The war in Ukraine, its origin, course, and future outcome?


Beitragsfoto: Ukrainische Flagge auf Mauer mit Soldaten | © Pixabay
Der Beitrag erschien zudem im Agefi Luxembourg.

Before considering our future, let us review the preliminaries of this high intensity war that Putin has been waging in Ukraine since 24 February 2022. It is only one part of the hybrid war Putin has been waging on the West since 2007. Let’s look at the main phases of the 2022 operations and then assess the forces involved.

Putin’s frustrations, the lessons he has learned

The collapse of the Soviet empire drove Putin out of Dresden. Ten years later, he was closely following the situation in Kosovo as Secretary of the Russian Security Council[1] and saw NATO conduct air strikes against Serbia without a UN mandate.[2] He believed that the violation of international law by the West in support of Kosovar secession would allow him to restore Russian power by supporting pro-Russian separatists.

On 7 May 2000, he was elected President of the Russian Federation. He embarked on an economic recovery and concentrated power. Robertson, who was NATO Secretary General between 1999 and 2004, recalled that at their first meeting, Putin expressed his desire for Russia to be part of Western Europe and asked when Russia would be invited to join NATO. Robertson replied that candidate countries are not invited, but apply for membership, to which Putin replied that Russia was not at the level of States that do not count. In an interview with the BBC, Putin told journalist Frost that he would not rule out joining NATO if, and when Russia’s views as an equal partner are considered.[3] He soon stopped waiting. In 2003, the democratisation of Georgia and the invasion of Iraq by the Americans and their allies, followed in 2004 by the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to NATO, as well as the democratisation of Ukraine, turned Putin away from cooperation with the West.

The declaration of war that the West heard but did not want to listen to

On 9 February 2007, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Putin expressed his rejection of liberalism and NATO enlargement, his opposition to the Western ‘model’.[4] Since then, he has been waging war on us, initially in a hybrid way: propaganda, large-scale maneuvers more or less close to our borders, incursions of ships or aircraft into our sovereignty zone, cyber-attacks, the dissemination of “fake news” and data plundering. On 6 August 2007, he had a Georgian military radar station bombed near South Ossetia, but the air-to-ground missile did not explode. [5] Informed, the West did not react.

Merkel and Sarkozy, the Chamberlains and Daladiers of the 21st century

At the April 2008 Atlantic Council in Bucharest, the last one in which Putin participated, US President George W. Bush proposed the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. Putin expressed his opposition. “In order not to irritate him”, Merkel and Sarkozy led the Council to decide that Ukraine and Georgia had a “vocation” to become members of NATO, without a timetable being set. Bucharest is 70 years after Munich.

On 8 August 2008, in South Ossetia, pro-Russian separatists bombed a village and Georgian soldiers, who retaliated. Russia sent 20,000 troops to support the separatists. In five days, the Russians crush the Georgians. As they advance towards Tbilisi, another 20,000 Russian troops invade Abkhazia, another Georgian separatist region. Bush, dejected by the German and French vetoes in Bucharest, delegates the management of the crisis to the European Union (EU), of which Sarkozy holds the rotating presidency. The latter is content with a promise of a ceasefire and a partial withdrawal of Russian troops, which in 2022 are still in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, regions which represent 20% of Georgia.[6]

In Libya, Sarkozy and Cameron are mistaken.

In April 2011, the French President, and the British Prime Minister, with the support of President Obama, deviate from the “responsibility to protect” to force a regime change in Libya. They claim to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, condemning Gaddafi’s use of force against his opponents, and to apply UN Security Council Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011, setting up a no-fly zone to protect the civilian population, especially in Benghazi, from Libyan aircraft.

Obama launches Operation Odyssey Dawn because he alone has the intelligence, reconnaissance, target acquisition, suppression of enemy air defences and aerial refuelling capabilities. Congress called off the operation after a week but, with Libyan air defences destroyed, NATO was able to take over with Operation Unified Protector. It created chaos in Libya, which has since spread to the Sahel. The UN Security Council no longer gives NATO a mandate and Putin has ruled that international law is a rag to paper.

