Ukraine astonished the world last summer with its lightning offensive to re-capture huge swathes of territory in and around Kherson and Kharkiv. Ukraine’s current counter-offensive likely will be slower, deadlier, and less impressive in making immediate territorial gains. But be patient — that does not mean it will not be a success.

Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive is in its infancy. Much has been made of Ukraine’s Western-outfitted, NATO-trained maneuver brigades. These platforms and capabilities are vital to success, and the focus on delivering them to Ukraine and training Ukrainian forces on maneuver is justified. Yet in a large-scale, combined arms offensive against an entrenched enemy, it is less-celebrated capabilities that likely will prove decisive: the engineering equipment used to breach complex obstacles emplaced by Russian forces around key objectives, the trucks bringing supplies to the front and evacuating broken vehicles for maintenance, and the field ambulances evacuating casualties from the front to hasten the process of getting wounded soldiers back into the fight.

Into the Breach

After its losses in the fall, Russia spent the winter and early spring undertaking a massive military engineering effort. Though there have been impressive work done to map these constructions, it is important to note that each dot on a map represents a different site with a different purpose. Some improve the survivability of forces – such as firing positions or trenches. Others represent obstacles, which are constructed or emplaced to counter an enemy force’s mobility by slowing them down, forcing them to take a route where you can more easily target them, or by blocking their movement entirely.

The best way to deal with an obstacle is to avoid it altogether. But when it’s unavoidable, the attacking forces must breach it. Ukraine is currently in a process of probing Russia’s defenses and conducting misdirection before it commits significant engineering and combat capability.

Since Russia has used a combination of different types of obstacles – tank ditches, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, dragon’s teeth, and concertina wire – breaching likely will require a combination of equipment. To date, the United States has provided 18 armored bridging systems, “mine clearing equipment”, and supplies for explosive breaching operations. The mine-clearing equipment likely includes a combination of mine rollers and plows, as well as vehicle-borne or trailer-towed mine-clearing line charges (MICLICs) – a system that launches a rocket tied to a line that has explosives on it. By firing the rocket over a minefield and then detonating the explosives, you can reduce the minefield sufficiently to allow a vehicle with a mine plow to clear a path. (Russian sources now say MICLICs are now in use by the Ukrainians.)

The bridges can span a gap of 60-80 feet depending on the type. However, there is another drawback: they only can hold up to 60 tons. This means that they will struggle to hold up to a Leopard 2, and if a tank breaks down, the bridges may not be able to bear the weight of a Leopard being towed by a large truck.

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Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics

As noted above, Ukraine will need to slowly probe Russia’s defenses to find obstacles that can be breached and exploited. They will then need to mass their breaching equipment and follow-on forces in that location and break through the obstacles before moving forward. This whole time, they will be burning fuel, firing shells, eating rations, and evacuating wounded personnel and damaged equipment. Ukraine’s ability to exploit success will rely heavily not just on the tanks and artillery, but on their ability to sustain these platforms and the troops operating them.

Large-Scale Combat, Large-Scale Casualties

Just as the heavy equipment transporters (HETs) are taking damaged tanks to the rear for repairs, armored and soft-skinned field ambulances will be rushing Ukrainian casualties away from the front lines for medical treatment. When the counteroffensive begins in earnest, Ukrainian casualty numbers will spike to levels that may seem jarring to Americans who are used to two decades of low-intensity conflict. Unlike the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the early stages of this war, the counteroffensive likely will be a large-scale combat operation in which one side is attacking an entrenched enemy. Such operations are assumed to result in 20% casualty levels, with those levels spiking to nearly 70% for units conducting breaching operations. (The total Ukrainian combat force may have as many as 70,000 troops. There will be casualties, but it would be wrong to assume this means Ukraine is performing poorly.

Battlefield Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Ukraine’s counteroffensive faces a series of daunting challenges. While foreign aid has provided them with an extraordinary opportunity for success, it also has caused dilemmas. The Ukrainians have tanks and artillery but a limited number of armored bridges to cross tank ditches, only certain trucks that can tow the tanks, and a dwindling supply of artillery munitions.

Yet if we have seen one constant during this fight, it is Ukraine’s ability to adapt and overcome. When they were short on armored ambulances, they started a full-press campaign – including an Indiegogo page – that yielded donations in money and in-kind. With limited mine-clearing equipment, there are reports of the Ukrainians disarming mines manually at night in order to clear a path for probing attacks. In doing so, they not only save an element of surprise; they also save mine-clearing equipment for larger-scale attacks.

