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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 364: Russia to suspend nuclear arms treaty

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 364: Russia to suspend nuclear arms treaty
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Putin submits law on suspending nuclear arms treaty. NATO on Russia’s Decision on Suspending Nuclear Treaty: Full Arms Control Architecture Has Been Dismantled. Leaked document reveals alleged Kremlin plan to take over Belarus by 2030.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 22

 

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 21, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

Last day, Russian forces launched 59 attacks from MLRS. As a result of the criminal actions of the Russian occupiers, civilian residential buildings were destroyed and damaged, and civilians were killed and wounded.

There is a great danger of further Russian air and missile attacks on the entire territory of Ukraine.

Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on conducting offensive operations on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes.

Over the past day, units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine have repelled attacks of the invaders in the areas of the settlements of Kuzemivka and Dibrova in the Luhansk Oblast and Fedorivka, Yagidne, Berkhivka, Bakhmut and Kurdyumivka in the Donetsk Oblast.

Kharkiv Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no signs of the formation of offensive groups of Russian forces were detected. Areas of settlements of Bachivsk, Brusky, Pavlivka, Vorozhba and Grabovskoe of Sumy Oblast, as well as more than 20 areas of settlements in Kharkiv Oblast, were subjected to enemy shelling. Among them are Strilecha, Morokhovets, Starytsa, Vovchansk, Vovchanski Khutory, Volohivka, Budarky, Bologhivka and Kolodyazne.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces shelled the areas of Dvorichna, Hryanikyvka, Kotlyarivka, Kup’yansk and Berestove settlements of the Kharkiv Oblast; Stelmakhivka, Ivanivka, Nevske, Chervonopopivka, Dibrova and Bilogorivka in the Luhansk Oblast and Fedorivka in the Donetsk Oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: areas of 21 settlements were shelled. In particular, these are Rozdolivka, Vesele, Bilogorivka, Berkhivka, Bakhmut, Stupochki, Klishchiivka, Ozaryanivka and Toretsk.
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes: Russian forces fired artillery at the settlements of Novobakhmutivka, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, Vodyane, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Georgiivka, Mar’yinka, Bogoyavlenka, Novomykhailivka, Velyka Novosilka, Neskuchne, Prechystivka, and Vugledar.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the areas of the settlements of Novosilka, Vremivka and Novopil of the Donetsk Oblast and Olhivske, Gulyaipole, Malynivka, Magdalinyvka, Pavlivka, Stepove, Kamianske, Novoandriivka, Orihiv, Charivne, Novodanylivka and Mala Tokmachka of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast were hit by fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Kherson axis: the city of Kherson was hit by a multiple-launch rocket system. There are victims among the civilian population. Areas of 18 settlements were also hit by enemy artillery. Among them are Mykhailivka, Dudchany, Mylove, Tomarine, Shlyakhove, Beryslav, Mykolaivka, Kozatske, Vesele, Antonivka and Veletenske.

In the temporarily occupied part of the Kherson Oblast, Russian forces continue to forcibly issue passports to the population. The Russian occupying forces, together with the police, have increased checks at checkpoints and are threatening to evict all citizens who do not receive a Russian passport from the beginning of March.

[Due to the high rates of desertion from the ranks of the Russian occupation forces, massive raids have been conducted in Chaplyns’kyi district of Kherson oblast since February 20, 2023. Particular attention is paid to abandoned houses and buildings.]

[Since early 2023, there has been a significant deterioration in crime rate in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, in particular in the city of Sevastopol. The reason for this was the arrival of ex-convicts who fought in the so-called PMC Wagner and were amnestied as their contracts expired. Where they are detained for any crimes, they are not sent to correctional facilities, but back to the front line.]

Over the past day, the Air Force of the Defense Forces made 8 strikes on areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers and 2 strikes on anti-aircraft missile complexes.

Our units of missile and artillery forces hit 2 areas where Russian manpower was concentrated.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Attack on Kyiv by “hundreds of Russian aircraft” won’t happen – Ukraine’s Air Force, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson of the Ukrainian Air Forces Command. “The spokesperson of the Air Force once again emphasised that the Russian Federation did not deploy aircraft near the borders with Ukraine. The number of aircraft of the air group, which is used by Russian troops at 40 airfields (in the Russian Federation, Belarus, and occupied Crimea), has not changed since the beginning of the full-scale war. […]

In modern wars, high-precision weapons, and missile weapons are used. The 40 airfields that Russian forces uses for aircraft take-off are at different distances (200, 300, 500, 700 kilometres) from the Ukrainian border. Russian forces has been using these airfields in attacks against Ukraine since the first days [of the full-scale invasion – ed.]. The grouping that was at these airfields at the beginning of the [full-scale] aggression now remains at the same number [more than 700 units] […].

Therefore, to say that there will be some kind of large-scale attack on Kyiv by hundreds of aircraft is from another opera, it is clear that this will not happen. Even at the beginning of the aggression, Russian forces used a dozen planes in a certain direction: they flew, struck, lost several aircraft, and flew back.

Ihnat emphasised that the air defence of Ukraine is currently strengthened by modern Western systems (MANPADS and heavy systems, such as Iris-T, NASAMS), and further strengthening is expected from the allies. No one will allow an easy ride in the Ukrainian skies, the spokesman of the Air Force assured.”

Russians have no success – Secretary of National Security Council of Ukraine on “big Russian offensive”, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Oleksii Danilov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, remarks that the Russian occupiers have had no success in the “big offensive” in the Eastern front of Ukraine.

The very adjective “big”…has faded away. The “big offensive” Russians planned has lasted for 8-10 days, and so far, they have had no success. They tried to advance on five fronts today but our troops, members of the whole security and defence sector are courageously defending our country.”

