Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects in Ukraine (08.02.23-24.02.23)
The political situation in Ukraine and the activity of the most important political actors has been determined recently by the urgent need to obtain new weapon systems and ammunition.
The Munich Security Conference has clearly shown that it was the Western countries do not want Russia to succeed in the war against Ukraine and most of them are willing to provide financial aid and military equipment to Ukraine to strengthen its ability to withstand aggression.
But it has also become obvious that there is no unified approach in the West to such important issues as the desired level of support of Ukrainian resilience and the final goals of this policy.
Besides most of the countries of of the non-Western world regard the war in Ukraine as a threat to global geopolitical stability and economic security. They want the conflict to be ended as soon as possible as do not consider the defeat of Russia on the battlefield to be a desired result.
In this case the protraction of the war in Ukraine in order to achieve the evident defeat of Russia can hamper the relations between the Western countries and the non-Western world, particularly with the the Global South. The Munich Security Conference made it clear that these relations have strategic importance to the West and may influence its disposition in the global system.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government insists on the continuation of the war until the complete defeat of Russia. At the Munich Security Conference Zelensky compared Ukraine with biblical David, fighting Goliath, and urged the West to provide David with the sling which he needs to overcome his foe. Zelensky explicitly underlined that weapons and ammunition should be provided as soon as possible because “it is speed that life depends on”.
In recent weeks Kyiv has increased its calls for equipment it believes it needs to contend with intensified Russian military efforts. But although Ukraine has received a pledge of Western tanks, it has been admitted that they will not be able to reach the battlefield for months. The delivery of much-needed ammunition is going to become even more difficult problem.
It has been reported that the White House has concerns about Europe’s ability to provide artillery ammunition to Ukraine. Some of the European countries have already declared that their stockpiles are almost completely drained and the production can hardly be intensified.
In Munich, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appealed for “a permanent production of the most important weapons” but there can be serious doubts that such a request can be fulfilled in the near future. Alina Polyakova, head of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., supposes that in the current circumstances Ukraine cannot be sufficiently supplied with ammunition and questions the ability of the U.S. defense industry to “pivot fast enough” and fill the gap (1).
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy urged the countries with modern tanks that to deliver them to Ukraine as fast as possible (2).
But although Leopard 2 tanks pledged by Western partners to Kyiv have already started arriving, for the time being their amount will remain inappropriate to change the situation on the battlefield.
Shortage of necessary weaponry and military equipment undermines Ukrainian plans for spring offensive. Moreover, it hinders the ability of Ukrainian forces to counter increasing military activity of Russia. Less than quarter of pledged tanks are likely to arrive in time to confront the Russian offensive which can be expected in the late spring (3).
Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence express conviction that the the West does not have a significant number of tanks, which could be quickly delivered to Ukraine, and acknowledged that the tank coalition is having problems. He also ruled out the rapid delivery of fighter jets and stated that Britain hand over the planes only after the end of the war (4).
Ukraine was also advised to solve the problem of ammunition shortage by increasing the accuracy and precision of fire (5).
Lack of common ground of understanding what should be the final result of confronting the Russian aggression seems to be even more important threat to the unified actions of the West than the inability to increase supply of weaponry and ammunition.
Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby stressed in his recent briefing that the US administration has proved its readiness to stand with Ukraine for “as long as it takes” to repel Russia (6).
But there seems to be disagreement between the Ukrainian government and the US administration in their interpretation of the military achievements that will allow to put an end to the conflict.
Zelensky and his close associates declare that the war may come to an end only after the liberation of all the territories within internationally recognized borders of Ukraine including the Crimea. US secretary of state Blinken expressed in a private call with experts his hesitation about a possible Ukrainian offensive for the peninsula and underlined that an attempt to regain the Crimea might become a “red line“. But these concerns of the US administration are ignored by the Ukrainian president who has made clear that he is not going to negotiate until all of Ukraine’s territory is restored (7).
Such declarations of the Ukrainian government, unwillingness of the US administration to contradict them publicly, the desire of Putin’s regime to gain an obvious victory over the West ensure that the war will stretch into the distant future.
In that case the geopolitical situation of the EU will deteriorate and it might lose the ability to improve its connections and communications with the Global South, which seem to be crucial to European future.
The peace plan of China should be considered not as a set of recommendations intended for practical implementation but as a demonstration of Chinese aspiration for peace, willingness of China to act as a mediator in reconciliation of armed conflicts and its desire to create a new system of global security (8).
The prolongation of the war in Ukraine may help China and other influential non-Western states to diminish the Western influence at the global level.
Due to the political reasons, President Zelensky cannot withdraw its promise to liberate all the Ukrainian territories and end the war with the complete military defeat of Russia.
Therefore the US administration has urgently pressed the Ukrainian government to consolidate its gains and launch its own counterstrike. The White House has been reported to believe that Ukraine should prepare for the offensive as soon as possible European because the US administration fears that the support provided to Ukraine by its neighbors could be finite (9).
Thanks to the visit to Kyiv of the president for the United States, Zelensky’s political positions have strengthened. For the first time, at the highest level, the US administration has confirmed Kyiv’s statement that Ukraine is fighting for the freedom and security of the Western world. But Zelensky has to prove that he is a successful military leader in order to preserve popularity and public support. Because of shortage of the resources needed for the successful offensive Zelensky and his associates have to raise the stakes promising more gains and complete destruction of Russia.
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Danilov Speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the invasion assured that the Ukrainian tanks will be on Red Square in Moscow (10).
According to reliable sources Ukrainian farmers will not be able to carry out a sowing full campaign even in regions unaffected by the war due to the labor shortage caused by mobilization and emigration. The prolongation of the war conflict will badly damage the Ukrainian grain export even if the grain deal is maintained.
Russia keeps on concentrating the resources needed to continue intensive military activity. However, there are no signs of the upcoming large-scale operations aimed at achieving a strategic victory. Contrary to the predictions of some Ukrainian and Western experts, no large-scale offensive was launched on the anniversary of the aggression.
Forecast of the development of current trends:
1. There can be little doubt that the political necessity combined with the external pressure may force the Ukrainian government to launch an offensive. But it has already become evident that Ukraine will not be able to obtain necessary ammunition, weaponry and military equipment to have a good chance of achieving success.
2. There is a threat of a new wave of mass emigration by the end of the year, provoked by wartime difficulties and deterioration of social environment.
3. The prolongation of the conflict will lead to the disruption of the sowing campaign and because of that to a slump in grain exports and a deterioration of the economic situation.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
The national governments of European countries have proved unable to propose plans for peaceful resolution of the conflict. Therefore, such plans should be developed by public and political organizations. Otherwise, the most influential countries of the non-Western world, particularly China will try to use the current situation to increase its influence on the Global South.
The EU should get prepared for a new decline in the Ukrainian economy and the deterioration of the social situation in order to prevent the upcoming wave of mass emigration.