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The worst may yet to come

Objectives of the parties

“America’s goals are very clear,” said US President Joe Biden in a commentary in the New York Times early last week. “We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine, equipped with the means to defend itself and prevent aggression.”

The US leader also quoted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as saying that the war “only really ends through diplomacy”. But he also said: “Each negotiation reflects realities on the battlefield. We quickly transferred to Ukraine large quantities of weapons and ammunition so that it could fight and gain a strong position. strongest on the negotiating table”.

However, what are the realities on the battlefield that the White House refers to, in the context of the West conducting unprecedented programs to provide weapons and share intelligence to Ukraine, to conclude that Time to negotiate? President Biden offered some specific answers. But is Kiev ready to accept such a conclusion?

In fact, President Biden’s speech did not fully appreciate the maximalist stance pursued by the Ukrainian government. President Zelensky and top officials in his administration have made it clear in recent months that they will not accept anything that stands in the way of a decisive victory over Russiai.e. peace agreements can only be reached when their conditions are met.

President Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said: “It would be better if European and American officials understood that Russia must be defeated and suffer the most painful defeat possible.”

Ukraine also clearly states what a “victory” is.

“The war must end with the full restoration of Ukraine to its territory and sovereignty. That is our victory,” said the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak.

In May, Ukrainian President Zelensky also said that he considers the restoration of border conditions to the state before February 24 as a prerequisite for any substantive negotiations with Russia.

“They have to withdraw and in that context, we will start discussing things in a normal way.”

However, it is clear that Russia has no intention of giving up any part of the territory it controls in eastern Ukraine. On the contrary, early signs suggest that Moscow is planning to consolidate its long-term control in the Donbass and Kherson regions. Officials in Kherson have announced they are preparing to become part of Russia.

“We are considering to consider the Russian Federation as our country because this region is currently under the control of the Russian Armed Forces and will later be transformed into a federal subject,” the governor said. Kherson was appointed by Russia Volodymyr Vasylovych Saldo told Russian state media. Local officials also said Kherson has begun shipping wheat to Russian territory and other commodities will be exported shortly thereafter.

The danger of conflict beyond the battlefield of Donbass

The most recent conflict map shows that at least 20% of Ukraine’s territory is under Russian control. Russian forces are believed to have controlled much of the town of Severodonetsk – Ukraine’s last stronghold in the Lugansk region. Russia will also advance in the direction of the nearby city of Lysychansk in an attempt to complete the encirclement of Ukrainian troops, which have not yet withdrawn from the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk region.

Clearly, Russia will not accept concessions to return to the state of the border before the outbreak of armed conflict, although Moscow’s full goals are currently unclear.

Ukrainian officials believe that the Russian military is resuming attacks on strategically located cities in the east such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Control of these areas will help Russia strengthen its presence in the Donbass. However, although Russia claims that the current special military operation is aimed at “protecting” the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, it is likely that Russia will not stop the operation after taking control of the Donbass. .

Since the previous months, some observers have suggested that Russia’s next goal is to continue its advance westward towards the city of Dnipro as part of a broader effort to contain Ukrainian forces along the river basin. Dnieper. However, a growing number of Russian politicians, Kremlin officials and military experts have recently suggested that the Russian army should launch a major offensive southward in the direction of Odessa. Member of the Russian State Duma (Russian House of Representatives) Konstantin Zatulin said that for Russia, Odessa – the center of the southwestern seaport of Ukraine has greater strategic significance than the capital Kiev. Losing Odessa would make Ukraine a country inaccessible to the sea and gradually collapsing economically.

Control of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast not only increases Russia’s influence over key shipping lanes, but also provides Russia with a favorable position to pressure NATO on the southeastern flank of the alliance. this smart. The ability to capture and control Odessa is the first step in Russia’s ambitious plan to establish a land-sea corridor to Moldova’s Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.

However, Russia’s military route to Odessa runs through the city of Mykolaiv, which is currently heavily guarded by Ukraine, which could take time and resources to get under control. Even with the current fire support from the Black Sea Fleet, if they want to reach Odessa from the Kherson-Mykolaiv road, Russian forces will still face many difficulties. Regardless of the outcome, the battle for this city could drag on for months.

In the middle of the scene war between Russia and Ukraine Having passed the 100-day mark, the goals pursued by the parties are increasingly incompatible with what they once set. Russia, Ukraine or the West do not seem ready to enter into negotiations to de-escalate tensions. The reality of the battlefield presents a bleak prospect: That’s the worst yet to come.

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