– The potential of Ukraine, Russia and Western countries is exhausted in this war. But it is the West that has the least determination, says Adam Eberhardt, director of the Warsaw Enterprise Institute, in an interview with WNP.PL.
- – In Europe and the United States, war fatigue in Ukraine is growing very quickly. This trend will deepen, says Adam Eberhardt, Director of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Warsaw Enterprise Institute, in an interview with WNP.PL.
- European countries, according to our interlocutor, do not have sufficient weapons potential to increase their defense capabilities and at the same time support Ukraine.
- The statements of the Ukrainian authorities are dominated by disappointment and, sometimes, even dissatisfaction with the insufficient military support to Ukraine.
In your opinion, what was the year like in terms of the hostilities taking place outside our eastern borders?
– In the first months of the war, the front line changed dynamically. Last November, Ukraine retook Kherson – and since then we have been dealing with a war of attrition. The loudly declared Ukrainian counteroffensive ended in failure.
But during this year, the aggressor, supposedly the second army in the world, did not achieve any stunning successes. At enormous cost, the Russians seized the Bakhmut relics, and that was it.
They also failed to cripple Ukraine with attacks on critical infrastructure, especially power grids. Ukraine has significantly strengthened its air defense. A stalemate thus developed in which both sides became strong enough to maintain their positions, but unable to take effective offensive action.
Has the West shown enough solidarity with Ukraine?
The statements of the Ukrainian authorities are dominated by disappointment, and sometimes dissatisfaction, due to the insufficient military support flowing to Ukraine.
President Zelensky tries to exert constant pressure on Western countries, which often exposes him to accusations of ingratitude. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has provided aid worth approximately $75 billion, and a similar amount came from the European Union, with the difference that American support is primarily equipment and weapons, while European support is no less than that. Necessary financial assistance.
European countries do not have sufficient weapons capabilities to increase their defense capabilities and support Ukraine at the same time. We promised Ukraine to deliver 1 million artillery shells within one year, and everything indicates that at most 40% of EU production will be donated. This number.
President Zelensky’s advisor wrote that Ukraine is turning to the defense, and that winter is not conducive to offensive actions. So what are the prospects?
A very important decision is the vote in the US Congress on the large support package for Ukraine amounting to $61 billion, which was postponed for many weeks. The issue of granting these funds is of extremely vital importance for Ukraine. If aid was granted, the situation on the front would not collapse.
Demographics is Ukraine’s most dangerous internal enemy
I expect that Ukraine will be able to hold out roughly on the front line, perhaps suffering only symbolic losses, such as the fall of Avdiivka, located on the outskirts of Donetsk, which has been under attack since 2014.
The internal situation in Ukraine will be worse. Please remember that Ukraine’s problem increasingly boils down to the demographic situation: problems of conscription and, at the same time, problems of rotation of soldiers who have been on the front for almost two years. These are the challenges related to the functioning of the economy in the face of migration and mobilization needs.
They haven’t dealt with the corruption problem, have they?
– This remains a big problem for Ukraine, which negatively affects the efficiency of the state and the strength of its economy. During the first months of the war, in the face of massive social mobilization, one might have had the impression that the situation in this area had improved somewhat. On the other hand, the massive military and humanitarian aid that flowed into Ukraine during the war, including the level of decentralization of this aid, naturally encourages corruption schemes.
Political crisis in Ukraine – discord between the army and politicians will grow
Although there are no corruption allegations against Zelensky himself or his immediate political environment, Ukrainians are increasingly angry at the revealed manifestations of corruption and the inability of the authorities to deal with this problem.
I predict that in 2024, the political crisis in Ukraine will intensify and, above all, the rift between the political leadership and the military leadership will deepen.
You mentioned that Ukraine will be able to preserve its properties, but from the Ukrainian point of view it seems that this is not a satisfactory solution. No chance for a breakthrough?
– This is a war of attrition, where the potential of all three parties is exhausted. One of these countries is Ukraine, which has the fewest private resources but the greatest motivation to defend itself as it struggles for its survival. The other side is Russia, which has greater but also shrinking resources, which are being used ineffectively. Putin’s insistence on continuing the war until victory was also formidable – Russia’s internal stability and the regime’s future were at stake.
It is Washington that sets the direction for European countries, and the United States insists on helping Ukraine the least
Finally, the third party in the war of attrition is the Western countries, which likely possess enormous resources, especially the United States, and the cost of this war is the least for them. However, they have the least amount of design.
We note that war fatigue in Ukraine is growing very rapidly in Europe and the United States. This trend will also deepen as a result of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which further distracts American decision-makers.
In addition, the United States enters the electoral campaign before the presidential elections in November 2024. It is clear that this will mean changes, especially since there are voices in the public debate calling for more isolationism.
Isn’t what is happening in the Netherlands a harbinger of negative change?
– There is no longer any enthusiasm among many European countries to support Ukraine. However, I believe that European countries’ support for Ukraine will be secondary to the dynamics of US policy. It is Washington that sets the direction for European countries.
Today we look at disturbing reports coming from Slovakia and the Netherlands, but in my opinion, next year all eyes should be focused on America and the presidential elections there. The basic scenario currently is Donald Trump returning to the White House. He announced that peace would be imposed on Ukraine within 24 hours, and it is frightening to think what that could mean politically.
So what does all this mean for Poland?
This war is not only a war to destroy Ukraine, but it is also a Russian war to destroy the international order in Europe.
Three months before the outbreak of the conflict, in December 2021, Putin issued a clear ultimatum to the West, which included, in addition to issues related to Ukraine, a request to withdraw NATO from the countries of the alliance’s eastern flank.
Unfortunately, it cannot be ruled out that the possible defeat of Ukraine would also bring with it a serious review of NATO’s work. If Putin takes over Ukraine, he will want to do the same.
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