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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

-Analysis-

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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Society

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROME — Nina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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