28 June 2022

New Panther – German answer to Russia’s T-14 tank

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The war in Ukraine may have heralded the return of large-scale mechanized wars of attrition. While Russia’s huge tank losses early on during its invasion have prompted premature calls about the tank’s death, the subsequent attrition fighting has shown tanks bearing the brunt of ground combat once again.

That development has re-emphasized the enduring need for a heavily armed and armored combat vehicle capable of breaking through the toughest of defenses.

However, the dynamics of mechanized warfare that have been unfolding in Ukraine may have validated or invalidated design concepts included in the latest main battle tanks (MBT), such as Germany’s KF51 Panther and Russia’s T-14 Armata.

Not the time for a loaded ride

These advanced tank designs showcase several technologies that may define armored warfare for years – but the tanks themselves might be of only limited usefulness in today’s modern conflicts.

Analysis Russian Afganit active protection system is able to intercept uranium tank ammunition TASS 11012163

The Afganit active protection system (APS) equipping the Armata commonized heavy tacked platform’s derivatives has proved to be able to intercept depleted-uranium (DU) armor-piercing discarding-sabot (APDS) projectiles during tests, according to the Izvestia daily.

Close view of the Afganit active protection system (APS) mounted on the turret of the Russian-made T-14 Armata main battle tank (Photo copyright Vitaly Kuzmin)

The unique system from the Instrument Design Bureau (KBP) detects incoming AP projectiles with its radar and destroys them with special fragmentation projectiles.

The first test intercepts of depleted-uranium APDS projectiles have taken place this year. The cutting-edge system has tackled such hard targets successfully, even though DU projectiles were believed to be invulnerable, a Russian Defense Ministry officer close to the trials told the Izvestia. Work is in full swing on refining the system, the computer software controlling the intercept in particular.

The Afganit is a complex radio electronic system combining active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, a computer subsystem and dischargers firing special rounds, whose fragments destroy incoming projectiles. Pictures of T-14s and T-15s show both the peculiar tube-shaped submunition dischargers sitting at the base of the T-14’s turret and on the T-15’s sides and the radars looking like small plastic plates.

"The Russian-made Arena and Drozd APS’s and the Israeli-made Trophy are quite capable of defeating antitank guided missiles and rockets. In particular, they say that Palestinian fighters have failed to take out a single Merkava tank protected by the Trophy since 2011," expert Vladislav Belogrud told the Izvestia. "However, ATGMs and AT rockets are far easier for the APS to deal with than APDS projectiles are. In particular, the ATGM has a velocity of a mere 300 m/s. The missile itself is essentially a thin metal tube stuffed with electronics, the propellant and shaped charge and rather vulnerable to the frags generated by a nearby APS projectile explosion. The APDS projectile, on the other hand, is a monolithic steel structure travelling at a velocity of 1,500-2,000 km/s to boot."

Developed as far back as the 1930s and first used en masse in the Second World War, the APDS projectile remains a most effective means against heavily armored vehicles. The weapon is based on a spear- or dart-shaped core made of a dense and strong metal and designed to punch through the armor of enemy tanks.

"The idea is simple enough: focus the projectile’s energy on a small area of the armor by using the subcaliber core made of a very dense and strong metal. Previously used tungsten carbide is a hard, albeit fragile, material," expert Valery Mukhin told the Izvestia.

 "Penetrating the armor, the tungsten core is strongly compressed by the armor it is passing through. Therefore, once inside, it fragments into small pieces. This is useful for dealing with homogenous armor, but this projectile is no threat to up-to-date tanks featuring multilayer armor. Hence, there has emerged a new generation of projectiles made of relatively ductile materials - a tungsten alloy and depleted uranium that behave like a stream of liquid when punching through the armor."

The front part of such projectiles is splattered on impact, with the remainder penetrating the armor layer by layer. The density of uranium is higher than that of tungsten. Hence, uranium-alloy projectiles feature a higher armor penetration capability than the ones made of tungsten. In addition, DU core fragments (uranium ignites at the drop of a hat) ignite after having gotten inside the tank, inflicting extra damage on the hardware and the crew.

Advanced APDS projectiles are rather expensive. While the venerable US-made M829A3 basic long-rod penetrator cost the US taxpayer $5,000 a pop, its successor, the M829A4, is twice as expensive, according to the Izvestia daily.

China banking scandal may involve US$6 billion


More than 400,000 depositors of six rural banks in central China’s Henan province are being urged to file their cases to banking regulators if they cannot withdraw their money, which reportedly totals 40 billion yuan (US$6 billion). Since April, the depositors, who are located in different places across the country, have been unable to withdraw their […]

Ottoman's New Wings, Short-Takeoffs, and more

Rohan Khattar Singh

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has put a spotlight on Turkey’s aviation industry when combat footage from Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone striking Russian armour and artillery equipment went viral. However, recent interviews of Ukrainian pilots have shown that with an established Russian Air-Defence, the Bayraktar TB2 drone has become easy pickings. The drone which was first inducted in 2004 has now clocked 400,000 hours globally with more than 300 airframes being operated by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The TB2 has been effectively used across multiple conflicts in Libya, Syria, the Nagorno-Karabakh war, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and is likely to be extensively used in future conflicts which require limited air power involvement, or in scenarios where the other side lacks a robust Air Defence network.

TAI Hurjet at Teknofest 2021

Turkey is also rapidly developing its fixed-wing fleet in order to replenish its ageing fleet of more than 200 F-16s, and with the uncertainty of the delivery of F-35s, Turkey has to rely on its indigenous production to secure its national interests. Apart from its ongoing work on the TF-X stealth fighter, Turkey is also producing the TAI Hurjet, a Light Combat aircraft which has created much intrigue amongst South East Asian Countries, particularly Malaysia, which is considering the HAL Tejas to fulfil its urgency for a smaller fighter aircraft.

Climate Change Affects The Likelihood Of Armed Conflict

Climate change influences the likelihood and duration of armed conflicts in Africa. This is the result of a study carried out by a team from the INGENIO Institute, a joint centre of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), together with the University of Rome III and the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, published in the latest issue of the journal Economía Política.

The team of researchers based their study on data from the African continent from 1990 to 2016. Using a negative binomial regression mathematical model, they assessed whether certain climatic phenomena, in combination with the socio-economic characteristics of the areas studied, affected the likelihood of a conflict breaking out and, if it did, its duration.

Among its findings, the study states that a prolonged increase in temperature and precipitation increases the probability of conflict beyond the affected area by four to five times, specifically in populations up to a radius of about 550 km.

BRI To Boost Bangladesh’s Energy Security – OpEd

Saifan Shakhaoat

A multi-functional modular seabed trencher developed by a Chinese firm has recently completed 100 kilometres of pipelines construction in Bangladesh’s first marine pipeline project under Belt and Road Initiative, setting two world records in directional drilling and deep trenching as Global Times Reported.

Bangladesh initiated “Single-point Mooring with Double Pipelines”- project under Flagship Belt and Road Initiative during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Bangladesh in 2016 as part of development cooperation.

It was one of the top priority projects of the Energy Division as the project will substantially save fuel transportation cost along with time. A “Single-point Mooring with Double Pipelines”- is a loading buoy anchored offshore, that serves as a mooring point and interconnect for tankers loading or offloading gas or liquid products.

The project was undertaken by the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) to transport imported raw petroleum to state-owned Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) at Moheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar, Chattogram.

US Providing Ukraine Assistance To Protect Its Coast, Waterways

C. Todd Lopez

In the last month, the U.S. pledged more than $1.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. Some of that assistance is aimed at helping the Ukrainian military better defend their coast and waterways.

On Thursday, the U.S. promised $450 million in security assistance through presidential drawdown authority — the 13th such outlay this year. Included in that package were 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats.

Earlier this month, the U.S. pledged $1 billion in support through both presidential drawdown authority and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Included in that support package were, among other things, two Harpoon coastal defense systems.

Included in the package announced Thursday are two 35-foot, small-unit riverine craft; six 40-foot maritime combat craft; and ten 34-foot, Dauntless Sea Ark patrol boats.

