Continued Tracking｜Russia-Ukraine conflict for 4 months, what are the gains and losses of all parties?
2022-06-24: [Article Link] Since the full-scale outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine conflict on 24 February, the Western countries, led by the United States, have imposed unprecedented and widespread sanctions on Russia in a number of economic, financial and energy fields, while Ukraine has received enormous military, economic and humanitarian assistance. At the same time, the “shock wave” of the Russian-Ukraine conflict has spread across the globe, and the world is facing multiple challenges. On 24 June, when the conflict reached its four-month node, what did stakeholders lose? On June 18, 2022, local time, the Donbas Liberator Monument rose with smoke following the shelling.
Following the launch of the “Special Military Operation” on 24 February, Russia, initially advancing from the north, east and south to Ukraine, launched attacks on major cities such as Kiev, Mariupor, Kharkov and Herzon, but progress has been relatively slow and the two sides have been deadlocked. At the end of March, Russian Defence Minister Shoigu stated that the main tasks of the first phase of the “Special Military Operations” had been completed and that Russia had begun to focus on the main objective of the “Liberation” of Donbas. According to several Western media sources, the Russian army has made “slow but significant progress” since the conflict shifted eastwards to Donbas. At present, most of Donetsk and Luhansk counties are under Russian control, and the war in Utun continues. The entire Luhansk region will be under Russian control if the military operations of the Russian forces in North Donetsk and Lisychansk succeed. In addition, the Russian army continued to advance in southern Ukraine and took control of Mali-Upol on 20 May, and is currently intensifying its ground offensive against the Zaporoje area. Since the escalation of the conflict, Russia has only published casualty information twice in March, with the last official data on 25 March indicating that a total of 1351 Russian soldiers were killed in “special military operations”. However, with the continuation of the conflict approaching a key node of four months, the external assessment of Russian military casualty data has risen. Western officials have estimated that the total number of Russian troops operating in the country should be between 15 and 200000, as well as the real number of Russians killed and injured as of June, or 10 times more than official Russian data, and that a large number of weapons and equipment have been damaged. Also according to the U.S., Russia has begun to activate the Cold War-era T-62 tanks and to rebuild some of the battalion-class battle groups (BTGs), which, according to Rochan Consulting, the independent defence information company, “remarked serious human problems”. On 25 May, Russia announced the lifting of the age limit for the signing of the first military service contract between its nationals and foreign nationals and the Russian military, an analysis by Al Jazeera suggests that Russia may wish to recruit more soldiers for its military operations in Ukraine in order to address the shortage of troops. But, according to the Financial Times, the Russian army is still better than the Ukrainian side in terms of equipment and personnel. The Guardian is equally open to claims that Western officials tend to overestimate Russian casualties, and even within the Soviet army, with its overwhelming power of artillery, admits that Russians are far less likely to be killed or injured in the war in Utun than in the Utun. At the same time as Russia-Ukraine fell into the Larsaw war, the Western countries, led by the United States, imposed “unprecedented” comprehensive sanctions on Russia. Shortly after the escalation of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the West announced the exclusion of some Russian banks from the SWIFT system, which led to a sharp drop in the ruble exchange rate. At the same time, the West has initiated sanctions against Russian companies and individuals, freezing or even confiscating their assets, involving thousands of politicians and business people and their relatives. In the area of energy, the US announced a ban on Russian oil and gas imports as early as March, the United Kingdom announced that it would phase out its dependence on Russian oil by the end of 2022, and the European Union announced that it would stop imports of Russian coal by August, without agreeing on gas-related sanctions. Under the cloud of conflict, a number of well-known international companies, such as McDonald’s, Siemens, Apple, Nike, Adidas and Netfly, have also announced a suspension of their operations in Russia or withdrawal from the Russian market, and all Russian flights have been banned from United States, British, European Union and Canadian airspace, affecting the lives and movement of the Russian people. However, the Russian economy, which was once severely hit by sanctions, was still more “capable” than expected. In the face of Western sanctions, Russia introduced the “Lub Settlement” of natural gas, with four lower base rates since early April, to stabilize the country’s monetary and financial system, and the rubles rebounded successfully. At the same time, high energy prices have made up for the loss of Russian exports, and Russian energy exports are shifting from the West to countries such as East India in search of a new “outcome.” According to the British journal Economist, “under ‘unprecedented severe’ sanctions in Western countries, Russia’s economy has suffered only ‘skin and flesh damage’, and has not suffered any bruising. At present, rubles have recovered all lost ground, and Russia’s real economy has shown “an amazing elasticity.”
