“Russia’s loud order to withdraw troops from Kherson in the south seems to be a necessary humiliation. Stranded on the western bank of the Dnieper, the commanders were faced with a choice: stay and die under Ukrainian bombardment, or retreat to survive and continue the battle. And the Ukrainian troops are quite rightly wary of a trap that could lure them under Russian fire. But if Putin’s forces are indeed retreating to new defensive lines, this victory will give Ukraine the necessary psychological boost after two and a half months of a bloody counteroffensive in the south.
The main question is whether the Ukrainians will be able to use it and push the Russians back even further, or the front line will freeze until spring, literally and figuratively? Both sides are exhausted and have suffered heavy losses, and winter is coming, and the fighting conditions will be even more complicated: frosts will hit, and daylight hours will be reduced. However, the armed forces of Ukraine will willingly continue fighting-provided that their Western partners continue to supply weapons and ammunition. For the Ukrainian side, this is the main factor beyond the control of the government in Kiev, so it is trying to maintain pressure on suppliers from the United States, Great Britain and other NATO countries.
Putin will hope that with energy prices soaring, the economy falling, and growing discontent, Westerners will decide they’ve had enough and demand that governments change course on Ukraine. There is no indication that he will back down or change his plans. He just needs time to regroup, rearm, and wait to launch a new offensive. Thus, the West’s will to continue supporting Ukraine should overpower Putin’s will to continue fighting.