Ukraine recap: Zelensky says ‘no’ to Hungary’s ceasefire proposal and ‘hurry up’ to western aid.

Ukraine’s troops remain frustrated at delays in getting fresh supplies of arms and ammunition, according to reports from the frontline. It’s been several months since the US and the EU signed off on their massive aid packages to Kyiv, yet the bulk of the weapons have yet to find their way to the Ukrainian fighting units.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, these delays are hampering Ukraine’s ability to counter what it calls Russia’s “creeping advances”. Russia’s ability to apply pressure at numerous points along the frontlines effectively means that it is hard for Ukraine to build up the strength to launch its own offensive operations. This is where the lack of fresh supplies of western weapons systems is being felt most.

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Meanwhile, shortages of trained and motivated personnel also remains a problem for Kyiv. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, told the country’s Interfax news agency on July 2 that the ability to recruit and train sufficient personnel to form well-staffed and equipped new brigades remains a problem.

The state of the conflict in Ukraine according to the Institute for the Study of War as at July 3 2024.
The state of the conflict in Ukraine as at July 3 2024.
Institute for the Study of War

But still Kyiv remains determined not to compromise on its maximalist war aims on its determination to claw back all its original territory. Andriy Yermak, Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said this week that while Kyiv welcomed advice on how to reach a “just peace”, Ukraine is “not ready to go to the compromise for the very important things and values … independence, freedom, democracy, territorial integrity, sovereignty”.

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His remarks came a day after Zelensky rejected a ceasefire proposal presented by the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who was visiting Kyiv for the first time since the beginning of the war. Orbán, who has just taken over the rotating presidency of the European Council, is known to be close to Vladimir Putin, and was largely responsible for delaying the sign-off of the EU’s €50 billion (£42 billion) aid package for several months earlier this year.

Whatever Orbán’s allegiances may or may not be, Kyiv recently signed a bilateral security deal with the EU, the 20th such agreement signed with countries across Europe and the US. While the agreement calls for the EU and its members to contribute to “security commitments” that will “help Ukraine to defend itself”, Stefan Wolff points out that they stop short of providing actual security guarantees or committing troops to Ukraine’s defence.

Wolff, an expert in international security at the University of Birmingham, who has been contributing regular analysis of the conflict to The Conversation, says Ukraine’s western partners still fear that this would lead to an escalation which might pull Nato into the war.

But the training being provided by Kyiv’s western partners and the military aid (once it begins to arrive in volume) will be invaluable in helping Ukraine try to turn the tide against Putin’s war machine.

But Wolff also advises caution. Domestic politics in several of Kyiv’s allies, chief among them the US and France, means that western support remains uncertain. If, for example, Donald Trump regains the White House in the November election, it will throw US support into jeopardy, he writes.

The prospect of a Trump victory was also clearly exercising the minds of the G7 leaders earlier in June when they gathered in southern Italy, where they discussed the idea of using the US$300 billion (£235 billion) of frozen Russian assets in western jurisdiction to leverage a US$50 billion loan to Kyiv to further fund its defence.

Sambit Bhattacharyya, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex Business School, explains how the deal would work and weighs up the possible risks and rewards, among them the prospect the deal won’t be finalised before the US election.

Still on Kyiv’s western allies, Nato marks its 75th anniversary this month (more about that in subsequent Ukraine recaps) and will meet in Washington DC from July 9-11, where defence budgets across the 32 member states will be high on the agenda. Another important issue will be how to coordinate defences against what appears to be a concerted campaign of sabotage, both real and virtual, across Europe.

Alexander Gilder, an expert in international law and security at the University of Reading, writes that while Nato’s military capacity is considerable (the alliance recently conducted its biggest-ever military exercises since the end of the cold war in Lithuania), it will need a close focus on collective intelligence gathering to combat what appears to be a gathering storm of hybrid warfare.

Meanwhile, Nato headquarters in Europe is currently undergoing a major transition from a strategic to a war-fighting command centre. This reflects the growing risk of an attack on one or another of its European members and the principle of collective defence enshrined by article 5 of its charter.

