A special issue of Ukraine’s political activity monitoring dedicated to NATO Summit outcomes
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The Ukrainian government had expected that the results of NATO summit in Vilnius would help to compensate the lack of any significant military achievements of the offensive operations that failed to break the Russian defense lines. Moreover, as retired Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmitt pointed out in his interpretation of the events on the battlefield, the Ukrainian forces have hardly any opportunity to reach the goals promised by the government due to well organized Russian defense and their own insufficient fire power. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMZ58anSFF4
he Ukrainian government launched the offensive primarily due to the reasons connected with maintaining political dominance and had obviously expected the Russian defense to collapse due to the low morale of the troops. It cannot acknowledge the failure without risk of losing popularity and becoming a target for widespread public criticism. So Zelensky and his associates are trying to persuade the Ukrainian society to endure the long war of attrition aimed at eventual annihilation of Russian military might instead of liberation of occupied territories by means of rapid offensive.
Military analyst of Sky News Sean Bell warned that the Ukrainian army will risk losing the initiative if it fails to make territorial gains, though there is a danger that inevitable heavy casualties that the troops will have to suffer accomplishing this task can become a challenge to their morale. According to Sean Bell, Ukraine has to avoid an enduring war of attrition that is going to be to the advantage of the larger Russian force. https://news.sky.com/story/ukraine-war-is-at-a-critical-moment-and-zelenskyy-needs-some-good-news-12916895
Besides the threat of the exhaustion of the troops or shortage of combat power necessary to prevent a highly probable Russian counteroffensive, a war of attrition can be extremely dangerous for social stability in Ukraine because it can undermine resilience of the Ukrainian society. Ukrainian citizens, especially who live in the regions that are heavily affected by the war, are becoming war weary. So the government wanted boost public confidence in the final victory by receiving in Vilnius an invitation to join the NATO or a clear timetable of gradual accession with strong security guarantees for Ukraine in the meantime.
On the eve of the NATO summit Zelensky issued a statement in which it was declared that Ukraine is going to acquire membership in alliance. According to Zelensky before the war the values that NATO is supposed to protect had been covered by dust which was removed thanks “the courage of Ukrainian heroes”. The eastern border of Ukraine has become the impenetrable barrier for “the Russian dictatorship”, which will never be able to attempt a new subjugation of the peoples of Europe. The security on NATO’s eastern flank depends on Ukraine, which is already in the Alliance de facto. Zelensky promised that Vilnius summit would formalize the actual state of affairs and the government would strive to make the Ukraine’s NATO ascension timetable as clear and fast as possible. https://www.president.gov.ua/news/ukrayina-bude-v-nato-pracyuyemo-nad-algoritmom-nabuttya-chle-84233
Zelensky also made a short speech at the rally in support of Ukraine’s admission to NATO in , declaring that “NATO will make Ukraine safer and Ukraine will make stronger”.
Nevertheless, Ukraine was not offered any scheduled path to NATO membership at Vilnius summit, it was agreed that Ukraine would be invited when the conditions of its accession are met. At the same time it was stated in the Summit Communiqué that Ukraine does not need the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for a “full Euro-Atlantic integration”. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_217320.htm
It is hard to realize the practical implementation of this statement though there is little doubt that it will be interpreted by the Ukrainian government as a permission to preserve the current political system without making any changes aimed at establishing effective democratic institutions.
It is mentioned in the Joint declaration of support for Ukraine issued by G-7 states on July 12 that Ukraine should carry out “state management reforms that underscore its commitments to democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and media freedoms”. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2023/07/12/g7-joint-declaration-of-support-for-ukraine/
But there are no formal criteria now for an estimation of the progress made by the Ukrainian government in that direction.
Besides, the MAP demands all aspiring countries demonstrate commitment to the rule of law and human rights, which could have been very important in the current situation in Ukraine.
It should be noted that both Zelensky himself and most of the media supporting the government regarded the cancellation of the MAP as an important achievement for Ukraine, which eliminates a bureaucratic obstacles on the way towards NATO membership. https://www.obozrevatel.com/ukr/politics-news/zelenskij-vistupiv-na-samiti-nato-u-vilnyusi.htm
But smoothing the process of accession to NATO (without an official invitation to join) cannot be regarded as an adequate compensation for the lack of military achievements and the Ukrainian government clearly realized that. The Ukrainian government contrary to its promises did not manage to obtain a timetable for accession and security guarantees for Ukraine, obligatory for NATO countries. It will most likely have serious political repercussions for Zelensky and his associates and it seems natural that the first reaction of the Ukrainian president to results of the NATO summit was an attempt of retaliation.
