Ukraine likely cannot permanently block Russia from achieving its essential war aims without ongoing military and financial aid from Western allies, ISW said in its daily report.
Ukraine aid package continues to stall in the US Congress, CNN reported, citing US and Ukrainian officials. Without US resupplies, Ukraine may first exhaust its stock of long-range missiles, then air defenses, artillery, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft munitions. These weapons have been vital in naval defense, protecting infrastructure, and stopping Russian ground vehicles and aircraft.
ISW said the current stalemate in battlefield positions does not constitute real stability, saying the “unstable balance could readily be tipped in either direction by decisions made in the West.” Withdrawal of Western security assistance would likely lead to “the eventual collapse of Ukraine’s ability to hold off the Russian military,” ISW assessed.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Putin’s primary goal of “erasing [Ukraine] from the map and subsuming it into Russia” has not been accomplished. However, ISW said that the Kremlin still seeks to “destroy Ukraine’s ability to resist any future Kremlin demands” by replacing its government and forcing neutrality.
Per the report, Putin and other senior officials still frequently restate these maximalist aims. While outright annexation of all of Ukraine may not be the plan, ISW’s analysts say Kremlin war goals include, at minimum, “destruction of the current Ukrainian state” to become fully dominated by Russia, likely requiring full military occupation.
Other takeaways from the ISW report:
- US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby stated that the White House assesses that Russian forces will be able to conduct offensive operations more easily when winter weather conditions become more conducive for mechanized maneuver warfare (likely in January–February 2024) — an assessment that is consistent with ISW’s observations and reviews about the tempo of fighting in Ukraine during the winter.
- Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of 20 December to 21.
- Japan is reportedly preparing to revise its defense equipment export policy to backfill US stockpiles of Patriot missiles and UK artillery ammunition stores.
- Russian forces made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka and continued positional meeting engagements along the entire frontline
- Russian drone strikes hit journalist’s home in night Kyiv attacks
- Switzerland announces $13 million in winter aid for Ukraine
- Russian air strikes hit coal mines in Toretsk, killing three, injuring six
- Germany allocates additional € 88,5 mn for Ukraine’s energy infrastructure
- Ukraine receives $ 950 mn from Japan for recovery and social protection