Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, many experts were betting that the war could end quickly, given the military might of President Vladimir Putin. The capital, Kiev, could fall in a matter of days, US intelligence officials said. Today, completing one month since the beginning of the conflict, Russian forces face difficulties in advancing into Ukrainian territory.
The superiority of the Russian army over Ukrainian forces is indisputable. At the beginning of the war, Ukraine had 219,000 active troops, against 840,000 Russian troops. Combat aircraft were 170 Ukrainians compared to 1,212 from Russia. In 2021, while Ukraine provided US$4.1 billion in military budget, the Russians invested US$45.3 billion.
Still, “jThere is a reasonable consensus, whether in the academic community or even among the political leaders of other countries, that there was a frustration in the expectation of the conduct of the war” on the part of Russia, analyzes the professor of International Relations at the Federal University of Sergipe (UFS). ), Barbara Motta.
Even with the differences between the armies of the two countries, Ukraine has managed to delay the Russian advance, with a large number of civilians joining the fight and supporting the West.
“Russia imagined that it could do a quick attack. That Ukraine would not have adequate forces for the response and that the West, in general, would not turn its attention or assume costs to help Ukraine”, explains professor at the Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation (Faap) Lucas Leite.
Mariana Kalil, a professor at the Escola Superior de Guerra, disagrees. “I don’t think it’s slow. I think it’s moderate. I think Russia did not engage in the war with all its might right away.”
“It could be a miscalculation, no doubt, but it seems to me that it was voluntary. Russia chose not to enter with all its power”, adds the teacher.
Despite the differences, experts agree that the Ukrainian resistance has managed to impose difficulties on Putin. This week, western Kiev, which just days ago appeared to be a position taken by the Russians, returned to Ukrainian control.
The main question is: besides resistance, what are the biggest Russian difficulties at the moment?
Although Russia has alternatives to intensify the conflict even further, “the political, social and economic cost of a war is very high. Mobilizing troops is also very costly”, highlights Leite.
In Kalil’s assessment, Russia sees the confrontation as a long-term war. According to her, we are facing a “hybrid war” that would have started in 2014, through cyber, information and irregular warfare (using paramilitary forces). What we saw a month ago would have been the beginning of conventional warfare, with direct attacks, using firearms.
In the sense of seeing the war in the long term, “if Russia came in with all its might, and that didn’t solve it, it would have a very high cost, it wouldn’t have any alternatives”, evaluates the expert.
For Barbara Motta, the conflict went from what was supposed to be a “quick war” to a “War much more than attrition. So a war that is won, when it is won, little by little – small towns, small towns.”
Another important point raised by experts is the current configuration of Russian forces.
“The Russian army is made up of very young soldiers, soldiers who, for the most part, didn’t know they were going to a conflict, and a lot of soldiers who are not ethnically Russian,” says Motta.
Professor Leite analyzes the situation in a similar way. “We are talking about a new army that, yes, is well equipped, is modern, and everything else, but that does not come close to what the army was, for example, the Soviet one, in terms of capacity and mobilization.”
Even with a smaller army and fewer war resources, Leite’s assessment is that Ukrainians have invested in the national military sector in recent years.
“Since 2014, with the Euromaidan, we had a renewal of the Ukrainian armed forces. There was a lot of Western investment, for example; there was a lot of Western arms purchases by the Ukrainians; technology was transferred in some cases. So we are talking about a country that tried to prepare itself for the possibility of a conflict,” he said.
For Mariana Kalil, there are also indications that Putin expected Ukrainian forces to surrender immediately. According to her, there was a “mistaken intelligence that the armed forces would perhaps quickly give in to Russian intervention, carry out the coup and negotiate with him [Putin]”.
Since the Russian president authorized what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, several Western countries have declared their support for the country.
Western aid is mainly reflected in the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, the application of sanctions to Russia and the reception of Ukrainian refugees – which, according to the UN, exceed 3.5 million.
Western support has been crucial for Ukraine to resist, but Professor Kalil warns that this strategy could harm the country in the future.
“Russia “winds” the West to provide more weapons, to further strengthen the paramilitary forces, because this helps to legitimize the war for it. When she speaks of “denazification”, what does she mean? The end of paramilitary forces,” she assesses.
Motta explains the consequence of arming the population: “These civilians are not linked to the resistance effort with the same rules, with the same values of conducting the war, as the soldiers linked to the Ukrainian armed forces. So there could be a series of misrepresentations, a series of war crimes committed by these paramilitary forces.”
Earlier this month, a top US defense official even claimed that the miles-long Russian convoy traveling in Ukraine would be suffering from fuel and food shortages. However, it remains unclear whether Russian troops are, in fact, facing a shortage of supplies.
The Faap professor explains that getting basic necessities in a war, asWater, food, barracks and trains is no simple task, it requires time and political mobilization.
According to Motta, “On the southern front it is much easier for Russia to be able to resupply its troops, not only because it has an immediate border with Ukraine, but because it has Crimea as its support”.
Although there are difficulties in advancing, the consequences of the conflict are already tragic. According to the UN, the offensive has killed at least 950 civilians so far. For experts, it is still difficult to predict future scenarios of the War in Ukraine.
“It seems to me that, more and more, the space for negotiation is being reduced. Not only has the space for negotiation been reduced, but we can see the use, by both sides, of statements that are often ambiguous or contradictory”, analyzes Motta.
“I think that either there is a very big escalation, and then, in fact, the two actors are forced to sit at the table to negotiate, or really this conflict will last until Russia gains control of Ukraine”, says Leite.
“What Russia is doing is a pincer strategy: opening two sides, one up and one down, in the N.north it is usul, and she is advancing through Ukrainian territory. Once advanced, it will inevitably reach Kiev. And that takes time”, explains Kalil. “I think the ceasefire will happen in North and Central Ukraine. To theul we will continue to have war.”
Source: CNN Brasil