The Ukraine Crisis: Situation Update #17

Foreign Policy Brief #157 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | December 16, 2022

Header photo taken from: Nation World




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Soldiers at the base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, this past summer. U.S. trainings with Ukrainian troops at the base have primarily revolved around advanced weapons systems thus far.

Photo taken from: Michael Probst / Associated Press

This is the latest in a series of updates on the fast-breaking developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

US-Ukraine Military

The US military has announced that it would be expanding its training of Ukrainian military personnel in Germany. Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said the new training would include approximately 500 Ukrainians per month and would not require any increase in US troop deployments to Europe.

Additionally, this week the US also announced it would send the Patriot air defence system to Ukraine, something Ukrainian President Zelensky has sought out for some time. Though the system is often deployed as a battalion which includes four batteries, Ukraine will be receiving only one. The weapon system is a long range air defence system that counters missiles. The Patriot system costs about four million dollars per round and the launchers themselves cost 10 million each and thus are not very cost effective to combat the dramatically cheaper and more expendable Iranian drones that Russia has been using in its strikes.

A Patriot battery also needs as many as 90 troops to operate and maintain it. There has been a stumbling block for months in providing the complex system because sending the forces equipped to use the system into Ukraine to operate it is a non-starter for the Biden administration. The increased training the US has committed to providing to Ukranian troops will likely aid the ability of Ukraine to use more advanced weaponry, though this also will likely anger Russia and cause more friction between Moscow and Washington. Russia’s embassy in Washington said the proposed transfer was provocative and could lead to “unpredictable consequences”.

War in the Winter

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Rescuers work at the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.

Photo taken from: Reuters / Mykola Synelnykov

The past few weeks have seen fierce fighting throughout Ukraine without significant changes in captured or liberated territory. Additionally neither side has shown any willingness for negotiations despite the stalemate. Russia on Monday fired 70 missiles into Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv, Vinnytsia and Odessa. Sixty of the 70 missiles were intercepted, but those that did hit their targets further damaged energy infrastructure, which in some cases had just been fixed after being previously struck.

Russia said the strikes were in retaliation for Ukraines strike on two military bases hundreds of miles deep into Russias borders, the deepest attack into Russian territory thus far. As a result of Russias strikes  more than 1.5 million people in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region are now without power as winter is in full swing. Russia continues to attack energy infrastructure in order to impose blackouts and use the frigid Ukranian winters as a weapon of war.

Ukraine for the first time revealed numbers of its military deaths which currently stand at 10,000 to 13,000. Additionally the UN estimates the number of civilian deaths to be at about 17,000, a figure believed to be an underestimation. A third of the population or 14 million people, remain displaced as a result of the war: 6.5 million inside Ukraine and more than 7.8 million in the rest of Europe.

Prisoner Swap

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The United States and Russia have carried out a prisoner exchange, swapping American basketball star Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after months of negotiations that took place despite strained relations between the two countries.

Photo taken from: The Associated Press

On December 8, 2022 US basketball star Brittney Griner was released from prison in Russia in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who was serving a 25 year sentence in the US. Bout also known as the “merchant of death”, was implicated in violating multiple UN arms embargoes in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since returning home it is reported that Bout has joined the Russian ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR). The LDPR espouses hardline ultranationalist ideologies such as demands that Russia reconquer the countries of the former Soviet Union.

In recent years, the party has assumed a subordinate role in Russia’s political system but provides token opposition to Putin’s ruling United Russia party, while remaining aligned with the Kremlin on most issues. In Russia, Bout’s release was viewed as a victory for the Kremlin and proponents of the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden in addition to praise for bringing an innocent pawn in a game of geopolitics home, has also faced criticism for agreeing to the exchange at all, with critics citing the huge disparity in the severity of charges against Bout and Griner.

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