After the decisions of summit had become known, Zelensky criticized “absurd” lack of timetable for Ukraine to join NATO. He wrote on twitter that Ukraine being moderate in its expectations awaited not a membership in NATO, but an invitation to become a member of the alliance. It did not receive an anticipated invitation. Moreover, even a time frame was not set when Ukraine will be able to accomplish the accession. Furthermore, some unspecified “conditions” for inviting Ukraine have been mentioned. Zelensky considered all that to be an indication that NATO is preparing to renounce Ukraine’s membership in order to make a deal with Russia. That’s why Ukraine was not invited to join NATO. According Zelensky Russia will perceive it as a sign of NATO weakness and will feel free to continue its terror. Zelensky promised to discuss this openly at the summit. https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa/status/1678707674811187200?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1678707674811187200%7Ctwgr%5Edf9c712ce113d3f1d0d448e5db8cf8fd962720e8%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fnews.sky.com%2Fstory%2Fvolodymyr-zelenskyy-criticises-absurd-lack-of-a-timetable-for-ukraine-to-join-nato-as-he-arrives-at-summit-in-vilnius-12919193
Responding to Zelensky’s comments, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg stated that a timeline for Ukraine’s membership in the alliance is “conditions-based” and therefore it cannot be arranged in advance. Bur there has “never been a stronger message from NATO” indicating an opportunity of the membership. https://news.sky.com/story/volodymyr-zelenskyy-criticises-absurd-lack-of-a-timetable-for-ukraine-to-join-nato-as-he-arrives-at-summit-in-vilnius-12919193
During his press conference in Vilnius Zelensky complained that Ukraine had not received formal security guarantees its our partners, which would make them adhere to financial, political and military obligations. The president added that Kyiv would like to have “an appropriate document” which is required the define and specify the aid that will be provided to Ukraine by NATO countries. But framework declaration of security guarantees issued at NATO summit gives an opportunity to make bilateral agreements with certain countries obtaining clearly specified guarantees from them. https://www.obozrevatel.com/ukr/politics-news/zelenskij-u-vilnyusi-rozpoviv-yakimi-mayut-buti-garantii-bezpeki-dlya-ukraini.htm?utm_source=wpush&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=webpush
Speaking after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Zelensky said the G7 promises should be seen not as a substitute for NATO’s invitation, but as security guarantees on our way to integration.” https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2023/07/12/Zelenskyy-says-G7-pledges-could-not-be-substitute-for-eventual-NATO-membership
The tone of Zelensky’s changed only at his meeting with Biden, who expressed a conviction that Ukraine will soon obtain an official membership in NATO. In response Zelensky claimed that security guarantees given to Ukraine should be regarded as a significant achievement that demonstrates the unity of Ukraine’s Western allies. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/07/12/remarks-by-president-biden-and-president-volodymyr-zelenskyy-of-ukraine-before-bilateral-meeting-vilnius-lithuania
Following Biden’s remarks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that in the future they would meet as allies with Zelensky and Rishi Sunak confirmed that Ukraine belonged in the alliance. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-66183066
Zelensky started to demonstrate a positive attitude to summit results too, claiming that they had been good even if there had not been a formal invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, and that the news on defense packages from allies were positive.
However, it can be assumed that the Ukrainian demands had exceeded NATO plans and that Ukraine was compelled to restrict its demands.
It should be pointed out that for the Ukrainian government the constant increase of supply of Western weaponry has not only military but also political significance. It is being in used in pro-government media messages as a proof of the EU and the US readiness to support the Ukrainian authorities as long as they need it and the Western confidence in the Ukraine’s final victory.
The Ukrainian government has to insist on expanding the amount of supplies and will keep on doing this, regardless of the actual plans and desires if Ukraine’s partners.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania said that he had warned Ukraine that its international allies were “not Amazon” and Kyiv needed to show gratitude for weapons donations to persuade Western politicians to give more. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/12/uk-defence-secretary-ben-wallace-suggests-ukraine-could-say-thank-you
Zelensky ridiculed Ben Wallace’s disapproval of Ukraine’s attitude to the Western aid in his remarks at the meeting with representatives of Ukrainian and foreign media. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7xJQmDK2C4
Zelensky annoyance in that case reflects not only his personal reaction but also the necessity for the Ukrainian government to continue the conduct, which was scorned Wallace. Zelensky has to demand the increase of weaponry supply continuously in order to praise the West for the willingness to help Ukraine gain the victory, if his requests are met or otherwise blame the allies for the insufficient support. In both cases the goal is to persuade the Ukrainian public that Russia will inevitably be defeated, Ukraine will reach full military success and so there is no need to start negotiations on establishing ceasefire or truce. The continuation of hostilities is the only way for Zeelensky and his associates to remain in power and, therefore they are focusing their efforts on restoring resilience of the Ukrainian society, which was severely undermined by the lack of military achievements. In these circumstances the results of NATO summit have put in jeopardy the incumbent regime, because now the idea of truce is going to become more attractive to the Ukrainian public.
