After 80 days of war, three subtle threads of hope for a negotiated solution have entered the picture of the situation of the conflict in Ukraine. But military analysts also point out that it is entering a third phase, that of “protracted combats”which can extend the Russian invasion for many months.
Keep in mind the old principle that “it is the battlefield that determines the negotiations”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a number of strategic mistakes that have landed him in an uncertain alley, but it’s hard to go back because everything is being played for everything.
the war will continue. And the Ukrainians, bolstered and energized by vital logistical support from the United States and European countries, a coalition cemented by this conflict, will hardly agree to relinquish parts of their territory.
The first thread of hope was Putin’s speech on Monday 9, Victory Day over Nazism in World War II, held in Moscow, which, beyond patriotic exhortations, had a measured tone who avoided triumphalism and mentions of the war.
The second, this week, came with the telephone call from French President Emmanuel Macron to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which they ratified the common will to seek to achieve a negotiated agreement and defend the territorial integrity of states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last Monday during the “Victory Day” parade in Moscow. Photo: AP
The third thread was the call from the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, to his Russian counterpart, Serguei Shoigu, in order to ensure communication between the two adversaries to avoid fatal unforeseen events between the two nuclear superpowers.
It is the first time contact has occurred since the war began. It is important to verify that the US president, Joseph Biden, was convinced of the need for this initiative by two European leaders.
In the first place, the French president Macron, who until June is rotating president of the European Union. And the approach made to him at a meeting in Washington by the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, was also decisive.
Drahi was once again a staunch ally but told Biden that it is necessary for “the United States and Russia to talk to each other.”
The Europeans maintain that Putin should not be humiliated if there is a chance to start negotiations for such a difficult settlement.
Ukrainian soldiers walk through a town near Kharkov, after the withdrawal of Russian troops. Photo: AP
The three threads of hope were reinforced by the dramatic danger of a food emergency in Asia and Africa, baptized by the press “the bread war”.
In the Ukrainian Odesa, the main port of the Black Sea, 25 million tons of grain accumulate, stuck in railway cars, warehouses and ships. An international emergency agreement is needed to mobilize them. But the situation is difficult because the Black Sea is littered with roaming mines and insurance costs have skyrocketed.
In twenty countries the popular protests. But until now the belligerent anger prevents the search for a solution that becomes imperative because soon the products of the new harvests must begin to arrive and if the blockade continues it will lead to a systemic crisis.
The advance of Russian forces in Ukraine. /AFP
There is a rumor that high-ranking Russian and Ukrainian soldiers who were fellow students at military academies (until 1991 they were all Russian), have come into mutual contact to deal with problems such as food harvests (Russia and Ukraine are two granaries of the world) and other difficult issues that require rational and urgent solutions.
The invaders had to reorganize their devices because the deployment in the east and south of Ukraine is the resized theater of the Russian offensive.
The first phase failed because Putin had to accept that occupying all of Ukraine was impossible. The reorganization of ambitions led to abandoning the siege of the capital kyiv and sending troops east.
There the second phase began with an offensive that should have been overwhelming and instead encountered many difficulties. The main objective at the moment is the total occupation of the rich Donbas region, where the two small Philo-Russian republics already incorporated into the Russian Federation are located.
But the offensive requires maneuvers that need to move many soldiers and war materials. Y the military device is insufficient. This is demonstrated by the decision to also abandon the siege of Ukraine’s second largest city. After the failure in kyiv has come the frustration of withdrawing from Kharkov, north of the Donbas and near the Russian-Ukrainian border.
At the beginning of the third phase of the “protracted combats” that the Russians advance in the east with more fatigue but are about to launch a new offensive to, first of all, wrap up in a bag the 40 thousand veterans of the Ukrainian army who defend the Donbas.
The occupation of that region is essential for Putin to claim his first strategic victory, where the war should have started if the Russian leader had not been involved in the chimera of conquering kyiv to keep all of Ukraine.
But Putin will not settle for this victory, if his military forces manage to achieve it. Then he wants the mass of the Russian military apparatus to move to the south, where it has already been fighting since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.
Occupying the south means first of all establishing a broad land continuity between the Donbas in the east and the southern Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
In the south there are several important cities that the Russians are attacking. Among them Kherson, which they occupied in March, and where they intend to impose a popular referendum that would incorporate it into Russia.
But the south of Ukraine has in Odessa, the fourth largest city in the country, a historical and architectural jewel, a port of vital importance, the most crucial objective that would culminate the military campaign launched by President Putin.
Occupying Odessa, which is preparing to resist and is already being showered daily with missiles and artillery fire, will be difficult.
The last objective that would extinguish Putin’s imperial ambitions is near and a little more to the west of Odessa with the triumphal entry into Transnistria, a strip of land with less than a million inhabitants, which was separated from Moldova and is under the control of of the Russians, who have a garrison of two thousand soldiers.
The plan is to conquer a third of the 600,000 km of Ukraine, which would lose all its Black Sea coasts.