Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
February 13, 2023
Probably the question needs an answer first is how the war in Ukraine got stared. This terrible war is entering the second year in eleven days, “experts” offer their predictions are very disturbing “The war will be expensive, cost lives and likely last at least a few years — or even become interminable.” Put it another way, if the leaders knew that this war would become so unmanageable, would anyone promote the war at all?
Obviously, no one, before the war started, has had a clear understanding or realization of what is “winning,” what is the “cost,” or who is “responsible!” May be Putin had some ideas, but his army has not performed at all. Zelenskyy gallantly asked Ukrainians to fight for their homeland, and they did. But Ukraine completely depends on US led west for everything including weapons, ammos, and cash to run the country. In US football terms, Zelenskyy thinks and talks like a head coach, but he is really just a quarterback. He has his goal of a complete victory against Russia, but he has no game plan. The US led west is like the club owners who have already stretched out near the breaking point after covering the cost of the war for nearly one year. The US led west is also part-time referees.
By the rules of engagement, club owners will not and cannot get into the field. They also show respect to the head coach and do not call the plays openly. So, Zelenskyy claims that he is running the war but he does not have control on what he can use to fight!
It is time for the US to talk with Russia!
When will the war in Ukraine end? Experts offer their predictions.
Joe Gould, Bryant Harris, Sebastian Sprenger, Tom Kington
Mon, February 13, 2023 at 6:00 AM PST
WASHINGTON and ROME
Defense News spoke with national security analysts, lawmakers and retired officials, asking each how the conflict could end.
Their answers are glum: The war will be expensive, cost lives and likely last at least a few years — or even become interminable. It will tax the American and European defense industries, especially when it comes to munitions, and could cause economic ruin in Russia. All this while the possibility of nuclear escalation remains.
And they said winning will depend on a Congress with the resolve to ensure continued support to Ukraine. But even then, the very concept of victory may be inaccurate, they warned.
“For this year, it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from all — every inch of Ukraine or Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit to Germany last month.
Milley has insisted the war will likely end at the negotiating table — at some point. Officials and experts expect a bloody spring, as Russia sends new conscripts to the front line and Ukraine tries to repel an offensive while mounting its own.
As the war enters its second year, the spigot of military aid is still gushing. But industrial capacities are spotty, and nations have started to scrutinize how much equipment they can spare while maintaining their own self-defense requirements and that of NATO.
How long a war?
Asked about the likely duration of the Ukraine war, analysts in the United States and Europe made similar predictions, with timelines running from months to years to “indefinite.”
Yohann Michel, a research analyst in Berlin with the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, anticipates “long months” ahead, while Michael Kofman, the research program director in the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington, expects additional years of fighting.
“Wars typically tend to go on longer than people expect or hope, but especially interstate conflicts of this length,” Kofman said. “History tells us that wars which go on this long … are likely to become protracted, lasting several years.”
Perhaps Italian analyst Lucio Caracciolo was the most pessimistic of all. “This war will last indefinitely, with long pauses for cease-fires,” he said.
“It will only stop when Ukraine or Russia or both collapse, since for both sides this is a matter of life or death,” added Caracciolo, the editor of Italian geopolitics publication Limes.
Peter Roberts, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said there are different ways to define the end of a war: “the end of the kinetic phase” versus “the end of a Georgia-style frozen conflict or a Korea-like situation that runs for years.”
“I would love to think the kinetic phase could end in 2023, but I suspect we could be looking at another three years with this scale of fighting,” Roberts said.
Michel added there are as-yet-unknown factors that will determine the end of the conflict.
And long, exhaustive fighting carries its own risks, according to Benjamin Jensen, a war gaming expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. That’s because the longer conflicts last, the more they exhaust finite resources and, hence, the parties are more willing to gamble.
Either side may act boldly if it winds up on the ropes and needs an exit strategy. Ukraine, Jensen suggested, might try a spectacular special operation to assassinate a Kremlin official, or Russia could decide to use — or simply test — nuclear weapons.
On the offensive this spring
On Feb. 24, 2022, Russian forces attacked Ukraine without frozen ground to support their armored vehicles, which meant they had to stick to roads, where they stood out as easy targets.
But this winter, they’re expected to launch attacks across open plains, which would be harder to defeat, said Daniel Rice, a former U.S. Army captain who last year became a special adviser to Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of the Ukrainian military.
“The worry is that a large Russian offensive action could punch through, and there’s a lot of worry they could take Kyiv,” said Rice, now president of the Thayer Leadership consulting group in West Point, New York. “People are waking up to the reality that you need to give offensive weapons to end this war — at least to win it.”