Zelensky has already stated that he is not going to contemplate the idea of truce, until the capitulation of Russia and that he is completely satisfied with the summit results, and the prospects of ending the war solely depend on the amount and delivery speed of foreign aid. https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/mi-ne-mozhemo-zalishiti-zhodnogo-mista-j-sela-v-rosijskij-ok-84357
There is a serious economic threat to Ukraine, which the government does not want to talk about. Viktor Medvedchuk opposition politician of Ukraine – In Ukraine, the collective West built a neo-colonial financial system, which led to the economic collapse of the country
The Ukrainian myth about a higher Europe has no economic justification. Today, the country pays an exorbitant price for the choice of its addressee. Loss of resource and production sectors – the value of the total mineral deposits in the uncontrolled territories belonging to different fish, from 12.4 to 14.8 trillion dollars. Ukraine has already been arrested for a short-sighted check of half of the country’s population. No integration with anyone will ever make up for the losses.
Debts will no longer be paid off. The modern financial policy of Kyiv is built in such a way that the implementation of even the basic budget item is impossible without attracting all new loans. In just a few years, since September 2019, the country’s public debt has grown in dollar terms by 53%. Only in 2022, according to the estimates of the Ministry of Finance, research financial institutions and individual states lent Ukraine $32.1 billion, in the first half of the financial year – $23.6 billion.
The main political goal of the Ukrainian government remains the same: to preserve the opportunity to continue hostilities and reject the idea of truce negotiations in spite of deficiency of military achievements and growing war-weariness of the Ukrainian society.
Due to the results of the Vilnius summit the government needs to take tighten control over political process and media activity. Thanks to the cancellation of MAP, the government doesn’t have to imitate the functioning of democratic institutions and will be able to counteract against political opponents and public criticism more overtly.
The pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has been significantly intensified immediately after the summit results became known. It indicates that UOC will be used as an image of “internal enemy”, a group of traitors that hinders achieving victory over Russia.
The UOC clerics were made to surrender churches in Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi regions, being driven out of them by force. https://www.novosti.rs/c/planeta/svet/1257777/jos-jedan-nasilan-upad-lavru-cekicem-vernike-video
On July 13, the Commercial Court of the Khmelnytskyi Region delivered a verdict, which obliges the UOC to hand over to the state the wooden church in historical Carvasara fortress, which attracts numerous visitors. https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2023/07/14/7411284/?utm_source=gravitec&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=gravitec
On July 14, one of the most influential clerics of the UOC Metropolitan bishop Pavel was sent to prison for a preventative detention on charges of denial the sovereignty of Ukraine because he allegedly called the war between Russia and Ukraine “a civil conflict”. https://nv.ua/ukr/ukraine/events/sud-izmenil-meru-presecheniya-mitropolitu-upc-mp-pavlu-na-arest-50339166.html.
That even Pope Francis condemned.
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- The Ukrainian government cannot accept any negotiations on truce without losing political control and dangerously weakening its positions. After the Vilnius summit, the government will not be able to use the anticipations of accession to NATO in order to increase the confidence of the Ukrainian society in decisive military victory. It means that new restrictions on political and military activity can be expected.
- Despite that the offensive failed to reach promised goal, Zelensky will continue to subordinate military operations to his personal political aims. In such circumstances, there is a danger that the Ukrainian forces might be unprepared for the Russian counteroffensive actions, which can deteriorate the situation on the battlefield.
- Following the UOC example, other organizations can be used to create an internal enemy to distract the public attention from the growing costs of war. The inability of the Ukrainian governmental structures to adherence to democratic principles and remain tolerant to the opposing views will inevitably become problematic for some of the EU countries.
What can be done by European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian government should be informed that Ukraine will not be able to reject the idea of establishing truce due to the political reasons. It should be publicly acknowledged that at the present moment the territories occupied by Russia cannot be liberated through military operations and the truce is needed to restore Ukraine’s economy and social institutions.
- The measures should be taken to prevent the attempts of the Ukrainian government to put new restrictions on political activity and use religious and political groups for the image of internal enemy.
- The UOC should be given political and media support in the EU countries and the Ukrainian government has to be informed that political exploitation of religious issues does not correspond with the practice adopted by NATO countries.