And, sooner or later, Putin will mobilize Belarusians for war. And Ukrainians too, if we fall. It's only a matter of time if it's not stopped.
The World Russian Council, at which Putin recently spoke, the ban on abortion that shines on Russia, the rewriting of history textbooks, and military-patriotic education in schools – all this testifies to Russia's preparation for a long war, and not only against Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic countries are already preparing, which they say publicly.
It seems that after Prigozhin's unsuccessful campaign against Moscow in June this year, as well as after the Russians blew up the dam of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, key Western capitals decided: let Putin be in the Kremlin rather than some crazy people who can turn the world into nuclear ashes. Although at the end of March 2022, when Kyiv resisted, US President Joe Biden stated that Putin could not remain in power in Russia. It seems that our Western partners are not against negotiations with Putin on the settlement of the war, which Ukraine will be increasingly persuaded to against the backdrop of a reduction in armed aid.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urges to prepare for bad news from Ukraine. A portion of betrayal is spreading in the Western media – articles and op-eds that Putin will win this war. The Washington Post published a huge article about the analysis of Ukraine's summer counteroffensive, which did not achieve its goal - to reach the Sea of Azov, cutting off Russia's land corridor from the occupied Donbas to Crimea. However, several dozen American and European officials who gave their assessments for this article for some reason do not put the blame on themselves. In particular, how could Ukrainians reach the administrative border with Crimea without at least parity with the Russians in aviation, artillery shells, drones and electronic warfare?
In this text, TSN.UA has collected the main theses that are voiced by Western media and officials at closed meetings, why the West is likely to persuade us to freeze the war and negotiate with Putin, and what are the three key factors that led to this.
Search for the guilty: the West believed in a miracle without giving us weapons
Ukraine and the West have fallen into the trap of their own inflated expectations from the results of the summer counteroffensive. Now Western military analysts and experts are directly saying that Kyiv has not achieved a significant breakthrough due to a lack of weapons that the allies did not deliver on time, and moreover, not in full. However, for some reason, the West believed that the Defense Forces of Ukraine, as in the fall of 2022, would demonstrate a miracle, and without aviation, sufficient ammunition and everything else, they would reach the coast of the Sea of Azov and the administrative border with Crimea.
As for the peninsula, the West, especially the United States, has never considered its liberation realistic. The maximum is the demarcation line as of February 23, 2022. It was believed that Ukrainian army reached Crimea, went on the defensive, and this in itself was a strong negotiating position between Kyiv and Moscow. However, this did not happen. Both the West and Ukraine seem to have underestimated the strength of the "Surovikin Line" – the defenses that Russia built at the front while Kyiv was preparing for a counteroffensive.
According to The Washington Post, Kyiv and Washington radically disagreed on the time and place of the counteroffensive. The Pentagon insisted that everything should start in April to prevent Russia from digging in even more. The Ukrainian military insisted that they would not leave without weapons and training.
"The United States advocated a pinpoint offensive along the southern front, but the Ukrainian leadership believed that its forces should attack at three different points along the 600-mile front: south in the direction of Melitopol and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, and east in the direction of Bakhmut (the winter defense of which many Western analysts already consider a mistake, because Ukraine has suffered heavy losses there – ed.)," - writes WP.
Although, as the editor of the German Bild Julian Röpke wrote very aptly in his post on X (formerly Twitter), how could Ukraine defeat Russia when the United States supplied Kyiv with only 31 Abrams tanks out of 6 thousand? on the balance sheet in America, of which 2.6 thous. are on alert. The situation is the same with long-range ATACAMS missiles, of which Ukraine received only 20 (with a cluster warhead and far from 300 km) out of more than 3 thousand. available in warehouses in the United States. And in general, according to statistics, since August, American military aid has begun to decrease significantly.
An article headlined "Putin Seems to Be Winning the War in Ukraine – So Far," which at first glance reeks of betrayal, actually contains the right call for the West, especially Europe, to finally wake up.