The challenge now is training and equipping an armored force big enough and sophisticated enough to envelop Russia’s fighting force.
Retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, a former commander of the U.S. Army’s maneuver warfare school at Fort Benning, Georgia, said Western upgrades offer Ukraine the chance to dominate the close fight with Russian adversaries and conclude the tactical fighting to its advantage.
The recent arms donations — Kyiv still wants fighter aircraft and long-range tactical missiles — are predicated on the assumption they’ll force Moscow to end its invasion and begin negotiations because military costs are too high. That objective has coexisted with an expectation that Putin’s government will probably never stop fighting, as losing the war could spell the end to his political power.
Past attempts to squeeze the will for war out of Moscow economically also didn’t yield the immediate results for which experts hoped. Cracks may begin to appear this year, however.
One area to watch is Russia’s payment of pensions. An inability to do so could foster economic discontent capable of turning public opinion against the war, Lichfield told Defense News.
“It would have to get pretty bad for the Russians to get there,” he said, adding that there’s no way of knowing how many reserves the government stashed away after years of fat checks from energy sales.
Which weapons will Washington send?
The United States, as Ukraine’s most important military supporter, remains the center of gravity when it comes to an eventual outcome for the conflict. American leadership has so far been largely united in their support for Kyiv.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, expects the war to end at the negotiating table, but said serious diplomacy hasn’t begun because Putin is still clinging to “maximalist” goals.
“The ultimate end to this is the Ukrainians take back as much pre-Feb. 24 territory as they can get, force Putin to the bargaining table, and then ultimately Ukraine would have to compromise somewhat on issues like Crimea and portions of the east and arrange for solid security guarantees going forward,” Smith told Defense News in a phone interview.
For its part, the Biden administration has started deliberations around the thorny question of whether helping Ukraine should entail retaking Crimea, which Russia seized and then annexed in 2014.
Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former National Security Council director for European affairs in the Obama administration, said he “would not encourage Ukraine to seek to reassert control over Crimea by force, simply because the escalation risks are very high.”
But some on Capitol Hill are more bullish about lining up behind President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s goal of fully restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., visited Ukraine in January and subsequently told Defense News at a news conference that “the American military has consistently underestimated the Ukrainian fighting ability.”
“Everything I have come to learn about the will and determination of the Ukrainians leads me to conclude retaking Crimea is within reach, and they need the artillery that will enable hitting targets — the sites of missiles destroying infrastructure in Ukraine,” he said.
Depending on how long the war lasts, it remains far from certain whether lawmakers will keep funding Ukraine aid packages. Congress provided more than $100 billion in aid to Kyiv since Russia invaded last year, including $61.4 billion in military aid.
The undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, told the Senate in January the Biden administration still expects the $45 billion Ukraine aid package Congress passed in December to last through the end of this fiscal year. But the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Celeste Wallander, warned at the hearing that the current funding level “does not preclude” the administration from needing to request more assistance before the end of September.
While the bipartisan majority of lawmakers support arming Kyiv, 57 Republicans voted against a $40 billion emergency aid supplemental in May. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., made several concessions to those Ukraine aid skeptics to secure the votes to win his protracted speakership battle.
Still, the political dynamics may become more complicated in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, as some prominent Ukraine aid opponents, including former President Donald Trump and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, have already thrown their hats into the ring or are reportedly considering doing so.
One key question that could determine the war’s end game is how long Ukraine’s backers can keep up their arms donations to Kyiv.
“There’s no such thing as infinite resources,” said Jensen, the CSIS analyst. “Heaven forbid this goes on another year, two years. At some point the fighting will exhaust even the entirety of the Western world’s support for Ukraine.”
While defense spending in the United States and Europe is trending upward, in large part because of Russia’s attack, industrial capacity to crank out weapons and ammunition has emerged as a bottleneck.
In response, companies on both sides of the Atlantic announced plans to restart production lines for artillery shells and other weapons considered somewhat arcane until recently.
Wicker said the fiscal 2023 government funding and defense authorization bills include money to expand munitions manufacturing, “doubling and even tripling production capabilities for weapons like 155mm shells, [anti-tank] Javelins and [the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System].”
Still, it’s an open question whether the U.S. will be able to indefinitely continue its current level of support, said Mark Cancian, a CSIS senior adviser who has studied the volumes of artillery used in the war.
“They’re going through it at phenomenal rates,” he said of the Ukrainian military firing artillery munitions. “The U.S. bins are very low. We’re going to increase production substantially, but it’ll still be way below what the Ukrainians are using.”