Although the counteroffensive now underway may be slow and deadly, and though the Ukrainians still face capability gaps despite a full-court press of donations from partner nations, Ukrainian success is still a very real possibility.

Whether the Ukrainians achieve success, however, likely will rely far less on the flashy tanks and artillery and far more on their ingenuity and their ability to breach obstacles, sustain operations, and refit their injured forces and damaged equipment.

Ann Marie Dailey is a former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. She is a geopolitical strategist with deep expertise in Europe, Eurasia, and energy and climate resilience with two decades of study and experience in the public and private sectors. She has a Master’s Degree in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is a Captain in the United States Army Reserves.

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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President Emmanuel Macron’s speech in Bratislava on May 31, seemed to herald a remarkable change of tone. Having attended the event and heard the reactions of the audience, I can attest to the positive sense of surprise. He also used the strong words needed to define the fight — our fight — that Ukraine now wages: “Ukraine today protects Europe, it brings guarantees of security to Europe”. 

First and foremost, the French President broke with a sort of French tradition in the assumed superiority of Western Europe within the European Union (EU.) Macron now refuses to use the term enlargement and proposes instead to talk about the “reunification” of the continent. These are not mere semantics, they matter. Criticizing one of his predecessors, Jacques Chirac, who in 2003 had asked the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to “shut up” after some of them supported George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, he stressed that it would have been better to have listened to them. This is a statement of French high policy very different from at least the last 20 years and is very clearly aimed at repairing broken — or at least damaged — bridges to the region. 

He also pointed to his own mistakes, for example, when he implied in a speech on September 1, 2022 that certain Central and Eastern European countries were “warmongers”, and before that, when he had upset them with a policy he considered too complacent towards Moscow. 

In the same vein, he had also denounced the inconsistency of the French and German positions at the Bucharest summit in April 2008, which were not accompanied by any security guarantees for Ukraine and Georgia (with profoundly damaging consequences thereafter.) Without being self-critical about his past positions, which expressed hopes that Russia might rejoin the European rules-based order, he had to implicitly acknowledge that these expectations were unfounded. Although the French president had been moving in this direction for some months, it now seems clear that he will no longer be riding the horse of re-engagement with Putin’s regime. There was no mention in his speech of “security guarantees” for Russia, or even of future negotiations with it, even at some distant point in the future. 

Whereas Macron once spoke of a possible peace when Ukraine decided to seek it, leaving some to assume that Paris might push Kyiv in this direction, he now even speaks of peace “on Ukraine’s terms”, in an increasingly explicit endorsement of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan. What’s more, he mentions the requirements of international law in terms of both borders and justice. On a symbolic level, it also recognizes that Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom of all Europeans. 

Two other points reflect a notable shift in Macron’s thinking. The first concerns the indispensable nature of the security guarantees to be granted to Ukraine.  

Although he had affirmed the principle, he now went further, referring to the multilateral or bilateral framework that could give substance to these guarantees. Above all, he seems to regret the lack of unanimity — a statement implicitly aimed at the US — among NATO members to grant Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a bureaucratic route map that ends with alliance membership. 

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He also shows a desire to move towards concrete results in Vilnius at the NATO summit on July 11-12, because he knows that a repeat of the messy Bucharest compromise of 2008 would tarnish the credibility of NATO and democracies in general, while at the same time engendering terrible frustration in Kyiv — I was able to see during my trip there, three days before Bratislava, how tenacious and persistent this concern was. As Macron now acknowledges, the Brussels organization is no longer “brain-dead.” He clearly recognizes its indispensability, which cannot be fulfilled by other structures. 

The second issue is the EU membership prospects of Ukraine and Moldavia, as well as the six Western Balkan states. While France has been reluctant to approve most EU enlargements, and considered reform of the EU’s institutions and procedures a prerequisite, these prejudices have now been lifted. Macron is now clearly signaling a willingness to open accession negotiations with these two countries at the European Council meeting in December. He is certainly not abandoning his idea of institutional reform, which is essential, but considers it should not be a pretext for postponing enlargement time and again. 

