War in Ukraine, Year 2: Russia moves closer to China and kyiv depends on the United States

Ukrainian soldiers fire a Pion artillery system at Russian positions near Bahkmut in the Donetsk region, where the heaviest fighting is raging as it enters the second year of the war. (AP Photo/LIBKOS) (Libkos/)

The war in Ukraine, provoked by the Russian invasion, enters its second year with greater uncertainty than was expected, even when all this began on February 24, 2022. Everything indicates that it will extend over time, something that gives Vladimir Putin an advantage, who continues to bet on the wear and tear of Ukraine and its Western allies. kyiv is at the mercy, more than ever, of help from allies in Europe and the United States. This means that the result depends more on NATO than on the two countries in conflict.. The decision of the Western alliance on what weapons to deliver to kyiv and with what speed, will determine the course of the war. Moscow basically continues to depend on its nuclear arsenal, despite the fact that it has not yet used it and it is not known if it has any plans to do so. Therein lies his strength and he brings it out whenever he can as one of those lying playing cards.

An anniversary that was marked by two speeches. The war of words lasted just a few hours while the other, that of bullets, continued its course. The first move was made by the US president Joe Biden. It was an extraordinary gesture in the context of 21st century diplomacy. He traveled secretly – he even spent ten hours on a quite old train and without much protection – to be in kyiv with the president Volodimir Zelensky. She dispelled any doubt. The United States will support Ukraine to the last consequences. She repeated it explicitly in her speech the next day in Warsaw.

The answer of Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin had no surprises. He played, once again, his best card, the nuclear one. He announced that he is not going to allow more inspections of his atomic arsenal as those contemplated in the treaty. new start. In any case, he made it clear that he will not completely abandon the only agreement that exists today to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but that You are left with your hands free to assemble and move your deadliest arsenal. It is not a new threat, but it is still the sword of Damocles that hangs over the heads of the Europeans.

US President Joe Biden walks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in front of St. Michael's Cathedral during their visit to Kyiv.  (Evan Vucci/Pool via REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden walks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral during their visit to Kyiv. (Evan Vucci/Pool via REUTERS) (POOL/)

The most novel element that this beginning of the second year of war brought is China’s arrival on the scene. The Secretary of State had warned him a week before, Anthony Blinkenwhen he said that “China is seriously considering the possibility of providing military aid to Russia.” Wednesday was staged with the visit of Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s top foreign policy official, to Moscow and a warm reception by Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. An early arrival in that city of the president was even announced Xi Jinping. “In this context, the cooperation between the PRC and the Russian Federation on the world stage is especially important to stabilize the international situation”, Putin launched in the section of the talk recorded for the media.

Beijing had already placed itself in the Russian camp when it shared Putin’s view that the United States and NATO were responsible for the war for provoking Russia. Although he refrained from delivering strategic weapons to the Kremlin forces. As far as is known, there were only a few sales of munitions of which Russia is in as great a shortage as the Ukrainian forces. If he decides to provide more substantial aid, such as kamikaze drones and multiple missile launchers, it is speculated, the equation of war could change. It would drag NATO into direct intervention and could even turn Eastern Europe into a scenario for Sino-American confrontation..

In the war scenario, the much-mentioned offensive that the Russian army was going to launch before entering the second year of the conflict, never materialized. There were only a few offensives in the surroundings of bahkmutwhere the toughest combats take place, and in luganskwhere they managed to break the line of defense in the town of kreminna. There has been no significant advance by either force in recent weeks. The dynamic has been the same for about 10 months, the Ukrainian army, with significant US support, was outmaneuvering an incompetent Russian army until recovering thousands of square kilometers and the only regional capital that Russia had captured, Kherson.

Vladimir Putin receives the director of the office of International Relations of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang Yi, in the Kremlin.  (Sputnik/Anton Novoderezhkin/Pool via REUTERS)
Vladimir Putin receives the director of the office of International Relations of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang Yi, in the Kremlin. (Sputnik/Anton Novoderezhkin/Pool via REUTERS) (SPUTNIK/)

Despite incessant Russian attacks on energy infrastructure and sporadic shelling of civilians, Ukraine has kept a pulse on the front since September. Although military analysts believe the dynamics of the war are likely to change in the coming months, as Russia improves its defenses and sends more troops to the front lines. This will make it difficult for Ukraine to retake the huge swaths of territory that are still in the hands of the invaders. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that “all of these factors make the most likely scenario going into the second year of the war to be a stalemate in which neither army can take much ground despite heavy fighting”.

