What’s Next in the Ukraine War? Are the hopes for peace in the near future justified? Will Putin give in soon? The political scientist Andreas Heinemann-Grüder gives an outlook on what we can expect in the coming year.

Ten months ago, Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine. Russia not only plunged its neighbor into misery and chaos, it raised the threat of a third world war.

Bitter battles with tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians dead, cities bombed out, millions fleeing – with his campaign against Ukraine, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a brutal, unscrupulous ruler who seems to stop at nothing.

The world community hopes that the bloodshed will end soon. But how realistic is it that the warring parties will lay down their arms and start negotiations in the foreseeable future? How justified is the hope that peace will return to Ukraine in 2023 and that the global situation will ease as a result?

In an interview with FOCUS online, the political scientist and conflict researcher Andreas Heinemann-Grüder outlines the prospects for the coming year.

He is very skeptical about an end to the war through negotiations. “A negotiated peace with Putin is so difficult to imagine because he ultimately set himself the utopian goal of wanting to restore the Soviet and tsarist sphere of influence for Russia.” However, Putin’s retro future is “non-negotiable”.

He understands everyone who wants peace as quickly as possible. But: “Anyone who calls for negotiations needs a strategic idea of ​​peace,” warns the professor from the International Center for Conflict Studies in Bonn. “Is it about divisible goods or indivisible identities, about the dictatorship of the ‘Russian world’ over the right of Ukrainians to determine their own fate?”

Ukraine wants to become part of Europe, not an appendage of Putin’s ‘Russian world’, says Heinemann-Grüder. “Ukraine and other Eastern European countries never want to be at the mercy of an aggressive Russia again. The West, in turn, no longer wants to live under the constant threat of Putin’s nuclear war and be open to blackmail.”

The expert is convinced: “At the end of the war there will be neither a Versailles Treaty of 1918 nor a Potsdam Agreement of 1945. Both a victorious peace over Russia and a Russian dictated peace over Ukraine are unlikely.”

There were only two possibilities: either a long-lasting rivalry with phases of high intensity of violence and phases of standstill.

“Or the war will be frozen by separating the parties, creating buffer zones and robustly implementing a ceasefire through an international mission.” Ukraine must be enabled “to effectively defend itself against Russian attacks and deter them in the future, including with missile defense and no-fly zones .”

Andreas Heinemann-Grüder on FOCUS online: “The key to peace is to put Ukraine in a military position that forces Putin to give up his war aims. Only Ukraine can decide whether there is a country against peace. There will be no slavery against peace and no peace apostle should expect Ukraine.”

At the present time, serious talks with the Kremlin chief about a peace solution are hardly conceivable. Putin lives in a “chronic paranoia,” says Heinemann-Grüder. “He suffers from a loss of reality and is only accessible to a limited extent for rational end-means calculations.”

After the blitzkrieg failed, the question arises as to what political goals Putin is now pursuing. “Does he think he can still win the war, or at least conquer and hold the four territories annexed in September, in addition to Crimea?” What was left was “scorched earth, depopulation and a marauding troop of soldiers,” says Heinemann-Grüder. “Ultimately, he only seems to be concerned with avoiding an embarrassing defeat.”

For Putin, the war is no longer the continuation of politics by other means, according to the expert. “Politics for him is a form of all-out war against the West.” Putin is no longer concerned with negotiable goals. “He sees himself as a man of historical providence.”

The political scientist says: “Putin’s historical will to broadcast has come closer and closer to that of the fundamentalist theocrats in Iran. In other words, those self-proclaimed holy warriors who are threatening the annihilation of Israel, are waging war against their own people and are now equipping Putin with drones.” The war of annihilation against Ukraine has made the conflict fundamental, namely a “clash of cultures, a struggle for identity – by the Russian, Moscow-dominated world, against a world that eludes Russian grasp”.

The professor points out that the war in Russia is leaving ever clearer traces. He’s becoming more and more unpopular, even if the displeasure hasn’t been organized so far. “A palace revolution is as unlikely as a revolution ‘from below’ because civil society is shattered, driven into exile or imprisoned.”

However, Andreas Heinemann-Grüder predicts massive upheavals in the country itself: “Russia will feel the full force of the sanctions in 2023: recession, high inflation, high interest rates, unemployment in the industrial centers, migration of the IT sector, no investments, except in the military-industrial complex, transition to war economy.”

The conflict researcher is convinced that Putin’s regime would only fall through “a combination of above and below, inside and outside”. “Despite all the reports of success, Putin’s regime no longer has any allies apart from the fundamentalist theocracy of Iran and North Korea.”

Putin and his followers are only likely to give in when faced with the choice of losing the war or losing power at home – that is, when the war has to end in order not to be overthrown. “This will only be the case when the Afghanistan syndrome and the costs of the military-industrial complex arrive in Russia – which has already destroyed the Soviet regime,” said Heinemann-Grüder.

The expert believes several scenarios are possible regarding the future prospects of the Kremlin regent:

The professor expects criticism of Putin to increase in Russia. However, a number of factors are needed for dissatisfaction to lead to change. “A strategy of refusal, passive resistance and sabotage could exploit all the weaknesses of the Putin regime,” said Heinemann-Grüder. “What is needed is a popular front of all Putin opponents, especially all post-Soviet peoples, against the war of annihilation.”

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As an example of the mood in Russia, he cites “the dissatisfaction in the regions, the desolate power of the media, the resentment of the non-Russian peoples, the international isolation of scientists, the oligarchs’ hangovers, the desperation of the soldiers, the sadness and anger of the soldiers’ widows. “

The expert is certain: “Peace will only be possible with another Russia.” With a “Russia, Russia above all” attitude, Russia will not find peace with any of its neighbors. “The defeat of imperial Russia is the only chance for a new beginning.”

“The war will come to an end when Putin realizes that the continuation of the war means his own end if the war no longer gives him the satisfaction he previously got from it,” Heinemann-Grüder told FOCUS online. “Without defeat, Putin will continue to pursue his original goal of reversing the loss of influence over the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia.”