Finally, Macron places his plea for a Europe capable of acting on its own, and less dependent not only on Russian energy sources but also on American support, in a new framework. Whereas his previous pleas for strategic autonomy, often misunderstood in its multiple facets, may have been worrying, particularly in Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe — as some saw in them a renunciation of NATO and a desire to find a third way in relations with Russia and China — his updated idea is gaining credibility. Europe must become capable of taking action, even if the United States abstains; just think what would have happened if Washington had refused to arm Ukraine after February 24, 2022, not to mention Syria in 2013 when President Obama (encouraged by the British Parliament’s vote to abstain from action) refused to enforce his own red lines after the chemical attacks on Ghouta which killed more than 1,400 people. What, Macron asks, happens if a new administration withdraws from the world stage? And thus, Europe must do more for Ukraine, not less. That is a new mindset. 

Of course, Macron now needs to make policy from his ideas. Even if not all French arms deliveries are the subject of public communication, and even if the upgrading of arms and increased munitions manufacturing has not yet been completed — despite already large increases over the last few months — it is indisputable that the French war effort has intensified.  

Despite Macron’s still-cautious words on Vladimir Putin’s trial by international justice, France has been a pioneer in helping Ukraine gather evidence of war crimes. It also supports the establishment of a special tribunal to judge the crime of aggression 

France now has major opportunities:  

For a long time, attempts to re-engage with Putin’s Russia had thwarted Macron’s European “grand design.” The end of these illusions offers him the opportunity to be a European leader in the full sense of the term following his offer of “reconciliation” with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Will he seize it? 

Nicolas Tenzer is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and Chairman of the Center for Studies and Research on Political Decision (CERAP). He is currently a guest professor at the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA, Sciences-Po), and a blogger on Tenzer Strategics, a blog on international security and foreign policy issues. He is a former director of the online journal Desk Russie. 

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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  1. Do you believe Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway? 

The counteroffensive is underway.  

Key indicators: 

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  1. Is it correct that some attacks are just to probe and other attacks are designed to break Russian lines? How does it work? 

 Yes, this is true. Ukraine is trying to destroy Russian supply lines, artillery, and command centers with their drones, artillery, and long-range fires to disrupt Russia’s logistics, communications, and Russia’s ability to fire artillery on Ukrainian forces during an attack.  Meanwhile, Ukrainian reconnaissance forces are conducting probing attacks as part of their reconnaissance efforts to find weak spots in Russia’s defense to exploit. 

  1. How can we judge its success or failure? 

If Ukraine is able to break through Russia’s elaborate defenses, defeat Russia’s dug-in forces, and hold the terrain they’ve captured, success will be met. 

  1. What difference does it make that almost all the reporting of events comes from Russian sources (since Ukraine is being very careful)? 

From a propaganda standpoint, Russia is trying to spin the narrative that they are winning.  If they can control the narrative on the counteroffensive fight, they will likely reassure the Russian population and their troops that victory is achievable.    

However, the Ukrainians will need to counter that narrative to keep Western capitals/NATO on their side.  In my view, Western support will begin to wane if the Ukrainians do not meet at least minimal success between now and the end of the year.  If there’s no success, look for some Western capitals to start talking about a negotiated settlement.

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Stephen Twitty is a Distinguished Fellow and a member of the International Leadership Council at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He is the founder of Twitty and Associates LLC. He has had a series of senior US Army command roles and received numerous awards, notably the Silver Star Medal, the third-highest award for valor, for gallantry in combat in Iraq. 

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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On June 6, the 100ft tall and 2-mile-long Kakhovska hydropower plant (HPP) was detonated. Nearby residents were woken by a series of huge blasts at 2:20 am and soon heard extraordinary rumbling sounds as billions of gallons of water poured through huge breaches in the dam wall. “I’ve never heard anything like it,” one said on social media. 

The dam and its integrated hydroelectric power plant were a Soviet-era project from 1956, built as the last element in the Dnipro cascade of hydropower plants regulating the flow of the river for power supply, irrigation, and drinking water supply to surrounding regions, including Crimea. On average, the reservoir contained 18m square meters of water but it was very full on June 6 following heavy rains. Ukrainian sources speaking to this author said the level was deliberately allowed to rise. 

The Russian army took control of the Kakhovska HPP on February 26, 2022. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russians mined the HPP premises in April of the same year; and in October, additionally mined the dam sluices and pillars. The Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danylov said the detonation was carried out by soldiers of the 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian army, presumably with assistance from military engineers. 