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

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1628331719941038081

  • On 21 February 2023, President Putin made his first State of the Nation speech since 2021. He made it clear that he intends to continue with the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. He characterised Western elites as having “become a symbol of total unprincipled lies” and suspended Russia from the New START treaty.
  • Putin continued the bellicose tone he has adopted in speeches over the last six months but did not reveal any practical measures which might relieve Russia’s current deadlock on the battlefield.
  • Putin continues to present a contradictory narrative of existential struggle while insisting everything in Russia is fine and going to plan. This renders both messages ineffective.
  • As of 13 February 2023, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had recorded 18,955 civilian casualties since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This consisted of 7,199 killed and 11,756 injured. 697 of the civilian casualties occurred in January 2023.
  • The OHCHR has stated it believes that the actual figures are considerably higher. Based on other, independent analyses, over 16,000 civilians have likely been killed. Data from January 2023 indicated that the violence continued along the 1,200km front line, but was primarily concentrated in Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
  • Throughout January 2023, there was a very high intensity, and worsening trend of damage being inflicted on both medical and educational facilities. These incidents and continued civilian casualties are likely largely due to Russia’s lack of discrimination in the use of artillery and other area weapon systems.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Wednesday 22 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 145060 (+620)
  • Tanks – 3334 (+8)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6569 (+7)
  • Artillery systems – 2345 (+7)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 471 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 243 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 299 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 287 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5212 (+2)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2026 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 226 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 873 (+0)

Crimeans breaking military equipment not to go to war against Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the President’s Representation for Crimea. “According to information from open sources, illegally mobilized residents of occupied Crimea are breaking military equipment in order not to go to war against Ukraine, the report reads.

Commenting on the public mood on the peninsula, the Representation said that the families of illegally drafted men are appealing en masse to the Russian Ministry of Defense over rights violations. As noted, this is about commanders refusing to ensure timely rotations and vacations, while short-term leaves are offered for a $1,000 bribe.

Russia’s soldiers are beginning to speak out: a small interview appeared in open sources in which the contractor with the invasion force complained that almost a year into the ‘special military operation’ no one from his company was given leave because ‘they either do not live to see it or are in the hospital,” added in the Representation.”

Rift grows between Wagner Group and Russia’s Defence Ministry as Wagner Group owner accuses the ministry of lying, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Prigozhin’s press service and the Russian Ministry of Defence. “Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group, has said that the Russian Ministry of Defence is lying when it claims that Russian forces on the Bakhmut front have sufficient ammunition. Prigozhin has complained that the Wagner fighters receive less than 20% of the ammunition they had been promised.

The Russian Ministry of Defence responded to Prigozhin’s accusation that it creates obstacles to Wagner Group’s ammunition supply, thus “starving” its soldiers of ammunition. The Ministry of Defence said that Prigozhin was trying to create a rift between different Russian units, which plays to the Ukrainian forces’ advantage.”

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1627999983323447307

Another $17B needed this year for Ukraine’s rapid recovery this year, Ukrinform reports. “This year, Ukraine needs another $17 billion for the rapid reconstruction of energy, critical, and housing infrastructure, as well as economic recovery. This was announced by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

At the same time, Ukraine needs another $17 billion this year to achieve rapid recovery. It is about the reconstruction of the energy industry, people’s homes, humanitarian demining, critical infrastructure, and restoration of the economy, Shmyhal said.

Shmyhal recalled that Japan has already announced financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of $5.5 billion for the reconstruction of infrastructure, and the Norwegian government – a multi-year support program worth EUR 7.5 billion, which will be directed to the military, economic, and humanitarian spheres.

Such steps of solidarity demonstrate a new strategic approach to supporting Ukraine. All this foreign aid and support will be converted into a stronger and more stable Ukraine, the head of government added.

As reported, on February 20, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal held a meeting with the International Monetary Fund Governor, Kristalina Georgieva, and the Fund’s team, and announced that Ukraine expects to launch a new program worth over $15 billion.”

Environmental

Nord Stream blast inquiries ongoing, Denmark, Sweden, Germany tell UN, Reuters reports. “Investigations by Denmark, Germany and Sweden into explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines have not yet concluded, the three countries said on Tuesday as the UN Security Council met to discuss the September incident.

Russia, which called for the meeting, wants the 15-member council to ask for an independent inquiry into the blasts on the pipelines connecting Russia and Germany, which spewed gas into the Baltic Sea and worsened a European energy shortage.

Denmark, Germany and Sweden told the Security Council in a joint letter that the Russian authorities have been informed regarding the ongoing investigations by their national authorities, which had so far established that the damage to the pipelines was caused by powerful explosions due to sabotage.

These investigations have not yet been concluded. At this point, it is not possible to say when they will be concluded, the letter said. The authorities of Denmark, Germany and Sweden have been in dialogue regarding the investigation of the gas leaks, and the dialogue will continue to the relevant extent. They said the consequences from the leaks in terms of greenhouse gas emissions were substantial and worrisome.”

Year of war: Prosecutor’s Office investigates death of 72 Kyiv residents from Russian missiles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleh Kiper, Head of the Kyiv City Prosecutor’s Office. “Since the start of the full-scale invasion, law-enforcement agencies in the city of Kyiv have engaged in pre-trial investigations of 1,539 criminal proceedings against crimes connected to the Russian military aggression.

In particular, as part of the criminal proceedings related to the missile attacks on Kyiv, the law enforcers of the capital’s Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the death of 72 civilians. That includes the death of 6 children and injury of 11, specifically in the city of Kyiv.”

Support

Ukraine Still Waiting for a Quarter of Heavy Weapons Promised by West – Study, European Pravda reports. “According to an analysis by the Kiel Institute of the World Economy (IfW), Ukraine has not yet obtained at least a quarter of the heavy weapons promised by the West.

The West has so far delivered between 65 and 75 percent of the heavy weapons promised to Ukraine. Only half of the promised financial assistance has arrived, Andre Frank, IfW expert, told RND. IfW regularly publishes its Ukraine Support Tracker, which analyses the commitments of Western countries to back Ukraine.

Tank supplies by European countries and the USA, announced after the January 20 Ramstein meeting, are not included in the updated Ukraine Support Tracker study.

The US has overtaken the European Union and its largest economy, Germany, in aid to Ukraine. As the study shows, the United States has pledged €73 billion in support to Ukraine since January 2022, while the EU has pledged €54.9 billion.”