Political Front Lines: China's Pursuit of Influence in Africa


Over the past five years, China’s overseas political influence activities have drawn increasing scrutiny in Western democracies in Oceania, North America, and Europe. Groundbreaking scholarly work by academics, media investigations by journalists, revelations of high-profile cases, and public warnings from intelligence agencies have led several governments to officially express concern over Chinese influence activities and to adopt measures to better defend themselves against unacceptable intrusions into their domestic social and political processes. This collective knowledge production has also allowed greater public awareness on what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) calls “united front work,” including its tactics, targets, objectives, proxies, and supporting bureaucracies. However, compared with the growing body of literature that is available on Chinese united front activities in advanced liberal democracies, very little attention has been devoted so far to understanding whether and how this sophisticated and sprawling system is deployed in the developing world. This report strives to fill this gap, by focusing specifically on China’s influence efforts in Africa.

As observed in Western democracies, political influence activities can take many forms, from “routine cultural diplomacy to purchasing political favors and silencing critics.”[1] Other noted activities include “securing access to strategic information and resources,”[2] “repurposing” democratic structures as tools serving the CCP’s policies,[3] and “increasing the CCP’s political influence, interfering in the Chinese diaspora, suppressing dissident movements, building a permissive international environment for a takeover of Taiwan, intelligence gathering, encouraging investment in China, and facilitating technology transfer.”[4] The scope of united front work has evolved to keep up with the CCP’s varying priorities, but its main task and basic framework remain unchanged. Put simply, it seeks to form tactical alliances to engineer an environment that is favorable to the advancement of the party-state’s goals, while marginalizing and neutralizing those who may stand in its way. In Xi Jinping’s words, united front is about drawing the broadest possible concentric circle around the party.[5] Accordingly, the CCP “wants to expand united front work to make maximum use of all Chinese talent, both domestic and among the Chinese diaspora as well as from any others who might be willing to assist.”[6] Managing overseas Chinese communities, co-opting foreigners, and influencing the perception of wider audiences are equally important to achieve the broadening of the CCP’s supporting circle.[7] As Mareike Ohlberg explains in the opening essay of this report, the same basic framework is applied throughout Africa, where united front organizations and tactics are deployed to serve the CCP’s strategic objectives both at the global and local levels. Her meticulous description of united front organizations active in Africa sheds a unique light on their characteristics, targets, tactics, and objectives.

Peace Versus Justice: The Coming European Split Over War In Ukraine – Analysis

Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard


In the weeks and months since the invasion of Ukraine, Europeans have surprised both Vladimir Putin – and themselves – by their unity and decisiveness. Post-heroic European societies outraged by Russia’s aggression, and mesmerised by Ukrainians’ valour, provided the motivating force for Europe’s unexpected turn. They inspired their governments to adopt change on a historic scale; they opened their homes to millions of Ukrainians; they demanded tough economic sanctions; and they forced Western companies to leave Russia as quickly as possible. While previous “European moments” were marked by the European flag mobilising people beyond the borders of the European Union (including in Ukraine), this time the Ukrainian flag mobilised people within the EU.

Europeans have discovered that they are a more serious force than they previously thought. Distinguished commentator Moises Naim has argued, “Europe discovered that it’s a superpower”. But, as the war approaches its fifth month, will European unity last? Or will cracks start to emerge between and within EU countries?

The European Council on Foreign Relations conducted a pan-European opinion poll across ten countries to find answers to these questions. The poll was conducted in mid-May – at a time when citizens had had a chance to absorb the shock of the invasion. The public debate was turning away from events on the battlefield and towards questions of how the conflict will end, as well as its impact on people’s lives, on their countries, and on the EU. It was also a moment when Europeans were becoming much more aware of the global economic and social consequences of the war: high inflation, and energy and food crises. This poll measures European publics’ resilience rather than just their anger at Putin’s war.

The approximately 8,000 people polled came from across Europe. The countries surveyed were Poland and Romania – frontline, traditionally Russia-sceptic, states in central Europe; France, Germany, and Italy – large western European states that previously earned reputations as Russlandverstehers (“Russia understanders”); Portugal and Spain – southern European states that have in the past generally been less involved in Russia policy; Finland and Sweden – northern European states that are applying for NATO membership as a result of the invasion; and Great Britain.

The findings of the poll suggest that European public opinion is shifting, and that the toughest days may lie ahead. The resilience of European democracies will mostly depend on the capacity of governments to sustain public support for policies that will ultimately bring pain to different social groups. This will force governments to balance the pursuit of European unity behind pressure on Moscow with opinions that diverge both inside and among member states. The survey reveals a growing gap between the stated positions of many European governments and the public mood in their countries. The big looming divide is between those who want to end the war as quickly as possible and those who want to carry on fighting until Russia has been defeated.

Available options included ‘Russia’, ‘US’, ‘EU’, ‘Ukraine’, as well as ‘None of these’ and ‘Don’t know’ (the latter two not shown in the chart). Overall, 2% responded ‘None of these’ and 10% said ‘Don’t know’. Source: Datapraxis and YouGov, May 2022. ECFR · ecfr.eu

Europe after Russia’s invasion

Europeans are not divided over whom to blame for the war – three-quarters say Russia is responsible for the conflict. Nor are they divided over who represents the major obstacle to peace – two-thirds point to Russia. The sole exception to this is Italy, where citizens’ opinions are closely balanced over whether Ukraine and the West are not the bigger obstacle.

Available options included ‘Russia’, ‘US’, ‘EU’, ‘Ukraine’, as well as ‘None of these’ and ‘Don’t know’ (the latter two not shown in the chart). Overall, 7% responded ‘None of these’ and 12% said ‘Don’t know’. Source: Datapraxis and YouGov, May 2022. ECFR · ecfr.eu

Overall, Europeans do not hesitate about which side they are on: they want Ukraine to prevail. And they are ready to help it defend itself.

Moreover, ECFR’s new poll shows that most Europeans are ready to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine, in the form of providing economic assistance, sending arms, supporting Ukrainian membership of the EU, and accepting refugees. At the same time, they also back tough measures against Russia, including applying economic sanctions, ending fossil fuel imports, and deploying troops to eastern Europe (but not to Ukraine itself).

But, although Europeans blame Russia for the war and hope for a Ukrainian victory, European states and societies are divided about how they see the war ending.
Peace versus justice

In theory, all European governments concur that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide when to stop the war and to agree the shape of peace. But clear divisions emerge in the poll when voters choose between whether Europe should seek to end the war as soon as possible – even if it means Ukraine making concessions – or whether the most important goal is to punish Russia for its aggression and to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine – even if such a road leads to protracted conflict and more human suffering.

Segmentation based on the analysis of responses to two questions. Detailed explanation in the methodology annexe. Source: Datapraxis and YouGov, May 2022. ECFR · ecfr.eu

These results place Europeans into two opposing groups: a Peace camp and a Justice camp. Supporters of the Peace camp want peace now even at the cost of Ukrainian concessions to Russia. The Justice camp believes that only Russia’s clear defeat can bring peace. This split runs through many countries – and between them. As the conflict in Ukraine turns into a long war of attrition, it risks becoming the key dividing line in Europe. And, unless political leaders handle this difference in standpoint carefully, it could spell the end for Europe’s remarkable unity.

Across the ten countries surveyed, one-third (35 per cent) of respondents are in the Peace camp and one-fifth (22 per cent) belong to the Justice camp. A further one-fifth (20 per cent) decline to choose between either Peace or Justice, but still largely support the EU’s actions in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Members of this Swing group share the anti-Russian feelings of the Justice camp, but also worry about escalation – like the Peace camp. In the coming months pressure will rise on this third group to get off the fence. Their views – and their votes – could be crucial to determining Europe’s next steps.

Representation from the Peace and Justice camps varies considerably among different member states, generations, and political parties. One notable finding is that, while across all ten countries the Peace camp is equally divided between men and women, there is a clear dominance of men in the Justice camp: by a proportion of 62 per cent men to 38 per cent women.

