Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Reflections on the Demographic Crisis, War and Nuclear Weapons

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Dmytro Pervyna



The Russian Federation is so concerned about its geopolitical status that it has skipped out on its own population. This conclusion can be drawn if you look at its demographic policy and record-breaking population decline. Recently, more and more Russian scientists are paying attention to the depth of this crisis. Russia is said to be experiencing such colossal demographic losses for the first time in its history. This was pointed out by the FBK’s Strategic Analysis Institute (Moscow), where this decline has already been described as the dying out of the nation. Scientists have concluded that in the long run, this will not only affect productivity, but will also provoke an influx of migrants from Central Asia (who do not have the necessary qualification and cultural background) to maintain the demographic balance of an endangered nation. In view of this, Russia now risks losing its own cultural identity, of which its citizens are so proud.

…The Russian Federation is so concerned about its geopolitical status that it has skipped out on its own population…

Moscow economists mistakenly attribute the decline in the population’s purchasing power to the reduction in the birth rate and corresponding increase in the death rate. According to them, this factor is directly related to the decline in consumer demand for consumer goods, real estate and mortgages — this is, according to them, the main reason for the slowdown in economic development. But if we look the truth in the eye, we can clearly see that the real reason is migration. Within the last ten years, in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Germany, United Kingdom, the United States and other countries, actual Russian colonies have been formed inhabited by thousands of Russians: these people have refused to accept domestic realities and will never return to their historical homeland. Moreover, every year the number of such “colonies” in the world grows exponentially. This is the real reason for the dying out of the Russian people, but they prefer not to talk about it in a country of total lie.

Refusing to acknowledge the rapid approach of their “demographic fiasco”, Russian leaders say that in the event of a shortage of human resources, they will replace them with machines and this is supposed to stimulate the development of scientific and technological progress, but work on artificial intelligence and its further maintenance, in turn, require highly developed, competent professionals, scientists, operators and programmers: are there enough of them in Russia? The answer can be obtained by looking at the state of their modern education, when in most regions the minimum passing score is reduced in order to create at least some competitiveness in the admission of entrants to higher education institutions. But despite this, most still fail to become university students, so at the government level there has long been a tendency to be satisfied with secondary vocational education. Russian leaders simply do not need smart people, and in their case, robotization of the state is simply an impossible dream.

…Russia is well aware that when the population shrinks, it will affect all spheres, including the military…

Every year, Russia’s population shrinks by at least half a million people (as evidenced by statistics showing that the number of Russians has dropped by 10 million over the last ten years). 130,000, mostly young people, die each year from drug use alone. According to the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, the demographic decline will accelerate until 2023. And Russia is well aware that when the population shrinks, it will affect all spheres, including the military, which for their leadership will mean defeat, because in this case, Russia will simply be unable to control part of its territories, which will lead to actual losing them.

…Putin needs Ukraine to replenish Russia’s human resources at the expense of our population…

What challenges for Ukraine are posed by the aggravation of the demographic crisis in the country of “spiritual staples”? Now that the main deficit is the people there, Putin has written in his article about the historical and genetic kinship of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. He needs Ukraine to replenish Russia’s human resources at the expense of our population, but the Kremlin will try to disguise the achievement of the official goal with a humanitarian goal, where an excuse for escalation may be the “need to help” ORDLO residents or the need to provide a water supply to Crimea.

The threats of the Kremlin that we faced in the spring of this year were quite real, as they were based on a clear structure of armed formations brought closer to Ukraine. An interesting fact was that the military exercise involved the 133rd Separate Logistic Brigade of the RF Armed Forces (unit 73998, Bakhchisarai, Crimea), which provides support to the main forces only during offensive operations. In addition to this Brigade, mobile hospitals were also deployed, and here we understand that during regular exercises such components are not mandatory, moreover, any experienced officer will tell you that these are the first signs of preparation for offensive hostilities. And one of the biggest difficulties is that it is impossible to verify the intentions of the Russian side, because even before the Georgian conflict in 2008, Russia withdrew from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, so it does not invite international observers to its military exercises.

The “April” escalation near Ukraine’s borders was aimed at training the Russian military machine. Carrying out such serious maneuvers on the verge of war is needed to test the types of reactions of the Ukrainian political leaders, military command, the public, the media and the “fifth column”. At this, the Kremlin wanted to see how the international community would behave, namely, which coalition would support Ukraine, to what extent and with what speed it would provide the assistance needed.

