The course of the war in Ukraine so far is the basis for extensive efforts by the expert community in Russia to make sense of the results and to identify future plans. With regard to Russia’s foreign policy positions, Dmitri Trenin’s work, published in issue 6 of the specialized publication “Russia in Global Politics”, stands out. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, participates in the editorial board of the magazine.
Dmitry Trenin is an authoritative professor and researcher at the Faculty of World Economy and Politics at the Higher School of Economics, a leading researcher at the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Personnel military, long-term employee in the system of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Directorate of the Armed Forces of Russia. Before its closure, he collaborated and held leadership positions at the Moscow Carnegie Center.
In the development under the title “The special military operation in Ukraine as a turning point in the foreign policy of modern Russia”, Trenin considers the following more important conclusions:
“The war in Ukraine marks the beginning of a qualitatively new stage in Russia’s internal development. Borders, demographics, the economic system, the political environment, public relations and sentiments are changing. Parallel to these changes, Russia found itself in a significantly unfavorable international environment:
Russia faces a politically mobilized and united West around the US. For the first time in history, Russia has no significant allies.
The international organizations in whose creation and activity Moscow played an active role turned out to be oriented against Russia. Its right of veto in the UN Security Council is circumvented by transferring relevant decisions to the floor of the General Assembly.
Russia can no longer rely on nuclear deterrence as a guarantor of the reliable protection of its “vital” interests from external encroachments. The “fear” factor that was present during the Cold War in the public consciousness of Western countries no longer plays a significant role. Because the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would have limited strategic results and would turn Russia “into an enemy of all mankind.”
Russia’s economic ties with the West have been completely destroyed as the sanctions turned into a total economic and financial war. Quite unexpectedly, a significant portion of the central bank’s reserves were frozen and confiscated. The calculations that, as before the war, acting in their own interest, economic factors in the West would mitigate the consequences of the geopolitical clash, did not come true.
The collapse of energy ties with Western Europe, considered a “guarantor” of the stability of Russia’s relations with Europe during the Cold War period, is particularly painful. Estimates that the Russian “energy weapon” – the “gas tap” – would prevent a break between Europe and Russia were not justified.
The most important event in the geopolitical environment in Europe was the radical dismantling of German-Russian relations of “partnership” based on the “reconciliation” of Russia and Germany after the Second World War and on the role of the USSR in the unification of Germany. The degradation of relations between the two countries contributes to the imposition of US geopolitical interests in Europe.
The war in Ukraine has also put Russia’s formal allies to the test. Of all the member states of the Collective Security Treaty, only Belarus openly supports Moscow and gives it real support. The remaining countries are using Russia’s focus on the conflict in Ukraine to “diversify” their foreign policy and to distance themselves from Russian foreign policy, especially in the defense and security sphere.
Russia’s inability to solve the tasks of the “special military operation” in Ukraine in a short period of time sharply lowers the assessment of Russian military power. This, together with the release from the fear of the Russian nuclear threat, helps the European countries to “shake off” the state of “numbness” in front of the Russian military potential and encourages them to pursue an offensive policy in relation to Russia’s interests.
The war in Ukraine has highlighted serious problems in Russia’s political and military strategy and tactics; in the equipping, training and arming of the army; in the mobilization readiness of the country and the economy, in the ideological component of state policy; in relation to society. They risk a strategic defeat for Russia; for provoking regime change and subsequent demilitarization of Russia (and placing its nuclear potential under international control is not excluded); for political and geographical “reformatting” of Russia; for changing the elite and making it a secondary factor, not only on a global, but also on a regional scale.
Against the background of geopolitical rifts, a positive influence on the international situation of Russia can be sought only among the countries that formally take a “neutral position” in Russia’s conflict with the West (primarily China, India, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia).
In general, as a result of the war in Ukraine, the international position of Russia has changed sharply. But there is no way back. Retreat leads to national disaster, internal chaos and loss of sovereignty. A mandatory condition for preventing such a scenario is “solving the Ukraine problem”.
Loss in war harbors dangerous upheavals similar to the tragedy of World War I and the subsequent civil war.
The “freezing” of hostilities on the front with Ukraine at the milestones reached at the moment would mean an inability to achieve the intended goals, that is, a moral defeat and would only provide a pause, in relation to the inevitable renewal of the armed struggle, possibly with an even more consolidated opponent.
The option for “strategic” success involves the full capture and retention of the “annexed” territories in eastern Ukraine and the “land” corridor in Crimea (Russian sovereignty in Crimea remains undisputed). The remaining Ukrainian territories, especially the western part, in principle cannot be integrated into the Russian “civilized” space. This Ukrainian “bridgehead” would not have the critical mass to seriously threaten Russia’s interests.
The overall success of Russian policy in the Ukrainian direction will crucially depend on consolidating the military results through political, economic and ideological integration of the controlled territories with Russia. It requires enormous resources, focused efforts over many years, and massive sacrifices and hardships.”
At the conclusion of his development, Dmitry Trenin points out:
“Whatever the outcome of the war with Ukraine, the establishment of a stable status quo in the eastern part of Europe cannot be expected. The pressure against Russia from the West in Europe will continue in several directions. Apart from the Ukrainian, which will remain the main nerve axis, serious efforts will be necessary to block the pressure of the West regarding the Belarusian, the Transnistrian, the Kaliningrad and the Caucasian directions. In order to resist, Moscow must comprehensively strengthen its positions along the entire western geopolitical front from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.”
The views substantiated in the work on the critical changes as a result of the war in Ukraine in the international positions of Russia and the resulting goals and objectives found expression in the guidelines for the development of the armed forces of the Russian Federation announced on January 17 by the Minister of Defense of Russia Sergey Shoigu the period 2023-2026
A January 22 briefing by Britain’s Military Intelligence stated that the reform of Russia’s armed forces includes:
– Increasing the number of armed forces from 1.35 million to 1.5 million;
– Changes in the organizational and staffing structure of the armed forces through the restoration of the Moscow and Leningrad military districts;
– The creation of an independent corps command in Karelia;
– Comprehensive strengthening of the group for conducting the “special military operation” in Ukraine;
– Reassessment and improvement of the mobilization system and expansion of its base;
– The introduction of a permanent system for the preparation of the mobilization stock;
– The deployment of two new airborne divisions and three new motorized rifle divisions;
– The reorganization of four airborne brigades into airborne divisions;
– The reorganization of seven motorized rifle brigades into motorized rifle divisions;
– The reorganization of three Marine Brigades into three Marine Divisions.
The conclusions of the summary state:
“For Putin, at stake in the war in Ukraine is not only the future of the Russian state, its unity and territorial integrity, imperial greatness and international prestige, but also his personal survival and place in history. Therefore, only victory is acceptable for the Russian president.
The announced guidelines for the development of the armed forces indicate that the expectation is to maintain a high degree of threat by conventional means against Russia for a prolonged period and after the end of the war in Ukraine. As the solutions are sought in the return to the Soviet model of the construction of the defense system of the country”.