Editor’s Note: David A. Andelman, CNN contributor, two-time Deadline Club award winner, knight of the French Legion of Honor, author of “Red Lines in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Possible Wars” and blog at Free Andelman. He was previously a correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News in Europe and Asia. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. see more idea at CNN.
A current truce in the war in Ukraine would essentially mark a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nine months later, Russia’s hopes of a quick seizure had been dashed, with its troops largely on the defensive across more than 600 miles of frontline stretching along eastern and southern Ukraine.
Indeed, an armistice or negotiations may be the only path to victory at the moment for the Russian leader; His manpower is exhausted and the supply of weapons is dwindling.
At the same time, there is a Western pennant will that could prove equally toxic for Ukraine – and Putin is almost certainly counting on.
“The only thing an early ceasefire can do is it allows both sides to rearm,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at the Russian Institute of Defense Studies. CNA think tank and a leading expert on the Russian military, told me in an interview.
“And since Russia is at a disadvantage right now, Russia will benefit the most and then start a war again. So all a truce buys you is a continuation of war. It will not solve any of the fundamental problems of the war,” he added.
Russia is starting to rearm, experts say. “Availability of ammunition” is one of the “most decisive aspects of this war,” says Kofman. “Burn 9 million rounds, 1 month is not enough. So the question is what is the rate of ammunition production and what can be mobilized?” he added.
Kofman cites available information that shows that arms production – which is a staple of exchanges along Ukraine’s front lines – has increased from two shifts, and in some factories to three shifts. , one-day shift in Russia. This shows that “they have the components or else they wouldn’t be double and triple overtime,” he says.
Still, a truce and negotiations is something some senior US and Western officials seem eager, or at least prepared to, to push for at the moment.
“When there is an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, take it. Seize the moment,” said General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff speak recently.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not buy it. “We will not allow Russia to wait and build up its forces,” he said. told G-20 meeting in Bali earlier this month.
As Ukrainians brace for a brutal winter of Russian attacks on critical energy infrastructure, it’s little wonder they’re wary of diplomatic wrangling.
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Imagine how Ukrainians understand negotiation”. told Council on Foreign Relations on Monday. “You were sitting in your own house when the killer came to your house to kill your wife, rape your daughter, take over the second floor, then open the door on the second floor and say, ‘Okay, come up here. Let’s have a negotiation.’ What will your reaction be?”
The reality is that there is little real value to any truce, whether it involves negotiations or not. A truce gives Russia, which is increasingly leaning against a military wall, much-needed breathing space.
General Mick Ryan, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me in an email exchange: “In addition to giving the Russians time to regroup and rearm, the important thing is that it will ease the pressure on their forces at the moment. “They worked hard for nine months. Their forces are exhausted.”
That love was spoke up last month by Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s top secret electronic spy agency GCHQ. “We know – and Russian commanders on the ground know it too – that their supplies and ammunition are running out,” Fleming said.
Problems for the Russians have not improved since then. On Monday, the British Ministry of Defense, which provides some of the most accurate and up-to-date intelligence on Russian troops in Ukraine, report “Both Russia’s offensive and defensive capabilities continue to be hampered by severe shortages of ammunition and skilled personnel.”
And the French newspaper Le Monde made a main analysis using ground video and satellite imagery shows that “Russia’s stockpiles of weapons and ammunition have been severely damaged by targeted Ukrainian attacks.”
The images show that “in total, at least 52 Russian ammunition depots have been attacked by Ukrainian troops since the end of March 2022.” That’s a significant portion of Russia’s 100 to 200 arsenals that analysts believe are on the Ukrainian front, according to the report.
The problem is that the Russians have largely figured out this threat. “The Russians seem to have adapted to the presence of HIMAR [American-supplied artillery] on the battlefield by pulling their large ammunition stocks out of range,” said Chris Dougherty, senior fellow with the Defense Program and co-director of the Game Lab at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, told me in an interview.
“Basically, any major command post or ammunition depot is withdrawn beyond 80 kilometers,” he explained. And in many cases, right inside Russia – which Ukraine gave to Washington guarantee it will not be targeted with US-supplied missile systems.
However, Dougherty and many other experts believe that armistice or not, the West needs to scale up Ukraine’s capabilities.
“Otherwise, Russia will just wait,” Dougherty said. Now, after being repulsed in Ukraine’s Autumn offensive, “they have a smaller front” to defend.
And, he added, the Russians were “ready to trade for mobilized troops and artillery.” The Russians are expecting that “over time, NATO and its Western allies as well as the Ukrainians will not be willing to continue making such transactions. And ultimately it will motivate them to negotiate. That, I fully believe, is Putin’s bet,” Dougherty said.
That said, history shows that any sort of truce with Putin behind the negotiations will prove pointless. As Poroshenko commented: “From my personal experience communicating with Putin: Number one, please don’t trust Putin.” Definitely not complying with any deal if it doesn’t fit his ultimate goal of gaining control of Ukraine.
The reality is that the United States and the Western alliance must be looking as far into the future as Putin and his possible successors in the Kremlin. The key question here is: How long will the commitment to fight last?
“We can stabilize the front and we will wait for the Ukrainians to leave,” Dougherty commented. We will wait for NATO, we will wait for the United States.”
But at some point, they will also get tired of this fight, he added. And the Russian mindset can become “we may not have everything we want. But we will have a large part of Donbas and will incorporate it into Russia and we will keep Crimea. And I think that’s kind of their bet right now.
At the same time, a truce would also allow the West to rebuild quickly depleting the arsenal has been exhausted by the material sent to Ukraine, even upgrading what is offered.
But if war continues months or years from now, there is a real question of whether the United States and its allies are willing to return to a conflict many are beginning to desire. is it over or not.