…We are dealing not only with a very strong economically and militarily nuclear state, but also with a rather unusual team that has vast experience in inciting conflicts and military-political adventures…

The partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian borders coincided with the intensification of the Russian intelligence’s work against Ukraine. Now, in order to create the “climate” necessary for provocations, Russian special services are using all their intelligence capabilities against Ukraine: from humane and signal intelligence to space intelligence. In this way the Russian leadership is studying our weaknesses in order to form an effective strategy of offensive actions. And the reason why the priority is given to intelligence is quite obvious: it is the political team of the ruler of the Kremlin. All those around him, be it Security Council Secretary Patrushev, FSB Director Bortnikov, Defense Minister Shoigu, Security Council member Ivanov, former speaker of the State Duma, and now SVR Director Naryshkin or Deputy Head of Presidential Administration Kozak and many others, are this way or other involved in security and intelligence activities. These people have known each other well for a long time, the years spent together have formed a fairly high level of understanding, so they do not need to hold long meetings to make urgent decisions. Therefore, we are dealing not only with a very strong economically and militarily nuclear state, but also with a rather unusual team that has vast experience in inciting conflicts and military-political adventures. Moreover, in Russia, each security service has quite serious analytical and forecasting structures that are responsible for developing various scenarios.

…Russia cannot afford a protracted war, so its attack will be very fast, aggressive and unexpected…

Nowadays, the public is increasingly interested in when Russian troops will be completely withdrawn from the Ukrainian borders. Unfortunately, there will be no complete withdrawal of them, as Putin is trying to lull the vigilance of the Ukrainian authorities and society with such long and exhausting measures. Russia, given the level of support for Ukraine by its allies, cannot afford a protracted war, so the attack of its ground forces will be very fast, aggressive, unexpected and probably from the Belarusian direction, because our main military units are concentrated in the east and south, and the threat on the part of Belarus will force our command to transfer troops and expose the most vulnerable positions in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine. And here, according to the Kremlin, the social factor will play a decisive role: the civilian population in the eighth year of the military conflict is tired of the war. Perhaps that is why Putin, commenting on his article, so often mentioned that “millions of Ukrainians” have pro-Russian views and, if necessary, take up arms to overthrow the existing system. In that case, Russia will deploy troops to “protect the civilian population”, as it did in the Baltic states in 1940, or in South Ossetia in 2008, or as it did in 2014 with miners in the Donbas. Now the Kremlin leadership is once again demonstrating its readiness to repeat such a scenario, as preparations are in full swing. We can clearly see how the pro-Kremlin oligarchs Deripaska and Novinskyi are destroying strategic Mykolaiv shipyards, raising the level of dissatisfaction among the local population of the predominantly Russian-speaking (this is important!) region. It is possible that these people will become the “population” whose interests the regular Russian army will have to “protect”.

By the way, we mentioned the Mykolaiv shipyards not in vain. The Russian navy is rapidly aging and can no longer compete with NATO warships, and the industrial capacity of Russia’s Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center is clearly insufficient to create new modern warships, so a city where almost all Soviet warships were built could be handy. Now we see that till October of 2021, Russia has blocked almost the entire Black Sea, leaving a small corridor Dardanelles — Bosphorus — Odesa — Ochakiv — Kherson — Mykolaiv for international maritime trade. The threat is that this corridor is quite easy to discredit by a provocation in which a foreign ship suffers. This will reduce the number of international trading companies that will continue to operate on this route, which is a very big threat to Ukraine, as maritime trade accounts for most of our exports and provocation in the trade corridor is first of all an opportunity for Russia to close the Black Sea for the time necessary for an offensive operation and the probable amphibious landing.

Feeling the aggravation, the Ukrainian authorities are seeking to get a NATO Membership Action Plan as soon as possible. But the plan itself, on the importance of which the Office of the President of Ukraine is focused, does not guarantee Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance, and moreover, Ukraine’s having the Membership Action Plan will intensify aggressive provocations from Russia, increase hostile shelling in the East and, as a result, even greater losses from among the military and civilians.

…Ukraine’s accession to NATO depends primarily on judicial reform, respect for human rights and the effectiveness of the fight against corruption…

Despite the Ukrainian politicians’ statements about the importance of joining NATO, the Alliance will be inaccessible to us for the next ten years, and it is not a matter of the compatibility of the Ukrainian army with the general requirements of the North Atlantic Alliance. Accession to NATO depends primarily on judicial reform, respect for human rights and the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, which Ukraine has not yet been able to demonstrate. Simply put, NATO is a club that does not accept unpredictable partners, and their fears about Ukraine’s instability are well-founded, as we have intensified and curtailed our Euro-Atlantic policy about four times during our independence.

In search of an effective way to withstand Russian aggression, Ukrainian officials and public figures have increasingly begun to discuss the restoration of nuclear status. These people appeal to the fact that Ukraine has exchanged its own nuclear weapons for security guarantees that have never been provided to us. In 2014, we all watched as the guarantor violated the terms of the Budapest Memorandum and annexed Ukrainian Crimea. In the seven years since the annexation of Crimea, Russia has violated almost all the key principles and obligations of that Memorandum, which allows us to think about restoring nuclear status as a deterrent, but it also hides huge risks, the biggest of which is Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The statement of the President of Ukraine on the restoration of nuclear status will not only violate one of the key principles of this Treaty, but will also mean Ukraine’s probable withdrawal from it.

