Russia invasion of Ukraine anniversary: How long will the war in Ukraine last? Will the UK, US and Western governments keep supporting Ukraine?

Ukraine recently lost control of the city of Adviika, in one of its biggest losses since the war began

As Ukrainians mark two years at war, there is little optimism for an imminent positive resolution for Kyiv.

Last week, Russia seized the city of Adviika, a gateway to the Russian-seized Donetsk regional capital in the east – its most significant win since Bakhmut fell in May last year.

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As the news came in, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister, issued a stark warning to the Munich Security Council.

Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners monitor the sky from their positions in the direction of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners monitor the sky from their positions in the direction of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners monitor the sky from their positions in the direction of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

“The era of peace in Europe is over,” he told delegates. “And every time Ukrainian soldiers withdraw from a Ukrainian town because of the lack of ammunition, think of it not only in terms of democracy and defending the world-based order, but also in terms of Russian soldiers getting a few kilometres closer to your towns.”

The warning spoke to European governments feeling pressure over the supply of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s government is nervous, not just because of its most recent battlefield losses, but because of what could happen in the coming months.

The looming possibility of a second term in the White House for Donald Trump could see financial support for Ukraine slashed significantly. Incumbent president Joe Biden has already faced a lengthy political wrangle over the latest US aid package. He last weekend assured Mr Zelensky he was confident the $60 billion [£47bn] would be passed, warning the fall of Adviika was due to the delay in US funds. However, it still needs to pass the final hurdle in the House of Representatives before the funding reaches Ukraine.

Britain is also set to hold a general election this year, with a likely loss for the Conservative Government, which has shown staunch support for the Ukraine since then-prime minister Boris Johnson’s visits to Kyiv in the early days of the war. Meanwhile, the European Parliament elections are also due, where polls are indicating that far-right parties will make substantial gains.

“[The year] 2024 is going to be a flashpoint year because of the UK, US and European elections,” says Dr Benjamin Martill, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Edinburgh. “It will be interesting to see what happens in a year's time with the new landscape, but there is no doubt the questions about the continuity and cohesion of the Western alliance have been brought forward by this election year.

"Normally, we might be waiting another one or two years until we would have actually had these kinds of concerns about whether we can keep doing this in the future – because two years isn't too long into a conflict.”

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However, Dr Martill said Kyiv would be confident of Britain’s continuing support. "Boris Johnson made such an effort to link Britain's response to Ukraine to us being a great global player,” he said. “That’s now essentially fed into something of a cross-party consensus. I think Labour wouldn't change the British position.”

Dr Martill said he believed both sides had an incentive to “keep things stalemated”, but raised questions over Russia’s aims.

“We know that the West has been tough on weapons that probably could have turned the tide of conflict,” he said. “It doesn't mean that they're not doing everything that they can, but they're also very, very wary of escalation.

"Is there a reasonable deal that can be cut that doesn't sell out the Ukrainians? Or is it that [Vladimir] Putin’s designs now extend to not just regime change, but the incorporation of territories of Ukraine or even the whole of Ukraine into a kind of greater Russia? Nobody knows what's going on in Putin's head.”

Dr Steven Main, of the Russian Military Studies Office (RMSO) in Bathgate, said he believed Russia had an advantage for one simple reason – manpower.

An estimated 300,000 Ukrainian soldiers are fighting along the front line. Meanwhile, Russia, which has a population more than three times as large as that of Ukraine, is believed to have 470,000 on the ground – and an almost infinite pool of potential recruits.

The Kyiv government is concerned that it needs to increase its military capability – and relieve some of the soldiers who have been fighting for months. A new bill to expand the draft plans to lower the age at which men can be conscripted into the armed forces from 27 to 25 is being considered, but is unpopular.

Earlier this month, Mr Zelensky sacked Ukraine’s most senior military commander, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, saying a “reset” was necessary.

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"If you haven’t got the men to hold the ground in the first place, never mind advance, then you’ve got a problem,” Dr Main said. “It’s always been said this is a war of attrition – and that means people. Does Ukraine have enough boots on the ground to defend what it does have, never mind launch a counter offensive against what you can now assume to be a fairly strong Russian position on the battlefield?”

He does, however, stress the war cannot continue in his current form for much longer.

Mr Zelensky has made it clear from the beginning that he will not accept a compromise that sees any Ukrainian territory conceded to the Kremlin. Recent opinion polls have shown both support for fighting against Russia and for Mr Zelensky have fallen, although they are still above 60 per cent.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine have both been cancelled due to emergency wartime legislation, but Dr Main said an alternative Ukrainian leader could see things differently.

“He [Zelensky] is less popular than he was,” he said. “There is the death toll of soldiers. And what about the Ukrainians themselves? They’re tired of being bombed 24/7. What if they turn around and say ‘we’ve had enough? We want our guys back. Compromise, make a deal’.

“If any [compromise is] made, the question is are the terms going to be acceptable to Kyiv? That’s not going to happen with Zelensky in charge, as he’s dug himself into a hole. There would need to be a change of political leadership to actually sit down with the Russians.”

Dr Main added: “I don't think it's an option for this war to last another year. I just don’t see how Ukraine could survive that.”



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