GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 664, 16 September 2022

Ukraine: Counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson
Padmashree Anandhan

In the news
On 8 September, Ukraine Armed Forces Commander General Valerii Zaluzhnyi reported on the Ukraine counteroffensive in the northeast of Kharkiv where the forces had advanced 50 kilometres into the Russian-controlled area.

On 10 September, the Russian Defence Ministry brief on the special military operation in Ukraine stated: “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 11 September, “The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to liberate territories occupied by Russia. Since the beginning of September, more than 3,000 sq km have been returned.”

On 13 September, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that close to 8000 sq km were reclaimed by the Ukraine forces in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, and “stabilization measures” have half progressed. US President Joe Biden, when questioned about it, said: “It is clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it's going to be a long haul.”

Issues at large
First, Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Eastern and Southern Ukraine are the key regions of the counteroffensive, with the offensive focused on the northeast, southeast of Kharkiv, Izyum-Slovyansk, Kupiansk in Eastern Ukraine, and northwest Kherson in the south. Although Ukraine has captured close to 2000 sq km this week, it had advanced just about 150 sq km in July, and 400 sq km in August, which gives rise to speculation. As per the daily reports from the Institute for the Study of War, the forward position of Russia appears to have receded and Ukraine, with its continued strong counteroffensive on the front lines, has been able to recapture the lost territories targeting Russia’s forces, logistics, and ground level communication systems by strategically deploying West-made weapons in its operations. Another possible reason for Ukraine’s success in the counteroffensive can be the dual strike in eastern and southern Ukraine where Russia is perceived to face a resource concentration dilemma. 

Second, Russia’s withdrawal. Kharkiv (shelled down in May) and Kherson (occupied since February) are now witnessing the withdrawal of Russian forces, a limited war, and a weaker military. Such sudden movements indicate two possibilities. One, Russia is unable to sustain the supply of its military weapons and personnel in Ukraine’s eastern and southern counteroffensives. Two, Russia is focused on its larger objective of annexing the Donbas region by seizing Luhansk and Donetsk cities. This can be achieved only by cutting down on unnecessary military operations and expenditures.

Third, geographic significance. Kharkiv is the second largest Ukrainian city and serves as its major communications centre. With its major large train junctions, truck highway systems, and highways, it connects Russia with Kyiv, western Ukraine, Zaphorzhzhia, Crimea, and the Caucasus. Kherson, on the other hand, serves as a fortress to the Black Sea and was once a Russian naval base. It holds the strategic port on the west bank of the Dnieper River which controls the passage to Crimea and has become a major industrial area in shipbuilding, oil refining, and cotton-textile manufacturing.  However, it is Donbas, compared to Kharkiv and Kherson, that has a large proportion of the population speaking Russian and are ethnically Russian. A similar situation ensues in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Odesa, but only in Crimea, do ethnic Russians have a majority. Therefore, Russia’s withdrawal does mean letting go of the resources and industrial rich zone in exchange for the Russian-majority population in Donbas.

In perspective
First, Ukraine is regaining territory. Since the start of the war, Ukraine was able to only put a strong defence against Russia in the Luhansk and Donetsk battle, with few limited victories in Kyiv, taking down a Maersk ship, and signing a grain deal. On the ground, Russia has held the upper hand in the war of attrition, whereas Ukraine, despite the use of Western weaponry was able to reclaim only a few areas. Therefore, Russian troop withdrawal is a sign of Ukraine advancing in the war. However, the question remains if it can re-capture any more of the Russian-occupied territory.

Second, Kremlin’s no care attitude. With Ukraine boasting itself on one side over wins in a counteroffensive, the Russian military and media have kept maintained silence. On the ground, to achieve Russia’s larger objective of annexing the Donbas region, Izyum is the only hurdle that stands. Izyum serves as an entry axis into Donetsk and Luhansk and has emerged as an aggressive battle zone along with the Kharkiv offensive. And on the diplomatic front, Europe’s energy dependency and the grain deal will still be two trump cards for Russia to play.

