The war. Russia finally chose the path of escalation

The situation at the front

After the Ukrainian forces liberated the right-bank part of the Kherson region, they received new opportunities for fire control over the left-bank part of the region and Crimea. Ukrainian artillery now can control all the main logistical routes of Russian troops in the occupied territory of the Ukrainian south.

The most difficult situation remains in the Donetsk direction, where the Russians continue to carry out their counterattacks. But, due to the deeply echeloned defense line and the fortified areas of the Ukrainian forces, their attempts, in general, have so far remained unsuccessful. In addition, the Russians continue trying to advance further south – through Pavlivka to Vuhledar. However, the advancing units come under fire from Ukrainian artillery, which makes it quite difficult for them to move forward and they suffer significant losses. The Russians are also trying to expand the offensive line and move in other directions, in particular, to Velyka Novosilka. The goal of such actions is to move the Ukrainian line as far as possible to secure its railway logistics artery from Debaltseve, through Volnovakha, to Melitopol and Kakhovka.

In the Lugansk direction, despite active fighting and the application of sufficient efforts on both sides, the front line there, in general, does not move.

Shortly, the situation at the front will remain approximately the same as it is now. Both sides will strengthen their groupings due to the “released” forces from the right-bank part of the Kherson region. The most active battles will remain in the Donetsk direction, where the Russians will continue to attempt to fulfill the “political” task of reaching the borders of the Donetsk region and “liberating” the so-called DPR, as well as to the south – in the area of Vuhledar, where they will try to ensure the security of an important for them logistics corridor.

Now the weather conditions in the combat zone are not conducive to active maneuvers of the troops, so both sides will build up forces and prepare for active offensive operations at a time when the ground begins to freeze and it will be possible, primarily for armored vehicles, to move.

G-20 and Putin’s next missile terror

Last week, the G20 summit took place on the Indonesian island of Bali. The main topic of the most of meetings was the Russian-Ukrainian war. In the final declaration adopted at the end of the summit, the majority of the G20 members strongly condemned the war and stressed that it causes great human suffering and exacerbates existing instabilities in the global economy. In addition, they demanded “the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine.”

During the summit, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky made a speech, in which in the context of ongoing active talks about possible negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, noted that “it is not worth offering Ukraine compromises with conscience, sovereignty, territory and independence” and “if Russia says that it wants to end this war, she has to prove it with actions.” He also stressed that Ukraine “will not let Russia wait out, build up strength, and then start a new series of terror and global destabilization.” “There will be no Minsk-3 which Russia will violate immediately after its conclusion,” Zelensky said.

Also, during his speech, the Ukrainian president proposed a “Ukrainian formula for peace”, which consists of 10 points, including the implementation of the UN Charter and the restoration of territorial integrity and world order, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and the cessation of hostilities, the return of justice, the prevention of escalation, fixing the end of the war.

At its core, Zelensky’s speech and the “peace formula” he voiced is a proposal that, by and large, suits everyone (except the Kremlin, of course). For example, in the context of the nuclear threat, Zelensky noted the important role of the IAEA and recalled that Ukraine is open to any form of control so that everyone can make sure that Russian versions of “dirty bombs” are nothing more than the creation of Russian propaganda. As for the “grain deal”, Ukraine is ready to satisfy both poor countries, which need food, and transport companies that can earn on the transportation of grain from Ukraine. It is also important for the Ukrainian president to emphasize the inadmissibility of escalation and Ukraine’s readiness for negotiations while delineating the “red lines” that it does not intend to allow Russia and the West to cross in bargaining for peace.

On the other hand, Russia at the G-20 not only failed to offer any constructive proposal but once again showed its true face to the world community.

Firstly – by declining his presence at the summit, Putin has made a groundless gesture of disdain for those who invited him. And the fact that he did not speak at least online (for which he could find an opportunity) was outright rudeness. Foreign Minister Lavrov, who took part in his place, was only complaining that Ukraine does not want to negotiate and that its “Western curators” need to put pressure on it.

Secondly – by the fact that Russia, on the very first day of the summit, carried out another missile attack on Ukrainian territory. The 96-missile barrage fired across Ukraine on November 15 was Russia’s biggest aerial attack of the war so far. Interestingly, in contrast to the shelling of October 10, which started at 6 am, on November 15, Russia began shelling in the afternoon – just after Lavrov had left the summit.

Several conclusions should be drawn from Russia’s massive missile attack on Ukraine during the G-20 summit.

The first is that Russia is not interested in de-escalation, and vice versa, it will only raise the stakes. Unable to force Ukraine into negotiations (on its terms, of course) through actions at the front, the Kremlin will continue its missile terror to pressure the West to persuade Ukraine to dialogue. At the same time, the Kremlin itself admitted that it was shelling the infrastructure of Ukraine, precisely for this purpose. According to Putin’s spokesman Peskov, the lack of electricity and heat in many regions of Ukraine is “the consequences of the actions of the Kyiv authorities, which, in particular, refuse to negotiate.”

