Situation Update: The Ukraine Crisis

Foreign Policy Brief #115 | By: Ibrahim Castro | January 25, 2024
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Fighting on the ground

For the past few weeks the two sides have been trading missile and drone attacks, most recently at least 25 people have been killed and 20 others injured after a market on the outskirts of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk. In the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv at least 17 people have been seriously injured last week, after Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the city. Kharkiv lies just 19 miles from the border with Russia in Ukraine’s northeast and has come under frequent bombardment since the beginning of the war. Russian artillery has frequently hit civilian infrastructure in Ukraine drawing widespread condemnation.

Late last week four oil tanks at a large storage facility in the Russian town of Klintsy in its western Bryansk region caught fire after the military shot down a Ukrainian strike drone. The fire caused by the strikes forced Russia to suspend operations at a huge Baltic Sea fuel export terminal. Additionally a drone attack on a bus stop in the Russian city of Belgorod killed 25 civilians last month, the deadliest attack on Russian territory since the start of the conflict.

The tit for tat strikes are emblematic of the stalemate the war has come, with both sides able to inflict damage but with neither side being able to overtake the other. This winter Ukrainian forces have taken a more defensive position in many areas of the frontlines after a counteroffensive last year was unable to break through heavily defended Russian lines in the occupied territories.

Zelenskyy urges Western allies for more support

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in a recent speech at DAVOS has urged the West to tighten sanctions against Russia and step up its support for Kyiv to ensure that Moscow does not win the war.  The first months of the war in 2022 saw the country lose a third of its economic output to occupation and destruction because Russia controls the heartland of Ukraine’s heavy industry. President Zelensky called for some of the Russian billions seized by world banks to be sent to rebuild Ukraine. Though Europe’s central bankers have been skeptical about setting a difficult legal precedent that could undermine global financial stability. It would mean that other countries may think twice about placing their assets in the West if they know those same assets could be seized.

Arming Ukraine

Last week Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov rejected a US proposal to resume  dialogue on nuclear arms control, saying that it was impossible to engage in such talks while Washington provides military support to Ukraine. Lavrov charged that Washington’s push for the revival of nuclear talks has been driven by a desire to resume inspections of Russia’s nuclear weapons sites.  He reaffirmed that Russia will pursue what it calls the “special military operation” regardless of Western pressure.

Roughly $137 billion in military and financial aid to Ukraine remains stalled in Washington and Brussels. As a result individual European allies have begun to make bilateral pledges worth billions to provide arms to Ukraine this year. For example, Estonian President Alar Karis said last week that Estonia would provide 1.2 billion euros in military assistance including howitzers and ammunition over the next four years. Estonia, which also shares a border with Russia, stated last November that it was raising defense spending to 3% of its GDP and urged other European nations to double their expenditure. Last year most EU countries committed to an increase in military spending, a record $58 billion was allocated to military investments, and were geared overwhelmingly towards the procurement of new equipment.

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