These long-range weapons were used to strike deep into the Russian rear to disrupt the supply of weapons to the front, but Russia moved its stocks out of range and found side routes for delivery. Ukraine sent drones to attack Russian missile manufacturing sites and Moscow itself, but their payloads were too small to cause much damage.

Ukraine recently ordered F-16 fighter jets, which some NATO members have agreed to supply, but it is doubtful that these planes will also be a stalemate-breaker, experts say.

He added: “Even if they get F-16s, they will not be able to use them effectively because these planes need thousands of hours.” [of training] “On a flight to be operational,” Andreas Eliopoulos, former deputy commander of the Greek Army, told Al Jazeera. “It won’t be effective until 2025.”

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“I think all of this is a Ukrainian effort to continue demanding Western aid and avoid fatigue and pressure to negotiate,” Grivas said.

Ukraine’s allies have banned Russian oil, gold, diamonds, timber and other lucrative exports to starve the Russian economy, but Russia has sold its oil at discounted prices to China, India and other markets.

The sanctions also attempted to stop the flow of capital and sensitive technologies to Russia. But Russia has been manufacturing weapons and buying artillery shells and drones from pariah states that share their hatred of the United States – Iran and North Korea.

Last August, Ukrainian intelligence estimated that Russia had about 585 missiles of various types, but it plans to build more than 100 missiles per month. The Ukrainian military said this month that Russia had stored more than 800 missiles in Crimea alone and was preparing to launch them.

Is it time for negotiations?

Russia’s ability to maintain its stockpiles and rely on large manpower reserves has led some observers to suggest that time is on its side.

“Ukraine was likely to lose in a protracted war of attrition because it would be an unfair fight,” John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, wrote in a recent op-ed titled “Doomed to Lose.”

“I keep hearing people say it will wear down the Ukrainians. That’s not going to happen with a conscript army that doesn’t want to be there,” said Krumrich, who participated in special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and believes Russian soldiers’ morale is collapsing.

“Every wave of soldiers who somehow survive and return home, they tell everyone they can, for the love of God, don’t get pulled back to Ukraine,” Krumrich said.

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Recent reports indicate that an increasing number of Russian soldiers want to return home.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky abandoned any negotiations while Russia was on Ukrainian soil, Russia was more precise.

“Russia has never refused to hold peace talks with Ukraine,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the G20 on November 21. “Naturally, we should think about how to stop this tragedy.”

“I think it’s sending a message back, ‘Hey, I need a way out.'” “When he got into this … he didn’t have a plan for this situation,” Krumrich said.

“I think the secret desire of both is how to get out and who will go to negotiations first,” Grivas said.

But is it likely to happen this winter?

Both sides are showing a desire to fight at the moment.

Putin may be looking for a symbolic victory before elections scheduled for next April and further divisions in the Western alliance, experts say, especially if former President Donald Trump appears likely to win the US presidential election.

“What will happen to the American elections… Trump and what the Republicans stand for does not help Ukraine, and could make things easier for Russia,” Krumrich said.

Congressional Republicans loyal to Trump led efforts this year to cut off the flow of military aid to Ukraine, saying the US deficit was too high.

Even if Ukraine is eventually divided, some people believe Russia will suffer a greater loss.

Russia is heading towards a major defeat. “Its victory would be a disaster, because it is isolated from the rest of Europe, which is a huge blow to its existential core,” Grivas said.

It’s been given an Asian flair. He added: “The winner is China and other Eurasian powers, which are able to use Russia to achieve their foreign policy goals.”

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