Moscow, Russia – As the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine approaches on Friday, Al Jazeera spoke to Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian defence analyst who served as a senior research officer in the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Felgenhauer, who has published widely on Russian foreign and defence policies, military doctrine, arms trade and the military-industrial complex, believes the war is likely to escalate but could end this year.
According to him, after 12 months of bloody battles, “the intensity of the fighting is too high for it to be maintained for long”.
Which side will ultimately seize a decisive victory?
Like most experts, he says it is simply unpredictable.
Al Jazeera: Why do you think an escalation is imminent?
Pavel Felgenhauer: We cannot totally predict everything. But I believe that an escalation right now is imminent. An escalation in the fighting; everyone is talking about a Russian offensive. Western military commanders in Brussels are also talking about how the Ukrainians should go on the offensive. General Mark Milley [Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff], who a year ago was talking about how Kyiv could fall in couple of days, now says that Russia has lost strategically, operationally and tactically, and Ukraine should sort of go out to finish them off.
Ukraine is preparing something, but again of course, everyone is following the teachings of Sun Tzu, meaning war is deceit. And if you want to attack, you pretend that you don’t, if you’re ready to attack and strong enough, you pretend that you’re not ready and you’re not strong at all. And vice versa — if you’re not strong, you pretend that you are strong. So there’s lots of disinformation right now circling around. Each side is seeking surprise.
Al Jazeera: But there have already been surprises on the battlefields?
Felgenhauer: Ukrainians did it in September in Kharkiv. They achieved surprise and achieved a lot. Not only did they capture some important strategic points and force the Russians to withdraw from Kherson to get the reserves — they also forced the Russians to begin the mobilisation programme that caused a lot of economical and political problems.