Home WORLD EUROPA Ukraine, between the European Union and Russian bombs

Ukraine, between the European Union and Russian bombs

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Tragic endgame in Sievierodonetsk

Let’s start with the bad news, from the Ukrainian point of view: the fall of a city that had tragically occupied the headlines for two months, like Mariupol before it.

We imagine that the Russian army will present this Ukrainian retreat as a great victory in its conquest of Donbass, an industrial and mining region in the east of the country where fighting has been concentrated for two months. Is it a real strategic lock who just fell? Or is it a simple tactical and very localized victory, at a huge cost for the Russian troops? One thing is certain, Moscow will try to make great use of this news, to water Russian audiences prisoners of official propaganda.

On the other hand, we can note that from the point of view of Ukraine or the United States – but also of independent analysts such as the Institute for the Study of War (English acronym ISW) – it is certainly a defeat. tactics for kyiv, in a place that has been fiercely defended for weeks, at the cost of thousands of human lives.

The Ukrainians left Sievierodonetsk on Friday.

Photo: afp via getty images / ARIS MESSINIS

However, this Ukrainian retreat does not necessarily herald subsequent conquests by Moscow or a major strategic shift in the war. The capture of Sievierodonetsk does not open a boulevard to the Russian troops, which for example would then surge towards the center of the country.

No. More modestly, it is half of Donbass which has just fallen (what is called Luhansk oblast), the other half (Donetsk oblast, further west) still being largely under Ukrainian control.

The Ukrainian general staff therefore presents it as a strategic retreat, arguing that it had become absurd to defend a few hundred meters of land completely destroyed by incessant rains of bombs, in a city as big as Trois-Rivières… in the price of eight violent deaths per hour!

Washington downplays

The United States has also downplayed the significance of this victoire Russian… The Pentagon evokes the high price paid by Russia for a very small gain, where […] the Russians barely manage to gain territory inch by inch.

Perhaps more neutral or less partisan, theISW, in his daily note on the evolution of this war, speaks of a significant step for the Russians in their quest for the integrity of Donbass, and of a great loss for the Ukrainians whose morale is shaken today, especially after the euphoria of the Ukrainian victories in March in the vicinity of kyiv and Kharkiv, when the Russians had been pushed back towards the northern border. But it is not a decisive victory .

It is pointed out that the battle of Sievierodonetsk mobilized, for several weeks, an enormous quantity of Russian soldiers, weapons and equipment, and that it probably degraded Russian military capabilities, while preventing them from concentrating on other axes […]to the detriment of Russian capabilities to make future advances in Ukraine.

In other words: a tactical victory, but in which we put everything. And who could then pay dearly, at the cost of strategic and moral exhaustion.

Declining morale

A Ukrainian soldier on patrol on Tuesday in Lysytchansk.

Photo: Getty Images / AFP/ANATOLII STEPANOV

On the ground, morale is also down on the Ukrainian side. We talked about desertions… whereas we heard this kind of stories (often corroborated) only from the side of the Russian troops, especially in the first half of the war.

But when you lose 200 men a day – figures accepted by the Ukrainian side, while the Russians do not communicate their own losses – you can imagine the effect on morale, on families. Donetsk and its twin city of Lyssytchansk for two months… it’s hell on Earth.

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The Ukrainians suffered huge casualties, but even with less heavy and less numerous artillery, they also inflicted casualties on the Russians. The Russians have a massive advantage in terms of old artillery and ammunition (they pulled all their reserves from Soviet times), but don’t have – or don’t have many – modern precision weapons: cruise, guided ballistic missiles. Just dirty old bombs galore.

And then, there is also a problem of human reinforcements, which, under other less violent skies, we would call “labour shortage”.

Many analysts make the assumption that rather than the opening of a new phase of the war which would be more dynamic (Russian breakthrough or Ukrainian counter-offensive), we are heading towards an almost immobile trench warfare.

To test this hypothesis, it will be necessary to see if the new modern weapons supplied by the United States (the HIMAR multiple rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers, which would now be returned to the spot) can or not change the military situation in the Donbass.

The hope and strength of symbols

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi were welcomed to kyiv by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Photo: Reuters/VALENTYN OGIRENKO

All this against the backdrop of relatively good political news for Ukraine. Ukraine which, despite a war fatigue readable in certain European public opinions (slight drop in support in Germany and Italy), continues to have the resolute support of European governments.

