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To withstand the challenges of 2024 Ukraine and its partners will need to both increase and modify their efforts.

Arkady Moshes is Programme Director for the  Russia, EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Eurasia research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. He is also a member of the Programme on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia) at George Washington University. Moshes’ areas of expertise include Russian foreign policy, European-Russian relations as well as internal and foreign policy of Ukraine and Belarus. He received his Ph.D in history of international relations from the Russian Academy of Sciences (1992).

Before moving to Finland in 2002, he had been working in the Institute of Europe in Moscow since 1988. From 2008 to 2015 he was an Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House. From 2017 to 2022 he was a member of EU-Russia Expert Network (EUREN). He has been a visiting scholar at the Danish Institute for International Studies (2002) and the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University (2016), a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2007) and a regular guest lecturer at the NATO Defence College (2005-10, 2013-15) and Geneva Center for Security Policy (1998-2022).

Arkady Moshes has authored a large number of academic and analytical publications and is a frequent media commentator.

He co-edited “A Slavic Triangle? Present and Future Relations Between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus” (Swedish National Defence College, 2002), “Russia as a Network State: What Works in Russia When State Institutions Do Not” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), “What has remained of the USSR: Exploring the erosion of the post-Soviet space” (FIIA, 2019) and “Russian Policy toward Belarus after 2020 At a Turning Point?” (Lexington Books, 2023) and contributed articles to, among others, Security Dialogue, International Affairs, Post-Soviet Affairs and Demokratizatsiya.

What is your view on the latest developments in Ukraine?

2024 will be a challenging – not to say dramatic - year for Ukraine. On the one hand, if the West continues its procrastination with taking necessary financial decisions and launching massive defence procurement programmes aimed at raising assistance to Ukraine to a new level, the country’s ability to wage even a defensive war will be seriously limited. Statements that partners will be with Ukraine for as long as it takes and symbolic gestures, such as the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s EU accession, are politically important, but in practice, they are not particularly meaningful.

On the other hand, signs of Ukraine- and war fatigue surface not only among Ukraine’s partners abroad but also among Ukraine’s citizens. Mobilizing the manpower will be, in these circumstances, an uphill battle, whereas the refugees will switch to individual integration into societies that now host them (finding employment for themselves and education possibilities for their children), and their ties with Ukraine will inevitably weaken.

Two issues will need primary attention. One is the domestic political configuration. Over the last two years, Ukraine’s pluralist political culture found itself to be in contradiction with the centralization of power in the country in the hands of the Presidential Office, which is understandable yet suboptimal, especially taking into account the impossibility of holding elections in times of the martial law. Finding a new role for the parliament and individual MPs in the country’s war effort and communicating this role to the people would be a crucial task, no less important than avoiding an actual or perceived conflict between the president and the top military.

The other issue is the role of the state-controlled media, especially the broadcast media. Its message and content have been by far too optimistic. Inside Ukraine, it contradicts people’s own experience, while abroad, it creates an impression – or is exploited for these purposes – that the situation is generally not too problematic for Ukraine, which makes Western public opinion less willing to support Ukraine.

Going through 2024 without significant losses (diplomatic, territorial, economic, etc.) will only be possible if the West significantly increases its assistance to Ukraine. But if it does, Ukraine’s prospects for 2025 will appear much more encouraging. 

Should Ukraine seek a ceasefire with Russia, considering its latest counteroffensive failure and Russia’s superiority in resources and manpower? What could be the risks for Ukraine?

In principle, Ukraine should only consider a ceasefire if its Western partners offer it a real “Korea scenario”, i.e., a deployment of a significant (dozens of thousands) NATO or US contingent to protect the inviolability of the demarcation line. In other words, the situation on the ground should go beyond even the level of guarantees provided by Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Otherwise, there will be a risk that Russia may violate the ceasefire as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

However, this is not on offer. Western countries have no appetite – or capacity, or both – to formally include Ukraine in their own defence perimeter. What is left for Ukraine in these circumstances is to rely on a defensive strategy and avoid mistakes like the one of the 2023 counteroffensive, when an a priori erroneous military decision was taken for political reasons.

Russia may indeed have an advantage in the war of attrition, but the situation can change in the mid-term future. 

How can Putin be stopped in Ukraine?

For the time being, Putin has already been stopped in Ukraine. If the events in Ukraine had been going by the “Kremlin’s plan,” whatever that is, and a pro-Moscow government had been installed in Kyiv, the situation in and around Moldova, Belarus, and South Caucasus would look quite different. But now that Russia’s military capabilities were destroyed in Ukraine to a colossal extent, Moscow has a lot less leverage to apply to post-Soviet states, to deter Türkiye’s assertiveness, to prevent Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO, to reinvigorate CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union and so on, let alone to consider testing NATO’s resolve in case one of its member states is invaded.

The situation is dynamic, but even if Ukraine fell (see above), Russia would need a lot of time to prepare for a head-on collision with NATO. The latter, in turn, seems to be taking the risk of war with Russia seriously and has enough time to re-activate its muscle memory.

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