Only North Korea chose this path before us, which is why it found itself in international isolation. Repetition of such a path is a guaranteed destruction of relations with European and American allies, because in reality the presence of nuclear weapons does not provide any security guarantees. Therefore, when we talk about this type of weapon as a deterrent, we do not fully realize how long it will take to create such a weapon — most likely at least five years. With Russia continuing the hybrid war, will Ukraine have that much time to withstand without the West’s support? Try and answer this question yourself.

…It doesn’t matter who uses nuclear weapons first — if they do, they will be destroyed…

To model the security situation around the deterrent in more detail, we can assume that Ukraine has retained its nuclear status. Therefore, imagine that Russia is launching an open military campaign against us. In that case, could we fire nuclear munitions on its territory? Unfortunately, no, because we would understand that it has a much greater nuclear potential than ours. To use nuclear weapons in a conflict is to turn one’s own political and military centers into targets. Some civilians think that if Ukraine used its own nuclear weapons against Russia, it would not respond in a mirror-like manner. But it would not only strike back with nuclear missiles, but would also discredit us in front of our European and American partners, accusing us of nationalism and provoking world war. Experts know that it doesn’t matter who uses nuclear weapons first — if they do, they will be destroyed. Awareness of this rule forces absolutely all members of the “nuclear club” to refrain from using their strategic weapons.

After the annexation of Crimea, the Russian leadership announced its intention to restore the infrastructure on the Peninsula for the deployment of nuclear weapons. And here a rather frank question arises: do they realize that Crimea, if Russian missiles are launched from there, will be target for the first retaliatory nuclear strike and this will lead to catastrophic consequences of total destruction and radioactive contamination of the Peninsula? In Moscow, they respond cynically: “Ukrainians believe that Crimea is theirs, so let them take it back afterwards”.

…Ukrainian media community has to show that we do not want a war, but if it starts, then everyone will stand up to defend the homeland…

It is now increasingly common to accuse the Ukrainian leadership of failing to maintain its nuclear status. It is worth asking, could we defend this status ourselves? Suppose Ukraine has nuclear weapons. The revolutionary events of 2014 are on the streets and Yanukovych is fleeing to Russia with a “nuclear briefcase”. Would we like such a scenario? Let’s take another situation. Russia began the annexation of Crimea and provocations in the Donbas. Could we use our own nuclear weapons against Crimea, where no weapons were used by the Ukrainian side at all during the annexation, or drop a bomb on the Donbas where millions of our citizens live? The conclusion is quite simple: now the Ukrainian state is not ready to develop nuclear weapons, so in this case, it is possible that the deterrent of the aggressor country may be a clear demonstration of such a scenario in which Putin will see huge losses of his own soldiers, if he eventually dares on the offensive. This goal can be achieved with the help of the Ukrainian media community, to show that we do not want a war, but if it starts, then everyone will stand up to defend the homeland. And when the Russian leadership hints at a “social uprising” that is supposed to engulf our country, it is a very serious statement, to which there must be no less serious response, such as the inclusion in the sanctions package that in the event of the Kremlin’s open aggression, the Allies begin deportation of citizens of the Russian Federation from Europe and the United States. When millions of Russians who study, work and do business abroad begin to return home, the social uprising will begin there.

The Americans, in turn, have their own ability to deter the aggressor country. Joe Biden called them the Cyber Flag 21-1 project. In case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, this project, announced in the spring of 2021, will cause significant losses to our northern neighbor. Its creation was preceded by the Russian Federation’s constant interference in world democratic processes (elections in the USA and Brazil, a referendum in United Kingdom, etc.). Too many governance mechanisms work over the Internet, and if Russia decides to invade, Washington will be the main initiator of its disconnection from the world wide web, which will be not only a painful blow to Russia’s economy, but also to its people. But such a radical solution could lead to a much more critical situation, as Russia isolated from the world could easily enter a nuclear coalition with China, Iran and North Korea, which would change the balance of power and create a bipolar world with the threat of further global escalation.

…In a whirlpool of big politics it is impossible for Ukraine to stand without reliable allies…

Especially as in the “gambit” of the geopolitical confrontation between the United States and China, Ukraine may become the “figure” that can be sacrificed in the future to achieve certain positional advantages. Perhaps this is the reason why our political leadership should be well aware of its position in the triangle between the United States, China and Russia. To be a skilled political player between these countries is a rather difficult task, as it will draw Ukraine into a whirlpool of big politics, where it is impossible to stand without reliable allies. Therefore, Kyiv’s position in this regard is quite simple: maintaining relations with a key security partner — Washington, and with a useful trading partner — Beijing. It is unknown whether Ukraine will manage to win and unite these two irreconcilable geopolitical adversaries, but creation of such a coalition is not the only way to gain support that would be much more effective than nuclear weapons.


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