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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 360: Wagner Group suffered over 30,000 casualties in Ukraine

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 360: Wagner Group suffered over 30,000 casualties in Ukraine
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Kreminna is the most difficult section in the Luhansk Oblast in Donbas. Wagner Group has suffered over 30,000 casualties in Ukraine–White House. The US would welcome the decision of other countries to provide fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 18

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 18, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

The Russian Federation continues to wage its full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine. Russian forces do not stop destroying the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and continue to launch strikes and artillery attacks on civilian infrastructure and residences.

On February 17, the adversary launched 10 missiles and 29 air strikes, as well as 69 MLRS attacks.

The threat of further Russian air and missile strikes across Ukraine remains very high.

Russian forces are focusing their main efforts on offensive operations on Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarske axes.

On February 17, Ukrainian troops repelled the occupants’ attacks in the vicinities of settlements of Hryanykivka, Syn’kivka (Kharkiv oblast), Stel’makhivka, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna (Luhansk oblast), Vyimka, Fedorivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Rozdolivka, Paraskoviivka, Berkhivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Vesele, Vodyane, Mar’inka, Pobjeda, Novomykhailivka, and Vuhledar (Donetsk oblast).

Kharkiv Battle Map. February 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

[Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: Russian forces continue to hold certain units in the areas bordering Ukraine, but no offensive groups have been detected. The training of units of Russian troops continues at the training grounds of the Republic of Belarus. Russian forces do not stop mortar and artillery shelling of the positions of our units, as well as settlements along the state border of Ukraine.]

  • Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: The vicinities of settlements of Kolos (Chernihiv oblast), Mefedivka, Bachivs’k, Esman’, Kharkivka, Zaruts’ke, Kindrativka, Yunakivka, Zapsillya, Mais’ke, Mezenivka (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Hraniv, Kozacha Lopan’, Strilecha, Krasne, Borysivka, Vesele, Starytsya, and Krasne Pershe (Kharkiv oblast) were shelled.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axis: the adversary shelled more than 15 settlements. These include Hryanykivka, Kucherivka, Krokhmal’ne, Berestove (Kharkiv oblast), Pershotravneve, Nevs’ke, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna (Luhansk oblast), Kuz’myne, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. February 17, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: more than 20 settlements came under fire, including Razdolivka, Zaliznyans’ke, Paraskoviivka, Berkhivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, and New York (Donetsk oblast).
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes: artillery shelling was reported in the vicinities of 20 settlements. These include Avdiivka, Vodyane, Vesele, Pervomais’ke, Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, Bohoyavlenka, Velyka Novosilka, Zolota Nyva, Vuhledar, and Neskuchne (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 17, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: 25 settlements were attacked, including Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Bilohir’ya, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Orikhiv, Novoandriivka, Mali Shcherbaky, Stepove, Kam’yans’ke, and Prydniprovs’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 17, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Kherson axis: enemy artillery fire hit Kherson and the vicinities of 25 settlements, including Mykhailivka, Novooleksandrivka, Havrylivka, Zmiivka, Vesele, Kozats’ke, Ivanivka, Tokarivka, Mykil’s’ke, Sadove, and Antonivka (Kherson oblast).

[Russian forces continue to suffer losses. Thus, in the village of Kalanchak, Kherson Oblast, the occupiers converted the Central District Hospital into a military hospital and brought 36 dead and 18 wounded servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.]

On February 17, the Ukrainian Air Forces launched 5 air strikes on concentrations of Russian forces, as well as 1 air strike on the position of an anti-aircraft missile system.

Air defence forces shot down 6 enemy UAVs. According to preliminary information, they were 5 Lancet UAVs and 1 Zala UAV.

At the same time, missile and artillery units hit 3 concentrations of manpower of Russian forces and 1 S-300 anti-aircraft missile system at its firing position.

Military Updates

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1626763933594931202

Kreminna is most difficult section in Luhansk region, Ukrinform reports. “Kreminna has been lately the most difficult section in Luhansk region. The enemy has not advanced greatly there, but the number of assaults and strikes has increased, Serhiy Haidai, Head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, posted on Telegram.

According to Haidai, the Russians placed a powerful radio warfare station in the area which makes it difficult to use drones. The governor also added that the Russians had completely destroyed Novoselivske, Makiivka, and Kuzemivka settlements.”

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • Andrey Turchak, the leader of the Russian parliamentary group that is focused on the so-called Special Military Operation in Ukraine, stated on 16 February 2023 that the group had presented a report to Russian President Putin.
  • The report is likely to cover issues such as social support to those mobilised and their families. This issue is likely to become more salient if any further mobilisation (be it overt or tacit) takes place. Putin may well refer to these issues in his state of the nation address on 21 February 2023.
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to insulate the population from the war in Ukraine. A December 2022 Russian poll reported that 52% had either a friend or relative who had served in the so-called Special Military Operation.
  • Russian Ministry of Defence and private military contractor (PMC) forces have likely suffered 175-200,000 casualties since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. This likely includes approximately 40-60,000 killed. The Russian casualty rate has significantly increased since September 2022 when ‘partial mobilisation’ was imposed.
  • By modern standards, these figures represent a high ratio of personnel killed compared to those wounded. This is almost certainly due to extremely rudimentary medical provision across much of the force. Artillery has almost certainly inflicted the majority of Russia’s casualties.
  • Wagner PMC forces have deployed large numbers of convict-recruits. These have probably experienced a casualty rate of up to 50%.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine

As of Saturday 18 February, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 142270 (+1010)
  • Tanks – 3303 (+5)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6533 (+13)
  • Artillery systems – 2326 (+4)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 469 (+2)
  • Air defence means – 243 (+2)
  • Aircraft – 298 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 287 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5196 (+9)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2016 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 223 (+2)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 871 (+0)

Number of Russian soldiers killed increases five times in February – BBC, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Russian BBC branch. “Journalists state that during the last 14 days, the number of confirmed Russian losses has been five times higher than the usual weekly numbers, which can be a sign of an offensive that Russia started in Donbas.

