Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (10.04-17.04 )
The shortage of the resources needed for the offensive actions and poor chances of the military success are threatening to set a trap for the incumbent government. The President and his close associates cannot reject the idea of large-scale offensive or postpone it for an indefinite period, without risking grave repercussions. The expectations of victorious offensive, which would allow to end the war in agreement with Ukrainian demands, are widely spread in the Ukrainian society. They have become the important factor of social consolidation against the challenges of war and their disappearance will affect both resilience of the Ukrainian society and political stability.
Though some of Ukrainian political leaders have acknowledged that the offensive cannot be launched in current conditions, they are trying to pretend that there is nothing more than brief delay, caused by necessity to obtain more military equipment from the Western partners. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated during his visit to Washington that the Ukrainian army is getting prepared for the offensive aimed at pushing Russian forces out of the occupied territories. https://www.foxnews.com/video/6324988099112
Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council declared tnat Ukraine will ‘test and use’ any non-banned weapons to retake Crimea https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-will-test-use-any-non-banned-weapons-retake-crimea-official-2023-04-14/
Meanwhile, some prominent experts om international relations regard the current situation as a stalemate, which cannot be solved out by military means.
Director of the Eurasia program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in the article “Crimea Has Become a Frankenstein’s Monster” published in the Foreign Policy, argues that Ukraine has little chance to achieve a military success. Ukraine was not given long-range missiles and advanced aircraft, because the US and its partners do not believe that the Ukrainian army will be able use them effectively. Besides, the US administration is afraid of escalation of the conflict in case if the Kremlin retaliate on one of the NATO states for delivering advanced weapons to Ukraine, deliberately attacking its territory. But lack of the resources needed for a successful offensive did not make Ukraine change its plans for the immediate liberation of territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea, and because of that, the Ukrainian government is now trapped by its own uncompromising policy.
Liven also warns that Ukraine’s attempts to recapture the Crimea can “create a deep split between Kyiv and Western governments“, which fear that such steps might provoke Moscow to use nuclear weapons. https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/11/crimea-has-become-a-frankensteins-monster
One of the most influential experts on geopolitics Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, expressed the doubts the Ukrainian offensive even in the case of success, would bring the desired results, which would allow to end the war by Russia’s military defeat.
In the article “The West Needs a New Strategy in Ukraine”written for the Foreign Affairs in cooperation with Charles Kupchan, Richard Haass stressed that the US administration and its allies should urgently design a plan “for getting from the battlefield to the negotiating table“.
Haass is confident that Zelensky for the time being will not be able to carry out his promise to fully expel Russian forces and completely restore territorial integrity of Ukraine. These realities should be recognized, and the West needs an implement an approach to the war in Ukraine based on that recognition, preserving its principles. The rising costs of war and the prospect of a stalemate on the battlefield, are making it necessary to endeavor to achieve “a durable truce, one that could prevent renewed conflict and, even better, set the stage for a lasting peace“.
The main impediment to this goal is the desire both of Russia and Ukraine to continue hostilities. Despite the military stalemate, Ukrainian leaders are not interested in the Western mediation aimed at ceasing the hostilities, but keep asking the West for more military and economic help to carry on fighting.
Haass argues that even the significant increase in the Western military help, which he considers to be unlikely, will not change the course of the war headed for stalemate. Meanwhile, Ukraine is challenged with dangerous military and economic problems which could be overcome only if the hostilities are terminated. As Haass points out, Ukrainian forces have already suffered heavy losses, which have affected also the best trained troops. The Ukrainian economy has contracted by approximately 30 percent, the cost of living is increasing rapidly, and Ukrainian critical infrastructure has been heavily damaged by Russian bombardments and keeps getting destroyed. The hostilities should be ended as soon as possible because Ukrainian economy and social system might be ruined, because the government is trying to achieve goals that seem to be out of reach. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/russia-richard-haass-west-battlefield-negotiations
The problems that Ukraine is facing undermine the position of the government that is trapped in keeping on with hostilities. It allows the rivals of the incumbent President to worsen his situation by increasing military expenses under the pretext of strengthening the army.
Under the initiative of former Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Razumkov, the Ukrainian parliament has passed a law, which provides for the restoration of an additional payment of Hr. 30,000 (734 Euros) to all military personnel, as well as to rescuers and police officers. For those who take a direct part in hostilities or ensure the implementation of measures for national security and defense, the amount of additional remuneration is to be increased to Hr. 100,000 (2447 Euros) per month, depending on the level of their participation in such activities. https://www.kyivpost.com/post/15657
The additional payments were canceled by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine two months ago due to the financial problems. And its restoration will force the government to increase spending on the security and defense sector high above the expenses planned in the state budget. The expenses on salaries of the military personnel will reach Hr. 317 billion (7.76 billion Euros), which almost twice exceeds the planned level.
Razumkov managed to put Zelensky in a difficult position because he cannot refuse a payment increase for the military and security agencies personnel, but the required amount cannot be found without cutting social expenses. https://www.rbc.ua/ukr/news/turbota-viyskovih-chi-populizm-k-politiki-1681236463.html
It should be noted that Razumkov before the war was considered one of the most influential political rivals of Zelensky.
The attempt of the government to focus public attention on the actions against Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) failed because it didn’t manage to attract widespread support. But this does not stop the Ukrainian leadership, based on their announcements, it will continue to try to switch the focus of attention from the growing ones, looking for and fighting “internal enemies”, which causes serious damage to human rights. Some opposition politicians are already raising the issue: “It was Zelensky and his supporters who completely destroyed the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Ukrainians, which are enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution and international legal regulations” – said, V.Medvedchuk. https://socialbites.ca/politics/241687.html
According to the reports in social networks and messengers temples taken from UOC remained half-empty during the Easter service. The new parishioners were not numerous and the traditional ones preferred to ignore the service after the transfer of jurisdiction. This demonstrates the political underpinnings of this decision, not the religious ones. https://t.me/spletnicca/9692
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- Zelensky is forced to choose between abandoning the idea of the promised offensive, thus undermining his political positions, or continuing military activities, which are sharply deteriorating Ukrainian economic and social situation. There are strong reasons to believe that Zelensky will prefer to continue hostilities in order to avoid the acknowledgment of his inability to achieve previously declared goals.
- The stalemate on the battlefield and the lack of resources for the expected large-scale offensive provoked the campaign against UOC incited by Ukrainian political leaders. The government will keep on trying to divert public attention from growing economic and military problems by seeking and fighting the “internal enemies”, both religious and political.
- The weakening of the government’s positions will lead to a surge in populist activity of the President’s political rivals. The return of political competition will drive the government to assume a populist legislative behavior, exacerbating relations with the IMF.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian authorities are not able to end the hostilities that are destroying the Ukrainian economy and social system. The should be compelled to reject plans to fight until the decisive victory on the battlefield by the means of external pressure. It should be made clear that economic assistance to Ukraine is going to depend on the readiness of the Ukrainian government to make efforts in order to establish a lasting truce.
- The Ukrainian government should be made to realize that violation of religious freedom is unacceptable and cannot be justified. The Ukrainian political leaders have to regard such violations as an insurmountable impediment to European integration.