On 4 June 2022, local time, in Donetsk (Donetsk) area, the local conflict continued and the city was devastated in the streets.
Western officials are generally of the view that Ukraine has been clearly at a disadvantage since the “main battlefield” of the Russian-Ukraine conflict was transferred to the Utun region. On 2 June, Ukrainian President Zelensky stated that Russia now controls nearly one fifth of Ukraine's territory, about 125,000 square kilometres, and that the Russian-Ukraine front is more than 1,000 kilometres long. To date, the conflict in Russia-Ukraine has been concentrated mainly in Donetsk and Liscichansk in North Donetsk. The Governor of Luhansk Region, Sergei Gede, admitted that in the entire Luhansk region, only Lisychansk remained in Ukraine's fully controlled cities and that the Russian army had taken control of 80 per cent of the territory of North Donetsk. In addition, the Russian army is launching shelling throughout the country against the country’s military infrastructure, with the cities of the east and south being the main targets. After four months of depletion, the damage to the army has been enormous. According to the British Guardian, on 10 June, data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies indicated that the army had a total of about 125,000 soldiers and 102,000 national and border guards. However, the Presidential Adviser revealed that, as the fighting in Utun intensified, the total daily casualties of the army were currently high and fluctuated between 600 and 1,000 people. According to Vadym Skibitsky, Deputy Director-General of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence, Ukraine currently uses 5,000-6,000 rounds per day and has “almost depleted” its stock of Soviet 152-mm standard artillery shells. Meanwhile, Ukrainian refugees continue to flow to neighbouring countries, and according to the latest data of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between 24 February and 7 June, some 7.3 million people left Ukraine, with at least 48 million refugees from Ukraine throughout Europe. Moreover, despite the fact that the security situation in the country remains precarious, Ukrainian citizens have returned to Ukraine; however, many of them have chosen to leave again because of the destruction of their homes and difficulties in finding work. However, unlike Russia, which has been subject to frequent sanctions, Ukraine has received significant military assistance from Western countries since the escalation of the conflict and continues to call for more support from the West. As Ukraine's first arms donor, the United States has provided US$ 4.6 billion (approximately RMB 30.850 billion) in military assistance to the country, and on 15 June Biden announced a further US$ 1 billion worth of updated military assistance, including coastal defence weapons and artillery for operation Donbas, bringing the total US military assistance to the country to more than US$ 5.6 billion (approximately RMB 37.560 billion). Poland, which follows the United States as the second largest supplier of weapons to Ukraine, has, according to media reports from Poland and the United States, delivered $1.6 billion worth of weapons (approximately 10.72 billion yuan renminbi) to Ukraine, including more than 200 tanks and a large number of anti-tank missiles, mortars, ammunition and drones. In May, the British Government indicated that it would assist the Ukrainian army with Pound450 million (approximately RMB 3.76 billion) and pledged to provide Ukraine with electronic warfare equipment, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision equipment, and announced in June that it would provide a small additional M270 rocket systems to the country. Also according to Agence France Presse, since February this year Canada has provided military assistance to Ukraine in the amount of $262 million (approximately $1.385 billion). In late May, the Government of Canada also indicated that it would provide Uganda with an additional 20,000 shells to complement its previously assisted M777 howitzer to enhance Ukraine's defence capabilities in the Donbas area. Germany, which was blamed for the slowness of its military assistance to the U.S., also announced, together with France, on 16 June that it would further strengthen its support to the U.S. and, on 21 June, announced a list of weapons that had been disbursed and were planned to be supplied to the U.S., confirming that it would transport 30 Leopard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, IRIS-T anti-aircraft systems and the Cobra artillery positioning radar system. On the same day, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that German-provided self-propelled howitzers had arrived in Ukraine and that, with the exception of the above-mentioned countries, the Nordic, Central and Eastern European and some Asian countries had committed themselves to providing arms assistance to Ukraine in respect of items such as “sampling” anti-tank missiles, “spill” missiles, howitzers, anti-tank mines and anti-tank guns, pistols and all types of ammunition. At the same time, the process of Ukraine's accession to the EU entered the “fast track” as a result of the Russian-Ukraine conflict. On 28 February, Zelensky signed a document requesting that the EU urgently adopt Ukraine's application for accession to the EU. On 8 April, the European Commission officially submitted to Ukraine a questionnaire on accession, and on 17 June, it recommended that Ukraine be granted EU candidate status. On 4 May 2022, local time, in Strasbourg, France, the President of the European Commission, Von der Laing, indicated that the European Union would impose a total ban on the import of oil from Russia for a period of six months.