In terms of party politics, it could be assumed that voters of the right are more likely to belong to the Justice camp than voters of the left. But this rule seldom holds in full. In Germany, the preference for Peace dominates among both centre-right Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and centre-left Social Democrat voters – while, from among the main parties, the Greens stand out in having the largest number of Swing voters.

In Finland, supporters of the ruling Social Democrats have a strong preference for justice, while centre-right National Coalition Party voters are roughly split down the middle. In Spain, the radical-right Vox has the largest share of Justice supporters among its voters (even if they still have a slight preference for Peace). Similarly, in Sweden radical-right Sweden Democrats voters are the most pro-Justice out of the three largest parties. Meanwhile, in France the far right is the most pro-Peace, with many voters of the left occupying Swing positions. And, in Italy, while voters of all parties prefer Peace to Justice, the largest support for Peace (more than 60 per cent) is among Brothers of Italy and League voters.

Members of the Peace camp and the Justice camp hold distinctive attitudes towards the war. While all blame Russia for the conflict, fewer in the Peace camp do (64 per cent, compared to 86 per cent in the Justice camp who point to Moscow). And, of the three groups it is Swing voters who attribute the most responsibility to Russia (92 per cent). Similarly, majorities in both Peace and Justice camps mostly consider Russia the main obstacle to peace, but many fewer in the Peace camp do (53 per cent, compared to 79 per cent in the Justice camp). Again, the vast majority of Swing voters believe Russia is the main obstacle to peace (87 per cent). And if anyone considers the United States an obstacle to peace, they are more likely to be in the Peace camp.

While some pro-Russian (or anti-American) voters might be part of the Peace camp, this does not necessarily make the Peace camp a Russia-friendly grouping. While both Peace and Justice camps agree that Russia and Ukraine will each be worse off as a result of this war, the Justice camp believes Russia above all will be “much worse off”– while Peace camp members foresee that, of the two, Ukraine will suffer more. Some in the Peace camp may therefore want the war to end because they consider it is inflicting excessive suffering on Ukraine.

The Peace camp is also more likely than the Justice camp to believe that the EU will be worse off as a result of this conflict. This may be another reason for them to want this war to stop. In many respects the Peace camp is a camp of pessimists.

In terms of Europe’s political and practical response to the war, all three main groups support the cutting of economic ties with Russia. But they do so by radically different proportions: in the Peace camp, 50 per cent back this but 37 per cent do not; in the Justice camp, the difference stands at 83 per cent to 11 per cent. Among Swing voters, it is 83 per cent to 7 per cent. The Peace and Justice camps also differ over whether to sever diplomatic ties: the Justice camp clearly supports this (70-23 per cent), as do the Swing voters (60-30 per cent), while the Peace camp opposes this (49-40 per cent). Likewise, the Justice camp and the Swing voters want to cut cultural ties while the Peace camp opposes this.

Military matters also generate considerable disagreement. The three groups disagree over whether to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The Justice camp and Swing voters support such a proposition (by 54-24 per cent and 41-23 per cent respectively), while the Peace camp is sceptical (48-25 per cent). The question of sending troops to Ukraine also divides opinion: the Justice camp and Swing voters support it (52-32 per cent and 49-31 per cent respectively), while the Peace camp is opposed (59-24 per cent).

And on Ukrainian accession to NATO, Justice camp and Swing voters are both in support by wide margins (71-15 per cent and 75-8 per cent respectively), while the Peace camp is divided, with 37 per cent in support and 40 per cent against. On whether to send extra troops to NATO’s eastern members, again the Justice camp and Swing voters are strongly in favour (75-14 per cent and 75-8 per cent respectively), while the Peace camp is split (41 per cent support while 40 per cent oppose).

On potential EU membership for Ukraine, all camps are in favour, but the Peace camp offers only lukewarm support.

Besides, members of the Peace and Justice camps come to radically different conclusions on the question of whether their country should now boost defence spending. A majority in the Justice camp (53 per cent) supports raising military spending, even if it means making funding cuts in areas such as health, education, and crime prevention. Meanwhile, just 29 per cent say that their country should not increase spending on defence, despite the war, as this could require cuts in other areas. In the Peace camp, the proportions are almost exactly reversed – 29 per cent in favour with 51 per cent against. Swing voters are roughly split on this issue, with a slight preference for refraining from spending more on defence (by 35 per cent to 30 per cent). The other options available for this question were “Neither of these” or “Don’t know”, with a significant number of Swing voters (26 per cent) choosing the former.

Therefore, the Swing voters are as tough, if not tougher, than the Justice camp in their criticism of Russia – they blame Russia first and foremost for the war; maintain that Russia is the biggest obstacle to peace; and believe that Europe should sever its ties with Russia. But they do not share the Justice camp’s moral outrage and escalatory goals. On issues such as whether the war will leave Ukraine and the EU worse off, or whether to increase defence spending, they are much closer to the Peace camp. In some ways the Swing voters possess the instincts of Kissingerian realists. They are openly hostile to Russia and support tough policies towards it, but they fear that a protracted war will be too costly for Europe.

The exact options included: (a) ‘My government is focusing too much on the war in Ukraine and not enough on the problems facing its own citizens’, (b) ‘My government is getting the balance about right between the war in Ukraine and the problems facing its own citizens’, (c) ‘My government is focusing too much on the problems facing its own citizens and not enough on the war in Ukraine’, and (d) ‘Don’t know’ (not represented on this graph). Source: Datapraxis and YouGov, May 2022. ECFR · ecfr.eu

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos at the end of May, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned that “our task is for the world not to get tired of war”. It is a daunting challenge. Fifty per cent of Peace camp members believe their government dedicates too much attention to the conflict – while 38 per cent say there is “just enough” or “too little”. Conversely, in the Justice camp, 52 per cent consider either that enough or too little attention is going towards the war; only 38 per cent think there is too much. Swing voters are closer to the Justice camp on this issue: just 35 per cent agree that too much attention is dedicated to the war while 47 per cent say there is enough or too little. It is therefore unlikely that war-weariness is (yet) causing the Swing voters to hesitate between the goal of Peace and the goal of Justice. And the rest of the voters are more likely to say “too much” attention is dedicated to this war (38 per cent), rather than “just right” or “too little” (22 per cent), even if most of them simply do not know (40 per cent).

These data also show that even among the Justice camp some sort of ‘solidarity fatigue’ may soon emerge. Two of the most exposed frontline states – Romania and Poland – are the only countries where more than 50 per cent of people say that their governments are focusing too much on the war at the expense of other pressing issues. Since many Peace supporters think Ukraine, rather than Russia, will end up worse off because of this conflict, further Russian military advances may also cause more people to join the Peace camp.
Divided Europe: Country versus country

Large divisions are emerging between EU member states whose citizens feel they are participants in the war and those where people still want to try to avoid involvement in the conflict.

A clear outlier is Poland, where respondents prefer Justice to Peace by 41 per cent to 16 per cent. Meanwhile, the preference for Peace is strongest in Italy (52 per cent) and Germany (49 per cent).

Europeans’ views of the causes of the war vary considerably. For example, over 80 per cent of people in Poland, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, and Great Britain say that Russia is mainly responsible for starting the conflict. This stands in contrast to just 56 per cent in Italy, 62 per cent in France, and 66 per cent in Germany who lay the blame at the Kremlin’s door. On the question of who represents the biggest obstacle to peace, 64 per cent in all surveyed countries say Russia – but just 39 per cent in Italy and 42 per cent in Romania agree. In Italy over one-quarter (28 per cent) say the US is to blame, against 9 per cent in the other nine surveyed countries.

Still, the break with Moscow is real and will remain for some time, regardless of how and when the war ends. There is strong support across all countries for severing all economic ties with Russia (62 to 22 per cent), with no country – not even Italy – dissenting from this course of action. There is also significant support for cutting cultural and diplomatic ties with Russia, although this is not as strong as in the case of economic relations. In some countries, respondents oppose the ending of such ties (Italy on cultural contacts; and Italy, France, and Germany on diplomatic relations).

