The Orthodox Christmas ceasefire experiment collapsed, but it was a revealing moment that hinted at exhaustion and showed how bravado does run out of steam in long-winded conflicts. Seizing such moments with wisdom in the future will eventually open the pathway to peace.
Sreeram Chaulia, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
The offer of a temporary ceasefire by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, announced on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas, failed to bring any respite from the war in Ukraine but may have given a glimpse into how the protracted conflict might wind down. Although Putin made the ceasefire declaration sound like a goodwill gesture for followers of the Orthodox church, which has historically been a common binding factor between the Russians and Ukrainians, hard realities of the battlefield are unavoidable factors in his decision-making.
Russia’s stock of artillery munitions, missiles and men is dwindling and its ability to gain fresh territory or even retain occupied land is depleting. Despite enjoying an overall force ratio advantage of 5:1 over Ukraine, Russia is reckoning with ever-increasing inflows of advanced weaponry from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to Ukraine.
Contrary to Putin’s calculation that the West will get tired of backing Ukraine and prod Kyiv to settle on Russian terms, fresh commitments by the United States (US) and European allies to deliver advanced air defence systems and mobile armoured vehicles are concrete indicators that Russia has little chance of militarily imposing a victor’s peace over a defeated Ukraine.
The best window for Putin to score a win was early on in the war, when a short and swift campaign with clear and limited goals might have secured a second triumph like his 2014 capture of Crimea. But as the war dragged on and the power balance shifted via the involvement of external alliance systems, it became a hopeless muddle for Russia. Putin is a diehard believer in the dream of Russkiy Mir, a concept for restoring Russia’s influence or empire in former Tsarist and Soviet spaces. But the heavy losses and headwinds his troops are encountering in Ukraine prove that he lacks the means to fulfil that dream.
Published in: Hindustan Times
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