Confirmed losses have begun to rise since the middle of December. Then during the whole year of 2022, Russian sources usually reported about 250-300 soldiers killed. These numbers doubled in January. Just in the two weeks of February, the Russian BBC service in conjunction with the Mediazona media outlet (considered a “foreign agent” in Russia) and a team of volunteers managed to confirm the names of 1,679 killed soldiers, which exceeds the usual weekly numbers five times. This is the biggest increase of the Russian personnel losses in all time of the Russian invasion.

And this is the information that we managed to find and check with the help of open sources, so the real number of losses is undoubtedly bigger. The open sources report about deaths of 1,121 mobilised Russians, 40% of whom died within the period from 1 January.”

White House: Wagner Group has suffered over 30,000 casualties in Ukraine, Reuters reports. “The Russian mercenary company Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, with about 9,000 of those fighters killed in action, the White House said on Friday. The United States estimates that 90% of Wagner group soldiers killed in Ukraine since December were convicts, White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a regular briefing.

Half of the overall deaths occurred since mid-December, as fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut intensified, an NSC spokesperson said, citing newly downgraded intelligence. Kirby said mercenary group had made incremental gains in Bakhmut in and around Bakhmut over the last few days, but those had taken many months to achieve and came at a devastating cost that is not sustainable.

It is possible that they may end up being successful in Bakhmut, but it will prove of no real worth to them because it is of no real strategic value, he said, adding that Ukrainian forces would maintain strong defensive lines across the Donbas region

Humanitarian 

Talks on extending Black Sea grain deal start in a week – Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Negotiations will start in a week on extending a UN-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia after its invasion, a senior Ukrainian official said on Friday. The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye last July allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports.

The agreement was extended by a further 120 days in November and is up for renewal again in March, but Russia has signalled that it is unhappy with some aspects of the deal and has asked for sanctions affecting its agricultural exports to be lifted.”

Agrarian Policy Ministry on Grain From Ukraine: Each ship provides food to 90,000 people, Ukrinform reports. “Grain From Ukraine is primarily a humanitarian initiative. Within its framework, it is planned to provide grain to countries that are on the brink of famine. Each ship with grain sent as part of Grain From Ukraine meets the food needs of an average of 90,000 people, the press service of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine informs.

It is noted that despite the war and all the difficulties associated with the full-scale invasion, Ukraine continues to take care of global food security. The Ministry notes that the fifth ship within Grain From Ukraine has been loaded at Chornomorsk port and will deliver 25,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya (port of Mombasa). Great Britain, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic paid for the purchase of grain, ship freight, logistics, and distribution of the specified delivery.”

Invaders stealing medical equipment from hospitals in left-bank Kherson region, Ukrinform reports. “The occupation authorities continue to take away medical equipment from the hospitals in the left-bank Kherson region to Novotroitske, Yuriy Sobolevskyi, first deputy chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, posted on Facebook.

It is noted that the difficult humanitarian situation is further aggravated as the enemy restricts the local population’s access to healthcare services.”

Number of Ukrainian children illegally taken to Russia could be 150,000, Ukrinform reports. “As of yesterday, there are 16,207 officially verified children in the territory of the Russian Federation. These are children that I, as the ombudsman, know about. I know which Ukrainian city these children are from and where they roughly stay in the territory of the Russian Federation. In reality, the number of such children is much higher. We assume that this number reaches about 150,000 children. Russia says that they keep 733,000 Ukrainian children in their territory. However, in our opinion, this figure is exaggerated, Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, [said].

According to him, most children were taken to Russia from the temporarily occupied regions, namely Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia regions and Crimea. Other violations were recorded there. […] According to him, Ukraine is now seeking to achieve legal recognition of the deportation of Ukrainian children during the war as genocide.

Why do we talk about genocide? Because forced displacement from one ethnic group to another is one of its signs under international law. They [Russians] take Ukrainian children who speak Ukrainian, move them to the territory of the Russian Federation, and say that they were never Ukrainian. They forbid the use of the Ukrainian language, do not issue documents, do not release children, Lubinets noted.

Meanwhile, people in the temporarily occupied territories are afraid to contact the Ukrainian authorities to inform them about such facts. The mere fact of contacting me can be interpreted as espionage. Their cynicism there simply goes off the scale, Lubinets emphasized.”

Court sentences Russian TV presenter, who called for drowning Ukrainian children, to 5 years in prison, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Based on Security Service of Ukraine’s materials, Ukrainian has sentenced Anton Krasovsky, former presenter and director of propaganda TV channel Russia Today (RT), to 5 years in prison with confiscation of property. […]

Krasovsky turned the Russian audience against Ukrainians and called for physical extermination of part of the Ukrainian nation. The Russian propagandist on his YouTube channel and in his own Telegram channel spoke derogatory things about the existence of Ukraine as an independent and sovereign state.”

Register of damage caused to Ukraine by Russian aggression will be created in Hague, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. “On 17 February, the Dutch government officially agreed to Ukraine’s proposal to establish an international organisation in the Hague called the Register of Damage Caused to Ukraine by Russian Aggression. The register will contain information on the damage caused by the war to Ukrainian citizens, businesses and the state.

The ministry explained that the register aims to become the first component of a comprehensive reparations mechanism designed to ensure that the aggressor state pays full reparations to Ukraine for the damage caused, in accordance with international law.”

