2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
The Ukraine War

  Padmashree Anandhan

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45

What happened?

Following are the six breakpoints of the Ukraine war in 2022.

On 21 February, Russia’s declaration on recognising Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in the Donbas regions as “independent states”. Till March, Russia focused on capturing Ukraine’s main port cities, with only a few retreats in Chernihiv and Kyiv in western Ukraine.

In June, the US, and Europe supported Ukraine through supply of military aid  to Ukraine from mid-range to high-capacity weapon systems. Initially, Ukraine was provided with primary equipment’s such as helmets, bullet-proof jackets, soviet era weapons, and short-range ground missiles. Later, the military support switched to providing High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), NATO-calibre weapons, and advanced missile systems. Air defence were kept in waiting until last months of the year.

On 13 September, Ukraine claimed its success in the northern and southern counteroffensive, capturing back 8000 sq. km in north-eastern Kharkiv. From Russia, the Ministry of Defence, Sergei Shoigu claimed that “an operation was carried out to curtail and organize the transfer of the Izyum-Balakley group of troops to the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic.”

On 05 October, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the unification treaties into law after the Russian Parliament ratified the same approving the annexation of DPR, LPR, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. The move came after a lag in the partial mobilisation order was identified.

On 09 November, Russia announced its withdrawal from Kherson from the left bank to the right bank of the Dnipro River to concentrate its troops, and equipment in Donbas. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, withdrawal was due to Russia’s logistical challenges to replenish its stocks, weaker defence posture in countering Ukraine’s attacks and the fear of flooding. 

On 05 December, the Russian Defence Ministry reported an alleged Ukrainian drone strike on the Russian airbases in Ryazan and Saratov. The drones were identified as “Soviet-made jet drones,” targeting the Dyagilevo airfield in the Ryazan Region and the Engels airfield in the Saratov Region located 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. The attack on Russian territory was another important breaking point in the course of the war. 

What is the background? 

First, Ukraine’s prolonged push for military support and sanctions were a success but without peace. Throughout 2022 Ukraine positioned itself as a strong demander for more advanced weapons to counter Russia and wider sanctions at all levels. The US, the EU and other Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan and Australia first imposed sanctions on luxury goods which expanded into industrial and later targeted critical services and Russian energy. In terms of the military, the west support increased in the course of five months since February and it began to supply high-capacity weapons such as HIMARS, IRIS-T, and Neptune to advanced drone technologies which helped Ukraine to hold  a strong defence and succeed in the counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson. The peace efforts from Ukraine have not actualised with Russia nor has been possible through the intervention of external powers. The proposal for a peace summit through the UN does open the scope for dialogue into 2023.

Second, testing of Russia’s chokepoints. The first bottleneck placed by Russia to the West was its demand on pay for Rubles for energy exports, with that being circumvented by the West, it became the base for the creation of a divide over Russian energy among the European countries. Following that, the Vostok exercises held on 02 September and the eastern economic forum were a showcase of its military capabilities and its international reputation in the phase of the war. The forum reflected its stronghold with China, India, and Armenia along with the consequent signing of agreements with Mongolia, and Myanmar. The next key choke point in the war was the signing of two decrees for partial mobilisation and Martial Law to improve its security posture in Ukraine and install a three-level security inside Russia. Since the partial mobilisation failed to materialise, a political counter-move was made by declaring DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as annexed areas. As Ukraine’s defence sustained, Russia’s weakened offensive capacity weakened pushed it to import Shahed drones from Iran. The failure to maintain its front line in Kherson pushed the Russian military further inwards into the right side of the Dnipro river. One of the last economic efforts, after restricting its oil and gas supply was the ban to import oil and petroleum to the West. This move was also seen as a weak step as US and Europe import restrictions on Russian energy exist already.

Third, West continuing its support over energy and economic crunch. In the initial period between February and May, the sanctions focused only on luxury such as freezing the assets, Russian oligarchs, and banking systems SWIFT expanded to key industries such as iron and steel, metals, key equipment, technologies critical for Russian machinery, transportation to imposing price caps on the imports of crude oil, petroleum, and gas. In terms of military aid, the US, the EU, along with Germany and NATO have been the key suppliers to Ukraine from defence systems, personnel training, land-based missiles, intelligence support, and advanced systems such as F-35, Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, to Kamikaze drones, switchblade drones, and Bayraktar TB2 drones. In the case of energy, the divide over the ban on Russian gas and oil has widened. Especially Germany’s Nord Stream, and Hungary’s and Czech Slovakia’s Druzhba pipeline were the also impacted due to Russia’s cutdown of supply. The key question here would be if the West would continue its military support into 2023, which can be expected to continue as the countries recover from the pandemic and adapt better to reduce the dependency on Russia.

Fourth, year of failed diplomacy. Since January there have been numerous attempts made by the US, and exclusively by Europe with Russia to prevent the Ukraine war or to reduce the aggression. From Geneva’s strategic security dialogue, Vienna OSCE meeting, NRC, Europe's independent Normandy format dialogue, Versailles declaration, regional consensus achieved to support Ukraine except Hungary and Belarus, G7 summit, to NATO Madrid summit. All the attempts have been more of a speed taxi without a destination. The only exception was the grain deal which helped in limiting the hike in global prices.

About the author

Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Associate at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

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