Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (29.09-03.10)
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The current main task of the Ukrainian government appears to be in persuading Ukrainian public that an increase of the Western support and the EU membership will be granted to Ukraine in spite of growing disagreements on these issues in the European and US political circles. To achieve this goal the government will try to keep on offensive actions despite the danger of wasting resources beyond its ability to withstand a possible Russian assault in the upcoming winter. The government will also make efforts to obtain an official promise of the EU admission and establish a time frame of negotiation process.
It is extremely important for Zelensky to be regarded as the only political leader who can guarantee an unceasing military and financial aid from the US administration and its allies. The decision of President Biden to make the congressional budget deal that excluded further military funding became a a severe political blow to Zelensky.
If the US administration cannot find a way to maintain the promised level of military support, political dominance of Zelensky and his associates will be irrevocably undermined. Meanwhile, hardline Republicans oppose further military aid. Though President Biden said on October 1, that Ukraine could “count on” US support, the US administration cannot be expected to completely ignore the Republican’s approach to the war, risking to start a confrontation with the House of Representatives during the election campaign. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-66977467
Moreover, a CNN poll conducted in August showed that most Americans oppose the authorization of additional funding to support Ukrainian war-efforts. There has been a visible shift in public attitude since the similar poll conducted in the early days of the war, in February 2022. https://www.yahoo.com/news/t-alone-ukrainians-react-lack-024111179.html
The opponent of the increase of financial and military support to Ukraine gained victory in Slovak parliamentary election on September, 30. Leader of the Direction – Social Democracy party (commonly referred to as Smer) Robert Fico, who won an opportunity to form a new government, has vowed not to send a “single round” of ammunition to Ukraine.
Inside the EU Fico can ally with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn to oppose further European support for Ukraine. The Ukrainian relations with Poland, once the most resolute Ukrainian partners, deteriorated and the dispute over Ukrainian grain exports has sharply exacerbated the contradictions. https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-puts-on-brave-face-as-west-goes-wobbly/
In the current circumstances the Ukrainian government can maintain its political dominance only by the continuation of offensive actions despite that there is no prospect of any accomplishments. The current task of the Ukrainian offensive may be described as a demonstration of the confidence that there is no reason to doubt the persistent Western support and a decisive military success.
Prominent expert on International Relations argues in his article in “The New Statesman” that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has never been launched in reality and has been organized not as a n a meaningful military operation, but as a staged media spectacle. https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2023/09/the-postmodern-theatre-of-the-ukrainian-counter-offensive
This approach the intentions of the Ukrainian government seems to be relevant only in the current circumstances. Zelensky and his associates had hoped that the Russian defense would collapse due to the low moral of the troops. Despite that these expectations was not fulfilled, the Ukrainian government has been compelled to keep on senseless offensive actions due to political reasons. But due to its inability to provide good governance and effective resources management Zelensky’s government has always prioritize symbolic gesture over practical achievements.
This approach has been once more clearly proved by government’s plans of development of the defense industries which has been revealed recently.