Support

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister specifies which countries Ukraine is counting on for fighter jets, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Tagesschau. “Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has given clarifications on the request for western fighter jets. We would be especially interested in fighter jets from the US, UK, France and Germany, Kuleba said. These countries have the highest production capacities and the largest aircraft fleets, he said.

These aircraft can be used to shoot down Russian missiles and are important for counteroffensives. Oleksii Makeiev, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany, said that Ukraine is negotiating on fighter jets but not with Germany.”

Poland is considering handing over its MiG-29 to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrinform. “Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Poland is considering handing over its MiG-29s to Ukraine and joining the coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighters, if such a coalition were formed.

According to Duda, there is a problem in the issue of Poland’s provision of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, since there are simply not enough of them in Poland, taking into account the scale and overall potential of the country. He said that Poland is currently waiting for F-35 and FA-50 aircraft, purchased from the USA and South Korea.

This is a difficult moment for us, because we ourselves are waiting for the planes. Of course, if a broad aviation coalition is created among NATO countries, then we will certainly also join it. But we have to decide by what formula this will happen to discuss it with our allies“.

Bipartisan group of US lawmakers pressures Biden on fighter jets for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “Five members of the US House of Representatives, members of the Republican and Democratic parties, are pressuring President Joe Biden to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The officials state that the modern jets, which Kyiv has sought, but Biden’s administration has so far not agreed to, could prove decisive for control of Ukrainian airspace this year.

The provision of such aircraft is necessary to help Ukraine protect its airspace, particularly in light of renewed Russian offensives and considering the expected increase in large-scale combat operations, the lawmakers wrote. […] The lawmakers argue that fighter jets, either Lockheed Martin-manufactured F-16 or similar, would give Ukrainian troops more capabilities than ground-based artillery provided by the US and other nations.

F-16s or similar fourth generation fighter aircraft would provide Ukraine with a highly mobile platform from which to target Russian air-to-air missiles and drones, to protect Ukrainian ground forces as they engage Russian troops, as well as to engage Russian fighters for contested air superiority, they argued.”

White House: US would welcome decision of other countries to provide fighter aircraft to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The United States considers it the sovereign right of each state to make decisions on the supply of MiG-29 or other fighter aircraft to Ukraine, and the United States would welcome such decisions.

We have never dictated to another partner what they can or can’t give or on what timeline.  And if — if one of our allies and partners wants to provide fighter aircraft to President Zelensky, that’s certainly a sovereign decision that they have every right to make, and we would welcome that, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said at a press briefing on Friday, commenting on the possibility that Poland may give MiG-29 jets to Ukraine.”

France hands over AKERON ATGM to Ukraine, Mil.in.ua reports. “France has supplied the Ukrainian Armed Forces with Missile Moyenne Portée 5th generation missile anti-tank missile systems, also known as MMP or Akeron MP, however has not made it public. This was announced in an interview with Opexnews by Jean-Louis Thiériot, vice president of the Commission on National Defense and the Armed Forces of France.

According to the Vice President, as part of military assistance to Ukraine, an unnamed number of these ATGMs and missiles were transferred. It has not been publicly reported before.»

The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, to give Ukraine nearly 100 Leopard tanks, Ukrinform reports. “The Netherlands, together with Germany and Denmark, are planning to supply Ukraine with about 100 Leopard main battle tanks. This was announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, in Kyiv.”

First battalion of Ukrainian soldiers finishes training at US base in Germany, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN. “The first group of 635 Ukrainians finished a course at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, where the US conducts their own combined arms and manoeuvre training. The Ukrainian battalion also trained on the Bradley infantry combat vehicle. The training started in the middle of January and is a part of an extended program of the US preparing the Ukrainian military for combat.

Previously, the US has offered smaller-scale training on individual weapons systems, such as HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems. Switching to battalion-level training was a sign of a significant expansion of America’s efforts in preparing Ukrainians for a durable war.

The second group of 710 Ukrainian soldiers has started training at the Grafenwoehr Training Area. Soldiers will train on the Bradley infantry combat vehicle and the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer. Moreover, 890 more Ukrainian soldiers will start their training on the Stryker combat vehicles next week.”

The first Polish battalion will be formed in Ukraine: what will it do, Focus asks? “In addition to the Polish unit, a battalion of German citizens who want to resist Russian aggression against Ukraine will also be formed. Ukraine announced the intention to create the first Polish volunteer battalion, which will be subordinated to the Ministry of Defense. The Polish special unit will carry out reconnaissance and sabotage tasks, reports the Polish publication Onet. […]

The newspaper reports that the new unit will include Polish citizens with extensive military experience, as well as Polish volunteers. The battalion will cooperate with other similar units and will be engaged in reconnaissance and sabotage. […] The unit will not be part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, in which until now Polish volunteers fought side by side with volunteers from other countries, performing front-line tasks. It will be independent from this legion, a special unit subordinated directly to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine,” the publication quotes a representative of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. […]

It is reported that the new Polish unit will be called the Polish Volunteer Legion. The publication also reports that a similar unit is currently being formed from German citizens. The Polish, Belarusian and German units are focused on joint training and cooperation after each unit becomes independent. They also provide for the general use of specialists on various tasks.

It will be recalled that on February 14, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that 74 tanks would be handed over for the needs of the Ukrainian army . The Ukrainian army will be strengthened with 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks, as well as 30 T-72 and 30 PT-91 Twardy. The latest machine is a Polish deep modernization of the T-72.”