The summit of 27 Heads of State and Government unanimously adopted Ukraine’s official candidacy on June 23. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed a major moment, a very good day for Europe, a decision that strengthens us all, that strengthens Ukraine […] in the face of Russian aggression.

Zelensky spoke for his part of a historical moment and an victoire.

However, isn’t this for kyiv, at most, only the beginning of a long uncertain road towards Europe? Why then speak of historical moment?

Because all the parties, the 27 of the Union, the Ukrainians, the Moldovans who obtain a similar status (but not the Georgians), plus Canada and the United States who applaud behind, decide to bet on hope and the strength of symbols. And to go there, why not, with a good public relations operation.

And this, even knowing that it is only an application. That the pitfalls will be enormous! Whether Ukraine, candidate or not, remains a country undergoing the destruction of war.

We can quote Zelensky, never stingy with well-felt declarations:EU, then we will finally rest. “,”text”:”Now we will defeat the enemy, rebuild Ukraine, become an EU member state, and then finally rest. “}}”>Now we will defeat the enemy, rebuild Ukraine, become a member state ofEUthen we will finally rest. He added that this status does not only benefit Ukraine. It’s the best European-strengthening action we could have taken now, as Russia’s war tests our ability to remain free and united..

The 500 billion dollar question

The pitfalls will be immense. How, for example, can we “upgrade” – in terms of political institutions or economic level – a country ravaged by war? This is the 500 billion dollar question (ie the evaluation of the cost of the reconstruction of Ukraine made in May by the European Commission).

Take the economic level of Ukrainians: at 4,000 US dollars of GDP per capita – and this, before the war – it is three times lower than that of the poorest countries of the Union, namely Bulgaria and Romania, which is around 12,000 to 15,000 dollars per year .

Political corruption, although much lower today than in Russia with Putin’s oligarchyremained before the war at a high level… in a country which, in spite of its progress, had not completely cleaned up on this side.

The rule of law, democracy… Here all the same, Ukraine with its free and unpredictable elections, where an incumbent president can be democratically ousted from power – something unimaginable in Moscow – is much more advanced than Russia in full dictatorial regression.

In recent years, in this regard, Ukraine could even have challenged Poland and Hungary, Member States where the independence of the courts is at risk.

Far from the lip cup

Ukraine is still a long way off, but it wants and sees itself on the way towards Europe. There is, among the youth of Lviv, kyiv or Kharkiv, an immense desire for the West. Psychologically, politically and ideologically, this war has made Ukrainians feel, want to be even more democratic and European .

Of course, there are a good half-dozen countries which 10, 15 or 20 years after their nomination remained in limbo. We think of Turkey, official candidate at the very end of the 20th century.e century, but whose file has completely bogged down, to the point where for 10 years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in an open posture of antagonism and hostility towards Europe.

Relations between France and Turkey are at their lowest, in the wake of numerous incidents in Europe, in particular.

Photo: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

There are also several Balkan states that are hanging around, including North Macedonia (since 2005, with Bulgaria’s veto), and then Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In these countries, leaders are frustrated that things have stalled for years. They ask: why them and not us? While some of these states are more to European standards than Ukraine.

We see it: there is politics in there, there is emotion, the imponderable, which cannot be calculated. The sacrifice of a country which defends democracy and European values ​​is well worth the calculations on the GDP and requirements of compliance with legal standards.

There is always, in Europe, a wave of empathy towards the attacked Ukraine. But let us repeat it: all this does not mean that this candidacy to the European Union will necessarily lead to accession within ten years, which is the fastest deadline that some people want to believe.

Do not despair Ukrainians

Despite a healthy skepticism in the face of this political spectacle, despite the fact that the Europe of 27 already has plenty of problems, including questions of legitimacy and dysfunction, of hostile public opinion, one can understand the rejoicing around this candidacy.

It is ironic to see that this Europe in shambles, which wonders about its identity, continues to inspire and attract countries which are not part of it… and which dream of it! Today, the main one of these countries is Ukraine. One can understand that Zelensky and the European leaders want to give a little courage and hope to the Ukrainians, but on the condition of not telling them stories.

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