12:50 13.04.2021


Escalation in Donbass: what the state should do Ukraine

8 min read
Escalation in Donbass: what the state should do Ukraine

Ukrainian Institute of the Future 


We bring to your attention the strategy of Ukraine's actions in connection with the escalation in Donbass.

Part Escalation goals and motivation of the Russian Federation.

It is proposed to divide the goals of military-political aggravation into two categories: global, which are not related to Ukraine, and regional, which are directly related to it.


  1. Raising stakes in the political confrontation with the West (US and EU) against the background of strained relations between them and the reformatting of international processes after the change of power in the United States;
  2. Intensification of contradictions between Western allies (USA, Great Britain, France, Germany) on security issues on the Eurasian continent;
  3. Reconsolidation of political influence in order to return to world politics as a global player with whom we have to talk on key issues of international security, return to the Yalta-Potsdam division of the world, where Russia as the successor to the USSR is a key player and has a zone of exclusive interests ;
  4. Engage neutrality or limited acceptance by the United States of Russia's dominant role in its periphery (Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Caucasus);
  5. Put pressure on European countries in order to reach an acceptable compromise on the distribution of zones of influence in the post-Soviet geopolitical space;
  6. To strike a preemptive strike or to demonstrate a readiness to strike such a blow at one of the crisis sites in order to deter the West from trying to destabilize the domestic political situation in Russia.


  1. To play a "Ukrainian card" for the internal audience to mobilize supporters before the elections to the State Duma, where one of the main elements will be the "protection of the Russian people" and to prevent the channeling of protests;
  2. To force Ukraine to open access to the North Crimean Canal, or to start negotiations on it, or to gain access to it by conducting a limited military operation;
  3. To persuade Ukraine to negotiate with ORDLO militants;
  4. Economic blockade of Ukraine due to increasing pressure on the Sea of ​​Azov and complicating the work of Black Sea ports;
  5. Destabilization of the domestic political situation in Ukraine in order to at least weaken the political power and persuade it to make concessions in the negotiations, and as a maximum to bring the situation to chaos and civil war against the background of mass hysteria and escalation;
  6. Return of pro-Russian forces to Ukrainian politics;
  7. Preservation of the “Donbass issue” as one of the top issues of the domestic political agenda in Ukraine;
  8. Rapid military victory over the Armed Forces in the shortest possible time with or without the subsequent capture of part of the territory;
  9. Achieve Ukraine's refusal to deepen cooperation with NATO, a moratorium on the presence of any NATO military forces and prototypes of military bases on the territory of Ukraine.

Part II Action plans and strategic objectives of Ukraine.

Before considering what specific instruments of action there are in Ukraine, it is important to begin by defining a model of behavior that we must choose depending on the strategic challenges facing the state. There may be several such models. Within these plans, all or most of the following instruments can be used, only the priority of their application, tone and communication with society will differ.

Model №1. Preventive escalation. Ukraine raises stakes in response to the escalation in order to deter Russia from the idea of ​​a new military invasion or large-scale escalation on the line of demarcation or from the Crimea, and eventually returns to de-escalation and restoration of the status quo.

Model №2. Accept the challenge. Ukraine is raising rates in response to the escalation in preparation for an outbreak of large-scale hostilities. Against the background of a stalemate in the negotiations and the futility of the negotiations, the Ukrainian authorities accept the challenge and the idea that another intermediate phase of hostilities is needed to change the modality of the conflict.

Model №3. Gradual de-escalation . Ukraine is taking limited steps to prepare its military infrastructure for a potential conflict, and at the same time is taking a number of decisions and initiatives aimed at de-escalating and unblocking negotiations to avoid further escalation and resumption of the political process.

Model №4. Peace at any cost . Ukraine is initiating new negotiations with Russia and accepting part or all of the conditions that will lead to the resumption of the political process and the settlement of the conflict, but under strong and legal guarantees from the West and Russia.

Part III Plan implementation tools.

Military and military-political.

  • Meeting of the National Security and Defense Council and preparation of a decree on martial law;
    Urgent military exercises (possibly with NATO members). Particular emphasis should be placed on the development of missile fire and on improving the combat capability of air defense forces;
  • Urgently adopt a law on terrorism, and terrorism should not be a public organization, as is now proposed in the OPU, but a separate part of the Armed Forces and be subordinated to the General Staff (the law can be adopted within one week). In the shortest possible time to hold a monthly meeting-training of terrorist defense;
  • Conduct training of reservists;
  • Negotiate the presence of several NATO ships in the Black Sea (ports of Ukraine);
  • Accelerate the execution of the defense order and ensure uninterrupted flow of funds to the plants of Ukroboronprom.


  • The truce must be officially declared disrupted. The President must announce a new ceasefire initiative, which should include the possibility of some backlash on the supply of water to the Crimea. A major international dialogue needs to be launched around this;
  • Closed session of the parliament with discussion of the situation and possible actions of the Council on the imposition of martial law;
  • Adopt changes to the budget, which will provide for increased funding for the army (necessarily raising military salaries) and defense orders;
  • Strengthening the screening of conscripts who cross the line of demarcation;
  • Consultations with Moldova on smuggling goods through Transnistria, strengthening the border with Transnistria;
  • Involve the church in the dialogue, especially the UOC-MP, which will be forced to react in an awkward situation. Also pay attention to church sponsors so that they are forced to put pressure on hierarchs.


  • Convening of the UN Security Council to discuss a new truce (obviously, will have to hold several meetings). In parallel, prepare a resolution of the UN General Assembly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation;
  • The beginning of the information rolling of the topic of preparing a "new initiative" to resolve the conflict in the Donbass (a kind of "Minsk-3"). Along with this idea, start actively talking about moving the talks from Minsk to another place. Options: Budapest, Istanbul or Nur Sultan. Start negotiations on this with the participants of the Normandy format;
  • Lobbying in the US to strengthen sanctions against the sovereign debt of the Russian Federation and their banking sector;
  • Announce personnel changes in the TCG (our group is led by a heavyweight diplomat). Recognize that TCG negotiations can only be used to address tactical and humanitarian issues, and the entire political part in the Normandy format;
  • Return to the idea of ​​UN peacekeepers to freeze the situation;
  • Agree to increase the volume of lethal weapons from the West (in the short term we should receive such weapons, even in small quantities).
  • In a very extreme case, if there is an urgent need to defuse the situation, we can declare the readiness of negotiations with ORDLO, but only on tactical issues, such as security at the checkpoint, the transfer of humanitarian aid, infrastructure repairs. At the same time, firmly understand that the creation of any permanent formalized sites is not acceptable;
  • Stop the information swing about "we will get the MAP soon": it is more like hysteria and does not help in this situation, showing that we are weak and hope only for external support.


  • Information campaign on how the country is preparing for defense. The main task of the campaign is to unite the country around the idea of ​​preserving the state and against a single enemy: Putin's Russia. The emphasis should be on the phrase "Putin's Russia", given that a quarter of the population still does not recognize Russia as an aggressor;
  • Global work in social networks to detect Russian fakes and detain real curators of bot farms;
  • Real displacement of the promotion of pro-Russian telegram channels from the information space (it is impossible to work there exclusively by force);
  • The most widespread spread of fakes occurs through Viber channels. Our special services do not work with them at all yet. It is necessary to outsource campaigns that will monitor the situation in this network and provide the relevant services with relevant information;
  • Carry out a massive campaign against the residents of ORDLO with the conditional title "work, not war", with an offer of work in the unoccupied territories. The main goal should be the outflow of young conscripts from these areas.