NIAS Europe Studies

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NIAS Europe Studies
100 days of the Ukraine war: More loss than gain for Russia

  Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

The economic boom is supporting Russia to continue its war in Ukraine, but the sanctions would eventually impact the economy as it is likely to shrink by 8.5 per cent.

During the first hundred days, Russian troops launched an attack on Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson. In mid-May, it shifted its interests toward Mariupol, and the civilian population in these areas was targeted. Railway stations, hospitals, schools, etc., were also under attack. The air force targeted its airstrikes on a maternity hospital and a theatre in Mariupol, which killed many civilians and caused a wave of backlash from the West and from within.

Over the 100 days, Russia used strategies of destruction, Blitzkrieg, and kept changing its tactics depending on the circumstances.

On 20 April, Putin wanted Russia’s enemies to “think twice,” as it tested its ICBM “Sarmat” as a warning to the West. This comes as the West continued to support Ukraine through aid and arms supplies. Putin added: “This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.”

Russia has faced more losses than gains in the first 100 days. NATO estimated that Moscow had lost about 7,000 to 15,000 troops; however, Russia did not disclose the exact number of losses. Russia also received a major setback with the sinking of the Moskva, which was Russia’s fleet flagship in the Black Sea.

What are the issues?
First, the political backlash. The US, UN, and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia as it invaded Ukraine. Russia was removed from the human rights council as crimes against humanity surfaced after reports from Bucha emerged. Air spaces were closed to Russian aircraft, while Moscow was also suspended from cultural and sporting events. The EU announced the sixth round of sanctions, specifically targeting Russia’s oil exports in Europe. But, even with the political backlash, Russia secured 20 per cent of Ukraine and focused on the Donbas region.

Second, the economic repercussions. Russia’s removal from SWIFT was a major setback for Russia, but after the evidence of war crimes, the West and the allies delivered more effective sanctions against them, causing Western companies to withdraw from the country. But, Russia had underwent sanctions post its invasion of 2014 and had prepared itself for similar repercussions. Therefore, Russia’s currency has also firmed at a seven-year high as Moscow’s capital control, tax period, and oil prices have contributed to its rise. The economic boom is supporting Russia to continue its war in Ukraine, but the sanctions would eventually impact the economy as it is likely to shrink by 8.5 per cent.

Third, Russia’s energy exports. Russia weaponized its energy exports by blocking natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria after they failed to pay for gas in roubles. It has used energy exports to control the global demand for oil and gas, which has led to a boom for Russia. Russia has a surplus of USD 96 billion in its current account due to its energy exports amid sanctions. Even though Russia has profited from the global crisis, in the long run, it will receive a setback as my European countries have shifted their dependence on Russian energy or have lessened their imports from Moscow.

Fourth, regional setbacks. With Finland and Sweden announcing their decision to join NATO, Russia suffered a setback as it would give NATO an edge over the Baltics. Russia experienced a wave of diplomats being dismissed from countries across Europe as a sign of protest for Moscow’s invasion. The invasion pushed Denmark to join the EU defence policy and other countries in Europe to give up their neutrality.

Fifth, dissent from within. Putin’s war in Ukraine was not absolutely supported in Russia; many oligarchs like Oleg Tinkov, Roman Abramovich, and Oleg Deripaska have denounced the war. Similarly, small protests were held across Moscow as thousands of demonstrators protested against the war. Political analysts have mentioned how the last supporter of former president Boris Yeltsin, Valentin Yumashev stepped down from being Kremlin’s advisor showing a rift in support from within. Thus, a possible fraction within the political parties was visible due to Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Sixth, unachieved goals. Putin speculated that overtaking Kyiv would be quick; but the strong resistance by Ukrainian forces and support from the West disrupted his plans. On 12 April, Putin vowed to continue Ukraine’s offensive despite the major withdrawal from Kyiv. Russia’s goals have been vague; Putin mentioned the de- militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine. But, Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was able to achieve its main task of protecting civilians in the separatist-controlled areas and assured working towards the liberation of Ukraine.

What next?
Consolidating the Luhansk and Donetsk regions

Russia is likely to focus on consolidating the Luhansk and Donetsk region as it faces counterattacks by the Ukrainian military. Russia has also decided to place nuclear- capable missiles in Belarus, on the border with Ukraine, to warn the West of its continuous weapons support to Kyiv. Russia is likely to focus on the eastern region to create a land bridge to Crimea and access the crucial warm water ports of Mariupol and Kherson.

Energy exports shift from Europe to Asia Russia plans to shift its energy exports to Asia, with China, India, and the UAE as the major importers. Russia has even resorted to ship-to-ship loading and storing onboard oil containers for faster oil transactions.

Possible interventions in Georgia and Finland
With Putin warning of more ramifications for Finland and Sweden as they plan to join NATO, speculations arise about Russia’s plan to create tensions with Finland. Finland would give NATO an added border of 800 miles and help the alliance create a NATO sea from the Baltic Sea. Moreover, with Georgia’s separatist region rejecting the referendum on joining Russia, the Kremlin might move to intervene.

Stronger ties with China

On 23 May, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned that Moscow would focus on “developing relations with China.” This comes as the US reaffirmed its support to Taiwan in its policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Thus, Russia and China would deepen their ties to counter the West and the allies. Additionally, China can help Russia circumvent its sanctions in the long run as current sanctions do not target Beijing.

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