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The BCFA Archive dates back to February 2022. Our archives allow members to study information preceding the most recent reports in order to gain full understanding regardless of their current familiarity with the topic of interest.

Institute for the Study of War: Putin steps up production of short and medium range nuclear missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin directed on June 28 the production and deployment of nuclear-capable short- and intermediate-range missiles following the American withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 2019, likely as part of the Kremlin’s ongoing reflexive control campaign to influence Western decision making in Russia’s favor. Putin attended

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June 30, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russia sends wounded troops to the front against doctors’ orders

Institute for the Study of War

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s theory of victory that Russia will be able to make creeping advances in Ukraine indefinitely will incentivize Putin to protract the war and harden Putin’s commitment to destroying Ukrainian statehood. The West must hasten to provide Ukraine the support it needs to conduct counteroffensive operations to invalidate Putin’s theory of victory and avoid protracting the war more than necessary to secure a peace acceptable to Ukraine and its partners. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer published on June 30 that he fears that the West is afraid of pushing for full Ukrainian victory due to Western concerns about Russian stability and that this fear has allowed Putin to pursue the seizure of as much Ukrainian territory as possible. Zelensky warned that every Russian advance strengthens Russia’s bargaining power and that Putin can choose to try to leverage this bargaining power at opportune moments to pursue a ceasefire that would allow Russia to prepare for future aggression against Ukraine.

Putin has articulated a theory of victory that assumes that Russian forces will be able to continue gradual creeping advances indefinitely, prevent Ukraine from conducting successful operationally significant counteroffensive operations, and win a war of attrition against Ukrainian forces. The Russian military command is currently prioritizing consistent offensive operations that achieve gradual tactical gains over conducting a large-scale discrete offensive operation that aims to make operationally significant gains through rapid maneuver. Putin and the Russian military command likely view creeping offensive operations as a more guaranteed approach to making gains in Ukraine than larger mobile offensives and appear to be accepting the reality that Russian forces may have to pursue individual operationally significant objectives over the course of many months if not years. Putin has recently demanded that Ukraine cede all of occupied Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts as well as the parts of those four oblasts that Ukraine currently controls. A protracted war favors Putin’s calculus since he likely assesses that Russia will be able to hold any ground it takes and that Russian forces will be more likely to achieve his current stated territorial objectives the longer the war progresses. Putin and the Kremlin have intentionally set no limits to their objectives of conquest in Ukraine and have suggested repeatedly that areas outside of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts are part of Russia. Protracted war will likely incentivize Putin to explicitly set new territorial objectives as long as he assesses that Ukrainian forces can neither stop his advances nor conduct meaningful counteroffensives.

Putin retains his objective of entirely destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity, and all his objectives for territorial conquest in Ukraine are a means to this end. Putin likely hopes that creeping Russian advances in Ukraine will convince the West that Ukrainian victory is unattainable and that concessions on Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty are preferable to Ukrainian defeat. Putin is currently unwilling to accept anything short of full Ukrainian capitulation, however, as his remarks and demands consistently show, and he will see any negotiated ceasefire agreement as a mechanism for Russia to prepare for renewed offensive operations in the future to achieve his overall aims. A negotiated ceasefire that further establishes a precedent for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty beyond the precedent already established by the Minsk Accords following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk in 2014 will strengthen Russia’s position to pursue the full eradication of Ukrainian statehood at a later date. This ceasefire would provide Russia a respite in the war to reconstitute and expand its forces and to further mobilize its defense industrial base (DIB) for future aggression. Putin and the Russian military command likely hope that a ceasefire will allow Russia to launch a future stage of the war with a military more capable of pursuing operationally significant advances. Putin is not yet interested in a ceasefire, however, as he appears to continue to assess that he can achieve his aims by force. He might become more open to a ceasefire if that condition changes, but a negotiated ceasefire on Putin’s terms would amount to Ukrainian and Western capitulation. Neither of these courses of action are consistent with the survival of an independent Ukrainian state or the Ukrainian people, nor are they compatible with NATO’s vital security interests.

Ukraine’s partners can help Ukraine reduce Putin’s willingness to continue to wage endless war in pursuit of Ukraine’s destruction by helping Ukraine conduct significant counteroffensive operations that liberate Ukrainian territory and invalidate Putin’s assumptions about what Russia can achieve in Ukraine by force. Putin’s current theory of victory rests on Russia’s ability to outlast and overcome pledged Western security assistance to Ukraine and Ukrainian efforts to mobilize more of its economy and population for the war effort. Putin and the Russian military command are increasingly viewing the retention of the theater-wide initiative as a strategic imperative and will continue to leverage the initiative to try to force Ukraine to commit manpower and materiel to current defensive operations and to prevent Ukraine from accumulating the personnel and resources Ukraine needs to contest the initiative. Putin’s theory of victory rests on the assessment that Ukraine lacks the capability to liberate operationally significant territory — Russia’s creeping advances hold no operational significance if Ukraine can undo those gains more rapidly when Ukraine regains the battlefield- or theater-wide initiative. Western security assistance and Ukrainian force generation efforts that allow Ukraine to contest the initiative are thus crucial to changing Putin’s calculus, and it is unlikely that Putin will change his assessment regarding the feasibility of destroying Ukraine without further significant Russian defeats. Western security assistance that provides Ukrainian forces with the necessary equipment and weapons at the scale, timing, and regularity that Ukrainian forces require for operations that liberate significant swaths of occupied Ukraine remains the only likely path for reducing Putin’s current commitment to destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity regardless of time or cost.

Ukraine is also pursuing diplomatic conditions to support an end-state to the war that would prevent Russia from inflicting a defeat that could set conditions for future aggression. Switzerland hosted the Ukrainian-initiated Global Peace Summit on June 15, which aimed to create a global consensus on negotiations about the war in Ukraine so that Ukraine and its international partners can give a joint peace plan to a Russian representative at a subsequent peace summit once Putin is willing to negotiate on terms other than total Ukrainian capitulation. Ukraine aims to establish a basis for negotiations that will prevent Russia from convincing other countries to support concessions that would allow Russia to pursue Ukraine’s destruction at a later date.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s theory of victory that Russia will be able to make creeping advances in Ukraine indefinitely will incentivize Putin to protract the war and harden Putin’s commitment to destroying Ukrainian statehood. The West must hasten to provide Ukraine the support it needs to conduct counteroffensive operations to invalidate Putin’s theory of victory and avoid protracting the war more than necessary to secure a peace acceptable to Ukraine and its partners.
  • Putin retains his objective of entirely destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity, and all his objectives for territorial conquest in Ukraine are a means to this end.
  • The Russian military command appears to be separating some limited elements of airborne (VDV) units and formations into smaller components across different sectors of the front, and the Russian military command may still view VDV units as relatively elite, at least compared with other Russian units and formations.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly struck the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant (NLMK) in Lipetsk Oblast on June 30.
  • Dagestan Republic Head Sergei Melikov publicly sided with Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov in a recent debate between Kadyrov and Russian Investigative Commitee Head Alexander Bastrykin about responses to religious extremism in Russia amid growing ethnic and religious tension in Russia.
  • Military and civilian flights continue to experience GPS interference over Europe and the Middle East, highlighting the role of long-term GPS jamming in ongoing and future conflicts.
  • Ukrainian forces recently regained lost positions near Kreminna, and Russian forces recently advanced near Lyptsi, Vovchansk, Kupyansk, and Avdiivka.
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