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Can Ukraine Break Through Again?




Ukraine’s continued progress is by no means assured.


There is no indication of a mass Russian withdrawal, and Russian forces have continued to assault Ukrainian positions and pound Ukrainian towns and villages. In areas where Ukraine has had the advantage, the Russian military may find a way to dig in, hold the front and wait for winter, when the ground freezes and advances are harder. After a period of faster maneuvering, the fighting could slow down and revert back to a war of attrition, with Russia’s willingness to destroy populated areas with artillery pushing Ukraine back.


But the recent Ukrainian gains have reshaped the politics of the war as well as the battlefield. It now seems less likely that Western countries would withdraw military support for Ukraine, which has proven essential. Meanwhile, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is facing unusual criticism at home over the military’s recent losses — and concerns from Xi Jinping, the leader of China, which is Russia’s most powerful partner.


In this climate, Russia’s central issue — a lack of trained, motivated fighters — is not easily solved. Mr. Putin’s announcement on Wednesday of a “partial mobilization” of people with military experience that would see roughly 300,000 soldiers called up could help supplement Russian forces. But the quality of the new recruits is unclear, and it could take time to organize and deploy them, limiting the immediate effect on the battlefield.


Although it is still considered unlikely, it is now possible to imagine that continued Ukrainian successes could lead to the collapse of Russian morale and ability to fight, Mr. Muzyka, the Rochan Consulting analyst, wrote on Monday.


“It is no longer science fiction to think that the war will end in a matter of weeks, months, and not years,” Mr. Musyka wrote.

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