New US military aid includes guided bombs capable of hitting targets 70km away – Bloomberg, Ukrinform reports, citing Bloomberg. “The United States is providing Ukraine a long-range GPS-guided bomb made by Boeing Co. that is capable of hitting targets some 70 kilometers away.

The Pentagon hasn’t formally acknowledged it’s sending the modified version of Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munition, saying only it would send ‘precision aerial munitions’ as part of a $1.85 billion package announced December 21, the report said.”

US authorises $460m of additional military support for Ukraine, Army Technology reports. “The US has authorised an additional $460m military aid package from the 32nd presidential drawdown of equipment from the country’s defence inventories to support Ukraine. The new tranche was announced after US President Joe Biden met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on 20 February. […]

The new tranche comprises additional 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortar rounds, Claymore anti-personnel munitions, demolition munitions, 2,000 anti-armour rockets, and more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

The US will also provide more Javelin anti-armour systems, four air surveillance radars, two tactical platforms for equipment recovery, four Bradley infantry fire support team vehicles, tactical secure communications systems, night vision devices, additional medical supplies, and spare parts and field equipment.”

New German military support package for Ukraine, according to Federal Government website. “The Federal Government supports the Ukrainian military in close coordination with its partners and allies. This list provides an overview of lethal and non-lethal German military support for Ukraine. It includes deliveries from the Federal Armed Forces, as well as supplies from German industry financed from the Federal Government’s funds for so-called security capacity building.”

The latest announcement includes 6 bridge-laying tanks BEAVER, 20,000 first aid kits, 8 trucks Zetros and 10 winter camouflage nets (delivered) and 300.000 rounds of GEPARD ammunition (pledged)

Italy considers transferring other air defence systems to Ukraine in addition to SAMP/T, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy. “Italy is considering the possibility of sending other air defence systems to Ukraine, in addition to the SAMP/T-MAMBA complexes, which it plans to transfer together with France.

Whenever an attack happens, all weapons are defensive. Currently, there is no question of sending aircraft, this decision must be made with international partners. We have focused on air defence systems, SAMP/T, Spada, Skyguard. The priority is to protect infrastructure and citizens, Meloni said.”

Borrell asks EU member states to provide ammunition to Ukraine from their stockpiles, Ukrinform reports. “High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell asked the EU defense ministers to provide ammunition to Ukraine from their stockpiles.[…]

After listening to my colleagues, [the] Foreign Affairs Ministers, yesterday – I sent a letter to all defense ministers which they will be receiving today, asking them to provide ammunitions to Ukraine from their stockpiles and from the contracts they have already [contracted] with the industry, giving Ukraine [the] priority, Borrell said. […]

The key word is to coordinate, speed up, and increase our support [for Ukraine]. It is necessary in order to make the rule of law prevail over the rule of gun, the rule of force. And it is the only way that Ukraine can win this war: to speed up, to increase, and to coordinate better our support. Because the war shows its awful face with bombing hospitals, starving entire cities to death. This is what Russia is doing instead of taking a step towards a ceasefire, the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stressed.”

The US Congress sees an “impulse” to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and ATACMS, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Michael McCall, influential US Congressman and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced a shift towards providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and ATACMS long-range missile systems during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday.

According to the Congressman, the Biden administration and the National Security Council were still split over how fast and what weapons to send to Ukraine. But I’m seeing increasing momentum towards getting the artillery and the planes in, he told reporters in central Kyiv. And in any event, we can start training the pilots right now so they’re ready, he said.”

Italy will organise a conference on reconstruction of Ukraine – Italy’s Prime Minister, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ANSA. “Giorgia Meloni, Italian Prime Minister, said that [Italy] is preparing to host a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine, which is to be held in April 2023. […]

The previous international donor conference, which aimed to support Ukraine against the background of constant Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, took place in December 2022 in Paris, with the participation of more than 45 countries and 20 international organisations.”

