Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (20.03-27.03)
The political situation in Ukraine is currently determined by the lack of the opportunity to carry out the offensive that Zelensky promised. The anticipation of the offensive allowed to increase the willingness of society to endure the hardships of war. Now that this factor has disappeared, the government is compelled to try to find a replacement for it. For this purpose it increases the rigorousness of its foreign policy statements and intensifies pressure on political and religious groups that have been declared internal enemies.
Zelensky has to admit that the offensive, which was planned for spring, is going to be postponed because The Ukrainian Armed Forces are not able to launch in the current conditions. The President complained that the Ukrainian army did not have enough weapons and urged the Western partners of Ukraine to increase military support dramatically because the Russian industry is expected to produce up to three times more missiles a day than the Ukrainian one (1).
Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic supposes that Ukraine does not have strong chances for a successful counteroffensive at the moment. And if Ukraine’s offensive fails it will not have an opportunity to make a new attempt and will have to face dangerous war scenarios (2).
Zelensky is trying to convince the Ukrainian public opinion that he failed in launching an offensive not due to a faulty strategy, but to circumstances unrelated to the actions of the government. Therefore, he is trying to demonstrate that the refusal to negotiate a truce and the call to continue hostilities until the fulthe complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, were absolutely justified.
The Ukrainian government used Putin’s trip to Mariupol for the derogatory remarks about him and new demands of total withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine (3).
It seems probable that such a reaction was anticipated by Putin who wanted to demonstrate both Ukrainian unwillingness to start negotiations on ceasefire and his resolution not to give up territory captured by Russian. This gesture was also used to show Russian eagerness to establish on conditions ahead of the arrival of Xi Jinping.
This trip provoked some high-ranking Ukrainian officials into making insulting remarks which was aimed to show their desire to make impossible any communications with the Kremlin. Mykhailo Podolyak , an adviser to President Zelensky wrote on Twitter that Putin’s visit made clear his cynicism and lack of remorse and compared him with the criminal who returned to the crime scene (4).
Perhaps such comments can be useful for Ukrainian internal politics. But they make it difficult for Ukraine to interact with countries that do not want to break off relations with Russia, including with China. The Ukrainian government also directly criticized China’s foreign policy in relation to the meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping.
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Danilov stressed: “If China openly supplies weapons to Russia, it will actually take part in the war on the side of the aggressor.” (5).
Zelensky also expressed skepticism about the peace plan presented by China, pointing out that “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity” should be a priority (6).
Meanwhile Putin praises China as the only major geopolitical actor that strives to end war. Putin has also declared that China could succeed in ending the hostilities if Ukraine and West were ready for peace (7).
It is no wonder that Beijing despite its desire to become a mediator in establishing truce has been refraining from any interactions and negotiations with Ukraine. Zelensky had to acknowledge that despite that Beijing was given an appropriate “clear signal” through diplomatic channels, it has shown any desire yet to start talks with Ukraine (8).
Contrary to the anticipations of the Ukrainian government Xi Jinping did not ask to meet Zelensky after summit with Putin. Though Zelensky according to his own words had made it clear that he wanted to speak with Xi Jinping after his visit to Moscow (9).
Mykhailo Podolyak admitted that Volodymyr Zelensky would like to have a conversation with Xi Jinping is planned, but the Ukrainian government faced certain difficulties in organizing such negotiations (10).
The harsh foreign police declarations are combined with the pressure on the possible opponents in order to prevent the emergence of social protest. The Ukrainian government is going on with rge attempts to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and make its clerics leave the sites of religious importance.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a report in which it is stated that that searches by Ukrainian security forces in the buildings of the UOC may have a “discriminatory nature.” OHCHR documented searches conducted by the SBU as “security measures” in several monasteries, offices, educational facilities and other property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). OHCHR supposes that official actions targeting the UOC could be discriminatory and recalls the necessity of protecting human rights, including the right for fair trial (11).
The concerns of the Ukrainian government connected with the activity of political opponents can be determined not only by the failure of the promised offensive but also with the anticipations of the public discontent. As we have already warned the sowing campaign may be disrupted and the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine aknowledged that in its official announcements. According to Taras Vysotsky, Deputy Minister, there are risks of considerable reduction of acreage and up to 30% of the territories will remain unsown this year. Due to that there might be a significant decrease in the income of farmers and they will not be able to pay wages to their employees and will have to reduce production.
Ukrainian food exports are also going to face severe is logistics problems and if the grain deal is terminated Ukraine will have to diminish the volumes of its agricultural exports from 4.5-5.0 million tons to 0.6-1 million tons per month. According to approximate estimations, the disruption of the grain deal might diminish Ukrainian export revenues by 7 billion USD. It would in its turn cause a dramatic decrease on the revenues of the national budget (12).
Also, Ukrainian agricultural producers might not receive sufficient income go bankrupt even if the grain deal is maintained because it is used by profit is gained by Western grain traders. The grain deal was supposed to save the starving countries of Africa, but grain traders from Switzerland or Britain get Ukrainian wheat get for dumping prices and sell it twice more expensive deteriorating the financial problems of the Global South. And Ukrainian budget doesn’t receive the revenues in due amount because the money paid for Ukrainian grain disappear in the West. Despite that total Ukrainian agricultural exports last year can be estimated to reach 44 billion USD, 46% of it was proveided through offshore companies – what V. Medvedchuk claims in his article (13).
Ukrainian farmers are also facing the labor shortages caused by mobilization: there are no men left to drive tractors (14).
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
1. The Ukrainian government will proactively raise the level of the conflict in order to demonstrate to the public that it is completely confident in the final victory and is not afraid of a further escalation. The fact that Ukrainian forces did not even try to complicate Putin’s visit to Mariupol only shows that they were not provided with the relevant data by Western partners.
2. Ukraine keeps rejecting any truce or ceasefire plans that contradict peace conditions declared by Zelensky. Obviously, the public refusal to consider the Chinese plan irritated Beijing. Such an attitude to non-Western proposition can complicate Ukraine’s interaction with the Global South.
3. The grain deal should be maintained because its disruption will badly damage Ukrainian economy. At the same time it seems to be necessary to impose strict international control over Ukrainian grain export in order to ensure the return the export revenues to Ukraine and prevent Russian attempts to use the violation of the grain deal conditions for complicating relations between the West and the Global South.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- Since EU due to its own previous policy will have to keep on supporting Ukraine in any circumstances, it seems to be important to prevent any damage to the perception of Europe in the world that may be caused by Ukrainian internal politics. The Ukrainian government should be persuaded to stop oppressing its political opponents and religious confessions that are suspected in disloyalty.
- The European public opinion should be prepared for the increase of the financial assistance to Ukraine which is going to face the fall of the grain export revenues because of decreasing of production and possible disruption of the grain deal.
- It is important to push Ukrainian government to closer interactactions with countries of the Global South, because its current policy is threatening to increase misunderstanding between the Global South and the West.