Ukraine: could the war end in 2023?

The Kremlin has raised the number of Russian soldiers it says were killed in a Ukrainian military strike on New Year's Eve to 89. Pro-Kremlin bloggers and MPs have sharply criticised Russia's military leadership over the attack. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian side is busy clearing up the damage wreaked by the most recent spate of missile and drone attacks. Europe's press examines the long-term outlook for the war.

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La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Frozen conflict likely

Russia's military may be able to hold out despite repeated mistakes, La Tribune de Genève fears:

“The latest bloodbath is emblematic in at least one respect: the Russian army does not learn from its failures. The soldiers in Makiivka, whose mobile phones apparently caught the attention of the enemy's intelligence services, behaved inexplicably amateurishly. ... Will Moscow's soldiers succeed in launching the promised new counteroffensive? Or will they collapse definitively and drag Vladimir Putin down with them? A third outcome is to be feared: a stalemate on the front. Thanks to the wagons full of cannon fodder and a seemingly endless supply of old Soviet ammunition, Russia could succeed in freezing the conflict. That would be the real disaster.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Nothing beyond a ceasefire on the cards

Peace is impossible with Putin in power, writes commentator Daniel Kroupa in Český rozhlas:

“His aggression in Ukraine is not motivated by fear of the threats posed by the EU or Nato but by the goal of realising the Russian imperial idea. This requires the elimination of the peaceful world order that was created after the Second World War, based on the principle of recognising the sovereignty of states and their territorial integrity. ... Any compromises offered to him could at most bring about a ceasefire, which in turn would only serve to strengthen Putin and help him continue the war under a different pretext.”

NV (UA) /

A retreat to the borders of 23 February?

Political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko explains in NV what the conditions for a ceasefire would have to be:

“There should be a sufficient number of successful offensive actions by the Ukrainian army; relatively stable military, technical and economic support from our international partners; a military, political and economic weakening of Russia, which nonetheless falls short of a systemic internal crisis; a stabilisation of the frontline on the administrative border with Crimea, and possibly in the Donbass. If this were the case, the fighting could be ended after some time with a technical agreement on a temporary (but indefinite) ceasefire. The issue of the liberation of Crimea would then be shifted to the diplomatic level.”

Alfa (LT) /

The West could be lulled once again

Journalist Edward Lucas predicts that Putin will be history by the end of this year, but this won't necessarily translate into peace for Ukraine, he says in Alfa:

“Faced with the inexorable disintegration and defeat of the Russian military, the pressure on and inside the Kremlin will be unbearable. Something will give. ... I worry: Westerners usually give a new leadership in Moscow the benefit of the doubt before reality bites. The great danger here is that Ukraine wins the war but loses the peace. It may fail to regain all its lost territories, ending up without credible security guarantees, and with the aggressor unpunished.”

The Moscow Times (RU) /

War as a way of life

Political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov writes in The Moscow Times:

“The possibilities for both sides to mobilise resources are very limited: ... For Ukraine to win, Western military aid must be multiplied both quantitatively and qualitatively; for Russia to win, not a partial mobilisation but a full mobilisation with the reorientation of its entire industry to war is required. ... Since neither the first nor the second variant seem sufficiently probable, the priority baseline scenario for 2023 remains the 'Palestinisation of the conflict', in which both societies gradually grow used to war as a way of life.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Western apathy is Putin's key weapon

The longer the war lasts, the more likely it is that support for Ukraine will wane, The Irish Independent warns:

“Our attention spans and pockets are not infinite. The danger is that it plays straight into Moscow's hands. For Putin, global apathy is his greatest weapon because if support for Ukraine flounders, he has a better chance of winning. If we tire of the plight of Ukraine, we risk normalising an invasion on this global scale. We risk setting a dangerous world precedent.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Putin will disappear

The war will be over by the summer, columnist Olde Samorodni predicts in Õhtuleht:

“When the Russian army is no longer able to carry out successful attacks, the campaign of the Moscow hordes will end. The Russian occupation forces will give up the Ukrainian territory they now hold. And the Kremlin will start asking who's to blame for the defeat in Ukraine. It will blame the army and the generals, who will retaliate. Everyone will then turn on the dumb dictator Putin. In the summer, or perhaps even sooner, Putin will be declared dead. Or the dwarf from the Kremlin will disappear without a trace. At the end of the summer or in early autumn, the collapse of the Russian Federation will begin.” (GR) /

No one seriously seeking a solution

The outlook is very grim, writes columnist Lefteris Charalambopoulos on news site

“Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine is continuing apace, without any of the sides directly or indirectly involved taking steps towards peace. ... The real 'right side of history' is peace, and I am not at all sure that there are any forces that are currently on that side, regardless of their rhetoric. Instead, divisions are deepening around the world that could very easily turn into global conflicts between powers with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

No peace with these criminals

Svenska Dagbladet wants a negotiated solution, but under certain conditions:

“Such a solution must be sought in Russia choosing to change from being a ruler-led empire to being a people-led nation state with an open society. The first condition for this is a change of regime. ... Even if a ceasefire were possible, which is unlikely, no one trusts any assurances from Putin, Lavrov or anyone else serving the regime. ... The Kremlin syndicate is a group of corrupt war criminals who belong behind bars in The Hague, not at the negotiating table. Peace based on genuine consensus cannot be made with criminals.”

Pravda (SK) /

Build up long-term protection against Russia

Even without Putin peace would remain unlikely, Pravda believes:

“Let's not kid ourselves that without Putin there would be a fundamental change of attitude in Russia. It is an imperial state that deeply despises small nations. As Ukraine continues to liberate itself, we in Europe should erect long-term security barriers against Russia. Without them the war will never end and Russia will never give Ukrainians - or the world - lasting peace and tranquillity.”