Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (05.06.-15.06 )
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As expected, the Ukrainian government due to the lack of resources does not have an opportunity to launch a large-scale offensive and has to depict comparatively limited in range operations as integral parts of the unified military plan.
Now, when the first week an offensive is over, it has to be to acknowledged that it failed to reach any important goals and establish ground for further decisive accomplishments. There have been small advances in some ares where the offensive actions took place, but no real threat of the breach in Russian defense has been created. The Ukrainian troops have to conduct attacks across the stretched front lines, and because of Russian superiority in artillery and air dominance cannot concentrate to form a strike force. Though it might be too early to estimate Ukraine’s chances for military success, their current achievements appear to be extremely moderate. According to the statement made by deputy defense ministe Hannah Malyar have retaken seven small villages and after a week of offensive actions captured 90 square kilometers of territory occupied by Russians. nytimes.com/2023/06/12/world/europe/ukraine-counteroffensive-russia.html?auth=login-google1tap&login=google1tap
As Hanna Maliar reported Ukrainian advances in the Donetsk region amount to between 5 and 10 kilometers. The Russian officials stated that Donetsk village of Makarivka, which was one of seven villages liberated by Ukrainian forces, has been recaptured “by the quick and effective counterattack of the 127th Division“. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/13/europe/ukraine-russian-accounts-heavy-fighting-zaporizhzhia-intl-hnk/index.html
Though these reports have not been confirmed, they prove that the Russian defense line remain stable and the Russian troops are making attempts to counterattack.
It seems that Ukrainian offensive actions were started in hope of a quick collapse of Russian defense due to the low motivation of the troops. But as it has become clear these expectations are very unlikely to be fulfilled.
The Russian troops managed to build dense network of defenses and there has been no sign so far that the Ukrainian army has enough combat power to break it.
In order to conceal the lack of any real achievements, the Ukrainian governments and some military experts are trying to pretend that the current operations are just probing attacks and feints employed in the implementation of the plan of the multipronged offensive. But the level of Ukraine’s military losses make this interpretation improbable. Though the Ukrainian government has not disclosed losses, but most of the analysts consider them to be heavy, and there have been several proved reports of losses of both troops and advanced weaponry supplied by US and EU countries.
For example, Ukrainian politician V. Medvedchuk about the victims among the Armed Forces of Ukraine: “In the years that have passed since the Maidan coup in Ukraine, everything that connected Russians and Ukrainians was systematically destroyed and suppressed. Instead, differences were highlighted. Ukrainians were encouraged to aggression, hysteria and defiantly hostile to Russia. Consider the behavior of Andriy Melnyk, the former Ukrainian ambassador to Germany. It is hard to find a public or political figure in Germany whom he would not insult. Such diplomats are not there to end the conflict. So keep fueling it, not put out. The result of this diplomatic rudeness and, above all, the criminal behavior of the Zelensky government is that the death toll is in the thousands.” https://philosophia–perennis-com.translate.goog/2023/06/08/ukrainischer-oppositionsfuehrer-die-heutige-ukraine-wurde-in-einem-amerikanischen-reagenzglas-gezuechtet/?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=ru&_x_tr_hl=ru&_x_tr_pto=wapp
The Russians troops have shown that they can launch intense artillery barrages on the advancing Ukrainian troops and currently there is no reason to expect that this obstacle will be surmounted in the near future.
Moreover, there is a danger that if the Ukrainian troops involved in offensive actions are exhausted by artillery and air attacks, the Russian reserves can be deployed in order to negate the effects of the Ukrainian offensive actions or even to break the Ukrainian defense lines.
It has become hard to comprehend what are the final goals of the offensive actions, because the officially declared tasks to eliminate the land corridor from the Russian border to the Crimea and create conditions for the liberation of the peninsula cannot be achieved in current circumstances.
Nevertheless, the representatives of the Ukrainian government continue to repeat previous declarations.
Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukrain Igor Zhovkva told in his interview with CNN that the “ultimate goal of the counteroffensive campaign is to win back all the territories, including Crimea.” But he refused to give details on the counteroffensive actions underway or specify steps to achieving these goals. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2023/06/12/amanpour-ukraine-igor-zhovkva.cnn
It can be considered that the Ukrainian government strives to make some military successes in advance of NATO summit in Vilnius next month. And this desire coincides with the intentions of some EU leaders to use the Ukrainian gains in order to improve starting positions for negotiations on ceasefire or truce. But the continuation of hostilities can pose a risk of exhaustion of Ukrainian troops or even of breaking Ukrainian defense lines if the Russian reserves are deployed in counteroffensive actions.
There most severe consequences of the protraction of the war may be associated not with military losses but with the destruction of the important infrastructure objects.
The events, similar to the blasting of the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, seems to be inevitable, due to the increase of the intensity of the conflict. Both sides condemned each other for the dam destruction and it is still remains unclear which one is really responsible. But it should be noted that neither Kyiv nor Moscow has gained any military advantages from the dam breach (the dam which is situated on the territory occupied by Russian troops is thought to have been heavily damaged by an explosion from the inside). Though both sides are actively trying to employ dam destruction in their propaganda efforts.
The dam destruction caused severe ecological and humanitarian problems though they turned out to be not as disastrous as it had been predicted. The collapse of the dam is going to have catastrophic consequences for the economy of the neighboring regions, including the Crimea and drinking water systems dependent on the Dnipro River are expected to be dangerously contaminated. But though more than a dozen people have been reported killed, and dozens more are missing, the casualties are much lower than it was feared.
