It is psychologically difficult, sitting at a computer several hundred kilometers from the front, to analyze the events when your comrades are defending Ukraine with weapons in their hands, when Russian aggressors pummel the peaceful homes of Ukrainians, and we pay for our freedom and independence with the blood of our citizens.

Emotions run high, but let's try to analyze the situation as impartially as possible. What basic scenarios await Ukraine in 2023?

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The main question for the vast majority of Ukrainians is simple: Will Ukraine win the war in 2023?

Today, four theoretically possible options for the development of events are emerging.

Option 1: Ukraine will win the Russo-Ukrainian War and restore its territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders of 1991.

This is the publicly declared official goal of Ukraine in the Russo-Ukrainian war. Its very achievement would be perceived by the majority of Ukrainians as a victory.

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Still, a considerable proportion of our fellow citizens understand victory as nothing less than the crushing defeat of Russia and its disintegration into separate principalities. Such an opinion makes a lot of sense, since Russia is an existential threat to Ukraine as an independent sovereign country, and Ukrainians as an independent political nation.

The version of “victory within the borders of 1991” is the most desirable for our Western partners, especially from “old Europe,” which remains in thrall to their pro-Russian illusions.

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A Silent World War – Russia’s Cyberwar Against the West

As bombs continue to fall on Ukraine, Moscow has waged a silent war against the West – with real-world casualties and ramifications – that might have been largely overlooked.

Option 2. None of the parties – neither Ukraine nor Russia will be able to gain a decisive advantage, the front will stabilize in the positions of autumn 2022.

Under such a scenario, the war will gradually move into the phase of a half-frozen conflict, similar to the situation in the east of Ukraine from 2016-2021. At the same time, the "freezing" of military operations is unlikely to be long-lasting. The conditional "break" will be used by the parties – Ukraine and the aggressor country – to pump up their military muscles.

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The war will resume after some time with a new destructive force and will take place until the final victory of one of the sides.

Option 3. Russia is defeated in the war and ceases to exist as a sovereign country.

This option is probably the most desirable for Ukrainians, considering the amount of suffering Russian troops have brought to the territory of Ukraine.

Thus, the threat to Ukraine from its belligerent northern neighbor seems to have been finally eliminated. At the same time, in such a case, we need to constantly take into account revanchist attitudes that will be cultivated “behind the fence.”

Option 4. Ukraine is defeated in the war and ceases to exist as a sovereign state.

It is difficult to write about such a variant, but we cannot reject it.

It is unlikely that the above options for the development of events will be implemented in a "pure" form. There will always be some nuances.

I must emphasize once again that all the possible options listed above are theoretical; but the probability of their implementation sometimes differs by an order of magnitude.

External aid from the U.S. and its allies is one of the key factors in Ukraine's victory

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We will not analyze the last two options, which involve a crushing defeat of either Ukraine or Russia, in this article. Their practical manifestation would be inextricably linked with a radical change in the foreign policy of the U.S. and its allies, and the probability of such changes is close to zero.

That is, a devastating defeat of Russia is possible only if the full military potential of the U.S. and its allies is activated and a direct military conflict between NATO and Russia ensues. This is hardly possible, since under such a scenario the risk of a global thermonuclear conflict becomes critically high.

On the contrary, a crushing defeat for Ukraine becomes more likely only if all military-technical and financial assistance from the U.S., U.K. and EU is stopped. This looks extremely unlikely today.

At the same time, a critical decrease in Western support may lead to the impossibility of conducting offensive operations of our Armed Forces.

Other factors influencing hostilities

But we must not over-inflate the importance of the foreign aid factor – because it is largely thanks to the high combat capability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and their brilliant offensive operations that we can have this discussion at all.

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Other factors will influence the course of military operations. In particular, the possible "war fatigue of Western society," which is already being cultivated by the Russian-controlled mass media and their agents of influence in the West, the intra-party struggle in the U.S. between the Trumpists and the Democrats, the depletion of warehouse stocks of modern weapons, and the impossibility of its production in a short time.

Overestimated expectations can play against Ukraine, when any temporary failure will be perceived as a disaster and accompanied by scapegoating, internal political struggle and underestimation of the enemy.

Russia, thanks to the previous merciless exploitation of its natural resources, still retains a sufficient reserve of financial strength. In addition, the “zombified” Russian society, despite numerous human losses, continues to support the Putin regime and its aggressive war against Ukraine.

Another factor that certainly affects the course of the situation is the presence of nuclear weapons in Russia. And it's not just about the “nuclear bluff” that comes from the mouth of former President Dmitri Medvedev.

The fact is that no world politician, public figure or analyst today has an answer to the question of whether the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons when his defeat in the war is inevitable, when he is driven into a dead end of physical survival, or when he faces the real prospect of a criminal trial for war crimes.

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And will the Russian elite, the officers responsible for the practical use of nuclear weapons, and his personal security, allow him to take this crazy step?

What awaits us in 2023?

The real situation is still far from such pessimistic forecasts. The visit of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the U.S. witnessed a qualitative change in the supply of modern weapons to Ukraine.

Although fragile, as a result of the position of the Trumpist minority, real bipartisan support for Ukraine has been secured, as evidenced in an article by influential Republicans, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Minister Robert Gates.

The U.S. has announced the provision of another tranche of military aid worth a record $3.75 billion and is not going to stop there. In the near future, we expect the supply of more advanced weapons, which until recently were not considered possible at all – in particular, two Patriot air defense batteries (and not only from the U.S., but also from Germany), American Bradley fighting vehicles and their German Marder and French AMX-10RC counterparts.

The most likely option in 2023 is the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the internationally recognized borders of 1991, or at least a similar development on the front lines that will make victory inevitable in the near future.

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 Ihor Zhdanov is a co-founder of the Open Policy Foundation, a non-government organization (NGO) in Ukraine.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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