Last week (December 12–18) began with a telephone conversation between Volodymyr Zelensky and US President, Joseph Biden, following which the potential acquisition of Patriot missile defense systems by Ukraine became one of the most urgent topics. Despite this, so far there has been no official announcement about their supply.
On the other hand, on December, 16, russia once again shelled Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. According to Deputy Chairman of the rf Security Council, dmitrii medvedev, such civilian objects are “legitimate military targets”.
Also this week, belarus once again resorted to provocative acts, when they transferred the equipment and soldiers to the Ukrainian border. In general, not only Ukrainian officials but also Western allies have been increasingly more often talking about the threat from the north.
Ukrainian Army Commander-in-Chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, has no doubt that the russians will move towards Kyiv again, and NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, believes that russia is preparing for a long war.
In addition, it became known that the kremlin did not accept Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposal to begin the withdrawal of russian troops from Ukraine for Christmas. Instead, the Ukrainian president is certain that putin will not be able to win the war. That is why the sooner the russian army leaves Ukraine, the longer putin and his entourage could live.
In addition, on December, 15, the leaders of the EU member states made a final decision to allocate EUR 18 billion of macrofinancial assistance to Ukraine in 2023.
On Monday, Volodymyr Zelensky held a telephone conversation with the US President, Joseph Biden. Following the talk, the President of Ukraine posted a video address where he reported on “strong agreements”.
It is also known that in this conversation the Ukrainian side initiated the global peace summit to be convened.
The following day, CNN reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration was finalizing plans to send Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine.
The speakers on the TV channel said that after the plans are finally agreed, the Patriot SAMS will be sent “in the next few days”, and the Ukrainian forces will be trained to use them at the US Army base in Germany.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, still recommends to wait for the official announcement from the White House to come: “The information is available but we will leave the right to make it public to the White House. Patriot is one of the most difficult efforts the entire diplomatic team of President Zelensky had to deal with. ” However, the diplomat added: “All things impossible can be made possible if you work hard enough.”
russia also responded to reports about the Patriot SAMS. Thus, the russian Embassy in the United States said that thye would consider the transfer of anti-missile systems to Ukraine as a provocative step that “will lead to unpredictable consequences.”
moscow also threatened to destroy Patriots calling them a “legitimate target”.
The spokeswoman of the russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, maria zakharova, repeated the statement that “the West does not stop pumping weapons into Ukraine” and even calculated in detail how much the United States had spent to support Ukraine — $21.5 billion.
Certainly, such threats have not frightened anyone. The Pentagon said: “The United States will not allow russia to dictate what security assistance the Biden administration can provide to Ukraine.”
On the other hand, President Volodymyr Zelensky called the russian threats ridiculous, and added: “It is alcohol that speaks for them. I believe that they often build their statements and threats when intoxicated.”
Also, in addition to aggressive rhetoric, russian terrorists on December, 16, launched yet another massive missile attack on the civilian infrastructure of our country.
In total, the occupiers fired 70 cruise missiles and 4 guided aerial missiles but 60 cruise missiles were downed by the air defense of Ukraine. It is interesting to see that civilian infrastructure facilities, according to the Deputy Chairman of russia’s Security Council, dmitrii medvedev, are “legitimate military targets” in the war with Ukraine. This list includes “bridges, transport stations, roads, energy facilities, factories”. In addition, russia’s former president believes that “NATO countries have declared a hybrid war on his state.”
In view of such statements from russian high-ranking officials, the initiative of the russian Ministry of Defense to collect musical instruments for those mobilized for the war in Ukraine seems comical. Municipal authorities in St. Petersburg say that “the collected button accordions, harmonicas, mouth harps, guitars, and balalaikas will be sent to the front in order to maintain the combat spirit, to consolidate the soldiers, to inspire them for the feats, and to help them relax, morally and psychologically.”
Let us hope that soon the russians would hold only such types of meetings. However, according to Volodymyr Zelensky, the kremlin still has enough rockets for several massive strikes more. “Whatever rocket worshippers from moscow were counting on, it will never change the balance of forces in this war. We will have enough focus and faith in ourselves to return our own after these strikes,” the President of Ukraine added.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is convinced that an invasion of Ukraine by the Belarusian army is highly unlikely. Analysts believe that belarus will not go on the offensive, in particular because of the internal dynamics in the country. According to ISW, a russian or belarusian offensive from the north will not achieve the goal: “The belarusian invasion will not be able to make a breakthrough to cut supply logistics and seriously threaten Kyiv. The entry of belarus into the war will at worst divert Ukrainian forces from the current front line in eastern Ukraine. ”
Despite this, on Monday, December, 19, vladimir putin is due to arrive in Minsk with a broad government delegation. A meeting is planned with the participation of all ministers, followed by a meeting of the two dictators themselves, and with a press conference later. The parties want to “discuss the process of implementing the previously approved allied programs”, in particular joint projects “with a focus on imports phaseout”.
The visit takes place in the context of other provocative acts of the enemy: on December, 13, on behalf of the self-proclaimed president oleksandr lukashenka, belarus began a sudden check of the military preparedness of the army, and transferred some equipment closer to the border with Ukraine, but as of now, the troops have already returned from there.
