Startegic situation and outlook
„War is a test of will and logistics.“ Ex. US General Ben Hodges
The Russian navy cannot block Ukrainian ports anymore nor operate in any relevant Ukrainian waters.
Ukraine has basically won the naval war, as defined by making the black see fleet a none factor.
Air defense systems dominate the sky on both sides
Drones, Fighters and Helicopters can mostly only operate effectively close to the front line, if at all
Russia retains deep striking capabilities with missiles
I) Russian offensive, failure in the North, successes in the south and east
III) Ukrainian Counteroffensive with successes in south and east
therefor Russian combat power sank relatively to Ukrainian combat power
Ukraine has retaken around 50% of the area taken by Russia in the early days of this hot phase of the war.
Russia still occupies ca. 20% of Ukraine
Ukraine has the initiative
The Russian military is “suffering tremendously”*. US Gen. Milley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTbBpVxuAic&t=1997s
It is unlikely for Ukraine to liberate all of Ukraine “anytime soon”, US Gen. Milley (see above).
“I believe Ukraine will retake Crimea by next summer”, Ex. US General Ben Hodges.
“Russia is loosing this war.”, Anders Puck Nielsen, danish military analyst for Russia.
Why Russian combat power sink relatively to Ukrainian combat power and can it be changed?
The quality and the number of combat ready Russian equipment is degrading constantly. → This won´t change.
Russian problems in generating combat capable manpower. → Russia is trying to address this with mobilization.
Influx of western logistics → The west may reduce or increase support.
Ukrainian mobilization started immediately → This won´t change.
Western support will close the Ukrainian sky sooner or later. Ukraine may even get a upper hand in the realm of drones and use its small air force to more effect thru western missiles, than Russia can use its larger one.
The ground war will stay dominated by artillery with the pendulum swinging in Ukrainian direction. A major issue will be the supply of ammunition:
Soviet standard: Ukraine went thru a major ammunition crisis in spring/summer due to low stocks. Supply is improving thru build up production on a low level.
Western standard: The west will probably be able to support the amount of equipment sent, though a ammunition drought is not out of the question due to low stocks to start with.
Russia had vast stocks of ammunition. It is running low on precision ammunition and will run into broad ammunition problems due to the enormous consumption sooner or later.
The nuclear “bluff”:
Ukraine liberated a capital of a “Russian” Oblast. There was no nuclear answer.
China and India called Russia out.
USA threatened openly with painful retaliation.
The nuclear “bluff” is pretty much of the table.
Russia is out of military options. If mobilization and retreat to favorable defensive positions cannot stop the Ukrainian advance, it will loose militarily.
It seems unlikely but not impossible that Russian mobilization and retreat can offset the underlying trends without changing western support.
Economy will shrink by around 40% and my start growing by next year if the sky can be secured.
State finances are kept afloat by the west.
The real economic situation is unclear, since Russia reports less numbers and the credibility of those released is in question. Last estimates put Russia at -4% or more GDP for 22 and about the same for 23. The effect of current mobilization, future waves, fleeing work force and oil sanctions/price cap from December on makes 23 forecasts difficult. Inflation is very, very high, living standard is dropping fast.
Russian state finances are highly dependent on gas/oil income, both of which will be extremely low next year. Russia can´t borrow money internationally and the “war chest” is depleting rapidly. Russia will be “bankrupt”, sooner or later and will have to resort to drastic measures then.
The test of will:
The Ukrainian will is out of the question. It will continue with the war until either Russia left all of Ukraine or any hope of liberating more land is gone.
There is probably no off ramp for Putin left. Therefor Russia will continue fighting as long as it has any considerable part of Ukraine occupied or major changes take place within the Kremlin and or Russia. The later becoming more likely the worse the war looks and the longer it takes due to the economical and financial decline.
Since I am German, I would strongly advice not to count on Russia ever giving up. Especially not, since Ukraine won´t march to Moscow like the Allies did it with Berlin.
The western will to support Ukraine is therefor the key to the outcome and length of the war. If it stays the same, I would hope for Ben Hodges estimate to be right, that Russia will basically be beaten by next Summer.
I may look into the western will more closely in another post, if anybody is interested.
In the moment I would say: There is a trend towards the formula “Russia has to leave all of Ukraine” but I fear that there are hard restraints concerning hurting the own capabilities, and some restraints concerning costs and fear of escalation.
Anders Puck Nielsen https://www.youtube.com/c/AndersPuckNielsen
Western and Ukrainian Press/Twitter
One year of all out war
2022 GDP growth: -30,4% estimated
2023 GDP growth: 0,5% forecast
Inflation Dec.: 27%
2022 GDP growth: -2,5% estimated
2023 GDP growth: 0,1% forecast
Inflation Dec.: 11,9
2022 GDP growth: 3,5%
2023 GDP growth: 0,6%
Inflation Dec.: 9,2%
All involved economies have withered the storm fairly well.