The director of Ukrhydroenergo, Ihor Syrota, believes the plant must have been blown up from the inside, from the engine room, and cannot be restored. He said the work of other HPPs higher up the river under Ukrainian control had been adjusted to diminish the flood. He considers the destruction amounts to a terrorist act. This interpretation is supported by Ukrainian authorities, including the Prime Minister, Denys Shmygal.  

Mykola Kalinin, the chief project engineer of the Ukrhydroproject Institute, which specializes in the design of water-powered energy facilities from the first half of the 20th century, rejected speculation about the dam’s possible collapse from structural failure. The Kakhovska HPP was designed and built to withstand a nuclear strike. In his view, not only were the engine room and several sluice gates destroyed by charges, but so were some spans. Some say 11 of the 28 spans of the dam had to be mined to achieve the effect of a 177-meter breach. 

Around 80 towns and villages have been affected by the flood on both sides of the river, with Ukrainian authorities and volunteers working to evacuate those affected on their side. People are also trying to save their pets and domestic animals; unfortunately, about 300 animals in the Novokakhov Zoo, Kazkova Dibrova, have perished. The situation on the Russian-occupied eastern-southern bank is unknown; still, it may be even more drastic than on the Ukrainian-held western-northern bank, which is higher. Ukrainian media reports say the Russian occupation authorities have left many affected inhabitants to their fate, even in the most affected settlements like Oleshki, where the water level has reached as much as 3 meters (10ft.) The town mayor told the BBC that about 100 people are sitting on the roofs waiting for help: “They are not being evacuated. The Russians are not going to take them out.” Meanwhile, footage has emerged of survivors on the Ukrainian side coming under shellfire as they seek safety. 

The damage to the population and economy is yet to be assessed. At least 16,000 people might need evacuation because of flooding on the Ukrainian-held western-northern bank in the Kherson region alone. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has warned the population about explosive objects being washed downstream by the currents. The cost of damage to private property and infrastructure is yet to be determined. However, the Kakhovskaya HPP’s destruction means a loss of 335 MW of renewable energy capacity, about 5% of the hydropower capacity. More importantly, it will take five years and approximately $1bn to rebuild the HPP. 

The water level drop in the Kakhovsky Reservoir may also pose a threat to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya NPP, which needs water to cool its nuclear reactors. The situation is currently under control. The largest steel mill in Ukraine ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih meanwhile stopped all water-cooled equipment temporarily. The Nikopol Ferroalloy plant may have to significantly reduce production. The Nibulon terminal that holds 76,000 tons of grain is underwater. Kherson power station may be flooded.  

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The flood marks the biggest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades. Irreparable damage will be caused from poisoning by decomposing fish, the washing of chemical fertilizers from fields, and the flooding of landfills and factories. The lower parts of the rivers Bug and Glich will become unsuitable for drinking and agriculture.  

So far, it is known that around 150 tons of engine oil has leaked into the river with 300 tons yet to come. At least 10,000 hectares (27,400 acres) of agricultural land on the west-north bank may be flooded in the Kherson region. Some 94% of irrigation systems in the Kherson region, 74% in the Zaporizhia region, and 30% in the Dnipropetrovsk region are without water.  

Before the detonation, experts had calculated that a 1.5-meter drop in the water level in the reservoir could lead to a loss of 14% of Ukrainian wheat export potential. The lack of irrigation and high climatic risks will force some producers to abandon land cultivation, which increases the risk of desertification. A dramatic change in the climatic regime of the region is expected. The fields in the south of Ukraine may turn into deserts as early as next year. In addition, Black Sea fauna will be severely affected. The overall losses from the death of all biological resources will amount to UAH 10.5 billion (about $285m.) 

In his October address to the European Council, President Zelenskyy warned of precisely this disaster. “According to our information, Russia has already prepared everything to carry out this terrorist attack,” he said, underlining that Russia would carry out the operation under a false flag and blame it on Ukraine. 

When Russia’s role is proven, the world community needs to elaborate effective restraint mechanisms to prevent another potential catastrophe on a bigger scale. 

Russia is still not recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism by the US and will continue to raise the stakes to build its new global order on the ruins of Ukrainian civilization. Ultimately, however, this is not an issue for one country; like all terrorist regimes, it must be confronted by an international coalition.   