New Developments 

  1. Zelensky: ‘obvious’ Ukraine won’t be Putin’s last stop, quick arms supplies crucial, ReutersPresident Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday it was obvious Ukraine would not be the last stop of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, and that it was vital the West did not delay arms deliveries to help repel Russian forces. The Ukrainian leader told the Munich Security Conferenceby video link that while the West was negotiating supplies of tanks to Kyiv, the Kremlin was thinking of ways to “strangle” the former Soviet republic of Moldova which lies west of Ukraine. It’s obvious that Ukraine is not going to be his last stop. He’s going to continue his movement all the way … including all the other states that at some point in time were part of the Soviet bloc, Zelenskyy said.”
  2. Zelenskyy convinced that victory is achievable within this year: “We can do it faster”, Ukrainska PravdaPresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes that a quick victory for Ukraine with the liberation of all occupied territories is realistic. He emphasised that Ukraine would not make concessions during the liberation of the territories occupied by Russia since 2014. […] “Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes that the priority now is to provide Ukraine with assistance as quickly as possible, as Putin is counting on waning and division of the world’s support, which could lead to fatigue from the war in the world. Zelenskyy also warned that dragging out the war means more destruction, especially in eastern Ukraine.”
  3. Russia accuses United States of inciting Ukraine to escalate the war, ReutersRussia on Friday accused the United States of inciting Ukraine to escalate the war by condoning attacks on Crimea, warning that Washington was now directly involved in the conflict because “crazy people” had dreams of defeating Russia. Moscow was responding to comments by US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland who said the United States considers thatCrimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, should be demilitarised at a minimum and that Washington supports Ukrainian attacks on military targets on the peninsula.”
  4. Zelenskyy in Munich: No alternative for Ukraine’s membership in EU and NATO, Ukrainska PravdaThere is no alternative to Ukrainian victory. There is no alternative to Ukraine in the EU. There is no alternative to Ukraine in NATO. There is no alternative to our unity. Therefore, there is and will be no alternative to getting rid of Russian aggression once and for all, liberating the land, liberating people, Zelenskyy said. He added that we must liberate Ukraine and Europe because when Russian weapons shoot at us, they are already aimed at our neighbours“.
  5. Zelenskyy warned Belarus against entering the war: it will be a big historically significant mistake, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Zelenskyy’s speechat the 59th Munich Security Conference. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Belarus’ entry into the war against Ukraine will make it an accomplice of Russia and in the future – the subject of loss, tribunal, and compensation. Zelenskyy called Belarus’ entry into the war a “big mistake.” […] Belarusians, in principle, as we understand, do not want to fight against Ukraine. The vast majority of the people don’t want to. We have analytical figures — 80%.”
  6. Large US delegation at Munich conference underscores bipartisan support for Ukraine, ReutersNearly 50 lawmakers from both major US political parties on Friday attended the start of Europe’s premier annual security conference to affirm bipartisan support for US aid to Ukraine. Four delegations of Democratic and Republican leaders and members of the Senate and House converged as one of the largest groups of US lawmakers to attend the Munich Security Conference since its inception in 1963, US officials said.”
  7. No one is pushing Ukraine to negotiate with Putin, everyone sees there is no point, Ukrainska PravdaDmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, has said that Ukraine is not being pushed to negotiate with Russia, as it had been at the beginning of the war. None of the major countries tell us that we need to talk to Putin, as they see what Putin is doing and realise that there is no point, Kuleba said. Ukraine has managed to achieve an important goal: at the beginning of the war even our friends said that Russia should not win this war, so we worked very hard to change this rhetoric, and so, [the world has started] saying that Ukraine should win this war. They started to talk about and build their policy on it, the minister explained.”
  8. S. sanctions authority probes Raiffeisen on Russia, Reuters reports. “The United States’ sanctions authority has launched in inquiry into Raiffeisen Bank International over its business related to Russia, increasing scrutiny of the Austrian lender that plays a critical role in the Russian economy.”
  9. Demands to stop weapons supplies to Ukraine are naïve – German Defence Ministry, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing WELT TV. “Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany, considers the calls to stop armament supplies for Ukraine naïve. Pistorius criticised the left wing’s demands to stop supplying Kyiv with armament.”
  10. Time for more Ukraine support, not Russia dialogue, Macron says, ReutersFrench President Emmanuel Macron appeared on Friday to toughen his stance towards Moscow, urging allies to step up military support for Ukraine to help it push back Russia’s invasion since now was not the time for dialogue with Moscow. Macronhas drawn criticism among some NATO allies for delivering mixed messages regarding his policy on the war between Ukraine and Russia, with some considering Paris a weak link in the Western alliance. On Friday, he sought to straighten the course. “The time is not for dialogue with Russia,” he said in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, adding that Russia’s almost one-year-old invasion of its neighbour had to fail.”
  11. Every day 10-20 citizens of Russia and Belarus who want to live in Lithuania express support for war, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Evelina Gudzinskaitė, Head of the Department of Migration of Lithuania, cited byVakarų ekspresas. “Every day, 10 to 20 Russian and Belarusian citizens applying for a residence permit or national visa in Lithuania declare their support for the Russian invasion. […] Gudzinskaitė did not specify what share of the total number of all applications that is.”
  12. Finland’s NATO membership is now in “Türkiye’s hands”, Finnish president says, ReutersThe fate of Finland’s bid to join NATO is in “Türkiye’s hands”, President Sauli Niinisto said on Friday, after the Finnish parliament agreed it would ratify NATO’s founding treaties on Feb. 28. Last May, Finland and neighbouring Sweden applied to jointhe Western military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But […] Türkiye has opposed their memberships, accusing the Nordic countries of harbouring what it calls Kurdish terrorist groups.”
  13. NATO chief says ‘time is now’ for Türkiye to ratify Finland and Sweden membership bids, ReutersNATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the time is now for Türkiye to ratify applications by Finland and Sweden to join the defence alliance. Stoltenberg was speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock this week said she expects allNATO members to ratify the bids without further delay“.

