Kyiv Security Forum

Tactics to Weaken Russia, or Strategy to Destroy Putin’s regime? (19.09.2022)

Volodymyr Vasylenko, Ph.D. (Law), Doctor of Law, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

The war unleashed by Russia in the heart of Europe, the one that has been dragging on for more than 8 years now and trending to continue indefinitely, is not an armed conflict in the traditional sense. This is an existential war not solely against Ukraine, but against the Euro-Atlantic community and democracies in other regions of the globe as well. At the end of the day, this is the war against the whole international community in toto.

Retaliating against Russian armed aggression, Ukraine fights not only for itself and its independence and state hood, but defends fundamental civilizational Western values and its vital geopolitical interests as well.

When back in February 2014 Russia unleashed its predatory war, and later on in February 2022 it resorted to a mass-scale invasion of Ukraine, the leadership of Russia harbored aspirations to defeat Ukrainian army swiftly, disperse and bend to submission Ukraine. However, through resolved resistance of Ukraine both in 2014 and 2022, Russia’s blitzkrieg attempt failed. Today, Russia wages the attrition war against Ukraine. The ultimate aggressor’s goal is indiscriminate genocidal annihilation of Ukraine as the nation and, hence, as the state, and in general – obliteration of Ukrainness as a historical realia.

In its battle against Russia, Ukraine leans on political support and an advancing military assistance of many world states, first and foremost that of the United States of America, Great Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and many more. At the same time, the aid provided to Ukraine, is of a metered, limited and time-stretched nature. By exercising support to Ukraine, tactics of Western democracies essentially aims at weakening Russia, consequently protracting the war and bleeding-white Ukraine. This is the shortsighted and cynical tactics since it retains the major hazard for Ukraine and the whole of international community – Putin’s regime – and allows Russia to continue its aggression, destroy Ukraine and deplete Western resources. Most importantly still, this tactics fails to remove and effectively cannot remove the menace that modern Russia constitutes to the whole world.

Naturally, constant build-up of Western military assistance to Ukraine is an undisputed fact. Ukrainian Armed Forces receive more types of modern armaments and weaponry, even though still in insufficient quantities.The list of armaments remains limited, but most importantly – the range of missile and artillery systems delivered by the West to the Armed Forces of Ukraine is limited as well. Resulting from such an approach, Russia deliberately destroys civil infrastructure across the whole territory of Ukraine with impunity, kills non-combatants, including women and children, methodically and in a consistent manner, commits war crimes and crimes against humanity leading to deaths and suffering of millions of Ukrainians, desolation and ruination of this country. At the same time, Ukraine is denied the opportunity to retaliate against Russian military infrastructure located beyond Ukrainian state borders.

According to international law, hostilities theatre includes not only the state territory of Ukraine, but that of Russia as well as, including the high seas. Therefore, the Ukrainian Armed Forces enjoy the full and unconditional right to destroy any military targets deployed in all regions of Russia and even in the World Ocean, in particular in the Russian territories bordering Ukraine and in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov waters. Once receiving long-range missile and artillery systems, the Armed Forces of Ukraine could, legitimately and swiftly, destroy, first and foremost, the Black Sea Fleet of Russia. Primarily, this means destroying amphibious vessels and missile-carriers, irrespective of their deployment whether in the naval bases of Sevastopol or Novorossiysk, or in the open waters of the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov basins.

Removing restrictions to supply Ukraine with the needed range of modern weaponry, including air defenses, and dropping all taboos to use the above-mentioned resources, allow for elimination of current disparities and restrictions on weaponry and armaments use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and, consequently, for downscaling destruction of civil infrastructure in Ukraine by Russia and avoiding unacceptable losses for Ukrainian Army during its offensives. Moreover, in this case safety of free seafaring in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov shall be ensured in practical terms. Furthermore, logistic capabilities shall be expanded to supply weapons to Ukraine and exports from Ukraine, in particular, agricultural exports through maritime routes. Put differently, relevant solution of delivery logistics and the use of weaponry by the Ukrainian Armed Forces serve key factors to hasten the victorious ending of the war for Ukraine.