Elena Davlikanova is a Democracy Fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA.) Her work is focused on analyzing opportunities for Ukraine-Russia reconciliation with regard to fascism and totalitarianism in Russia and their effects on Russia. She is an experienced researcher, who in 2022 conducted the studies ‘The Work of the Ukrainian Parliament in Wartime’ and ‘The War of Narratives: The Image of Ukraine in Media.’  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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For years Dmytro Ryabko had his own business in Poland. Following the full-scale invasion, he hurried home to Ukraine and joined the army in the far-western town of Uzhgorod where he ultimately joined the 5th Rifle Battalion of the Zakarpattia Territorial Defence Force.

Soon, Ryabko and his comrades were in the frontline defending Borivske near Lysychansk. After 33 days in the trenches (“I didn’t wash, not once,” he says), and carrying nothing but small arms, his group was forced to retreat by advancing enemy forces. By that point, almost everyone had some health issue. Dmytro himself had a problem with his leg and his liver.  

The soldiers were sent to Bakhmut, still quite peaceful then, for medical examinations. And that’s where they were forgotten. The 34-strong group stayed in a local hostel. No one answered their calls; they didn’t know what to do. They ended up writing directly to the Ministry of Defense and other officials to say they were setting off to their base in Uzhgorod. Later they discovered they has been listed as deserters by their commanding officer.  

But while some were considered to have run away, others were in hospital. Eventually, soldiers were taken off the active service list, but at the same time remained military personnel. 

Dmytro endured an odyssey of hospital treatment and medical commissions, but like many of his brothers-in-arms remains in the army, and also not in the army; at the same time.  

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“I’m ‘off staff’ since July 15, 2022,” Dmytro says. That means he’s denied a full military salary and is instead paid only $20 a month. Those “on staff” receive more than 100,000 hryvnias ($2,700 and more.)  

He is taking formal action in the courts against his unit, but he says he has been marked out as difficult because he “talks too much.”  

“But honestly. 10 months of being off staff — that’s just too much”, Dmytro says. He has serious health issues, hardly surprising having served as a frontline infantryman at the age of 52, but is still required to stay close to the battle zone and his unit, which he formally doesn’t belong to. His group is meanwhile denied weapons because technically they are no longer soldiers.  

Photo: One of the places where the group of “out of staff” soldiers had to live. Credit: Courtesy of Dmytro Ryabko
Photo: One of the places where the group of “out of staff” soldiers had to live. Credit: Courtesy of Dmytro Ryabko

“Soldiers discharged during wartime are ghosts in the army, who seem to be absent, but at the same time remain slaves and must continue to serve”, says Volodymyr Sheredega. He was discharged even before a medical commission decided his case on whether he is fit for combat. He was placed off staff because it was decided his treatment was taking too long. A veteran with combat experience gained long before 2021, Volodymyr had suffered a very serious knee injury. 

He’s now also receiving around $20 a month. “You stay in the army and you have to perform some duties there, but without a salary. And it is not clear what your duties are because you do not have a position”, he wrote on social media. 

Photo: Sheredega isn’t allowed to go abroad for medical treatment. Credit: Courtesy of Volodymyr Sheredega.
Photo: Sheredega isn’t allowed to go abroad for medical treatment. Credit: Courtesy of Volodymyr Sheredega.

And since he is military personnel, Volodymyr can’t even get a permission to go abroad to receive treatment and rehabilitation which he would like to do. 

Natalya Feshchyk, a lawyer, and Deputy Chairman of the Military Law Committee in the National Association of Ukrainian Lawyers, has dealt with several “off staff” cases. Just last week, she says, she filed another lawsuit: “On October 10, 2022, a soldier was wounded and made off staff the same day. After that, he received four months of medical treatment, but after two months his pay was terminated.” 

Natalia says that is common. “It’s a huge problem. Something needs to be changed. People undergoing treatment need to feed their families and themselves,” Feshchyk says. 

This is simply wrong and must be tackled. The army’s approach needs close attention and should be reformed with new and detailed legislation. It is not only disrespectful to Ukraine’s wounded and injured, but the system sometimes prevents healthy and inspired people from protecting their country.  

“We also have situations when a person wants to serve, can serve, but remains ‘out,’” Natalya adds. “For example, there are 53 soldiers in the Presidential Regiment who have now been off staff for a year. The commander is having problems getting them back on staff. They don’t know how to do that, there’s simply no procedure . . .” 

