Military analyst Sean Bell said Ukraine’s “spring offensive” is expected to begin.
Anticipating, and perhaps fearing, Western support for Ukraine’s much-anticipated “spring offensive”, Russia has launched wave after wave of attacks on the Ukrainian front in the last few weeks, writes military analyst Sean Bell for Sky News. Progress has been limited despite seven months of intense battle, cities like Bahmut did not fall. Now it seems that the culmination has come – attack tempo decreased by more than 80%. Wagner’s mercenary group continues to make painfully slow progress in northern Bakhmut, while the Russian army struggles to recoup losses and is out of ammunition and ideas.
Momentum has been lost and the Russian military is in desperate need of an operational pause, writes Bell. Reports also indicate that many Russian military forces are defecting, leaving the mercenaries to their fate in Bahmut. If this is true, Russia realizes that it must now shift its focus from offense to defense in preparation for an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Great Ukrainian victims
Ukraine also suffered heavy losses. However, if Ukraine is to liberate its territory, any offensive must be swift and decisive in order to take advantage of the obvious exhaustion of the Russian military. But many military analysts believe that Ukraine will struggle to drive Russia out of the Donbass and Crimea, so what will the Ukrainian offensive seek to achieve? Move the front line east? Break the land bridge between Crimea and Donbass?
Any offensive, even a successful one, will wear out in the end, and certainly before liberating the whole of Ukraine. However, Western military support is fragile. There are already growing signs that the supply of smart weapons is limited at best and running out at worst, Bell writes. Moreover, China has increasing influence over Russia and will not want the war to drag on. Also limited is the West’s appetite for prolonging a war that most believe Ukraine cannot win and Russia cannot lose. And the West will not want China to take credit as a peacemaker.
Ukraine will begin its offensive with an impressive arsenal of Western high-tech weapons, but what will be achieved on the battlefield? Both sides are likely to end the year exhausted, perhaps with revised battle lines, but at a virtual standstill because neither side will have the resources — men or material — to make a decisive move, Bell writes.
At that stage, the West will face a choice – continue to support a protracted conflict with dwindling resources, which risks favoring Russia’s long game strategy – or exert pressure (on both sides) to ensure an end to the bloodshed. The stakes could not be higher for Ukraine – the stage is set for what could be the final chapter of this conflict, Bell concludes.