What we can expect from the war in Ukraine in 2024

Kyiv’s forces are likely to remain on the defensive for much of next year, writes Keir Giles. That is unless the West finally gets fully behind the idea that Putin’s war aims will only change if his hand is forced

Saturday 30 December 2023 11:42 GMT
Ukrainian troops fire an L119 howitzer towards Russian forces, near the frontline town of Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops fire an L119 howitzer towards Russian forces, near the frontline town of Bakhmut (Reuters)

The year draws to a close with yet another bitter reminder of how the international community could have done more to assist Ukraine against Russia, but chose not to. Threats to shipping in the Red Sea have triggered a strong and immediate international military response to protect commerce there – a galling sight for supporters of Ukraine after the international community’s refusal to do the same in the Black Sea to relieve Russia’s stranglehold on Ukrainian grain exports.

International resolve is what has set the conditions for Ukraine’s continued struggle for survival in 2024. There won’t be the same hopes for a major Ukrainian breakthrough as there were in early 2023. Reporting in the US describes recriminations between Kyiv and Washington over the plan for Ukraine’s 2023 counteroffensive. But there is no disagreement that Ukraine was called upon to conduct a campaign without air superiority in a way no Western military would have contemplated. And now, not only aircraft but supplies of other essential war materials are under threat because of domestic politics in the US and Hungary.

The announcement by the Netherlands that it will provide 18 F-16 fighters is welcome, but the timeframe is still to be laid out completely. But Kyiv will be concerned that it is heading into the New Year without the confirmation of tens of billions of pounds of fresh financial support from both the US and EU.

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