In 2014, Putin imitates Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938

On 28 February 2014, the Russians invade Crimea from the naval and air base in Sevastopol, without encountering much resistance, except from the Tatars. The Ukrainian navy, mainly based in Crimea, is almost destroyed. The lack of Ukrainian and Western reaction emboldens Putin. In April, he supports the secession of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, but the Ukrainian army prevents the dissent from spreading and forces Putin to postpone regime change in Ukraine, as well as the merger of Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Nikolayev, and Odessa oblasts, as well as Crimea and Transdniestria, into New Russia.

In 2022, Putin will repeat the 1940 campaign of the Third Reich

From 24 February 2022, Putin subjected the whole of Ukraine to bombing and cyber attacks, in a vain attempt to destabilise it. A poor strategist, he attacks ten days before the thaw, the Rasputyta, which makes the country roads impassable. Instead of concentrating his forces, he dispersed his 160,000 soldiers along 21 axes, spread over a 1,000 km front, facing 44 million Ukrainians, whose territory was larger than France. The air-land attack on Hostomel, near Kiev, failed, but some Antonov aircraft undergoing maintenance were destroyed. Those that were operational left in time. Ukrainian fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft defences are still holding out. The Russian navy took Snake Island in March and blocked Ukrainian ports.

From April to July, Russia regroups its forces, but they stall in Donbass

At the beginning of April, the exhausted Russians had to withdraw from the north of Ukraine and from the Mykolaiv region in the south. Although Putin massed what troops he had left to attack in Luhansk oblast on a narrow front with overwhelming artillery support, the Russians advanced only very slowly and with very heavy losses. The Ukrainian brigades were not destroyed and evacuated Severodonetsk, then Lysychansk at the beginning of July. Putin decreed a pause.

In September, the reconquest

From July onwards, Western equipment arrived in Ukraine, in particular 155 mm howitzers that outclassed the Russian 152 mm howitzers in terms of range and accuracy, but above all American and British multiple missile launchers. These allowed precise strikes up to 80 km away.[7] Ukraine became capable of victory, qualitatively, because it was superior in terms of fire resilience, skills, command, and organisation, but also quantitatively: it was able to make up for its losses and produce new brigades.

Snake Island, 35 kilometers off the Ukrainian coast, was evacuated by the Russians: it was within range of the 155 mm howitzers. The Russian navy left Crimea, operating from Novorossiysk, in the Caucasus,[8] after the loss of fifteen ships, including the cruiser Moskva. Hit by two Neptune missiles on 13 April, it sank two days later.

In the south, by means of artillery strikes on the bridges spanning the Dnieper, Ukraine isolates the Russians installed on the right bank of the river, then destroys their command posts and their stocks, notably of fuel and ammunition. Finally, it pushed them back, cautiously to limit its losses, along the Dnieper towards Kherson, which Putin wanted to keep, so that it could attack again towards Odessa, at the risk of seeing its troops surrounded.[9]

On 6 September, Ukraine attacked 50 km south of Kharkiv. It broke through the Russian defences, then, in three days, it liberated Balaklija,[10] then Izium, without encountering strong resistance. On 1 October, Russian units, most of them badly damaged, were trapped in Lyman.[11] Once Kharkiv Oblast was liberated, the Ukrainians continued the offensive towards Luhansk Oblast.

In October, Putin decreed a partial mobilisation. He annexed conquered territories and the separatist republics to Russia because the recruitment of volunteers in the spring had only attracted 40% of the 134,000 soldiers desired, which was insufficient to make up for the losses.[12] With their bases in Crimea under attack, Russian fighter planes are being redeployed. Despite the propaganda, the Russians perceive the defeat of their army.[13] According to the Levada polling institute, since May, support for the “special military operation” has dropped from 73% to 53%.

Putin’s stubbornness isolates Russia on the international stage

Iran and North Korea are delivering weapons to Russia, as is Belarus, but Russia has been doing its best not to go to war with Ukraine since February. No country has recognised the legality of the referendums held from 23 to 27 September in the partially occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts.[14] In the UN Security Council, a resolution condemning the annexations was adopted by ten votes against the Russian one, with four abstentions, from China, India, Brazil, and Gabon. Russia had to use its veto power.