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-17-2023*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 17, 2022:

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line on February 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops attacked near Hrianykivka (55km northwest of Svatove), Synkivka (45km northwest of Svatove), and Stelmakhivka (15km northwest of Svatove). One Russian source claimed that Russian forces took full control of Hrianykivka, while other sources stated that fighting is ongoing near the settlement and that Russian forces took control of unspecified positions in the Kupiansk area about 45km northwest of Svatove. A Russian milblogger emphasized that Ukrainian forces northwest of Svatove in the Kupiansk area are focusing on defensive preparations for Russian offensive actions and predicted that Russian forces may attack towards Lyman Pershyi and Vilshana, both about 45km northwest of Svatove. Russian forces also continued offensive operations around Kreminna on February 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported Russian ground attacks near Kreminna itself and near Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna) and Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna). Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai remarked that Russian forces have concentrated all of their efforts on the Kreminna area. Russian milbloggers reported positional battles along the Balka Zhuravka gully west of Kreminna, near Yampolivka (17km west of Kreminna), and in the Serebrianska forest area (8km south of Kreminna). One Russian milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces are bracing themselves for a Russian offensive in Siversk, 20km southwest of Kreminna.

Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut on February 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults on Bakhmut itself and near Fedorivka (20km north of Bakhmut), Rozdolivka (19km northeast of Bakhmut), Paraskoviivka (9km north of Bakhmut), and Ivanivske (5km west of Bakhmut). Geolocated footage published on February 17 of a Ukrainian armored fighting vehicle firing at Russian positions in northeastern Bakhmut shows Russian forces have made minor advances toward Bakhmut’s city center. Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner assault detachments advanced into Paraskoviivka from three sides on the night of February 16 and are engaging in heavy fighting around the settlement. Russian milbloggers offered conflicting claims on Wagner Group positions near Ivanivske. One milblogger claimed that Wagner forces advanced to the outskirts of Ivanivske, while another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces pushed Wagner forces away from the highway.

Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on February 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults along the outskirts of Donetsk City near Sieverne and Vodyane (on the northwest outskirts) and Marinka and Novomykhailivka (on the southwestern outskirts). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted ground attacks on Vodyane, Novomykhailivka, and Pervomaiske (on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk city). Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces expanded their control within Marinka and pushed Ukrainian troops out of unspecified lines.]

Russian forces continued ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on February 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Vuhledar (30km southwest of Donetsk City). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Novosilka (65km southwest of Donetsk City) and Prechystivka (35km southwest of Donetsk City) and attempted to advance south and east of Vuhledar.

The Kremlin will likely subsume elements of Belarus’ defense industrial base (DIB) as part of Moscow’s larger effort to reequip the Russian military to support a protracted war against Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 17 that Belarus’ aerospace industry is ready to produce Su-25 ground attack aircraft for the Russian military with the support of Russian technology transfers. Lukashenko also stated that the Belarusian state-run Minsk Automobile Plant began producing components to support Russian KAMAZ (a Russian heavy-duty truck producer) products and expressed willingness to help Russia produce electronic components to substitute for lost Western imports. Lukashenko additionally stated that Belarus is implementing 100 percent of unspecified defense and security cooperation agreements that Belarus and Russia agreed to “three months ago.”

Additional Su-25s and truck parts are likely not critical material for the success of Russia’s long-term war effort. The Kremlin may commandeer Belarusian factories and retool them to produce critical materiel that the Russian military needs, Lukashenko’s statements notwithstanding. The Russians might also seek to repurpose Russian factories currently involved in or tooled for the production of Su-25s and trucks to produce more urgently needed materiel.  ISW previously assessed that Russian forces began using Belarusian training grounds and trainers to train mobilized Russians to compensate for Russia‘s degraded training capacity. The Kremlin appears to be similarly incorporating elements of Belarus’ DIB to augment Russian defense output as Putin seeks to reinvigorate Russia’s DIB to support a protracted war with Ukraine.[5]

Lukashenko confirmed that Belarus has implemented more Union State integration programs – marking progress in the Kremlin’s steady pressure campaign to formalize the Russian-Belarusian Union State across decades. Lukashenko stated on February 17 that Russia and Belarus implemented 80 percent of the 28 Union State programs including programs on customs and tax – a significant achievement in the Kremlin’s campaign to formalize the Union State. Lukashenko has historically resisted implementing the Union State integration programs by stalling specifically on complex customs and tax harmonization issues since at least 2019. Lukashenko’s statement that Belarus has finally ratified Union State programs on customs and tax issues therefore marks a significant Russian gain. Lukashenko stated that the remaining unimplemented Union State programs concern humanitarian issues.

Lukashenko is likely paying for his rejection of Putin’s larger demand for Belarusian forces to join the invasion against Ukraine by making smaller concessions that he has stonewalled for years, as ISW assessed. Lukashenko’s belated concessions and continued refusal to commit Belarusian forces to the Russian invasion indicate Lukashenko’s determination to keep Belarusian forces from directly participating in the Russian war.