Lera Burlakova is a Democracy Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA.) She is a journalist and former soldier from Ukraine. She served in combat from 2014-2017 after joining the Ukrainian army following the Russian invasion of Crimea. Her war diary “Life P.S.” received the UN Women in Arts award in 2021.

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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A breakthrough seems to have ended Bulgaria’s long-running political crisis after the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and the reformist coalition of We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB) agreed to share power.  

Bulgaria’s two main political factions reached the deal on May 22 deal after GERB nominated former EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel as its candidate for prime minister. The other parties had previously refused to enter talks with Boyko Borisov, the former prime minister and communist-era Interior Ministry official, who led GERB in April’s inconclusive elections, after widespread allegations of corruption against his government and mass protests in 2020-2021.  

Under the new rotating premiership, Gabriel, who is set to become Bulgaria’s first female prime minister, will take over from the PP-DB’s Nikolai Denkov after nine months. The potential return of stable government increases the prospect of Bulgaria joining the European Union’s (EU) borderless Schengen Area and single currency after two years of deadlock and five elections that had until now failed to break the political stalemate. 

The crisis began after Kiril Petkov’s We Continue the Change ended GERB’s long run of power in a 2021 election, riding the wave of protests against high-level corruption and control of the state by an oligarchic mafia. The resulting coalition only lasted six months before it collapsed when one of its partners, the populist There is Such a People party, withdrew its support over a decision to lift Bulgaria’s veto of North Macedonia’s EU accession talks. Successive attempts to form a new government then failed.  

The protracted impasse only served to benefit Russia. It frustrated Bulgaria’s implementation of reforms needed for Schengen and Eurozone accession and strengthened pro-Russian sentiment among sections of the electorate. The pro-Kremlin Revival Party finished third in the election in April behind GERB (25.4%) and the PP-DB (23.5%), on the back of growing disillusionment with the political leadership, taking 13.5% of votes. 

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The crisis only deepened after Revival refused to enter a coalition with the other parties. This forced Bulgaria into a caretaker government nominated by its president, Rumen Radev, who has in the past made sympathetic remarks about Russia.  

The new power-sharing deal wrests control back from the president and should give Bulgaria a chance to reset programs of reform and return to its European path. But there may be trouble ahead, not least the possibility that PP-DB’s decision to enter government with GERB could damage its credibility with voters as a genuine reformist coalition. 

Kiril Petkov has said that the deal agreed upon is not a formal coalition, but a rotational premiership, and a precedent for such a model of governance exists elsewhere in southeastern Europe. Romania, Bulgaria’s northern neighbor, is a prime example. The experience there suggests PP-DB might be rewarded at the ballot box for ending a period of political uncertainty at a time when Bulgaria faces the challenges of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and war in the region. 

Whatever the electoral prospects for the reformist coalition, the new agreement will help to shore up Bulgaria’s constitutional processes. The resumption of normal government business in Sofia will alleviate the growing concern that President Radev had overstepped his powers under Bulgaria’s system, in which executive authority lies primarily with the government.  

In a move opponents described as unconstitutional, Radev took control of foreign policy and positioned Bulgaria as an outlier in the EU response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. With the return of an elected administration, the new government is in a position to reassert constitutional principles and reverse the creeping powers of its head of state.  

The end to the political deadlock also means that Revival may find it harder to sustain its newly acquired popular support. Despite some deeply-entrenched pro-Russian sentiment in Bulgaria, an increasing number of voters hold a negative view of Russia after the full-scale invasion. An Alpha Research poll conducted in April found 63% of Bulgarians supported the EU and NATO while only 15% favored stronger ties with Russia. These findings suggest that containing the rise of Revival is possible if the pro-European government delivers political stability. 

The political uncertainty in Bulgaria cannot be addressed with a single agreement alone, and the success of the power-sharing arrangement will be judged on whether it can make substantial progress on reform while maintaining the confidence of MPs. While Gabriel’s European credentials are clear, some in the PP-DB, like Daniel Laurer, a senior figure, said his party remains distrustful of GERB. 

A lot is at stake for both GERB and PP-DB and their promise of ridding Bulgaria of corruption and cementing its place in Europe. At the very least, both sides are willing to work together for a Bulgaria weary at the lack of action on the crises it faces, and that’s a crucial first step. 

Hugo Blewett-Mundy is a commentator and consultant. He holds an MA in Russian and Post-Soviet Politics from the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies and writes about current affairs in Central and Eastern Europe.  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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The UK remains a semiconductor power. Arm, like myself based in Cambridge, designs many of the world’s most energy-efficient and powerful chips. But the UK is too small to act alone. It needs partners. 

