What do Ukraine's reconquests mean?

In the last few days the Ukrainian army has recaptured large areas in the Kharkiv region. Russia hastily withdrew from the region but retaliated with missile attacks on civilian power plants in Ukraine. Commentators examine the reasons for Ukraine's success and the potential consequences for Kyiv, the West, and also for Moscow.

Open/close all quotes
The Conversation (FR) /

Strategic dilemma for Kyiv

The reconquests in the northeast of Ukraine are forcing Kyiv to make a difficult choice, political analyst Cyrille Bret comments in The Conversation France:

“These counter-offensives are a clear demonstration of the Ukrainians' determination to save their state, defend their territory and preserve their sovereignty. However, they are limited in terms of surface area - and in their results. This raises the question of Ukraine's strategic goal. ... If the tactical victories currently being observed are confirmed and repeated, the Ukrainian government will face a real dilemma: should it seek complete victory in the distant future or settle for an unsatisfactory peace in the shorter term?”

Público (PT) /

Give up Crimea as a concession to Moscow

Público sees chances for a negotiated settlement if both sides make concessions:

“It's unrealistic to demand that either party capitulate. Neither Russia nor - quite rightly - Ukraine will accept that. Both could still score small victories when it comes to the status of Crimea. Crimea is not historically Ukrainian territory and could go back to being under Russian control, cementing the de facto situation that has existed since 2014. This would be a trump card that appeases both public opinion and Moscow's militarism. ... And Ukraine could be proud of the fact that for the first time in 300 years it was able to fend off an attempted annexation by its giant neighbour.”

Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

Don't ignore the lessons from Versailles

Ukraine's gains in terrain are gratifying but at the same time cause for concern, Kristeligt Dagblad writes:

“The risk is that Russia could be overrun by fanatical nationalists who are not afraid to use nuclear weapons or mobilise hundreds of thousands of conscripts as cannon fodder. ... So it's high time to think about how Russia can be saved from itself - and total humiliation. There are no easy answers to this, but the most frightening example remains the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, which left behind a humiliated Germany that took revenge 20 years later and caused the most catastrophic war in history.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Putin also coming under pressure at home

If he wants to retain his support among the population and the elites, Putin can no longer remain silent on the Russian army's withdrawal, Kaleva insists:

“Quite extraordinarily, a number of local MPs in Moscow, St. Petersburg and the small town of Kolpino near St. Petersburg have publicly demanded the president's resignation. Certainly, this demand will cause more problems for those making it than it will for Putin himself, nevertheless the pressure on the president is growing by the day. As of early Monday evening he had not yet commented on the latest military developments. This silence cannot continue. Otherwise it will convey the impression that the president is completely at a loss. But this impression could also be correct.”

Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Secure the turnaround with more weapons

Ukraine's military successes show two things, the Aargauer Zeitung notes:

“One, only the Ukrainians decide when it's time to negotiate. No one else. And two, Western arms supplies have made the crucial difference. Tanks from Poland, transporters from the US, intelligence and modern artillery and anti-aircraft guns are enabling the Ukrainians to take back their country. Putin's army is not yet defeated. But this advance could be the turning point. If the West does not buckle now and delivers everything Ukraine needs, the Ukrainian forces could win this war.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Now Putin will have to call the war a war

Putin's strategy has failed, La Repubblica explains:

“Since April, efforts have been made to limit the number of victims. The fighting has mainly been carried out by ground troops from the separatist republics, mercenaries and paramilitary brigades of the National Guard. This was a motley group of uncoordinated troops who were unable to repel the Ukrainian offensive in an organised way. This tactic was based on the wish not to attract attention and to continue conducting a 'special operation' without mobilising conscripts or declaring 'war'. Now this word, hitherto banned by the Kremlin, is being invoked by hardliners - and there seems to be no alternative.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Turbo-boost for morale

The successful Ukrainian advance is an additional boost to fighting morale on the Ukrainian side, notes Večernji list:

“For the Ukrainians, the advance is a turbo-boost for morale, for the Russians the opposite. It was already questionable to what extent Russians from Russia would feel like fighting in Ukraine while their fighters from the occupied territories were already fundamentally demoralised. ... In just six months, the Russians have been left with only about 200,000 soldiers, while the Ukrainians have now amassed more than 800,000. This difference is now becoming noticeable.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Inevitable escalation

Handelsblatt fears Russia's reaction:

“Putin cannot afford a defeat. He will have to muster all his strength to secure his rule. Russia is facing a general mobilisation and Ukraine a campaign of destruction. Putin will make winter hell for Ukraine. He could, for example, destroy power lines, gas pipelines and power plants one after another and leave the Ukrainians in the freezing cold so that they flee to Western Europe in the midst of the looming energy crisis. For Putin, the now expected escalation of the war means gambling everything.”

Iurii Hudymenko (UA) /

Dispelling the fears

Iurii Hudymenko, leader of the liberal party Demokratychna Sokyra, argues in a Facebook post that Ukraine has exploded the myth surrounding the Russian army:

“Since the beginning of the Cold War, Western politicians have made concessions to Moscow because they feared its army. ... Today the Ukrainian army is not only liberating our territories, it is freeing the minds of world leaders from fears and myths. Now Russia has no threats it can brandish aside from nuclear weapons, and with such arguments you can't last long at the negotiating table. So Russia is about to lose all influence in the world. It is becoming a rogue state, a spectre, a nonentity.”

Konstantin Sonin (RU) /

No one wants to give Russians the bad news

According to insider reports, anger at Putin is growing among the Russian elites. Economics professor Konstantin Sonin explains on Facebook why no one is willing to take over leadership of the country nonetheless:

“Let someone else be the messenger who delivers bad news to the Russians and thus forfeits any chance of popularity. That's why those who come 'right after Putin' will probably pretend that everything is fine. ... They will try to save money without dismissing any soldiers or top brass. And they will continue to propagate the lie that everything is going according to plan. Because telling the Russians where 20 years of Putin and the war have brought them and what must be done to get the country back on track scares them even more than hatching a conspiracy.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Europe must produce weapons for Ukraine

Germany and France in particular must now deliver more weapons, De Volkskrant urges:

“Most Europeans understand that Ukraine needs more and heavier material, as well as a steady supply of ammunition. More than it is getting now. The question of what European countries can do with their relatively small armies and limited supplies remains highly relevant. European countries could also mobilise their industrial capacities, for example. Berlin and Paris have, to put it mildly, failed to seize an opportunity for leadership here - with perhaps lasting consequences for European politics.”