How long will Russia-Ukraine war last? Why a prolonged war is likely?

The Russia-Ukraine war has become a war of attrition in the medium term. More weapons deliveries planned by Western allies to strengthen Ukraine’s defence capabilities, and the Russian regime’s unwillingness to withdraw its invading troops from the occupied territories means the war will last and the risk of a protracted war is high.

With additional resources for Ukraine, such as F-16 fighter jets, more modern tanks and long-range missiles, Russia’s potential of holding on to the captured villages and towns in the south and east is becoming increasingly hard. Putin’s invading troops are getting exhausted. However, they may still hold out until next spring or summer.

Putin will lose a prolonged war – Zelenskyy

Russian President Vladimir Putin will lose a prolonged war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated in an interview with The Economist.

According to Zelenskyy, having failed to conquer Ukraine quickly, Putin is determined to exhaust it and the resolve of its partners. Putin seeks to turn Ukraine into a dysfunctional, depopulated state whose refugees create problems in Europe. But in the meantime, Russia itself is fragile.

“Putin does not understand that he will lose in a long war. Because it doesn’t matter that 60% or 70% [of Russians] support him, no, his economy will lose. As Ukraine intensifies its strikes inside Russia, Russians will start asking uncomfortable questions about the inability of their army to protect them,” the Ukrainian president said.

In addition, Putin’s power has already been weakened by the mutiny of the leader of the Russian private military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed later in an air crash. Zelenskyy is confident that Putin’s regime’s control will be cut further.

Ukraine is ready for a prolonged war – Zelenskyy

The Ukrainian president says he does not want to think about a protracted war but is preparing for it. “I have to be ready; my team has to be ready for a long war, and I am emotionally ready,” he said.

According to Zelenskyy, some partners may take Ukraine’s recent difficulties on the battlefield as a pretext to force it into negotiations with Russia, but “this is a bad moment because Putin sees the same thing.”

At the same time, the Ukrainian president is well aware of the risks to Ukraine if the West withdraws its economic support. With some of its Western allies, including the US, holding elections next year, Zelensky knows that maintaining support will be difficult, especially in the absence of significant progress on the frontline, The Economist wrote.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy also expects US President Joe Biden to continue supporting Ukraine if he is re-elected, as the US is unlikely to want a “second Afghanistan”.

Ukraine expects more weapons from allies

Zelenskyy believes that the way to convince Western governments that they are on the right side in Russia’s war against Ukraine is to push them through the media. Public opinion prompted politicians to increase arms supplies to Ukraine in the early days of the war, and reducing this aid could anger not only Ukrainians but also Western voters, who would start asking why these efforts were made, he said.

The President of Ukraine explains that the slow pace of the counter-offensive reflects the extreme level of danger faced by Ukrainian servicemen. Recapturing the territory must be balanced with saving as many lives as possible, Zelenskyy said.

He rejects the idea of compromise with Putin. The war will continue “as long as Russia remains on Ukrainian territory,” Zelenskyy stated. A negotiated agreement will not be permanent. The Russian president is in the habit of creating “frozen conflicts” on Russia’s borders (e.g. in Georgia) not as an end in itself but because his goal is to “restore the Soviet Union”.

There is no diplomacy with Putin – Zelenskyy

Those who decide to talk to the man in the Kremlin are “deceiving themselves”, just like the Western leaders who signed an agreement with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938 only to watch him invade Czechoslovakia. “The mistake is not in diplomacy. The mistake is diplomacy with Putin. He is only negotiating with himself”, Zelenskyy said.

Reducing aid to Ukraine will only prolong the war, Zelenskyy argues. And it will create risks for the West. It is impossible to predict how the millions of Ukrainian refugees in European countries will react to their country being abandoned.

The West and Ukraine have clearly understood that the Putin regime will not make concessions, and its invading forces will remain in the occupied Ukrainian territories. On the other hand, Ukraine is not ready to negotiate if Russian troops remain on its territory. And no one wants to take the Russian authorities at their word.

Ukrainian Army expects Abrams tanks, F-16 jets, and more long-range missiles

That is why the Western allies have set their sights on increasing their support for Ukraine with weapons. Many of the heavy weapons promised by our partners are still in the process of being delivered to Ukraine or are still pending. For example, in September, American Abrams tanks are arriving in Ukraine. More Leopard tanks will also come.

Western F-16 fighter jets can be expected in Ukraine early next year. The F-16s will end Russian air superiority and strengthen Ukraine’s defence against Russian missile attacks. To this end, Ukraine will receive more modern air defence systems, such as Patriot, Samp/T, and Iris-T. Decisions on deliveries have already been made.

In addition, the US and Germany are close to providing Ukraine with long-range missiles. The German government may soon decide to supply Taurus missiles. In return, the US may quickly provide Ukraine with ATACMS missiles. I should note that the Ukrainian Armed Forces already use long-range missiles from France and Britain – SCALP and Storm Shadow.

For its part, Moscow is desperately seeking more weapons to avoid defeat in the medium term, turning to isolated authoritarian regimes such as North Korea and Iran.

Ukrainians and Europeans should be ready for a prolonged Russia’s war

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has become not only a failed attempt of Putin’s regime to capture a neighbouring country but also a war of attrition in the medium term. More weapons are planned for new deliveries, and the Russian regime’s reluctance to withdraw from the occupied territories means the war will continue.

Of course, with additional resources for Ukraine, Russia’s chances of holding on to the captured villages and towns in the south and east are becoming increasingly problematic. However, they may still hold out until next spring.

Ukrainians and citizens of European countries should be prepared for a scenario where Russia’s full-scale war will last long and not end by the end of this year or the spring of 2024. In this war, not only Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake, but also Europe’s security and economic stability and the world’s security architecture.

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