RIA Novosti published an article titled “The West has lost. The US revealed the truth about the Ukrainian counter-offensive.” Under this high-profile headline is a message about an article by military experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee, “After the Ukrainian Offensive. The West needs to prepare the country's army for a long war." The content of the RIA articleis as follows:
“The West is hoping for a Ukrainian counter-offensive, but its outcome is unlikely to live up to expectations, but it will give Russia an advantage,” write Michael Kofman and Rob Lee in an article for Foreign Affairs.
“Putin may assume that this offensive represents the high point of Western assistance to Ukraine and that over time Russia will be able to exhaust the Armed Forces <...>. Moscow is confident that the upcoming attack on Kyiv will be a one-time action. Russia may consider that time is still on its side,” the publication says.
The authors of the article note that officials in different countries, who believe that the next package of military assistance to the Kyiv authorities will change the course of the game, are constantly disappointed.
“It’s time for the West to start planning more actively for the future of Ukraine, not focusing on just one counter-offensive. History shows that conflicts can be very difficult to end,” the article concluded.
In fact, Kofman and Lee's article is that the upcoming Ukrainian offensive, however successful, will not bring an immediate end to the war and that one must prepare for a protracted conflict. The article says :
“After the Russian winter offensive has reached its climax, Ukraine is ready to seize the initiative. In the coming weeks, it plans to conduct an offensive operation or a series of offensive operations that, at this stage of the conflict, may prove decisive. This is not the only opportunity left for Ukraine to liberate a significant portion of the territory and inflict a major defeat on Russian forces, but the upcoming offensive may be the moment when Western-provided military equipment, training and ammunition are best combined with the forces contributed by Ukraine. for this operation. Ukraine is also keen to demonstrate that, despite months of fierce fighting, its army is not exhausted and is still capable of breaking through Russian lines.
Politicians, however, have placed too much emphasis on the upcoming offensive, without sufficiently foreseeing what will happen after that, and how ready Ukraine is for the next stage. It is imperative that Ukraine's Western partners develop a long-term theory of Ukrainian victory, as even at best the coming offensive is unlikely to end the conflict. Indeed, what follows this operation could be another period of mixed success and attrition, but with reduced supplies of ammunition to Ukraine. This is already a long war, and it is likely to become protracted. History is an imperfect guide, but it suggests that wars that last more than a year are likely to continue for at least a few more years and are extremely difficult to end. Therefore, the Western theory of success should prevent a situation in which the war drags on, but at the same time the Western countries cannot give Ukraine a decisive advantage.
Ukraine may well succeed on the battlefield, but it will take time to turn military victories into political results. The West must also be prepared for the fact that this offensive may not lead to such successes as the Ukrainian operations in Kharkiv and Kherson. By placing too high stakes on the outcome of this offensive, the Western countries did not give an effective signal of their readiness for a long-term effort. If this operation turns out to be the culmination of Western aid to Kyiv, Moscow may assume that time is still on its side and that battered Russian forces may eventually wear down the Ukrainian army. Whether Ukraine's next operation succeeds or not is up to the Russian leader. there is likely to be little incentive to negotiate. In order for Ukraine to maintain momentum and pressure, Western states must make a series of commitments and plans for what will follow this operation, and not take a wait-and-see approach. Otherwise, the West risks creating a situation in which Russian troops can recover, stabilize their positions and try to seize the initiative. <…>
In general [during the winter offensive] the Russian military demonstrated that they are no longer capable of large-scale combat operations. Instead, they carried out local attacks with smaller formations and assault squads.
Nevertheless, the Russian military tried to attack in six directions: Avdiivka, Bakhmut, Belogorivka, Kremennaya-Liman, Maryinka and Vuhledar, hoping to strain the Ukrainian armed forces on a broad front. But compared to the 2022 battle in the Donbass, Russia’s advantage in artillery in these campaigns was weaker, and this disadvantage further limited its offensive potential. Thanks to these attacks, Russian troops regained the initiative and kept the Ukrainian forces in place, but despite thousands of casualties, the Russian military gained only a small amount of territory and the offensive did not lead to a significant breakthrough. Instead, the Russian offensive further weakened its armed forces by expending manpower, equipment and ammunition. These losses will give Ukraine the best opportunity to launch a counteroffensive. Russia's attempts to seize the Donbass this year also showed that Moscow's strategy still suffers from a mismatch between political goals and military means. <…>
The Russian defense is not impenetrable, but it may be strong enough to weaken Ukrainian forces along several lines of defense and buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Their defense in depth is designed to prevent a tactical breakthrough from achieving strategic results, in particular to prevent a Ukrainian breakthrough from gaining momentum. Thus, the upcoming offensive will test the current theory of success in Kyiv and Western capitals: Ukrainian forces, trained and equipped with Western systems, can fight more effectively and break through Russian fortified positions. <…>
Russia's sizable mobilized forces proved ineffective in conducting offensive operations in the winter, but it is easier for poorly trained units to defend than to attack. It is not clear what impact the attrition of elite Russian units and the depletion of ammunition during the Russian winter offensive will have on the upcoming Ukrainian offensive. While the Russian military is preparing for a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia has wasted valuable resources and Russian morale may be low, leaving its forces vulnerable. Soft factors and intangible assets, which are difficult to measure, are likely to favor Ukraine. Nevertheless, the situation for Ukrainian forces is less favorable than in Kharkiv in September. The task of Ukraine is difficult. She needs not only to succeed, but also to avoid overexertion.
