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MALTATODAY 8 January 2023

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12 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 JANUARY 2023 VLADIMIR Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February last year was a stark wake-up call for the current world order, not least a near-dormant NATO, to the security risk posed by a newly ambitious Russia. The tide of the war has ebbed and flowed and the situation remains fluid, although there is consensus that the Ukrainian armed forces have exceeded ex- pectations, even enjoying some spectacular successes. Western assessments about the capa- bilities of the Russian military were shown to have been, at least partially, overestimated. But recent developments in- dicate that Moscow now seems to have switched from its ini- tial, flawed strategy to some- thing smarter. In a recent analysis, Foreign Affairs, the New York-based magazine reporting on US for- eign policy and international news since the 1920s, reports that the partial mobilisation of reservists ordered in Septem- ber hasd strengthened Russian forces at the front. In addition to this, the bombing campaign waged against Ukrainian en- ergy infrastructure since Oc- tober is now forcing Ukraine and its allies to divert valuable resources away from the front lines in order to defend urban centres from succumbing to freezing winter weather with- out electricity. Furthermore, November's withdrawal of Russian forces from Kherson spared com- petent and experienced units from destruction, as well as freeing them up for deploy- ment elsewhere. The current casualty rates on both sides are being estimated as 1:1, it adds. In short, the situation on the ground is fluid and hard for the man in the street to make a clear appraisal of. With this in mind, MaltaToday asked three experts in different, but relat- ed fields, to tell us what direc- tion they expect to see the war heading in 2023. Col David Attard (Ret'd.), a former deputy commander of the AFM, says that the West simply cannot afford to allow Ukraine to lose, while success is the only option for Putin's survival. "Unfortunately, there appears to be very little appetite for a ceasefire (even if temporary) or a lasting peaceful settlement of this war as both sides remain politically and militarily very much apart. Ukraine is fight- ing for its very own existence as a sovereign independent state whilst Putin cannot appear to have failed in this special mili- tary operation he initiated." There is no evidence that ei- ther side will soon change their outlook and engage in peace talks, he said. "On the contrary, the continued Russian attacks on Ukrainian national critical infrastructure are in my opin- ion, the latest asymmetric at- tempt to destroy the will of the Ukrainian population to fight therefore attempting to bring this war to an end by declaring a Russian victory. A country at war such as Ukraine needs the support of its general popula- tion to continue its fight. And to the credit of the Ukrainians, their resilience to this invasion has been remarkable even if somewhat of a surprise. There- fore, I expect to witness more war until the fortunes of either warring side are decided and settled on the battlefield and a victor of sorts emerges." The outcome of a major Rus- sian military offensive that is expected to begin this coming spring will be the key determi- nant of this conflict for 2023, predicts Attard. "Today, both sides have dug in on the front lines, as they attempt to deal with the harsh winter conditions in order to conserve their exist- ing war-fighting capabilities. Concurrently, both sides are re-constituting their national war-fighting capabilities and re-building their armies for the upcoming offensives by train- ing new soldiers, sourcing ad- ditional military hardware and supplies after both sides suf- fered significant military loss- es and big numbers of soldiers killed or injured in action." Asked about the likelihood of the conflict spilling over into neigh- b o u r i n g c o u n t r i e s , Col Attard said were this to hap- pen, it would increase the risk of a wid- er war in Europe. "This would in turn, increase the possibility of a Third World War. A situa- tion that no-one wants to con- template or wish for." "However, appeasement is not a solution either and such 'spe- cial military operations' cannot be successful. And the West cannot 'lose' or be perceived to have lost this war as there are select principles at stake that have to be safeguarded in order not to render the world more dangerous than it is today." The retired officer explained that, to date, global peace has been based on a "rules-based international order", conceding that this approach is still "very much a work in progress." Conceived in the post-World War II era, the rules-based international system, led by like-minded allies and part- ners, gave the world significant periods of peace, prosperity, and freedom. "However, this international order is fast com- ing under increasing strain in recent times. A foremost chal- lenge to the system is the return of great-power competition between global players such as the US and re- v i s i o n - ist and a u t o - c r a t i c states such as Russia and Chi- na. The war in Ukraine is one way of dismantling this rules- based international order and creating a new world order." Implications on European and Maltese security Attard says the return of war to European soil has already had a direct impact on Euro- pean Security and Defence, including Malta's. "That said, our very insular and inwards looking approach to security and defence has rendered us rather dismissive of Europe's and our security and defence needs. Our present security policy coupled with the most recent investments made in the Armed Forces of Malta have remained tied to one single is- sue i.e. the issue of migration. There is no real focus on de- fence and our wider defence needs." "At a European level, there No rest for Putin in ceasefire rebuff by Ukrainians Ukraine says no to Russian ceasefire over Christmas. But as 2023 rolls in, Malta finds itself still tryingto understanding what its neutrliaty means within the current world order MATTHEW AGIUS Senior Court Reporter Col. David Attard (Rtd), Dr Valentina Cassar, and Robert Young Pelton

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