It’s hard to make any predictions, because the Russian army has been acting in erratic, amateurish, almost antiquated, ways during this conflict.
What can one reasonably expect?
A more concerted attack on Kiev. In the coming days the Russians should have been able to muster enough forces and to secure enough positions to finally attack Kiev full on. A ground attack will likely be preceded by lots of artillery shelling and more air strikes. Both sides may be laying mines to cut off certain routes. This will be hell to clean up later and poses extra risks for the civilian population.
If the Russian army wants to uphold at least a shred of its reputation of military prowess one or more major cities should fall in the coming days. Perhaps Mariupol, perhaps Charkov. One strong assault on Kiev will probably not seal the deal. We may see weeks of fighting around Kiev. If I were to advise the Russians I would tell them not to rush anything and to keep squeezing the Ukrainians. It should be possible to make circumstances on the ground gradually worse for the Ukrainian army. The Russians still have time, though of course this can’t be allowed to drag on for months. Eventually dissent in Russia will become much more vocal and dangerous to Putin’s government.
When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 Baghdad also didn’t fall immediately. Technically speaking the Russians in Ukraine are doing worse than the US in Iraq, but not that much worse. It’s not even a fair comparison, since Ukraine has more than triple the population Iraq had and the Ukrainian army has some technologically advanced weaponry the Iraqis lacked. Plus, the bulk of Iraq’s army was unprepared for an attack and motivated. Until the last moment Saddam thought the US was just bluffing. The Russians are facing a tougher opponent than the Americans in Iraq.
The Ukrainians should organize its fighting forces into small and mobile storm groups and avoid pitched battles. By staying ‘everywhere and nowhere’ and being elusive they can make life very hard for the Ukrainians. They should constantly harass the Russians. In the propaganda war they should magnify whatever the Russians are doing wrong and stay under the radar with their own criminal acts. So far they have succeeded splendidly since the entire Western media has rallied behind their cause in a hugely questionable act of subjectivity and unprofessional pathos as journalists. Where is this love for the trampled underdog when the US bombs hospitals in poor countries?
I expect the Russians to fare better in the coming weeks. Barring some miracle some of the Ukrainian cities should fall. This will not equal final victory or final defeat, but if the Russians want to have any real chance of winning this those cities have to fall and need to be purged and policed. This task will be easier if the most anti-Russian part of the population flees the country.
It seems Ukraine will not be receiving fighter jets, but they don’t really need those. Drones, Javelins, the latest machine guns, mines, anti-tank weapons, Stingers, etc should be enough to stalemate the Russians if employed correctly and if Ukraine doesn’t lose its avenues to receive and distribute these weapons.
No civilians need to die anymore in this conflict if the Ukrainians would accept the Russian conditions, but they are too proud to do that. Very much encouraged by all of the West to fall like Spartans. Supposedly for the freedom of Europe… Worth noting: The US immediately freed up billions of dollars to support the Ukrainians in this fight. This is very strange, don’t you think? This is the same country that never has any money to provide its own struggling population decent healthcare, proper education, help the homeless, welcome migrants on its southern border, build modern infrastructure, help families when it comes to housing, childcare and all other public projects that make life easier for the vast majority of its people… It’s therefore not a stretch to conclude the American leadership is not doing this for any kind of humanitarian reasons… The US doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its own population. They don’t care about the Ukrainian population either unless their business elites and politicians can reap some juicy benefits.