January 23, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russia to set up naval academy branch in occupied Mariupol

Institute for the Study of War

Western states reiterated their support for Ukraine and their commitment to the development of Ukraine’s defense industrial base (DIB) at the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on January 23. Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov stated that Belgium plans to provide Ukraine with 611 million euros (about $663.4 million) worth of military aid in 2024. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated that the US believes that Ukraine is appropriately using military aid and stated that the United States continues to monitor and account for US security assistance delivered to Ukraine. Austin stated explicitly that the US has seen “no credible evidence of the misuse or illicit diversion of American equipment provided to Ukraine.” The US Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General published a report on January 11 that stated that the failure to document certain aid provided to Ukraine in a timely manner was largely due to DoD limitations but that did not suggest that any of the material air had been misappropriated. Austin reiterated US support for strengthening Ukraine’s defense industrial base (DIB). Umerov stated that Ukraine is ready to co-invest in technologies and joint production with interested companies in order to facilitate breakthroughs on the battlefield with ”innovation and significant technological progress.” Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) Press and Information Department Head Illarion Pavlyuk stated that Ukraine and unspecified officials discussed ways to increase weapons and ammunition production, the creation of an artillery production coalition, and the development of Ukraine’s air force and air defenses.

NATO concluded contracts on January 23 for the purchase of over 200,000 artillery shells, likely either to allow NATO to send additional aid to Ukraine or to replenish NATO stockpiles. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and General Manager of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency Stacy Cummings signed contracts, reportedly with French company Nexter and German company Junghans Defense, on January 23 for the purchase of about 220,000 155mm artillery shells worth $1.2 billion. Stoltenberg stated that the war in Ukraine has become a “battle for ammunition,” so it is important that NATO refill its stocks as the alliance continues to support Ukraine. It is unclear if the contracts are meant to allow NATO to send additional ammunition to Ukraine or to fill NATO’s own ammunition stockpiles. Western security assistance remains vital for Ukraine as any slow reduction or sudden collapse of Western aid will very likely eliminate Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and could lead to the Russian military capturing significantly more territory in Ukraine, bringing Russian forward bases closer to the borders of NATO member states. The replenishment of NATO stockpiles is also an important endeavor, as ISW also continues to assess that NATO rearmament is necessary to deter – and if necessary defeat – any future Russian attack on NATO’s eastern flank, given that Kremlin officials have increasingly threatened NATO member states, and Kremlin-affiliated actors appear to be attempting to sow instability and set information conditions for possible future aggressive Russian actions against NATO members and other post-Soviet states.

Key Takeaways:

  • Western states reiterated their support for Ukraine and their commitment to the development of Ukraine’s defense industrial base (DIB) at the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on January 23.
  • NATO concluded contracts on January 23 for the purchase over 200,000 artillery shells, likely either to allow NATO to send additional aid to Ukraine or to replenish NATO stockpiles.
  • Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are struggling to compensate for Ukrainian drone and rear-area strikes at the level necessary to break out of positional warfare.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of January 22-23 with a new strike package likely meant to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Palestinian National Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki as part of efforts to deepen Russian relations with Middle Eastern actors.
  • The Kremlin’s domestic policy focus on the “Year of the Family” in 2024 is likely in part meant to address Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis.
  • The Russian Baltic Fleet is conducting a coastal missile exercise likely to posture against ongoing NATO Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises.
  • The Kremlin may intend to use the 2024 Russian presidential election as a referendum on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • The Russian legal system is expanding the prosecution of extortion cases to broadly suppress sources of dissent.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on January 23.
  • Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) government chairperson Yevgeny Solntsev announced on January 23 that a branch of the Russian Nakhimov Naval School in occupied Mariupol will start instructing its first cadets on September 1, 2024.
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