Western support

America, Canada, the UK and Turkey are providing the bulk of support to the Ukrainian armed forces in terms of funding, training and equipment delivery.[15] The United States of America has pledged €25 billion and the UK €4 billion, Poland €1.8 billion, Germany €1.2 billion, France €233 million, which is less than Estonia.[16] Britain has trained 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers, France about 100.  On 7 October, France announced the creation of a special €100 million fund dedicated to Ukraine to finance the acquisition of French military supplies. This will hardly improve its ranking, nor restore France’s prestige in Central and Eastern Europe.

The European Commission does not count, and the voice of the High Representative does not carry in these circumstances. The European Council and 17 non-EU countries[17] attended a new meeting of the European Political Community in Prague. The first attempt failed in 1954. This time, the only concrete result was to underline the isolation of Russia and Belarus. There were exchanges of views on peace and security, and on the energy question. The next meetings, which will probably be equally fruitless, will take place in Moldova in spring 2023, in Spain in autumn and in the UK in spring 2024.[18]

What scenario for 2023?

The war will not end in 2022[19]: Putin wants his “New Russia” and submitting means the end for Ukraine.

An ad hoc dialogue is maintained between the belligerents. In Turkey, 55 people, including the Ukrainian oligarch Medvedchuk, a close associate of Putin, were handed over to Russia, which released 215 people, including 124 officers or fighters from the Azov Battalion, the Ukrainian National Guard or the Marine Brigades, defenders of the Asovstal factory in Mariupol, as well as ten foreigners (5 British, 2 Americans, 1 Swede, 1 Croat, 1 Moroccan).[20]

The threats of using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine are not very credible: the risk of escalation is too great; China is opposed to it. An American rocket has just carried a Russian astronaut to the International Space Station. However, we have known since 24 February that Putin is neglecting nuclear safety: he stationed troops at the Chernobyl site until 2 April. Many soldiers were irradiated. He installed heavy artillery, including multiple rocket launchers, at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.[21]

It is too early to identify the origin of the four leaks at the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. The partial and unclaimed destruction of the Kerch Road and rail bridges on 8 October 2022 complicates Russian logistics.

Russia cannot and will not win. It is a sclerotic, brutal, and badly governed state. Ukraine should therefore win. It is an imperfect democracy, but agile, intelligent, and highly motivated. It could liberate the Donbass, then the south, and retake Crimea, if it builds up another 10-20 brigades. It has the soldiers; the West provides the heavy weapons and ammunition.

Europe obviously does not count. To be able to contribute to Defence peace and security, and to guarantee our energy supply at an acceptable price, it must urgently federate.

The European Society for Defence INPA (S€D) is working tirelessly to adopt a federal constitution for a United States of Europe. Do not hesitate to support it.

[1] See “Poutine révèle comment la décision d’occuper l’aéroport de Pristina a été prise en 1999” in Serbin Info, , 14/6/2020.

[2] On 17 February 2008, Kosovo declares its independence. Some of the EU Member States follow the United States of America and recognise it, others do not.

[3] Jennifer Rankin, “Ex-Nato head says Putin wanted to join alliance early on in his rule” in The Guardian,, 4/11/2021.

[4] See Wladimir Putin, Rede auf der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz 2007,, 9/2/2007.

[5] See Svante E. Cornell, David J. Smith, S. Frederick Starr, The August 6 Bombing Incident in Georgia: Implications for the Euro-Atlantic Region, Central Asia – Caucasus Institute, Silk Road Paper, , October 2007.

[6] See Sylvie Kauffmann, ” Le scénario ukrainien avait été écrit en Géorgie en 2008. Il suffisait de vouloir lire ” in Le Monde,, 23/2/2022.

