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Trump's return may change course of war in Ukraine: Expert sees two scenarios

Trump's return may change course of war in Ukraine: Expert sees two scenarios Donald Trump (Photo: Getty Images)

The Kremlin is betting on prolonging the war in Ukraine, counting on Donald Trump's victory in the 2024 US presidential elections. However, if Ukraine achieves significant success on the front by then, it could completely thwart the enemy's calculations.

The Director of the New Geopolitics Research Network, Mykhailo Samus, in a comment to RBC-Ukraine, stated how Trump's potential return to power in the US might affect the war in Ukraine, what Russia hopes for, and possible scenarios.

The victory of Trump in the US elections is important for Russia

Several statements, including from the Russian side, may indicate Russia's concept of the development of events on the front. In particular, statements by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu suggest that they intend to fulfill all the tasks of their so-called special military operation by 2025. There were also statements from other Russian officials indicating that they expect Donald Trump to win the US presidential elections.

The main task is to reach Trump's return. Before that time, they aimed to prevent any advances by Ukrainian forces in the east and south to consolidate the territories they considered annexed. Then, with Trump's return, Moscow can exert pressure on him, arguing that the war has reached a dead end and there is no sense in helping Ukraine. They will advocate for ending assistance, and then Moscow and Kyiv can sit down for peace talks.

Thus, Trump immediately declares himself a "peacemaker," a "great ruler" who has achieved peace between Russia and Ukraine. Importantly for Putin, they want to avoid punishing war criminals and minimize reparations to Russia for the damage caused to Ukraine. That's the plan in the Kremlin.

Ukraine's task

The realization of such a scenario by Russia depends on Ukraine and our Western partners. The Ukrainian command has completely different plans. Our army continues to exert pressure and advance both in the south and the east, preventing Russian advances, particularly in the Kupiansk direction, where they have unsuccessfully attempted to launch an offensive operation several times.

The Ukrainian army aims to cut the southern enemy group, reach Tokmak by the fall campaign, and create conditions for breaking through other defensive lines in the south. Overall, our Armed Forces will seek to create conditions for the blockade of Crimea and the start of the de-occupation operation on the peninsula by mid-2024.

F-16 and ATACMS as critical factors

When Ukraine receives F-16 fighters, the conditions for further military operations will change. Our army will finally gain air superiority on certain fronts. This will allow pushing back Russian aviation and supporting our ground forces during the offensive. In addition, the F-16 will significantly strengthen Ukrainian air defense.

Another critical factor is the transfer of long-range missile systems like ATACMS, GLSDB. They will be beneficial for the operations of the Armed Forces. When discussing the operation in the South, it is essential to divide this large theater of operations, stretching from Crimea to the Kharkiv region, into two separate ones.

Two theaters of operations

One is the Crimean theater, which has its specifics. There, operations will be conducted on blockade, missile, and aviation strikes and actions by Special Operations Forces. Ground operations may only occur then, depending on whether the enemy's occupation forces decide to surrender.

The other theater is the Donbas theater. The Russians have a specific logistical advantage because this territory is adjacent to the Russian border. Blocking this region is impossible. Individual operations to de-occupy specific strategically essential areas will be conducted here. Gradually, these territories will be liberated from the enemy.

In 2024, the Ukrainian army can block Crimea and start the liberation of Donbas with separate operations. If the situation develops this way, the Russians will face a dilemma in communicating with Trump because it's one thing if they manage to freeze the war and create a deadlock situation without any changes on the front, where neither side can initiate active offensive operations.

Trump may take the side of Ukraine

However, if the South is liberated, and only Crimea and Donbas remain to be liberated, the situation arises where it would be in Trump's interest to support Ukraine. In his interest, keeping the strong will enhance the role of the United States in the confrontation with China. Thus, Trump may unexpectedly provide even more excellent support to Ukraine, especially in the military-technical sphere, by transferring more F-16s for a quicker de-occupation of Crimea and Donbas.

Therefore, 2024 may be a bifurcation point. If Crimea and Donbas are liberated, a situation may arise where Trump supports us.

Alternatively, he may support Russia, proposing a freeze or cessation of the war and starting negotiations. Much of this depends on the current assistance from Western countries.

Suppose we are timely provided with ATACMS, GLSDB, sufficient artillery, ammunition, air defense, and missile defense systems to defend our energy infrastructure objects during the winter. In that case, conditions are created to implement the Ukrainian scenario. Then Trump will be forced to be on our side. If assistance stalls, if F-16s, for some reason, are not delivered to us in promised terms, this creates conditions for Russia to conduct destructive operations to put the front situation in a deadlock.

Currently, the Russians lack resources for more extensive offensive operations. Even if they manage to recruit personnel, they have problems with military equipment and weapons. They may be able to gather infantry units by spring. However, this will no longer be a 21st-century army.

Moreover, there is a version that Putin's administration is terrified of any hints of growing protest sentiments. An open mobilization in the Russian Federation may lead to tension among the population. Instead, Putin would like to get another presidential term without destabilizing processes. The Kremlin believes it can put the situation in a deadlock without conducting an open mobilization. However, they lack resources for offensive operations.

For victories in the US elections, the situation for us looks more predictable with Joe Biden, who is already a partner of Ukraine. If he approaches the elections with a successful Ukrainian advance with the successful use of American weapons, his positions will improve during the campaign. He will show that under his leadership, the United States has achieved new leadership, defeated Russia, and weakened China.