Conflict Between Russia And Ukraine ‘Could Escalate Further In 2023;’ Negotiation impossible before ‘key battlefield change’

Black smoke rises over the Ukrainian capital kyiv on October 10, 2022. Photo: VCG

Black smoke rises over the Ukrainian capital kyiv on October 10, 2022. Photo: VCG

Russia and Ukraine recently accused each other of insincere negotiations to end the conflict, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will sign a decree on preventive retaliatory measures against the introduction of a cap on Russian oil prices on Monday or Tuesday. Analysts said the confrontation between Russia and the United States and the military conflict in Ukraine could escalate further in 2023.

“I think I will sign the decree sometime on Monday or Tuesday. These are precautionary measures,” Putin told reporters on Thursday, according to TASS. At press time, Russia has not released any information about the decree.

The Russian side will wait until the final parameters of the EU embargo are clear, as it does not understand what can replace Russian oil products in Europe, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, according to TASS on Monday.

“Europe used to be a key market for the sale of our oil products. Let’s wait and see what decisions they make in the long term. So far, we don’t know what can take the place of our fuel,” Novak said.

On December 5, an embargo on Russia’s maritime oil supplies to the European Union came into effect. The EU, the Group of Seven (UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France, Japan) as well as Australia agreed on a price cap for Russian sea-supplied oil at $60 a barrel. The US, EU and UK prohibit their companies from providing transportation, financial and insurance services to tankers carrying oil from Russia at a price higher than the “agreed level”.

Chinese analysts said that Russia is showing its determination and strength for a long-term fight not only with Ukraine but also with the United States and other Western countries, and not only in the military field but also in the economy. And in 2023, Russia may take decisive steps to end the conflict, as the Kremlin needs to create a relatively stable and positive environment for the 2024 presidential election. In the meantime, it is questioned to what extent the West can continue to offer large amounts of assistance. financial and military to kyiv, so it is very likely that there will be a further escalation of the conflict next year, they said.

away from negotiations

Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine, but “kyiv and its Western backers have refused to enter into talks,” Putin said in an interview with Russian state media broadcast on Sunday.

“We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved on acceptable solutions, but that depends on them, it is not us who refuse to negotiate, it is them,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television.

However, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on his Twitter account that Putin needed to come back to reality and acknowledge that it was Russia that did not want talks.

The current stalemate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is because the Kremlin says it will fight until it achieves all its goals, and Russia will not give up the territories it has already won, while kyiv says it will not rest until all Russian soldiers are expelled from all of its territory, including the Donbass region and Crimea, which Russia treats as its own territories, the experts said.

Yang Jin, a research associate at the Institute for Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that neither side wants to give up something they already have to reach an agreement with the other part. so the hopes of negotiation are still far away.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, said, “If you can’t get it by force from the battlefield, then you can’t get it from the negotiating table,” and this applies to both sides. that they believe that they can further change the current situation by military means, and this is the reason why intense battles continue in eastern and southern Ukraine, and attacks launched by Ukraine inside Russian territories will also increase.

Cui Heng, a research assistant at the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday: “For Russia, 2023 is a crucial year, because Putin’s administration needs to prepare for the 2024 elections. If Russia cannot consolidate what it has won or even makes too many compromises with the US and Ukraine, Putin’s 2024 agenda would be in trouble, making it impossible for Russia to adjust its terms for talks.”

“For Ukraine and the US, the space for negotiations is also limited, because Zelensky’s speech to the US Congress during his visit to the US has also set a high tone at this time. In At this point, US politicians are under pressure for ‘political correctness, ‘ so even if they want to talk to Russia about finding a way to ease tensions and let the difficult economic situation at least take a break, they won’t dare change their minds. tough stance against Russia,” Cui said.

For US President Joe Biden and the Democrats, winning Ukraine’s support in 2023 is also unlikely. With the US presidential election in 2024, Republicans won’t question the Ukraine issue too much because of “political correctness,” and when Biden performs poorly on domestic affairs, he won’t hesitate to use Ukraine as a card to play. to serve. his re-election chances, Cui said.

More importantly, US policymaking is heavily influenced by the military-industrial complex and strategists who want to continue using Ukraine to weaken Russia and undermine the EU, so interest groups will also impose difficulties in any potential talks between Russia and the US, experts said.

But the extent to which the economies of the US and other European countries can afford such large amounts of financial and military assistance is in question, and in 2023 the dire economic situation and changing public opinion could weaken Western support for Ukraine, they said. analysts.

danger of further conflict

With the situation deteriorating, some observers are concerned about a direct conflict between Russia and the US, as Washington has decided to deliver more weapons, including Patriot air defense systems, to Ukraine, and Russia has warned that it will destroy those US weapons once they have been transported to Ukraine.

“Of course, we will take them [Patriot systems] out, 100 percent!” Putin said in an interview on Sunday.

But some Chinese observers have different views on the matter.

Cui, from East China Normal University, said: “There is no need or realistic condition for a direct conflict between Russia and the US. It is in Washington’s interest to keep the conflict a proxy war without massive US casualties. “

Song said there is a possible scenario in which the United States gets directly involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “If the US believes that attacking facilities in Russia and even its top leader will increase internal unrest and threaten the ruling position of the Putin administration, then Washington could take risky steps to end the conflict, but this will surely lead to all-out conflict.” . between two of the world’s major military powers.

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