Russian aggression – a threat to the global order


It has been four weeks of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russian forces have managed to reach deep into Ukraine’s territory. But because of the lack of resources, remote and stretched communications (food, fuel), the advance is struggling, and capabilities to fight Ukrainians are limited.

After the blitzkrieg plan totally failed, Moscow is shifting to more exhausting battles. Tired Russian forces must choose between attacking attempts without protecting backsides or holding to occupied positions.

According to Ukraine’s army data, as of March 25, 16,100 Russians were killed, wounded – over 50,000, about 600 were captured. Therefore, about 67,000 Russian servicemen have lost their readiness to fight, constituting over 30% of the group prepared for the invasion along Ukraine’s borders (190,000). Other losses: armored vehicles – 1652, tanks – 561 (over 40% of the equipment prepared for the invasion). Aircraft losses are especially critical: jets – 115, helicopters – 125 (49 % of the invasion group). Rocket missiles are running out: Russia has used over 1,200 rockets.

Being unable to win by purely military means, Kremlin resorts to large-scale terror against peaceful citizens by killing civilians, bombing schools, churches, and hospitals. For instance, when shelling Sloviansk on March 21, Russian forces used white phosphorus munitions forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

The aggressor openly breaks the wartime rules, covers itself with Ukrainian and white flags, and tries to gather civilians for fake evacuations to put them in front of tank columns.

As of March 25, according to the UN data, 1035 civilians have died, and 1650 have been wounded. However, actual numbers may be multiple times higher as it is complicated to count the losses near the fighting areas. Most of the casualties occur after shellings and bombings of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Mariupol. Foreign citizens and students (80 Turkish students in Mariupol) are endangered.

A humanitarian catastrophe of the European scale is unfolding. According to the UN, over 3 million Ukrainians have left the country, primarily to the bordering EU states.

Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia in the International Court of Justice as Russia is breaking the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 38 states have joined the lawsuit (including Great Britain, Poland, Japan, and Canada).

The scale of sanctions against Russia has broken all possible records, exceeding even North Korea and Iran. Limitations touch all spheres, from closing the airspace to freezing central bank reserves. Right now, Russia is absolutely voluntarily fencing off with an iron curtain.

An entire state is committing economic suicide before our eyes. Russia is not only making no effort to avoid sanctions; conversely, it makes life harder for foreign businesses. On March 11, Moscow confirmed that they intend to nationalize properties with over 25% of foreign ownership. As former president Dmitry Medvedev stated, «anyone who decides to leave Russia’s market must understand that it will be much harder to come back.»

However, Russians’ phony bravery contradicts reality. Last 30 years, Moscow has been firmly tying its economy with the rest of the world, grounding its growth in a positive trade balance primarily by exporting energy. The US and Great Britain have already refused to buy Russian oil and gas, and the EU states are discussing such steps. Japan’s Eneos Holding stopped purchasing Russian oil too. With SWIFT disconnection and other financial sanctions, the Russian economy will travel a few decades back, approximately to the late USSR times.

Regardless of how strong the Kremlin wants to show itself, Moscow’s ministers are likely already looking for alternative energy markets. The first obvious option is China, which has complicated relationships with the West. Russia will likely increase energy exports to China in the coming months, but relationships between the two states will change. Even today, the official Chinese propaganda calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine. From now on, Beijing will think twice before deepening cooperation with a terrorist state and attracting problems from the rest of the world. Moreover, contrary to Europeans, China does not heavily depend on Russian energy, importing 15% of oil and 5% of gas from Russia (as compared to the EU’s 45%).

There will not be any equal partnerships between powerful China and depressive Russia. Being one of a few alternatives to the aggressor, Beijing will dictate its own rules and use the Russian economy however it wants to, by getting cheap energy and selling expensive products.

The availability of the Chinese imports will define the Kremlin’s capability to keep the war going. Today Russian industries are already forced to stop production due to a lack of imported components. Its military-industrial complex suffers too. For instance, high-tech equipment production in Russia depends on imported semiconductors, which are patented mainly by the US companies; they have already been a subject of the trade embargo. Therefore, the Russian military-industrial complex is facing an unpleasant disruption of production cycles that is going to weaken the aggressor’s capabilities in the long run. «Uralvagonzavod,» the only plant that assembles tanks, has already stopped due to this problem.

Russia is being hit by a boomerang. For many years the Kremlin was using a gas needle, trade cooperation for political pressure and intimidation of the European partners, and paid a lot of money to spread disunity and disinformation inside the West. Now Moscow has a chance to prove that it has a self-reliant economy.

The weakening of Russia, which swiftly loses its people and modern equipment in Ukraine, is noticeable to all neighbors. Even pro-Putin experts have to admit it. After Japanese premier Fumio Kishida and other officials talked about the ownership of South Kuril islands (Shikotan, Kunashir, Iturup, and Habomai), the war propagandists started yelling about the nuclear war threat. Interestingly, even the propaganda portal Topcor ru admits that the strongest part of the Russian army (200,000) is located on the Ukraine front. It means that the Far East and Siberia are stripped bare. Lone ships and submarines will not be able to resist the Japanese airforce and Maritime Self-Defence Force. Then we can compare if Russians fight against samurai descendants as effectively as against hospitals.

Putin may possibly resort to mobilization, but it is risky too. The mobilized men need months of training. If they are merely sent to battle unprepared, it will speed up the economic system collapse, as it happened during the Afghanistan war for the USSR.

The last Kremlin’s tool is nuclear intimidation, which will come in line with the capture of Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhya power plants. Putin wants to revive the Soviet empire, which means splitting Europe and holding control with nuclear intimidation. But it does not mean the impossibility of nuclear potential usage as a mass-destruction weapon to break an enemy’s defense and capture the land. The USSR’s strategic plans included using tactical atomic warheads against NATO forces along the shoreline from Denmark to Strasburg, Netherlands, Belgium, and Western Germany. Then Soviet tanks were to move West, as written in the «7 days to Rhine» command and general staff training plan.

In 2020, Putin signed a document called «Fundamentals of Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence State Policy» that expands the reasons for nuclear weapon uses, for example, placing on Russia’s neighboring territories of a potential enemy not only nuclear, but also short and mid ranged missiles, hypersonic, high-precision non-nuclear weapons, and combat drones. Also, using mass-destruction tools is possible in case of non-nuclear aggression against Russia, which threatens the state’s existence; the decision is to be made by the government.

A lot depends on the Moscow elites, who almost openly protest Russia’s blockade that quickly leads to economic collapse. Putin has nothing to lose, but people around him do. Only stiff pressure is needed to change the Kremlin government and avoid global catastrophe. In Moscow’s eyes, compromise is a weakness, and it is time to show strength.


Yurii Oliinyk, Head of Research Programs, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»

Oleksandr Chupak, expert, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»




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