We are approaching a decisive moment in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Vladimir Putin knows it and that is why he delivered a highly nationalistic speech on February 21 in Moscow, aiming to stir up an even more patriotic feeling in his troops, and framed by the same legitimizing narrative that has governed since the beginning of the conflict.

One year after the beginning of the Russian military invasion, the international campaign that Volodymir Zelenski has just completed in order to obtain new support is preparing a counteroffensive in the Donbas for the month of March or April. New military equipment (tanks and other armored vehicles) are being delivered. Several hundred fighters have just been trained in the United States. Other allied countries are transferring capabilities to coordinate inter-weapon maneuvers, a central tactical modality in this conflict.

In the midst of a great informational fog, these preparations are being undertaken in the wake of the continuing degradation observed in the Russian army over the course of a year of open warfare. Three weeks ago, the Russian forces had announced a major offensive in the Donbas, which was echoed by Western media and intelligence services. However, this offensive was not actually deployed, and even marked a retreat of the Russian army (city of Vuhledar). Intensive combat crystallizes today in the city of Bakhmut, a city of no particular strategic relevance. It is actually a new strategic setback that is being added to others: the initial assault on Kyiv in January 2022, followed by the Donbas (an attempt to completely retake these provinces) and the city of Kherson where the retreat of the army made it possible to avoid a major debacle. Lately, the Russian artillery managed to keep under pressure a stable front of about 150 km and to reach certain points of the Ukrainian infrastructure. But evidence on the ground show that Moscow does not have the forces to launch another major attack.

The various calls for dialogue and negotiation, including from China, indicate an escalation that worries the international community, in addition to certain collateral impacts of the conflict (energy, economy). Propaganda flows, from both camps, inevitably polarize the international community. Whether we like it or not, the armed clash is today the main arbiter of the confrontation and will remain so until the balance of power is exhausted. The recent Munich Security Conference hinted at the strategy that is now the backbone of Ukraine's allies. It is to intensify support for Kyiv "until Ukraine wins". These announcements, also high-flown and loaded with psychological pressure, mark, however, a foreseeable horizon for the Western camp.

What can happen then in March-April 2023?

Unfortunately, there is no reason in sight for the belligerents to go right now to negotiations. On the contrary, the downward curve of the Russian strategy is being used to reorient the road map of Ukraine and its main ally, in order to launch a major counteroffensive, which has been prepared for several months. The outcome of this complex counteroffensive will depend on the Ukrainian capacity, whose agility to adapt to the physiognomy of the conflict has been proven. The Russian army, aware of this maneuver, is currently trying to fix its positions and maintain psychological pressure. The current dispute over the town of Bakhmut is part of this, as is the quest to continually weaken Western views (Ukraine's real center of gravity) through networks of influence.

It is unrealistic to pretend that Kyiv can totally put an end to the Russian occupation in the medium term (given the proportion of forces). But Ukrainian forces knew how to affect the centers of gravity of the enemy army and have been able to dislocate it (September 2022).

A successful Ukrainian counterattack would mark a significant step and eventually a break in the conflict. Russia is already in a weakened position, although it still occupies 12-15% of Ukrainian territory. It failed in estimating Ukrainian nationalism and effecting political regime change in Kyiv by force. It redirected its military objectives to lesser ambitions. The freezing of the military front on the ground authorizes us to conclude that it will not be able, unless organic changes arise, to conquer more territory.

At the strategic level, the blow inflicted on Ukraine means that Kyiv is definitively outside Moscow's orbit, whatever the territorial partitions. Ukrainian nationalism has been strengthened, temporarily plugging several open internal gaps (internal corruption, oligarchy, cultural groups). It should be recalled that the process of Kyiv's independence had already begun discreetly after the First World War.

It continued to assert itself thereafter to be accelerated by U.S. imperialism which sought to precipitate the break with Russia after 1991.

Russian imperialism developed with the political control of Kyiv and from 2014 with the harassment under the threshold of open war in the Donbas region.

The most efficient international policy has undoubtedly been that of the Atlantic axis. The Russian invasion of Ukraine paradoxically contributed to reactivating NATO, adding countries historically reluctant to join the organization (Sweden, Finland). It is offering a relative strategic awakening to a lethargic Europe and provides above all a theater where the United States can revive its image as a fighter for independence after a resounding exit from Afghanistan, without losing its way with respect to the main geopolitical tension (China-USA).