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Ukraine: after a month of conflict, are we heading towards a war of attrition? The three scenarios considered


Just one month after the start of the war in Ukraine, the conflict with Russia is struggling to find a way out. Military experts evoke a transformation of the latter into a “war of attrition”. Here’s what that entails and the three possible scenarios for when the war will end.

Time passes and death comes. Proverb or military strategy, the war in Ukraine gets bogged down for the Russians and time could well become for Vladimir Putin as much an ally as an enemy. While the conflict was translated, from the first days, into an operation military muscular, the Kremlin forces finally had to multiply the bombardments to assert a form of superiority. Without clear and net success to date.

This Wednesday, March 23, a senior British defense official described the Russian offensive in Ukraine as a “war of wear“, a month after the start of the war, on February 24. If this is the case, the consequences for both sides would be catastrophic.

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“Russian operations have changed,” Jim Hockenhull, head of defense intelligence, told a press briefing, saying the Kremlin was “now pursuing a strategy of attrition” after failing to achieve its “initial goals.” “. Initial objectives which were to succeed quickly but which today are largely slowed down by the Ukrainian defense and the international mobilization to support the army of Volodimyr Zelensky.

“This will involve the irresponsible and indiscriminate use of firepower” and “will result in more civilian casualties, the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis”, he further warned.

The territories controlled by the Russians one month after the start of the war.

The territories controlled by the Russians one month after the start of the war.
Free lunch

War of attrition, what are we talking about?

Used in the military field, the term “war of attrition” refers to any conflict in which each of the adversaries aims to weaken and diminish the resources of the other by material wear and psychological. In the current conflict, it is more Russia that seeks to destabilize Ukraine through blockades around major cities such as Mariupol for example.

The term would have emerged during the First World War when the two opposing camps had each reached the ultimate blockage of the “war of position”, which consists of settling in a place and not moving from it.

The military journal Défense Nationale describes as attrition war “a military strategy consisting in seek the surrender of the adversary by exhausting it by continuous losses in personnel and material. The strategy is therefore simple: waiting“.

If Russia no longer has a monopoly on the offensive, then the strategy of attrition could take over. The conflict could drag on and be costly.

Make it last to reign better?

“Not to win the war, for Russia, is to lose it. And not to lose the war for Ukraine, is to win it. Nothing is decided, but the russian strategy failedkyiv is still in the hands of the Ukrainians and the Russians have switched to a strategy of massive bombardments and encirclement of the cities, a little out of frustration and a lot to save already very high losses (about 10,000 soldiers killed, editor’s note)” , analysis for Midi Libre Dominique Moïsi, founding member of Ifri.

The solution which could then be offered to Moscow would consist in continue the blockades in order to prioritize civilians and bring social pressure to bear on the Ukrainian government, without endangering its soldiers. The risk for Vladimir Putin would not only be to lose the war but also to get bogged down in a real quagmire unending. A diplomatically and financially very dangerous scenario for the head of the Kremlin.

Three possible scenarios

According to Dominique Moïsi, three scenarios are possible. the first“it’s a war that lasts, with more and more deaths, especially in the civilian population and a war whose economic and human consequences will become ever greater. No one can trump the other, but no one can agree to the other’s terms. This is the scenario of a long war”. The one that is beginning to emerge at the present time.

The second scenario would be that of military escalation. Faced with Ukrainian resistance, Russia could decide to massively bombard key cities like kyiv and Odessa like Mariupol. Russia could even use “weapons of mass destruction, but that’s not likely”. However, Vladimir Putin’s unpredictability does not completely rule out this catastrophic scenario either.

Finally, the “betterscenario would consist of a diplomatic issue between the two countries. Summarized by the Ifri specialist: “Russia has lost Ukraine, Ukraine has lost Crimea and the eastern part of the Donbass. Ukraine has given up on joining NATO, but it is joining the club of values ​​that are open to it, which is the European Union”. Ukraine could thus return to its pre-February 24 situation by keeping its access to the Black Sea. But by definitively renouncing the Crimea and part of the Donbass. “The path of reason” according to the diplomacy expert.

However, this compromise still seems far away. Neither Ukraine nor Russia are willing to make such concessions. Western sanctions, increasing pressure and Ukrainian resistance are all elements that could lead Moscow to put an end to this war at the risk of calling into question the power of Vladimir Putin…

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