Political activity in Ukraine and political impact of war (09.08-17.08 )
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The Ukrainian government is persist in wasting efforts and resources in the attempts of achieving any significant results of the counteroffensive, though its new strategic goals remain undefined. The previous warnings that Russian troops may use the exhaustion of Ukrainian reserves for counterattacks have proved to be valid, and the situation on the battlefield is becoming complicated and unpredictable. Ukrainian army managed to win back several settlements in the south and east of the country, but their liberation has come at a high cost. Despite that the Russian troops have suffered heavy losses, the Ukrainian forces due to their own high casualties have do not have a reasonable chance of breaching Russian multi-layered defensive network.
The continuation of offensive actions has become senseless and dangerous, because Ukraine‘s limited successes may be nullified by an anticipated autumn-winter Russian offensive if Ukrainian military formations don’t have not enough combat power to block it.
Strategic reserves have been deployed despite the Russian defense lines are not broken. So even in case if this task is accomplished, Ukraine will not have necessary forces to widen a breach made by attacking formations and reach considerable success compelling the enemy to surrender large territories.
It was reported that the 82nd Air Assault Brigade, the most powerful unit of the Ukrainian army was engaged in combat to make tactical gains in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The 82nd Brigade was initially supposed to lead the advance towards the town of Tokmak after the breach of the Russian first defensive line. Tokmak is considered to be one of the main Russian strong-points and it cannot be expected to be captured without a deployment of additional resources after the first defensive line is broken. Now, when the well-trained and well-equipped 82nd Brigade has been engaged in action, Ukrainian army has no more reserves capable of achieving this task, and the Russian defense lines in the Southern Ukraine are far from being seriously threatened. Moreover, if the Russians in Robotyne, a village for which the 82nd Brigade is fighting now, can hold their ground, and endure a current surge in Ukrainian combat power, they will get an opportunity to strike back effectively because in the current situation it is impossible to rotate off the formations on the front due to the lack of reserves. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2023/08/15/ukraines-powerful-82nd-brigade-once-held-in-reserve-has-finally-joined-the-counteroffensive/?sh=4d135aaa452c
The shortfall of reserves has become the main obstacle for increasing pressure on Russian troops. Due to this problem the Ukrainian offensive would have lost momentum, even if it has been successful in the first stage. Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to overcome a shortage of military formations that can be effective as a fighting force, because the Ukrainian citizens who are motivated to take an active part in fighting against the Russian invasion have been already enlisted or joined the military service voluntarily.
According to Vadim Karasev, a prominent Ukrainian political expert, Ukrainian citizens, who are to be conscripted to fill in for the losses that the Ukrainian army has suffered in recent months, will be low motivated because they do not feel the need to recapture Crimea or Donbass. Karasev express his conviction that war weariness is increasing in Ukrainian society and due to that new waves of mobilization will be hindered by the lack of public support. An average new conscript will be a man from 35 to 45 years old, who will be reluctant to risk losing his life. http://www.iton.tv/tema-dnya/20098-ukrainskij-politolog-na-dve-korei-ukrainu-ne-razdelit.html
A Ukrainian citizens who are in danger of becoming conscripts are trying to avoid the enlistment by bribing or hiding away from mobilisation officers, who have to roam the streets and go door to door to hand out notices. Such social behavior of the probable conscripts bring harm to the economy because these people are inclined to terminate their employment because they are scared to go outside and lock themselves away to avoid being dragged to the recruitment office. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/15/bribes-and-hiding-at-home-the-ukrainian-men-trying-to-avoid-conscription
Labour shortages are going to become even more severe if new waves of mobilization are carried out, and the lack of available workforce will aggravate the industrial crisis and infrastructural problems.
Ukraine’s political leadership has recognised the difficulties of the mobilisation process, but cannot avoid strong measures aimed to accomplish conscription because the government risk losing political dominance if the offensive actions will be terminated until there is an evident military success. Adviser to the head of Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak praised Zekensky for his efforts “to talk to society, to explain what is at stake”. But the President is trying to persuade the Ukrainian public that the new wave of mobilization is going to be more fair and equal than the previous ones mostly by putting the blame on regional military commissars.
All the heads of Ukraine’s regional military recruitment centers were dismissed, and though this measure seems to be in in accordance with public sentiments, it can disorganize and impede the recruitment processes.