Since the escalation of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the European Union has imposed six rounds of sanctions on Russia, covering various areas, including finance, energy, transport, the media and diplomacy, as well as on Belarus for “support to Russian military operations”. However, in view of the EU’s high dependence on Russian energy, there are persistent differences within the EU with regard to the Russian energy sanctions. As early as early as May, the EU submitted its sixth round of draft sanctions against Russia, which included that most member states should stop importing Russian oil by the end of this year. However, the EU’s internal consultations were once in a difficult position, owing to the concerns of several member states, including Hungary, about the impact of the sanctions on Russia’s energy supply. It was not until 3 June that the sixth round of EU sanctions was “late to arrive,” stating that the purchase of Russian crude oil by sea would cease within six months, and the purchase of Russian petroleum products would cease within eight months, but that member states relying on Russian pipeline crude oil would be granted a temporary exemption. At present, the EU is preparing a seventh round of sanctions against Russia, but internal differences remain a “treadstone.” According to Reuters, on 20 June, EU diplomats said that about one third of the 27 EU countries (mainly the Nordic and Eastern European countries) wanted the European Commission to carry out the seventh round of sanctions against Russia. Countries like Germany, however, prefer to focus on the imposition of existing sanctions and the blocking of loopholes, rather than embarking on a complex process of agreeing on new measures. With regard to energy, European countries, which are highly dependent on imports of natural gas, are increasingly torn apart, Germany is shaky, Hungary is firmly opposed to the energy ban, and Poland is willing to extend the sanctions to the gas ban. Moreover, there is a great deal of disagreement within the EU on the issue of new military support for Ukraine. Currently, the EU has provided Ukraine with 2 billion euros of military support from the European Peace Fund, and the Nordic and Eastern European countries, represented by Sweden and Poland, have called for the immediate disbursement of additional funds to Ukraine. But some countries, such as Germany, are reluctant to make further use of the “European Peace Fund” on budgetary grounds, arguing that there is a risk that there will be insufficient funds to deal with other crises. At the same time, the cost of sanctions against Russia is becoming apparent in European countries. Under the influence of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, concerns about winter “scarce” have grown, and successive declarations by countries such as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to ease restrictions on coal power generation have been accused by the European Union of “don't retreat to dirty fossil fuels”. At the same time, high and often “shocked-up” inflation rates have devastated European citizens, and post-epidemic economic recovery has become more difficult. According to Eurostat’s preliminary statistics, the Russian-Ukraine conflict has affected the energy market, which continues to be volatile, food prices have soared, and inflation in the eurozone reached 8.1% annually in May, a record high. Multinational workers such as France, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom continue to go to the streets for strikes or demonstrations to protest rising costs of living and shrinking wages. According to Xinhua, the European Central Bank President, Lagarde, on 20 June, stated that rising energy prices, disruptions in supply and increased uncertainty had adversely affected economic activity in the euro area and that high inflation in Europe had spread to various sectors. On 28 February 2022 local time, in Delaware, United States, military equipment was prepared for transport to Ukraine.