The second is the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air defense, which on November 15 shot down 77 Russian missiles and 10 Shahed drones. It is noteworthy that for the first time the American NASAMS complexes were used in this war. At the same time, the “Buk” and S-300 remain the main working systems in Ukraine.

The third conclusion is that missiles are running out in Russia. During the inspection of the wreckage of one of the missiles shot down near Kyiv, it was found that the missile was made almost in the third quarter of this year. That is, the stocks of missiles in Russia are so exhausted that for strikes against Ukraine, it is forced to use newly manufactured samples.

Tragedy in Poland

In addition to the destruction of Ukrainian critical infrastructure and the death of Ukrainian citizens, another negative consequence of the Russian shelling on November 15 was the fall of a missile in Poland near the border with Ukraine, killing two people.

Commenting on the incident, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that there were no signs of a deliberate attack in the incident with the missile falling on the territory of the country and that it could belong to the Ukrainian air defense. At the same time, he noted that it is Russia that is responsible for this war and all the misfortunes resulting from this war. And Jakub Kumoch, head of the Polish president’s International Policy Bureau said that the fall of a missile in Poland did not lead to tension in relations between Kyiv and Warsaw. For his part, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that a Ukrainian air defense missile probably fell on the territory of Poland, and all responsibility lies on Russia. A similar position is shared by the United States, where the National Security Council said in a statement that “Whatever the conclusions may be, it is clear that the party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles on Ukraine specifically intended to target civilian infrastructure.”

In general, concerning the incident with the missile in Poland, the following should be noted.

First and foremost, this is talked about in the West and Kyiv: the important thing is not whose missile was it, but what has led to the tragedy, that is, Russia and its full-scale military aggression against Ukraine.

The second is something that is not talked about in the West, but from the very beginning of the war has been talked about in Ukraine, namely: close the airspace over us. If you cannot or do not want to do that, then give us the required number of air/missile defense systems and aircraft, and we will do it ourselves. If this does not happen, then such tragic cases as in Poland, unfortunately, may be repeated, because Russia is not going to stop.

The third is that a massive missile attack on Ukraine and an incident in Poland could become an impetus for strengthening the air defense of Ukraine and the air defense of NATO’s eastern flank. In particular, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial on November 17 that now it is time to respond to Kyiv’s request and provide Ukraine with those missiles that will help it defend itself against Russian air attacks.

This can also be seen from the statements and practical steps taken by Ukraine’s partners during the regular working meeting of the contact group in the Ramstein format, which took place just the day after the Russian missile attack. In particular, Sweden promised to provide Ukraine with air defense systems, as well as ammunition and other weapons, Spain – with launchers for HAWK air defense systems and missiles for them, and Poland – with artillery and ammunition, as well as short-range air defense. As for the United States, they provide Ukraine with weapons without waiting for “Rammstein”. So, recently the Pentagon announced the provision of a new assistance package to Ukraine, which, among other things, includes missiles for HAWK and Avenger air defense systems, as well as Stinger MANPADs, ammunition for HIMARS, 155-mm artillery shells, as well as high-precision 155-mm artillery shells.

Verdict of The Hague

Another important event last week was the hearing of the Hague District Court, which has found three men guilty of murder for shooting down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The court, in particular, recognized the version of the prosecution that it was Russia who controlled the so-called DPR and that MH17 was deliberately shot down by a “Buk” air defense system from temporarily occupied Pervomaisk.

The court’s decision confirmed what was obvious from the very beginning – Russia’s involvement in the tragedy, and that it is Russian aggression that is the prime cause of the war, deaths, and war crimes in Ukraine. The aggressor state, Russia, bears all responsibility for the victims, including accidental ones – as recently in Poland.

The court’s verdict on the three suspects will not end this process and will continue until those who directly launched the missile from the “Buk” and “ordered” the shooting down of a passenger jet are named.

The importance of the MH17 case also lies in the fact that it will be part of a broader process of holding the Russian leadership accountable for the war in Ukraine.

Summing up, it can be said with a certain degree of certainty that the events described above will have important consequences both for the further development of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the post-war order of the world as a whole.

Igor Fedyk

Head of the South Eastern Europe Section

Igor coordinates the South Eastern Europe Section of the New Geopolitics Research Network. He previously worked as the Head of the Balkan section of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, as well as the Deputy Editor-in-chief of the English-language magazine The Ukrainian Defense Review.

His current research interests are focused on the political, economic and social aspects of the development of the South Eastern Europe and Balkan countries, their interstate and inter-ethnic relations, as well as the relations with third parties (countries not from the region, international organizations), which have an important impact on the situation in the region and in Europe.

He is the author of a number of articles and analyses in various Ukrainian and foreign Media.

Contact Us
November 2022
Translate »