The Kremlin’s gains in Belarus underscore that Putin’s imperialistic ambitions transcend Ukraine and that containing the Russian threat requires the West’s sustained attention. Putin will very likely make significant gains in restoring Russian suzerainty over Belarus regardless of the outcome of his invasion of Ukraine. ISW has long assessed that the West sometimes ignores Putin’s activities that appear trivial, but that seemingly trivial activities that fly under the radar are essential to Putin’s strategic gains in the long run. Putin’s gains in Belarus indicate that he is reaping the benefits of such long-term campaigns. Russia and Belarus formed the Union State structure in 1999. The Kremlin significantly intensified its political and economic pressure campaigns to integrate Belarus through the Union State structure no later than 2019. Putin and Lukashenko initially ratified the package of 28 Union State integration programs – which are now mostly implemented – in November 2021.  Western shortsightedness about the Kremlin’s slower-developing, long-term efforts helps enable Putin’s strategic advances.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed the names of the commanders of Russia’s four military districts, finalizing a complete turnover of the Russian military’s initial command since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Russian MoD confirmed on February 17 that it appointed Lieutenant General Andrey Mordvichev as Central Military District (CMD) commander and that it had previously appointed Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev as Southern Military District (SMD) commander, Lieutenant General Yevgeny Nikiforov as Western Military District (WMD) commander, and Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov as Eastern Military District (EMD) commander. […] Mordvichev reportedly replaced Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin as CMD commander when the Russian military appointed Lapin the Chief of Staff of the Russian Ground Forces on January 10. Lapin appears to be the only previous Russian military commander in Ukraine who retains a significant position at the MoD […].

The formalization of military district commanders is likely part of an effort to distance the Russian military from past failures and to prepare the Russian military for a renewed large-scale offensive in Ukraine. The formalization of military district commanders also accompanies the MoD’s likely attempt to delineate clearer areas of responsibility for each military district in Ukraine. The appointment of these commanders does not represent the restoration of the pre-war MoD leadership bloc or an expansion of the ultranationalist siloviki faction’s power, despite reported connections that Nikiforov has to Wagner Financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and tenuous connections that Mordvichev may have with Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov. The Kremlin likely appointed figures relatively neutral in the struggle between Wagner PMC financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin and the MoD to these positions to appease both parties while also likely setting up potential scapegoats for any future failures in Ukraine to protect recently appointed theater commander and Russian Chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, from potential criticism.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to be mounting an informational counteroffensive against the conventional Russian military establishment. Following a video posted on February 16 of Wagner Group troops stating that they have been cut off from artillery supplies Wagner fighters released another video on February 17 showing a room full of bodies of deceased Wagner fighters. The fighter in the video claims that Wagner is losing hundreds of personnel a day because the Russian MoD is not providing them with the weapons, ammunition, and other supplies that they need. Several Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels also amplified a #GiveShellstoWagner post that explicitly tags the Russian MoD and claims (falsely) that Wagner is the only formation currently advancing in Ukraine and that Wagner elements therefore need immediate support. The escalation of Wagner’s direct accusations against the Russian MoD represents a new informational counteroffensive by Prigozhin that seeks to continue to undermine the Russian MoD and obscure Wagner’s attrition-based operational model by blaming the Russian MoD for its failures.

Prigozhin has likely launched an intensified informational campaign against the Russian MoD in response to the MoD’s likely role in barring the Wagner Group from continuing its prison recruitment campaign and Prigozhin’s overall declining influence. Prigozhin‘s declining prominence and the end of the Wagner Group‘s prison recruitment campaign are likely constraining the Wagner Group‘s operational capabilities in Ukraine, and it appears that the MOD continues to sideline Wagner Group forces from decisive efforts. Prigozhin appears to be courting ultranationalist figures, fellow siloviki such as Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov, and select Russian milbloggers to aid him in his effort to regain prominence but will likely find these figures’ support to be unreliable. Prigozhin became such an influential figure in the pro-war ultranationalist community by directing veiled and outright criticism at the conventional Russian establishment and by promoting the Wagner Group as an elite force that could secure tactical gains that the regular Russian military could not. Prigozhin will likely try to emulate this path to renewed prominence, but it is unclear if he will be able to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin will likely subsume elements of Belarus’ defense industrial base (DIB) as part of Moscow’s larger effort to reequip the Russian military to support a protracted war against Ukraine.
  • Lukashenko confirmed that Belarus has implemented more Union State integration programs – marking progress in the Kremlin’s decades-long pressure campaign to formalize the Russian-Belarusian Union State.
  • The Kremlin’s gains in Belarus underscore that Putin’s imperialistic ambitions transcend Ukraine and that containing the Russian threat requires the West’s sustained attention.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed the names of the four military district commanders, finalizing a complete turnover of the Russian military’s initial command since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to be mounting an informational counteroffensive against the conventional Russian military establishment.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, in the Donetsk City-Avdiivka area, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian and Ukrainian military activity near Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast indicates that Russian forces are likely deployed to positions close bank of the Dnipro River.
  • The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported that Russian forces have likely suffered up to 200,000 casualties since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a variety of laws on February 17 to integrate occupied territories into Russian legal, economic, and administrative structures.

Russia’s Defence Ministry plans to launch aerial warfare over Ukraine, Meduza reports. “Russia’s Defence Ministry has made the decision to start extensively using aircraft in the Ukraine war. The Russian outlet iStories reported this, citing a source close to the ministry. Until now, they were sparing it, said the ministry insider about Russia’s former reluctance to use aircraft. Now, they’ve decided to change their tactics.

The same source noted that Russia’s air-force has a clear numerical advantage over Ukraine’s. Acknowledging that the new tactics will lead to the Russian planes and helicopters being “shot down en masse” by the Ukrainian air defense systems, the same insider said aerial warfare will still cause problems for the Ukrainian army.”

Air Force expects possible Russian provocations on 23-24 February, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson of the Air Forces of Ukraine, in the broadcast of the Ukrainian Radio and the Donbas.Realii radio. “They are constantly trying to prove something to their dictator (Putin – ed.), or it is he who wants to prove something to his people. […]

They want to attack us on 23 February – they celebrate the Defender of the Motherland Day on this date, and the day after will be a one year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine […]. When asked about the possible date of large-scale Russian attacks, Ihnat responded: It may happen on 23-24 February as these are sacral dates (for Russians – ed.). But we are prepared every day.