Another important factor to destroy the Putin’s regime and to defeat the aggressor-state is exemplified by international legal sanctions against Russia. Unfortunately, the sanctions employed by the West for many years now are hardly as effective as one could desire. Undoubtedly, the applied sanctions do inflict harm to Russian economy, though they failed to disable its abilities to continue waging the aggressive war against Ukraine. Sanctions policy effectuated by the West against Russia fails to consider the fact that Russian authorities have never been bothered by the scope of economic expenditures and losses for the sake of achieving imperial geopolitical goals.

The West is capable of attaining the swift victorious turning point in Ukraine’s war with Russia by applying comprehensive and massive sanctions against the aggressor-state. The latter could include, inter alia, introduction of a sweeping embargo on all Russian exports and a ban on all Russian vessels and vehicles to use maritime ports and airports within territories of Western countries, alongside simultaneous ban on Western national transport to carry Russian goods and commodities; and a ban on all high-tech Western exports to Russia; license revocation for all devices in Russia running on Apple, Microsoft, Android software, or introduction of high customs tariffs for all commodities of Russian origin to deny Russia the opportunity to receive foreign exchange surplus profits, etc.

Western economic safety margin is times above and beyond that of Russia, as its total GDP accounts for over USD 40 trillion, whereas in Russia it is only USD 1,3 trillion.

Naturally, application of sanctions by the West causes its economic losses. Still, in case of a fast-track introduction of massive and comprehensive sanctions against Russia, the scope of losses incurred by Western democracies shall be substantially lower than the losses resulting from a protracted warfare. Spending money to assist Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, the West is not throwing money down the drain, but rather is investing into its own security. This is not charity, but rather a move to apprehend greater losses and expenditures of the West in future to the purpose of repulsing the protracted aggression.

According to international law, in particular, the right of international legal liability for the crime of aggression, all expenditures and losses incurred by the states fighting off the aggressor-state ought to be compensated and remunerated at the expense of aggressor-state. Bearing this awareness in mind must serve an additional incentive to attain victory over Russia as the aggressor-state.

Leaders of Western democracies ought to demonstrate their political will and change the tactics to weaken Russia by way of bleeding-white Ukraine into the strategy of military victory over the aggressor-state, securing collapse of the Putin’s regime and bringing Russia to international legal justice. Common understanding on this issue may and must be achieved through and in the process of finalizing the anti-Putin coalition, with the latter formation launched this April during the first meeting at Ramstein, Germany, during the defense ministers meeting of 43 countries.

It is common knowledge that during the said meeting the Ukraine Defense Contact Group was formed. The objective of the Group includes efforts coordination to provide military assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine to stand up to the armed aggression of Russia today, and to enhance defense capabilities of Ukraine in future. More than 50 countries from across the globe participate in the Group’s activities today, during the Group’s fifth meeting.

Two additional working agencies must be formed to defeat Russia within the existing anti-Putin coalition framework – a Contact Group to coordinate sanctions policy against Russia, and a Contact Group on issues of post-war peaceful settlement. Most importantly still is to finalize the ultimate goal of the coalition – to crash down Putin’s regime and to bring Russia to international legal justice as the aggressor-state.

According to modern international law, Russia’s liability modality should include not solely compensation of all losses incurred by Ukraine and the anti-Putin coalition member states, but limiting Russia’s sovereignty, including by depriving Russia of its permanent membership in the UN Security Council; returning all earlier illegally Russian-occupied territories to other states; disarmament and limitation of Russian armed forces number, ban on arming them with certain types of weaponry, primarily mass destruction weapons, etc. Allactivities of the anti-Putin coalition should serve this very goal.

Finalizing the anti-Putin coalition formation may include developing, drawing and signing a respective declaration or a legal act by heads of states and governments, with the said document valid and effective as of the moment it is signed. Such a document could serve the legal basis and the efficient tool to ensure a confident and complete victory.

Stopping midway in the battle against Russian aggression and “compromise” peace on Russian terms shall mean geopolitical defeat of the West. It will be a matter of time when Russia resumes an even bloodier war to annihilate Ukraine and to conduct new invasive imperial gambles against other members of international community. Defeating Russia and bringing it to justice will extinguish the fire constantly creating risks of global conflagration, and serve the practical proof of Western capability to respond efficiently to any acts of aggression. Furthermore, this will serve a due warning to dictatorship regimes, prone by their inherent nature, to disregard rules-based international legal order.

Kyiv, 8th September

*Opinion articles express the views of the authors, but not necessarily of the team of the Kyiv Security Forum.

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