The Ukrainian government has been criticized for its inability to organize manufacturing a sufficient number of mortars, mines and gunpowder, which does not require high-technologies or advanced production equipment and machinery. Meanwhile, mortars and mines are badly needed on the front line. Their shortage severely hinders the actions of troops. https://informator.ua/ru/vinovny-chinovniki-tratyashchie-milliony-na-h-nyu-boec-vsu-rasskazal-o-medlennom-kontrnastuplenii
Nevertheless, the First International Forum of Defence Industries that took place in Kyiv on September 29, was aimed at the production of military equipment that can be in demand beyond Ukrainian borders. Describing the results of the Forum, Zelensky paid special attention to his plans to make Ukraine “one of the key global producers of weapons and defence systems”. According to his statement, Ukraine, which is a recipient of security assistance now, is going to become a donor of global security thanks to the development of its defense industry. https://www.president.gov.ua/news/nasha-derzhava-mozhe-stati-j-obovyazkovo-stane-donorom-globa-85989
It is hard to tell now if these plans of the Ukrainian government should be regarded as comforting illusions or do they really reflect the intentions of the Western leaders to organize arms Manufacturing in Ukraine to help its economic development. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/28/world/europe/ukraine-arms-manufacturing-nato.html
But in any case in connection with the current situation the results of the Forum have more symbolic significance than practical implementation. The same also applies for the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv, on October 2. It can be regarded as an important gesture of support to the Ukrainian government, but the foreign ministers of the EU could not reach an agreement on the allocation of military assistance to Ukraine in the amount of 5 billion euros for the next year. In spite of that, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal described the meeting as “historic” and stressed that it “demonstrates the unshakable unity and solidarity of the European Union with Ukraine.” https://www.dsnews.ua/ukr/politics/ministry-es-soberutsya-na-sovet-iz-ukrainy-v-dekabre-02102023-487981
The Ukrainian government needs to persuade the public that the European support should be regarded as sign of the upcoming accession of Ukraine to the EU. In order to maintain this impression and accelerate the EU admission process the government is going to continue insisting on the immediate accession talks and rejecting all the compromise proposals as attempts to restrict Ukraine to obtaining “a second-class EU membership”. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal declared in his interview with POLITICO that Ukraine “has met all the criteria” to become a “fully fledged candidate for full fledged membership” of the EU and repulse all the alternative options. https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-wont-accept-second-class-eu-membership-pm-denys-shmyhal/
Meanwhile, it has become obvious that Ukrainian demands provoke a controversy inside the EU and threatens the EU relations with other countries which have been granted EU candidate status, especially the Western Balkans states.
It should be noted, that the Ukrainian government continues to demonstrate the approach to the social problems that contradicts the general principles and values of the EU. The most recent example of it is an appeal of Chairperson of the State Migration Service of Ukraine Natalia Naumenko to the EU countries. She asked the EU governments to terminate social programs aimed at social integration of the Ukrainian refugees. Naumenko explained that successful social integration will prevent Ukrainian families from returning home. https://focus.ua/uk/voennye-novosti/595820-migraciyna-sluzhba-poprosila-uryadi-inshih-derzhav-ne-integruvati-bizhenciv-z-ukrajini
This approached based on considering the welfare of citizens to be less important than the needs of the government can be changed under the European influence, but it requires substantial time and effort.
At the same time, there are signs that the Ukrainian government no longer intends to postpone or cancel the elections and has started to make preparations for the election campaign.
Zelensky appointed famous Ukrainian football player Andriy Shevchenko as his advisor. Shevchenko played for well-known European clubs AC Milan and Chelsea, won the Ballon d’Or and was named the best UEFA forward in 2006. https://newsukraine.rbc.ua/news/zelenskyy-appoints-ukrainian-football-legend-1695756153.html
Shevchenko is the only Ukrainian former sportsman whose domestic popularity can be compared with the popularity of Klitschko. Shevchenko’s endorsement can help Zelensky win support of a part of Klitscho’s target audience. Besides, Shevchenko’s connections in the European sport and entertainment industry might be used to engage in Zelensky’s campaign popular media-persons.
Forecasts for potential development of current trends:
- The Ukrainian government will try to obtain more gestures of international support and increase its demands for immediate start of the EU accession negotiations, regardless of the consequences of such actions. It can cause international tension inside the EU and aggravate the political situation in the US and the EU countries.
- The Ukrainian will not be able to cease offensive actions until it is compelled to do it under the pressure of its allies. If the offensive is not terminated in the near future the danger of military defeat of Ukraine due to the exhaustion of the troops will significantly grow.
- The government’s attempts to raise public expectations of an upcoming military success and the EU accession can postpone political crisis but are unable to prevent it completely. The suspension of the crisis can aggravate it if it coincides with further infrastructure destruction or deterioration of the situation on the battlefield causes by probable Russian counter-offensive.
Recommendations for the European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian government yields to international pressure even in the issues related to its political dominance. It has been proved by acknowledgment of the possibility of elections. It provides an opportunity to employ the European influence in order to stop destruction of democratic institutions and recommence public political competition.
- The gestures of support to the Ukrainian government should be provided in combination with demands for starting negotiation process aimed at establishing immediate ceasefire.