Editor’s note: David A. Andelman, a CNN contributor, two-time winner of the Deadline Club Award, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, author “A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen”. And on blogs Andalman Unleashed. 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 opinion on CNN
A ceasefire now in the Ukraine war would essentially mark a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nine months in, Russia’s hopes of a quick takeover have well and truly ended, with its military largely on the defensive along a more than 600-mile battle line along Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions.
In fact, the only way to victory for the Russian leader at this time may be a ceasefire or negotiations. Its manpower is being depleted and its weapons supply is dwindling.
At the same time, the West has a flagging will that could prove equally toxic to Ukraine — and Putin is almost certainly counting on it.
“A premature ceasefire is the only thing that allows both sides to rearm,” said Michael Koffman, director of Russian studies. CNA A top Russian military and think tank expert told me in an interview.
“And since Russia is now the most backward, it will benefit Russia the most and then the war will be renewed. So all you have to do is continue the war. It will not solve any of the basic problems of the war. It won’t happen,” he added.
Experts say Russia is already starting to rearm. Kaufman said that the availability of ammunition was one of the most decisive aspects of the war. “If you burn 9 million rounds, you can’t make them in a month. So the problem is what is the production rate of ammunition and what can be mobilized? He added.
Kofman cited available information showing that the production of munitions – which has until now been the main point of exchange along Ukraine’s front lines – ran at two a day in Russia, and at three in some factories. has gone It shows that “they have the ingredients or they wouldn’t double and triple shift,” he said.
Yet a cease-fire and negotiations are what some senior US and Western officials seem eager, or at least willing, to push for now.
“When there is an opportunity for dialogue, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. said recently.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy isn’t buying 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 navigate a brutal winter of Russian attacks on critical power infrastructure, it’s no wonder they’re wary of diplomatic spats.
“Please imagine how the people of Ukraine perceive the negotiations,” said former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. told Council on Foreign Relations on Monday. “You are sitting in your house, the murderer comes to your house and kills your wife, rapes your daughter, takes you to the second floor, then opens the door to the second floor and says, ‘ “Okay, come here. Let’s talk.” What would be your reaction?”
The reality is that any ceasefire, whether negotiated or not, has no real value. A cease-fire gives Russia, with its back to the wall militarily, much-needed breathing room.
“In addition to giving the Russians time to regroup and rearm, the important thing is that it is now on their forces,” General Mac Ryan, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me in an email exchange. It will reduce the pressure.” “They have been in trouble for nine months. Their strength is gone.”
That was passion. Sounded last month By Jeremy Fleming, head of GCHQ, Britain’s most secretive electronic spy agency. “We know — and the Russian commanders on the ground know — that they’re running out of supplies and ammunition,” Fleming said.
Things have not improved for the Russians since then. On Monday, the British Ministry of Defence, which provides some of the latest and most accurate intelligence about Russian forces in Ukraine, Reported that, “both Russian defensive and offensive capabilities are being hampered by a severe shortage of ammunition and skilled personnel.”
And the French newspaper Le Monde has undertaken one. Critical analysis Using on-the-ground video and satellite images, it has been shown that “Russia’s weapons and ammunition stockpiles have been severely damaged by Ukrainian targeted strikes.”
The images show that “in total, at least 52 Russian ammunition depots have been hit by Ukrainian forces since the end of March 2022.” That’s a good chunk of the 100 to 200 Russian depots that analysts believe are on the Ukrainian front, according to the report.
The problem is that the Russians have largely anticipated this threat. “The Russians have apparently adapted to the presence of HIMARs. [American-supplied artillery] pulled their massive ammunition depots out of bounds on the battlefield and withdrew,” Chris Dougherty, a senior fellow in the defense program and co-director of the Gaming Lab at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, told me in an interview.
It’s “basically any big command post or ammo dump that they pulled back from 80 kilometers away,” he explained. And in many cases, only within Russian territory – which Ukraine has ceded to Washington. Assurances It will not be targeted by US-supplied rocket systems.
However, Dougherty and many other experts believe that with or without a ceasefire, the West needs to scale up Ukrainian capabilities.
“Otherwise, Russia will just wait it out,” Dougherty said. Now, after being pushed back in Ukraine’s autumn offensive, “they have a small front to defend”.
And, he added, the Russians are “ready to trade mobile troops and artillery shells.” The Russians are anticipating that “over time, NATO and the Western allies and the Ukrainians will not be willing to continue these trades. And eventually that will force them to negotiate. This, I fully believe, Putin bet,” Dougherty said.
That said, history shows that any truce with Putin behind the negotiations will prove pointless. As Poroshenko observed: “From my personal experience of talking to Putin: Point number one, please don’t trust Putin.” Certainly not abiding by any agreement if it is not consistent with its ultimate goal of occupying Ukraine.
The reality is that the United States and the Western alliance must look to the future of Putin and those in the Kremlin who may replace him. The important question here is that how long will the commitment to war be maintained?
Dougherty observes, the Russians’ thinking is: “We can stabilize the front and we’ll wait for the Ukrainians. We’ll wait for NATO, we’ll wait for America.”
But at some point, they too will tire of this battle, he added. And the Russian mentality may become “We may not have everything we want. But we will have a large part of the Donbass and we will annex it to Russia and we will hold Crimea. And I think Now this is their condition.
At the same time, a cease-fire would allow the West to rebuild Rapidly depleting weapons which are extracted by materials sent to Ukraine, even upgrade what is supplied.
But if war were to resume months or years from now, it’s a real question whether the United States and its allies would be willing to return to a conflict that has already lost much of its luster. were