Being the battlefield, and therefor facing exodus, destruction and internal displacment, the economical collapse at roughly only a third of gdp is a success. State finances are stable and Ukraine is organizing a working war economy. Outlook: As long as western support stands, Ukraine will be very able to fight another day.
Faced with a fairly unprecedented sanctions regime droping from a 5% gdp growth forcast to merly a 2,5% recession, therefor averting a widly expected financial and a following economical collapse, is probably Russias only big victory in 2023. With high oil and gas prices, the war basically paid for itself, keeping state finances stable with more than 40% of revenues coming from energy exports. Outlook: Low energy prices, the failed gas blackmail, price caps and oil sanctions allready push the state budget in the red zone. Russia still has considerable reservs, e.g. the national wealth fund at 155 Billion dollars, but sustainement of the current budget level will get difficult in the long run, but probably not this year. The sanctions and the economy will not stop Russia from fighting this war for any foreseeable future, albeit it remains to be seen at which level in the long run.
Note: All of the Russian numbers are based on Russian institutions. I personally think it is unlikely that those numbers are "tuned", since trust in those institutions is the most important currency for those. If i am wrong here, the averted collapse is still lingering, i doubt it very much though.
Russian energy blackmail failed. The current level of support of Ukraine at roughly 0,25% gdp annually can easily be sustained for any foreseeable future.
...is probably Russias only big victory in 2023.
That should have been "2022", obviously.
Main source: https://tradingeconomics.com/
@max-beckhaus: "Air defense systems dominate the sky on both sides". Let me express some uncertainties for nuance. According to Nato intel Russia is concentrating aircraft and helicopters near Ukraine (Al Jazeera 15.02.23). Ukraine has used a lot of AA missiles against cruise missiles and drones. Western support is rather slow to replenish, although Lloyd Austin stated to press at Nato meeting that Ukr needs more air defense quickly.
Does Ukraine really have the initiative this winter? I note slow, grinding Rus advances from Bakhmut area to Kupyansk (understandingwar.org; militaryland.net maps). When the Western mechanized equipment arrives, spring will be muddy.
@ren Yes, the initiativ certainly passed to Russia and we are in phase 4 a stalemate again. Since this threat was supposed to look at strategic implications, the "military situation" part was probably kind of off topic anyways.
Concering the Russian Air Force: It is still hugh, but until now, all i see is a small uptick in planes shot down. We will see.
One year of all out war
A tremendous strategic defeat for Russia
I doubt, that I will be able to list all strategic goals, that Russia hurt with this, but I´ll try:
Demilitarisation of Ukraine: Well, Russia just may be the second strongest Army in Ukraine, so Ukraine got demilitarized “down” to about the level of the Russian army, I guess.
“Denacification” of Ukraine: I am not Ukrainian, but it seems to me, that if anything, there are more Ukrainian patriots today, than before and those that see themselves as part of the Russian Mir are pretty much disappearing, 3) just may have something to do with it.
Protecting Russian speaking Ukrainians in Ukraine...!?!?!?!? Strangely, I got the idea that this was never a goal at all. I am sure the people of Mariupol felt very well protected.
Destroying the Ukrainian statehood, diminish its existence and exert control over it: If there ever was a doubt outside of Russia, e.g. the west, that Ukraine should really exist and or is/should be part of a Russian Sphere of influence, well that is of the table. There are actually people in the west, me including, that see in Zelensky the leader of the western world and I am not even going to start about the will of Ukrainians to be free. Ukraine shows us westerners everyday, how we should be. Ukraine will not be part of the West, it is part of the West. Russia has pretty much lost all political influence in those parts of Ukraine, which it can not conquer. So the Ukrainian idea got a enormous world wide boost, but the Ukrainian state may still be destroyed, if the West fails Ukraine, which will not happen.
The following points will stand, even if Russia wins this war.
Economic growth: Russia was stuck in a decade of economic stagnation after the 2014 sanctions and forecasted to grow rapidly. It has lost half the economical world as customer and investor. It is loosing many young men to the war and exodus, enhancing its demographic problems. Another decade of stagnation seems to be the best possible outcome for Russia.
Military power: Russia has lost vast amounts of gear and is using up its Sovjet stocks. Russian conventional power projection has suffered hugely due to its persistent underachieving in Ukraine.
Weaken Nato: Nato found a new sense of purpose, is probably growing and is increasing it´s defence spending considerably.
Keep Nato out of Russias “sphere”: Finland will join Nato. Ukraine is a de facto Nato partner and the political idea of it joining Nato is real. Moldowa and Georgia are also closer to Nato than ever before.
