“It is difficult to make predictions; especially about the future,” said Yogi Berra, American baseball player for the New York Yankees. It is worth the touch of humor to highlight the inherent difficulty of any prospective exercise, which increases in a international stage like the current one, full of variables.
Among the issues worthy of attention on the international scene in 2023, the ukrainian war is in the spotlight. A year after the start of the war, there are still many unanswered questions: Will a frozen conflict undermine the Western bloc’s support for Ukraine? Is there room to negotiate a ceasefire? What role will China play?
Just started the boreal winter, the tactical situation is stagnant, with a stabilized front in which there are no significant changes since the Ukrainian offensive in the Kherson and Kharkov sectors was contained by Russian forces.
Russia has resumed a limited-range offensive effort in the Donbas sector and intensifies its fire actions in depth with the use of a diversity of means among which are counted drones, conventional artillery or theater missiles.
The symbolic value of the Patriot missiles
Meanwhile, Ukraine is preparing to receive from North America an early battery of Patriot missiles which, without being the panacea that will decide the war in its favour, has a high symbolic value, in addition to reinforcing Ukraine’s air defense capacity.
The rigor of winter It will foreseeably bring a limitation to the ability of the contenders to maneuver and an increase in fire actions. Both parties will take the opportunity to reorganize, improve their positions, rearm and plan their next steps.
It is difficult to predict who will benefit from this relative pause in operational tempo; it can be ventured that, other things being equal and current circumstances continuing, the imposing economic and industrial base of West it can tip the scales in favor of Ukraine, against a Russia that is increasingly pressured and isolated.
On the other hand, Russia could be trying to lengthen the conflict to introduce a gap between Ukraine and a Western bloc that supports it, but in which some fissures appear, as has been proven during the negotiations to agree on a cap on the price of Russian gas. , and that could give in to fatigue, given the negative impact that the war is having on their economies. Maybe putin I would take advantage of the winter to prepare a new offensive on kyiv that would allow him to proclaim Russian victory in the war, although this option seems unlikely right now.
A negotiated exit?
An optimistic vision points to an alignment towards a negotiated exit or, at least, towards a stable ceasefire. The recovery of the initiative on the battlefield, although timid, helps Russia to recover from the discredit of having found itself in the position of having to cede ground before the thrust of Ukrainian weapons. Ukraine does not seem to be able to penetrate beyond the lines reached in November. Europe suffers the economic consequences of the war; even the president Biden privately urges Zelensky to show its willingness to negotiate directly with Putin. All this could serve to bring the parties closer to a negotiating table, perhaps throughout the winter.
A second focus of attention for 2023, related to the previous one, focuses on the Indo-Pacific. It cannot be said that the war fully conforms to the convenience of Beijing’s interests, but it can be argued that China is the power that benefits the most from the conflict and the economic sanctions: it makes Russia more politically and economically dependent on it. It wears down the West, especially Europe, militarily and economically; it allows China to obtain first-hand information on conventional Western military capabilities and keeps NATO – and therefore the United States – pending and tied to the conflict.
Under these conditions, during 2023 it would be advisable not to lose sight of the situation in the South China Sea and, above all, in the Strait of taiwan and on the island of the same name, where upsurges in tension can be expected with a China that sees the day when Taipei returns under the control of the People’s Republic ever closer.
The need for coordinated international action
The war in Ukraine is approaching its first anniversary and its outcome remains unclear. The possibility that the conflict will become chronic and remain alive, more or less entrenched for a few years, is real and both parties are preparing for it. That of a negotiated exit makes its way timidly. For it to become a reality, coordinated international action is needed to exert its influence on the contenders, to propose a solution acceptable to both parties and that it does not serve to legitimize a recourse to the war of conquest that was believed to be overcome. That is the magnitude of the challenge posed to the international community.
Salvador Sanchez TapiaProfessor of Conflict Analysis and International Security, university of Navarra.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.