Given that Jens Stoltenberg is due to step down as Nato secretary-general in October, the person expected to oversee much of this transition will – barring unforeseen circumstances – be the outgoing Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte.

Lars Brummel, an expert in European politics at Leiden University, gives us this profile of Rutte, who is also known as “Teflon” Mark for his ability to emerged unscathed from myriad political crises over the years.

Many Nato members are responding to the gathering threat of conflict in Europe by reviewing their military recruitment and conscription policies, writes Dafydd Townley, an expert in international security at the University of Portsmouth.

The issue was put firmly on the agenda in the US by Christopher Miller, a former under-secretary of defense in Trump’s administration, who is thought likely to play a big role at the Pentagon if his old boss is returned to the White House. Miller said that national service should become a “rite of passage” in the US, not just in the military, but generally. Townley looks at how this might work, and also examines how other Nato members, including the UK, might cope with the need to rapidly expand their armed forces.

On the Russian front

Russia, meanwhile, has been trying to close as many loopholes as possible that have enabled its young men to avoid being drafted. Anastassiya Mahon, who specialises in security issues at the University of Aberystwyth and has a focus on Russia, says until now it has been relatively easy for people to avoid conscription.

One of the reasons for this, she writes, is that you have to actually receive a paper draft notice. Many young Russians have found a way to avoid by either giving the wrong address or simply leaving the country, which they have done in their hundreds of thousands.

From November there will be a new system in place which will collate a variety of information on Russian citizens online and will enable virtual draft notices to be sent out. This will make it nigh on impossible for draft dodgers to leave the country as border guards will be able to access this. Another wave of conscription is expected in the autumn.

We detailed a fortnight ago how Putin’s “love-in” with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un was helping him acquire bulk supplies of weapons and ammunition which has given Russian troops the edge on the battlefield in recent months. Putin made much of their pact as part of a new “multipolar” world order aimed at combating US hegemony.

Putin’s most important ally, though, is China. It’s a different relationship, though. Ostensibly a “friendship without limits”, it appears to be increasingly one of supplicant and patron, with Beijing in the dominant role. One of the main reasons for this, writes Renaud Foucart, an economist at Lancaster University, is Moscow’s dependency on Beijing for buying its gas, the only major economy still doing so.

It’s not just gas of course. As Foucart writes, since Russia was cut off from the global banking system in 2022, it has become increasingly dependent on China in all sectors of the economy to the extent that the Chinese yuan now accounts for 54% of trades in Russia’s stock market. And 90% of Russia’s import of “high priority” dual-use goods now come from China. These include electronic components, radars, sensors – without which it could not build advanced military hardware.

Foucart believes China has the power to force Russia to end the conflict, and points to growing economic pressure from the US and EU for it to do just that.

Meanwhile the trial of Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, continues in Moscow. James Rodgers, a former BBC correspondent in Moscow now professor of journalism at City University in London and his colleague, historian Dina Fainberg, chart the disintegration of press freedom in Russia under Putin and draw parallels with the bad old days under Josef Stalin and his heirs.

Ukraine Recap is available as a fortnightly email newsletter. Click here to get recaps directly in your inbox.The Conversation

Jonathan Este, Senior International Affairs Editor, Associate Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license and as part of our efforts to promote open journalism. Read the original article.

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Frank62 (@guest_832423)
14 days ago

Orban is just caving in to whatever Putin wants, willing to sell UKR out & give Russia a free ride while it pauses & recovers before whatever next the land grab is. He has no shame.

Micki (@guest_832426)
14 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Orban just wants peace as Ukraine IS in its borders and yes, of course hungarians they prefer cheap russian gas to expensive american one.
Europe needs peace not war but european burocrats they prefer to obbey to Américan Boss.

Last edited 14 days ago by Micki
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_832441)
13 days ago
Reply to  Micki

What is your country, Miki?
I’ve noted on many occasions you’re very vocal in highlighting defence cuts, lack of tanks, lack of planes. Assumed you cared.
But this spelling and wording, you’re not British.
Why the angst?

Jacko (@guest_832447)
13 days ago
Reply to  Micki

He could always tell pootin to withdraw to Russia if he wants a peaceful existence👍