Will 2023 be the Year the Ukrainian People Break Putin's Army?
Phillips O’Brien looks forward to what could be the decisive moment in Russia's brutal war against Ukraine
Phillips O'Brien is an American historian and professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. In this piece he examines Russia’s massive build-up of troops over recent weeks and asks whether Ukraine can defeat Putin’s forces in 2023.
Where the Russo-Ukraine war goes next is partly unknown and partly glimpsable through what we have seen so far. Looking back over the past 10 months of war certain things have become apparent, certain things probable and many things unknowable. In many ways the question of the past few weeks is one that we have been asking since February 25—having failed in their original expectations, what do the Russians do next?
It is already apparent what they are trying to do. Russia has recently raised somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 troops through forced conscription. A large number of these have already been sent to the battlefields of Ukraine to try and stabilise the line and take part in some of Russia’s faltering assaults. The rest, however, are being trained up to be used in some new campaign in the Spring. The number of these new troops, if the Ukrainian public statements are to be believed, is between 150,000 and 200,000.
That sounds like a large, potential assault force for the Russians—if they were inclined to try and go back on the offensive. And that indeed is what the Ukrainians are suggesting. It’s worth noting that over the past week both Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleg Reznikov, and its leading commander, General Zaluzhny have floated the idea that the Russians might even try a new assault on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which was their primary objective back in February.