Exert influence over Ex-Sovjet States: Russian political influence is diminishing rapidly here, e.g. Armenia is desperate for new security partners.
Russia´s wider influence: In the western world shrank to pariah status, inline with Iran and North Korea and even India and China visibly distance themselves while happily enjoying cheap oil.
Russian Authoritarianism loses: The clash of systems shows a clear failure for the Russian Authoritarianism. Even though most of this strategic harm for Russia was obvious a few months into this war and could or can be mitigated by peace, Russia slammed that door with annexation of another 4 Oblasts. Doubling down on an enormous mistake instead of trying to safe what can be saved after it played out, is a political gigantic failure, which seems impossible in democratic states.
Anyone anything more to add?
One year of total war:
Support of Ukraine
As shown above, the amount of support to Ukraine is probably the biggest variable in this war and will define the course of it greatly.
Current state of support:
Wars, especially attritional wars, are won by economy's, or Dollars pledged:
The support amounts to about 140 Billion dollars as of January 15 2023 and has been mainly given by the USA, the EU, Great Britain, Canada and Norway. These countries had a combined GDP of ca. 45 trillion $ in 2021 (Russia 1,8).
A shout out to the tip of the spear with Poland (0,89%) and the Baltic States, especially Estonia at 1,3% GDP.
Then there is the rest of the vanguard of eastern and northern Europeans like Bulgaria (0,67%) and Norway, with 0,36% plus a whooping 5 year 7 Billion $ pledge not included yet, which puts facts on the words “as long as it takes”. All of which rightly asses that their security is defended in Ukraine and act accordingly. The Netherlands (0,46%) and of all countries Portugal (0,4%) keep contact to that group. Consider me very impressed.
The heavy hitters follow in a large EU group with the USA and Germany leading, as they should, at 0,37%, GB 0,32%, France and Italy 0,31% and Canada at 0,26%.
Honorable mentions going to Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Turkey and South Korea, for anything is better than nothing.
Sanna Marin, finish PM, 7th of October 2022: “The way out of this conflict, is for Russia to leave Ukraine.“
Unsurprisingly Poland, the Baltics, Great Britain and Scandinavia, especially Finland, and the EU institutions were the most outspoken supporters of Ukraine with the USA giving leadership, nicely summed up with: “Over the past year, the U.S. has gone from "preventing the quick defeat of Ukraine" in February 2022 to "ensuring the victory of Ukraine, preventing the quick defeat of Russia and direct military conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation" at the end of 2022.” ( https://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/6233 ). Even the reluctant French and German are talking about a, undefined, Ukrainian victory now.
The west was not ready for this war, with most European countries struggling to help meaningful, without hurting their own defensive capabilities to much. This holds especially true for ammunition. That being said, with enough political will, Ukraine can be be easily supported to victory. For example: 155 mm shells could be bought in Asia.
The political will is reduced by the fear of escalation in the USA and parts of Europe, foremost Germany, France, leading to the former mentioned formula.
Given the determination of many northern and eastern European countries, Great Britain, the EU institutions, and being an “insider” in German politics, I can not see how European support will ever slow down before a Ukrainian “victory”. On the contrary, I can even see the possibility of compensating a failing leadership by the USA.
Now, how that “victory” will be defined by Europe, especially and most importantly including Ukraine, will be very interesting to see.
My personal red line is pre 24.2. and I think that Germany will support that for sure.
Until November 2024, there are absolutely no reasons to worry. I think though, that European politics understood very well, that the USA is no reliable security partner anymore. We better be ready.
@max-beckhaus great summary!
I would also recomand this video about Russia's grand strategy (Perun).
In my opinion, attrition is way too high for both sides, so the question is which side will run out equipement first. Russia can produce some equipment, but not even 1/10th of what they need. For Ukraine, it's even worse.
So the decisive factor is foreign aid.
1) the long-term capability of the western countries and their commitment to Ukraine: western countries have enough equipment st simply win the war against Russia, if they give struff from their active military (an not decades-old stuff from the warehouses or new stuff they have to build). But so far, western countries have been reluctant to fully support Ukraine (despite what they are saying) and scale-up their military donation to defeat Russia quickly. If they don't, there is a risk that western support will become insufficiant (after a few years)
2) So far, Russia has no real allies. But China and India, who are officially neutral, have enough equipment to save Russia from military attrition (at least for an additional couple of years). Apparently, Russia took ~200 indian T90S that were in Russia for an upgrade, and simply sent those tank to the frontline. India protested, but maybe this is just a facade and India rally wants to help Russia. China denies helping Russia, but they may do so discretly.
@max-beckhaus About the naval points of your strategic summary: have a look at Rusi.org (09.03) article about four Kilo-class submarines in the Black Sea.