New Developments 

  1. MFA China worried war in Ukraine “spiralling out of control”, Ukrinform reports, citing CNN. “China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang says Beijing is deeply worried” about the conflict in Ukraine “spiralling out of control. […] We urge relevant countries to immediately stop fuelling the fire, blaming China, and hyping up the rhetoric ‘today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan, the minister said. As CNN notes, Qin Gang’s statement was made in the context of the visit of China’s top diplomat Wang Yi to Moscow, scheduled for later this week, and against the background of statements by US officials that Beijing is looking into the possibility of providing assistance to the Kremlin involving arms and munitions. On Monday, Wang Yi said China is ready to cooperate with other countries to achieve a ceasefire and lasting peace in Ukraine.”
  2. China’s Xi preparing to visit Moscow for a summit with Putin -WSJ, ReutersChinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing to visit Moscow for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reportedon Tuesday […]. Xi’s meeting with Putin will be part of a push for multi-party talks on peace in Ukraine and allow China to reiterate its calls that nuclear weapons not be used; the report added. Preparations for the trip at at an early stage and the timing has not been finalised, the WSJ said, adding that Xi could visit in April or in early May […]. China’s top diplomat Wang Yi arrived in Moscow on Tuesday as the country appears to be ramping up its diplomatic effort to push for a peace settlement in Ukraine.”
  3. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister knows some details about Chinese “peace plan”, but wants to see it in full, Ukrainska PravdaDmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shared with him the key positions of the “peace plan,” which will be examined in detail by the Ukrainian side after receiving the text in full. […] Ukraine’s Foreign Minister emphasised that the “peace formula” initiated by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains a top priority. Kuleba also noted that all Chinese actions in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine should be aimed at protecting the principle of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. […] Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, announced that the “position paper” on the settlement of the war concerns respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foundations of the UN Charter, consideration of the legitimate security interests of all countries, and support for all efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement.”
  4. We have our own “peace formula” – Zelenskyy on China’s “peace plan”, Ukrainska PravdaPresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he does not know the specific points of the “peace plan” for the Russo-Ukrainian war that China plans to present, and he counts on support for Ukraine’s peace formula.
  5. Leaked document reveals alleged Kremlin plan to take over Belarus by 2030, The Kyiv IndependentAs the whole world watches Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine, the Kremlin is quietly absorbing neighboring Belarus into its orbit. Russia’s encroachment on Belarus may, however, be the result of a meticulously composed plan. A group of European and US media outlets, including the Kyiv Independent, has obtained a 17-page document allegedly detailing Russia’s plans to subjugate Belarus and dismantle its independence. The document details Russia’s future steps to take full control of Belarusian political, economic, and military spheres by the end of the decade.”
  6. Putin submits law on suspending nuclear arms treaty, ReutersRussia will continue to observe limits on the number of nuclear warheads it can deploy under the New START treaty despite a decision to suspend participation in the agreement, Moscow said on Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin announcedthe freeze during a speech to both houses of the Russian parliament in which he also repeated accusations the West was seeking to destroy Russia. Later in the day, Putin submitted a draft law on the suspension to the Duma, the lower house of parliament, which will consider it on Wednesday and take an immediate decision, Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement.”
  7. No one pays attention to Putin’s nuclear threats anymore – Zelenskyy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s threats to resume nuclear weapons tests are something no one is taking into account anymore. […] On 21 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructedthe Ministry of Defence and Rosatom, the national nuclear regulator, to ensure readiness for nuclear tests, as he believes that the United States can conduct similar tests and create new types of nuclear munitions.
  8. NATO on Russia’s Decision on Suspending Nuclear Treaty: Full Arms Control Architecture Has Been Dismantled, European PravdaI regret today’s decision by Russia to suspend its participation in the New START treaty, Stoltenberg said […]. He reminded that in recent years, Russia has violated key agreements on arms control. With today’s decision on New START, full arms control architecture has been dismantled. I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements, Stoltenberg underlined. As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in his message to the Federal Assembly, Russia has suspended participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.”
  9. Russia failed Sarmat missile test during Biden’s visit to Kyiv – CNN, Ukrinform reports, citing CNN. “The test of the heavy SARMAT missile – nicknamed the Satan II in the West and capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads – appears to have failed, officials said. It has been successfully tested before and had this one worked, US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would have highlighted the test in his State of the Nation address on Tuesday, the report said. Instead, Putin made no mention of the launch in the speech. He did, however, formally declare that Russia will be suspending his country’s participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States.”
  10. Putin cancels decree underpinning Moldova’s sovereignty in separatist conflict, ReutersPresident Vladimir Putin revoked on Tuesday a 2012 decree that in part underpinned Moldova’s sovereignty in resolving the future of the Transdniestria region – a Moscow-backed separatist region which borders Ukraine and where Russia keeps troops. The decree, which included a Moldova component, outlined Russia’s foreign policy 11 years ago which assumed Moscow’s closer relations with the European Union and the United States.[…] It is part of a series of anti-Western movesannounced by Putin on Tuesday. […] The Kremlin has said that Russia’s relations with Moldova, which last week approved a new pro-Western prime minister that vowed to pursue a drive to join the EU, were very tense. It accused Moldova of pursuing an anti-Russian agenda.”
  11. Biden affirms Moldovan sovereignty after Russian coup plot allegation, ReutersUS President Joe Biden affirmed support for Moldova’s sovereignty in a meeting with the country’s president on Tuesday, the White House said, days after Chisinau said it foiled a Russian coup attempt.”
  12. Putin: They started the war, and we used force to stop it, Ukrainska PravdaRussian dictator Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine, allegedly subjugated by the West, started the war against Russia, and the Kremlin began to use force, expecting strikes on Russia’s historic lands that were occupied by it. […] The Russian dictator assures his citizens that he was doing everything possible to solve this problem by peaceful means; he negotiated a peaceful way out of the conflict, but behind Russia’s back a completely different scenario was being prepared, and the assurances of Western leaders in the pursuit of peace allegedly turned out to be a fake and a harsh lie. […] In December 2021, we officially sent draft security assurance treaties to the United States and NATO. But we received a direct refusal on all the key and fundamental positions for us. Then it finally became clear that they had been given the go-ahead for the implementation of aggressive plans and were not going to stop [he falsely claimed].”
  13. White House denounces ‘absurdity’ of Putin’s speech, Ukrinform reports, citing Aljazeera. “White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that the West and Kyiv are allegedly to blame for the war in Ukraine is absurd. Nobody is attacking Russia. […] There’s a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else, Sullivan said.”
  14. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia – Biden, Ukrainska PravdaThere should be no doubt. Our support for Ukraine will not waver. NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire. President Putin’s crave and lust for land and power will fail, and the Ukrainian people’s love for their country will prevail. The democratic states of the world will defend their freedom today, tomorrow and forever, the American president emphasised. Biden noted that freedom is at stake now, and the world understood that the appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed. Autocrats only understand one word: ‘no, no, no’. No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future, he added. The President of the USA commented on the actions of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, assuring that he will not be able to achieve his goals in Ukraine. A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to ease the people’s love of liberty, brutality will never grind down the will of the free, and Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never, emphasised the US leader.”
  15. Biden addresses Russians: the US not going to attack Russia, Ukrainska PravdaUS President Joe Biden has turned to the Russians and assured them that the US has no intention of committing aggression against their country. According to Biden, the USA and Europe have never threatened Russia.[…] Millions of Russian citizens want to live in peace with their neighbours. They were never enemies. This is a tragedy. President Putin chose war, and how long the war lasts is his choice. He can stop the war. If the Russian Federation stops the attack and withdraws from Ukraine, the war will end. If Ukraine stops, it will be the end of Ukraine.”
  16. Russia rails at UN move on Ukraine, China readies ‘position paper’, ReutersRussia has urged UN states to vote against an “unbalanced and anti-Russian” move at the General Assembly by Ukraine and others to mark one year since Moscow invaded, as China said on Tuesday it could release a “position paper” on the war within days. The 193-member UN General Assembly is due to vote later this week on a draft resolutionstressing “the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in line with the founding United Nations Charter. Ukraine and its supporters hope to deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation by seeking yes votes from nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly to match […]. The draft text would again see the General Assembly demand Moscow withdraw its troops and call for a halt to hostilities. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but carry political weight.”
  17. Hungary could ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden in March, media reports, ReutersHungary’s parliament could ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden early next month, local media reported on Tuesday, citing the preliminary agenda of next week’s parliamentary session. Finland and Sweden sought membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and have said they want to join “hand in hand”, but while most member states have given the applications the green light, Türkiye and Hungary have yet to ratify them.
  18. Committee of Italian Parliament recognises Holodomor as genocide, Ukrainska PravdaThe Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Parliament recognised the Holodomor as genocide of the Ukrainian people [Holodomor was a man-made famine in the Soviet Union, which lasted from 1932 to 1933 and claimed lives of millions of Ukrainians – ed.]”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 21, 2022:

Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna on February 21. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on February 21 that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks near Hryanykivka and Masiutivka (both 54km northwest of Svatove). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted a ground attack from Shyplivka (8km south of Kreminna) and gained positions in the Serebrianska forest area (roughly 11km southwest of Kreminna). The milblogger also claimed that Russian forces attacked Makiivka (22km northwest of Kreminna), Terny (17km west of Kreminna), and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted limited counterattacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna on February 21. Some Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian counterattack near Hryanykivka. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a counterattack in the Serebrianska forest area near Shyplivka (9km southeast of Kreminna) and made marginal advances.

Russian forces continued making incremental tactical gains in and around Bakhmut. Geolocated footage taken on February 14 and posted on February 20 shows Ukrainian tanks firing at Russian infantry in the tree line along the E40 Bakhmut-Sloviansk highway, confirming that Russian forces have succeeded in cutting the E40 northwest of Bakhmut. However, the fact that Russian forces interdicted the E40 a week ago and still have not forced Ukrainians to withdraw from Bakhmut suggests that it is not the vital logistics artery into the city that milbloggers often claim it is. Geolocated footage additionally indicates that Russian forces have made small advances northeast of Bakhmut near Berestove (20km northeast of Bakhmut) and in southwestern Bakhmut in the area of the Mariupolske Cemetary. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; north of Bakhmut near Vasyukivka (11km north) and Berkhivka (4km north); and northeast of Bakhmut around Vasylivka (21km northeast).[31] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces broke through Ukrainian defensive lines near Yahidne (on the northwestern outskirts of Bakhmut) and reached the Stupky railway station on the northern tip of Bakhmut. Several Russian milbloggers noted that the Wagner Group is approaching the AZOM metal processing plant in northern Bakhmut and assessed that fighting in Bakhmut may concentrate on the territory of the plant as Wagner tries to move into the center of the city. Milbloggers compared the AZOM plant to Ukrainian defensive efforts at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol and the Azot steel plant in Sievierodonetsk in 2022. A Russian milblogger additionally claimed that Russian forces are still fighting near Ivanivske, 5km west of Bakhmut. The concentration of milblogger claims regarding Russian efforts in northern Bakhmut compared to the relative silence regarding operations west of Bakhmut along the T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway may suggest that Russian forces have given up on trying to encircle Bakhmut and are instead focusing on fighting into Bakhmut from the north. This effort is likely to be exceedingly costly and slow, given the dense urban environment and Ukrainian fortification systems within Bakhmut. The Russians may resume efforts to encircle Bakhmut in the coming days or weeks, however.

Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Avdiivka–Donetsk City area on February 21. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops attacked near Novobakhmutivka (10km northeast of Avdiivka), on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Vodyane and Nevelske, and on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka. Two prominent milbloggers reported that Ukrainian forces conducted a successful counterattack north of Avdiivka and regained lost positions near Vesele (6km northeast of Avdiivka). Russian sources continued to claim that Russian forces are fighting for the center of Marinka. Geolocated footage shows that Russian forces have made marginal advances near Novomykhailivka, just south of Donetsk City.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on February 21. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian naval infantry elements continue assaults on Ukrainian positions in southeastern Vuhledar. Ukrainian Mariupol Mayoral Advisor Petro Andryushchenko claimed that certain Russian forces previously deployed within the Russian rear in Donetsk Oblast have transferred to the Vuhledar front. Geolocated footage shows that elements of the 36th Combined Arms Army (Eastern Military District) made marginal advances near Mykilske, just southwest of Vuhledar.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 21 address to the Russian Federal Assembly did not articulate specific goals or intentions for the war in Ukraine, instead reinforcing several long-standing rhetorical lines in an effort to buy Putin more space and time for a protracted war. Putin claimed that Russia began the “special military operation” in Ukraine a year ago in order to protect people in Russia’s “historical lands,” ensure Russian domestic security, remedy the threat posed by the Ukrainian “neo-Nazi” regime that he claims has been in place since 2014, and protect the people of Donbas. Putin virulently accused the collective West of arming Ukraine and deploying bases and biolabs close to Russian borders, thereby unleashing the war on Russia. Putin falsely analogized the Ukrainian Armed Forces with various Nazi divisions and thanked the Russian Armed Forces for their efforts in fighting the Nazi threat. The emphasis of a significant portion of the speech was on the supposed resilience of the Russian economic, social, and cultural spheres, and Putin made several recommendations for the development of occupied territories of Ukraine. Putin’s speech notably re-engaged with several long-standing Russian information operations regarding the justifications of the war and did not present an inflection in Russia’s rhetorical positioning on the war. Putin could have used this event to articulate new objectives and means for achieving them, such as announcing another formal wave of partial mobilization, redefining the “special military operation” as an official war, or taking additional steps to mobilize the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) in a more concrete way. Instead, Putin said very little of actual substance, likely in order to set continued information conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine by not articulating specific temporal goals and framing the war as existential to the Russian domestic population.

Putin announcement of Russia’s suspension of participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) captured more attention than the relatively boilerplate content of the rest of the speech. Towards the end of his speech, Putin claimed that the collective West has used START to try to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia and that Russia is therefore suspending its participation in START, although Putin did emphasize that suspension is not a full withdrawal. Putin called on the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian nuclear energy agency Rosatom to ensure readiness for testing nuclear weapons. Putin may have made this announcement in order to re-introduce nuclear rhetoric into the information space, thereby distracting from the overall lack of substance in the rest of his speech. ISW has previously reported on the Russian use of nuclear rhetoric as an information operation to discourage Ukraine and the West and compensate for Russian battlefield failures. ISW continues to assess that Russia will not employ a nuclear weapon in Ukraine or against NATO, however.

