The following ten or so days will be decisive in terms of what will happen next in the Ukraine war, security expert Rainer Saks said on the "Vikerhommik" morning show.
"I think it should become clear by the end of next week whether Russia can still mount an attack at all, after which it will have a choice of whether to dig in or sue for a ceasefire," Saks said. "In a situation where Russia has failed to make headway in a little over a week since the start of its major offensive [in Eastern Ukraine], I doubt they have fresh forces stashed away somewhere, which means it makes no sense for them to wait."
Saks explained that Russia has tried to avoid major contact battles and is relying on artillery instead to try and spare its soldiers. But their losses are still considerable.
At the same time, Ukraine's situation is improving daily, courtesy of weapons shipments from the West.
"The logical scenario compared to the start of the war is that Russia has seized a lot of territory that it will now try to secure if it cannot push on," Saks offered, adding that while Ukraine has not been able to mount major offensives to reclaim territory, this may soon change.
"Russia has not been able to shore up its reserves, which is where Ukraine has the upper edge. Russia does not have the strength to annex the whole of Ukraine," Saks said.
What they can do is try and keep their occupied territories. This requires picking a moment to dig in. It might not work otherwise.
The expert said that Ukraine would not be able to take back the Crimean Peninsula. "But regarding everything else – I think they could do it on paper, while I'm not sure it will happen."
Saks said that Ukraine has been fighting almost a perfect war in the last month after initial hiccups. But they are not immune to doing something foolish or miscalculating either.
Ukraine has the upper hand in terms of a two-three-month head start forming reserve units. "And their reserve or second wave troops sport a much higher quality than Russia's," Saks explained. "Therefore, they have what it takes to restore the February 23 (before the Russian invasion – ed.) lines."
However, because Ukraine lacks a proper air force, reclaiming Donbas with tanks and artillery alone would be difficult. A repeat of the Kyiv scenario, where the Russian offensive collapsed, cannot be ruled out either, Saks added.
Russia has learned
The security expert said that Russia has also learned from this war – changed its command structure and tried to opt for more sparing tactics, even though it has not been a major success.
"The biggest problem is their soldiers' low morale – why would they want to die in Ukraine fighting against a frighteningly efficient enemy?" Saks remarked.
Secondly, it is difficult for Russia to fix the mistakes it has already made. Once the army loses morale and resorts to looting and pillaging, it will not properly shape up again, he added.
Thirdly, Russia no longer has the strength to take the Donbas. Instead, its units could concentrate on securing parts of it, the expert suggested.
Moscow will ask for a ceasefire to get a strategic breather and reorganize its troops before its forces collapse in Ukraine.
Editor: Marcus Turovski