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Ukraine has been quite successful in securing support from the West.

Interview with Kristian Gleditsch, Regius Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, director of the Michael Nicholson Centre for Conflict and Cooperation, and a research associate at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). His research interests include conflict and cooperation, democratization, and spatial dimensions of social and political processes.

What is your view on the latest developments in Ukraine?

A great deal of information often clouds the coverage of the war that is hard to verify to outsiders, but I think it is pretty clear that 1) Russia has performed less well than expected, 2) Ukraine has performed better than expected, 3) Western military aid has been more effective than could be expected, 4) Russia will enter the winter period on a much weaker position than assumed, 5) The Russian mobilization generates high political costs in Russia and risks to the regime, 6) The climate for negotiations is not favorable, and there will likely be many concerns over Russian commitment.

Do you think there is a likelihood of further escalation between Russia and Ukraine in light of the recent accident at the Kerch bridge?

Yes, I think this is quite likely, and it is, to some extent, already happening with the current Russian air raids in many Ukrainian cities. It increases the chances of punitive attacks and strikes that may have limited value from a purely military perspective or efforts to control/secure territory.

How can Ukrainian leadership secure more Western support? What do you think are the highest risks for Ukraine right now, and how can Ukrainian leadership cope with them?

Ukraine has managed to get extensive support from the West, and the support has likely been instrumental in the better-than-expected military performance. In order to retain military support, Ukraine would need to navigate the dual objectives of most Western countries, namely balancing the objective of providing military support to Ukraine to avoid direct intervention or antagonizing Russia in ways that might provoke a response beyond Ukraine. This strategy has been quite successful, but it is a fine balance. For example, support could be put at risk by behavior the West might see as more reckless, for example, if Ukraine were to make more direct strikes on Russia.

The costs of the war to the Ukrainian economy must be huge. At some point when the military conflict reaches an end or is possible protracted stalemate, it will be essential for Ukraine to secure aid for economic reconstruction. Ukraine has been quite successful in securing support from the West. But the challenges might increase when the costs of the energy crises and implications of the war for the global economy takes its toll on Western countries. What strategies are likely to be more effective is somewhat outside my expertise, but I think it might be helpful to stress relative Ukrainian discipline and constraint compared to Russia, commitment to liberal democracy compared to Russia, and the broader value of reconstruction and regeneration to other Western countries. Again, I think the greatest challenge to the Ukrainian leadership is to balance military expediency narrowly defined and broader political concerns of outside supporters, the economic challenges posed by ongoing conflict to the Ukrainian economy, and how to ensure long-term support from other countries.

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