JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images
- Russia’s forces in Ukraine will be “exhausted” soon, said a former senior NATO leader.
- James Stavridis said a tough winter would create a window for meaningful negotiations.
- Ukraine is seeking to push back Russian forces along a broad front in east Ukraine.
Former NATO official James Stavridis said that Russia’s forces in Ukraine will be “burned through and exhausted” by the end of winter, creating an opportunity for peace negotiations.
In an interview with New York radio station WABC 770, Stavridis said that while Ukraine was winning on the ground, Russia had an advantage in the air.
Stavridis is a retired US Navy admiral who from 2009 to 2013 served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, one of the most powerful roles after the secretary general.
“I don’t see either side having a breakthrough moment — at least this winter,” Stavridis told WABC host John Catsimatidis.
“Unfortunately, the first chance we can get to a negotiation is going to be after the winter. The Russians will be burned through and exhausted, losing so many men, so much equipment.”
Stavridis also said that there will be pressure on both sides in 2023 to enter into negotiations to end the conflict.
“On the Ukrainian side, the pressures from the West, in order to avoid further costs, is going to become significant,” Stavridis predicted.
“When I put it all together, more war to go. Ukrainians win it on the ground. Russians winning in the skies.”
“Let’s all push for a negotiation sometime mid-2023,” he said.
Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting along an approximately 600 mile front, with Ukraine forcing Russia into defensive positions in the south and northeast, while Russian forces are seeking to advance around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Ukraine had forced Russia to give up large swaths of territory late in 2022, but as winter set in gains for either side have been piecemeal.
Russian forces have suffered steep casualties in the war so far, and the Kremlin has mobilized around 300,000 people meant to give Russia an advantage in the months to come.
Some, seemingly including Stavridis, do not think the mobilized troops will be a large help. They cited the high casualty rates among trained officers and poor training and equipment as reasons that an influx of unskilled fighters may not be much use.
In a recent missile strike, Ukraine killed hundreds of Russian recruits in the Donetsk region in a strike blamed on a basic error: raw soldiers giving their locations away by using their phones.
Ukrainian intelligence has claimed that Russia is preparing to draft 500,000 more civilians for a potential spring offensive, a claim denied by the Kremlin.
Stavridis told WABC that he believes Ukraine is winning the “ground war” because it is more motivated and has been given cutting-edge equipment by Western nations, like the HIMARS artillery used to blow up the soldiers in Donetsk.
Russia retains an advantage in the air, Stavridis said, pointing to its use of drones to target infrastructure.
Though both the Kremlin and Ukraine’s government have in recent weeks signaled a willingness to negotiate, UN Secretary General António Guterres said in December he does not believe there will be “serious” peace talks in the immediate future.