Despite the difficulties with the mobilization and emerging risks on the battlefield the Ukrainian government keeps on raising expectations of upcoming military defeat of Russia. Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Ukraine, in his interview with “La Repubblica” promised to destroy “anything that will interfere with the liberation of all the territories up to the 1991 borders, especially of the Crimea”. Danilov also stated that there is no alternative to the Ukrainian peace plan, which is based on the demand of Russian capitulation, but he said that Ukraine can agree on changing the sequence of points. https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2023/08/15/news/oleksiy_danilov_ucraina_intervista-411129959/
At the same time high-ranking representatives of the government have started to point out that the victory will be the result of continuous fight that can last for a very long time.
Iryna Vereshchuk Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories has stated that the war with Russia is not going to end either by the end of this year or even by next spring, “as some hope” (and as it was previously promised by the government). She urged Ukrainians to “get ready for a long struggle“ and “prepare for a long and difficult war“. She believes that the Ukrainian society should change the approach to political and economic issues in order to gain a victory. In particular, she wants the Ukrainian society “keep focus on the main things, ignore the rest”. She also finds it necessary to impose “a moratorium” on “politics and gossip”. https://t.me/vereshchuk_iryna/2010
The declaration of Vereshchuk can be regarded as a clear sign that the associates of the President are trying to use the hostilities to obtain an opportunity to ban any political protest and activity of the opposition, as well as strive to make public complaints on economic and social deterioration appear unacceptable.
It was also reported that Zelensky is contemplating the ousting of Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and replacing him with a completely new person in order to get an opportunity to declare a change of military strategy. It should be noted that Iryna Vereshchuk don`t expressed a desire to head the Ministry of Defense. https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2023/08/15/7415718/
Mariana Bezuglaya an influential member of parliament who belongs to the ruling party “Servant of the People” and was previously connected with the Ministry of Defense wrote on her social media accounts that she supports the idea of Reznikov’s resignation. She promised to “do everything within the limits of my ability” to get Ministry of Defense restructured and get rid of the “cockroaches inside”. https://ctrana.news/articles/analysis/442556-sostoitsja-li-otstavka-hlavy-minoborony-reznikova-i-kto-eho-mozhet-zamenit.html
The replacement of Defense Minister might help the President to avoid the President to avoid responsibility for the current state of affairs on the battlefield, but it will inevitable undermine
confidence in the military command which is considered to be an important prerequisite for victory.
As long as the hostilities continue and Zelensky faces a choice between the offensive actions which demand heavy losses and a politically damaging recognition of inability to fulfill the promise of victory he will be compelled to make steps that increase political and social disarray. It can be prevented only if the ceasefire is established and democratic process is recommenced.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the preparations for the spring offensive have started and the idea to make a new attempt to make significant military gains can be supported by the US administration.
There can be little doubt that such a scenario will give a way out to Zelensky who will be able to postpone the recognition of military failure. But the political, social and economic situation in Ukraine will continue to deteriorate, and the danger of its defeat on the battlefield or economic collapse will increase.
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
· “There’s a an increasing danger of successful Russian counterattack, and if the waste of resources in the offensive actions is not stopped, Ukraine will be left in a very disadvantaged position. The continuation of the war, which the Ukrainian authorities are going to prolong for many more months and years, will increase the chances for a Russian victory. It will have severe repercussions for the EU, which will have to suffer strategic defeat.
· Zelensky will try to preserve political dominance turning Ukraine into the authoritarian state and unacceptable partner for the EU. However, the EU leaders will not be able to cease political support to Zelensky if the hostilities continue.
· The development of political and military situation in Ukraine has become the issue of the US presidential campaign and there is a danger that due to that reason the establishing of the ceasefire will be postponed until the next autumn. In that case the EU will have to bear the consequences of the continuation of hostilities and geopolitical impact of the prolongation of the war.
Recommendations for the European institutions and organizations:
· It should be made clear that despite the intentions of the US administration and the planss of the Ukrainian government the offensive has to be terminated and the discussion of the immediate ceasefire should be launched.
· The Ukrainian government should be advised to acknowledge its inability to achieve the promised results of the offensive regardless of political consequences and adopt a new political and military strategy.