The will to re­sist

What fac­tors af­fect the abil­ity of na­tions not to ca­pit­u­late dur­ing long-term armed con­flicts?

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Maksym Vikhrov

What fac­tors af­fect the abil­ity of na­tions not to ca­pit­u­late dur­ing long-term armed con­flicts

Two years ago, ac­cord­ing to Gallup In­ter­na­tional, 62% of Ukraini­ans (both men and women) were ready to take up arms to de­fend their home­land, while the av­er­age fig­ure for Western Europe was about 25%. How­ever, the Rus­sian ag­gres­sion is not only mil­i­tary in char­ac­ter. Rus­sia puts eco­nomic pres­sure on us, demon­stra­tively abuses Ukrainian hostages and tries to de­mor­alise and desta­bilise our society. Mean­while, an en­tire choir of voices call­ing for "com­pro­mise", try­ing to take ad­van­tage of war fa­tigue, never dies down. This has been go­ing on for al­most 5 years and no end is in sight. How much longer will we hold out for? There are too many un­knowns in the equa­tion to make any more or less well-grounded pre­dic­tions. How­ever, it is clear that one of the main com­po­nents of our "stamina" is the na­tional will to re­sist. In prac­ti­cal terms, this refers to the abil­ity of the coun­try's lead­er­ship to pur­sue a cor­re­spond­ing pol­icy, even if po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and mil­i­tary losses in­crease or when chances of suc­cess seem smaller and smaller. Which fac­tors de­ter­mine a na­tion's will to re­sist? Al­though this is­sue sounds like a purely philo­soph­i­cal one, the re­sults of a study on it were pre­sented in Septem­ber 2018 at the Ar­royo Cen­ter, a di­vi­sion of the RAND cor­po­ra­tion, which car­ries out strate­gic stud­ies com­mis­sioned by the US gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. This research project was ini­ti­ated to as­sess a pos­si­ble con­flict sce­nario on the Korean penin­sula, as well as one in­volv­ing Rus­sia and NATO mem­bers.

The first group of fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing the will to re­sist is di­rectly linked to the mil­i­tary sphere: the bal­ance of forces, duration of the con­flict and num­ber of losses. How­ever, our sit­u­a­tion is rather spe­cific, be­cause in the Don­bas there is a hy­brid war with lim­ited use of mil­i­tary means and the widest pos­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tion of all oth­ers. What­ever the case may be, Ukraine's po­si­tions ap­pear to be the strong­est in the mil­i­tary sphere. De­spite the ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage of Rus­sia, Ukraine was able to do what was al­most im­pos­si­ble: fight back in 2014, put the army in or­der and even launch its mod­erni­sa­tion. The mil­i­tary losses that peaked in 20142015 did not paral­yse Ukrainian society, but rather pro­vided the re­verse ef­fect de­scribed by RAND re­searchers: they forced society to re­alise how high the stakes were, activated

na­tional feel­ings and stim­u­lated pub­lic sup­port. How­ever, de­spite ev­ery­thing, time is play­ing against us. Ac­cord­ing to the RAND clas­si­fi­ca­tion, the Rus­sian-Ukrainian war will soon en­ter the long-term con­flict (five years or more) cat­e­gory, which will bring "fa­tigue" and other neg­a­tive non­mil­i­tary fac­tors to the fore­ground.

