Will Russia Invade Ukraine? Moscow’s Threat to European Security authored by Taras Kuzio, argues that a partial invasion would seriously jeopardise UK security. The paper finds that:
- The extent of the invasion is unlikely to stretch to the whole country as that would require at least 500,000 troops
- At the least an invasion would aim to seize the entirety of the Donbas region (of which DNR and LNR currently control 40%).
- This would include important strategic areas, such as the port or Mariupol, and the Ukrainian military headquarters in Kramatorsk. It would also serve to destroy a significant quantity of Ukrainian military equipment located in Donbas.
- Russia could be aiming to stretch further and revive the 2014 New Russia project. The aim of which is to establish a Russian protectorate and buffer state across south-eastern Ukraine.
- This would effectively divide Ukraine in half along the Dnipro river and would seek to take control of key areas such as the port of Odesa, cutting off access to the Black Sea, and the cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhya with their military-industrial plants.
- By the end of this month there may be 175,000 troops stationed at the Eastern borders
The author goes on to say that Europe would be destabilised by a Russian invasion of any size:
- 15% of Ukrainians have said that they will move in the event of an invasion. At almost seven million people, and nations to the West of Ukraine will be faced with a large movement of people. As demonstrated in Belarus, Putin is happy to weaponise the movement of desperate people to so discord amongst European nations.
- Any escalation of the current conflict would raise the NATO threat level to its highest level. This would require additional funding and forces being sent to its eastern edge, to prevent the conflict spilling into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, or Romania. As seen in Afghanistan, a slowly grinding conflict could use a large number of resources for years to come.
- If the West is unable or disinclined to protect a democracy in its own backyard this will send a message to nationalistic and authoritarian governments around the world. China claims Taiwan as an integral part of the PRC in the same way Russia views Ukraine. If the West doesn’t support Ukraine it will send a message that support for Taiwan is not guaranteed.
The paper recommends that:
- The UK and NATO must firmly reject Putin’s ultimatums and demand for a veto over any potential member’s sovereign decisions. We must not let Russia bully Ukraine into becoming a ‘neutral’ state, where it will be at the whims of Russian decision makers. Russia does not have the right to demand a sphere of influence against the wishes of its neighbours.
- The UK should push for NATO to reaffirm Ukraine’s right to a Membership Action Plan (MAP). It was offered in 2008 and never acted upon, and it’s a key demand of Russia’s that it is rescinded.
- The UK have already provided significant support to Ukraine to build up its technical capabilities. A key area of weakness is Russian air dominance. The UK and other allies should focus on developing Ukraine’s air defence capabilities.
- The UK and US are also working on Ukraine’s cyber resilience to ensure that the invasion isn’t paired with cyberattacks on critical components of Uk’s economy and government.
- If Russia invades Ukraine, the UK should designate Russia as a Terrorist State. The conflict since 2014 has caused the deaths of 20,000 civilians and combatants. Russian backed DNR and LNR have been joined by more Europeans than ISIS.
- Russia should be subject to a similar level of sanctions as Iran. This would include blocking imports of oil and gas, and excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system. When Iran was removed from SWIFT in 2012, its gas and oil revenues dropped by almost half, crippling its economy. Other areas that have been considered for new sanctions are Russian state debt, Russian state banks, and Russian energy, mining and metals businesses.
- The EU should suspend certification of Nord Stream 2. Without Nord Stream 2 Russia would still be reliant on its pipelines through Ukraine to export to the rest of Europe.