This is the battlefield where the war is decided. Ukraine will never be safe without him

The war in Ukraine could turn even more brutal this year, with an expected major Russian offensive and the arrival of more advanced Western weapons to bolster Ukrainian forces. Meanwhile, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has recently warned that the war has entered a “decisive phase”.

This new phase of the war could shift the fighting to an area in Ukraine that is critical to Russia’s military capabilities and cherished by Russian President Vladimir Putin: Crimea.

The Black Sea peninsula, occupied by Russian forces and illegally annexed by Putin in 2014, served as a staging ground for the Russian invasion last February and helped Russian forces seize much of southern Ukraine. Crimea continues to be a staging ground for Russian aircraft and warships attacking Ukraine.

The decisive field of this war was Crimea. The Ukrainian government knows it cannot be satisfied with Russia’s control of Crimea Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told Insider.

“In the next few months, Ukraine will determine the conditions for the final liberation of Crimea,” he added. As long as Russia keeps Crimea the country will never be safe or rebuild its economy.

Russia occupies Crimea and much of southern Ukraine – including the cities of Melitopol and Mariupol – which provides a land bridge connecting its own border with the Crimean peninsula. The region serves as a major supply route for the Russian military. The peninsula, roughly the size of Massachusetts, is home to several military bases and the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Crimea – annexed by the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great in 1783 – is also of great symbolic importance to Putin, who has linked Russia’s war in Ukraine with its imperial past. Putin called Crimea “holy land” for Russia. In many ways, Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 set the stage for the broader war of conquest he launched last year.

The fight to retake Crimea could be the bloodiest of a war that has already led to heavy casualties on both sides. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said in November that negotiations were necessary to end the war. The prospect of Russia’s expulsion from Crimea by Ukraine “is not militarily high in the foreseeable future.”

However, there also appears to be a growing group of military experts who believe that the recovery of Crimea is essential to Ukraine’s long-term survival. Ukrainian forces have already shown they are ready for the task. A campaign of intimidation against Crimea could strengthen Kiev’s negotiating power in future peace talks.

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“As long as the peninsula remains in the hands of the Kremlin, Ukraine — and Ukrainians — cannot escape Russian aggression,” Andriy Zagorodniuk, Ukraine’s former defense minister, recently wrote in the State Department.

“After months of success on the battlefield, it is clear that Ukraine is capable of liberating Crimea,” Zagorodniuk continued: “Ukraine must plan to liberate Crimea — and the West must plan to help.”

Crimea is our land

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to withdraw Russian troops from the entire occupied territory, including Crimea. A new Russian offensive is expected to begin in the near future, and with a strong desire to regain control of the occupied territories, Kiev is pushing hard for more advanced weapons from the West.

Crimea is our land, our territory, our sea and our mountains. Give us your weapons and we’ll give you back our land Zelensky said during a video link at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

This week, the US and Germany announced that they would send advanced Leopard and M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine insisted thatTanks will be essential for the Russians to regain control of the mined occupied territories.

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States will donate 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Ahead of the announcement, a senior administration official told reporters that the tanks were delivered not only to improve Ukraine’s defense capabilities, but also to regain “sovereign territory.” This includes Crimea, the official said.

Crimea Ukraine. We never approve illegal link said the officer.

The red mark is the territory of Ukraine occupied by the Russians, Crimea is marked with a dashed line

Shayanne Call/Insider

Joe Biden said on Wednesday: “As spring approaches, Ukrainian forces are preparing to defend their territory and prepare for additional counterattacks. To liberate their land, they will soon be able to face Russia’s evolving battlefield tactics and strategy. “The future.”

Many leading military experts argue that Western concerns about the variety of weapons are prolonging the war and making it difficult for Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders at a crucial moment.

“Allies must stop the ‘give Ukraine what it needs slower than it needs to deliver.'” This approach has been going on for too long. Ukraine needs more air defense systems, tanks and long-range artillery. employee, wrote in a recent article for The Hill.

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Hodges said the supply of tanks to Ukraine was “very important,” before adding that “they are part of the overall effort necessary for Ukraine to win, to defeat the Russian forces, and to drive them out of Crimea.” To successfully drive Russia out of Crimea, Ukraine will need long-range precision strike weapons, such as long-range ATACMS missiles that can be launched from a truck-mounted HIMARS launcher.

The liberation of Crimea can be achieved by isolating the peninsula with air and ground attacks to cut off and disrupt Russia’s main link with Crimea – the Kerch Bridge – already destroyed by Ukraine.

Once Crimea is isolated, Ukraine “must use a wide range of long-range systems against Russian facilities and groups exposed in Crimea, making them unacceptable and forcing them to leave the peninsula,” Hodges added.

So far, the Biden administration has held off on supplying Ukraine with long-range missile systems that could be used to attack Russia or reach certain installations in Crimea. Hodges said the U.S. government’s reluctance to provide long-range weapons to Russian organizations “killing innocent Ukrainians” in Crimea and elsewhere has effectively provided “harbor.”

Giving Russia airstrikes, drones, and missile defense capabilities would help Ukraine make Crimea untenable for the Russians. Added Hodges.

“We’ve crossed the threshold”

If Ukraine decides to retake Crimea, it could renew fears Putin could use nuclear weapons. Putin has made several nuclear threats since the start of the war, vowing to protect Russia’s territorial integrity.

However, many leading military analysts have repeated this Putin’s nuclear threats are aimed at further deterring Western support for Ukraine. Without the threat of a nuclear response, Ukraine has pulled Russian forces out of areas that Putin now considers part of Russia, such as Kherson. Russian assets in Crimea, including air bases, have already been targeted by Ukrainian attacks.

“There’s still a lot of clarity about their tolerance for damage and attacks,” Tara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, recently told the New York Times. “Crimea has already been attacked several times without a major escalation by the Kremlinshe added.

As things stand, Russia and Ukraine are unlikely to hold talks or negotiations to end the war. Putin’s decision to illegally annex four Ukrainian regions in September effectively ruled out the possibility of negotiations, despite Russian forces not fully occupying these areas. Ukraine has made it clear that it will not agree to any deal that would require it to cede territory to Russia, and Moscow is unlikely to back away from its new territorial claims in Ukraine.

In short, The fighting will continue and the West’s commitment to war is so deep it has reached the point of no return.

“Foreign policy rests on the credibility of states, especially the great powers. If the United States and its major allies are unable to defend themselves against aggressors on the European continent—imagine what that means for foreign policy elsewhere?” Gérard Arad, France’s former permanent representative to the UN, pointed to the potential consequences of a Russian victory, particularly for other places like Taiwan.

“Without mentioning it, or even knowing it, we have crossed a certain line. Now, for the West, Ukraine’s defeat is unacceptable,” Arad added. “We have already done so much that a Russian victory would be a real defeat for the West, and I don’t think the West will accept that,” he said.

Above is a translation of the article from the US edition of Insider.

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