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World News

Will the war in Ukraine end in 2024? Experts speak out

Vladimir Putin’s confirmation that he would run for president again in 2024 was predictable, but could there be any surprises next year in the war he started in Ukraine?

Russians will go to the polls starting March 15, less than a month after the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion. Both sides appear resigned to a long conflict, with high casualties, equipment losses and economic damage since it began on February 24, 2022, which is set to intensify.

Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymr Zelensky, maintain maximalist goals that prevent talks aimed at ending the war imminently, experts said. News week fighting is expected to continue until 2025.

Aberrant events cannot be ruled out, such as the brazen challenge to Putin’s authority by Wagner’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose death in a plane crash followed the capture of military installations in Rostov-on-the-Mer. Don and a march on Moscow. In addition, the Kremlin has repeatedly rejected rumors about Putin’s health.

Photo-illustration by Newsweek/Getty

“The only way I can predict the end of the war in Ukraine in 2024 is if Vladimir Putin dies,” said Beth Knobel, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University and former bureau chief. from CBS News in Moscow. News week.

“It is theoretically possible that Russia will take advantage of a change in leadership to try to claim victory and simply keep the land it has seized since February 2022,” she said.. “But even if Putin dies, I think there is only a slim chance that Russia will back down from the war, because it has already invested much of its national image in victory.”

A highly anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive, launched in June and aimed at reconquering the territory occupied by Russia, did not allow the progress hoped for by kyiv’s allies.

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s assessment that the fighting had entered a “stalemate” was dismissed by Zelensky amid rumors of division among the country’s most prominent figures and reports of a reshuffle top brass in the new year.

“With the counteroffensive stalled, there is widespread pessimism about Ukraine’s chances of defeating Russia and reconquering the occupied territories,” said Peter Rutland, professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. News week. “However, this does not mean that there are likely to be serious peace talks and a possible end to the war in 2024.

“Russia’s goals are not limited to retaining the occupied territories: they want to see a complacent political regime installed in kyiv, and they still believe that this is possible. At the very least, Putin will wait until the November 2024 elections to see if Donald Trump returns.”

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands during the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. Trump called for an end to continued U.S. funding to kyiv to fight Putin’s aggression .
Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Trump and the Republican Party

The Republican primary candidate has been touted by Kremlin propagandists as Moscow’s preferred candidate for the White House, and not just because of his criticism of Congress’s support for Ukraine. Trump also described Putin as “very smart” after the full-scale invasion and rejected US intelligence assessments that Putin had intervened on his behalf in the 2016 election.

“The United States will end Ukraine outright under another Trump administration,” said Chris Dolan, a political science professor at Lebanon Valley College who has written about U.S. support for Ukraine and NATO. “But I think Joe Biden will handle this relatively well. The current fight in Congress over foreign aid, I think, will be resolved, but maybe not very soon. It’s more about domestic politics and electoral pressures. “

Zelensky’s visit to Washington, DC, on December 12 was less significant than the red carpet treatment he had previously received. Instead of the $61 billion he sought, he got a new promise from President Joe Biden and $200 million in military aid for air defense interceptors, artillery and munitions.

But congressional Republicans want Ukraine aid to be tied to sweeping immigration reform. The war between Israel and Hamas, which began on October 7, is also attracting attention.

“Additional aid and arms deliveries to Ukraine will be disrupted by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the fact that the United States is about to enter an election year,” said Isil Akbulut Gok, associate professor in the Department of Government at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. Connecticut.

“I think the war could extend until 2025 and international support for both sides would prolong the war, because neither Ukraine nor Russia can make major breakthroughs and declare victory,” Gok said. News week.

Mert Kartal, an associate professor of government at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, believes Biden could try to boost military support for Ukraine in the spring of 2024, leveraging a Ukrainian victory in his presidential campaign.

“At a minimum, he would take the steps necessary to prevent Ukraine’s defeat before the first week of November 2024. However, convincing Republican Party members, who increasingly doubt the likelihood of Putin’s defeat, will constitute a big challenge,” he said News week.

But as Republican lawmakers fight for immigration reform, particularly at the U.S. southern border, ahead of financial support for Ukraine, “it would not be unreasonable to expect that Biden attempts, at the very least, to prolong the conflict until 2025.”

Ukrainian troops Avdiivka
Ukrainian soldiers fire an anti-tank gun in Avdiivka, Ukraine, December 7, 2023. Fierce fighting for the city of Donetsk is expected to rage until 2024.
Kostya Liberov/Getty Images

Putin’s commitment

In a rare admission of operational details, Putin told the Direct Line television show that 617,000 troops were on the battlefields in Ukraine and that the goals of the “special military operation” remained unchanged, namely “denazification of Ukraine, its demilitarization”. , its neutral status.”

A US intelligence report found that Russia had lost 87 percent of its pre-invasion forces, or 315,000 troops, and that a new mobilization expected after the elections demonstrated Putin’s willingness to sacrifice his own people. In December, he approved spending that will allow the military to account for about 30% of Russia’s total budget in 2024.

“A long-term negotiated settlement also seems very unlikely. Having spent so much blood, treasure and prestige in this war, Putin cannot politically afford anything less than a decisive victory,” said Gregory Vitarbo, professor of history at Meredith College in Raleigh. , North Carolina.

“Unfortunately, there is a very real chance that the Russian-Ukrainian war will last until 2024 and possibly beyond,” he said.

The lesson of Nagorno-Karabakh

Meanwhile, Putin can look to the post-Soviet space for an example of how to play the game in the long term, said David Rivera, an assistant professor of government at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.

In the fall, Azerbaijani forces defeated Armenian troops and recaptured the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, three decades after Baku suffered a military defeat at the hands of Armenia.

“In the shadow of these recent events, which Putin knows and understands perfectly, I expect him to continue his efforts aimed at harming the Ukrainian economy, destroying its infrastructure and even depopulating its territory so that the country cannot strengthen its military power and go on the offensive in the future,” Rivera said News week.

“If Vladimir Putin learns from the decades-long Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, then we should expect the war to continue unabated at least until 2024,” he said. he adds.

Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, December 12, 2023. Congressional delays in aid to Kyiv could continue into 2024.
Puce Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ukraine’s gains

There may not have been any breakthroughs in 2023, but Ukraine can boast some progress this year. kyiv has reclaimed more than half of the lands conquered by Russia since the war began in February 2022 and has made headlines by liberating villages and towns in the south and east.

Although Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Putin’s closest EU ally, vetoed a $55 billion support package from Brussels to Kiev in mid-December, support from others European allies have been strong.

“I don’t think Americans should assume that Ukraine’s continued efforts to dislodge the Russians are entirely dependent on American or even Western European actions,” said Rachel Epstein, a professor of international relations and European politics at the University of Denver.

“I have the feeling that even without external support, Ukrainians will continue to fight,” she said. News week. “Ukraine may change tactics to deal with a slowdown in Western aid, but I don’t believe it will capitulate.”

Ukraine disrupted Russian operations around occupied Crimea, damaging Russian radars, air defense and ships on the Black Sea. Ukrainian troops also broke through Russian defenses on the Dnipro River.

Mark Temnycky, a Ukrainian-American journalist and non-resident researcher at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said delays in 2023 have allowed Russia to strengthen its positions in southern and eastern Ukraine, regroup and redefine its strategy.

“Unless circumstances change, the war is unlikely to end in 2024,” he said. News week. “Despite slow progress in 2023, Ukrainian morale remains high. The majority of the country still believes it will win the war and will accept no other outcome than the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian lands.”