[7] The Americans have given Ukraine more than $17.5 billion worth of defence equipment, including 20 Mi-17 helicopters, 34 HIMARS multiple missile launchers, coastal defence vessels, 146 howitzers and 276 tractor vehicles, 155 and 105 mm shells, including satellite-guided Excalibur shells, 200 M113s, 100 armoured vehicles, 200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, Puma UAVs, 700 Switchblade UAVs, 700 Phoenix Ghost UAVs, HARM anti-radiation missiles, 2 Harpon coastal defence systems, 8 anti-aircraft systems, 1. 400 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 32. 000 anti-tank systems, 10,000 small arms and grenade launchers, 75. 000 helmets and body armour, 50 counter-battery radars, 4 mortar radars, laser-guided rocket systems, electronic warfare systems, 60 million rounds of small arms ammunition, Claymore anti-personnel mines, C-4 explosive, secure telecommunication systems, night-vision goggles, optical systems, rangefinders, commercial satellite services, demining systems, medical equipment, field equipment and spare parts. Voir Lee Ferran, “From HIMARS to helos: What the US has given Ukraine” in Breaking Defense,—XDkFVnaLsa6MQuuW2CanEw1WkWS1vwLSe_mhDJV1IypT14YQtP4oJJK2-IqdPP0KnMtjb8S6XxJQIujNViamOrPmEg&utm_content=228213778&utm_source=hs_email, 3/10/2022; Joe Gould, “Pentagon sending Excalibur guided artillery, more HIMARS to Ukraine” in DefenseNews,, 4/10/2022.

[8] See

[9] See Michel Goya, « L’art opératif à l’épreuve de la guerre en Ukraine – 3. La fabrique des batailles » ” in La Voie de l’Épée,, 26/9/2022.

[10] See sn, “In Kharkiv region, Ukraine Army advances 50 km in three days” in Ukrinform,, 9/9/2022.

[11] See Patrick Schlereth, “Die ukrainischen Truppen haben in der strategisch wichtigen Stadt Lyman im Gebiet Donezk nach eigenen Angaben rund 5000 russische Soldaten eingekesselt” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,, 1/10/2022.

[12] Reuben Johnson, Aaron Mehta, “Flimsy numbers and sparks of protest: How Putin’s mobilization may end up another miscalculation” in Breaking Defense,, 21/9/2022.

[13] See Belga, “Zware brand op strategische brug tussen de Krim en Rusland” in De Standaard,, 8/10/2022; AFP, “Guerre en Ukraine : un important incendie dû à une voiture piégée paralyse le pont de Crimée, stratégique pour la Russie” in La Libre,, 8/10/2022.

[14] See Benoît Vitkine, “Pour célébrer l’annexion de nouvelles régions ukrainiennes, Vladimir Poutine offre un discours messianique et violemment anti-occidental” in Le Monde,, 1/10/2022.

[15] See Aurélie Pugnet, Hugo de Waha, « Les Américains veulent que l’OTAN gère les achats d’armes en commun entre Occidentaux » in Bruxelles2,, 30/9/2022.

[16] See Ukraine Support Tracker du Kiel Institute for World Economy,

[17] These are the six Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia), the three members of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), Switzerland and the United Kingdom, five Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), and Turkey, despite the reluctance of the Greeks and Cypriots. Only Russia and Belarus are excluded.

[18] See Belga, « Quarante-quatre dirigeants inaugurent à Prague une “Communauté politique européenne” » in La Libre,, 6/10/2022 ; Aurélie Pugnet, ” Bienvenue à la Communauté politique européenne. Un champ des possibles s’ouvre” in Bruxelles2,, 7/10/2022.

[19] Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, “Prospects for running a military campaign in 2023: Ukraine’s perspective” in Ukrinform,, 9/9/2022.

[20] See Andriy Yermak, “Prisoner swap: 215 Azovstal defenders released from Russian captivity” in Ukrinform,, 22/9/2022 et sn, Today we have 215 pieces of good news – we bring our people home – address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy,, 22/9/2022.

[21] See Drew Hinshaw, Joe Parkinson, “Russian Army Turns Ukraine’s Largest Nuclear Plant into a Military Base” in The Wall Street Journal, 5/7/2022.

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  • Putin knew what will happen, e. g. that the USA will support Ukraine as long as it takes. He — like most dictators — is a gambler, too. He bets on France, Germany or Italy to step the USA in the back; latest when most of their citizens start to suffer. And his fallback position is a government change back to Donald Trump.