Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (04.12-26.12 )
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The Ukrainian and Russian administration simultaneously declared their positions concerning the possibility of negotiations on truce on December, 14.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba published an article in “Foreign affairs” (it appeared at the site of the journal on December, 14) in which he stated that “any outcome besides a clear defeat of Russia in Ukraine” should be considered unacceptable. Kuleba predicts “troubling implications”, both for Ukraine and the West, if the hostilities are terminated before the restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity. The Ukrainian minister considers this goal to be “clear and feasible”. He admits that “the current phase of the war is not easy for Ukraine or for our partners” and warns against against the anticipations of “breakthroughs on the battlefield” in the near future. At the same time Kuleba insists that “continued international support for Ukraine will, over time, ensure that local counteroffensives achieve tangible results on the frontlines, gradually destroying Russian forces and thwarting Putin’s plans for a protracted war”. To achieve these objectives, Ukraine should be provided with adequate military aid, including jets, drones, air defence, artillery rounds, and long-range long-range artillery systems and missiles. He calls for “the rapid development of industrial capacity in the United States and Europe as well as in Ukraine” and a realistic approach to the prospect of negotiations with Russia. Such an approach should be based on the assumption that Russia would not respect any agreements on truce and use a cease-fire as an opportunity to make preparations for “another push inland”. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/path-victory-ukraine-dmytro-kuleba ?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=fatoday&utm_campaign=There%20Is%20a%20Path%20to%20Victory%20in%20Ukraine&utm_content=20231214&utm_term=FA%20Today%20-%20112017
On December 14, Vladimir Putin during his appearance on the main national TV channels, answering a question about protraction of hostilities declared that Russia could agree to establish a truce but only if Ukraine would refuse from joining NATO and its military forces would be legally reduced to the level that conforms with Russian concept of national security. If Ukraine and its Western allies don’t come to such an agreement, Russia as Putin threatened, would take effective measures to destroy Ukrainian military might completely and this goal is going tow be reached by force if Russian demands are not met. http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/7299w4
During his the end-of-year press conference in Kyiv, Zelensky confirmed that Ukrain is not going to change its strategy and it will keep fighting until all the occupied territories are liberated. https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2023/12/19/novyna/polityka/pidsumkova-preskonferenwcziya-zelenskoho-onlajn-translyacziya?utm_source=gravitec&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=
It is evident that both sides that both sides intend to prolong the hostilities until they can proclaim the victory. But Ukrainian governments has set conditions for the establishing of a truce that seem to be unachievable. Because of that, Ukraine may be compelled to continue the hostilities even if the truce is required to avoid social and economic disaster. Besides, Ukraine is critically dependent on Western military and financial aid (which was mentioned by Putin) and is not prepared for the decrease of the level of support which appears to be inevitable in the current circumstances.
Due to political reason, the Ukrainian authorities exaggerated public expectations of the upcoming victory on the battlefield. Now when the much anticipated counteroffensive obviously failed, the government is going to face repercussions of that, including public disappointment and even social unrest. The public sentiment can be mitigated only by progress in the process of in the EU accession negotiations.
