OPINION - Vladimir Putin is hoping for a Ukraine truce in weeks — the West must step up to say no

Vladimir Putin could make a major strategic announcement next week (AP)
Vladimir Putin could make a major strategic announcement next week (AP)

It is now obvious. The war in Ukraine is at a tipping point — not only for Ukrainians and Russians but for the United States, wider Europe and, most particularly, the UK.

The Russians are on a roll — attacking at five points and beginning to dominate in the air and with electronic warfare. Ukraine still manages to counter-attack with cross-border raids and strikes on major facilities in Russia but ammunition is running low and support from the West dwindling.

Donald Trump has just announced that if re-elected he would not spend a dollar on arming Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin is expecting a favourable truce this spring. Expect a big strategic announcement next week

Ukraine’s forces are digging in, building huge defensive lines. They talk of raising a further half-million troops for the armies but that would scrape the demographic barrel. With the backing of the Pope, Trump and Hungary’s premier Viktor Orbán, Vladimir Putin is expecting a favourable truce this spring. Following his re-coronation in the presidential election this weekend, he will make his moves.

Expect a big strategic announcement next week, his terms for what Russia has already taken, and a bit more, and the humiliation of the Zelensky government in Kyiv.

It wouldn’t stop there as our Nordic and Baltic allies constantly stress. Putin will grab what he can in a deal this year — which I expect to come within months — and then wait for more opportunity for disruption. He has form, as Russia’s latests covert operations show from the Arctic, to the Mediterranean and deep into Africa.

This puts Britain at centre-stage for drawing together the European and Nato allies to tackle the “polycrisis” evolving through northern and eastern Europe to the Red Sea and Gulf.

The defence team under Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has been extended for another two years — in part this is due to a vote of confidence from their counterparts in the US, the Nordics, and Ukraine — for whom they have proved valuable interlocutors. They now must help put together a credible security and defence plan.

The main focus should be with society, what the forces do for the community, and they do in return. This would help resolve the recruiting crisis. It’s not just that your country needs you, as the old poster proclaimed, but those in charge need to offer their country a defence strategy that is credible, efficient, and necessary.

Robert Fox is the Evening Standard’s defence editor