The sec­ond group of fac­tors is linked to the gov­ern­ment. Ac­cord­ing to RAND re­searchers, to­tal­i­tar­ian regimes, which have an ef­fec­tive bu­reau­cracy and con­trol over pub­lic opin­ion, and de­vel­oped democ­ra­cies, in which power is based on high le­git­i­macy and de­ci­sions re­flect the will of cit­i­zens, have the great­est re­sis­tance in a con­flict. Un­for­tu­nately, Ukraine is not yet a de­vel­oped democ­racy, so au­thor­i­tar­ian Rus­sia has the ad­van­tage here. There is a mas­sive gulf of dis­trust be­tween gov­ern­ment and society: ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic Ini­tia­tives Foun­da­tion, the level of mis­trust in Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko is 60%, in the gov­ern­ment 65% and in par­lia­ment 76%, etc. Ac­cord­ing to elec­tion rat­ings, there are no po­lit­i­cal lead­ers at all that, if nec­es­sary, would be able to mo­bilise society for re­sis­tance based on their own au­thor­ity. Un­like Rus­sia, where the sta­bil­ity of the "power ver­ti­cal" is guar­an­teed by the se­cu­rity forces, Ukraine is al­ways at risk of a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, which in par­tic­u­lar may turn out to be the come­back of in­ter­nal pro-Rus­sian forces. The lack of agree­ment among the coun­try's lead­er­ship and the po­lit­i­cal elite is an­other fac­tor that neg­a­tively af­fects the will to re­sist. The per­ma­nent threat of the col­lapse of the rul­ing coali­tion, the ac­tiv­ity of openly pro-Rus­sian forces and con­fronta­tion in the "pa­tri­otic" camp may all have their own causes, but they ob­jec­tively weaken us. The only con­flict Ukraine has been able to avoid so far (at least openly) is one be­tween civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers, the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of which are em­pha­sised by RAND ex­perts. The high level of pub­lic con­fi­dence in the Armed Forces that has been main­tained since the be­gin­ning of the war should also be men­tioned.

The sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing other so­cio-po­lit­i­cal fac­tors varies greatly. RAND re­searchers ask three ques­tions: How high are the stakes of the con­fronta­tion in the eyes of society? How high is pub­lic sup­port for the con­fronta­tion? Does na­tional iden­tity af­fect the con­fronta­tion? Very dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the first ques­tion are pos­si­ble. Judg­ing by the high readi­ness of Ukraini­ans to de­fend their home­land, one can make op­ti­mistic as­sump­tions. This is ev­i­denced by the phe­nom­e­non of the mass vol­un­teer move­ment that was launched on the ini­tia­tive of society in the first months of the war. But so­ci­o­log­i­cal stud­ies shows that this re­source of pub­lic sup­port is lim­ited. Ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic Ini­tia­tives fund, only 20% of Ukraini­ans agree to a sur­ren­der ("peace at any price"), but at the same time only 17% ap­prove the mil­i­tary op­tion (the costli­est one), while a rel­a­tive ma­jor­ity (50%) is ready for cer­tain com­pro­mises ("but not all"). As for na­tional iden­tity, Rus­sia ac­tively ap­pealed to it dur­ing the ini­tial stage of its ag­gres­sion, try­ing to at­tract "Rus­sian com­pa­tri­ots" in Ukraine onto its side. Al­though it did not par­tic­u­larly ef­fect the re­sults, part of our society con­sid­ers the war to be one of na­tional lib­er­a­tion, which gives re­sis­tance a valu­able, ex­is­ten­tial sig­nif­i­cance. Ob­vi­ously, it is pre­cisely this group of peo­ple that are the so­cial driv­ing force be­hind re­sis­tance and a foothold for the po­lit­i­cal cir­cles that put an em­pha­sis on con­tin­u­ing the strug­gle.

