Ukraine is losing its war against Russia. Here's what its defeat might look like.

Kharkiv attack
A fire at an oil depot following a Russian drone strike on February 10, 2024, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
  • Ukraine is on the ropes amid a $60 billion US aid block.

  • Its leaders are issuing increasingly stark warnings that it faces defeat.

  • Defeat could take many forms, including the loss of key territories.

With a $60 billion US aid bill blocked, Ukraine's battle against the Russian invasion is becoming increasingly desperate.

Its military is running critically short of artillery and ammunition, and it is being outgunned 10 to one is some places as it struggles to hold off intensifying Russian attacks.

There is a glimmer of hope for Ukraine, with a congressional vote that could release the aid package expected this weekend.

But if it fails, and Ukraine's European allies don't step up, Ukraine's defeat looks increasingly likely and could take a number of forms, say analysts.

Total defeat

Experts at US think tank The Institute for the Study of War, believe that Russia's President Vladimir Putin is pursuing "maximalist" objectives in Ukraine that amount to a "full Ukrainian and Western capitulation."

This might entail eventually seeking to seize control of the whole of the country.

Putin has repeatedly denied Ukraine's existence in speeches. Last year, he cited a 17th-century map of Europe to back his discredited thesis that Ukraine isn't a real country, despite the document clearly marking part of the territory as being "Ukraine."

In a blog post for the Royal United Services Institute, Oleksandr Danylyuk, a former chief advisor to Ukraine's Minister of Defense, noted that total destruction of Ukraine is Russia's main goal.

"Putin does not hide his genocidal intentions to destroy Ukraine as an independent state and Ukrainians as a separate people," he said.

"It is obvious that if Ukraine loses support from the West, Putin may well achieve his goal of destroying Ukrainians as a people and erasing the largest country from the map of Europe," he continued.

"Despite the obvious tragedy of this situation for Ukraine, the consequences of its defeat for the West and especially for the US as the leader of the free world would be no less catastrophic."

The loss of territories

Others believe that Russia's ambitions are more limited, and it has its sights set on launching a massive attack this summer to break through Ukraine's defensive lines and seize a key city or region.

A problem for Ukraine, Bryden Spurling, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider, is that it's unclear where the attack could come from.

"The difficulty with Ukraine being short of supplies and personnel is that it gives Russia more of an opportunity to pick the time and place of its offensive along a long battlefront," he said.

While it was apparent that Ukraine would focus its counteroffensive last year in the south, allowing Russia to build extensive fortifications to defend its positions, Russia's attack could come at any point along the 620-mile-long front line.

Russia could seek to seize control of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, which is only around 18 miles from the Russian border, the city of Zaporizhzhia in south Ukraine, or secure control of the Donetsk region in east Ukraine, which has been the site of some of the war's bloodiest battles.

George Beebe, a former director of Russian analysis at the CIA, recently told BI that Russia was seeking to add to and consolidate its territorial gains.

"Russian 'victory' over Ukraine would probably consist of seizing territory east of the Dnieper River that Moscow regards as culturally and historically Russian, creating a strip of 'no man's land' separating Russian-controlled territory from the rest of Ukraine, and building extensively defensive fortifications to ensure that the division of Ukraine will be difficult to reverse through new Ukrainian assaults," he said.

But the question of when and on what terms negotiations to end the war might take place remains unclear.

Spurling, the RAND analyst, said that a Russian victory would most likely take the form of Ukraine ceding large amounts of conquered territory to Russia. But there is no sign that Ukraine would agree to such a deal.

"Despite the challenges they are currently facing, Ukraine shows little appetite for such a settlement – and many of Ukraine's supporters acknowledge that Russia can't be trusted to keep its side of any settlement anyway," he said.

A campaign against NATO

Some analysts, such as those at the ISW, have warned that Russia would likely use a settlement with a weakened and defeated Ukraine to rebuild and launch a renewed attack on Ukraine and then its allies in the West.

Other analysts are skeptical and believe that Russia's military has suffered such damage in the conflict that it would be in no position to launch a massive new campaign after the war against a strengthened NATO alliance.

But for Beebe, even if US aid is released, there won't be enough of it to turn the tide in the war and enable Ukraine to drive Russian forces out.

This implies that Ukraine, in any scenario, will have to cede territory, either formally or informally.

Read the original article on Business Insider