It is not expected that this year will witness the end of the war in Ukraine, because the necessary conditions and factors are not available, except in one case only, which is getting rid of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in one way or another, as we explained in the previous article, which concluded that the scenario of stopping the war is not achievable, and this is in favor of the second scenario: The scenario of the continuation of the war, which is confirmed by successive political and military developments that make it clear day after day that the United States is not keen to stop the war except in accordance with the conditions it set for that, conditions that were not applied to it during the war it launched against Iraq and Afghanistan.

How long will the war in Ukraine last? What developments are likely to occur in the coming years of the war?

The support provided by the United States and Western countries to Ukraine is not aimed at pressuring Russia to stop the war, but rather to defeat Russian forces and force them to withdraw, overthrow the Putin regime, or force it to comply with American conditions and the rules-based world order.

Indicators of the continuation of the war

Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the American political and media circles expected the war to last for several years, and the first year of the war has passed with many political and military developments that upended the equations that were expected to occur at the beginning of the war. A quick review of the progress of these developments over the first year of the war can identify the following main indicators, which have clear implications for the course of the war in the coming years:

  • The war began with a massive build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border against Ukrainian forces that were standing almost alone, except for limited U.S. support as part of the previous U.S. rehabilitation plan for Ukrainian forces. The expectation was that Russian forces would take control of Ukraine in a few days or weeks at most. But this did not happen until the end of the first year of the war, despite the many changes made by the Russian leadership on the battlefront. So far, the goal of Russian forces controlling Ukraine or, at least, the eastern border provinces, has been elusive through conventional warfare.
  • The Russian leadership's use of Wagner forces, and before it Chechen forces, revealed the weakness of the regular military forces led by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and their inability to achieve a military victory commensurate with the size of Russian superiority. Russia did not expect that Western countries led by the United States would support the Ukrainian military to the extent that it did, which has come close to achieving the conventional military balance between Russia and Ukraine, but rather seeks to surpass it.
  • At a time when the United States was able to establish a major global coalition against the Russian war on Ukraine, Russia failed to move to establish an international coalition against it, until it became largely isolated internationally, and only Iran, Syria, Nicaragua, Eritrea, Mali, North Korea and Belarus support its position, and with the exception of the latter two, the rest of the countries have no weight in Russia's political, military and economic battle. As for Iran, despite Russia's support in political forums, it cannot play the role of Russia's official ally in this war, in order to preserve its trade relations with the European Union countries, to avoid facing further economic sanctions, and to avoid placing more obstacles in the way of resolving the nuclear file.
  • Despite the common positions between China and Russia towards the United States and the world order, and despite its understanding of Russia's motives on the war on Ukraine, and its recent proposal for a political initiative to stop the war, it has not established a joint defense alliance with Russia, nor has it sent any military or logistical support to Russia, and it is watching with great caution the developments, stages, results, and what it may lead to, as it knows that it is subject to strict surveillance by the United States and Western countries, and knows that the discovery of any attempts to support Russia will expose it to severe economic sanctions from European countries, and will further complicate the crisis files between it and the United States, especially since China, which aspires to change the world order and strengthen its position in world leadership through dialogue rather than armed confrontation, knows that it is primarily concerned with the results of the war in Ukraine.
  • It has become abundantly clear that the support provided by the United States and Western countries is not aimed at pressuring Russia to stop the war, but rather at defeating Russian forces and forcing them to withdraw, toppling Putin's regime, or forcing it to comply with American conditions and the rules-based world order. Therefore, the Chinese initiative to stop the war was neglected, arguing that it was unrealistic and did not include the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
  • The United States leads the process of supporting Ukraine politically, militarily, economically, and humanitarianly, and works with its allies to continue political support to the Ukrainian government through international organizations, allies, and partners, to assert its legitimate right to defend its territory, and to determine its security options and regional and international alliances. The latest of this support was the precedent of the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for President Putin, who presides over a permanent member of the Security Council.
  • Militarily, the United States is working to strengthen the military capabilities of the Ukrainian army with the support and support of the Democratic and Republican parties, with the participation of 33 Western countries, led by Germany and Britain, and more than 10 non-European countries, led by Japan and South Korea, in order to provide the Ukrainian army with advanced weapons and equipment that ensure its superiority over Russian forces, in the current conventional war, until victory is achieved at all costs.

