Washington is sceptical of Ukraine’s chances of capturing Crimea.
Written by Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher
Ukraine unveiled a 12-point plan on April 2 which outlines how it plans to reintegrate Crimea back into the country after conquering the peninsula from Russia. Although Kiev repeatedly announces its plans to retake Crimea, originally given from Russia to Ukraine during the Soviet period, even Washington is tacitly sceptical that it can be achieved, thus making the audacious announcement nothing more than a PR stunt to try and secure more weapons and funding from the West.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, published the plan just as Kiev is preparing for a spring offensive with troops freshly trained in Western countries. This is in the hope of making decisive gains after being on the backfoot for more than 13 months of war.
Parts of his delusional plan includes the entire destruction of the Kerch Bridge, which links the peninsula to mainland Russia; persecute innocent civilians engaging with the Russian state; and, renaming the capital city of Sevastopol, the name given when it was founded by the Russian Empire, to Object No. 6.
None of this will come to pass, and as the head of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said, “It would be wrong to seriously treat comments by sick people. They must be cured, and that is what our military is doing now.”
However, what Danilov’s comments do show is that Ukraine is becoming increasingly desperate for weapons and morale, particularly as the situation in Artemovsk (Bakhmut) is despairing.
It is why Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said after Danilov’s comments that Ukraine will control Crimea by military means in the next five to seven months because Russia does not have enough resources to control the situation.
This is huge bravado from two leading figures – one who set a task and another who set a timeline. None-the-less, it is recalled that Ukrainian leaders for many years, including Petro Poroshenko, have claimed that they will “liberate” Crimea. It has never been close to happening.
Danilov’s ambitious plan comes as the Ukrainian military is planning a new spring offensive, which some experts believe could begin this month, likely between Orthodox Easter on April 16 and Labour Day on May 9. This offensive will include Western-trained troops and newly supplied weapons, including dozens of battle tanks. Although initial gains might be made, it is expected that the offensive will quickly tire out before Russia ultimately launches its own counteroffensive.
In preparing for this offensive, Ukraine has received 49 battle tanks from Western countries; London said it finished training a second group of Ukrainian soldiers on the AS90 self-propelled howitzers it is donating; Washington announced it was providing another $500 million in ammunition for howitzers, rocket artillery, Patriot anti-air systems and other systems; and Poland said it had transferred four of the 14 MiG-29 fighter jets it is giving Ukraine, following a similar move from Slovakia last month.
Very evidently, there is nowhere near enough resources to take an entire peninsula that has been militarised for the better part of eight years, let alone the regions between Crimea and where the Ukrainian forces currently are.
It is recalled that Zelensky, when making pleas to world leaders for more weapons, announced at the Davos summit in January that “our objective is to liberate all of our territories” and “Crimea is our land.” In this way, the idea of retaking Crimea has always been attached to pleas for more money and weapons, and Danilov and Podolyak are just the latest to add to this chorus, even if Washington itself is sceptical of its success.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken implied scepticism on February 15 when speaking to experts about the possibility of Ukraine taking Crimea. During the call to the experts, which was leaked, he said Crimea is a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. A month later, Blinken then told a congressional committee that Kiev should consider using diplomacy instead of military offensives in trying to retake territory.
Joining Danilov and Podolyak was Andriy Sybiha, the deputy head of the president’s office, who expressed Kiev’s interest in negotiations should Ukrainian forces reach Crimea’s border.
“If we will succeed in achieving our strategic goals on the battlefield and when we will be on the administrative border with Crimea, we are ready to open a diplomatic page to discuss this issue,” Sybiha said. He added: “It doesn’t mean that we exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army.”
With Artemovsk under intense Russian pressure, Sybiha’s comments are only aimed at bolstering Ukrainian morale by overselling the upcoming offensive’s likelihood for success as it alludes to the end of the war in Ukraine’s favour. This of course will not occur, and it remains a mystery for now on how Kiev will conjure new positivity and propaganda when the offensive ultimately fails.