On 300th day of full war, NV quizzes experts for forecasts of future of war
Hot time. The winter months can be critical (Photo:DR)
How will Ukraine and its army get through the winter? Will the Russians be able to knock out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, and what will the situation be like on the front before the beginning of spring? How will Ukrainian society react to problems with electricity, communications, heating, and water supplies?
NV sought answers to these and similar questions by interviewing five experts: Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military observer of the Information Resistance NGO project, political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko, economist Hlib Vyshlinskyi, international expert Nazar Prykhodko, and energy expert Oleksandr Kharchenko.
Here, in the experts’ views, are the three most likely scenarios for the near future.
Local success in the south, blackouts and protests – negative scenario, probability 25%
The Armed Forces of Ukraine will launch an offensive on Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk Oblast, but the enemy will stop it immediately behind both towns. And this means that by spring, Ukrainian forces will not be able to reach even the demarcation line of 2014 in this area.
At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will launch a major operation to liberate the south of Zaporizhzhya Oblast, along the line from Tokmak to Enerhodar, but will be stopped on the approach to the coast by fortifications built by the invaders around Melitopol. That is, they will not be able to cut the land corridor from the Donbas to Crimea. This will prevent the full liberation of the south of the country and the trapping of the enemy on the occupied peninsula.
Local blackouts will occur after each massive missile strike if the Armed Forces of Ukraine fail to obtain Western air defense systems. Recovery from each attack, will take longer and longer. Power shortages will grow even more. Many large cities will face lack of heat supplies, due to which local authorities will start programs of partial resettlement of their residents in rural areas. This will cause negative trends in the economy – GDP will continue to decline. In addition, a stratum of the population – from among the electorate of the Opposition Platform-For Life or the opposition Bloc – will begin to demand peace more and more. Some politicians will take advantage of this. By their actions, all these people will force patriotic Ukrainians to reveal their point of view and thereby create internal tension in society. Bankova (the President’s Offices)’s position will weaken, while the Kremlin, through its Western lobbyists, will begin promoting the idea of a ceasefire and peace talks on its own terms.
A major offensive in the south and east, neutralization of enemy missile attacks, recovery of the economy – positive scenario, probability 30%
A sharp increase in the supply of Western air defense systems gives Ukraine good protection from missile and drone strikes by the invading army – a maximum of three secondary infrastructure facilities are affected by each attack, which occur no more than once every two to three weeks. Emergency blackouts become a thing of the past. The situation in the energy sector fully stabilizes by the New Year, and in the spring, in April - May, the duration of blackouts significantly reduces, and they are completely abandoned by summer, except in frontline areas.
Society will maintain full unity on patriotic positions. Refugees will return en masse to the country. All this will push the economy upwards, towards recovery.
At the same time, taking advantage of their high-tech weaponry, soldiers’ equipment and superior logistics, the Armed Forces of Ukraine launch a major offensive both in Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya oblasts. Ukrainian forces are opposed by invading units consisting of soldiers unprepared for the winter, as well as officers who have far greater fuel and supply problems than now.
Closer to spring, the Armed Forces of Ukraine recapture the entire north of Luhansk Oblast and reach the borders of 2014. In the south, thanks to an amphibious operation on the Kinburn Spit, the Defense Forces enter the rear of the invaders’ defense line on the left bank of the Dnipro River, break it and force the enemy to flee. By the end of winter, the Armed Forces of Ukraine reach the administrative border of Crimea.
Ukrainian units attack the enemy in Zaporizhzhya Oblast, oust the invading forces from the Dnipro River to the Sea of Azov, liberate Tokmak, Melitopol, Henichesk, and Berdyansk, and approach Mariupol from the west.
Meanwhile, Western countries introduce new packages of sanctions against Russia, while talks about Ukraine’s membership in NATO will emerge with renewed vigor.
At the same time, Ukraine’s position in the east of the European Union will strengthen. The current Lublin Triangle (Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania) will begin to turn into a powerful regional union, which not only Latvia and Estonia, but also Georgia and Azerbaijan are ready to join.
There are successes, but not total – intermediate scenario, probability 45%
By the middle of winter, gradually intensifying pressure, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to break through the enemy front in the west of Luhansk Oblast and reach Starobilsk, gaining control over the entire northern part of the region. The Bilohorivka area will become a springboard for the advance of Ukrainian troops to the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk agglomeration. The Defense Forces will liberate both of these towns by spring, and the enemy will retreat under the threat of being outflanked from the north.
Long-term consistent pressure in the form of artillery and rocket fire, as well as the actions of saboteurs, will create conditions for a breakthrough of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the south, to Melitopol. The “land corridor” to Crimea is cut off, albeit on a relatively narrow front line.
The work of air defense becomes more effective thanks to Western supplies, while the damage to the energy infrastructure is not be critical. Even in the worst case, emergency blackouts will not exceed six hours at a time. In the economy, things will go roughly in the current trend – with the hope of growth and no failures.
A high level of consolidation will remain in society, while individual dissatisfaction of citizens is more related to local dissatisfaction with the actions of individual officials.
The West continues to support Ukraine, gradually increasing the supply of military equipment. Some countries will even transfer heavy tanks to Ukraine in the spring.
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