After multiple delays, London finally has outlined its chips strategy. The 60-plus page document represents a step forward — and yet it contains serious gaps. It neglects the need to work with the EU and fails to detail how to confront China.

On the positive side, the first pillar of the strategy “Grow the domestic sector” targets start-ups and innovation. Unlike the EU and US, the UK will avoid subsidizing incumbents. 

This should allow for more “bang for the buck,” since the amount of UK funding available is small compared to the two giants. The UK plans to spend £1 billion on R&D in startups and SMEs — compared to the US’s $11 billion on R&D in its US CHIPS Act. Dedicated semiconductor competitions will be organized and start-ups can access up to £20 million of non-dilutive funding under certain conditions.

On the negative side, the plan to help startups could benefit from additional ambition. No mention is made of incentivizing pension funds. or profitable large companies, both domestic and foreign, to invest in UK tech.  Above all, no mention is made of collaboration with the EU, with its highly skilled base of engineers which has huge synergies with the UK ecosystem.

Instead, London targets collaboration with Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, in the latter case exchanging academics and engineers 

The big question is where exactly will the UK secure its semiconductor supply from, and how? No mention is made of Germany and France, where big new publicly subsidized chip plants are being built. Perhaps this is too politically sensitive for the current government? As a result, the plan for “mitigating supply chain disruptions” lacks the substance needed to make a real difference, with no new investment or policy change.

The “Protect our national security” section has a solid basis in the Digital Security by Design initiative. This consortium, led by Arm — and the University of Cambridge, designs new processor hardware that is inherently secure, whereas current processors need security bolted-on.

The main gap about security is how to confront Beijing. China, or any other bad actors, are never targeted by name. The UK strategy only speaks about Beijing as producing “91% of the world’s gallium” and about its huge state investment. No mention of how the Chinese are attempting to force Arm to cooperate with Chinese semiconductor industry, or how Arms entire assets in China were effectively stolen from its shareholders.

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The UK’s record on pushing back against China is mixed. While the new strategy calls to protect security sensitive UK assets, the government seems to apply the principles inconsistently. It cleared the acquisition of flow sensor developer Flusso, a Cambridge startup, by “a company and a global private equity fund” according to the Flusso press release. The acquiror later turned out to be one entity, Shanghai Sierchi Enterprise Management Partnership LP.  

After a year of indecision, the government blocked the Chinese acquisition of the indebted Welsh semiconductor manufacturer Newport Wafer Fab. This is a production facility for legacy technologies, and looks much less strategic than Flusso. 

The issue is complex and the new strategy fails to answer a key question: how would the likes of Flusso get an exit if a Chinese acquisition is blocked? Without an exit route, investors will not invest. What kind of corporate or institutional fund could the government facilitate to substitute for Chinese acquisitions of strategic UK tech assets? 

Both the US and EU have passed ambitious Chips Acts. Overall, the UK strategy represents an improvement on the EU’s plans through a more targeted use of more limited taxpayer funds, but remains less ambitious than the US.  

The EU is pouring €43 billion of public funding into semiconductors. Its focus is on subsidizing struggling incumbents, not sparking innovation or creating an ecosystem. Much of the money is going to Germany’s Infineon to build a plant near Dresden, ST Microelectronics to build in France, and to Intel to expand in Germany. The EU plan sets an arbitrary — and probably unrealistic — goal of achieving 20% global market share, which will not in any case achieve the kind of technology sovereignty that the EU aspires to. 

Instead, the EU should have focused on innovative R&D, while supporting its strengths in advanced imaging and chemical compounds. Both fields are crucial to the semiconductor supply chain and the EU holds competitive advantage, thanks to the likes of ASML in the Netherlands and BASF and Merck in Germany. These companies are subject to export controls to China.  

The US CHIPS Act supports incumbent manufacturing – as well as the strategic goal of bringing world-leader Taiwan Semiconductor to the US. It also supports research and development and facilitates scale-up of promising startups. It has a clear focus on national security and sets out clear rules for restricting Chinese subversion.   

The UK finds itself caught between the EU and US. Its natural partner is Europe. UK chip design is well suited to benefit from the increasing French and German chip investments. The UK’s new semiconductor strategy is positive and a step forward. But it misses the opportunity for a big win-win cross-Channel cooperation.