US President Joe Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland on February 21 to reaffirm US and NATO support for Ukraine after his trip to Kyiv. Biden emphasized the unity among NATO countries and stated “our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire.” Biden also directly addressed Putin’s February 21 speech stating, “the West was not plotting to attack Russia” and “[Putin] could end this war with a word.”

Many Russian milbloggers condemned Putin’s failure to use his speech to forward new war aims, outline new measures to support the war, or hold Russian authorities accountable for their many military failures. Some milbloggers with prior Kremlin affiliation as well as occupation officials attended the speech in person and expressed positive or neutral support for Putin’s framing of the war as a conflict against the West, suspension of Russia’s participation in START, and support of the Donbas separatist Republics. Other milbloggers criticized Putin’s address as boilerplate and without meaningful action. Russian milblogger Igor Girkin notably claimed that Putin did not say anything meaningful for 40 minutes; omitted Russia’s military defeats, military failures, and economic downturn; and failed to hold Russian officials accountable. Girkin also expressed frustration at Putin’s failure to use the address to formally recognize the war, announce next objectives, or counter Western sanctions. Another milblogger claimed that the suspension of Russia’s participation in START is politically symbolic but complained that the suspension will not improve Russia’s situation on the battlefield, instead calling on Russia to hinder Western military aid deliveries to Ukraine. A third milblogger compared Putin to a corpse and echoed many of Girkin’s complaints about accountability and action. Other milbloggers similarly noted the need for decisive action and called for Russia to foster the growth of and promote military leaders with a demonstrated history of taking decisive action on the battlefield. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that he did not watch Putin’s speech live because he was too busy working to supply Wagner forces with ammunition necessary to continue effective combat operations in Ukraine.

International journalists reportedly obtained the Kremlin’s classified 2021 strategy document on restoring Russian suzerainty over Belarus through the Union State by 2030. The Kyiv Independent, Yahoo News, and several of their international media partners published an investigative report on February 20 about a classified 17-page Russian strategy document on how the Kremlin seeks to absorb the Belarusian state using the Kremlin-dominated Union State structure by 2030. The journalists did not publish the strategy document to avoid compromising sources they said. While ISW is unable to confirm the existence or contents of this document, the reporters’ findings about the strategy document and its various lines of effort for Belarus’ phased military, political, economic, and cultural integration with Russia through the Union State are consistent with ISW’s long-term research and assessments about the Kremlin’s campaigns and strategic objective to subsume Belarus via the Union State.

NATO must seriously plan for the likely future reality of a Russian-controlled Belarus. As ISW previously assessed, Putin will very likely secure significant gains in restoring Russian suzerainty over Belarus regardless of the outcome of his invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s likely permanent gains in Belarus present the West with a decision about how to deal with the potential future security landscape on NATO’s eastern flank. If the West allows Putin to maintain his current gains in Ukraine—particularly Crimea and eastern Kherson Oblast—then the Kremlin will be able to use both occupied Belarusian and Ukrainian territory to further threaten Ukraine and NATO’s eastern flank. The West could alternatively set conditions for a future in which a territorially-whole Ukraine becomes a robust military partner in defending NATO’s eastern flank against Russia and Russian-occupied Belarus. This preferable long-term future is predicated on immediate and sustained decisive Western action to empower Ukraine to expel Russian forces from its territory. It is extraordinal unlikely that the West will be able to defeat or respond effectively to the Russian campaign to absorb Belarus without first defeating the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Director Wang Yi met in Moscow on February 21 to discuss deepening Sino–Russian cooperation. Patrushev stated that developing a strategic partnership with China is an unconditional foreign policy priority for Russia. Patrushev claimed that Western states are acting against both China and Russia and claimed that both states stand for a fair world order. Wang stated that Sino–Russian relations remain strong and can “will withstand the test of the changing international situation.” Wang will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on February 22. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on February 18 that China is strongly considering providing lethal support to Russia.

The Financial Times (FT) reported that international companies belonging to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s continue to garner hundreds of millions of dollars in profits despite long-standing Western sanctions. FT reported that the Prigozhin-controlled company Evro Polis, which received energy concessions from Syria in exchange for recapturing ISIS-controlled oilfields, had net profits of $90 million in 2020 despite US sanctions on the company in 2018, providing a 180 percent return on investment for shareholders that was repatriated to Russia. FT reported that smaller Prigozhin-controlled companies like M Invest, which runs gold mines in Sudan, and Mercury LLC, a Syrian oil company that likely transferred operations to a new business name to evade sanctions, continue to rake in millions in profit. FT’s report further demonstrates the extent to which Western sanctions have failed to stop Russian or Russian-backed actors that help Russia fight against Ukraine.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 21 address to the Russian Federal Assembly did not articulate specific goals or intentions for the war in Ukraine, instead reinforcing several long-standing rhetorical lines in an effort to buy Putin more space and time for a protracted war.
  • Putin announcement of Russia’s suspension of participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) captured more attention than the relatively boilerplate content of the rest of the speech.
  • US President Joe Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland on February 21 to reaffirm US and NATO support for Ukraine after his trip to Kyiv.
  • Many Russian milbloggers condemned Putin’s failure to use his speech to forward new war aims, outline new measures to support the war, or hold Russian authorities accountable for their many military failures.
  • International journalists reportedly obtained the Kremlin’s classified 2021 strategy document on restoring Russian suzerainty over Belarus through the Union State by 2030.
  • Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Director Wang Yi met in Moscow on February 21 on deepening Sino–Russan cooperation.
  • The Financial Times (FT) reported that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s international companies continue to garner hundreds of millions of dollars in profits despite long-standing Western sanctions.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a limited counterattack near Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued making incremental tactical gains in and around Bakhmut, and continued ground attacks near Avdiivka.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continue to reinforce and build fortifications in rear areas in southern Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin may be directing patronage programs between Russian regions and occupied Ukrainian territory to promote socio-economic recovery and infrastructure development.

