In October, the Ukrainian army made no serious advance in the southern direction and did not manage to recapture Kherson, let alone cut off the land corridor to Crimea. During the weeks-long offensive, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) were able to liberate a number of smaller settlements in the region and threaten Kherson itself, but that achievement cost them an enormous effort with serious support from the West. Russia had not yet put its mobilized units into action and was gradually retreating to the south. At the same time, despite conflicting reports, it is possible to ascertain a very slow advance of Russian units in the east near Bakhmut and the construction of defensive lines there.
We are making a cautious conclusion that the pace of combat operations in the Kherson and Bakhmut directions illustrates the general trend toward a gradual freezing of the frontline. This tendency is acceptable to neither side; therefore, both attempted separate operations to break it. For example, Ukraine attacked the Crimea bridge, while the Russian Federation carried out massive attacks on critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine using missiles and drones. Such facilities seem to have turned into permanent targets of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
As winter cold sets in, Moscow will increase pressure on the Ukrainian population by creating unbearable living conditions in most of the country. The Kremlin does not aim to win over the local population and avoids taking action in larger population centres or assuming responsibility for governing significant numbers of Ukrainians. This is due to the awareness of potential mass disloyalty, as well as, possibly, the desire to redouble refugee flows, which would put additional pressure not only on the Ukrainian government, but also on the EU.
Against this backdrop, the Russian defence minister announced
the completion of the partial mobilization. According to him, 300,000 citizens were drafted, of which 82,000 have already completed their training and left for the combat zone. However, it is too early to analyze the results of the mobilization campaign and the future balance of forces at the frontlines because it is not clear to what extent Moscow intends to use these forces in the fighting area. Several scenarios are possible in the short to medium term:
1. The most probable is a slump in activities at the front, which, however, will not imply a reduction in human losses and destruction. This is due to the achievement of a certain balance in the means and resources available to both countries. Presumably, Moscow will send most of its recruits to reinforce defensive lines, including those within Russia’s internationally recognized borders. The sides will likely shackle each other’s forces for long, their minor successes alternating.
2. A less likely scenario appears to be a major Russian offensive and a breakdown of the Ukrainian defence system as a result of the large-scale involvement of Russian mobilized units into combat. Such a scenario would elevate the risks of escalation and could even breathe new life into the discussion by NATO member states of a no-fly zone in western Ukraine.
3. An even less likely scenario is the depletion of Russian military resources amidst the expansion of the AFU's success in regaining control over the occupied areas.
We should also highlight the factor of Western arms, with large-scale shipments arriving in Ukraine. These shipments are undoubtedly critical for Ukraine’s defence, but the media euphoria over their effectiveness is somewhat overrated and creates a distorted impression of the possible future of the war. It is indicative, for example, that Western air defence systems were unable to effectively deal with Russia’s massive use of high-precision missiles and barraging munitions, including Iranian drones. Incidentally, the latter had been successfully tested not only in Syria (where operators receive minimum training), but also in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, where they effectively countered the latest Western weapons.Nuclear factor
The nuclear war theme is being embedded in the global media and political discourse.