what attacks and strategies to expect for 2023?

The bombing of Kyiv, a mired front and two camps are certain: 2023 will be a “victorious year”. But to achieve this, Russia and Ukraine will have to strike back after weeks of stagnation. Both enemies have special powers to play with.

“We have entered a new cold war”, General Jean-Paul Paloméros assured on BFMTV on Monday. “Season 2 of the conflict”, estimates our military consultant General Jérôme Pellistrandi. One certainty: if, after ten months of fighting, the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on and both enemies seek the test of truth.

In wishes they sent to their respective compatriots, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to make 2023 a “victorious” year. But the logic is formal: both cannot be true.

To triumph over the opposing camp, each belligerent must take a strategic turn. And while the front froze, everyone had only one thing in mind: to continue the attack. It remains to be seen how, and who will take the initiative.

Russia is going all out

On the Russian side, we started the year like we finished the previous one. By bombing. This Monday, Kyiv woke up from a second straight night of strikes.

“These were bombings that had no military impact because the targets had no real strategic value. However, it created a real climate of tension because there were civilian casualties,” explained General Jérôme Pellistrandi. “And that will continue over the next few weeks.”

Sébastien Lecornu left to get an overview of this near future on set. In a duplex from Lebanon, after visiting the Ukrainian capital last Wednesday, the Minister of Armed Forces said at the LCI on Sunday evening: “The first quarter of 2023 will be decisive.” According to him, Russia is preparing to play it out to win the decision. “It is clear that we are heading for a moment of massification where Russia will throw all its strength into battle,” the minister continued.

Russia’s “massification” raises questions

This is also the content of the video released Friday by Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. As shown Parisian, the latter said he expected from this January the imposition of martial law on his attackers and a new mobilization.

The statement was confirmed by information proclaimed by Russia’s TASS office warning that the decree issued by the Kremlin last August will come into effect. That should allow Russia to raise an additional 137,000 troops.

The real projection is not the Bible. It tends to make even observers skeptical. “There will probably be men in addition to the 150,000 currently mobilized in training, but it is clear that the Kremlin is backing down because the involvement of civilians erodes the support of the population”, counters Ulrich Bounat, geopolitics expert, for example. Paris Sunday.

Belarusian abscess

But if the effort threatens to become too burdensome for the local population, Russia could consider relying on additional troops. Since the conflict’s inception, the extent of Belarusian ally involvement – ​​and possible entry into the war – has been one of crisis of the unknown.

Once again, however, the danger was quickly reaching its limit. The state of the Belarusian troops is unlikely to interfere with the situation. Better be the question – always if Minsk’s involvement worsens in the conflict – to create abscesses to defend Ukraine. “The aim of this threat is primarily to contain thousands of Ukrainian troops in the north to prevent them from fighting elsewhere,” Xavier Tytelman, founder of Aviation NXT, a consulting firm for companies in the aviation and defense sectors, analyzes with Ile-de-France daily. .

Attack with melting

After all, the Russian and Ukrainian armies are currently being repaired by force of circumstances. Current weather on “rasputitsa“, a Russian expression referring to “bad travel times”. country, Patrick Sauce, on our set.

And this positional war turned out to be very deadly. “There’s no real progress, it’s a massacre on both sides,” complained General Jérôme Pellistrandi. But status quo that shouldn’t last long. “A priori, the temperature is expected to drop. Ukrainians used to say that February is the coldest month of the year,” said Patrick Sauce.

This is why Sébastien Lecornu is counting on “a somewhat terrestrial (Russian, editor’s note) counterattack on the February-March horizon”, as he asked the LCI, adding that the Kremlin offensive should focus “on rather specific places on Ukrainian territory”. That means in eastern Ukraine, in Ulrich Bounat’s opinion. “If we stick to the speeches of the Russian general staff, the war should have been centered on the Donbass, hence the relentless efforts to seize Bakhmout. We can assume that these efforts which have been going on for months will continue,” he told Paris.

Ukrainian option

However, Russian optimism may well be tempered by a local freeze as it “would benefit Ukraine”, according to our editorialist Patrick Sauce’s analysis. It must be said that before the surgical immobilization due to bad weather, it was they who took the initiative. In addition, they had no interest in the decay of the conflict along a stationary front.

“It is not in Ukraine’s interests to allow this front to be established”, assured General Jean-Paul Paloméros, former Commander in Chief of the NATO ‘Transform’ Allies, in our studio on Monday.

“Vladimir Putin continued his offensive in depth, mobilizing his reserves, he regained control, while the Ukrainian forces were on the offensive, to take the initiative, thanks to their courage but also their innovation”, a- he argued.

Of course, the Ukrainian army had to get back on the move, but first it had to choose its direction. The French officer took over from the ongoing strategic debate at the top of the Ukrainian state.

“We recently saw reflections between the president of Ukraine and his military leaders presenting the debate very clearly, saying: ‘It is not a good option to allow ourselves to be locked up, but if we want to attack from the north – which would be the right choice? both because it would cut off Russian logistics, which would destabilize them – both from the south, and down to Melitopol which would bring them closer to Crimea.”

Mourning the total victory

Problem: maneuvers of that magnitude required fighter support, which Ukraine lacked. However, the loopholes did not prevent, according to General Jean-Paul Paloméros, provided that kyiv’s Western partners met its most immediate needs: “What is needed is to continue to provide the means of strike in the theater. What Ukraine is asking for is more artillery, more drones”.

Ukraine’s increased firepower could then overwhelm Russia… only to a certain extent. Also, the former NATO executive called on Ukraine to mourn the total victory. “Recent experience has shown that absolute victory does not exist,” however infuriated General Jean-Paul Paloméros. He continued: “There have been wins on the pitch – Ukraine have shown an example this year – and wins overall”.

A global victory he defined in these terms: “It restores the strategic autonomy of nations that want to live together, around shared values”. It is this relative success that should serve as a compass and shape the horizon for Ukraine from now on. With the pain of having to think about another strategic move next year.

Robin Verner BFMTV journalist

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