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Monday Morning Meeting on "New Developments in Ukraine: Emerging Responses”

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  • October 03, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting
    Only by Invitation
    1000 hrs

    Dr. Swasti Rao, Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, spoke on "New Developments in Ukraine: Emerging Responses” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 3 October 2022. The session was chaired by Ms. Anandita Bhada, Research Analyst, MP-IDSA. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, Senior Scholars, Research Analysts and Interns of the Institute were in attendance.


    Since 24 February 2022, the conflict in Ukraine has led to multiple geopolitical ramifications. The presentation gave a comprehensive overview of the recent developments in the region, including the status of territorial advances, disinformation campaigns, partial military mobilisation and nuclear threats.


    Ms. Anandita Bhada commenced the session by highlighting that as the conflict has entered its seventh month, soaring energy prices, food shortages, mobilisation and recently, the Russian referendum on annexation of four regions have further escalated the crisis. She also questioned the efficacy of sanctions and the way forward for supporters of Ukraine. She noted India’s consistent approach and China’s uneasy response to the crisis.

    With these remarks, Ms. Bhada invited Dr. Swasti Rao to make her presentation. At the outset, Dr. Rao stated that her presentation would track recent developments in the conflict, including the current ground offensive, the status of military aid and economic sanctions, the international response to annexed regions and the conjectures surrounding nuclear war. Dr. Rao then presented a timeline of the conflict and noted that the Russians gained maximum territory on 21 March 2022. She stated that the ‘demilitarisation and denazification’ aims were intentionally loosely defined in order to recalibrate later. She also noted that NATO’s Madrid Summit on June 28, the seizing of the coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant in July, intensification of the Ukrainian counter-offensive and Putin’s partial military mobilisation speech on September 21 are of particular importance. In the next part of her presentation, Dr. Swasti displayed comparative maps to depict the territory controlled by Russia between March and October of this year. In her analysis of the ground offensive, she noted that Russian territory control is decreasing after the maximum outreach and Ukraine managed to liberate the strategic town of Lyman recently. She mentioned that criticism of Russian military planning is also being increasingly heard, now from within Russia.

    The Speaker also shed light on the strategic importance of Southern and Eastern regions in Ukraine through dynamic maps. She opined that Russia has found itself on the horns of a dilemma with the distribution of forces in the southern and northeastern regions. She explained that the Ukrainian front has gained an advantage as they operate through interior lines and their ‘strategy of corrosion’ has further challenged Russian reinforcement. She added that Ukraine has demanded offensive weapons such as the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) from their allies. Dr. Rao also used interactive maps to display Russia’s territorial stalemate and the pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

    In the next part of her presentation, the Speaker addressed the issue of partial military mobilisation in Russia. She opined that the decision led to domestic turmoil causing several Russians to leave the country. In terms of the global response to the announcement, she noted that even the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) members such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan prohibited their citizens from participating in the conflict.

    Dr. Rao then discussed the Russian annexation referendums and noted that Russia does not fully control the four regions. She added that the majority of the population has also fled the regions since February 2022. She pointed out that there are no public independent statistics on the attitude towards the referendums and that the existing polls present contradictory results from the ones conducted just before the referenda. In addition, the absence of international election observers to monitor the referendum process have added to the disinformation conundrum. Dr. Rao also listed international reactions from supposedly ‘friendly’ countries to Russia like India, China, Hungary, Israel and Serbia who have all criticised the referenda and upheld the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine. She further remarked that nine European States have signalled support for Ukraine’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

    Dr. Rao noted that newly sanctioned entities include shell companies and individuals such as Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, Russia’s Central Bank Governor. She added that the United States provided its 22nd aid package to Ukraine and opined that alignment of sanctions is required to make them more effective, instead of numerically adding more sanctions. Dr. Swasti also presented a break-up of aid allocations to Ukraine and informed the audience about the types of military weapons provided by the US and Europe. In her analysis, she posited that the European Union is facing a ‘sanction wariness’ due to domestic factors such as high inflation and rising energy prices. She noted that the EU sanctions were last imposed in May and a fresh tranche, albeit watered-down, are expected soon.

    Through a display of statistics, she noted that there is a sharp decline in the natural gas pipelines from Russia. She presented examples of the Nord Stream, Yamal–Europe and TurkStream natural gas pipelines for the same. Similarly, she also displayed the increase in energy imports in India, China as well as other Asian countries such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka. She added that sanctions can be made more effective by targeting rebranded cargoes and ship-to-ship transfers. In the final part of her presentation, Dr. Rao addressed the speculations around the use of nuclear weapons. She opined that Russia will not employ nuclear weapons due to the fear of complete international ostracisation.


    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy complimented the speaker on the presentation. He reiterated the need to scrutinise information originating from both sides of the conflict. Ambassador Chinoy posited that the geopolitical focus has to be on Russia’s total territorial gain since February. He emphasised the need to further examine the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia in order to defend its territory. He stated that Ukraine has a strong case for NATO membership.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, (Retd.) pointed out that the Ukrainian front is unwilling to accept anything less than the territorial status in February. He underlined how Ukraine’s military response has been underestimated. Gen. Bakshi agreed with the Speaker’s analysis on exterior and interior troop positions. He highlighted the vulnerability of undersea connectivity due to the Nord Stream leakages.

    Dr. Rajorshi Roy discussed how Russia overestimated its capabilities and underestimated Ukraine’s response. He added that Russia will not backdown due to its domestic territory- protection narratives, and to justify the extreme economic and political costs of the conflict. Dr. Roy highlighted the reputational stakes of the conflict.

    Dr. Anand Kumar also emphasised the reputational costs for Putin. He added that the conflict is now between NATO and Russia.

    Capt. Anurag Bisen questioned the speaker on Ukraine’s preparedness for winter as NATO’s aid is diminishing and Russia has gained more troops. He also highlighted the strong Russian control on the four annexed regions and the strengthening Rouble currency.  

    Dr. Rajiv Nayan stated that Russian statements on nuclear weapons should be seen in line with its tactical doctrine. He argued that it is unlikely that Russia will use nuclear weapons. He  underscored India’s stand on the referendum and the declining internal support for Russia.

    The discussion ended with a Vote of Thanks by Ms. Anandita Bhada.

    The report has been prepared by Ms. Richa Kumaria, Intern, Non- Traditional Security Centre, MP-IDSA.