Immediately after the escalation of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, in March the United States announced a total ban on energy imports from Russia and stated that it was developing a long-term strategy to reduce the dependence of European allies and partners on Russian energy. But, on the other hand, US President Biden is constantly running for energy, deliberately closing up the oil-producing countries. As early as March, when the situation in Russia-Ukraine had subsided and global energy supply was strained, Western countries, including the US, frequently demanded that OPEC’s surplus-capable Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increase their oil production to help reduce their dependence on Russian energy. In recent days, as average gasoline prices in the United States have soared to historical heights, Biden, who is approaching the mid-term elections, is being exposed to “downside from reality” and may allow more sanctioned Iranian oil to enter the global market even if no agreement can be reached with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. In addition, the Biden government had previously been considering other options, such as the purchase of Russian oil “at prices below market prices.” After “OPEC+” agreed to increase oil production on 2 June, the US announced that Biden would undertake his first visit to the Middle East in mid-July, visiting Israel, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. Although the Biden Government stated that the mission was focused on security issues rather than on energy issues, CNN stated that the Biden mission was intended to persuade Saudi Arabia to exploit more oil and help mitigate the political impact of the soaring price of United States gasoline. At the same time, as the United States intelligence services believe that Saudi Crown Prince Salman may have ordered the killing of journalist Kashuji, Biden had previously made it clear that he would avoid direct contact with the Saudi Crown Prince. As a result, Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, “in word and in deed,” also elicited numerous domestic criticisms that it had “lost its moral compass” by controlling oil price demand. While the major oil-producing countries were being drawn up, the United States continued to draw up a large list of military assistance to the country. According to data from the United States Department of Defense network, since the escalation of the conflict in Russia-Ukraine and up to 15 June, the United States has pledged over $5.6 billion (approximately $37.560 billion) in military assistance to the country, including 400 MANPADS, 6,500 anti-tank missiles, 20,000 other anti-tank missiles, 700 drones, and more than 120 Phoenix phantom cruise missiles developed specifically to meet Ukraine's needs. However, the US is concerned about the amount of aid that it provides to the country. Cable News Network (CNN) quotes sources' analysis that, on the one hand, the US does not know where Western weapons will go, where they will be used effectively, where they will be consumed, etc., making war predictions and the development of aid policies against the country increasingly difficult. On the other hand, the long-termization of the conflict is causing the cost of aid to Western countries to continue to rise. Some Western governments, including the US, have begun to worry that the weapons donated to Ukraine have depleted the national arsenal that is vital to their own defence. On 29 March 2022 local time, in Istanbul, Turkey, the President of Turkey, Erdoğan, met and spoke with members of the delegations of Russia-Ukraine. Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, Turkey has been engaged in shuttle diplomacy in the world political arena, once bringing the Russian-Ukraine parties closer to a peace agreement. Since the application of Finland and Sweden to join NATO to respond jointly to Russia, Turkey has become a “flash-starter” against the two countries' “accession” and is extremely strong. There is an analysis that Turkey intends to enhance its sense of existence through shuttle diplomacy and to highlight the important role of its “conciliator”, while taking the opportunity of NATO's expansion to assert its claim of interest in exchange for a “vote veto” in exchange for more leverage against Western Powers. According to Reuters, Sweden and Finland submitted their applications for NATO membership in May this year, which requires the unanimous consent of 30 NATO countries if they are to become full NATO members. However, the Turkish side has repeatedly expressed its opposition because the two countries allow organizations such as the “Kulun Movement” and the PKK, which are recognized by Turkey as terrorist organizations, to carry out activities against Turkey in their territories. In addition, the Turkish side accused Sweden of supplying weapons to the PKK, and according to the Turkish “list of entry requirements”, the two countries must cease their support for the above-mentioned “terrorist organizations” and lift the arms embargo and related sanctions against Turkey. During his visit to Sweden on 13 June, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg stated that Turkey's security concerns were “reasonable” and that Sweden had decided to amend its counter-terrorism legislation and ensure the country's legislative framework for arms exports in the hope that Sweden and Finland would join NATO “as soon as possible”. However, according to the British Financial Times, Turkey refused to participate in the NATO-organized Trilateral Talks in Turkey, Finland and Swe, and its President, Erdoğan, again stated on 15 June that the Turkish side would not change its position until the two countries took “unequivocal, concrete and decisive action to combat terrorism”. At the same time, the Russian-Ukraine conflict also provided a new “stage” for Turkish weapons that had played an important role in the previous Naka conflict. According to the Russian news website The Insider, on 31 May, since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, Turkish-made drones have helped Ukraine to foil attacks by Russian ground forces on several occasions. The UAV designer, Selchuk Baraktar, stated that, after seeing the situation in Ukraine, “the world is competing to buy a TB2 attack drone. On May 24, 2022, Japan's Tokyo, the US-Japan-India-Australia “Quadripartite Mechanism” summit was held on the same day. United States President Biden held talks with Indian Prime Minister Modi.
