President Volodymyr Zelenskyy began 2023 with optimism, as Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv demonstrated their ability to push back Russian invaders. Western nations showed growing confidence in Ukraine’s ability to prevail and donated large quantities of weapons, ammunition, and high-tech capabilities to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
However, despite huge casualties, the Ukrainian offensive has made little progress in moving the frontlines, and Russia now appears to have the upper hand in the eastern Donbas region. The Ukrainian armed forces have shown resilience, courage, and determination in combatting Russia’s military might, but they need adequate military equipment to effectively counter the threat.
Although Ukraine is not a NATO member, the West recognized the risks of Russia’s illegal invasion and responded by promising tanks, ammunition, military training, and high-tech precision weapons to support a Ukrainian spring offensive. However, delays in providing Western military support, particularly tanks, allowed Russia to prepare strong defensive lines in the form of the Surovikin Line.
Furthermore, air power has been crucial in successful ground offensives, and Ukraine lacked the necessary combatants to commit to the conflict. Simply donating fighter jets without highly trained personnel would have risked providing Russia with target practice. Despite these challenges, Ukrainian morale has been boosted by successful attacks on Russian resupply lines, oil infrastructure, military headquarters, and ammunition dumps.
However, the ultimate measure of success in this conflict is the territory gained, and Ukraine has been unsuccessful in liberating its anticipated territories. While there have been small tactical gains, neither side has achieved decisive victories, and both have suffered significant casualties. Russia has maintained its focus on the Donbas region and recently seized the town of Marinka.
Ukraine remains dependent on Western military and financial support, but that support may be wavering as Russia no longer poses an immediate threat to the West. The West has competing domestic priorities and limited resources. Although the West is unlikely to abandon Ukraine, it may struggle to match the support provided in the past year, which has not been sufficient for Ukraine to achieve battlefield success.
President Zelenskyy’s efforts to secure international support for Ukraine have been crucial for its survival, but as the war enters a more static phase, difficult decisions lie ahead. Neither side is likely to achieve their objectives, and a prolonged conflict may favor Russia in the long run. President Putin ends the year emboldened, but whether he is ready to negotiate an end to the conflict remains uncertain. President Zelenskyy faces tough decisions about Ukraine’s future and his own.