New Delhi, Dec 10 (Ajit Weekly News) It was left to the EU and NATO’s prime outlier, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, to give a pithy, incisive, and uncomfortable – for Kiev and its Western backers – assessment of the present situation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “Now it is obvious that Ukraine will not win on the battlefield. Russia will not lose.”
As Ukraine flounders, unable to make headway militarily, and running out of resources and funding as the US and the EU are embroiled in their own domestic squabbles, or the “fatigue” of a long, inconclusive, and expensive war sets in, the outlook seems bleak for it in its winter of discontent.
On the other hand, Russia has not been weakened, either by the war so far or the raft of sanctions or incidents like the (late) Wagner PMC chief Evgeny Prigozhin’s revolt, and is holding up on the battleground.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s dismal situation is further compounded by the revelations by a top lawmaker on how the Istanbul negotiations to end the war in March 2022 were torpedoed by then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – while this was known, the fact of a top politician making it public sparked off speculation on the timing and intent.
Then, there is the growing distrust between President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhny as the former’s popularity dips compared to the latter, even as the country’s lawmakers question the military over the lack of a plan for subsequent conduct of operations, after failure of the vaunted summer counter-offensive.
Besides the military stalemate and political quagmire, there is growing resentment from close neighbours and allies – while protests over cheap Ukrainian grain and other agricultural produce had earlier convulsed entire Eastern Europe, the blockade by Polish truckers against Ukrainian transports undercutting them is still underway on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
And then, there are reports that the US and various European nations may be pressing Kiev to seek a negotiated settlement, while many pro-Ukrainian media outlets and analysts are changing tack to deliver gloomy prognoses about its prospects. Even NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said they should be prepared for “bad news” on Ukraine, though he sought to qualify his statement.
So, what lies ahead for Ukraine?
On one side, the Ukrainians are putting on a brave face, ruling out any negotiations, territorial compromises, or withdrawals. In fact, they are lobbying the US for more advanced weapon systems, including F-18 Hornet fighters, helicopter gunships, and even the exorbitantly-priced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) air defense system.
However, with the bills for further aid to Ukraine stuck in both chambers of the US Congress – as Republicans seem intent on securing their desired objectives from the increasingly hapless Biden administration, even getting the basic military equipment seems a long shot.
US President Joe Biden and his administration is caught in a cleft position – they have committed so much to Ukraine that they cannot hold back, but the price is increasingly steep. Acceding to the Republicans’ demands on border security and immigration, can lead to a serious blowback from their own core supporters, amid one section – Arab-Americans – already in a defiant mood, as key elections approach.
Time is running out for the US and in case, it cannot deliver, the Europeans, who are already in all sorts of problems with rising costs, divisions, the rise of right-wing populists, and rapidly-depleting armaments stockpiles, might not be able to shoulder the entire burden by themselves.
Tellingly, a retired Belgian army officer has said that the country’s soldiers would have to start throwing stones after a day or two due to the lack of ammunition. For Germany too, its fighting ability is also restricted to a matter of days and for Italians, to just a weekend – at the present state of affairs, as per media reports.
Aid packages, which enable the Ukrainian administration to run, are also in a precarious state.
In such, the eventuality of Ukrainian forces unravelling due to lack of equipment and funds and further political and social unrest cannot be ruled out. What this would mean for the country – which has seen political tumult all through the 21st century – is not a very cheery prospect.
The decisions of Ukrainian leaders after Viktor Yanukovych can be debated, but it is not indisputable that they have placed their country in a difficult position.
At the best, Ukraine can hope for a frozen conflict, waiting for a miracle, but conversely, if Donald Trump triumphs next year, things will get more bad.
Despite the rhetoric from both sides, NATO accession is a long shot, with the Russians ensconced, and EU even more remote for a ravaged, corrupt, and disgruntled country, but awash with weapons and far-right groups.
2024 does not seem to be very promising for Ukraine.
(Vikas Datta can be contacted at [email protected])
–Ajit Weekly News
News Credits – I A N S