Great Game – 3 key predictions for the Ukraine war in 2024
It’s finally time to turn our eyes back to Ukraine in this series – and we have a lot to talk about! Will Ukraine hold presidential elections next year and what about that Zaluzhny interview? Here’s our 3 key predictions for the Ukraine war in 2024:
The pendulum of initiative
The Ukrainian summer offensive has been an almost complete failure with very few advances made. General Zaluzhny – the Ukrainian commander-in-chief – admitted as much in a recent interview with the Economist and asked for a reversed strategy – more on that later.
What is clear is that Ukraine is losing the initiative just as they did 12 months ago. Right now it’s Russia initiating offensives and putting Ukraine on the back foot – not the other way around. It is surprising that Russia has opened heavy attacks already at this point since many roads and fields are flooded and too muddy to traverse, but perhaps Putin is feeling the pressure of upcoming elections and wants to deliver results quickly.
We are seeing some clear trends of the initiative swinging back and forth throughout this war. Russia obviously took the initiative when they launched the invasion but Ukraine managed to stem the tide and carried out significant counteroffensives in the fall of 2022. Later that year, Russia shored up the frontline and launched a massive, yet mostly unsuccessful winter offensive centered around Bakhmut. This caused the Russians to spend their offensive resources and the Ukrainians were able to take the initiative with their failed summer offensives. Once again, the summer offensive ran out of steam and Ukraine now has to defend its earlier gains as the Russians have gathered resources for a winter offensive.
This is basically a symptom of the conflict being very stagnant and the two sides being very equal. Neither Ukraine nor Russia have the power or the superiority to create meaningful gaps or breakthroughs to really move the frontline or change the war. Both sides seem able to take the manpower losses on the chin and carry on fighting for now, so I expect the pendulum of initiative to continue swinging back and forth during 2024.
Both Ukraine and Russia