Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (14.06.-21.06 )
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The Ukrainian forces cannot break Russian defense lines due to the lack of the required combat power and Russian military preparedness for the Ukrainian offensive actions. Any considerable improvement of the current situation seem to be very unlikely, though Ukraine might be able to get some gains insignificant from the military point of view, which at the same time can turn out to be costly. But the main problem is related not with the improbability of the military achievements, but with unwillingness of the Ukrainian government to acknowledge an existing state of affairs. Because of fear to lose political dominance within the country as well as Western financial and military support, the Ukrainian government continues to raise expectations of a decisive military success and keeps on wasting personnel and equipment in the attacks on the well-prepared defense along, notwithstanding Russian superiority in firepower and air supremacy.
This can prove to be a fatal mistake that can influence the ability of the Ukrainian army to counteract the Russian operations and the resilience of the Ukrainian society once the failure becomes obvious.
Russian well-placed minefields and air superiority have severely restricted Ukrainian military capabilities and made large-scale offensive operations nearly impossible. The Ukrainian government has declared that some advances were made on several axes but recognized that offensive both in the east and south are being halted by Russian air and artillery superiority. https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-runs-into-russian-air-superiority-82c621c
The price of small gains made by the Ukrainian army seems to be extremely high. The loss of military equipment and massive casualties indicate that the Ukrainian army cannot ways to break through Russian lines without being significantly enforced and improved. But the Ukrainian army does not have the ability to find necessary reinforcements in the near future and the current supply of Western weaponry appears to be insufficient to compensate the losses.
Ukrainian officials prefer to remain optimistic and promise that the Russian main lines of defense will soon be breached despite that Ukrainian advances so far has not posed a direct threat to them so far.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told NBC News on Thursday, that he the news from the front lines was “generally positive, but it’s very difficult”. He blamed the slow supply of new Western weapons such as fighter jets for the lack of success, but admitted that “our troops on the front of the front line are facing very tough resistance”.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/ukraine-counteroffensive-zelenskyy-interview-russia-lose-war-rcna89022
UK Ministry of Defense has declared that both warring sides are experiencing high casualties. Such an admission proves that the primary goal of the offensive to liberate all the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia should be regarded as unachievable. All the Ukrainian advances in several areas are covering a territory which is 800 times less than the Russian occupied part of Ukraine. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/06/18/russia-ukraine-war-news/
The Ukrainian government has underestimated the motivation of the Russian troops, which was considered to be low, their discipline and coordination. Because of that it made the same mistake as Russian military in its advance on Kyiv in 2022. The armored columns were directed straight on the defense lines without taking into consideration Russian minefields and air supperority.
The Russian military has adjusted its tactics to the requirements of the battlefield. Russian troops are more often using drones and probing attacks to locate Ukrainian trenches before striking. Russian forces have improved their defenses, artillery coordination and air support. Russian trenches have frequently proved better built than their Ukrainian counterparts, and Russian bunkers are reported to be “so deep as to be undetectable by drone.” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/17/world/europe/russia-ukraine-war-tactics.html
The expectations that Russian troops are low-motivated prove to be wrong, because they have shown a resolve to keep fighting. Russia’s abilities to jam radios and down drones hinder offensive operations and an advance of Ukrainian troops will make them exposed to Russian air strikes.
The start of the offensive seems to be a mistake made due to political reasons and caused by miscalculations and confidence that if the Ukrainian army was successful in defense, it can prevail over the enemy in offensive. Russian troops are not going to retreat because of motivation as it was expected, and it is impossible to break through their defensive lines without a sharp increase of the Ukrainian combat power.
Some representatives of the Ukrainian government are trying to pretend that the army is just preparing the decisive actions which are going to follow soon. Influential adviser to the head of the presidential office Mykhailo Podolyak, said during a live broadcast: “We have not yet launched a counteroffensive as such”. According to Podolyak, Ukraine has been testing the front to find the weakest spots in the Russian defense. https://www.newsweek.com/zelensky-adviser-podolyak-ukraine-counter-offensive-latest-russia-war-1806988
Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer and a prominent military expert warned that Ukraine’s offensive is not going to to achieve major success and advised NATO to get prepared for the failure. He expects that at the Vilnius summit next month some of the NATO members will try to use the unsuccessful offensive as “a new excuse” to diminish military support to Ukraine. According to Kemp there is a risk “that the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz will renew their lobbying to press Kyiv towards a peace treaty before the year is out”. Kemp considers it “to be exactly the wrong response”. He is convinced that if the offensive falters, the West will have to make efforts to “expand Ukraine’s offensive capability” and announce “a definitive path to Ukraine’s membership of NATO”. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/06/17/prepare-for-kyivs-counter-offensive-to-falter
These suggestions do not take into account the possibility of Russian offensive operations that can be extremely dangerous to the exhausted Ukrainian army. The continuation of hostilities might result the military of defeat of Ukraine that can be prevented only by establishing truce. The main obstacle the ceasefire seems to be the refusal of the Ukrainian government acknowledge the state of affairs and possible consequences of the prolongation of the war. Because of that Ukrainian political leaders deny all the attempts to launch negotiations on truce and insists on rapid increase of military support in hope to achieve its goals by intensifying the conflict.
Such political behavior can cause the tensions with the relations between Ukraine and the Global South, especially with African countries which seriously suffer from the impact of the war on the Global economy. Leaders of several African nations led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Ukraine on Friday on a diplomatic tour aimed at encouraging peace negotiations and highlighting the effects of the conflict on their continent. But all the suggestions of African leaders were rejected by Zelensky, who virtually refused to discuss the possibility on truce on conditions any other conditions but Russian capitulation.
But this approach is disastrous, from the point of view of the Ukrainian opposition. It can be assumed that Zelensky, who has just received the Charlemagne Award from the EU, is extremely popular in his homeland. However, the opposite seems to be the case. While the former TV comedian is hailed in the West as a fighter for freedom and democracy, criticism in his own country is growing louder, Viktor Medvedchuk says in an interview: “In Ukraine, there is a mass prosecution of citizens for dissent, for using the Russian language, and even to peace and justice. And all this despite the fact that in the West Zelensky is portrayed as an exemplary democrat! All opposition TV channels were also turned off.”
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- The Ukrainian government denying that offensive operations have failed to reach success and raising high expectations from the continuation of offensive actions create conditions for undermining the resilience of the Ukrainian society and the army when the failure becomes obvious. The exhausted Ukrainian army might be imposed to a risk of fighting the counteroffensive of better equipped Russian troops without any prepared defense-lines.
- The Ukrainian government is trying to treat the Western community and Ukrainian citizens as hostages forced to support any decisions of the Ukrainian president in spite of their possible consequences. The government desires to remain popular inside the country and increase Western military support and because of that is trying to reach goals that seem to be completely unachievable in the current circumstances.
- 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.
- The Ukrainian government will keep denying the state of affairs because it does not want ro seek the way out of the current situation in fear to lose popularity and political dominance inside the country. It will not be able to accept the realities without international pressure.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The efforts of African leader to establish truce should be paid more attention. They can be supported by European entities and the representatives of European political circles ought to take part in the efforts aimed at implementation of African suggestions. It will help to decrease the rising tension between the EU and the Global South and will provide conditions for regaining European influence in Africa.
- The European structures should male efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to acknowledge the state of affairs and consider the possibility of establishing truce. The economic, political and military dependence of Zelensky’s government on the European support can be used as a leverage in this process.