July 12, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine secures long-term security commitments at NATO summit

Institute for the Study of War

The Group of Seven (G7) Coalition and NATO signed agreements to offer Ukraine long-term security commitments during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO has agreed on a three-part package that will give Ukraine a multi-year program of practical assistance, create a NATO-Ukrainian coordination council, and commits NATO to allow Ukraine to join the alliance without going through a Membership Action Plan (MAP).[1] G7 members Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy, Britain, and the United States signed a general framework document called the “Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine” aimed at offering the Ukraine military, financial, and intelligence support and stated that each member of the G7 will enter into bilateral security negotiations with Ukraine regarding the document.[2] Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that other countries would have the opportunity to join the declaration at a later stage.[3] The general framework document also reportedly promises immediate steps to swiftly provide Ukraine with all necessary support in the event of a new attack but did not specify what that support would look like.[4] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the agreements reached at the NATO summit mean that Ukraine would receive formal security guarantees, although neither the NATO nor the G7 agreements currently provide such guarantees.[5] Ukraine did secure notable agreements that will strengthen long-term Western support for Ukraine at the NATO summit, and these agreements will likely serve as the framework for potential increases in Western security assistance to Ukraine.

Ukraine secured additional bilateral security and defense agreements during the second day of the NATO summit on July 12. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov signed agreements with Swedish Defense Minister Paul Jonsson on cooperation in the field of defense procurement and with the French Defense Ministry on increasing French military assistance to Ukraine by 170 million euros.[6] The Ukrainian Presidential Office announced that Australia will send an additional 30 Bushmaster armored vehicles to Ukraine.[7] The UK government stated that the UK will provide Ukraine with an additional 50 million pounds in security assistance, including additional ammunition for Challenger tanks.[8] Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram stated that Norway will provide an additional NASAM (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) support package, including two additional fire control centers, two launch units, and spare parts.[9] Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida noted that Japan will provide Ukraine with $30 million in non-lethal equipment including drone detection systems.[10]

The Russian information space continues to exhibit a generally muted response to the NATO summit. Many Russian sources claimed that they have long had access to planning documents for the summit and that none of the resulting agreements come as a surprise, and many milbloggers claimed that the summit has been a “failure” for Ukraine because Ukraine did not secure immediate NATO membership.[11] Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev emphasized that participants of the summit are acting in “predictable ways” and that the West will continue to provide Ukraine with military aid, and Russia will therefore continue to pursue the same goals in Ukraine.[12] Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov delivered boilerplate Kremlin rhetoric by stating that the G7’s provision of “security guarantees” to Ukraine is “potentially very dangerous” and an encroachment on Russian security interests.[13]

The muted Russian response belies the reality that the summit demonstrated the degree to which the 2022 Russian invasion has set back the goals for which the Kremlin claims it launched the war. The aim of preventing NATO expansion and, indeed, rolling back earlier rounds of NATO expansion and pushing NATO back from Russia’s borders was one of the Kremlin’s stated demands before the invasion.[14] The Kremlin has repeated this aim continually throughout the war. The lack of general outcry within the Russian information space regarding developments at the NATO summit, as well as Finland’s NATO accession and Turkey’s agreement to forward Sweden’s accession protocol, likely indicates that the Kremlin has internalized these defeats and desires to avoid dwelling on them. Many Russian sources are reporting on the NATO summit in a dispassionate and muted manner that is not commensurate with the wider defeat that the summit actually represents for Russia’s pre-war aims.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the frontline on July 12 and reportedly made gains in some areas. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut, Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast), and Berdyansk (Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area) directions.[15] The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success along the Bila Hora-Andriivka and Bila Hora–Kurdyumivka lines (up to 13km southwest of Bakhmut).[16] Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Major Valerii Shershen stated that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success and advanced along the frontline in the Berdyansk direction.[17] Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces also advanced near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut) southwest of Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast, and south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast.[18]

Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes across Ukraine on July 12. Ukrainian military sources reported that Russia launched 15 Shahed drones from Kursk Oblast and that Ukrainian air defense forces shot down 11 of the launched drones.[19] Russian forces have notably not conducted missile strikes aimed at Ukrainian infrastructure over the past few days as the NATO summit is ongoing in Vilnius, behavior that diverges somewhat from previous Russian patterns of conducting missile strikes to correspond with major international political events that are relevant to the war in Ukraine.[20]

