The war in Ukraine is increasingly fading into the background. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is trying with all his might to prevent this. Defense expert Ko Colijn answers questions about the reduced attention for Ukraine and the influence of the winter on the war.
Why do we hear so little about the war in Ukraine?
There are several reasons for this, but the most important is of course that the war between Israel and Hamas draws attention away. This is less the case for the Ukrainians, because their war already started when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and started fighting in the eastern Donets basin.
Ukraine is concerned that the West is getting a bit fed up with the war. That will almost certainly lead to less support in the form of money or weapons.
To date, the West has provided or promised almost 100 billion dollars (about 91 billion euros) in military aid. With figures such as Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Robert Fico (Slovakia) and Geert Wilders in power in Europe and the possible re-election of Donald Trump in the United States, there is reason to be concerned.
A second reason is that there are always fluctuations in attention during wars. This was also the case, for example, in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and during the wars in Iraq. You also see it in long-running (civil) wars in Africa and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Scientific research shows that there are more than four hundred conflicts in the world every year. Half of these involve military violence, with an average of ten real wars. They receive little or no attention.
Is the war in Ukraine now at an impasse or not?
What influence does winter have on the course of the battle at the front?
It is often said that the winter period paralyzes the war in Ukraine, because it is muddy and cold. You would say that is good news. But Ukraine is now fighting on and so are the Russians, albeit somewhat less fiercely.
This is because in battle there is a shift from the ground to the air. The war in the air is of course less dependent on the weather. Ukraine also fears Russian air raids on cities and power plants in winter.
The south, including the area around Crimea, suffers almost no seasonal cold. A storm like this week can of course always happen, but it will not have a major impact throughout the winter. Ukraine has said that you can still lie on the beach there, so to speak. I therefore expect that the war will continue ‘as normal’ there.
In the east the fighting will subside. In the winter months, the Russians focus on attacking Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones. But Ukraine now also has better drones to strike back at Russia itself in retaliation.
What can we expect from the war in the coming months?
It is always difficult to predict the course of a war. But I don’t think the front is shifting much in the East. Ukraine has the reconquest of Crimea as its main priority and will strike in Russia with some spectacular counterattacks. Ukraine will avoid the mud and cold by competing where it will suffer as little as possible from the winter. This can be done by using cyber attacks, drones and cruise missiles.
Ukraine hopes that the political headwind in the West will not be too bad, the war between Israel and Hamas will not distract the West too much and Putin’s missiles will not hit the cities too much.
Of course, the Russians also have setbacks, such as countless dead and wounded infantrymen and a setback in Crimea. Blowing up the dam also has disadvantages for Russia. The exodus makes it easier for Ukraine to cross the Dnipro River.
Russia doesn’t really have a winning strategy. In the meantime, it is an illusion that it can occupy all of Ukraine, so it will content itself with consolidation and perhaps a few top prizes such as Odesa and Kupiansk.
That would be a great boost for Vladimir Putin. After all, the Russian president hopes to be re-elected in 2024 and has to deal with more and more difficult mothers and district heads, because their sons and soldiers are consumed. He has time on his side. He can quietly watch as the US and Europe grow weary of war and push for negotiations in Kyiv.
Receive a regular overview of developments in Ukraine. Stay informed with notifications