In its December 15 Russian offensive campaign assessment, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) argues that Russia may be setting conditions for its new offensive against Ukraine in winter 2023 “possibly against Kyiv.” ISW believes that such an attack is “extraordinarily unlikely to succeed.” Meanwhile, a rumored Russian attack from Belarus is “not imminent at this time.”
Russian President Putin’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine have not changed according to various Ukrainian defense officials and ISW’s assessments based on Kremlin statements and actions. Putin is using two simultaneous military efforts to pursue his ultimate objective of regaining control of Ukraine and securing major territorial concessions, according to ISW.
“These two military efforts are failing to coerce Ukraine into negotiating or offering preemptive concessions, and Ukraine has retained the battlefield initiative following its two successive counteroffensive operations in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts. Putin may therefore be setting conditions for a third, sequential military effort in the likely event that these two efforts fail to secure his objectives by preparing for a renewed offensive against Ukraine in the winter of 2023,” ISW wrote.
The winter 2023 timeframe suggested by Ukrainian officials for such a potential offensive is consistent with ISW’s long-standing assessment that the winter will facilitate Ukrainian and Russian offensive operations and is consistent with the current projected timeline for the completion of Russian force generation efforts.
Russian forces may be setting conditions to attack from Belarus, though ISW continues to assess a Russian invasion from Belarus is not imminent at this time. It remains extraordinarily unlikely that Russian forces would be able to take Kyiv even if Russian forces again attack from Belarus.
- “Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops, I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv” – Gen. Zaluzhnyi
- Belarus holds rapid deployment and combat readiness drills near Ukraine border
- Belarus to keep helping Russia but unlikely to send its troops to join Russia’s fighting in Ukraine – ISW