However, since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, India has not followed the US-led Western sanctions campaign against Russia, emphasizing its neutrality and calling for a ceasefire through dialogue, with the hope of maximizing its interests by “walking wire” between the US and the Russians. On the one hand, despite the United States’ repeated calls to name India, accusing it of “unstable positions,” the two countries announced in April this year that they would strengthen their defence cooperation. According to the US-language Defense News, the US-India would promote cooperation between the two space agencies on space situational awareness and exchange, and deepen cooperation in cyberspace through training and exercises. At the same time, United States Secretary of Defense Austen stressed that the United States would seek a way of financing that would reduce the price of United States weapons sold and would push India “out of its dependence on Russian weapons”. The two countries will also take some “supply chain cooperation measures” to quickly support each other’s priorities in defence needs. Moreover, during the conflict in Russia-Ukraine, a number of countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have expressed their willingness to provide more arms export services to India and to strengthen defence cooperation with it. According to Reuters, India, the largest global purchaser of Russian military equipment, is also interested in diversifying the supply of armaments and has begun to seek additional weapons and ammunition from Eastern European countries, while actively promoting the manufacture of equipment by its domestic companies. The U.S. War on the Rocks website analyses that the speed and extent of Western sanctions against Russia have made India aware of the importance of “technical autonomy”. On the other hand, India has resisted the enormous pressure from the West to maintain relative stability in its relations with Russia, and may have deliberately taken the opportunity to increase its imports of Russian crude oil “at a discount”. Like most countries in the world, India is also working to prevent rising fuel prices from triggering uncontrolled inflation, and Russian crude oil, which has fallen sharply after the Russian-Ukraine conflict, is an excellent option for it. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, according to insiders, the Government of India is urging the country's State-owned oil companies to import large amounts of cheap crude oil from Russia. Although government officials in India who do not wish to reveal their names deny this, according to Kpler, the bulk merchandise data tracking agency, India has increased its imports of crude oil more than 25 times since the outbreak of the conflict in Russia, buying an average of 1 million barrels of crude oil per day in June, compared to an average of 30,000 barrels per day in India in February. Russian President Putin also stated on 23 June that Russia's oil supply to countries such as India, which has become one of the “most important customers” of Russian oil exports, was increasing significantly. However, India’s purchases of low-value Russian crude oil were also warned by the US. According to Reuters and the Financial Times, on 9 June, US Department of State Senior Energy Security Adviser Hawkstein stated that, while the US could not prohibit Indian purchases of Russian crude oil because it had not imposed secondary sanctions on imports of Russian oil, India should not be “excessive” and should not be perceived as “using the suffering of the European-American family.” On 6 May 2022 local time, Ukrainian military personnel inspected the barn near the front line of the Herzon region.
The impact of the Russian-Ukraine conflict goes far beyond the regional context, creating a huge “shock wave” on a global scale, triggering multiple crises. With regard to food security, Russia and Ukraine are the two major exporters of wheat, maize, oilseeds, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil worldwide, accounting for 12 per cent of total world market exports, while Russia is the world's largest fertilizer producer. Following the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the lack of access to international markets and the restrictions imposed on the export of Russian fertilizers as a result of sanctions have led to a sharp increase in global food prices and raised concerns about global food security and its potential implications. According to the British Guardian, on 17 June, David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, said that, with soaring food prices around the world, dozens of countries would face the risk of protests, riots and political violence this year. In response, the West and Russia accuse each other of being responsible for the food problem and of falling into a “food war.” However, according to the Turkish News, on 21 June, the Quartet between Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations will be held in Istanbul within 10 days, which may provide a new way out for the smooth movement of Ukrainian food to the world and a solution to the food crisis. The Russian-Ukraine conflict has also profoundly affected the global energy landscape. On the one hand, the Russian-Ukraine conflict has pushed global oil and gas prices up dramatically. According to Forbes, international crude oil prices have gone up all the way after the escalation of the conflict and remained high after nearly 14 years of record highs of $139 per barrel, while gas prices have been innovatively high, further exacerbating global inflation. On the other hand, with increased multinational sanctions on Russian energy exports and changing international market flows for energy supply and demand, the reduction in Russian energy supply left a huge market gap, with more coal and natural gas from Australia and India flowing to Europe, while more energy from Russia went to eastern markets. At the economic level, a number of international agencies are pessimistic about the direction of the world economy under the influence of the Russian-Ukraine conflict. According to Reuters, on 7 June, the World Bank reduced the global economic growth forecast for 2022 by nearly one third to 2.9 per cent, stating that the global economy might enter a “long period of weak growth and high inflation” and could even run the risk of severe stagnation in the late 1970s, with low- and middle-income economies facing devastating consequences. Despite relative optimism over the World Bank and cautious about whether the global economy is on the verge of stagnation, OECD similarly expected global economic growth in 2022 to fall from 4.5 per cent previously to 3 per cent and projected a further slowdown to 2.8 per cent in 2023, while inflation in its 38 member countries is expected to double to almost 9 per cent in 2022.