The Pandemic and a Conflict

What Should Ukraine Do?


Victor Hvozd
Doctor of Military Science


The continued pandemic of the coronavirus in the world, accompanied by increasing volatility in the global oil market, is having a significant impact on the increasingly complex international relations system. In particular, this also applies to relations between Ukraine and Russia, including: in the context of resolving the problems of the Donbas and Crimea. To date, there are two groups of trends that have the following peculiarities:

  • at the tactical level — Moscow demonstrates the invariance of its intentions to return Ukraine to the sphere of Russian influence, at the expense of imposing on it own scenario of “settlement” of the conflict in the Donbas. For example, at the beginning of this year, Russia put forward further demands to Ukraine regarding the possibility of V. Putin’s participation in the next summit of the Normandy Four at the highest level only under the condition of enshrining the “Steinmeier formula” in the Ukrainian legislation. Such position of Moscow was confirmed by Press-Secretary of the RF President D. Peskov on April 23, 2020. According to him, there are no another prerequisites for negotiations of the leaders of the “Normandy” group, even in video-conference mode. As before, such statements by Russia are accompanied by systematic armed provocations in the Donbas aimed at putting pressure on Ukraine. At this, Moscow refuses to discuss the issue of Crimea’s return to Ukraine;
  • at the strategic level — Ukraine is moving to the sidelines of Russia’s interests, which is the result of a critical aggravation of Russian own  As mentioned in my previous article, “What’s Next? Coronavirus and the Future of the World and Ukraine”, citing the Russian National Rating Agency, Russia’s reserve funds may expire by the end of this year. And this is solely because of the need to spend them on the consequences of the epidemic. Besides, as a result of the fall in oil prices, the Russian budget revenue will be reduced eight times. In this case, according to experts of the All-Russia public organization “Delovaya Rossiya” (Business Russia), if the quarantine in Russia lasts for up to six months, the Russian economy will fall by 40 %, and household income — by 70–80 %. The result will be a “point of no return” that will not allow Russia to emerge from the recession at least in the medium term.


…Russia remains face to face with all the negative factors influencing it. At this, Moscow in no way gives up its imperial policy and will not renounce it voluntarily…

Ukraine has similar problems, albeit on a smaller scale. However, while Ukraine receives international assistance in resolving them, Russia remains face to face with all the negative factors influencing it. At this, Moscow in no way gives up its imperial policy and will not renounce it voluntarily. It will try to stick to it even in case of a collapse of the Russian Federation, as happened with the Russian Empire in 1917. Which was later revived by Moscow in the form of the Soviet Union.

At the same time, Russia’s current problems, which are no less complex than those of the Russian Empire or the USSR on the eve of their disappearing from the geopolitical map of the world, give Ukraine much more chances to defend its positions. Including, in counteracting to Russia’s attempts to regain control of Ukraine, as well as in resolving the Donbas and Crimea issues based on Ukrainian interests.

…Ukraine can count on a number of favorable factors related to the Russian problems…

In this regard, Ukraine can count on a number of favorable factors related to the problems discussed above. In particular:

  • early next year, Russia may face the urgent need for external financial assistance. This, in turn, will require it to establish relations with the USA and the EU, which have adequate resources and effectively control international financial and economic organizations;
  • despite continued demonstrations of military power, Moscow is objectively losing its military capabilities, both because of a lack of funding to support its armed forces and the need to use them to counteract the consequences of the pandemic. Thereby, the Kremlin’s ability to expand its armed aggression against Ukraine, as well as to defend the “DPR” and “LPR”, is decreasing;
  • against the background of the aggravation of Russia’s internal problems, its competition with the West and confrontation with Ukraine on the basis of “protecting the Russian-speaking population” and, in general, building a “Russian world”, not only do not contribute to the consolidation of Russians around the Kremlin’s policy, but provoke a negative reaction of the majority of the population of the country;
  • Russia’s growing budget deficit is forcing it to cut spending in all spheres, including assistance to its partners and other lobbyists of the RF foreign policy interests. The same applies to self-proclaimed republics in the territory of the former USSR.


