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Putin wants to freeze war in Ukraine, claims NYT. Should we believe it?

Five realistic scenarios of war in Ukraine in 2024: GLOBSEC report

New analysis gamed out several ways the Russia-Ukraine war could unfold, but saw little chance for clear victory or defeat for either side next year.

The authoritative analytical organization GLOBSEC has published a detailed report that considers five most probable scenarios for the development of the war in Ukraine in 2024-2025.

None of these scenarios envisions Ukraine’s complete victory in 2024, nor defeat. The report, written as a result of surveys of dozens of experts and specialists, as well as modeling events, realistically assesses possible scenarios without excessive optimism or fantasy. They all have a common denominator: Russia will never relinquish the idea of conquering Ukraine, regardless of changes in the political regime.

Here we give an overview of the report, authored by Iuliia Osmolovska, Volodymyr Havrylov, and Hennadiy Maksak.

Top-10 factors influencing security situation of Ukraine

In conducting the report, the authors selected 10 factors that experts said were most impactful for Ukraine’s security situation both in the 2022-2023 and for the future in 2024-2025. They analyzed the potential transformations within each factor and their impact on the overall scenario.

As in the first years of Russia’s invasion, the level of support and resources available to Ukraine’s defense will be decisive for 2024-2025. However, for the next year and beyond, new factors have emerged: the US presidential elections, in which a possible Trump victory threatens derailing Ukraine’s war efforts, how well Ukraine will be able to mobilize more troops as well as boost its own defense production, and whether Ukraine or Russia will win in the rapidly developing drone war.

factors Ukraine Russia war 2024
Screenshot from the report

1. Total destabilization: 27.26%

“Hybrid Type World War III: Acute Regional Conflicts and Wars Across the Globe with ‘Blurring’ of the War in Ukraine into Wars in the Middle East, Caucasus, Balkans, Asia-Pacific, etc.”

This scenario anticipates several regional conflicts emerging worldwide in 2024-2025 due to perceptions that international institutions are unable to hold Russia accountable for aggression in Ukraine. Countries with similar imperialistic ambitions may try to absorb smaller independent states, reviving territorial disputes. Higher risk zones include the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Balkans.

Dragged into a quagmire in Ukraine, Russia may orchestrate some new conflicts to overstretch Western allies. To further destabilize adversaries, Russia could also trigger ecological disasters or disrupt grain exports from Ukraine. However, distorting global food security could alienate African countries that have remained neutral towards Russia.

Meanwhile, the prolonged stalemate in Ukraine could diminish international focus and military aid, but Ukrainian society is expected to remain resilient, unified, and committed to eventual victory. Russia will be distracted by Putin’s re-election and multiple conflicts to directly threaten Ukraine’s stability. Ukraine will continue gradual integration with the EU, but NATO membership in 2024 is unlikely.

The emergence of new conflicts worldwide will squeeze Western military stockpiles, limiting weapons transfers to Ukraine. Ukraine will rely more on mobilizing reserves and implementing technological asymmetric warfare solutions to compensate for personnel and equipment shortages.

2. Positional War: 31.02%

“Focus: The Russian War in Ukraine. Prolonged War of Attrition (Beyond 2025)”  With the highest probability of 31.02%, this scenario anticipates the war continuing at current intensity levels throughout 2024-2025, with periods of stalemate punctuated by new offensives whenever one side feels strong enough to advance. We are talking about positional war: achieving changes in the front line will be possible only with significant losses. It will be a long, exhausting war with high casualties and diminished foreign aid as partner countries exhaust resources and new conflicts emerge worldwide.

Ukraine will strive to liberate occupied territories in the south and east, preparing new operations to retake Crimea and the Donbas, likely in spring 2024. But Russia will try to implement similar actions, attempting to use their offensives as a political instrument during the elections in the USA to present support from the West to Ukraine as futile, and attempt to impose another “Minsk agreement.”

With the world distracted, Russia may also unleash hybrid attacks on energy and food supplies and influence overseas elections, but with less success than in the previous option.

Ukraine will remain resilient but increasingly war-weary, with slight drops in government approval ratings. Rotational government reshuffling is possible to reboot the stalled war effort. The economy will slowly recover thanks to militarization.

Despite global distraction, international backing for Ukraine will remain fairly stable, especially from EU and NATO countries. But the lengthy, static war will diminish public enthusiasm. Ukraine will continue gradual EU integration but is unlikely to receive an immediate NATO membership invite in 2024.

But Russia will work to match Ukraine’s drone capabilities. Neither side will gain a decisive technological edge to break the deadlock.

With stable support from the West, Ukraine will generally be able to hold positions on the front. However, with less direct military aid coming, Ukraine will rely more on reserve mobilization and implementing asymmetric technological solutions like drones and precision weapons. It will require more effective distribution of resources and an increase in its own production of weapons. For Ukraine’s offensive actions, assistance in obtaining F-16s and a more effective combination of high-tech weapons and intelligence advantages can help.

The 2024 US election could disrupt aid flows to Ukraine for a time, hindering military and economic progress. But most leading partners will preserve assistance at levels that allow Ukraine to sustain fighting, even if not advance significantly. Meanwhile, Russia will use the lull to replenish its vastly superior troop numbers and missile stockpiles before attempting new offensives in late 2024 or 2025 after its leadership transition. Russia will continue boosting its weapons production and recruitment to the army in general “play the long game,” expecting that support for Ukraine in arms and in the international arena will reach its minimum.

