Russia to use any ceasefire to prepare for future offensive operations in Ukraine - ISW

Russia to use any ceasefire to prepare for future offensive operations in Ukraine - ISW

Russia will use any ceasefire to prepare for future offensive operations in Ukraine.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said this in a new Russian offensive campaign assessment, Ukrinform reports.

"Western media continues to report that Russian President Vladimir Putin is interested in a negotiated ceasefire in Ukraine, although Kremlin rhetoric and Russian military actions illustrate that Putin remains uninterested in meaningful negotiations and any settlement that would prevent him from pursuing the destruction of an independent Ukrainian state," the ISW said.

ISW analysts believe that a ceasefire does not preclude Russia from resuming its offensive campaign to destroy Ukrainian statehood, and Russia would use any ceasefire to prepare for future offensive operations within Ukraine.

Russia's military intervention in Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 violated numerous Russian international commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Russia's recognition of Ukraine as an independent state in 1991 and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Russia specifically committed not to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty or territorial integrity.

Read also: Kremlin developing system of 'compatriots abroad' to justify further aggression - ISW

According to the ISW, there is no reason to assess that the Kremlin will respect any new agreement obliging Russia to not violate Ukrainian sovereignty or territorial integrity. A ceasefire would provide Russia with the opportunity to reconstitute degraded forces, divert manpower to large-scale expansion and reform efforts instead of ongoing fighting in Ukraine, and allow Russia to further mobilize its defense industrial base (DIB) without the constraints of immediate operational requirements in Ukraine.

ISW analysts also believe that Russia could use a ceasefire to prepare a force more suitable to pursue a subsequent series of offensive operations in pursuit of regime change, demilitarization, and conquest in Ukraine. A ceasefire would provide Ukraine opportunities of its own to address force generation and defense industrial capacity, to be sure, but the Kremlin may not unreasonably expect that a frozen frontline will make support for Ukraine less urgent and salient for the West and allow Russia to outpace Ukraine in preparing for a resumption of hostilities.

According to ISW, Russian sources notably highlighted territorial concessions as part of Putin's alleged envisioned ceasefire but have sparsely addressed the wider strategic objectives of Putin's war in Ukraine, and the repeated focus on the recognition of occupied Ukrainian territory as Russian territory does not indicate that Russia would drop these wider strategic objectives, however. ISW analysts believe that a ceasefire that cedes currently occupied territory would concretize the idea that Ukrainian territorial integrity is negotiable, a precedent that the Kremlin would most certainly revisit to push for further territorial concessions and contest the idea of Ukrainian statehood altogether.

Russia is currently preparing for the possibility of a conventional war with NATO, and the Kremlin will likely view anything short of Ukrainian capitulation as an existential threat to Russia's ability to fight such a war.

"Russian victory in Ukraine would not only remove the threat of Ukraine as a potential adversary during a possible conventional war with NATO but would also provide Russia with further resources and people to commit to a large-scale confrontation with NATO," the report said.

Regardless of how Russian victory would partition Ukraine between Russian annexation and the Kremlin-controlled puppet state that would follow Putin's desired regime change, Russia would have access to millions more people it could impress into military service and the majority of Ukraine's resources and industrial capacity.

Putin and the Kremlin therefore likely view victory in Ukraine as a prerequisite to being able to fight a war with NATO and any ceasefire or negotiated settlement short of full Ukrainian capitulation as a temporary pause in their effort to destroy an independent Ukrainian state.

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