Zelensky proclaimed a “victory” for Ukraine the start of talks on Ukraine’s EU membership. It is going to be regarded as an important accomplishment by the Ukrainian society and may strengthen Zelensky’s political supremacy. But it cannot influence the situation on the battlefield which is likely to deteriorate in the near future. The EU because of its decision making process and lack of resources required to increase production of military equipment cannot prevent the undesirable development. Besides, the disagreement about financial and military support of Ukraine in the US has increased the eagerness of European opponents of the EU policy towards Ukraine to restrict European aid. Hungary block crucial financial aid to Ukraine, which was supposed to be provided by the EU. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban announced that he wanted to revamp the EU budget to include 50 billion euros in financial aid to Kyiv. Orban had allowed to pass vote on Ukraine’s membership talks, but the other EU nations were unable to overcome his resistance to the budget proposal put forward by Michel. Later Orban told in an interview on Hungarian state radio that Budapest could yet put a stop to Ukraine’s membership talks and he will not give an agreement to provide financial support for Ukraine unless Brussels releases 30 billion euros to Hungary that it has frozen due to rule of law concerns. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/14/zelenskyy-hails-victory-as-eu-agrees-to-open-membership-talks-for-ukraine
The Ukrainian government failed to prevent the growing tension between Ukraine and Poland that used to be the mot ardent Ukraine’s supporter. During his press-conference Zelensky had to admit that the relations between Ukraine and Poland had deteriorated. Due to the blockade of the Ukrainian border by Polish lorry drivers, Ukraine has suffered financial losses which in conjunction with the ban on Ukrainian grain export had a detrimental impact on political connections between countries: Accoding to Zelensky, the existing situation was instigated by political motives, and he is determined to protect Ukraine’s interests. https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2023/12/19/novyna/polityka/pidsumkova-preskonferencziya-zelenskoho-onlajn-translyacziya?utm_source=gravitec&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=block the border
Zelensky is facing a risk of dramatic decrease of Western support. The US administration cannot guarantee the punctual delivery of the military equipment as well as rapid provision of financial aid. Even if Washington manages to resume funding early next year, Ukraine has been already damaged by its current absence. If Biden’s administration cannot make a deal with the The House of Representatives, Ukraine may face Russia without NATO backing and can achieve significant accomplishments during highly probable winter offensive. Even if Zelensky could make a progress in the EU accession negotiations, it would not change the situation on the battlefield. A military defeat of Ukrainian forces, even an endurable one, will inevitably cause a politic crisis and social unrest, even if Ukraine has a prospect of joining the EU. Besides, actual EU membership will demand the end of hostilities on the Ukrainian territory, and political and social development of Ukraine will depend on whether Ukraine can avoid new territorial losses and military failures.
But neither of these things can be guaranteed without the increase of military support and financial aid from the US and the EU. Meanwhile, there are reasonable doubts that the level achieved this year will be maintained in the future. EU officials promised to persuade Hungary to change its decision to veto $50 bn in EU funding for Ukraine’s war efforts and assure a unanimous, positive vote in early January. But Viktor Orban has opened the door to European disunity. There is an obvious lack of understanding on this matter between Democrats and Republicans US Congress. It has been even suggested to make Ukraine name a finite price tag and a specific, simple goal. Meanwhile, the recent events on the front-lines have shown that Russian forces are increasing pressure on Ukrainian troops and Ukraine’s decision to male a dash across the Dnipro River seems unlikely to bring the desired results, in spite of the immense casualties. https://edition.cnn.com/ukraine-war-us-eu-analysis/index.html
To maintain the military power of Ukrainian army will be impossible without new mass mobilization. But mobilization plans, which have been announced by some Zelensky’s associates, cannot be carried out without posing a risk of widespread public disapproval of government’s actions. Even the ardent supporters of the idea of a new mobilizations have to take than into consideration.
Maryana Bezuglaya, a deputy for Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, conduct a survey on her Facebook page, which showed that 76% of those men who took part in it are ready to renounce Ukrainian citizenship to avoid mobilization. https://twitter.com/GeromanAT/status/1736835883364413553
Maryana Bezuglaya, who has been striving to change of the mobilization law, wanted to make legal conscription of women and oblige them to undergo initial military training for further participation in military operations. Though the negative public reaction to this proposal is fated to be rejected by Zelensky, but suggestions aimed to facilitate conscripting are certain to be approved by the parliament. https://www.azernews.az/region/219107.html
Such measures as allowing police to seize prospective conscripts in public places or restricting personal economic activities of draft evaders might be effectively used to mobilize the required reinforcement. But it should be doubted that military formations composed of soldiers conscripted with the help of coercive measures will be able to endure an upcoming Russian assault.
It should be noted that Zelensky during his press-conference stressed that some important issues of mass mobilization has still to be worked out. However, the draft law on recruiting and mobilization that government has submitted to parliament contains most of the proposals announced by Maryana Bezugla.
