Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (04.07-11.07 )
(Full version is available under subscription)
The Ukrainian government is going to face political consequences of its failed offensive and have started to take efforts to prevent the probable decline of public support.
Trying to remain popular both abroad and inside the country, the government raised high expectations for the offensive to bring decisive military success. Now when the inability of the Ukrainian military to achieve the promised goals has become obvious, the government it trying to find a compensation for a lack of military accomplishments, to distract public attention and prevent strengthening of possible rivals.
The close associates of Zelensky keep promising that the offensive will eventually turn out to be successful. These declarations seem to be mainly targeted on the Ukrainian public, which has to be shown that the government controls the development of events.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, stated in his remarks remarks to the press that success at the front will be achieved “a little later”. https://24tv.ua/kontrnastup-zsu-budanov-poyasniv-skilki-trivatime-nastup_n2348854
The Western experts and political leaders are not expected to believe this and Zelensky is trying to diminish the consequences of the military failure, especially in the issues connected with Ukraine’s admission to NATO.
Because Ukraine will not be abl to liberate the occupied territories in the near future, it cannot be admitted to NATO without imposing risk to involve the alliance in direct military confrontation with Russia. It explains the approach of the US administration which wants to avoid Ukraine’s entrance to NATO but provide Kyiv with strong security guarantees.
It can be difficult to find a common approach of the NATO members towards the extent of support for Ukraine’s war-efforts in the case of continuation of hostilities and its preparations to win back the occupied territories after the truce is established.
The stalemate on the battlefield and Russian advances in some areas acknowledged by Kyiv have made more acute the problem post-war security guarantees for Ukraine. In contrast with France which considers it necessary to provide pan-European guarantees for Ukraine, neutral European countries such as Ireland, Austria and Malta are against it. https://www.lidovky.cz/nazory/nejiste-vyhlidky-ukrajinska-ofenziva-a-bezpecnostni-zaruky.A230704_091049_ln_nazory_rkj
The compromise was reported to be reached on the condition that the EU as a whole continues supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia, but the EU states should provide post-war security guarantees to Ukraine by their own means.
Peter Feaver, the former director the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, stated in his auricle in “Foreign policy” magazine that the end of Russia’s war on Ukraine will give rise to the challenge of securing the latter from a new aggression. Ukraine’s NATO membership can become a resolution of this problem only if Russia is defeated on the battlefield and the Kremlin is forced to make significant concessions. But though in this case Ukraine’s security issues could be mostly solved, its accession to NATO might destabilize the situation in the Eastern Europe and undermine the unity of the alliance. It can bring bring to power the militarist and revanchist forces in Russia and raise a controversy among NATO states, because Ukraine at the present moment does not meet membership standards. It may also be inappropriate to guarantee NATO membership to Ukraine after the end of hostilities, because that can make Russia to prolong the military conflict indefinitely in order to prevent Ukraine’s accession. These difficulties faced by the US and the EU “have led some to propose a hybrid: continued Western support augmented by security assurances by the United States and the major European powers—without formal NATO membership”. https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/07/08/ukraine-nato-russia-war-peace-security-israel-porcupine-weapons/
Though Peter Feaver considers such a decision to be destabilizing in the long run, it can be expected to be taken by the US administration, which does not want to create difficulties to NATO states, calling Article 5 into question due to the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s territories. The failure of the Ukrainian offensive indicates that this situation cannot be changed in the near future. Therefore after Ukraine’s admission NATO either consider itself to be in engaged in a war with Russia or reject the straight interpretation of Article 5, which is one of the pillars of NATO’s integrity. It was suggested that NATO should currently focus on supporting Ukraine’s efforts to restorate its fixed borders. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/natos-worst-both-worlds-approach-ukraine
Joe Biden told in his CNN in interview exclusive that Ukraine is not yet ready for NATO membership and Ukraine needs to end war with Russia before the alliance can consider Ukraine’s admission. Instead the US will “keep providing security and weaponry for Ukraine like it does for Israel.” https://edition.cnn.com/2023/07/09/politics/joe-biden-ukraine-nato-russia-cnntv/index.html
Such options cannot satisfy Zelensky and his associates who need a clear indication that Ukraine will inevitably be granted NATO membership, even if the war lingers without any significant achievements. This decision can be regarded by the Ukrainian public as some sort of compensation for the unsuccessful offensive. Without it is going to be extremely difficult for the government to persuade the Ukrainian society to accept the indefinite continuation of the war without giving rise to the sharp criticism of the government police from different points of view.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities have already started to prepare the Ukrainian society to the continuation of the war. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov stated that Ukrainian offensive is aimed at “the maximum destruction of manpower and equipment” and not at territorial gains. According to him, “more destroyed means more liberated” and the Ukrainian offensive will be conducted “calmly, wisely, step by step”. https://twitter.com/OleksiyDanilov/status/1676118862998257664
Danilov’s statement should not be considered as a disclosure of actual plans but as an attempt to prevent any public disapproval of current situation on the battlefield within the country. According to expert estimations, the loss of the military equipment supplied by the Western allies was rather significant and combat power of Ukrainian forced was severely affected by it. https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/politik-gesellschaft/ukraine-verliert-kriegsgeraet-so-viele-leopard-2-sollen-bisher-zerstoert-worden-sein-li.365243
Trying to prevent the strengthening of political rivals, highly probable in current circumstances the government has intensified its campaign against Klitschko. Serhiy Alekseyev, the close associate of the mayor of Kyiv, was accused in receiving a bribe for assisting a German citizen to avoid extradition. Alekseyev has been the president of the “Official Klitschko Brothers Fan Club” since its foundation in 2011. Serhii Alekseev belongs to the parliamentary fraction of the “European Solidarity”, opposition political party in Ukraine.
