How Will the Ukraine War Play Out In 2023? 10 months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine – a “special military operation” that Russian President Vladimir Putin thought would last mere weeks – and Russia has lost control of territories it conquered in the first few weeks of the war and the prospects of a Russian victory still seem slim.
Amid an ammunition shortage and crippling sanctions preventing Russia from manufacturing sufficient quantities of advanced weapons and tanks, Vladimir Putin has big decisions to make in the new year.
Add to that the likely withdrawal of Russian troops from the city of Kreminna in Luhansk Oblast, and Putin knows that without making major changes soon, 2023 will continue the pattern of Russian retreats until they are eventually forced back out of Ukraine.
The future isn’t certain, but here are five possible ways the war could play out in 2023.
Putin Regime Collapse
In an interview with The Sun Online, Russia expert Olga Lautman from the Center for European Policy suggested that the collapse of Putin’s regime is not off the cards.
“I would not be surprised if his regime collapses in 2023,” Lautman said, adding that that the Russian president’s rumored health problems may make it easier for him to be removed from power.
“Rumors about Putin’s health are being put out by security services,” she said. “They’ve been put out since 2008, always around the time of key events…they may be laying the groundwork for Putin’s removal, they could be a form of distraction for the West, or they could be to discourage uprisings.”
A Putin regime collapse, however, would not necessarily mean the end of the war.
Negotiations Deliver Peace
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Monday that Kyiv hopes to see a peace summit take place within the next two months, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as the mediator.
Kuleba predicted that Russia would not take part, however, and Moscow officials said as much in response.
The chances of negotiations delivering peace seem slim for as long as Ukraine refuses to cede any territory to Russia, and Russia refuses to accept anything other than full control of Crimea, the Donbas, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. New rounds of negotiations may well occur in the new year, however.
New Russian Offensive
A new Russian offensive is almost certain to happen in the spring, once the ice melts.
Kyiv believes that Russia is planning a massive new ground offensive in the new year, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and senior Ukrainain officials warning that they must not become complacent following recent withdrawals.
The new offensive, officials believe, could come from the Donbas region or the south, or may even be directed at Kyiv.
Russia may also win the war in Ukraine, though for this to occur, the West must stop delivering advanced weapons to Ukraine.
Given the pace of the transfer of weapons, the repeated commitments from Western leaders to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, and Russia’s ongoing weapons and ammunition shortage, a Russian victory could still occur but seems unlikely unless something changes dramatically.
If Russia’s rumored offensive in the new year ultimately fails, Putin may withdraw his troops.
The Russian president would be hard pushed to admit defeat, however, given how most withdrawals of Russian troops in Ukraine so far have been described as “tactical” regroupings.
If Putin can’t paint withdrawals as victories, and if he can’t find anything to present to the Russian people as a positive outcome of the “special military operation,” then a full and permanent withdrawal is less likely to occur and the next major withdrawals will simply given Moscow time to regroup, reconsider, and redeploy.
It Doesn’t End
It’s also entirely possible that the war simply doesn’t come to an end in 2023. While Russia will struggle to find the equipment it needs to continue effectively defending its lines of defense in Ukraine while also making gains, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Russia’s allies will continue to assist in supplying weapons and ammunition.
North Korea and Iran have, after all, already shown that they are willing to support Putin as much as they can.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.