Besides restrictions on the rights of draft evaders, the new law is intended to transfer control over conscription process to the National Police and civil bureaucracy. https://tsn.ua/ukrayina/zmini-do-mobilizaciyi-ta-viyskovoyi-sluzhbi-yaki-novovvedennya-anonsuvala-bezugla-2473342.html
This innovation was denounced by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Zaluzhnyi several days before the draft law was introduced to parliament.
Zaluzhnyi told the press that dismissal of regional military committees affected the mobilization process. It is impossible to restore its effectiveness without reinserting all mobilization issues to professionals, who “knew how to do it, but now they are gone”. It is obvious that his demand “to return it to those frameworks that worked before” was completely ignored and the government chose the scheme that Zaluzhnyi had criticized. https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2023/12/18/novyna/bezpeka/zaluzhnyj-zayavyv-mobilizacziyu-ukrayini-slid-povernuty-ti-ramky-yaki-pracyuvaly-ranishe
It means that between the military and the government is certain to increase and Zelensky may take steps to dismiss Zaluzhnyi who has been gaining popularity.
According to a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology the public approval rating of Zelensky decreased from 84% in December 2022 to 62% in December 2023. At the same time, public approval rating of Zaluzhnyi reached 88%. Only 59% of Ukrainian citizens express confidence both in Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi. 14% of those who approve of Zaluzhny do not express confidence in Zelensky, and only 1% of those who support the president, do not approve of Zaluzhny. Zaluzhnyi has a large group of supporters who do not want Zelensky to stay in power. The Commander-in-Chief keeps gaining public support, and the president has started to lose it. https://hromadske.ua/ru/posts/kmis-bolshinstvo-ukraincev-doveryayut-i-zaluzhnomu-i-zelenskomu-polyarizovannye-vzglyady-imeet-nebolshaya-dolya-oproshennyh
It should be noted that during his press-conference Zelensky envisaged the change of Ukrainian military tactics but ignored the question about whether he was going to change the military leadership. Zelensky refused to comment on the discussion between Bezugla and Zaluzhnyi, telling that he doesn’t have time for reading Facebook posts. This remark was obviously intended to depict Zaluzhnyi as a person who is wasting time in useless discussion instead of concentrating on his duties https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2023/12/19/novyna/polityka/pidsumkova-preskonferenwcziya-zelenskoho-onlajn-translyacziya?utm_source=gravitec&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=
It was found out that Zaluzhnyi was wiretapped by two listening devices installed in the premises of the General Staff. The Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) subordinated to the Ministry of Defense was not allowed to start investigation which is to be carried out by Security Service. https://war.obozrevatel.com/ukr/prosluhovuvannya-zaluzhnogo-sprava-ruk-svoih-intervyu-z-polkovnikom-svitanom.htm?utm_source=wpush&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=webpush
Forecasts for potential development of current trends:
- The continuation of hostilities is posing a high risk of military defeat which is bound to have unpredictable social repercussions. The previous level of financial and military support cannot be maintained by the US and the EU, which makes impossible the liberation of occupied territories by force and therefore makes aimless Ukrainian war efforts.
- The continuation of hostilities is impossible without new mobilization which is going to make the Ukrainian government demand for deportation of Ukrainian citizens of draft age from the EU countries.
- The tension between the government and the military might lead to the political crisis, especially if Zelensky make an attempt to discharge Zaluzhnyi.
Recommendations for the European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian government should be advised to formulate and declare its conditions for establishing ceasefire. It should be mentioned that so called “Zelensky’s peace formula” which requires a military defeat of Russia cannot be considered as basis for a truce.
- The EU political structures should devise the scheme of protecting Ukrainian citizens of draft age from deportation without giving the Ukrainian government a pretext for accusations in unfriendly attitude.
- The necessity of elections in Ukraine should be persistently pointed out. Conducting elections is the only way to prevent Zelensky from covert actions against his political rivals, especially Klitschko and Zaluzhnyi.