Europeans believe that Russia and Ukraine will lose out because of this war. A majority of Europeans – contrary to the upbeat talk in many European capitals, which see the war as an EU “moment” – also believe the EU will be worse off. In turn, prevailing opinion across most surveyed countries is that the war will have no impact on the US or China.

The two issues that Europeans are most concerned about with respect to the ongoing conflict are the cost of living (including higher energy prices), and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia. But, while anxiety about these questions exists in all countries, differences emerge in respondents’ main concerns. In Portugal, Italy, and France, people are the most worried about the impact of war on the cost of living and energy prices. In contrast, in Sweden, Poland, and Romania, citizens are the least concerned about this issue. Swedes, Finns, and the French are more preoccupied with the threat of Russian cyber attacks than people are in other countries. And the countries located closest to Russia – Finland, Poland, Romania, and Sweden – are comparatively more concerned about the threat of Russian military action against them. It may be that Russia’s immediate neighbours fear occupation, while people across all states surveyed are worried about the risk of nuclear war.

Divisions within eastern Europe: Poland versus Romania

In trying to imagine the future divisions in Europe caused by the war, analysts often refer to an “east-west divide” and to differences between frontline countries and those geographically farther from the conflict. ECFR’s study suggests a much more nuanced map. It reveals, for example, significant differences between Poland and Romania, both frontline countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees and that are historically suspicious of, and hostile to, Russia.

Even if both Poland and Romania border Ukraine and their governments are among Kyiv’s major supporters, their citizens display quite distinct attitudes to the war. Eighty-three per cent of people in Poland blame Russia for the conflict; in Romania, just 58 per cent do. Even more importantly, 74 per cent of people in Poland see Russia as the biggest obstacle to peace, while only 42 per cent in Romania do.

The two countries are also effectively on two different planets when it comes to their preference for Peace or Justice. As noted, Poland is the only country in the poll where the Justice camp clearly prevails over the Peace camp (41 to 16 per cent). Meanwhile, Romania – alongside France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Spain – exhibits a clear preference for Peace over Justice (42 to 23 per cent).

Poles are among Europe’s biggest hawks and Romanians among the biggest doves. In Poland, 77 per cent want to cut off all economic ties with Russia; in Romania, only 45 per cent do. Seventy-four per cent of Poles support completely ending imports of fossil fuels from Russia, compared to 51 per cent in Romania. Similarly, 71 per cent of people in Poland – in contrast to just 39 per cent in Romania – want to cut all diplomatic ties with Russia. And 73 per cent in Poland – versus just 40 per cent in Romania – support ending all cultural contact with Russia.

Poles and Romanians also differ in the strength of the solidarity they feel with Ukraine. For example, 71 per cent of people in Poland – but 54 per cent of people in Romania – support providing more economic assistance to Ukraine. On the question of sending additional arms to Ukraine, 78 per cent in Poland are in favour against just 46 per cent in Romania. The two countries differ most significantly over the idea of sending troops to Ukraine: Poland is among the few countries where support for this option prevails over opposition to it, by 46 per cent to 30 per cent; Romanians oppose sending troops by 44 per cent to 26 per cent.

While Poland is one of just two countries where 50 per cent or more agree that the war means countries should increase military spending, Romanians are much less convinced. Geography is not destiny when it comes to defining citizens’ attitudes to the war.
The divided west: Germany versus Italy

A look at some of the European countries formerly most friendly towards Russia also shows diverging trajectories. While eastern Europeans regularly accuse Germany of appeasing Russia, this new poll shows that German citizens are significantly more hawkish than Italians.

For example, even if most Germans (66 per cent) and Italians (56 per cent) mainly blame Russia for the war, they differ over who represents the biggest obstacle to peace. Sixty-three per cent in Germany believe the answer is Russia – but just 39 per cent in Italy agree. Italy is also the country with the largest number of respondents who state that the US is mainly to blame (20 per cent) and is the biggest obstacle to peace (28 per cent); fewer in Germany (11 and 9 per cent, respectively) share these beliefs.

In both countries, there is prevailing support for severing economic ties with Russia: 57 per cent in Germany and 47 per cent in Italy back this, while 29 per cent and 36 per cent respectively oppose it. Germans are more hawkish than Italians in several other respects. For example, when asked to decide whether it is more important to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia or stick to the EU’s climate goals, Italians are strongly divided. However, most Germans prefer to address Europe’s energy dependence. Germans are fairly divided over whether to cut cultural ties with Russia, while Italians are clear in their preference to keep cultural channels open – the only country in this study to support this.

Germans support (by 52 per cent to 33 per cent) the sending of additional arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government. Italians are the only nationality surveyed to be mostly against this idea (by 45 per cent to 33 per cent). Similarly, prevailing opinion in Germany is that additional troops should be sent to eastern NATO members (by 45 per cent to 32 per cent). But Italians mostly oppose such a move – by 45 per cent to 30 per cent.

Perhaps the most striking difference between Germany and Italy lies in their citizens’ stance on defence spending. Italy is an outlier among all countries surveyed, with 63 per cent saying that no increase in defence spending is needed, despite the war; a mere 14 per cent want to see a rise. Meanwhile, Germany is among just four countries (alongside Finland, Poland, and Sweden) in which people largely back increasing defence spending (by 41 per cent to 32 per cent).

So, governments’ formerly (relatively) friendly stances towards Moscow are also no reliable guide to public opinion.

A coming refugee crisis?

The war in Ukraine has destroyed previous assumptions about divisions in Europe. One of the striking features of the war’s impact has been eastern Europe’s metamorphosis when it comes to those fleeing the violence: some of the states once keenest to keep Syrian refugees out during the 2015 crisis are now welcoming the largest numbers of arrivals.

However, ECFR’s poll hints at ways migration could still become a divisive issue in the east, just as it has in Turkey since Ankara opened the country’s border to Syrian refugees. While most Europeans are happy to host Ukrainian refugees, Romania, Poland, and France are among the countries least open to this prospect. This is perhaps influenced by the fact that Romania and Poland have already taken in many Ukrainian refugees – and by the toxicity of the politics of immigration in France, a country that has welcomed few Ukrainian refugees so far. The fact that refugees in Poland are staying mainly in private homes may perhaps influence the public’s attitude towards imagining what their country should do next.


War is like a rollercoaster: public opinion can change with every twist and turn, and it is also a hugely powerful driver. As Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times wrote recently, “The war in Ukraine is essentially being fought on three fronts and among three protagonists. The first front is the battlefield itself. The second front is economic. The third front is the battle of wills. The three participants are Russia, Ukraine and the western alliance backing Ukraine.”

What happens on any of the three fronts affects the other two. Ukraine’s military successes are critical for bolstering the size of the Justice camp (whose informal leader, Zelensky, has an uncanny ability to communicate with European publics). Supporters of the Peace camp are already the biggest group among European citizens and will probably rise in number if feeling grows that the fierce economic sanctions on Russia are failing to bring results.

So, what do this new survey’s findings say about the ongoing battle of wills, and how to sustain support for the measures taken to arm Ukraine and sanction Russia? Ukraine’s dependence on the actions of its European neighbours means that who wins this battle of wills is likely to be even more important than what takes place on the economic and military terrains.

The next few weeks will be critical and the data show that it should be possible to keep Europe together with the right political messaging.

The poll suggests that Europe’s break with Russia is irreversible, at least in the short and medium term. There is no chance now that Europeans are dreaming of integrating Russia into their own structures or political community. They seem to be looking towards a world in which Europe decouples from Russia entirely.

But the European consensus on Russia does not automatically translate into a common position on what roles the EU should play in the war. The data herald a growing divergence between the Peace camp and the Justice camp as the war drags on and the costs associated with it grow.