Russian President Vladimir Putin further expanded unrealistic promises of benefits for Russian soldiers in his address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

Why Ukraine will win the war, Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling explains in The Washington Post. “Looks have always been deceiving when it comes to Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. From the start, Russia’s capacities were overestimated. Both the size of its army, and the modernization it had supposedly undergone indicated to many observers that Russia would triumph easily. But since the invasion began, the Russian military has failed to adapt its strategy and operational objectives to battle conditions and circumstances.

Today, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the conflict, coverage of the war’s battles mostly focuses on the fighting along the central and southern front, with cities such as Bakhmut and Vuhledar dominating headlines. Russia has been making small gains at great human cost to its troops around the former, and has squandered thousands of its soldiers for nothing at the latter. This might look like an emerging stalemate, but it is anything but. It is, in fact, a slugfest.

The war has gone through five phases and, through each one, Ukraine’s forces have significantly outperformed Russia’s, in no small part because of a military culture of adaptability. Russian forces continue to be hampered by a lack of that very same culture, as well as by a lack of leadership and initiative. […]

Putin never officially announced his strategic goals. To try to understand what his generals might do, I tried to ascertain what those might be. He seemed to want regime change in Kyiv, the destruction of Ukraine’s army, the subjugation of Ukraine’s population, control of the Black and Azov Sea ports (and perhaps of Moldova, as well). It was obvious Russia didn’t have the number of soldiers or the combined arms effectiveness to achieve Putin’s ambitious war aims.

Worse, Putin’s army ignored one of the most important principles of war: unity of command. The generals planned an attack on nine different axes of advance, but were never able to coordinate ample naval and air forces into a massed assault.

The war started on Feb. 24. It took about six weeks for Phase 1 of Putin’s campaign to fail. On April 2, Putin was forced to try a different approach. He shifted Russian forces to the east, while placing new generals in charge. But he did little to address the damage inflicted on the army by such a catastrophic beginning. Estimates vary, but up to 40 percent of front-line Russian combat units appear to have been mauled, with supply lines and effective command decimated. Putin moved most of his army east, and subsequently ordered his army to be rebuilt in weeks. Any general familiar with the physical and psychological demands associated with regeneration of a force this severely degraded would tell you this would not work.

On April 18, Putin launched a new Russian offensive in the east — the start of Phase 2 of the war. New arrows and circles were drawn on Russian maps, but the Russian generals and their troops on the ground continued to underperform. There was no meaningful adaptation and no attempt to learn hard lessons from earlier setbacks. Pieced-together, low-morale units were thrown into the fight with little planning, bad reconnaissance and ineffective battlefield leadership. Ukraine, on the other hand, was not complacent. Its generals were fast learners, and Ukrainian soldiers were innovative and adaptive. The Russian forces continued to suffer huge losses.

Phase 3 began in July and lasted through September. Ukraine’s army forced a large-scale withdrawal in the northeast in the Sumy and Kharkiv oblasts, using small-scale counterattacks directed at just the right locations, aided by a large-scale operational deception in the south. Ukrainian special operations forces also contributed significantly to this phase, using stealth and disciplined operational security to ensure that Russia was embarrassed behind its own lines. For most of the summer, the Russians sustained casualties that far exceeded those suffered during the disastrous Phase 1 and 2.

Phase 4 began in late September, when Putin announced that several of the partially occupied southern regions of Ukraine would undergo annexation. This was accompanied by Putin’s order to mobilize an additional 300,000 Russians for the fight. The referendums in the occupied territories, in preparation for months, were met with an effective insurgency by Ukraine’s population and territorial forces, and were delayed multiple times. And the mobilization, while successful in bringing a limited number of “fresh” but unwilling soldiers to the front line, was still plagued by the same deficiencies that characterized Russia’s war effort from the start. The mobilizations were rushed and improvised, recruits were poorly trained and equipped, and Russian leadership was still lacking.

In contrast, Ukraine’s actions during this period consisted of an impressively coordinated use of conventional forces that had successfully incorporated newly arrived Western weapons, most notably precision-guided artillery and rockets. In addition, this phase featured more Ukrainian special operations activity, and the continued use of territorial resistance fighters. Russia responded to all this by lobbing missiles into densely packed Ukrainian cities to target critical infrastructure and Ukrainian civilians. The war crimes committed by Russian leadership and their forces continued.

Since December, we have been in Phase 5 of this war. Though the front might not have moved much, there has been significant fighting and extensive casualties on both sides. This phase is best understood not as a stalemate, but as Ukraine struggling to survive a Russian onslaught. Putin continues his messy mobilization and is sending fresh cannon fodder (or “cannon meat,” as Russians call these wretches) at Ukrainian lines in assault waves.

Ukrainian generals have balanced limited but continuous counterattacks with an active defense, while also being forced to allocate scarce air-defense capabilities to protect civilians. Ukrainian forces are also continuing to conduct intelligence operations to identify targets they will likely strike in the near future. It’s a delicate balance for the decision-makers in Kyiv. They are trying to hold the defensive lines while training and equipping their forces with newly obtained, advanced Western materiel that will make a qualitative difference in the looming counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s armed forces have admirably adapted in each phase of this fight, learning lessons from training they received over the last decade, and from the scars earned on the battlefield itself. And Russia has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to do the same.

It will remain difficult for Russia to change — simply because it can’t. A nation’s army is drawn from its people, and a nation’s army reflects the character and values of the society. While equipment, doctrine, training and leadership are important qualities of any army, the essence of a fighting force comes from what the nation represents. Putin’s autocratic kleptocracy is thus far proving no match for Ukraine’s agile democracy.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister knows some details about Chinese “peace plan”, but wants to see it in full, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shared with him the key positions of the “peace plan,” which will be examined in detail by the Ukrainian side after receiving the text in full. […] Ukraine’s Foreign Minister emphasised that the “peace formula” initiated by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains a top priority.