Serhiy Alekseev and his lawyers declared that the criminal case was fabricated. According to Alekseev, the government’s pressure has been caused by his activity in the Constitutional Court where he defended the authority of the Mayor of Kyiv and his proposition in the Parliament the project law aimed at giving to the mayor full control over Kuiv. Alekseev called all the accusations against hom “ridiculous”. https://www.obozrevatel.com/politics-news/alekseev-ob-otkryitom-protiv-nego-dele-eto-smeshnoe-obvinenie-myi-budem-borotsya-za-spravedlivost.htm
Opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk believes that the reaction to the final document of the UN monitoring mission, which contains shocking facts, is that in the last year alone, 17,084 criminal cases were initiated against political opponents. The main theses from the article by V. Medvedchuk:
– Law enforcement agencies in Ukraine have been reformatted as a class. They were replaced by an international organized criminal group that decides the fate of people without trial or investigation.
– The West has created a monster out of Ukraine, devouring its citizens, whose views differ from those officially designated – Nazi, satanic, misanthropic.
– Terror against the political opposition and its population Zelensky brought to
level of government policy. Using the “help” of Western intelligence agencies, he staged a total cleansing of dissent in Ukraine, Medvedchuk believes.
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.
Member of the “European Solidarity” fraction Sofia Fedina wrote at her Facebook account that accusations against Alekseev are correlated with “cynical attacks” on Klitschko organized by the government. https://www.obozrevatel.com/politics-news/vyibrali-nesluchajno-fedina-ukazala-na-nyuansyi-po-delu-protiv-alekseeva.htm
One of the influential city officials was reported to be charged with “negligence of duty”. https//ww:w.unian.net/politics/zamedirektora-kievavtodora-poluchil-podozrenie-na-chem-popalsya-foto-novosti-kieva-12320391.html
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- In order to demonstrate that Ukraine is going to be admitted to NATO in the near future Zelensky will continue his diplomatic efforts aimed at receiving the support of Ukraine’s entrance to NATO from some members of the alliance. Such actions can put in question the implementation of the article 5 and undermine the integrity of the alliance.
- Zelensky will try to demonstrate that the only Orthodox church accepted by the government is the Orthodox church of Ukraine subordinated to the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople. A new demonstration of the friendly relationship between the Ukrainian government and Constantinople patriarchate was made by the president during his visit to Istanbul. The government pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church popular in the eastern and southern regions will be increased to distract public attention and create an image of the internal enemy. Which will increase pressure on the church, which is supported by millions of parishioners.
- If the situation on the battlefield deteriorates, Zelensky might try to dismiss Klitschko under the pretext of inability to govern the city in the war-time. But even the direct confrontation with the mayor of Kyiv is avoided, there will be new accusations against his associates (mayor Rovno).
What can be done by European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian government should be informed that Ukraine will receive post-war security guarantees but their provision will be closely connected to the willingness of Ukraine’s authorities to end the hostilities.
- The pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be terminated in order to avoid the emergence of new social conflicts in the Southern and Eastern Ukraine.
- The members of Klitschko group and opposition parliamentary fractions should be given an opportunity to express their opinion in the European media and cooperate with European institutions. The possible destruction of political opposition in Ukraine should be prevented in order to preserve a chance for building political democracy in postwar Ukraine.