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This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.

2 (and 1/2) Things to Know

  1. The combination of manpower and ammunition shortages has continued to adversely impact the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s (ZSU) fortunes this week, with commander-in-chief Oleskandr Syrskyi acknowledging that “the situation on the eastern front has significantly worsened.” ZSU has been incrementally ceding territory even in the absence of a major Russian offensive, which chief of Ukraine's military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov now expects to begin in June and whose aim will be capturing all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In the past month, Ukrainian forces have re-gained 1 square mile of their country’s territory, while Russian forces have gained 31 square miles in that time, according to the April 16 issue of the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card. 
    1. While Ukraine’s shortage of manpower is to be addressed by Ukraine’s law on mobilization that Volodymyr Zelensky signed on April 16, its shortage of ammunition would be at least partially remedied if the U.S. Congress passes a package of foreign aid that includes $60.8 billion for Ukraine. The House is to vote on the package on April 20 so that the Senate can take it up next week. If, however, the Ukraine aid doesn’t make it through Congress, there will be “a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024,” in the view of CIA director William Burns.  
  2. Russia’s GDP is to grow 3.2% in 2024, exceeding the forecasted growth rates for the U.S. (2.7%), the U.K. (0.5%), Germany (0.2%) and France (0.7%), according to IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook cited by NBC. While outperforming these Western economies, Russia will lag behind China and India in terms of economic growth (4.6% and 6.8%, respectively).
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5 Ideas to Explore

  1. The increased threat of military escalation in the Middle East in the wake of Iranian strikes on Israel will likely draw Western attention and aid away from UkraineISW quoted Russian pro-war commentators as predicting. “There will be no world war” because of the strikes, but the Middle East will slide into a long proxy war and Putin’s Russia will be among the beneficiaries of this confrontation, according to one such commentator Andrei Medvedev’s article on pro-Kremlin conservative analytical site Vzglyad. In the military domain, Israel’s success in defending against the Iranian strikes “underscores the vulnerabilities that Ukrainian geography and the continued degradation of Ukraine’s air defense umbrella pose for Ukrainian efforts to defend against regular Russian missile and drone strikes,” in the view of ISW’s Nicole Wolkov, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan.
  2. Whether it’s artillery shells or Patriot missiles, the U.S. simply doesn’t have the resources to produce and provide even half of what Ukraine says it needs to become on par with Russia in the war. This follows from Republican Sen. J. D. Vance’s commentary entitled “The Math on Ukraine Doesn’t Add Up,” published in NYT. “Ukraine’s manpower situation is even worse” than the situation with its munitions, according to Vance. Vance then argues that these disparities must inform any future U.S. policy toward the conflict, “from further congressional aid to the diplomatic course set by the president.” “The Biden administration has no viable plan for the Ukrainians to win this war. The sooner Americans confront this truth, the sooner we can fix this mess and broker for peace,” Vance concludes. Vance’s estimates of what Ukraine says it needs and what the U.S. can supply ignores the European variable in the equation. Europe’s capacity for military assistance to Ukraine cannot fully compensate for declines and delays1 of such aid from the U.S., but they are significant nevertheless.*
  3. Ukrainian authorities have made progress this month on expanding the conscription pool by passing a bill on additional mobilization and lowering the age of eligibility for being called up to 25. However, it is “unclear how quickly Ukraine will draft and train the additional troops it needs, or whether they will be ready before the broader Russian offensive that is expected in the spring or summer,” according to NYT. ''The decision is taken—it's a good one, but it's too late,'' Serhiy Hrabsky, a colonel and a commentator on the war for the Ukrainian news media, told NYT. Hrabsky has a point. Given the mobilization bill’s provisions, including that it would come into force one month after it is signed by Zelenskyy, it would take weeks to call up those eligible for mobilization. It would then take 10 weeks or more to have these new recruits undergo basic training. Thus, the bulk of the newly recruited may be not yet be ready for fighting if Russia, which has rebuilt its conventional forces to the pre-invasion level, launches the new massive offensive in late May-early June, as expected in Kyiv. When estimating whether and when Ukraine will have a sufficient number of soldiers to successfully defend2 itself, one should also keep in mind draft dodging.
  4. Moscow and Beijing may never sign a formal alliance, but the evolution of their relationship in the years ahead will increasingly affect the world and challenge the West,” CEIP’s Alexander Gabuev writes in FA. “To come to terms with this development, Western policymakers should abandon the idea that they can drive a wedge between Beijing and Moscow,” Gabuev writes, “[w]hereas ... Henry Kissinger courted communist China during the Cold War by offering Beijing a normalization of ties with the United States, U.S. officials cannot extend a deal of that sort to either Moscow or Beijing at this point.” Like Gabuev, Ivan Timofeev of pro-Kremlin RIAC doesn’t believe Moscow and Beijing are creating “a military-political alliance similar to NATO... yet,” but he does see the two countries eventually building a Eurasian security framework that may “be tailored to the task of deterrence.” Timofeev may be alluding to the “dual counteraction to double containment” formula proposed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while recently hosting Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov, which the latter welcomed.
  5. While “Western sanctions clearly limit Russia’s economic development,” they also, “paradoxically enough, protect the economy from ... external shocks” by pushing the Russian authorities to pursue “shielding” measures, such as de-dollarization, according to CEIP’s Alexandra Prokopenko. In spite of the sanctions, ordinary Russians are unlikely to see empty store shelves of the kind they saw in the latter days of the USSR because Russia’s economy has significant financial reserves, is more diversified, and is more open to the world than the Soviet one was, she writes in a commentary for CEIP.  “Given the existing safety margins and the nature of Western sanctions, it could take Russia many years to reach the end of its ability to muddle through such challenges,” she predicts.
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April 16 update:

April 16 update: Continued stalemate. Supreme Allied Commander Europe Cavoli said Ukraine’s situation is extremely serious and without aid will run out of artillery shells and air defense in “fairly short order.” Net territorial change in the past month: Russia +30 square miles. 

 

4.16.24 Russia Ukraine Overall Map Read more