The survey exposes potential divisions over refugees, Ukraine’s EU accession, the impact on living standards, and the threat of nuclear escalation. These combine into a central schism between the Peace and Justice camps. In many European countries, Ukraine’s cause could change from being a unifying national endeavour and turn into a divisive political issue. But, as well as causing tensions within individual countries, the war could mean that the political stances of states such as Poland and Italy increasingly diverge.

In the early stages of the war, countries in central and eastern Europe felt vindicated in their past hawkishness towards Russia, and have grown in confidence and power within the EU. But, in the next phase, countries such as Poland could find themselves marginalised if the Peace camp broadens its appeal among the other member states.

The key to maintaining European unity in support of Ukraine is to take the fears of escalation seriously and to present the conflict as a defensive struggle against Russian aggression rather than talking about Ukrainian victory and defeating Russia.

While the Ukraine conflict could yet prove to be the midwife of a much more muscular EU, this research shows that support for increased defence spending is weaker among the public than it might appear if one were to listen only to political leaders.

Perhaps the most worrying sign is that most Europeans see the EU as a major loser in the war, rather than reading its relative unity as a sign of a strengthening union.

The danger remains that the Peace and Justice camps could yet become as polarised as the debtors and creditors in the euro crisis of the early 2010s. If this is allowed to happen – and if the EU becomes immobilised by its own divisions – then the war could signal the permanent marginalisation of Europe on the world stage.

European public opinion fortified the EU’s unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is now up to Europe’s leaders to sustain this unity. Finding a language that appeals to the Swing voters – tough on Russia, but cautious about the dangers of escalation – could provide a way of squaring the circle of public opinion.

If the EU manages to maintain the broad front it has shown so far, and if governments from all sides hang together rather than trying to humiliate one other, a stronger – geopolitical – Europe could still emerge from the shadow of war. How the Russian invasion of Ukraine is resolved will have far-reaching consequences for the brewing conflict between the US and China.

Just When The West Thought It Had Eradicated Polio – Analysis

Dr. Theodore Karasik
Source Link

The detection in England of poliovirus, cause of the disabling and life-threatening polio disease, is raising eyebrows and provoking questions about how, where, and why now after 40 years?

Poliovirus and its variants are a global issue, but are found mainly in Afghanistan, Chad, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The total number of infected countries with poliovirus is 29.

Seeing polio indicators in the UK is a bit of a surprise for some. The version of poliovirus that has surfaced in London sewage since February has been declared a national incident by the UK Health Security Agency. London as an outbreak “center” of the virus that causes polio is of intense interest because of the urban layout and connectivity to international airports and seaports.

How The CCP Is Stalling China’s Legal System – Analysis

Meng Ye

Amid the global ‘democratic recession’ and new trend of ‘autocratic legalism’, Xi Jinping’s China is a prime example of how strengthening the law and legal institutions can occur not merely in conjunction with deepened authoritarianism, but in service of it.

The notorious removal of Xi’s term limit came in the form of a constitutional amendment, along with the formal enshrinement of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership. Some interpret this as adding weight to the constitution — and legality in general — within Chinese governance.

The Supreme People’s Court continues to play a vital role in the unification of law interpretation. Local courts are eager to show their innovative applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in reducing the arbitrariness of rulings. They are supposedly less prone to ‘illegitimate’ interventions under increasingly systematised and ‘legitimate’ political control by the Party.

America Is the World’s Gun Store

Robert Muggah

Western countries’ coordinated arms deliveries to Ukraine, already worth tens of billions of dollars, have cast a fresh spotlight on global military assistance. But while the world’s attention is fixated on fighter jets, battle tanks, and rocket launchers, it is the millions of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition traded and trafficked globally each year that exact a far higher human toll. Of the more than $1.3 trillion in U.S. arms export authorizations issued since 2009, firearms such as machine guns, semi-automatic rifles, handguns, and ammunition make up an estimated $228 billion. These deliveries are disproportionately destabilizing—especially since there is little oversight and many of the weapons end up on the black market and in the wrong hands.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are violently killed and injured by firearms in war zones around the world—far more than by bombs, missiles, and other major weapons. According to a recent study by the United Nations, the poorly regulated flow of firearms disrupt peace agreements, undermine the work of peacekeepers, prolong armed conflicts, and inflict untold pain and suffering on civilians. Outside these war zones, hundreds of thousands more people die as a result of gunfire every year—including in ostensibly peaceful countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 15 and 34 in each of these countries and many others.

Evolving Political-Military Aims In War In Ukraine After 100 Days – Analysis

Philip Wasielewski


(FPRI) — Russia and Ukraine are locked in a bloody war that is hemorrhaging men and materiel at a rate unseen in Europe for over 75 years.[1] The Kremlin’s dreams of quick victories have ended, and the conclusion to the conflict may not come soon. Whenever it’s over, this 2022 war will likely lead to changes on the continent as consequential as those of 1989 or 1945.

This article will attempt to provide the reader an understanding of the war’s current state and a sense of what strategic direction it may take in the near future. Since war is essentially a political action conducted through organized violence, this report will first examine the political objectives of both parties and how changes on the battlefield have morphed into changes of war aims. It will next examine the battle in Donbas and how the tactical fight affects the strategic situation. Two possible radical changes to the strategic situation will be considered: The disintegration of the Russian army and the Russian use of nuclear weapons. This article will conclude with a summary of the war’s possible strategic direction and its growing strategic meaning.

Russia’s Shrinking War Aims

President Vladimir Putin’s personal view of Ukrainian independence has been known publicly for decades. In 2007 he told President George W. Bush that Ukraine was not a real country.[2] Russia’s desire to maintain Ukraine within its sphere of influence led it to pressure then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013 to reject an association agreement with the European Union. The agreement was unacceptable to Moscow because it could have led to Ukraine’s eventual integration into the European Union and other institutions of the Western liberal democratic community.[3] When this pressure backfired and led to the Maidan Revolution in 2014, Moscow illegally annexed Crimea and supported armed insurrections in two breakaway Ukrainian oblasts that later renamed themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Eight years of conflict between Ukraine and the separatist republics was paralleled by a Russian propaganda campaign that portrayed Ukraine as a neo-Nazi fascist state and a puppet of NATO; this provided the ideological justification for the war. In July 2021, Putin asserted in a personally written article that Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians were one nation. Later, former Russian president and current security council deputy Dmitry Medvedev disparaged Ukraine’s government as illegitimate and claimed that it was senseless for Moscow to negotiate with Kyiv.[4] By the end of 2021, official Russian policy mirrored Putin’s informal remark that Ukraine was not a real country and therefore had no right to exist.

When he started what was euphemistically named a “special military operation” on February 24, 2022, Putin proclaimed Russia’s objectives as the “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine. Using templates from Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979, he apparently expected his armed forces and intelligence services to accomplish a coup de main by seizing Kyiv and installing a compliant government of Russian collaborators. Putin presented Russia as an aggrieved party forced into war by a West seeking global dominance and a criminal Ukrainian regime attempting genocide in the breakaway republics, which had just declared independence. He insisted that Russia had no territorial ambitions and that his policy in Ukraine was to free the people of Ukraine who were kidnapped by their own government.[5][6]

However, the Russian offensive quickly stalled and was unable to seize either Kyiv or Kharkiv. By early April, Russian forces were withdrawing from near Kyiv and redeploying to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. Once it became clear that Moscow could not achieve its initial war aims, political objectives shrank in proportion to the diminished capabilities of the Russian military. The new course was announced by security council chief Nikolai Patrushev in an April 26 interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official Russian government newspaper, when he stated that Ukraine’s hatred of Russia would cause it to disintegrate into several states.[7]

To accomplish this, Russia launched an offensive to fully occupy the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine and began institutionalizing Russian rule in occupied southern Ukraine. Economically, Russian occupation authorities are replacing the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, with the ruble; they are replacing Ukrainian textbooks and even teachers with Russian ones; and road signs in Ukrainian are being replaced with Russian signs.[8] Putin has approved a law to provide Russian passports to Ukrainians in occupied territories, the same tactic used to justify making Russian protectorates out of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Luhansk People’s Republic, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.[9]

Russia is using even more odious methods. Local Ukrainian officials have been arrested by Russian authorities and have disappeared. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of residents have been forcefully removed from their homes, sent to “filtration camps” (first made infamous in the Chechen Wars), and relocated inside Russia. A small number of collaborators provide a domestic face for sham procedures to codify Russian rule, such as “referenda” or “requests” to establish Russian bases on Ukrainian soil.[10]

Tactics such as the arrest and disappearance of indigenous leaders, mass deportations, corruption of the educational and legal systems, replacing identity documents, and magnifying the calls of a few collaborators as examples of “the people’s will” were first used by the Soviets in eastern Poland after September 17, 1939, and then in 1940 to forcibly annex the independent Baltic states into the Soviet Union. These same tactics were perfected between 1944 and 1948 to subjugate Eastern European states under Soviet control.[11] They were revived and adjusted after the fall of the Soviet Union to allow Moscow to support breakaway republics in Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria as means of maintaining leverage over Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova. Support to Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic separatists in 2014 followed this pattern as well.

