In the war in Ukraine, the defenders are increasingly taking the initiative. At least since the delivery of the first Himars rocket launchers, the Ukrainian army has been celebrating increasing successes. Now the announced major offensive in the south is slowly starting. According to Australian military expert Mick Ryan, the course and outcome of the counterattack could decide the war.

In an interview with “Welt” yesterday, military historian Sönke Neitzel said: “Ukraine lacks all the prerequisites for a large-scale counteroffensive.” But Ryan sees it differently. He wrote on Twitter: “Predictions in war are dangerous. But with continued Western support, clever planning, drills, effective execution, adaptation and excellent leadership, the Ukrainians are perfectly capable of reclaiming their territory in the south.”

Should Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeed, Putin has four new problems, Ryan said.

First problem: “A Russian defeat in the south would be a major setback for Putin’s government.” The international headlines that such a defeat would bring would send a double signal: On the one hand to “Putin’s friends in Beijing and Tehran,” according to Ryan, supporter of the Ukraine, on the other hand, would be encouraged.

Second problem: A Ukrainian success on the battlefield would also provide a boost of energy for countries currently lagging behind in arms supplies, Ryan said. A defeat there could be a double problem for Putin if it also gives Ukraine more weapons for other theaters of war.

Third problem: Russian strategy would be completely turned on its head. “Conquests in the south were a major focus in the early weeks of the war,” Ryan explains. With the conquests, especially of port cities like Mariupol and Odessa, Ukraine was supposed to be “strangled”. “If Russia no longer controls the South, the strategy has failed,” summarizes Ryan.

Fourth problem: Putin and his generals will have to make difficult strategic decisions in the event of defeat in the south. The port of Sevastopol in southern Crimea would be affected. “If Sevastopol were within range of Ukrainian long-range weapons – is it still a bastion worth defending for Russia?”

However, should Russia give up Crimea – disguised as a “show of goodwill,” Ryan said – it would have domestic ramifications for Putin. However, if Russia decides to continue defending Crimea, troops would have to be withdrawn from other areas of Ukraine.

Ryan is certain that the outcome of the southern counter-offensive could decide the war. “Russia’s success in the war in subduing Ukraine and wiping out its democracy will likely depend on their ability to hold the territories to the south.”

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