Political activity, political impact of social problems and wareffects (14.12-28.12)
The Ukrainian political leadership would like to present Zelensky’s visit to the United States as the most important political event of the recent months. It is claimed that the visit proves the paramount and sincere desire of the US administration to ensure a military victory for Ukraine.
Such a position, which seems not fully corroborated by the real results of the visit, is necessary for the associates and allies of the president to secure his dominant position on the Ukrainian political scene.
The assertion that Zelensky is regarded as “the defender of free world” by the US administration will be used to silence political opponents and suppress proponents of peace negotiations. Therefore the presidential office is exaggerating the closeness and significance of personal connections between Biden and Zelensky. Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, declared that Zelensky “cemented his bond with the US president” and with senior US Republicans. According to Yermak, ,”there is a very warm personal relationship between the two presidents,” and Ukraine first time in its history has become a close strategic partner of the United States.(1).
Such proclamations are needed to draw public attention to the international role of the Ukrainian president and justify his attempts to obtain an unrestricted political leadership inside the country. The activities of the president as the national military leader has become the other way of justification of his pretensions to the political dominance.
It should be noted that Zelensky signed the bill to reform the Constitutional Court, which was previously adopted by the parliament on his way from the front-line city of Bakhmut to Washington. The new law, which the Venice Commission recommended to change, gives the government the opportunity to gain influence in the appointment of judges of the Constitutional Court judges. The president chose to ignore the Venice Commission’s recommendation in order to get control over the only institution that currently restricts his political power. (2)
The concentration of power in the hands of the president is accepted by the Ukrainian society because it expects that it would help to achieve a military victory in the near future. The government make efforts to promote this hope and promises that the Russian army would suffer defeat in the forthcoming year. In his speech to US Congress Zelensky compared battles of Bakhmut and Saratoga and predicted that Bakhmut would become a turning point in the war (3).
Yermak expressed confidence that the “next year really will be victory year“ and the Ukrainian troops will be able to recapture all the territory occupied by Russia (4).
In spite of that there seems to be a high probability that these hopes would remain unfulfilled because the Russian military command managed to stabilize the front and strengthen the defence lines (5).
Besides Ukrainian army lacks the resources needed for the large scale military operations and there’s no reason to believe that the current situation will be changed in the near future. So the government might soon fall into the trap and forced to choose between growing public discontent caused by the lack of significant military achievements and further restriction of political democracy.
The situation would become less precarious if the ceasefire was established. But both Russia and Ukraine refuse to negotiate a truce agreement without preliminary conditions unacceptable to the other side.
The Ukrainian government in addition to its demands of withdrawal of Russian troops from the all the regions of Ukraine including the Crimea has started to insist on “the maximum punishment” of Russian political and military leaders responsible for the outbreak of the war. (6)
In its turn Moscow demands recognition of its sovereignty over the occupied territory of Ukraine in order to start negotiations with Ukraine. (7)
The opposing sides appear to be incapable to achieve truce or establish ceasefire without strong international pressure which cannot be provided without active participation of the leading EU countries.
Both Kyiv and Moscow can succumb to the external demands to start truce negotiations because of the increasing costs of the war. Ukrainian electricity grid remains prone to repeated blackouts after sustained Russian bombing. Even limited strikes can now cause widespread power outages due to the cumulative effect of continuous bombardment.
On the other hand further attacks on infrastructure facilities located located deep inside Russia might make the Russian government seek ways to stop the fighting not only because of the damage inflicted by such attacks but also due to their political impact.
The forecast of development of current trends in 2023:
1. It seems unlikely that Ukraine will acquire resources needed for a large scale offensive. Because of this the Ukrainian government will try to restrict the democratic institutions in order to maintain social stability. It will increase the institutional weaknesses which remains the most severe problem of the Ukrainian state. It will also increase social tension and pave the way for autocratic tendencies. Political democracy has already been limited in Ukraine without any justified cause. Despite the fact that martial law has been introduced in the country, the administrative pressure on large companies and personal sanctions imposed by the government without judgment of the court on political opponents appear to be morally unacceptable and strategically dangerous. Due to the current political reasons one of the main religious organizations, – administered Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was affiliated with Moscow Patriarchate until May, 27, now is under threat of an official banning.
2. Neither Ukraine, nor Russia will be able to conduct significant offensive operations. Consequently, both the Ukrainian and Russian government will become more inclined to start negotiations on ceasefire and truce. If the front line does not change in first half of the next year, then in case of strong international pressure, the opportunity for negotiations will appear.
3. The social situation in Ukraine will seriously deteriorate due to the destruction of Ukrainian energy infrastructure. The Ukrainian government will request more financial assistance every month in order to cover operating expenses. The number of Ukrainian refugees in European countries will grow dramatically. The leading EU states might face economic problems if longstanding truce in Ukraine is not established.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
1. The emergence of instruments of international pressure on the opposing sides should be promoted, and influential non-aligned countries need to be involved in this process. ·
2. The attempts to restrict democratic institutions has to be anticipate and prevented. The Ukrainian government should be deprived from justification of using pressure on its political opponents.