The federal government has so far made little public statement on the further course of the war in Ukraine. In an internal analysis, the Ministry of Defense is now expecting a new offensive in April 2023. The analysts have written down two central scenarios for this.
The German Ministry of Defense expects a major Russian offensive in Ukraine in April 2023. This is reported by the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, citing an internal analysis by the Ministry’s “Deployment and Strategy” department. The paper shows that the federal government has a concrete idea of how the war in Ukraine will continue – even if it has never publicly stated this.
For weeks, Ukraine, Western officials, and war and military analysts have speculated about the Russian military’s next steps and a new offensive in 2023. Ukrainian officials, including Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba, expect a large-scale attack in January or February.
According to analysts at the US think tank Institute for the Study of War, the Russian military leadership has been planning a major attack on northern Ukraine since at least October. The destination: probably the capital Kyiv. Suspicions range from a planned attack from Belarus to the much more likely scenario of an invasion in the north-western Luhansk region.
With an attack in April 2023, the German analysis throws a previously new period into play. According to the report, the government should expect two scenarios. The rocket and drone attacks on the critical infrastructure are a central part of the strategy in both scenarios. Since mid-October, attacks on power, water and heating systems have left millions of Ukrainians without electricity and hot water.
The first scenario: Putin wants to conquer the entire Donbass. In April, Russia wants to start the offensive. At the same time, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko will deploy tens of thousands of soldiers on the Ukrainian border. As a result, the Ukrainian armed forces would have to split up and could no longer defend the Donbass at full capacity.
A similar scenario does not seem improbable to the Ukrainian general staff. The military only reported on Friday that Russia was planning another field hospital in Belarus and was sending more equipment and troops to Belarus for training. However, the Germans also regard direct intervention in the war as unlikely. Lukashenko fears the “potentially domestically destabilizing” consequences of entering the war.
The “ISW” also emphasizes that there is still no clear evidence that Moscow is actively preparing attack troops in Belarus. Should the Russians conquer the Donbass, they would turn the occupied areas into fortresses to make it much more difficult for the Ukrainians to recapture, the German Ministry of Defense suspects. Putin would then also propose new negotiations to Ukraine. In doing so, he wanted to suggest a public interest in peace and demonstrate NATO, according to the ministry
The second scenario: Putin wants to conquer all of Ukraine in a two-front war – with the help of Belarusian soldiers. These would march towards Kyiv while Russian troops attacked from Donbass. Russian soldiers would go as far as the Polish border to prevent arms shipments from the West and occupy Transnistria, the breakaway region from Moldova.
For the second scenario, a Russian general mobilization is necessary, the ministry judges, but this is “rather unlikely for domestic political reasons”. At the same time, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced just a few days ago that the army should be increased to 1.5 million soldiers. 200,000 soldiers are currently being trained for war, Putin himself announced.
According to the German ministry, the war has already led to major casualties among conventional troops, which is why hundreds of thousands of inexperienced men have already been recruited. According to the authors of the paper, Russia no longer poses such a great threat to NATO as it did at the beginning of the war. But the ministry expects that Russia will station nuclear weapons on the NATO border to continue to deter Western countries.