It has been over nineteen months since Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and a recent report from The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has raised concerns that Kyiv may lose the conflict if Western nations reduce their defense aid to Ukraine.
The report suggests that the outcome of this long-standing conflict hangs in the balance, with the possibility of victory or defeat depending on the level of support Ukraine receives. According to Frederick W. Kagan, a prominent figure at ISW, Ukraine could still turn the tide of the war in its favor if Western support is increased significantly.
Kagan believes that the situation in Ukraine is far from the stalemate depicted by Chief General Valerii Zaluzhny, Ukraine's Commander-in-Chief, but rather an unstable one that could swing either way. In a recent interview with The Economist on November 1st, General Zaluzhny characterized the war as a stalemated positional conflict.
He pointed out that the proliferation of drones on the battlefield, combined with Moscow's effective electronic warfare and fortified defensive networks, has transformed the war into a predominantly positional one. Ukraine's challenges include limited air defenses, a lack of long-range strike capabilities, and a shortage of tanks and armored vehicles, all hindering its ability to maneuver effectively.
Western Aid: A Decisive Factor
Kagan acknowledges these challenges but sees a potential solution in increased Western aid. He argues that Western support could be the decisive factor in tipping the conflict in favor of either Russia or Ukraine.
Moscow also faces its issues, including difficulties in deploying its capabilities effectively across different sectors of the frontlines. For instance, Russian electronic warfare systems, while potent, are not deployed densely across the frontlines, giving Ukraine opportunities to disrupt Russian offensives using its drone fleet.
Russia's dominance in manned air operations has halted some Ukrainian advances, but it hasn't prevented Ukraine from redeploying reinforcements to threatened areas. Moreover, Russia's industrial capacity cannot replace the tanks and armored vehicles lost during its advances, which Kagan believes presents an opening for Western aid to make a difference in Ukraine's favor.
Western arsenals possess the weaponry required to address Ukraine's challenges, including air defense, artillery, and anti-armor systems. Kagan asserts that Kyiv's ability to deter Russia heavily relies on Western aid and weapons.
In conclusion, Ukraine finds itself in a situation where Western aid could be the decisive factor in the ongoing conflict. A reduction in aid could strip Ukraine of its ability to counter Russia effectively, potentially leading to Putin's victory.
Conversely, expanding Western aid, focusing on critical weapons systems such as those that can neutralize Russia's electronic warfare capabilities, airpower, armor, and mine-clearing equipment, could help Ukraine break the current positional war stalemate and shift the balance in its favor.
According to Kagan, facilitating Ukraine's ability to regain maneuverability on the battlefield necessitates providing weapons and systems already in Western arsenals on a scale that would enable Ukraine to succeed.