    It is also working to strengthen economic support with the participation of the World Bank, the European Union and the Group of Seven. Finally, humanitarian support for the care of the affected, displaced persons and Ukrainian refugees, to which the European Union contributes a major role, represented in the absorption of 4 million refugees in the European Union countries, who have the full right to enter the labor market, obtain residency, education and health care. In the first year of the war, the EU spent about €67 billion, in addition to allocating €18 billion until March 2024, with a willingness to extend support until March 2025 if necessary.

    Conventional warfare is expected to last a few years to come, but its consequences for infrastructure and casualties will be much greater than in the first year, depending on the consequences of each eventuality.

    The coming war years

    Looking at the above indicators, we can conclude the following:

  • The results of the war are not in favor of Russia so far, and this means that it will find itself facing very limited options to achieve quick victories, avoid defeat and be forced to withdraw, and these expected options include the following:
    • Radical changes in the command of military operations under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense, which would confirm the cohesion of the Russian army and achieve quick partial victories that restore its prestige on the battlefield and reduce the size of its human losses that may break the back of the regime.
    • Changing the military tactics currently in place, which seem to have not evolved since the Soviet war in Afghanistan, as well as its ballistic missiles.
    • Transition to the use of highly destructive strategic conventional weapons, resulting in heavy losses among Ukrainian forces, but without resorting to chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapons of mass destruction.
    • A broader and more precise targeting of infrastructure in all Ukrainian cities is pushing the United States, Western countries and the Ukrainian government to rethink their way of dealing with the war, forcing them to rush to search for political solutions on relaxed terms, to avoid reaching the brink of explosion.
    • Conducting limited provocative skirmishes with European border countries outside Ukraine, using Belarus to open a new battlefront on the northern Ukrainian border, or fabricating a crisis with a border country such as Lithuania or Poland, in order to further complicate the situation and force the United States and Western countries to review their policies and positions. Especially since all the European countries bordering Russia and Belarus now, after Finland's accession, are members of NATO, which constantly repeats, on occasion and inappropriately, that it is a solid and coherent defense alliance and will not hesitate to defend any of its members. It is known that NATO, as an alliance, does not have any military role in the war, and does not provide any military support to Ukraine, as its role is limited to defending member states, and its support for Ukraine is limited to the political field, while Western military support that reaches Ukraine is made directly from Western countries to Ukraine.

    2. An anti-NATO Russian defense alliance, similar to the previous Warsaw Pact, is unlikely. The only country that can make a big difference in the balance of power and the existing war equations is China, whose relations with the West currently do not allow it to enter into a defensive alliance with Russia. This means that Russia has no choice but to rely on itself solely vis-à-vis the United States and Western countries, and Belarus remains Russia's only ally that can help with limited supporting roles.

    3. In order to change the balance of power in Ukraine's favor, Western countries may soon have to equip it with jet attack aircraft and long-range missiles, which will help Ukraine move from a position of defense to attack, partially transferring the battle to Russian territory, and responding in kind to the destructive strategic missiles that Russia may resort to in the coming weeks. Extending the war into Russian territory would usher in a new chapter in the U.S. war against Russia in Ukraine.

    In light of the above conclusions, conventional warfare is expected to continue for a few years to come, but its consequences for infrastructure and casualties will be much greater than in the first year of the war, depending on the consequences of each eventuality:

    • Russia's success in achieving partial or total victories enables it to impose its conditions on the United States and the West. Russia's success in expanding the circle of political and military crises outside Ukraine.
    • The success of Ukrainian troops in taking the battle to Russian territory.
    • Widespread popular unrest within Russia topples President Putin.

    (To be continued.. explosion scenario)