Developments on the battlefield do not indicate that Ukraine can gain the upper hand militarily, Czech President Petr Pavel said at the Diplomacy and Security conference in Prague on Nov. 9, as cited by the Czech newspaper Novinky.
"Time now favors Russia, which has a stronger base to mobilize human resources," Pavel said. By gaining time, Russia may be able to replace the massive amount of materials it has lost already, especially with the help of North Korea, he added.
Russia is clearly aware of the time factor, Pavel said, and seeks to prolong the war as long as possible, and at least until the U.S. presidential elections next year.
Despite the heavy fighting that has occurred throughout 2023, neither side has gained a significant amount of territory. Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive launched in early June has also brought limited success. A report by The New York Times on Sept. 28 found that Ukraine had gained about 230 square kilometers since the beginning of the year.
Pavel reiterated previous statements about ensuring a long-standing commitment to Ukraine, as well as the need to prevent Russia from securing any kind of victory.
"Any success of Russia will mean our failure," he said.
There may be a time for the beginning of negotiations next year, Pavel added, without specifying details.
Despite the less-than-optimistic prognosis, Pavel said Ukraine's allies should stay the course and continue to provide support until Ukraine is ready to decide for itself what the next steps are.
Pavel has been strongly supportive of Ukraine since his election in March 2023 but has also sought to temper overly optimistic projections about progress on the battlefield. A former soldier and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Pavel frequently applies his military background to analysis of the war in Ukraine.
Shortly after his election in January 2023, Pavel told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita that Ukraine would only have one shot at launching a successful counteroffensive, saying that if it failed, it would be extremely difficult for Ukraine to get funding for another one.
As Ukraine was in the early stages of its counteroffensive in the summer of 2023, Pavel said that any battlefield gains secured by the end of the year would likely form the basis of future negotiations.
Several months into the counteroffensive, Ukraine has failed to make the gains it hoped for.
Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi described the situation on the ground as a "stalemate" in a controversial interview with The Economist on Nov. 1. Several days later, President Volodymyr Zelensky refuted that characterization.
"We have difficulties and different opinions, but we have no right to give up. Because what is the alternative? If we give away a third of our country, nothing will end. We know what a frozen conflict is," Zelensky said.