First, stop flirting with China and finally recognize that Beijing has been helping Putin a lot in the war against Ukraine for a long time. Western governments knew very well that Russia had received Chinese engineering equipment to build the Surovikin Line. In addition, without Beijing's tacit consent, Russia would not have received more than a million artillery shells from North Korea. Plus, there is growing evidence that the Russians are using Chinese shells on the front lines, while the West continues to repeat that Beijing has not yet crossed the red line, because China does not provide direct military assistance to Russia.
Secondly, to finally sanction dual export schemes through Armenia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries that help Russia obtain sanctioned Western components for its defense industry; and to cut off Moscow's ability to sell oil and gas to circumvent sanctions. TSN.ua has already written that in October of this year alone, Moscow doubled its profits from the sale of energy carriers to $18 billion. And that's in just one month. And the U.S. is still unable to approve a $2024 billion aid package for Ukraine for 61, which is slightly more than three months of Russia's oil and gas windfalls.
Unity around Putin: the majority of Russians support the war
The West has fallen into its own trap of false expectations about possible changes within Russia. Yes, Ukraine also had hopes for this as the number of Russians killed in a full-scale war increased. However, Putin's regime has proven to be more resilient. At the end of the second year of the full-scale war, the Russian oligarchs and the population who support the war and the murder of Ukrainians continue to further consolidate around the Kremlin's policies. The Washington Post and the respected American think tank Atlantic Council wrote about this, referring to polls and focus groups of the Russian Carnegie Center and the Levada Center, according to which 68% of Russians support the continuation of the war, because, in their opinion, they are fulfilling a messianic mission.
Can this data be trusted, especially when it comes to Levada, which is completely subordinate to the Kremlin? Unlikely. However, if the percentage of Russians who are against the war were much higher, we would have noticed it somehow, including at the front. In his column for the Atlantic Council, Peter Dickinson, editor of the UkraineAlert service at this think tank, rightly notes that more than a million Russians (although the real figure is much higher – ed.) who fled Russia after the full-scale invasion and Putin's announcement of the first major wave of mobilization in September 2022, do not want to publicly speak out against the war.
"Despite the fact that they do not face any restrictions that are in force in Russia itself. Although there are large Russian diasporas in many cities in Europe, there have been very few anti-war rallies or any other attempts by Russian citizens to protest the invasion since February 2022. When Russians in Finland recently mobilized for protests, it was to complain about the temporary closure of some checkpoints on the border with Russia," writes Peter Dickinson.
Russian "experts" talk about the messianism that the Kremlin has made Russians believe in. However, in fact, another thing has happened that the regime has achieved on the international stage. Putin managed to convince the West that it is better than he is already in the Kremlin than madmen like Girkin or Prigozhin. This is not a very good signal for Ukraine, because at some point, our allies, by reducing military and financial assistance, may put pressure on Ukraine to start negotiations with Putin.
Negotiations and freezing: the West agrees to Putin in the Kremlin
The bitter truth for both Ukraine and the West is that Russia has adapted to fighting a long war. In addition, and American publications are already writing about this quite openly, Western Excalibur guided projectiles, JDAM guided bombs, or even GMLRS missiles for HIMARS are not so effective now due to powerful Russian electronic warfare systems. Not to mention the relatively cheap FPV drones that destroy expensive Western armored vehicles.
"The sky over the battlefield is now filled with Russian drones. Around Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian military, Russia is deploying twice as many of them. Russia's growing success in drone warfare is partly due to the density of electronic warfare systems it is able to use thanks to years of investment in the industry," The Economist writes.
Ukraine has its own developments of electronic warfare systems. However, it is always a matter of investment, political will and those responsible for it. Because at the end of the second year of the full-scale war, for some reason, we do not have our own electronic warfare systems in sufficient quantities. The West will not help us much here either, at least for now, because this is a matter of technology transfer and export controls, which the allies are unlikely to do, fearing that they may fall into the hands of the Russians, and then the Chinese.
This summer, when it became clear that Ukraine's counteroffensive was stalling, Kyiv requested mine countermeasures and electronic warfare equipment from the West, especially the United States, including large engineering equipment for demining, long-range missiles and more F-16s. Politically, however, there was already a growing rift in Washington, and since August, U.S. military aid has been significantly reduced. The EU, while helping Ukraine, has always looked to America. A striking example is Chancellor Scholz's decision to supply us with Leopard tanks only after President Biden's decision on Abrams tanks. Therefore, there is no reason to hope that the EU will cover the lack of US assistance.
