1. Half year of the war’s active phase analysis
The full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine has been highly probable since 2014. However, Ukraine’s government has not managed to fully strengthen the country’s defensive abilities.
When making plans for the invasion, russian military-political power was counting on Ukraine’s unpreparedness to oppose the full-scale russian invasion as well as its widespread network of secret agents.
The russian government, being a hostage of its colonial stereotypes, underestimated all three aspects of war (according to Clausewitz): Ukraine’s government, army, and people. They were expecting the government to run away or hide, armed forces to disperse or switch to their side, and people to sit down fearfully or even greet the «liberators» with flowers.
When starting the full-scale invasion, russia aimed to achieve the following:
- To destroy Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty via Kyiv’s government change or step-by-step incorporation as it happened with Belarus. Or via turning Ukraine into a failed state similar to Libya or Syria.
- To weaken Ukraine’s armed forces («demilitarization»).
- To stop and reverse back the establishing processes of Ukraine’s identity by including it in the «russian world» system (Ukraine’s «denazification», removal of patriotic movements, and silencing of russian-Ukrainian war veterans).
- To protect the so-called «DNR» and «LNR» (it was proclaimed as a legitimate goal of the war).
- To obtain a land corridor to occupied Crimea and Transnistria, cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea, and capture new regions.
- To get back its superpower status.
On other hand, after the war has begun, Ukraine wanted to achieve the following targets:
- To restore control over its territories as of February 24, 2022.
- To bring back all territories occupied by russia including Donbas and Crimea; get reparation from russia.
- To destroy the russian empire to preserve a long-lasting peace.
- To change the way how the West treats Ukraine from a neutral-indifferent to a Ukraine supporter; get a deserved place in the international security and economy system (EU, NATO, and other organizations memberships, for example, the Baltic-Black Sea Axis with Great Britain).
Over the half year, Ukrainians’ proactive patriotism has been the main factor in opposing the russian aggression: it led to establishing the Territorial Defense forces, armed forces mobilization, and a large volunteer movement.
Since February, the war turned into a prolonged phase that may last for a long time with periodic short offensive campaigns on the particular sections of the frontline, making sides employ trench warfare tactics.
2. Current tendencies
Until June, Ukraine only reacted to the enemy’s actions. Starting from July, it managed to turn the tide, making russians counter our initiatives. For example, by moving forces to cover endangered frontline sections instead of following their offensive plans.
In April, russia shortened the frontline to concentrate forces in particular directions. Therefore, Ukraine has to make the war theatre broader, pushing the enemy to disperse. The following agenda points are normalizing the situation in Transnistria and preemptive actions in Belarus.
There are sufficient supplies from the West for holding russians but not for a quick counteroffensive because of a few reasons:
- The USA itself possesses limited amounts of modern military equipment; in some European countries, the equipment inventory is critically low.
- The US cares about possible China’s actions. Therefore, Washington has to move forces to the far East.
- The West is cautious of russia’s nuclear power.
Dangerous russia’s nuclear terrorism has been provoked by the Budapest memorandum when Ukraine’s nuclear status was taken away for empty promises.
More British and US politicians start to consider russia’s nuclear terrorism a trigger of NATO’s article 5.
Turning the war into a prolonged phase causes a large impact on the economies. It is critical for the sides to establish wartime economies and keep control of the internal affairs. However, it seems Ukraine’s government tries to maintain the pre-war economy by implementing the EU-recommended «reforms». Ukraine’s budget is critically dependent on the West’s grants that cover military expenses, social spending, etc. Ukraine needs to raise its own money while creating new jobs for people far from the frontline. Exporting food is one such source; however, it requires alternative logistics approaches other than the risky seaways. At the same time, we need to diversify the economic growth points: information technologies, the military-industrial complex (branding as «tested in Ukraine», capturing russia’s military market share), a new taxation system, using Ukraine’s popularity to attract large and small investors.
Russia’s economy is struggling under sanctions. Its problems will deepen as coal and oil sanctions come into effect. Meanwhile, it may justify the general mobilization: people will face a choice between poverty and having a chance to loot or getting compensation in case of death.
As both sides lack resources, the essential component of the prolonged war is keeping the diplomatic and military-political support:
- For Ukraine – from the US, Great Britain, Poland, and Baltic states.
- For russia – to create a kind of anti-American coalition as russia cannot produce enough equipment anymore (particularly, unmanned aerial vehicles and high-precision rockets).
3. Predictions and recommendations
To win a long-lasting war, one side must convince another’s people and army that it is impossible to achieve a military victory. Ukraine has to conduct a total war, meaning the war on all possible fronts: military, diplomatic, economic, and informational.
Over the last half year, russia’s economy has been suffering under sanctions and will endure long-term catastrophic damage. However, the US and EU must act stronger by halting russian energy imports while negotiating a global supply increase with OPEC members and possibly with Iran. Nuclear energy is another vital topic. In April 2022, the European Commission included nuclear and gas power stations to the EU’s «Green Taxonomy», officially recognizing them as environmentally sustainable activities for investors.
As of today, financial and exporting sanctions have been the most efficient against the russian economy. At the moment, Kyiv must put effort to convince the West to have russia’s frozen assets transferred to Ukraine (about $350 billion). Also, russia is limited in its ability to make money international transfers because of the sanctions against commercial banks as well as the partial SWIFT disconnection.
Many factors will cause a weakening impact on Ukraine’s economy. A few months after the full-scale invasion, the economy could rely on high consumer product inventory and the National Bank’s currency reserves. To avoid further inflationary pressure, currency devaluation, and dropping living standards, it is essential to have the West increase financial aid.
Given Ukraine’s 30-40% GDP slump this year, the economy’s healthy functioning is a critical factor in our country’s survivability. Also, the government must motivate refugees to come back home; according to UN data, over 6 million people left Ukraine.
Russia will keep putting pressure on the food issue, trying to get a stronger negotiating position. Western countries have already shown that they are willing to make concessions to unblock the transporting routes.
The winter of 2022-2023 is going to be the hardest for Ukraine from an energy standpoint. No doubt, power stations will soon become the main targets of russia’s rockets.
Full dependence on the allies’ military supplies is highly critical for Ukraine. Kyiv must ensure a minimum level of its production of ammo, maintenance of the artillery systems, and high-precision missiles (for example, «Neptoon» and «Hrim»). The economy has to be fully transitioned to a wartime mode. Ukraine has to set objectives: a military tax on the Ukrainian oligarchs and the government sector priority.
In the next phase, russia will reinforce the informational component to influence civilians far from the frontline. It will try to spread the notion that Ukraine is unable to achieve victory, provoking social unrest due to the worsening economic situation.
Therefore, it is critical that Ukraine not just succeeds on the battlefield (recapturing Kherson, Donbas) but also moves the war to the enemy’s territory (primarily from the informational perspective). The steps should include:
- Sanctions reinforcement, spreading them onto other industries.
- Russia’s division by pushing the factor of its internal differences, further convincing our allies that creating several states on the former «russia’s» land is possible by using existing social-economic disproportions between russia’s regions, national conflicts, and supporting non-russian nations.
Yurii Syrotiuk, Director, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»
Yurii Oliinyk, Head of Research Programs, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions», PhD in Political Sciences
Andriy Mokhnyk, People’s Deputy of Ukraine of the 7th convocation, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resouces of Ukraine in 2014
Oleksandr Chupak, expert of NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»
Volodymyr Tylishchak, expert of NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions», deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory
Andriy Kholiavka, historian, political analyst
English adaptation: Oleksandr Chupak