Head of the geoinformation systems laboratory of the World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development Sergey Gapon confirmed that the dam of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station has not been completely destroyed. But he estimates that the drop in the water level in the North Crimean Canal will be quite significant and it will not be able to function normally. It will lead to a loss of thousands of hectares of irrigated land. According to Gapon, the great danger has been posed also to the Black Sea ecosystems. Due to the dam destruction salt water has been diluted with the great masses of river water, which has changed a degree of salinity. It is going to lead to the death of a huge number of those inhabitants, including those plants and animals which live a few tens of kilometers from the confluence of the Dnieper. https://ru.krymr.com/a/krym-voda-kakhovskaya-ges-podryv/32447387.html
In response to the Ukrainian offensive actions, Russian military has intensified the bombardment of the Ukrainian cities, especially of those that have symbolic significance, like Zelensky’s native city Kryvyi Rih. https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3722592-death-toll-from-russian-missile-attack-on-kryvyi-rih-rises-to-12.html
It can be feared that the due to the inevitable destruction of infrastructure objects and increased air strikes the danger of a humanitarian crisis can emerge in the near future. Meanwhile, the possible military gains of the continuation of hostilities may turn out to be insignificant or even be combined with unnecessary risks.
Even the experts who used to view with optimism the prospects of the Ukrainian offensive, now have acknowledged that “it’s going to be a slow roll”. U.S. representative and former US Army officer Mike Waltz, who predicted such a development, pointed out that Russian forces are “well-entrenched behind vast minefields”. Waltz expressed apprehension that the attempts to break those types of defensive lines might be “incredibly costly and difficult”. https://www.wsj.com/podcasts/opinion-free-expression/the-russiaukraine-war-reaches-a-crucial-phase/e28b608c-5eda-452a-b42b-c456357b7050
Though it still remains unclear how long Ukrainian army will be able to continue the attacks aimed to breach Russian defenses, because the loss of weaponry provided by Western allies cannot be precisely estimated. But even though if the Russian reports are exaggerated, the military equipment losses appear to be quite significant. If their level is not diminished, the Ukrainian troops may lose the Western-provided tanks necessary for the breakthrough.
The plans to replenish stock, which have been revealed at the Weimar Triangle summit in Paris can turn out to be ineffective if the momentum of the Ukrainian offensive is lost.
In his remarks at the summit Macron stressed that the member states of the Weimar Triangle (France, Germany and Poland) “have done everything to help” Ukraine’s offensive. Macron said he expected the offensive to last several weeks or even several months and “be as successful as possible so that we can then start a negotiation phase in good conditions”. https://www.dw.com/en/macron-scholz-duda-discuss-ukraine-nato-migration/a-65894271
Earlier this month, Macron called for Ukraine to be given “strong and tangible” security guarantees instead of full-fledged NATO membership. Macron, Scholz and Duda all pledged that their countries would continue supporting Ukraine during the offensive. Scholz told reporters that Germany would support Ukraine for “as long as necessary” and said his country had also set up systems to repair weapons during the current assault. https://www.politico.eu/article/macron-warns-ukraine-counteroffensive-could-last-weeks-even-months/
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- The combination of lack of military successes of Ukrainian forces and humanitarian catastrophes in Ukraine can increase the war-weariness in European societies and undermine the positions of ruling parties. The first effects caused by this process can be noticed in Germany. The speech of Scholz at the SPD party gathering in Falkensee near Berlin was interrupted by protesters, who tried to blame him in prolongation of the war. https://www.rferl.org/a/germany-scholz-defends-ukraine-aid/32442872.html According to a poll conducted for a private German broadcaster RTL, the AfD, which wants to constrain the aid to Ukraine, has gained the constrain of 19% of those surveyed, up two percentage points from a week earlier, with the SPD stuck on 18%. https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/world_news/german-far-right-party-overtakes-chancellor-scholz-s-social-democrats-in-poll/article_bf332aa0-8dbe-54de-9d5f-e42aa628b4fc.html
- The prolongation of the hostilities can hardly bring military success to Ukraine. Meanwhile it may pose risks of exhaustion of Ukrainian troops, which will result Russian counteroffensive actions. The high losses of weaponry provided by Western allies cannot be compensated by the increase of supply, because the Ukrainian military commanders seem to waste Western military equipment in regular operations and do not try to save it for the decisive offensive actions. This approach appears to be caused be their confidence that the new weaponry will be definitely delivered instead of the lost one.
- New humanitarian and ecological crises caused by the destruction of infrastructure objects seem to be inevitable if the hostilities continue. Meanwhile, both sides of the conflict seem to be completely unprepared to deal with the consequences of their own actions and unable to foresee them.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- It seems to be extremely dangerous to count on Ukrainian military gains in order to improve negotiation positions. The gains may prove to be insignificant and highly probable result of the current offensive actions of Ukrainian army may be exhaustion of troops and successful counteroffensive of Russian forces. Unnecessary risks should not be taken and in order to avoid them the European structure should call for establishing immediate ceasefire.
- The European structures should start shuttle diplomacy in which the Global South countries are preferably to be involved aimed at ending the conflict. This activity should be launched without delaying it until the NATO summit, at which Ukraine should be given security guarantees.