In the past six months, Ukrainian forces have halted the Russian advance in the wealthy eastern Donbas region, recaptured a large swath of land in the northeast and seized control of Kherson, the key city in the south. But the victories had a high cost with thousands of Ukrainian soldiers (about 100,000) and Russians (double, about 200,000) and the use of an unusual amount of artillery ammunition. The defending forces fired more rounds (6,000 per day) than the European and US allies can produce and this is going to slow down any Ukrainian offensive.

It is possible that the toughest clashes will be concentrated in the south of the country in the coming months. Ukrainian forces are preparing for an assault on the surroundings of the strategic Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is in Russian hands. From there, the Ukrainian south is supplied, to a large extent, with energy, including the occupied Crimean peninsula. The objective is to break the supply line that passes through there and supplies the occupying troops in the east. Two strategists, former senior US military, consulted by CNN indicated that Ukraine is likely to resort to covert operations – similar to the attack on the Kerch Strait bridge that knocked out a key Russian supply line – and airstrikes to weaken Russian military positions in the south and on the Crimean peninsula.

yearbook war ukraine russia
Ukrainian soldiers fire at a block of flats on the outskirts of the city of Bahkmut, from where a sniper, allegedly Russian, was firing. (John Moore/Getty Images)

On his visit to the Ukrainian capital, Biden heard various Ukrainian officials stressing that “It is critical to immobilize Russian forces in Crimea.” The Ukrainians worry that if they loosen the pressure there, it will allow the Russians to move more forces or defensive equipment to other areas.

For any major operation, kyiv’s forces remain dependent on US intelligence reports pinpointing the weakest points in the Russian military. The Ukrainian army’s counter-offensive outside Kharkiv in September succeeded in part because the ukrainians faced greatly weakened and unprepared russian forces. The accurate information came from analysts operating in Washington. They are the same ones who continue to look for weak points in the Russian lines and the ones who will facilitate other small victories for the Ukrainian troops in the coming months. Although nothing indicates that a collapse of the Russian army could occur like the one registered when they had to withdraw from the north at the beginning of the campaign. The Russian commandos learned from what happened around Kiev, when they wanted to take the capital, and now they have a significant reinforcement of better trained troops. Nor should we forget that the mercenaries of the Wagner Group are acting on some fronts, “they fight like zombies”, according to the account of the Ukrainian soldiers who confront them, as a consequence of the drugs and the pressure of their commanders.

The withdrawal from Kherson, according to US officials interviewed by the New York Times, is an example of how Russia learned the bitter lesson after failing in its first attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government “in just three days.” Although Putin initially blocked this withdrawal, General Sergei Surovikin, in command of the troops, insisted that it was necessary and managed to get the hierarch to relent. The retreat allowed Russian forces to use the Dnipro River for cover of new Ukrainian attacks; The entire operation highlighted a sophisticated military execution that was unusual in the early stages of the war.

Two Ukrainian tanks take up position on the road out of the besieged town of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region.  (REUTERS/Alex Babenko)
Two Ukrainian tanks take up position on the road out of the besieged town of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region. (REUTERS/Alex Babenko) (STRINGER/)

According to military analysts, Surovikin, who has led the Russian forces since October, is using a strategy that emphasizes strategic defense. So far, he has managed to improve defenses and inject discipline into Russian troops deployed in southern and eastern Ukraine. His current offensive in Bahkmut, in the eastern Donbas region, is somewhat limited, and he would be intent on securing better positions from which to defend against a Ukrainian counter-attack. “He’s consolidating positions, and he’s trying to build a network of trenches and a more sensible set of positions and checkpoints.”explained Dara MassicotSenior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation. He also said that Surovikin was experimenting with new tactics, including the way they fire missiles at Ukraine to try to confuse its air defenses.

Although this analyst and the other interviewees agree that none of this will cause fundamental changes on the front. In a way, the war is becoming a contest of ammunition and supplies, two basic necessities that can win or lose any war. And this is where the other powers come in. The end of the war will be resolved by the allies of both sides with the type of weapons they deliver.

Keep reading:

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