…All this allows Ukraine to move to a more active and offensive course in confrontation with Russia…

All this allows Ukraine to move to a more active and offensive course in confrontation with Russia. In this regard, it would be appropriate:

  • to refuse any concessions to Russia on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas, even as a prerequisite for the next summit in the “Normandy” format. As experience shows, Russia sees this as a weakness and puts forward new demands to Ukraine without any obligations on its part. Instead, only Ukraine’s firm position will force Russia to fulfill its part of the Minsk agreements, especially in the conditions of critical deepening of crisis processes in the Russian economy;
  • to call on the leading countries of the world, including within the framework of the UN, NATO, EU and OSCE, to refuse to provide any economic assistance to Russia until its stopping armed aggression against Ukraine. Such West’s demands in the current situation will be the most effective factor in influencing the RF. Moreover, Moscow is already resorting to open and humiliating for itself requests to the USA and the EuropeanUnion to lift the sanctions. This is exactly what can help Ukraine;
  • to revise the plans to withdraw Ukrainian troops from the front line in the Donbas. In fact, such measures do not produce the expected results and only lead to a deterioration of the tactical position of the JFO units and undermine the spirit of Ukrainian troops. At this, the disengagement of forces in no way improves the situation in the conflict zone. For example, the enemy continued to fire and did not stop it even on Easter. Only the interception of the initiative by Ukraine and the return to the tactics of gradual restoration of control over the occupied territories can make a real impact on the enemy. Only this can ultimately force Russia to withdraw its troops from the occupied regions of the Donbas;
  • to increase humanitarian assistance to the occupied territories through appropriate UN and OSCE structures. Given the actual cessation of such assistance from Russia (which had always been purely symbolic and demonstrative), such actions of Ukraine will have a significant effect both in meeting the needs of the ORDLO residents and in forming a positive public image of our country.


Of course, the above-mentioned suggestions are only examples of those approaches that Ukraine can use taking into account the changes in the situation in the world. Developing specific action plans for Ukraine in the new geopolitical situation is the task of the respective government bodies. However, as in any democratic state, the civil society has the right and should be involved in resolving the vital problems of its country.

…In case of deepening of the crisis processes in the Russian Federation, Ukraine may face new challenges and threats to its security…

Moreover, such problems are not limited to the traditional forms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which we have already learnt to overcome with varying degrees of success. In case of deepening of the crisis processes in the Russian Federation, Ukraine may face new challenges and threats to its security of a completely different nature. In particular, they may include: interruptions in the supply of Russian gas to Europe and Ukraine or its complete cessation due to disruption of the Russian oil and gas industry; permanent cessation of trade and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine due to the closure of the borders and suspension of activity of enterprises; armed conflicts near the borders of Ukraine, first of all, in the North Caucasus.

And this, only at best. As mentioned above, we should not rule out the possibility of critical scenario of the development of disintegration processes in the Russian Federation, as happened with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly, such processes would allow Ukraine to regain its sovereignty over the Donbas and Crimea. At the same time, unlike the controlled disintegration of the USSR, an uncontrolled collapse of Russia would have truly catastrophic consequences with the transformation of the post-Russian space into a zone of total chaos, disintegration of the Russian army and emergence of masses of armed people who would replenish criminal structures and armed gangs in all kinds of conflict zones. Moreover, some of them would inevitably try to break through to Ukraine. At this, massive flows of refugees would flow to Ukraine and through it to Europe.

However, the most dangerous consequence of such processes would be the threat of losing control of Russia’s nuclear weapons, which could fall into the hands of terrorists and extremists. It is this that is most troubling to the US and Europe and is holding them back from decisive actions against the Russian Federation.

Unfortunately, the issues raised today are out of the focus of the Ukrainian society and, apparently, the leadership of our country. And this is quite understandable, since the problems of the Donbas and Crimea are quite obvious and real, while critical developments in Russia is still rather a hypothetical. However, we do need to look further, in order not to find ourselves in a catastrophe.

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