The Institute for the Study of War also believes that the visit of vladimir putin to Minsk is an opportunity to press olexander lukashenka and strengthen the information operation on the possible offensive of russia from the belarus territory. It should be reminded that at the beginning of December, the Minister of Defense of russia, sergei shoigu, visited Minsk, and signed amendments to the agreement on joint regional security in the military sphere. In particular, it covers the creation of a regional group of troops and its management in peacetime and wartime.
The discussion about the offensive from the north is also highlighted by a recent interview with the Ukrainian Army Commander-in-Chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, for The Economist: “russian mobilization worked… They will fight. The Tsar tells them to go to war, and they go to war. The russians are training about 200,000 new soldiers. I have no doubt that they will go towards Kyiv again.” Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, who believes that russian troops are preparing for a new large-scale offensive next February, also supports this assessment of the second offensive: “Conscripts need at least three months to be trained. This means that they are trying to start the next wave of offensive, probably in February, as they did last year. This is their plan. “
Despite this, the White House does not yet see any signs for another russian offensive against Kyiv. This was stated by the National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator, John Kirby, at the briefing: “We have not seen anything that suggests that putin has moved away from his maximalist goals for Ukraine. But there are no signs that there will be an offensive against Kyiv in the near future. However, we are closely monitoring this. ” Official Washington is considering expanding support for Ukraine in view of the threat of a new broad offensive against Kyiv. Politico reported about it: “In addition to sending Patriot SAMS to Ukraine, the US administration is considering, among other things, the direct-fire ammunition kits that transform unguided aerial munitions into ‘smart’ bombs, as well as small diameter ground bombs that will significantly increase the range of impact.” Also on December, 15, the Pentagon announced that it was expanding the training effort for the Ukrainian military at the US base in Germany.
The head of the CIA, William Burns, argues that russia is not currently committed to real negotiations: “Most conflicts end with negotiations, but this requires seriousness on the part of the russians, which, in my opinion, in this case, we do not see. At least we don’t think the russians are serious about real negotiations at this point. ” Also, the US high-ranking official thinks that putin’s belief that he will be able to continue the war for a long time is erroneous. Also, William Burns once again dispelled russian nuclear blackmail: “I think that sabre-rattling is intended to intimidate. Today, we see no clear evidence of plans to use tactical nuclear weapons.” In addition, the US has made it very clear to the russians what serious consequences will result from the use of nuclear weapons.
russia, of course, does not plan to retreat. NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, believes that the rf is preparing for a long war, and Kyiv supporters in NATO should continue to send weapons until putin realizes that he cannot win on the battlefield. The Secretary General also emphasized that russia should not be underestimated: “We see that they are mobilizing more forces, that they are also ready to suffer many more losses. We must understand that putin is ready to be in this war for a long time and keep launching new offensives ”.
As you know, the kremlin did not accept Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposal to begin the withdrawal of russian troops from Ukraine for Christmas. The press secretary of the president of russia, dmitry peskov, declared that it is out of question, and that “the Ukrainian side needs to accept the reality that has been developing for all this time”
However, it is supposed to become more difficult for russians to fight, also in view of the ninth package of sanctions approved by the European Union. It provides for new export control measures and restrictions on dual-use goods and technologies, as well as goods and technologies that can contribute to technological improvement of the russian defense and security sector. Sanctions will be applied to 168 additional subjects related to russia’s Defense Industry.
Let us hope that the kremlin cannot circumvent these sanctions. A recent joint investigation by several media outlets has shown that the russian company Special Technology Center, which produces drones, is still receiving Western components for the Orlan-10 drone. Intermediaries in the US, China, and russia are helping them bypass the restrictions. We must also keep in mind the Iranian drones that the kremlin regularly uses to attack Ukraine. Interestingly, russia moved their launch site from Crimea to Krasnodar Krai, because, according to British intelligence, they are concerned about the vulnerability of the occupied peninsula.
China’s position is also worrisome. Thus, Xi Jinping has instructed the government in recent weeks to establish closer economic relations with russia, although he has held a wait-and-see position since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. China plans to increase imports of russian oil, gas, and agricultural goods, to strengthen energy partnerships in the Arctic, and to increase investment in russian infrastructure, including railways and ports.
In the coming months, moscow might present the Chinese vector as a diplomatic victory because the kremlin keeps losing foreign policy gains every day. According to the US Politico, the European Union and NATO have prepared a joint request to russia to immediately stop the war and withdraw its army from Ukraine. According to the publication, in the almost final draft of the call, the organizations also confirm their “unwavering and constant support for the independence of Ukraine”.
Of course, it would be good if, in addition to the statements, the Allies provided our country with even more equipment for the victory, of which the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, has no doubt : “I know that I can defeat this enemy.But I need resources to use. I need 300 tanks, 600 or 700 infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 howitzers. Then, I think, it is absolutely feasible to get to the line of February, 23 “. The Ukrainian people are also certain about the victory.