Third, the future of western military support to Ukraine. Thus far the US has provided more than USD 15 billion, followed by Poland, the UK, Germany, and other EU member states who are committed to providing USD 0.25 billion to two billion each by incorporating the increase in their respective military budgets. With Europe heading into an energy crisis along with spiralling inflation, as a regional block and as individual member states there is likely to be a rethink of their continued military support to Ukraine. Germany, for instance, has already been frequently blamed by Ukraine for not providing more weapons. Europe’s energy affordability and measures to control inflation will be the determining factors that will shape future military aid to Ukraine. 

30 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 681
Putin's address in the Valdai Club" Four Takeaways
30 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 680
Elon Musk's Twitter deal
23 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 679
The UK: Liz Truss' resignation spins political chaos
16 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 677
UN deems Russia’s referendums illegal
13 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 676
China: UNHRC proceeding on Xinjiang
9 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 675
Trade and Statistics Outlook 2022-23: Four takeaways
9 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 674
OPEC: The curious case of OPEC's production cuts

9 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 672
Reducing Inequality Index 2022: Three Takeaways
2 October 2022 | GP Short Notes # 665
The new DART Mission: A new era of planetary defence
29 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 669
Iran: Protests spark against hijab rules
25 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 664
Putin and Russia's New Ukraine Strategy
22 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 668
EU's food waste 2022: Three takeaways

18 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 663
Sweden: 2022 elections reflect political polarization
18 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 662
SCO Summit 2022: Who said what
16 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 666
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery 2021: Six takeaw

16 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 665
North Korea: New legislation hinders denuclearization talks
11 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 661
Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina’s State visit to India
11 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 659
Russia: Military exercise Vostok 2022

8 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 658
The UN report on Xinjiang: Four Takeaways
1 September 2022 | GP Short Notes # 656
Iraq-Al-Sadr Withdraws, Protests Intensify
7 August 2022 | GP Short Notes # 653
Sri Lanka starts bailout talks with IMF
31 July 2022 | GP Short Notes # 651
Tunisia: Referendum paves the way for one-man rule

24 July 2022 | GP Short Notes # 649
Putin’s meeting with Khamenei and Erdogan
17 July 2022 | GP Short Notes # 648
Elon Musk Versus: 'Twas a troll after all
3 July 2022 | GP Short Notes # 643
NATO 2022 Strategic Concept: Four takeaways

26 June 2022 | GP Short Notes # 639
Saudi Arabia: Rapprochement with Turkey

26 June 2022 | GP Short Notes # 638
Europe: Approving Ukraine's candidature for the EU
8 May 2022 | GP Short Notes # 635
EU: New sanctions on Russia

24 April 2022 | GP Short Notes # 631
Russia: New nuclear-capable ICBM test

17 April 2022 | GP Short Notes # 629
Elon Musk and the battle for Twitter
10 April 2022 | GP Short Notes # 627
New actions and sanctions on Russia

28 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 625
Europe: The new focus on defence
28 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 624
The G7 Summit: Focus on Russia and Ukraine’s defence
20 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 622
China: A careful strategy on Russia and Ukraine
13 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 620
China: Fifth Session of the 13th NPC
13 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 619
Ukraine: The Versailles declaration of the EU leaders

6 March 2022 | GP Short Notes # 617
Sanctions against Russia: Effects and Divides
12 February 2022 | GP Short Notes # 614
Quad summit in Australia: Focus on the Indo-Pacific 
12 February 2022 | GP Short Notes # 613
The One Ocean Summit: A framework toward conservation
5 February 2022 | GP Short Notes # 612
Escalation and de-escalation in the Ukraine crisis
29 January 2022 | GP Short Notes # 610
The Normandy Format: Europe, Russia and Ukraine
15 January 2022 | GP Short Notes # 609
Mali: Tensions escalate as ECOWAS imposes sanctions
15 January 2022 | GP Short Notes # 608
Kazakhstan: Russia, China and the protests
15 January 2022 | GP Short Notes # 606
India, China 14th round of military talks in Ladakh
8 January 2022 | GP Short Notes # 605
The US: Remembering 6 January

Click below links for year wise archive
2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018

Click here for old Short Notes