What Stalemate Means in Ukraine and Why it Matters

March 22, 2022 - ISW Press

The initial Russian campaign to invade and conquer Ukraine is culminating without achieving its objectives—it is being defeated, in other words. The war is settling into a stalemate condition in much of the theater. But the war isn’t over and isn’t likely to end soon. Nor is the outcome of the war yet clear. The Russians might still win; the Ukrainians might win; the war might expand to involve other countries; or it might turn into a larger scale version of the stalemate in Ukraine’s east that had persisted from 2014 to the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The failure of Russia’s initial military campaign nevertheless marks an important inflection that has implications for the development and execution of Western military, economic, and political strategies. The West must continue supplying Ukraine with the weapons it needs to fight, but it must now also expand its aid dramatically to help keep Ukraine alive as a country even in conditions of stalemate.

Weakness is Lethal: Why Putin Invaded Ukraine and How the War Must End

October 1, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t invade Ukraine in 2022 because he feared NATO. He invaded because he believed that NATO was weak, that his efforts to regain control of Ukraine by other means had failed, and that installing a pro-Russian government in Kyiv would be safe and easy. His aim was not to defend Russia against some non-existent threat but rather to expand Russia’s power, eradicate Ukraine’s statehood, and destroy NATO, goals he still pursues.

WARNING: Transnistria May Organize a Referendum on Annexation to Russia to Support Russian Hybrid Operation Against Moldova

February 22, 2024 - ISW Press

The pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria may call for or organize a referendum on Transnistria’s annexation to Russia at a recently announced Transnistrian Congress of Deputies planned for February 28. The pretext for such a call would be the purported need to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots” in Transnistria from threats from Moldova or NATO or both. Russian President Vladimir Putin could, in the most dangerous course of action, declare Russia’s annexation of Transnistria during his planned address to the Russian Federal Assembly on February 29, although that appears unlikely. Putin will more likely welcome whatever action the Transnistrian Congress of Deputies takes and offer observations on the situation. ISW offers this assessment as a warning for a high-impact event of indetermined probability. Moldovan government officials state that the situation in Moldova is unlikely to worsen as of February 22.

Warning: Putin Remains Dissatisfied with Lukashenko’s Concessions

September 23, 2020 - ISW Press

6:30 pm EDT - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has not fully capitulated to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desired Union State integration demands in Belarus – yet.

Warning Update: Russia May Conduct a Chemical or Radiological False-Flag Attack as a Pretext for Greater Aggression against Ukraine

March 9, 2022 - ISW Press

Key takeaway: The Kremlin has set informational conditions to blame Ukraine for a Russian-conducted or Russian-fabricated chemical or radiological false-flag attack against civilians as a pretext for further Russian escalation. The Kremlin is likely still evaluating this course of action but is building out the necessary conditions to justify broader violence against civilians. That risk must be addressed. The United States and NATO must “pre-bunk” such Kremlin efforts, destroy in advance Moscow’s efforts to create informational cover for escalation, and deter Russia’s potential use of a chemical or radiological weapon.

Viral Disinformation: The Kremlin’s Coronavirus Information Operation in Ukraine

March 11, 2020 - George Barros

Likely Russian actors conducted a disinformation campaign against Ukraine exploiting COVID-19 fears related to the Ukrainian government’s evacuation of its citizens from Wuhan, China. The campaign’s tactics, timing, and nature all point toward Kremlin involvement.

Ukrainian Strikes Have Changed Russian Naval Operations in the Black Sea

December 16, 2023 - ISW Press

Key takeaway: Ukrainian strikes against Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) assets have changed Russian naval operating patterns, causing the BSF to move some ships away from its main base in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea and hampering the BSF’s ability to interfere with maritime trade in the western part of the Black Sea. Ukrainian strikes have likely caused the BSF to set conditions for a more permanent basing pattern along the eastern Black Sea coast as it transfers naval assets away from Crimea and expands a small port in de facto Russian-controlled Ochamchire, Abkhazia. Ukrainian strikes against BSF assets have successfully facilitated the use of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain corridor as international support for the corridor continues to increase despite Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and military threats against it.

Ukraine’s Sustained Counteroffensive: Denying Russia’s Prolongation of the War

July 24, 2023 - ISW Press

The West risks handing the Kremlin another opportunity to prolong its war in Ukraine if it fails to resource Ukraine’s sustained counteroffensive. Delays and fragmented aid are exactly what allowed Russia to regroup prior to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The West must not wait on the results of the current phase of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and, instead, help Ukraine maintain its momentum to prevent Russia from rebuilding its military strength and prolonging the war.

Ukraine’s Operations in Bakhmut Have Kept Russian Reserves Away from the South

September 17, 2023 - ISW Press

Key Takeaway: Ukrainian forces are celebrating the liberation of two small towns south of Bakhmut, but Ukraine’s entire effort first to defend and now to conduct counter-offensive operations around Bakhmut has been the subject of much unwarranted criticism. Ukraine's defensive and counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area since summer 2022 are an operationally sound undertaking that has fixed a large amount of Russian combat power that would otherwise have been available to reinforce Russian defenses in southern Ukraine. Elements of two of Russia’s four Airborne (VDV) divisions and three of Russia’s four VDV separate brigades are currently defending the Bakhmut area. This significant Ukrainian achievement has helped prevent Russia from creating a large mobile VDV operational reserve that could have been used to stop the main Ukrainian counteroffensive effort in Zaporizhia Oblast. Continued large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts around Bakhmut are necessary to keep Russian forces fixed in that area, as the likely recent redeployment of a detachment of one VDV separate brigade from near Bakhmut to southern Ukraine shows how eager the Russians are to recoup the combat power that the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Bakhmut is fixing there.

Ukraine’s Long-Term Path to Success: Jumpstarting a Self-Sufficient Defense Industrial Base with US and EU Support

January 14, 2024 - ISW Press

Ukraine is dramatically expanding its defense industrial capacity to develop the ability over time to satisfy its military requirements with significantly reduced foreign military assistance. Ukraine is pursuing three primary lines of effort to achieve this goal: increasing its domestic defense industrial base (DIB), building bilateral and multilateral partnerships with European states, and pursuing industrial joint ventures with the United States and other international enterprises to co-produce defense materials in Ukraine and elsewhere. Ukraine will require considerable Western military assistance for several years, and its ability to reduce its dependence on such assistance depends in part on whether it can liberate strategically vital areas currently occupied by Russian forces, among other factors. But Ukraine and its Western partners are executing a realistic plan to create a sustainable basis for Ukraine to be able to defend itself over the long term with dramatically reduced foreign military assistance.