Publications

Ukraine Conflict Update 18

March 22, 2022 - Press ISW

The Kremlin retains its maximalist political demands in ongoing negotiations with Ukraine and is unlikely to soften them despite the Russian military failing to achieve its objectives. Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s political demands in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 17. The Kremlin demands that Ukraine become “neutral” by renouncing its NATO membership ambitions, demilitarize by halting all western military aid or weapons sales to Ukraine, and “denazify.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defined the “denazification” of Ukraine as the abolition of any laws that discriminate against Russian-speaking populations on March 18—the first time a senior Kremlin official has publicly stated the Kremlin’s definition of Ukrainian “denazification.” Putin additionally stated that Ukrainian negotiators must resolve these issues before he will engage in leadership-level negotiations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the status of Crimea and Donbas. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accused Ukraine on March 18 of prolonging the negotiations and delaying an agreement with Russia.

Ukraine Conflict Update 17

March 18, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have likely agreed that Ukraine will not join NATO but disagree on Ukraine’s neutrality, disarmament, and territorial claims as of March 17. The Financial Times reported on March 15 that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators were considering a 15-point deal stipulating that Ukraine renounce its NATO ambitions and promise not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for security guarantees from states like the United States, United Kingdom, and Turkey. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged on March 15 that Ukraine will not join NATO, citing NATO state reservations rather than Russian demands.

Ukraine Conflict Update 16

March 6, 2022 - Press ISW

The military situation on the ground has not changed significantly in the past 24 hours. Russian forces continue to mass for renewed offensive operations east and west of Kyiv, west of Kharkiv, and toward Mykolayiv-Odesa but have not yet initiated new large-scale ground attacks. Russia has increased aerial and artillery/rocket attacks on civilian positions and infrastructure, including known evacuation corridors. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted their second counterattack in two days, this time near Mariupol. The Ukrainian air force and air defense forces continue to operate, inflicting damage on Russian ground forces and disrupting Russian air and missile operations.

Ukraine Conflict Update 15

March 4, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces continue their focus on encircling Kyiv. The western envelopment remains bogged down, but Russian troops have moved more rapidly from the east and are arriving in the capital’s outskirts on the Sumy axis. The speed of the advance from the east is likely to slow as Russian forces leave sparsely-inhabited and flat terrain and enter the more congested and built-up eastern suburbs. Russian mechanized forces around Kharkiv appear to be supporting operations toward the east and west of the city, likely weakening their ability to encircle or seize it.

Ukraine Conflict Update 14

March 3, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military has continued its unsuccessful attempts to encircle Kyiv and capture Kharkiv. The Russians continued to attack piecemeal, committing a few battalion tactical groups at a time rather than concentrating overwhelming force to achieve decisive effects. Russian commanders appear to prefer opening up new lines of advance for regiment-sized operations but have been unable to achieve meaningful synergies between efforts along different axes toward the same objectives. They have also continued conducting operations in southern Ukraine along three diverging axes rather than concentrating on one or attempting mutually supporting efforts. These failures of basic operational art—long a strong suit of the Soviet military and heavily studied at Russian military academies—remain inexplicable as does the Russian military’s failure to gain air superiority or at least to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. The Russian conventional military continues to underperform badly, although it may still wear down and defeat the conventional Ukrainian military by sheer force of numbers and brutality. Initial indications that Russia is mobilizing reinforcements from as far away as the Pacific Ocean are concerning in this respect. Those indications also suggest, however, that the Russian General Staff has concluded that the forces it initially concentrated for the invasion of Ukraine will be insufficient to achieve Moscow’s military objectives.

Ukraine Conflict Update 12

March 1, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces are completing the reinforcement and resupply of their troops north and west of Kyiv and launching an envelopment of the capital likely aimed at encircling and ultimately capturing it. This effort will likely accelerate in the next 24-48 hours. Russian operations against Kyiv are Moscow’s main effort. Russian troops are also undertaking three supporting efforts, one to seize Kharkiv, one to take Mariupol and secure the “land bridge” connecting Rostov-on-Don to Crimea, and one to secure Kherson and set conditions for a drive west toward Mykolayiv and Odesa. The three supporting operations are active, with the operation against Mariupol making the most progress in the last 24 hours.

Ukraine Conflict Update 11

February 28, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military is reorganizing its military efforts in an attempt to remedy poor planning and execution based on erroneous assumptions about Ukrainians’ will and ability to resist. Russian operations around Kyiv remain limited as logistics and reinforcements arrive but will likely resume in greater strength in the next 24 hours. Ukrainian military leaders said that they have used the pause to strengthen Kyiv’s defenses and prepare to defend their capital in depth. The Ukrainian military likely cannot prevent Russian forces from enveloping or encircling Kyiv if the Russians send enough combat power, but likely can make Russian efforts to gain control of the city itself extremely costly and possibly unsuccessful.

Ukraine Conflict Update 10

February 27, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military has likely recognized that its initial expectations that limited Russian attacks would cause the collapse of Ukrainian resistance have failed and is recalibrating accordingly. The Russian military is moving additional combat resources toward Ukraine and establishing more reliable and effective logistics arrangements to support what is likely a larger, harder, and more protracted conflict than it had originally prepared for. The tide of the war could change rapidly in Russia’s favor if the Russian military has correctly identified its failings and addresses them promptly, given the overwhelming advantage in net combat power Moscow that enjoys. Ukrainian morale and combat effectiveness remain extremely high, however, and Russian forces confront the challenge of likely intense urban warfare in the coming days.

Russian forces largely conducted an operational pause on February 26-27 but will likely resume offensive operations and begin using greater air and artillery support in the coming days. Russian airborne and special forces troops are engaged in urban warfare in northwestern Kyiv, but Russian mechanized forces are not yet in the capital. Russian forces conducted limited attacks on the direct approaches to Kyiv on both banks of the Dnipro River, but largely paused offensive operations in northeastern Ukraine. Russian forces likely paused to recalibrate their – to date largely unsuccessful – approach to offensive operations in northern Ukraine and deploy additional reinforcements and air assets to the front lines.

Ukraine Conflict Update 1

February 18, 2022 - Press ISW

Russia will likely attack Ukraine before February 21, 2022. The Kremlin has deployed sufficient military forces and set informational conditions to conduct offensive operations including limited incursions into unoccupied Ukraine, a comprehensive air and missile campaign, and large-scale mechanized drives on Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities.

Turkey Juggles Relationships after Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

February 26, 2022 - Press ISW

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling for a decisive NATO response against Russia after the Kremlin began a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Turkey has been prioritizing its bourgeoning defense and diplomatic partnership with Ukraine in recent years—an action that the Kremlin perceives as a challenge to its sphere of influence. Ukraine is not the first theater of conflict where Turkey and Russia have opposing interests, which they often have been able to compartmentalize. Turkey has challenged Russia’s sphere of influence in various theaters—including Libya, Central Asia, Syria, and the Caucasus—while maintaining its close coordination with Russia in its efforts to diversify its relations toward non-NATO states. However, Ukraine is likely the most significant challenge to date to Turkey’s bid to balance its NATO membership with its fragile partnership with Russia. Turkey has become increasingly reliant on Russian cooperation in various conflicts and key industries like energy and tourism.

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