Ihnat added that the Ukrainian forces would like to shoot down 100% of Russian missiles but it is not possible since Ukraine has vast territory but not enough air defence systems. […] Ihnat stressed that at the moment Ukraine is not able to shoot down the X-22, Oniks and X-31 missiles as the Patriot; the PAC-3 and SAMP/T anti-aircraft systems are needed for this.

General Milley: War will end at negotiation table, neither Russia nor Ukraine will achieve their goals, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Financial Times. “General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that neither Russia nor Ukraine is likely to achieve their military aims, and he believes the war will end at the negotiating table. It will be almost impossible for the Russians to achieve their political objectives by military means. It is unlikely that Russia is going to overrun Ukraine. It’s just not going to happen, Milley said.

It is also very, very difficult for Ukraine this year to kick the Russians out of every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine. It’s not to say that it can’t happen… But it’s extraordinarily difficult. And it would require essentially the collapse of the Russian military, he added.

Asked if the moment for diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine had passed, Milley said that we’re weeks away from the beginning of spring, but it’s a rolling window. There’s opportunities at any moment in time. However, both sides were dug in pretty hard on their objectives and unwilling to negotiate, according to Milley.

Milley said the conflict echoed a lesson from the Second World War that aggression must be stopped with firmness, deterrence, and military power, though he noted that with Russia’s nuclear arsenal the stakes were now higher. In this particular case, it’s against a country that is large and is nuclear-armed. So you have to be very, very conscious about managing escalation. At the same time, you have to uphold the principles for which the United Nations was founded and which the international order is resting on, he said.

Two days ago, Milley stated that Russia has lost strategically, operationally and tactically the year after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. He also claimed that the American side currently sees no signs of a possible Russian attack on Kyiv.”

Cyber-attacks on Ukraine and NATO are carried out by 5 hacker groups, coordinated from Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the report titled “Fog of War: How the Ukraine Conflict Transformed the Cyber Threat Landscape”, based on analysis conducted by Google’s Threat Analysis Group [TAG], as well as Mandiant and Trust & Safety companies, analysed and reported by Radio Liberty. “Cyber operations play a prominent role in Russia’s war against Ukraine; attacks on Ukraine and NATO countries are carried out by five hacker groups linked to the Russian government, some of which cooperate with the Chief Intelligence Office (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The Ukrainian government is under ceaseless cyber attack, say Google experts. Russian government-backed hackers stepped up cyber operations starting in 2021, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In 2022, Russia increased its targeting of users in Ukraine by 250% compared to 2020, and its targeting of users in NATO countries by over 300%.

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Russia’s central bank says falling rouble driving inflation higher, Reuters reports. “Russia’s central bank said on Friday that inflationary pressures across the economy had remained strong during the first two weeks of February, citing a slump in the rouble as a factor. Russia recorded inflation of 11.8% on an annual basis in January, almost three times the central bank’s official 4% target. It signalled last week it was preparing to raise base interest rates to cool inflation. Operational data for the first two weeks of February indicate the trend towards increased price pressures continues, the bank said on Friday in a report.

Prices across Russia have been extremely volatile in the year since Russia invaded Ukraine – with a period of rapid inflation following the imposition of Western sanctions followed by months of deflation as capital controls pushed the rouble higher.

But falling revenues from crucial oil and gas sales have again hit the Russian currency this year. The rouble has fallen 16% since the start of December, when a European Union embargo and G7 price cap on Russian crude sales came into force.

The exchange rate has already affected (prices of) the most import-dependent products in January, and if the rouble remains at its current level, this will continue to have a pro-inflationary effect in the coming months, the bank’s analysts said in the report.

Exposed: Auchan subsidiary supplied goods to Russian military, aided mobilization effort, Ukrinform reports, citing a joint investigation by The Insider, Le Monde, and Bellingcat. “The Russian subsidiary of the France-based Auchan retail chain supplied goods to the Russian military in the temporarily occupied territories under the guise of humanitarian aid, and also helped draft officers recruit conscripts. The deliveries consisted of goods from Auchan warehouses, as well as products collected by volunteers at Auchan stores in various regions of Russia.

The investigation cites a letter sent out to employees of St. Petersburg stores: “Colleagues, please collect a cession for humanitarian aid (according to the list in attachment) and send it to the North store tonight… Palletizing rules (including for logistics goods): mark the pallet as HUMANITARIAN AID.”

The goods in the mentioned attachment look nothing like “humanitarian aid” but more like army gear: male socks in various sizes, cigarettes (which are not supplied as humanitarian aid), lighters, and razors. At the same time, there is nothing offered for women or children. The number of goods (1,000 tubes of toothpaste, 500 lighters) indicates that there are many recipients, at the level of 1-2 battalions.

Further, this “humanitarian aid” is formalized as a purchase by 10 legal entities. These companies are related to each other: they all serve St. Petersburg’s Passazhiravtotrans, which, in turn, belongs to the municipal transport committee. Some of these legal entities, responding to the journalists’ inquiry, did not hide the fact that the goods were sent to the Russian military.

Auchan used more than their St. Petersburg stores to supply goods to the occupying force. This is evidenced by the fact that the delivery was coordinated with the Moscow office, and that in other regions, the collection of aid in the premises of shopping centers owned by Auchan was also observed. In Samara, Rybinsk, and Vladimir, “humanitarian aid for Donbas” collection points were located at Auchan stores.

As noted in the investigation, apparently, not only Auchan, but also Leroy Merlin, which belongs to the same holding, was engaged in the supply of goods to the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russian troops. For example, in a video from Mariupol, posted in December, members of the Young Guard of United Russia are unloading identical Leroy Merlin-branded pallets.

