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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Most Likely Result Of Ukraine's Counteroffensive? Negotiations

As we wait for Ukraine's looming counteroffensive, analysts are already looking ahead and asking what will happen after this decisive summer. After brutal battles, a general weariness risks setting in, that could push Ukraine to accept a ceasefire.

Crews Test Drive Damaged Vehicles After Repairs

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the 214th Battalion has been involved in some of the heaviest fighting in Ukraine.

Christoph B. Schiltz


BERLIN — The war in Ukraine is likely to reach its culmination this summer, becoming even more brutal and bloody than before.

Retired Australian general Mick Ryan says Russians will intensify "killing zones" of large-scale minefields, armored trenches and "dragon's teeth" — pyramidal concrete blocks designed to slow advancing military vehicles — to target and lure in Ukrainian forces during attacks.

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The decision-making phase is imminent, according to the consensus of numerous Western diplomats.

It will last until about the end of October, depending on when the rainy season will begin, rendering the soil muddy. More importantly, it will depend on the outcome of the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive, which will determine how to proceed in the fall and winter.

"Everything hangs on this counteroffensive," says former NATO vice chief Alexander Vershbow.

Leaked Pentagon documents show that Washington does not expect a resounding success from the Ukrainians this summer. Even renowned military strategist Markus Reisner of the Defense Ministry in Austria says: "I don't currently believe in a complete collapse of Russian defenses."

Ukraine's main problems are a shortage of ammunition, a lack of sufficiently well-trained soldiers, and confronting a powerful air force.

The West's "self-deterrence"

The West now wants to take countermeasures and finally form a "fighter jet coalition", for which Ukraine needs at least 40 to 50 high-performance F-16 fighter jets. It has been clear since last fall that Ukraine would need fighter jets to launch a successful counteroffensive, control the airspace and provide early air cover for its own attacking ground forces. In addition, Ukraine could use the fighter jets to shoot down Russian cruise missiles and aircraft.

A serious debate about the delivery of Western fighter jets is only now beginning.

Nevertheless, a serious debate about the delivery of Western fighter jets is only now beginning. There is reason to suggest that they will ultimately arrive far too late for Ukraine's planned counteroffensive. This is — from a military point of view — an unforgivable omission on the part of the West. To put it bluntly, if the Ukrainian counteroffensive fails to bring about a turnaround in the near future, the international community will bear a fair share of the blame.

For far too long, the fear of Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats and a possible military escalation through the delivery of fighter jets prevailed among Europeans and Americans — what former German NATO General Heinrich Brauss sarcastically calls "self-deterrence" by the West.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian soldier.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets a soldier in Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky on Facebook

Cracks in Western support

Now the West is suddenly doing a U-turn. Why?

It will be hard to justify the belief that Ukraine could eventually win.

Because, from the Western point of view, Ukraine's upcoming counteroffensive must finally bring the long-awaited verdict.

According to analysis by governments in Washington, London, Berlin and Paris, the attack is likely to be the last major attempt to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity. And because in the coming year, the West would no longer supply weapons in substantial numbers. Ukraine would then be left helplessly at Russia's mercy.

No more substantial arms deliveries after 2024? Why would the West do that? The reason: without a major military success this summer — after recent massive Western arms deliveries — it will be hard to justify the belief that Ukraine could eventually win after all.

The West's own weapons arsenal risks being exhausted at some point, and it doesn't want to jeopardize its defense capabilities. Moreover, the presidential election campaign will be taking place in the United States, and President Joe Biden could face massive pressure from Republicans because of the high spending for the distant country in Eastern Europe.

What happens next

The crucial question remains: what will happen in the Ukraine war as we head toward 2024?

First: neither European nor U.S. top diplomats believe that Ukraine will ever recapture the annexed Crimean Peninsula and the entire Donbass. No one says so openly out of deference to the Ukrainian government. In truth, the West has no serious interest in a reconquest either — NATO fears retaliatory strikes from the Kremlin, which had declared the loss of Crimea a "red line."

Moscow wants to use peace talks with Ukraine also to build a "new world order".

Second, this summer's fighting is likely to have a heavy toll of casualties; military experts expect both sides to wear down. At the same time, the West will realize that it is high time for a ceasefire. Ukraine will be urged to accept a ceasefire and in return will be offered security guarantees, military rearmament and economic aid. This ceasefire could last for many years without a final decision — similar to the case of North and South Korea

Ukrainian soldiers beneath the country's flag.

Ukrainian soldiers on the front.

Volodymyr Zelensky on Facebook

Multipolar world

Russia will continue to occupy 15 to 20% of Ukraine. Factually, this means defeat for Ukraine — but also for the West, which, with other global aggressors such as China and Iran in mind, was desperate to prevent Moscow from being successful in the war.

Third, Ukraine will not join the EU this decade, probably much later or, at worst, never. This is even more true of its aspirations for NATO membership. The reason for this is the continuing threat from Moscow. It can be assumed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sees this danger, which is why he is also pushing for fast-tracking accession.

Fourth, China and Russia will try to reshape the international security order in their own interests, and to this end they will seek additional coalition partners in the Arab world, Southern Africa and Latin America. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already announced that Moscow wants to use peace talks with Ukraine also to build a "new world order."

China is calling for the same, with Beijing talking about a new "multipolar world". Overall, the Ukraine war will make the world more insecure and herald the departure from the existing global security order.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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