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that the Wagner Group has almost completely handed weapons and military equipment over to the MoD. Russian MoD spokesperson Igor Konashenkov announced on July 12 that the Wagner Group transferred more than 2,000 pieces of equipment and weapons to the Russian MoD.[21] Konashenkov stated that the transferred weapons include T-90, T-80, and T-72 tanks, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), anti-aircraft missile systems, howitzers, anti-tank guns, mortar systems, armored tractors, armored personnel carriers, vehicles, and small arms.[22] Konashenkov stated that the Russian MoD transferred all the equipment and armaments to rear areas where Russian repair and recovery units will maintain and prepare the equipment for use.[23] Konashenkov also claimed that dozens of units of the transferred equipment had never been used in combat conditions.[24] A Russian milblogger challenged Konashenkov’s claims about the equipment and claimed that a RU MoD employee stated that while Wagner’s equipment was in good condition, it had clearly seen combat and that there was no unused equipment.[25] The Russian MoD announcement, following the Kremlin‘s acknowledgment of Putin’s June 29 meeting with Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, is likely part of the Kremlin’s wider narrative effort to portray itself as fully in control and the Wagner rebellion as a settled affair.[26]

Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin claimed that certain members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle may push Putin to end the war in order to depose him. Girkin claimed that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion succeeded, resulting in a power redistribution according to the plans of Prigozhin’s patrons, whom Girkin suggested include Presidential Administration First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko, billionaire and Putin’s reported personal banker Yuri Kovalchuk, and energy executives Arkady and Boris Rotenberg.[27] Girkin claimed that the power structure including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Oblast Governor Andrei Vorobev, and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has been weakened following the rebellion. Girkin claimed that members of the “Ozero Cooperative” – an association unifying the dachas of Putin and several members of his inner circle in Leningrad Oblast – want to oust Putin in favor of one of its own members, such as Prigozhin or Kiriyenko. Girkin claimed that the “Ozero Cooperative” first aims to sabotage Russian military operations, the defense industrial base (DIB), and control of rear areas to make Putin realize he must accept defeat in the war. Girkin warned that the “Ozero Cooperative” members will target the Ministry of Defense, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and other structures outside the control of the presidential administration.

Girkin’s claims are likely part of his ongoing effort to diminish Russian political and domestic support for a potential ceasefire in the war in Ukraine, but his targeting of specific members of Putin’s inner circle is notable. Girkin has repeatedly accused Prigozhin of being part of the faction arguing in favor of freezing the lines in Ukraine while Girkin has argued in favor of a grinding, protracted war effort, as ISW has previously reported.[28] Kiriyenko in particular is a prominent Kremlin mouthpiece for domestic policy and occupation matters. Kiriyenko has reportedly positioned himself to expand his political reach in recent years, including into education development, oversight of regional elections, development of the Russian internet and information bloc, and political nongovernmental organizations.[29] Russian opposition outlet Meduza, citing sources within the presidential administration, previously reported that Kiriyenko is attempting to position himself as a possible successor to Putin.[30] Meduza’s sources saw Kiriyenko’s lack of connection to regional governments or businesses as undermining his prospects but noted that Kiriyenko is likely able to overcome these issues. Girkin is most likely attempting to portray Prigozhin as a direct threat to Putin’s regime in order to encourage harsher Kremlin action against Prigozhin and discourage any efforts to freeze the front in Ukraine. Girkin may be trying to discredit Kiriyenko and other claimed Prigozhin patrons to undermine any support that Prigozhin may have among any possible remaining prominent patrons.[31]

Key Takeaways:

  • The Group of Seven (G7) Coalition and NATO signed agreements to offer Ukraine long-term security commitments during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12.
  • Ukraine secured additional bilateral security and defense agreements during the second day of the NATO summit on July 12.
  • The Russian information space continues to exhibit a generally muted response to the NATO summit. The muted Russian response belies the reality that the summit demonstrated the degree to which the 2022 Russian invasion has set back the goals for which the Kremlin claims it launched the war.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the frontline on July 12 and reportedly made gains in some areas.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes across Ukraine on July 12.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that the Wagner Group has almost completely handed weapons and military equipment over to the MoD.
  • Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin claimed that certain members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle may push Putin to end the war in order to depose him.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted limited ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued skirmishes in the Kreminna area, where Russian forces reportedly made limited gains.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.
  • Ukrainian forces continued limited mechanized assault operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian officials continue to grapple with the issue of securing Russia’s international borders.
  • Russian occupation authorities are using the promise of medical treatment to coerce residents of occupied territories to receive Russian passports and relocate to Russian territory.
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