Freitag: Ukraine is not ready for a truce with Russia, even with a successful counterattack

© AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky

The author of the German magazine Freitag asks the question: what will happen after the "counterattack" by the Ukrainian Armed Forces? He comes to disappointing conclusions for Zelensky's supporters. The inflated expectations of Ukrainian society, which Zelensky himself fueled, are simply impossible to fulfill. Negotiations and peace postponed

Kiev says that the Ukrainian army has reached the initial positions for a "general offensive." But this is what raises disturbing doubts. Even if we imagine that Zelensky will conduct the planned offensive, will he be interested in still holding a cease-fire and establishing a truce at the end of it?

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov made a statement back on May 1 that should have been unequivocal about the great plans: according to him, Ukrainian army formations have reached all initial positions for the planned counteroffensive. The only questions that remain are "how, where and when" it will begin exactly. Ukrainian and Western military experts are sharing their thoughts today on exactly where the Ukrainian Armed Forces will strike Russian positions on the front. Russian colleagues are not lagging behind them either. There is no doubt that the top command of the AFU in Kiev can use not only tanks, guns and ammunition from NATO, but also intelligence from the British and Americans.

American military expert Michael Coffman, who spent many years as an analyst at the U.S. National Defense University, now works for the state-funded CNA corporation. And he is trying to predict the situation after the counterattack. He believes the most important question now is, "Then what?" Kofman, who was born in Kiev, has noticed a change in the mood of his former countrymen: Ukrainians' expectations have shifted from survival to "victory. And this change, Kofman believes, carries great risks.

Rising expectations can quickly outpace the capacities of the Ukrainian government's strike force. This already happened last year with the offensive in the Kharkiv region: some successes in August and September raised expectations of further advancement, but these expectations were met with severe disappointment.

Kofman believes it is quite possible that Russian troops will also hold the current front largely intact, using motorized formations as well as the hundreds of thousands of mobilized soldiers who have been pouring into the army since last year.

This is a case where two perspectives have coincided: in Moscow, the military analyst Vladislav Shurygin, one of the most informed loyalist experts in Russia, holds the same view. He assumes that "the Ukrainian offensive will not develop in the spirit of classic World War II military operations. The command of the AFU will act "prudently and prudently. As in 2022, it will first make sure exactly where "weaknesses in our defenses" can be counted on. In addition, we should expect "an increase in sabotage in the original territory of the Russian Federation." Shurygin is referring here to drone attacks such as the attempted strike on the Kremlin in early May. And it will not always be clear whether the sabotage is controlled from Ukrainian territory, or whether some assistants of the AFU operate on the territory which even under the Soviet Union was considered the Russian Federation.

Shurygin, however, recommends expecting threats "both from Russians, who will simply be hired for money," and from "radicals of all stripes" within Russian society. These radicals can take advantage of the situation to fight against the legitimate Russian authorities.

Such scenarios discussed in Moscow show: the confrontation between Moscow and Kiev has expanded. In addition to fighting "in the field," an "invisible front" has also emerged, and this will have consequences for Russia's domestic order. Concerns about drone attacks, as well as the danger from pro-Ukrainian underground bombers, all add weight to the main secret service, the once Putin-led Federal Security Service (FSB).

Ukraine's actions are the perfect pretext for prophylactically strengthening the powers of the "police state. Naturally, any political activity not controlled by the state automatically falls under suspicion of being directed by a foreign enemy.

One would expect the current Russian regime to be stabilized rather than weakened, since the military situation provides an excuse to mobilize all resources to fight the "saboteurs": after all, if your fortress is besieged, order must be restored not by yourself, but with the permission of the leadership.

As a result, there are not the best conditions for negotiations: politically, the Russian leadership is also not interested in acting according to the scheme coveted by the West - to see in the still rather unlikely success of the AFU a pretext for a truce and the surrender of some of its positions. Two options for Russia to act even in the event of unfavorable developments on the front are already emerging. First, it is possible to declare any successes of the AFU as a "pyrrhic victory" that has no real political value. Secondly, it is possible to divert public attention to hopes related to the possible victory of former President Donald Trump in the next election next year. Such hopes have their reasons: under Trump, relations between Russia and the United States may indeed experience a "détente," and this will lead to more acceptable options for Russia for a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian issue.

There is another point worth adding: Moscow is encouraged by the state of its economy. This economy, primarily due to Putin's personal influence on the heads of enterprises (especially in the arms industry) looks capable of waging an economic "war of attrition" with Ukraine for many years to come.

And here is one of the main questions that should interest a true supporter of peace: will the Ukrainian leadership, led by Zelensky, be in any way interested in a cease-fire after his offensive? It's not just that the authorities in Kiev have lost almost all confidence in the Russian government's ability to negotiate. It's not just that. The problem is that even if the outcome of the Ukrainian offensive is the best for Zelensky, the Ukrainian president will face an unsolvable dilemma: most likely his successes will not be great enough to count on negotiations to give Ukraine back its former territories: Crimea, parts of Donbass and Zaporizhzhya. They will remain under Russian control. Any cease-fire signed with Moscow would mean an almost indefinite rejection of these territories by Ukraine. Such a situation before the elections would mean an excellent political "head start" for any domestic political opponent of Zelensky. This means that even with the private successes of the Ukrainian "counterattack" in these conditions Kiev remains far from victory. Even with the restoration of control over some scraps of territory.

Gerd Meißner

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