Since then, the political divide in the United States has grown into a real crisis. For four months, Congress has not been able to pass the federal budget for 2024, which provides more than $60 billion for Ukraine. The Biden administration wanted to link the aid package to Ukraine with money for Israel and Taiwan. However, the Republicans stubbornly resisted the issue of the border with Mexico and increased security spending there. And for the Democrats, this is a matter of principle – they don't see it as a problem. Therefore, on Wednesday, December 6, the Senate is likely to fail the vote on a joint aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. And by the end of December, Congress is unlikely to vote on either the federal budget for 2024, too separate or joint with other countries aid package for Ukraine.
The White House sent a letter to congressional leaders that the money for military aid to Ukraine is almost exhausted, which "threatens to bring Ukraine to its knees on the battlefield." It's no secret, and the military directly says this, that there is already a shortage of ammunition at the front, especially 155 mm caliber. Until March 2024, the EU will not be able to supply us with the promised million artillery shells. And without American support, there will not be enough missiles for air defense.
As fatigue and, worst of all, despair from the war grows, both in the West and in Ukraine, including in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, against this background, voices are growing louder in the United States, Great Britain and the EU about the need to start negotiations with Russia and freeze the war, because, in their opinion, there is a deadlock on the battlefield. These voices became even more convincing after the start of the conflict between President Zelensky and General Zaluzhnyi, which is actively reported by the Ukrainian media. Some in the West are even sure that it is possible to agree with Putin (and they, unlike Ukraine, do not write him off and are ready to negotiate with him) to withdraw to the positions of February 23, 2022.
This is complete nonsense – Putin will never agree to this. The relevant committee of the State Duma has already approved for the first reading a draft law that abolishes the land border of Crimea with Ukraine and assigns the status of the Sea of Azov to the internal one. That is, before Putin's "election" on March 17, 2024, Russia officially wants to annex the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. However, this is nothing new. Exactly a year ago, Putin already mentioned Peter the Great, who allegedly fought for the Sea of Azov to become an inland sea of Russia, taking credit for these achievements.
In one form or another, the U.S. Congress will vote on aid to Ukraine in January-February next year. However, as CNN notes, this does not mean at all that after the presidential elections in the United States in November 2024 (and Putin is very much looking forward to them), where Trump or someone else from the Republicans can defeat Donald, military and financial assistance to Ukraine will remain at the current level. Against this background, Western analysts are already advising to think about a strategy for long-term containment of Russia. However, they forget to add - with the hands and lives of Ukrainians.
"Before Ukraine launched its counteroffensive in June 2023, Washington expressed optimism that Ukrainian army would be able to quickly achieve major military successes and provide Kyiv with a stronger negotiating position to force Moscow to make concessions. This did not happen, and high hopes were replaced by sad stories of hopelessness," reads the Foreign Affairs article "Deterrence Strategy for Ukraine."
This is the wrong strategy. As well as the slogan of the US Administration to support Ukraine "as long as it takes." A lengthy article by four authors, also on Foreign Affairs, one of whom is Ben Hodges, the former commander of U.S. forces in Europe, notes that the West should do everything to help Ukraine defeat Russia as soon as possible. A powerful signal of this will be the provision of long-range weapons to the Defense Forces of Ukraine to destroy or damage the Kerch Bridge before Putin's presidential "election", which falls precisely on the tenth anniversary of the occupation of Crimea.
"ATACMS missiles could allow Ukraine to regularly hit more vulnerable spans of the bridge, forcing security and repair crews to be present and vigilant and increase the logistical burden on Russia. While they will not permanently cut off this important supply line, such attacks will weaken the strategic advantage that the Russian military machine gains from occupying the peninsula. The more missiles are provided to Ukraine, the faster it can cut off Russian defenses and create conditions for future offensive gains," the article says.
But this raises a simple question: Is the U.S. interested in this if it decides to keep Putin in the Kremlin and let him go through his "elections" in peace? It seems that the answer is obvious, because Ukraine still does not have ATACAMS at 300 km or German TAURUS missiles.