The war will be a long and exhausting one with high human losses on both sides. Partner countries will have exhausted much of their resources within a tense international political environment. Ukraine will have no choice but to keep the initiative by remaining on the offensive.

Frozen War: 18.8%

“Focus: The Russian War in Ukraine. Stalemate/Freeze. Political and Diplomatic End to the War Under the Coercion of Third Countries.” The scenario involves negotiations on a peaceful settlement due to the lack of a military breakthrough and pressure from the West.

This scenario envisions Western partners pressing Ukraine towards a negotiated settlement with Russia in 2024 due to war fatigue and lack of a visible breakthrough by the Ukrainian Armed Forces by spring 2024. With Putin re-elected and the US presidential race intensifying, sentiment will grow for reconsidering the military-centric strategy and exploring diplomatic solutions, like partitioning Ukraine’s territory. The USA will lead in attempts to impose “peace negotiations.”

A whole list of options will be proposed, including the “Korean” one or the division of Germany, with the promise to take the unoccupied part to NATO. But even such negotiations will depend on the specific situation on the front, and, for example, successful actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine can lead to an option with fixing the borders at the level of 22 February 2022, but without the territories occupied later – Crimea and parts of Donbas.

As compensation for the inability to ensure Ukraine’s military victory, Western partners may offer expanded security guarantees, including broader economic, financial, and defense assistance. But aid will be conditional on reforms. Ukraine will also see accelerated EU integration and likely NATO membership offers, but with “constructive ambiguity.”

However, Ukrainian society will strongly resist territorial concessions after the deaths endured since February 2022. The resilience and unity forged early in the conflict will crack under hybrid threats from Russia seeking to undermine consolidation.

The scenario could spark resentment within Ukraine over the West’s perceived immorality in rushing negotiations. With no advance beyond pre-February 2022 borders, most Ukrainians will reject any deal. Further pressure will increase vulnerability to Russian hybrid warfare.

Meanwhile, the US and Europe will turn inward due to 2024 political cycles, keeping regional conflicts “sleeping” until the next US administration takes power. But Russia will continue expanding its military potential, including defense spending, weapons production, and troop training, while hiding true mobilization levels. By 2025, Russia may be strong enough to threaten the Baltics again within 6-9 years.

Growing Advantage of Ukraine: 18.8%

“The Liberation of Ukrainian Territories/Russia’s Withdrawal of Troops without a Complete Political and Diplomatic Settlement.”

This scenario envisions Ukraine gradually liberating occupied territories by end of 2025 thanks to increased Western military aid and growth of Ukraine’s defense industry. Long-range precision artillery and missiles will facilitate strikes on Russian infrastructure and command centers in Crimea, paving the way for a ground offensive facing little resistance.

Although withdrawing, Russia will still be able to conduct some missile and drone attacks on Ukraine, which will be thwarted over 80% of time by enhanced Ukrainian air defenses. Modest economic recovery and EU financial assistance will help Ukraine’s military efforts.

Under Western pressure, Russia will avoid nuclear escalation but Putin retains domestic control and social stability. Still no consensus among EU members on issues like energy sanctions.

Ukraine starts EU accession talks in 2024, but clear NATO membership remains distant. US will deepen military aid despite election cycles but sees NATO admission as red line for Russia. Meanwhile, China financially supports Russia.

With less manpower, Ukraine’s military increasingly leverages technology like drones and robotics to dampen asymmetry. By 2025, Ukraine’s government is able to scale up production of UAVs, substitutes volunteers in supplying them, and launches strikes inside Russia with long-range UAVs at a distance of up to 100 km. Still, Russia works with China to restore military potential over 6-9 years, threatening NATO Baltic states.

Victory for Ukraine: 3.76%

“Russia’s Military Defeat in Ukraine. De-Occupation of all Territories. Restoration of Control Over Ukraine’s Internationally Recognized Borders. Payment by Russia of Compensation for the Damage Caused. Bringing Russian War Criminals to Justice. The Beginning of Russia’s Transformation”

Societal resilience remains strong in Ukraine alongside steady economic recovery and political unity on war objectives. But in Russia, drastic drops in approval of the “special military operation” due to mounting casualties prompt manpower shortages, needing new mobilization waves even in affluent Russian regions. This spurs protests and unrest, potentially fragmenting Russia.

A pro-European coalition forms in the new 2024 European Parliament, advancing EU defense integration. New EU leadership also progresses on investigating Russia for crimes of aggression and using its frozen assets to rebuild Ukraine.

With Russia militarily defeated, Ukraine actively pursues EU integration while seeing some NATO progress too as the Russian threat recedes. Ukraine’s “Peace Formula” gains some Global South support as well. Meanwhile, Russia loses geopolitical influence, with only Belarus, Iran, and North Korea as key allies remaining.

On the military front, Ukraine leverages long-range missiles and drones to overwhelm outdated Russian air defenses. Tactical strikes on Crimea and the Kerch Bridge also deal psychological blows. And Western aid allows technological overmatch. By 2025, total mobilization in Ukraine enables a decisive counteroffensive with minimal casualties to liberate occupied territories.

So Russia’s untenable losses coupled with growing domestic dissent force a military withdrawal even as Ukraine makes diplomatic and integration progress with the West. But the seeds are sown for Russia’s potential fragmentation in the years ahead.

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