Also, according to the authors of the investigation, Auchan helped Russian authorities deal with military draft evaders: the company collected and transferred data on their employees to military commissariats, and after the mobilization was announced, the company helped draft offices fulfil the call-up norm: employees were served with draft notices at their workplace and offered to resign. The Auchan chain is one of the 10 largest foreign companies still operating in Russia.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: General Milley: War will end at the negotiation table and neither Russia nor Ukraine will achieve their goals, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Financial Times. I will dedicate today’s assessment to Gen. Milley’s recent statements for one simple reason: they reflect present US strategic messaging. The key messages reflect its current strategic thinking on how it sees the war developing in the months to come, bearing in mind that they are aligned with US actions.

General Milley’s “assessments” are wrong, but they will become right because the US is setting the conditions for how the war will develop.

What is he saying?

It will be almost impossible for the Russians to achieve their political objectives by military means. It is unlikely that Russia is going to overrun Ukraine. It’s just not going to happen, Milley said.”

He is right as so far that Russia is unable to invade and occupy all of Ukraine by military force. However, as I have repeatedly argued, it does not need to take another inch of territory to defeat Ukraine. For 9 years it has been trying to undermine Ukraine from within. The attempted “Blitzkrieg” starting 24 February last year was an exemption – a derivation – from its long-term strategy. It was always a war of attrition where the military effort was only one of many means employed.

Ukraine is just “one donor conference away” from defaulting. Due to the 9-year-old Hybrid War, Ukraine is no longer economically viable without continued financial support from its international partners. It needs $3-5 billion every month to be able to fulfil its commitments towards society, including paying salary and pension, defending the country against Russian aggressions, offering health services, upholding school, and public transport, and more.

It will be almost impossible for the Russians to achieve their political objectives by military means only. Russia is, however, in the position to achieve its political objectives by the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means because the West fail to counter its hybrid war.

General Milley also states that:

It is also very, very difficult for Ukraine this year to kick the Russians out of every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine. It’s not to say that it can’t happen… But it’s extraordinarily difficult.”

Again, he is right. But he is right only because the US and Europe deny Ukraine the tools needed to evict the Russian forces. On 29 January the Institute for the Study of War pointed out that the patterns of Western aid – slow and incremental – and its refusal to supply Ukraine with higher-end weapons systems have shaped Ukraine’s ability to develop and execute sound campaign plans. It has limited Ukraine’s ability to initiate and continue large-scale counter-offensive operations.

ISW highlighted that:

Recent Western commitments to provide Ukraine with the tanks and armoured vehicles it requires for further counter-offensive operations are important, but the delays in making those commitments may have cost Ukraine a window of opportunity for a counter-offensive this winter. The delay in launching that counter-offensive thus far, however, has allowed the Russians to set conditions to make it harder and more costly.

The continual delays in providing Western material when it became apparent that it is or will soon be needed have thus contributed to the protraction of the conflict.

Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia argues in favour of what he calls “The Big Bang Theory”.

The way this new military assistance is announced matters. Rather than providing ATACMs in March, Reapers in June, and jets in September, NATO should go for a Big Bang. Plans to provide all these systems should be announced on February 24, 2023, the first anniversary of Putin’s invasion. An announcement of this size will produce an important psychological effect inside the Kremlin and Russian society, signalling that the West is committed to Ukraine’s ambition to liberate all occupied territories.”

Following the logic of McFaul, General Miley’s statements and the US defence support represent the exact opposite. It tells the aggressor that the US will uphold its strategy of incremental and slow defence aid, effectively limiting Ukraine’s ability to initiate and continue large-scale counter-offensive operations.

It will be very difficult for Ukraine this year to kick the Russians out of every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine because the West denies it the tools needed to achieve its strategic aim.

General Milley also said:

So you have to be very, very conscious about managing escalation. At the same time, you have to uphold the principles for which the United Nations was founded and which the international order is resting.”

In my humble opinion, the statement is outright wrong. Peace turned into a hybrid war and a low-intensity conflict in 2014, escalating into a full-scale war on 24 February 2022. Russia has since continued to escalate its hybrid war against both Ukraine and the West. The latter includes both the ongoing energy war, its economic warfare and its nuclear blackmail. Russia is also suspected of sabotaging several subsea cables and gas pipelines, demonstrating the capability to cut the transatlantic fibre cables crucial to our financial system. It has even weaponized food.

The Russian aggressions in Europe – including its full-scale war in Ukraine – have resulted in a “tsunami of ripple effects”, including the loss of energy and food security, increased poverty and hunger, recession, inflation and increased costs of living; as well as the potential repercussions, including the increased risk of demonstrations, riots, extremism and social unrest at the cost of global political stability. We have already experienced shifts in the political landscape (France, Sweden and Italy) that is likely to spread as the broader confrontation continues.

I am afraid Western policy and decision-makers have fallen victim to the Russian assault on their cognitive space, inducing fear over a potential escalation of the “war in Ukraine” into a broader confrontation (that is already ongoing) and a nuclear conflict.

The West is not managing escalation if Russia continues to escalate and uphold its strategic aim and objectives.

When General Milley says that the war will end at the negotiation table, stressing that neither Russia nor Ukraine will achieve their goals, he is only partly correct. If it ends at the negotiation table, it will be because Ukraine was denied the tools needed to evict the Russian forces and the West is no longer willing to provide the humanitarian and financial support needed to uphold the defensive battle. It means that Ukraine will not reach its strategic aim.

If the West accepts the present status quo – a situation where Russia occupies parts of Ukraine – Russia will realise that victory is within reach. It will be in the position to achieve its political objectives by the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means simply because the West fail to counter its hybrid war.

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