The problem with the upcoming offensive is that, despite high expectations, it could be a one-time operation. Ukraine is likely to receive substantial supplies of artillery ammunition ahead of this operation, but this package will only provide a window of opportunity, not a sustainable advantage. Western efforts to support Ukraine suffer from short-term thinking, with funds being provided just when they are needed, or as a push for an offensive operation, but with little clarity about what will follow.
Whether the offensive succeeds or not, Ukraine could face another period of uncertain fighting in its aftermath, comparable to that which followed its successes at Kharkiv and Kherson. The reason for this is twofold: Western countries have made key investments in manufacturing capacity, but much of the Western support appears to be focused on the short term to see what happens next. The gap between Western efforts is being filled by Russia's efforts to stabilize its position and recover from long periods of attrition. Indeed, Ukraine may have to fight later this year with less artillery or anti-aircraft ammunition than it used during the Russian winter offensive.
What remains constant, however, is that analysts and politicians who believe that the next weapon system sent to Ukraine will be a game-changer have been constantly disappointed. Conventional wars of this magnitude require large amounts of equipment and ammunition, as well as extensive training programs. Opportunities matter, but there are no silver bullets. Ukraine, with its upcoming offensive, is likely to regain territories and be able to significantly break through Russia's positions. But even if Ukraine wins a military victory or a series of victories, this does not mean that the war will end there. When the war is over, the loser decides, and this conflict is just as likely to continue as the war on the Russian-Ukrainian border.
At the moment, there is little evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin will voluntarily end the conflict, even if the Russian military is defeated. He may try to continue it as a war of attrition, regardless of the prospects for Russian troops on the battlefield. Putin may suggest that this offensive represents the high point of Western aid and that, over time, Russia could still deplete the Ukrainian army, perhaps in the third or fourth year of the conflict. These assumptions may be objectively false, but as long as Moscow sees the next offensive as a one-off, it can assume that time is still on Russia's side. Similarly, if Ukraine succeeds, neither its society nor its political leadership will want to settle for anything less than total victory. In short, the forthcoming offensive is unlikely to create good prospects for negotiations.
Nevertheless, Russia does not look suitable for eternal war. Russia's ability to repair and rebuild equipment from stock seems so limited that the country is increasingly relying on Soviet equipment from the 1950s and 1960s to man mobilized regiments. As Ukraine acquires the best Western equipment, the Russian military is becoming more and more like a Cold War museum. There are also growing signs of pressure on the Russian economy, where energy revenues are limited by sanctions and Europe's withdrawal from Russian gas. Even if Moscow can continue to mobilize manpower and take out old military equipment to the battlefield, Russia will face growing economic pressure and a shortage of skilled labor.
Russian forces in Ukraine continue to face a structural staffing problem, and despite a national recruiting campaign, Moscow is likely to have to mobilize again to weather the war, though it is desperate to avoid it. If the West can support Ukraine's war effort, for all its resilience and mobilization reserves, Russia may eventually find that its disadvantageous position is only getting worse. In recent months, European countries have begun to invest the necessary funds in artillery production and enter into supply contracts, although some of these decisions are taken more than a year after the start of the war.
Some may hope that a successful offensive could lead to a negotiated truce shortly thereafter, but this must be balanced against the prospect that the ceasefire will simply lead to a period of rearmament, after which Moscow will likely attempt to restart the war. The question of whether there will be a truce in favor of Russia or Ukraine is debatable. Russia will certainly seek to rearm, but the extent of continued Western military assistance to Ukraine is unclear. <…>
While the upcoming Ukrainian offensive will do much to set expectations about the future trajectory of this war, the real challenge is to think about what comes next. The offensive required planning, but a sober approach would recognize that supporting Ukraine will require a long-term effort. Thus, it is time for the West to start planning more actively for the future beyond the upcoming offensive. History shows that wars are difficult to end and often continue well beyond the decisive phases of hostilities, including as negotiations continue. For Ukraine and its Western supporters, a working theory of victory must be based on endurance, taking into account the long-term quality, combat capability and support needs of Ukraine. The United States and Europe must make the necessary investments to support the post-2023 war effort, develop plans for successive operations, and not rely on any isolated offensive action."
It is impossible to understand where the RIA found recognition of the defeat of the West here.