These tactics are accompanied by subtle appeals to nostalgia for Russian imperial greatness by reviving terms like “Novorossiya” or reestablishing the Tsarist coat of arms for Kherson oblast.[12] The Kremlin probably hopes that nostalgia for imperial greatness will resonate with the Russian public, as happened after Crimea was seized, so that revised war aims will be seen as worth the costs involved.

What was proclaimed as a quick punitive expedition has been revised into a war to annex as much of Ukrainian territory as possible and, within that territory, to destroy any concept of Ukrainian national identity. This may have been Putin’s real objective for all of Ukraine until resistance made that impossible. Putin’s not-so-subtle remark about Ukraine’s fate before the war, to French President Macron—“like it or not, my beauty, you have to put up with it”—was not just a crude joke about rape, but also a clear insight into his thinking.[13] That type of thinking was foreshadowed almost two millennia ago when the Roman historian Tacitus wrote, “Ubi Solitudinem Faciunt, Pacem Appellant” (Here they have created a desolation, and called it peace).

Ukraine’s Expanding War Aims

Ukraine’s initial war aims were simple: Defend itself, protect the capital and major cities, and survive until Western support arrived. Due to battlefield successes and Russian war crimes, Ukrainian war aims now concern the recovery of territory, both from 2014 and 2022, and the application of justice.

On May 10, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that “In the first months of the war the victory for us looked like the withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before February 24 and payment for inflicted damage. Now if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the battle for the Donbas . . . the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories.”

Kuleba also said only Russia’s defeat would allow Ukraine to reopen its Black Sea ports and revive its export economy. But he also acknowledged that the bloodshed could be too great and that Ukraine might ultimately have to negotiate a settlement. In that event, Kyiv would want to “approach the unavoidable moment with the strongest cards possible.”[14]

A secondary war aim is justice. Russian war crimes have been widespread. Murder, rape, looting, and the deliberate military targeting of civilians have hardened the average Ukrainian against compromise and motivated a strong desire for justice. The widespread nature of these offenses and the Russian government’s unwillingness to enforce military discipline—and worse, awarding a brigade accused of war crimes in the Bucha massacre with a distinguished unit designation of “Guards” for “protecting Russia’s sovereignty”—indicate that these actions are not the result of individual criminality, but an official policy of punishment directed at the Ukrainian people.[15]

With Russia’s objectives to seize as much territory as possible and destroy within it any concept of Ukrainian national identity, and Ukraine’s objectives to restore full territorial integrity and achieve justice for war crimes, there is no current possibility for a negotiated peace. The war will continue until the correlation of military power causes one or the other parties to again adjust their war aims. With a firm understanding of what each side wants to achieve, this article will now examine the fight to achieve it.

The Donbas Cauldron

Terrain and Troops

As of early June 2022, the cockpit of the war is in Donbas (the name comes from the term Donets Basin—the watershed of the Donets River—and consists of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts). Specifically, the main fighting is taking place in a rough rectangle formed by the cities of Izium, Barvinkove, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, and Horlivka. The distance from Izium to Severodonetsk is approximately 50 miles, and from Lysychansk to Horlivka is approximately 35 miles. The front between Russian and Ukrainian forces in this general vicinity is much longer, as it is not a straight line but meanders along rivers, over hills, across fields, and through numerous villages. Within these confines, tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are conducting the most high-intensity battle in Europe since the fall of Berlin in 1945.

The gentle, rolling, open fields of the Donbas are considered favorable for tank warfare. When the battle began, some predicted that Russia would be able to make quick, deep armored penetrations of Ukrainian lines.[16] Instead, the sides have fought a grinding battle because of the local terrain, the skill of Ukrainian forces to use it to their advantage, and unimaginative Russian tactics. The Donbas has large open areas, but running through the battlefield is the Donets River—also known as Siverskyi Donets—which has proven to be a challenging obstacle to bridge and cross under fire, and the Oskil River, which runs north-south between Izium and Severodonetsk. In addition to these rivers, numerous lakes and reservoirs create natural obstacles to movement. In the central part of the battlefield is the Holy Mountains National Park, containing forested cliffs, bogs, and river valleys. This is part of a northwest-to-southeast-running forest belt between Kharkiv and Severodonetsk. Numerous crossroads towns and villages are found in the region, and urban combat in them has proven difficult, time consuming, and deadly.

The Ukrainian army’s familiarity with the Donbas terrain has helped it stop Russian advances. Ukrainian forces along the line of control with the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic—known as the Joint Force Organization Group—have been dug in for years, know the terrain well, and are Ukraine’s most experienced combat units.

Facing them is the Russian army—or, more precisely, three different groups of Russian forces.

The first group is the elite of the Russian army: paratroopers, naval infantry, Spetsnaz, and private military companies. These all-volunteer formations are Russia’s most effective fighters and still demonstrate the will to advance toward and attack Ukrainian forces. They have also suffered the heaviest casualties. Since all Russian elite forces have been committed, and it takes years to train them, the possibility of regenerating additional elite forces soon is nil.

The regular Russian army, consisting of contract soldiers and conscripts, is the second group. They are plagued with poor morale, leadership, and logistics. Artillery units are demonstrating high professional standards and are the most effective combat arm against Ukrainian units. However, the effectiveness of other combat arms (e.g., tank and infantry) is uneven at best. Many units have been amalgamated into field-expedient combat formations due to high casualties of their predecessors. Their advantage over the Ukrainian army in Donbas is not quality but quantity.

The final group of the Russian army facing their Ukrainian counterparts consists of “auxiliaries” who use Russian arms, uniforms, and equipment but are separate from the Russian military. They include Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic militias and Chechen forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov. Soldiers from the breakaway republics are true cannon fodder, used to the maximum extent possible in Donbas to minimize Russian casualties. They are often pressed into service, given minimal (if any) training, and are sometimes armed with World War II–era bolt-action rifles. Unmotivated and ill supplied, their offensive capability is questionable. But they may fight well to defend their homes if Ukrainian counterattacks ever enter Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic territory. The Chechens, despite their fearsome reputation—or maybe because of it—seem to be used more in the rear as blocking forces to prevent retreats—a similar mission to Soviet secret police (known as the NKVD) units in World War II.

The Tactical Situation

The Battle of the Donbas has been a meat grinder for both sides. Each army is losing several hundred soldiers killed or wounded daily.[17] While the Ukrainian army has conducted a stubborn defense, the Russian army has advanced on the flanks of the exposed Ukrainian salient in Donbas. The easternmost edge of the salient is at the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, and its flanks are near the towns of Popasna and Dronivka. Russian advances taking Popasna and spreading out across the base of this salient threaten Joint Force Organization units along the Siverskyi Donets River. There has also been Russian progress to the west of this salient in the vicinity of Lyman.

