Ukraine should ensure domestic weapons production and investment to modernize its defence industries
Jamie Shea is the President at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, he is also currently a Senior Advisor at the European Policy Centre and a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe. Previously, he worked as a Professor of Strategy and Security of the Strategy and Security Institute at the University of Exeter. Prior to joining the University of Exeter, Jamie Shea was an international public servant and a member of the International Staff of NATO for 38 years. His last NATO post was Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges. Other positions included Director of Policy Planning in the Private Office of the Secretary General, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations, Public Diplomacy Division, Director of Information and Press, Spokesman of NATO and Deputy Director of Information and Press, Deputy Head and Senior Planning Officer in the Policy Planning and Multilateral Affairs Section of the Political Directorate as well as Assistant to the Secretary General of NATO for Special Projects.
Outside NATO, Jamie Shea has been involved with several prominent academic institutions. For 20 years, he was Professor at the Collège d’Europe, Bruges. He was also Visiting Lecturer in the Practice of Diplomacy, University of Sussex, Associate Professor of International Relations at the American University, Washington DC, where he also held the position of Director of the Brussels Overseas Study Programme. He has also lectured at the Brussels School of International Studies at the University of Kent and at the Security and Strategy institute of the University of Exeter, where he was an Honorary Fellow for six years. Jamie Shea is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics, where he teaches a course on crisis management and political communication.
What is your view on the Ukrainian response to Russian aggression
since February 2022?
The whole world has watched with admiration as the Ukrainian army has taken on and occasionally beaten a Russian force with far more soldiers and equipment. The war so far has been a mixture of Russian incompetence, poor leadership and tactics (particularly in the early stages of Putin’s invasion), and Ukraine’s ability to learn quickly on the battlefield, promote talent, and innovate imaginatively, particularly in the use of drones and networked communications. Ukraine has also beaten back Russian offensives, with Bakmut being its only significant loss over the last year. The problem now for the Ukrainian army is that Russia is better at defence than attack. It has built a dense series of fortified lines with mines and tank traps to keep possession of the 17% of Ukraine’s territory that it still holds. Breaking through three Russian lines will be costly in human lives and destroyed or damaged equipment. And it will require much greater deliveries of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, ammunition, long-range missiles, and aircraft than Kyiv currently receives. Too little, too late is the danger here.
Can Ukraine secure higher military support from the West, or is there
a chance for its reduction?
Higher military support will be difficult in the months ahead. Many European countries such as Poland or Slovakia say nothing is left in their stocks. The US will be diverted as it now has to fund and supply Israel in its war against Hamas. The Republicans in Congress are holding up further funding packages for US weapons supplies, although the Pentagon still has a reserve of $6 billion for Ukraine from previously approved packages. So, there are no immediate reductions. Also, industrial weapons and ammunition production is just starting in the US and Europe, so it will take several months before fresh weapons supplies are available. As a result, Kyiv needs to concentrate on getting new types of weapons, such as cruise missiles, long-range artillery, and F16 fighter jets. Here, it is having some success, as in the recent delivery of UK Storm Shadow cruise missiles and the US ATACMS long-range rocket system. But given the international context, Ukraine needs to ramp up its domestic weapons production and secure Western investment to modernize its defence industries and technology sector.
Is there a risk of Western allies pushing Ukraine to seek a compromise
with the Kremlin?
Not in the immediate. Support for Ukraine remains steadfast in Western governments despite more critical voices among opposition parties or US Republicans. Public opinion polls still show solid backing for Ukraine, although with some erosion vis a vis the very high levels immediately after Putin launched his invasion. Also, Western governments know that starting negotiations or “peace talks “ now would only put Putin in a strong position as he will demand the annexation of sizeable portions of Ukrainian territory and not be deterred from rebuilding his army and starting another round of warfare in a few years. The threat to NATO would also increase rather than diminish. There is also still some faith in the capacity of the Ukrainian counter-offensive to push the Russians back from Crimea and the Donbas and force Putin to negotiate from a position of weakness. But if Ukraine cannot make significant military advances, the voices in the West calling for negotiations and a compromise peace will inevitably become louder.
Is there a chance for Ukraine to join NATO, considering the positive
messages received during the recent NATO summit in July?
Yes, I am convinced that Ukraine will join NATO. Ukraine needs security, but it is also frankly in NATO’s interest to be defended by Ukraine in the future and the Western-equipped, battle-hardened, and innovative army that Ukraine will have at the war's end. Having Ukraine in NATO will improve the strategic position and security of allies such as Poland, the Baltic states, Finland, and Romania. The issue is timing and the situation that Ukraine will be in at the war's end. Suppose Ukraine liberates all its territory and is a fully sovereign functioning state with its Black Sea ports intact and a functioning economy integrated with the EU's single market. In that case, its membership in NATO will be much more straightforward. Of course, details regarding the permanent stationing of NATO forces and command posts in Ukraine and a plan to defend the country would still need to be worked out. But suppose the war ends with Russian forces occupying a large portion of Ukraine and in the previous frozen conflict situation. In that case, NATO membership will become more difficult as it will be harder to reach a consensus among the 31 allies. Some will fear that bringing only part of Ukraine into NATO means an immediate conflict with Russia.
How should Russians who committed war crimes in Ukraine be held
accountable? Is there a way for ICC to step in?
The first step is for the ICC to gather all the evidence on Russian war crimes. This should not be too difficult as it is being helped by many European countries, the US, and Canada, and has been conducting on-site investigations in Ukraine for a year already. The next step is to publicly indict all those on whom it has sufficient forensic evidence to stand up in a court, and at all levels, from the soldiers to their commanders up to the General Staff., the Defence Ministry, and the Kremlin. The ICC has already indicted Putin and his Minister for Family Affairs for the forced abductions of Ukrainian children. It is important that the ICC issues as many indictments as possible now to deter Russian soldiers from committing further crimes. Of course, the hard part will be inducing Russia to extradite the indicted war criminals to The Hague after the conflict. The ICC may have to conduct many trials in absentia in the first instance and find ways to progressively force Russia to cooperate with the Court. Linking this cooperation to lifting EU and US sanctions against Russia is one possibility, as well as tracking down and arresting the war criminals as soon as they travel outside Russia. It will be a difficult and very long process, but for the future credibility of the ICC and international justice, we mustn’t give up.
What do you think is Russia's ultimate goal in Ukraine?
To reduce Ukraine to a vassal state controlled by Russia and with much of its territory in the east incorporated into an enlarged Russian state. By reducing the size of Ukraine and taking away many of its minerals, industrial assets, and ports, Russia seeks to make non-Russian Ukraine less viable and functional as an independent country and, therefore, less attractive as an EU or NATO member for the foreseeable future. The war has united Ukrainians against Russia as rarely before, but once the fighting is over, Russian propaganda will go into overdrive to persuade as many Ukrainians as possible that their future lies with Moscow, not Brussels. We already see this tactic at work in Georgia. Our job is to make sure it fails.