Western nations need to back Ukraine with aerial defenses as the country heads into a new phase of its war with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos Tuesday.
“We must gain air superiority for Ukraine. Just as we gained superiority in the Black Sea, we can do it,” Zelenskyy said.
Russia is preparing for a new offensive as winter sets in, but two years into the war, it comes at a great cost to its own economy, experts note.
Freezing temperatures may create ‘favorable terrain’ for Russia’s winter offensive
Russian troops are preparing for a new offensive push in Ukraine in the coming weeks, a recent report from the Institute for the Study of War said. Freezing weather in Ukraine has slowed military operations there, but the ISW believes that in the coming months, the climate “will likely create more favorable terrain for mechanized maneuver warfare.” It’s unlikely, however, that Russia will make “operationally significant breakthroughs” in this offensive push, the ISW assessed. Moscow’s winter warfare has evolved since last year, Le Monde reported, with Russian forces “adapting their tactics” to bombard Ukraine first with waves of drones and then with missiles. In December, Ukraine was under the heaviest bombardment since the war began nearly two years ago.
Russian troops trained in the Arctic could have advantage over Ukraine
Ukraine will need to grapple not only with the threats cold weather brings to its troops, but with an already weakened energy infrastructure which suffered under Russia’s last push. Moscow, meanwhile, has dedicated resources to “ensuring that Russian troops can operate in extreme temperatures,” including training its soldiers in the Arctic, researcher Marina Miron wrote for The Conversation. The outcome of Ukraine’s winter operations will “depend on the will of the opposing forces, and on the west’s ability, and willingness, to supply the Ukrainian side with the necessary quantities of ammunition,” Miron added.
Russian economy is at risk of overheating
The Russian economy is expected to have performed better than the global economy in 2023 — but that is due to President Vladimir Putin’s record-high spending to fund the war, Alexandra Prokopenko from the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center wrote in Foreign Affairs. Defense spending has outpaced every other sector, Prokopenko noted, and Moscow is making big payments to soldiers and others to mobilize them for the war effort, which has driven consumption and helped shield them from the reality of how the nation’s economy is actually performing. “With the war unlikely to end soon, the financial and economic costs will mount and are likely to bite Russia several years from now,” she added.