A long war works against Ukraine and the Wests own security

From: Chatham House
Published: Thu Feb 08 2024


A protracted conflict works in Russia's favour. But there is a clear path to bringing it to an early end.

Nobody wanted a long war in Ukraine. Russia didn't plan for it, and the West wasn't prepared for it.

Ukraine and its Western partners had dared to hope that the successes of autumn 2022 might cause Russia's army to implode. There was similar vain hope that the late Yevgeny Prigozhin's coup of June 2023 would succeed - or at least weaken the Kremlin's grip on its war. These hopes proved naïve.

Russia, meanwhile, expected a short victorious war of weeks if not days, one that would barely be felt by its population, except to glory in the defeat of Zelenskyy and his ‘Nazi regime'. This belief also proved delusional.

But with neither side achieving satisfaction, the alternative - the long war (‘forever war', say some) grows more likely, and undoubtedly favours the invader.

For Ukraine, the long war is nothing short of disastrous. Even if it were willing to, the country cannot recruit anything like the numbers Russia can press into service. It also places greater value on human life than its opponent, meaning it inevitably suffers more from a protracted war of attrition.

Russia, by contrast, has settled into what Natalie Sabanadze has blackly called its ‘zone of comfort'. To Moscow, the war is manageable, the president and the elite are secure, and most crucially of all, Western resolve seems brittle.

The EU's hard-fought-for €50 billion funding package has passed on the second attempt, but future funding will surely face similar challenges. Meanwhile vital military aid from the US is still held hostage in Congress.

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Company: Chatham House

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