The Kremlin would likely consider further advances requiring the evacuation of this salient and the surrender of Severdonetsk and Lysychansk a major step forward in achieving its political goal of “liberating” all of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, this accomplishes little strategically unless Russian forces encircle and capture tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops. Based on previous Russian rates of advance, the Ukrainians should be able to withdraw in good order if a decision to conduct a tactical retreat is made in a timely manner. Occupying all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts up to their administrative borders accomplishes nothing strategically, beyond a short-term propaganda victory, if it does not destroy the Joint Force Organization Group. Furthermore, it does nothing to prevent the flow of Western arms and ammunition into Ukraine to increase the size and capabilities of the Ukrainian army. Therefore, a tactical defeat in Donbas is not a strategic defeat for Ukraine if it is able to preserve a large part of its army or if the ongoing efforts to enlarge and equip its army are successful. It is not a strategic victory for Russia if it ends up destroying its army through high casualties, which cannot be replaced anytime soon, and crushed morale.

The Strategic Situation

he Russian military is expending thousands of lives in Donbas to make incremental, almost World War I–style, advances over terrain that has no real strategic value. Russia is fighting a war of attrition. In the past, Russia and the Soviet Union had the manpower to make this an effective strategy. However, Russia today no longer has the mechanisms to recruit, train, equip, officer, and deploy substantial new military formations.

In early April, I estimated Russia had suffered approximately 10,000 soldiers killed in action (KIA) and a total of 35,000–38,000 casualties. It is still hard to estimate losses, but if Russian killed-in-action figures are now, per British intelligence estimates, roughly 15,000, then total casualties by early June could be approximately 50,000 men.[18]

Who will replace them? The 130,000 Russian conscripts called up on April 1, 2022, are not supposed to go to a war zone (but many will). Putin, probably fearing social unrest, passed up the opportunity on Victory Day on May 9 to declare war and announce a general mobilization of Russian manpower.

Without a general mobilization, how can the Russian army meet wartime requirements and replace its losses? As word of horrible combat conditions reaches the population, recruiting of contract soldiers will suffer. It probably already has, based on the extreme decision to allow up to 50-year-old men to volunteer.[19] Many contract soldiers are already announcing their intention to leave the army or refuse to serve in the “special military operation” that Moscow claims is not a war. Increased conscription cannot make up for recruiting shortfalls in a country where evading military service is practically a national sport.

If enough soldiers are found, who will lead them? Even before the war, Russia was having a difficult time retaining junior officers.[20] In this war, officers of all levels have borne an extraordinary brunt of casualties. Many officer cadets have graduated early to participate in the war. Furthermore, who will train the new soldiers? Basic and advanced training in Russia’s army is done at the individual unit level, but many training officers and noncommissioned officers have already deployed with their units to Ukraine. This leaves limited cadres at home to instruct new conscripts.[21] Metaphorically speaking, the Russian army is eating its seed corn.

If enough enlisted men and junior officers can be found to serve as replacements for the tens of thousands of casualties, can Russia equip them with modern weapons? Equipment losses are catastrophic. The Oryx website, using conservative, thoroughly documented confirmation techniques, estimates that as of the end of May 2022, Russia had lost 741 tanks, 1,342 armored/infantry fighting vehicles, and 27 fixed-wing combat aircraft.[22] Actual losses are likely higher.

Besides these losses, vehicles, airplanes, and helicopters involved in three months of nonstop fighting require major refitting, which is unlikely to happen while combat operations are underway. War can exhaust machines as well as men, and without proper maintenance, existing hardware will become incapable of supporting operations. New replacements for destroyed equipment will not be coming. Russia’s main tank factories have shut down due to sanctions, which have also hobbled its aircraft industry.[23] T-62 tanks have been pulled out of reserve, but half-century-old tanks are no answer to modern anti-tank weapons.[24] Decades of munitions production have been used up in three months, and the decline in the use of guided and cruise missiles indicates that precision-guided weapons are in short supply.[25]

Ukraine is also facing serious military difficulties. It has not concentrated enough forces in Donbas to match Russia’s current quantitative edge, and it too is suffering high casualties. The previous article in early April estimated that Ukraine had suffered approximately 3,100 killed in action and 16,000–18,000 casualties of all types. On April 16, President Zelensky announced that Ukraine had suffered between 2,500 and 3,000 killed in action and an additional 10,000 wounded. Extrapolating from these figures to the present, Ukrainian military KIA figures could be approaching 6,000 men and approximately 25,000 total casualties due to the high intensity of the battles of the Donbas and Mariupol.[26] Per Oryx, Ukraine has lost 186 tanks, 276 armored/infantry fighting vehicles, and 22 fixed-wing combat aircraft, but these again are conservative figures.[27] Attrition warfare is cutting both ways. The winner may be the side that lasts just a moment longer than the other.

There are strategic differences between Russian and Ukrainian losses. Ukraine is in a better position to replenish its losses of men and materiel. It can afford to trade some territory for time to assimilate Western supplies. With incoming weapons from the West and the training of new volunteers, the Ukrainian army will grow in numbers and capabilities, while the Russian army is unlikely to. When ready, Ukraine will have the forces to counterattack. The Croatian army did the same after losing territory in 1992 to Serbian forces. By 1995, with Western tutoring and supplies, Croatia had rebuilt its army and counterattacked, forcing the Serbs out of the Krajina region within a week. Ukraine could play a similar “long game.”

Morale and the Future of the Russian Army

The Russian army will find it hard to replace personnel loses and harder to replace materiel losses. Weapons drawn from dormant Soviet stockpiles will have limited utility against a modern-equipped enemy. Unlike the Ukrainian army, the Russian army is unlikely to increase in size or improve capabilities such as logistics and leadership anytime soon.

Therefore, its morale is unlikely to improve. In April, I examined morale by comparing today’s Russian army against historical indicators for unit cohesion. None of those indicators were positive then, and none are now. Russian army morale issues are now expressed freely in Russian social media. While combat refusals, murdering officers, self-inflicted wounds to avoid combat, etc., happen in every war, there is a point where low morale, combined with ill-discipline, leads to either mutiny or disintegration.

The Russian military has mutinied several times before in its history, from the 1825 Decemberist uprising to the battleship Potemkin, to the events of 1917. Could it realistically happen again?

A few small-sized units have refused to deploy to or fight in Ukraine.[28] Soldiers argue that since the fighting in Ukraine is a “special military operation” and not a war, they are not legally obligated to participate. However, beneath the surface of these complaints are not legal concerns but human ones: high casualties being suffered for a cause that is unjust and strategically unsound. Men in combat have breaking points; militaries as social organizations have breaking points. A Russian commentator has noted that revolts are most prevalent in conscript armies that have a low level of training and have experienced defeat in a protracted war.[29]

This raises the question, How long can the Russian army sustain major losses for minimum gains and still function? There are different ways an army can disintegrate. The Tsarist army mutinied twice in 1917—first in late February, in protest of continuing the war and monarchy, and again later that summer after the ill-fated Kerensky offensive. Soldiers, demoralized by previous defeats, Bolshevik propaganda, and horrible living conditions, revolted against their officers and either deserted or formed revolutionary committees to overthrow the Provisional Government. On the other side of the war, half the French army also mutinied in 1917 after the heavy losses in the Neville Offensive. However, their combat refusals were a sit-down strike and not an insurrection. They would not go on the offensive but would defend France. Sympathetic French leadership, furloughs, and changes to suicidal tactics restored morale.

Since there are three distinct Russian military groups fighting in Ukraine, each could react differently to the same situation. The elites may never revolt or could lead a revolt based on their high casualties. Auxiliaries could emulate the Tsarist army in 1917, while the regular Russian army might react like the French army in 1917. Only time will tell.

Another way an ill-disciplined army with poor morale can fall apart is when attempting to retreat under fire—the most difficult of military actions. If faced with a situation in which the enemy has penetrated deeply into the rear and cut off supplies and avenues of retreat, units can panic and descend into every-man-for-himself anarchy. This could happen if Ukrainian forces were to launch a surprise counteroffensive that quickly reached deep into the rear of Russian-occupied territories. This is a risk on an operational level if Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv counterattacked to seize Kupyansk and destroyed two bridges over the Oskil River, thereby trapping Russian forces in a pocket around Izium. At the strategic level, if Ukrainian forces were able to quickly retake Kherson, cross the Dnepr River, and reach Crimea’s Perekop Isthmus, this would have a stunning effect—similar to the Inchon landings during the Korean War. Seizing the Perekop Isthmus and dissolving Russia’s land bridge to Crimea would make Russian gains along the Sea of Azov for naught and would create a devastating psychological effect by threatening the peninsula.

