A New Zealand international affairs expert believes Ukraine’s military is on track to defeat Russia by the end of the year.
Tuesday will mark three months since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine calling it a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine.
Ukraine vowed to defend itself with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeting on the opening day of the invasion that “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself.”
Nearly three months on, after thousands of deaths and millions of Ukrainians fleeing their country, experts are starting to believe Ukraine is on track for what some might say is a shock victory.
One expert who agrees is the University of Otago’s international relations professor Robert Patman.
“We’re in a new phase now and some commentators believe we’re entering what’s called the long war, where Russia’s entrenched in the eastern part of the country and there’ll be a stalemate,” Patman told Newshub.
“I don’t believe that, I don’t share that analysis, the Russian army is too weak militarily and economically to sustain a long war, and I think Ukraine is on course for a successful counteroffensive and the ejection of Russian troops by the end of the year.”Patman believes it’s been a “colossal, strategic disaster for Putin’s regime” and can’t see them winning the war.
“They’ve lost a lot of troops, estimates vary somewhere between 15 and 25,000 and they’ve lost a lot of armour, maybe up to 15-20 percent of everything they’ve deployed has been lost or stolen,” Patman said.
“I mean, to give you an idea, Ukraine has taken something like 237 tanks from Russia and which is more tanks than the British have in the entire tank fleet.
“Those tanks were hastily abandoned in the course of the various battlegrounds and have just been driven away by Ukrainian tractors and used by the Ukrainian army. So it’s been a colossal, strategic disaster for Putin’s regime and I can’t really see how he can reverse it.”
Countries all around the world have been quick to supply aid, weapons, and money to Ukraine to help conquer Russia but one country Putin was hoping would support him was China.
Patman said the reason China isn’t helping Russia is that they don’t want to risk countries putting huge sanctions on them.
“Russia’s isolated and China is not going to bail out Putin, that’s quite clear,” Patman told Newshub.
“China’s prepared to express solidarity with Putin, but it’s a declaration that’s not being followed by substantive economic and military assistance because China does not want to be on the receiving end of sanctions itself.
“Why, because China is perfectly dependent on the global capitalist economy for its prosperity, so it doesn’t want to endanger that.”
Patman isn’t surprised by how much Russia has struggled in the war saying it always looked like a “bit of a big ask” given the size of Ukraine.
“It’s not just Western observers like myself that believe that Russia would struggle, you only have to look at it from a point of view of a geopolitical balance,” Patman said.
“Ukraine is a bigger country than France. Its population is about 40 to 43 million and even if Russia had succeeded in overthrowing the Zelenskyy Government, they still couldn’t have won because they would have to then put a pro-Russian government in place, which would not have had the support of the Ukrainian people.”
Patman added that the Russian economy going into the war was not strong enough to absorb a country the size of Ukraine while also running all the services in there.
Patman believes Putin has been let down by senior members of his Government who were too scared to tell him invading Ukraine would be a “catastrophe”.
“The other thing is that the military and people in the FSB, the Russian intelligence services, were warning Putin that it will be a catastrophe to go to try and invade Ukraine,” Patman told Newshub.
“But obviously, Mr. Putin had a different view, and I think one of the reasons his view was so unrealistic was because probably this information bubble was because he’s a dictator and he’s eliminated much of the independent political voice.
“Many of the people who work for him are terrified of him and they tell the boss what the boss wants to hear, which means the boss could make disastrous decisions and invading Ukraine was one of them.”
The United Nations has confirmed 3811 civilian deaths and 4278 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour.
According to the UN, the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher because the armed conflict can delay reports and most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.