The­o­ret­i­cally, the lead­er­ship of the coun­try can strengthen the unity of society and the elite by us­ing com­mu­nica­tive tech­niques. In a broad sense, it is about in­doc­tri­nat­ing (i.e. ed­u­cat­ing) society in the ap­pro­pri­ate spirit, as well as ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with com­mu­ni­ties in­side and out­side the coun­try. A spe­cific el­e­ment of the Ukrainian sit­u­a­tion is the fact that the gov­ern­ment only took se­ri­ous ac­tion when the war had al­ready started. There was a con­sid­er­able de­lay be­fore broad­casts of Rus­sian TV were stopped, its in­ter­net re­sources were blocked, me­dia and cul­tural prod­ucts from Rus­sia were re­stricted and the pa­tri­otic el­e­ment was strength­ened in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. The prac­ti­cal ef­fec­tive­ness of all this is an­other is­sue. Firstly, society has no con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment it­self and, se­condly, Ukraini­ans do not trust the me­dia too much. For ex­am­ple, among the au­di­ence of the five most pop­u­lar do­mes­tic TV channels (1+1, In­ter, Ukraina, ICTV and STB), only 14-35% of view­ers be­lieve news items about Ukraine's re­la­tions with Rus­sia and the sit­u­a­tion in the Don­bas. Cit­i­zens' aware­ness of the state's strat­egy for the Don­bas and Crimea is also low. For ex­am­ple, at the be­gin­ning of 2018, 50.2% of Ukraini­ans had "heard about but did not know the de­tails" of the law on the rein­te­gra­tion of the Don­bas, whereas 40.6% of them "just heard about it for the first time" (KIIS, 2018). No one talks about Ukraine hav­ing an in­for­ma­tional in­flu­ence on Rus­sian society, while Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda has a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on our coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to KIIS, from 2015 to 2017, the Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda ef­fi­ciency in­dex de­clined from 26 to 23 points (out of a pos­si­ble 100), al­though at the end of 2017 it was 33 and 34 points in the South and East re­spec­tively.

It is some­what para­dox­i­cal, but the au­thor­i­ties have been much more suc­cess­ful in com­mu­ni­cat­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally than with their own society. Hav­ing se­cured the sup­port of the West, Ukraine was to some ex­tent able to com­pen­sate for its weak­ness in many ar­eas when com­pared to Rus­sia. Not hav­ing its own eco­nomic re­sources for long-term re­sis­tance, it re­ceived them from al­lies. More­over, we man­aged not only to with­stand Rus­sia's eco­nomic pres­sure, but also to mo­bilise the world com­mu­nity to ap­ply sanc­tions against Rus­sia it­self. Ac­cord­ing to the RAND cri­te­ria, this is a great suc­cess. Al­though we did not get di­rect help from al­lied troops, the con­tain­ment of Rus­sian mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion is in no small part the re­sult of po­lit­i­cal sup­port from the West. In this way, it is the sup­port of the West that can­cels out the eco­nomic and mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity of Rus­sia. Ob­vi­ously, the great­est risks for Ukraine are now con­cen­trated in the so­cio-po­lit­i­cal sphere. Here, al­lied aid from the West is just one of the fac­tors – an im­por­tant, but not a de­ci­sive one. If Kyiv does not fol­low the pol­icy of re­sis­tance in light of cer­tain cir­cum­stances, nei­ther Wash­ing­ton nor Brus­sels will be able to pre­vent this. That is why Rus­sia is now putting more em­pha­sis on desta­bil­is­ing Ukrainian society and bring­ing chaos into its po­lit­i­cal life than on fight­ing in the Don­bas. Based on the model pre­sented in the RAND study, this is the area where Ukraine is the most vul­ner­a­ble and which could be used to un­der­mine our na­tional will to re­sist. In view of our cir­cum­stances, the main way to keep our­selves safe is ef­fec­tive sol­i­dar­ity be­tween civil society and the pa­tri­otic po­lit­i­cal elites that are de­ter­mined to op­pose Rus­sia as much as it needed.

Ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic Ini­tia­tives fund, only 20% of Ukraini­ans agree to a sur­ren­der ("peace at any price"), but at the same time only 17% ap­prove the mil­i­tary op­tion (the costli­est one), while a rel­a­tive ma­jor­ity (50%) is ready for cer­tain com­pro­mises ("but not all")

Re­verse Ef­fect. In­stead of stop­ping its strug­gle to the joy of the ag­gres­sor, Ukrainian society has seen un­prece­dented mo­bil­i­sa­tion that en­com­passed all seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion

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