This is just one possible scenario. After months of heavy casualties, limited successes, and poor logistics, leadership, and morale, any type of strong, sudden, psychological shock to the Russian army could be devastating. This would also have obvious domestic political consequences in Russia. The conventional wisdom behind sanctions has been that by collapsing the Russian economy, popular unrest will force Putin to withdraw his army to save his regime. The Russian economy is ailing, but it is a long way from failing. However, in less time than it takes the economy to collapse, the Russian army may do so. An army that is either unambiguously defeated on the battlefield and disintegrates or mutinies is likely to cause popular and elite unrest over the conduct of the war that will force Putin from power. Social revolt may not be caused by economic deprivation, but rather from outrage at seeing the Russian army defeated.

Nuclear Option(s)

The fall of the Russian army is only one possible scenario for this war. Another is the Russian use of nuclear weapons. Putin could authorize a nuclear strike to provide a massive psychological shock to destroy Ukrainian resistance. The gap between Russia’s war aims, however reduced, and its military’s capabilities to achieve them might only be closed with nuclear weapons.

There are three nuclear options: a nuclear demonstration over Ukrainian territory, a nuclear strike against a major population center, and nuclear strikes for tactical purposes.

The first option, such as an airburst very high in the atmosphere over Ukraine, could provide a warning of escalation to come without causing the damage and fallout of a full strike. The Kremlin may believe it could reap the benefit of nuclear coercion without paying the full price of international outrage. This is probably a fallacy. The breaking of the nuclear taboo in any way, especially against a non-nuclear country that gave up its nuclear weapons to Russia, will bring worldwide condemnation and the ultimate in sanctions and isolation for Russia. There is also a chance that this would only further strengthen Ukrainian resolve to resist.

The second option—a strategic strike against a major Ukrainian city—would aim to harm Ukraine so greatly that its government would sue for peace to avoid further destruction. It is a horrific possibility that might be tempered by several factors. The first is the reluctance of those in the chain of command to follow that order for moral or practical reasons, anticipating worldwide revulsion. A second factor could be the difficulty in target selection to not destroy a large Russian-speaking population (Odessa and Kharkiv), the mother of Russian civilization (Kyiv), or a city close to NATO territory (Lviv). Finally, the Russian chain of command might hesitate to conduct a strategic nuclear strike fearing that instead of terrorizing Ukrainian society, it might embolden it to resist and refuse to ever surrender or negotiate.

The third option—nuclear strikes to affect the tactical situation on the battlefield—offers Russia a way to use firepower to make up for deficiencies of manpower. In theory, “small” nuclear strikes of one, five, or ten kilotons could punch holes in Ukrainian lines to allow Russian forces to penetrate, encircle, and route the Ukrainian army.

However, Ukrainian forces are not concentrated enough to provide a lucrative target for nuclear weapons. This is a war of company- and battalion-sized units fighting in dispersed formations. Destroying one or several such formations is unlikely to unhinge any defensive line, which could be reestablished by other forces a few miles back. Would such minor tactical gains be worth the further punishment to Russia’s economy that international reaction would bring? Furthermore, the effects of blast, radiation, and fallout can affect Russia’s own forces. An airburst—the best way to reduce fallout—over a fortified urban area may kill many of the defenders but also destroy it in a way so that mechanized forces cannot move through. Russian forces, like Union forces during the Civil War’s Battle of the Crater, could find themselves trapped in the destruction of their own making.

Russia would also need to consider the effect of nuclear fallout on its troops and citizens. The NUKEMAP interactive site, created by nuclear historian Alexander Wellerstein, estimates that a five-kiloton airburst will create a 500-rem radiation radius of one kilometer.[30] Per the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, humans exposed to 500 rems of radiation without medical treatment will die. Doses between 300 and 400 rems offer a 50 percent chance of death within 60 days.[31] After a non-strategic nuclear attack, advancing Russian forces therefore must bypass the strike area but then would move into territory not totally affected by the strike and possibly still defended.

If part of an airburst reaches the ground or if there is a deliberate ground burst, then fallout would follow the winds. In the spring, the prevailing winds in northern, southern, and eastern Ukraine are easterly or southeasterly, causing fallout to move into the Donetsk People’s Republic, Luhansk People’s Republic, Crimea, or Russia itself. In the summer, prevailing winds become northwesterly and westerly, which could bring fallout into Belarus or NATO countries.[32] While the Russians showed little regard for the safety of their troops occupying Chernobyl, they cannot ignore the basic realities of tactical nuclear warfare.

This very simplified review of nuclear weapons effects is meant to illustrate that the actual application of tactical nuclear weapons is not a panacea or magic wand to sweep away enemy forces. They may still (God forbid) be used in this war, but the tactical advantages they offer may not be worth the tactical challenges or strategic costs they bring.

Looking Ahead

Russia and Ukraine are locked in a war of attrition, with respective war aims requiring a complete victory for one party and defeat for the other. Whoever lasts the longest can achieve the political objectives it has been fighting for. The events of the war have rendered a negotiated settlement unlikely. From the Ukrainian perspective, Russia is attempting to destroy its national identity. Therefore, survival for Ukraine means defeating Russia. Putin likely realizes he too is in a war for survival—if not for his regime, then for himself. Russia has gone too far in its war with Ukraine to admit mistakes or defeat. To do either would call into question the losses and sacrifices to date, which is one of the constant conundrums for nations at war.

Both nations have suffered severe losses and need to regenerate military strength. The winner will be the one who is quickest to reconstitute its combat forces at the tactical level and whose leader best motivates his country to fight and manages to enlarge and equip his armed forces, and the logistics to sustain those forces, at the strategic level.

Twenty-first century Russia is using twentieth-century weapons to fight a nineteenth-century war of attrition, combined with eighteenth-century pillaging. Currently, Russia’s numerical advantage in Donbas allows it to grind out a slow advance toward a pointless objective. Even if Russian forces advance to the administrative borders of both oblasts, it will not end the war as long as Ukraine still has the will to fight and the means to do so. If Putin plans to declare victory once his army has cleared Ukraine out of Donbas, he is building on sand. Unlike Georgia or Moldova, Ukraine has the resources and international support to refuse to accept a “frozen conflict.” Instead, the incoming tide of a rebuilt and expanded Ukrainian army will eventually wash those gains away—be it months or years from now.

For a short-lived propaganda victory in Donbas, Putin is destroying the Russian army. If that army revolts in self-defense or collapses under Ukrainian counterattacks, Putin will face the same fate as other Russian rulers who have lost wars. Can the gap between Russian war aims and military capabilities be closed with nuclear weapons? In theory, possibly—but in practice, such an outcome is unlikely. There is no silver bullet to overturn poor strategy, leadership, tactics, and logistics and a lack of will in the face of a motivated opponent.

Despite the prediction two decades ago by political scientist Samuel Huntington that future conflicts would be clashes between different cultural civilizations, we are seeing a clash within a cultural civilization—Orthodox civilization—whose cultural boundaries have been formed by its Eastern Orthodox confession, Byzantine heritage, and Slavic ancestry and languages.[33] This war between the world’s two largest Orthodox states is about more than Ukraine’s ability to join NATO or the European Union. It’s also a fight between two ideas of how people should be governed. One side believes it should be by the decree of the powerful and the other by the consent of the governed. One believes it is entitled to a sphere of influence; the other believes it is entitled to chart its own political future.

A Russian victory in this conflict could serve as a template or inspiration for other revisionist or ideological powers. A Ukrainian victory would do the same for those societies struggling with the challenges of democracy. On the broadest of scales, that is what this war is about.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.