A no-nonsense analysis of the ongoing Ukraine war and its global impact.
The initial Russian offensive (“phase 1”) consisted of a direct advance from Belarus to the northern gates of Kiev and the simultaneous opening of multiple fronts in the north-east, east, and south of Ukraine. There have been various theories as to what the initial Russian strategy was (e.g. conquering Kiev or ‘binding Ukrainian forces’), but most likely, Russia tried to force a collapse or capitulation of the Ukrainian government, in which case Russia would have won the war without really fighting it. Indeed, just one day after the beginning of the invasion, Russian President Putin proposed a kind of “military coup” in Ukraine to make it easier to “reach an agreement”. There were also several rounds of negotiations between Moscow and Kiev in Belarus and Turkey.
Yet this initial, political-military plan failed and was halted in late March, about one month after the beginning of the invasion. Nevertheless, already by early March Russia had conquered extensive territories in southern Ukraine connecting the Donbas and Crimea and had been able to restore water supply to the Crimean Peninsula, which had been cut off by Ukraine since 2014 (see map above). By late April, Russia had essentially conquered the important southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol (500k pre-war inhabitants), and by late May, the remaining Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal steel plant of Mariupol had surrendered. In addition, Russia conquered the southern Ukrainian cities of Melitopol (150k inhabitants) and Kherson (300k) without meeting much resistance.
Swiss Policy Research Archive
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