The next six months we will witness a great human tragedy...

For the next 6 months, we will witness a great human tragedy. Ukrainian armed forces will face difficult conditions on the battlefield, writes "Foreign Affairs"

Tanjug/AP Photo/Daniel Cole
Tanjug/AP Photo/Daniel Cole

The text then added that Ukrainian civilians will continue to suffer daily Russian attacks. Meanwhile, Russia's underequipped and poorly led units will suffer heavy losses, destroying the country's remaining combat capability.

The Russian military has already suffered "well over 100,000" deaths and injuries, according to US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. "And thanks to the negligence and cruel indifference of President Vladimir Putin's regime, thousands more will perish this winter due to the callous disregard for human life," writes "Foreign Affairs".

The newspaper predicts that the help of the newly promised Western tanks and other weapons will give the Ukrainian armed forces the opportunity to liberate Crimea, which was annexed by the Russians in 2014.

From the beginning of the war, the issue of Crimea was sidelined, as Ukraine focused on defending itself from attack, but now, as the war progressed and Ukraine liberated large parts of its territory, the Kyiv's rhetoric regarding Crimea has changed.

"Foreign Affairs" estimates that, if peace talks were to start now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would have to be open to an agreement over Crimea. But if the fighting continues into the spring and summer and Ukraine inflicts heavy losses on Russia, it will become increasingly difficult for Zelensky to allow Putin to save face and allow Russia to continue its temporary occupation of Crimea.

It is estimated that by summer, Ukraine will likely begin targeting much of Russia's military infrastructure in Crimea in preparation for an all-out campaign to liberate the peninsula. That would force Putin to the negotiating table and create room for diplomatic talks while the final status of Crimea remains unresolved, offering Putin a way out of Ukraine that does not guarantee his political demise and allowing Ukraine to avoid an enormously expensive military campaign that is far from certain to succeed.

An eventual deal would require an immediate drawdown of Russian conventional forces on the peninsula and pave the way for a referendum that would allow the people of Crimea, including those displaced after 2014, to determine the final status of the region.

In order for the Ukrainians to regain Crimea, militarily, the first step would be to contain Russian forces in the regions of Kherson and Lugansk, as well as in the northern part of Donetsk. Ukraine would then liberate the rest of Zaporizhzhia province and push through southern Donetsk to the Sea of Azov, cutting off Russia's land link with Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces should also destroy the bridge over the Kerch Pass, which connects Russia to the Crimean peninsula and allows Moscow to supply troops by land and rail. That same bridge was attacked and part of it was destroyed in an explosion in October, but it could be completely rebuilt by the summer.

Without that bridge, the Kremlin would be forced to revert to a maritime supply option, but that would simply not be enough for a Russian invasion.

At the same time, the Ukrainians could launch an attack on Russia's infrastructural and military targets, massing forces in the north of Crimea that would be ready to invade the peninsula.

But, as "Foreign Affairs" assesses, even with unprecedented support from the West, Ukraine would have a problem with undertaking such an operation. The West, on the other hand, has largely persisted with sending weapons to Ukraine, and does not plan to send "leopards", "patriots" either...

That, on the other hand, means that Western reluctance to fully support Ukraine and defeat Russia would undermine Ukraine's ability to mount such an offensive and likely cause the war to drag on well into 2023.


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