Kuleba also noted that all Chinese actions in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine should be aimed at protecting the principle of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, expressed reservations about the peace initiative announced by China regarding the war in Ukraine. On Monday, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed European officials, that the Chinese plan for a peaceful settlement of Russia’s war against Ukraine contains calls for a ceasefire and arms supplies to Ukraine.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Wang Yi, Head of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, said that China does not want the “crisis” in Ukraine to continue. We don’t want to add fuel to the fire and we don’t want to benefit from the crisis. We want to contribute to finding peace, we are on the side of peace and dialogue, he added. […]

He reaffirmed his position that the territorial integrity and principles of the UN Charter must be respected, nuclear war must not be started and cannot be won, nuclear power plants must not be under fire, and chemical and biological weapons must not be used under any circumstances.

Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, announced that the “position paper” on the settlement of the war concerns respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foundations of the UN Charter, consideration of the legitimate security interests of all countries, and support for all efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Both President Putin and President Biden addressed the world on 21 February. The two speeches addressed the same war but from two fundamentally different perspectives.

Putin tried to justify his decision to launch the so-called “Special Military Operation” arguing that Ukraine and the West were planning strikes on Russia’s historic lands, arguing that he had done everything possible to solve the threat by peaceful means. He upheld his false claim of Russia – the largest nuclear power on earth and the second biggest military power – being under an existential threat.

The Western elite make no secret of their goal, which is, I quote, “Russia’s strategic defeat.” What does this mean to us? This means they plan to finish us once and for all. In other words, they plan to grow a local conflict into a global confrontation. This is how we understand it and we will respond accordingly, because this represents an existential threat to our country.”

Biden’s message could not have been more different as he rallied NATO in support of Ukraine.

When Russia invaded, it wasn’t just Ukraine being tested.  The whole world faced a test for the ages. Europe was being tested.  America was being tested.  NATO was being tested. All democracies were being tested. […] We also faced fundamental questions about the commitment to the most basic of principles. Would we stand up for the sovereignty of nations?  Would we stand up for the right of people to live free from naked aggression?  Would we stand up for democracy? One year later, we know the answers. Yes, we would stand up for sovereignty.  And we did.  Yes, we would stand up for the right of people to live free from aggression.  And we did. And we would stand up for democracy. And we did.[…]

Our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire. President Putin’s craven lust for land and power will fail.  And the Ukrainian people’s love for their country will prevail. Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow, and forever. For that’s what — that’s what’s at stake here: freedom.

President Putin chose this war.  Every day the war continues is his choice.  He could end the war with a word. It’s simple.  If Russia stopped invading Ukraine, it would end the war.  If Ukraine stopped defending itself against Russia, it would be the end of Ukraine.”

Both speeches, however, had one thing in common: The lack of a strategy or commitment to end the war.

President Putin did not articulate a new aim or objectives for the war in Ukraine. He could have used the opportunity to outline his plan and means to overcome the challenges Russia is experiencing on the battlefield. He did not redefine the “Special Military Operation” or declare war. He did not declare a new wave of mobilisation or take additional steps to mobilize the Russian defence industry.

President Biden did not announce a shift in the US strategy either. The President could have outlined his “red lines. He could have presented his desired end-state for the war. Biden could have used the opportunity to reframe the war as what it is: A broader confrontation between Russia and the West.

He could have used the anniversary of the full-scale invasion to declare a fundamental shift in the military balance in favour of Ukraine, including bringing military options back on the table, introducing the idea of a military intervention according to the UN “Responsible to Protect” doctrine and NATO’s previous strategic concept. Biden could not least have announced a decision to supply Ukraine with both F-16 and ATACMS long-range missile systems.

He did not. Instead, the US announcement of a further $460M of additional military support for Ukraine underlined its intention to continue its slow and incremental supply of only some of the weapons Ukraine needs to evict Russian forces. But not all. It will continue to shape Ukraine’s ability to conduct efficient counteroffensive operations in the months to come.

The Russian and US strategic ambiguity is notable in the backdrop of an increasingly more active China. The latter has reconfirmed its ties to Russia as “rock-solid” as it is ramping up its diplomatic efforts. China’s top diplomat Wang Yi arrived in Moscow on Tuesday. According to the media, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing to visit Moscow for a summit with President Putin in the coming months. China’s strategic messaging is to some part aligned with Russia, including the use of the term “special military operation” and holding the West responsible for the war. It has refrained from directly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed concerns about the war in Ukraine “spiralling out of control“, as it prepares to present a peace plan, responding to the US claim that it might be prepared to supply Russia with lethal aid.

A separate Chinese peace plan means that it will differ from President Zelensky’s plan, aiming to both restore Ukrainian territorial integrity according to its internationally recognised borders, as well as hold Russia accountable for its atrocities in Ukraine.

According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the “position paper” on the settlement of the war will respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foundations of the UN Charter, and consideration of the “legitimate security interests” of all countries. The latter will include the Russian false claims of an existential threat from Ukraine and the West. Bloomberg reports that the Chinese peace plan calls for a ceasefire and arms supplies to Ukraine.

I suspect that the “peace plan” will bear resemblance to the Minsk agreements, freezing the frontline according to the status quo. China might also re-introduce the idea of a peacekeeping force consisting of China and other “neutral” countries, excluding the participation of both NATO and CIS countries.

This would effectively stop further military offensives, freeze the conflict, and provide Putin with an off-ramp. It would, however, also mean that Ukraine would be forced to concede territory for a sort of peace, condemning millions of Ukrainians to Russian occupation and oppression. It would effectively stop the Ukrainian western tractor, denying it the opportunity to join the EU and NATO. Simultaneously, Russia will have established a launch pad for its next offensive – years from now – when it has finished the reform and regeneration of its military power.

A “Minsk Agreement version 3.0” might potentially also be seen as an off-ramp for some of Ukraine’s western partners concerned about the risk of ”the war escalating into a broader confrontation”. The Chinese initiative and potential threat of supply of military aid to Russia will help deepen their concerns.

Ukraine, however, will not be able to accept a “Minsk 3.0” as this would effectively end its hope for peace and being a fully integrated member of the EU and NATO.

President Biden’s statement that “our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire” might be put to the test in the days and weeks to come.

 

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