Christopher Cytera is a Non-resident senior fellow with the Digital Innovation Initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a technology business executive with over 30 years experience in semiconductors, electronics, communications, video, and imaging.

Bandwidth is CEPA’s online journal dedicated to advancing transatlantic cooperation on tech policy. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

CEPA is proud to be a visibility partner for POLITICO’s first #POLITICOGlobalTech Day, happening on June 15 during London Tech Week. Click above to get continuing updates and to be a part of this momentous day with a packed program.

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First, the facts — The Kakhovka Dam, behind which lies a huge reservoir of 18bn cubic kilometers of water, was breached on June 6. This has resulted in an environmental and human calamity that is grave even by the standards of Russia’s 15-month-old war in Ukraine. 

What happened? Reports suggested a huge series of explosions broke the dam and freed an enormous weight of water to move down the Dnipro River. Large areas of Southern Ukraine are now flooding. Nova Kakhovka, near the dam, is under 11 meters (36ft) of water. As many as 80 towns and villages are being evacuated as far as Kherson, more than 50 miles away. As many as 17,000 people are being evacuated. Tracts of inhabited land are becoming swamps. 

The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant which is upriver of the breach, should not be affected. 

Who controls the dam? Russia. But it denies that the facility was blown by its engineers and said the area had been under Ukrainian shell fire since last year. There have been a series of attacks on dams throughout the conflict, in particular Ukraine’s 2022 destruction of the Irpin dam that helped its defense of Kyiv. But most attacks on dams have been Russian as part of its campaign against power facilities.  

Who did it? Both sides are capable of destroying the dam, but Russia would benefit more. 

Indeed, it’s hard to see what Ukraine would gain. It has long warned that Russia had mined the facility and took responsibility for destroying infrastructure in the past (see Irpin, above.) The land affected is Ukrainian and so are the people. The long-term costs will be considerable. 

Most compellingly, such an operation behind enemy lines would be difficult, highly risky, and utterly counter-productive.  

On June 4, many observers of the conflict announced that Ukraine had begun its long-expected offensive against the Russian invader. The Kakhovka Dam’s destruction came less than 48 hours later. 

In one sense, the question misses a broader point. As Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “There is only one thing responsible for this environmental catastrophe: Russia's criminal war of aggression on Ukraine.” 

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What does the breach signify in military terms? By widening the River Dnipro below the dam, the Russians would make an already significant water obstacle much more formidable. The dam also had a road running across the top that may have been useable by the military. Russian commanders may always have intended to blow the dam once the Ukrainian offensive began, in order to strengthen their flank. And they may have been worrying for some reason — Ukrainian military statements have taunted Russia with small-scale crossings of the river, and it’s also the case that some Western-supplied equipment is amphibious, including armored and bridge-laying vehicles. The Economist reported that Western military sources believed Russia was almost certainly responsible. 

Russian commanders may hope that with the eastern bank of the Dnipro secured, Ukraine’s shortest route to Crimea will be blocked, forcing it to send its assault forces into better-prepared defenses to the southeast of Zaporizhzhia. If so, this very considerably reduces the area of front Russia’s generals will need to defend. 

Are there other reasons to suspect Russia? There are multiple reasons to suspect Russia. 

But Russia has denied involvement. That’s the point. The credibility of Russian denials has been tested time and again. 

Among its standout denials: 

In short, it is always possible that Russian denials are true. It’s more likely though that the Kremlin’s extensive record of dishonesty is being extended once again before the world’s eyes. 

Francis Harris is Managing Editor at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He was previously a foreign correspondent in Prague, London, New York, and Washington.  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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How times change. 

Remember when the Kremlin insisted the Nord Stream pipelines must be built because the transit network passing through Ukraine was old and leaky (while oh so accidentally slashing that country’s budget revenues)?  

Now it seems Russia has changed its mind, and that Ukraine’s transmission system may not be that old, nor terribly leaky after all. 

At the start of June, deputy foreign minister Mikhail Galuzin warned Europe it may be in for more tough times if Ukraine refused to renew the existing contract, which is due to expire at the end of 2024.  

That’s an empty threat. With additional gas importing capacity being deployed across the EU and a rising tide of liquefied natural gas (LNG) expected to reach global markets by 2025, Europe should, in fact, be heading for a period of oversupply and a return to cheap energy prices.  

Not even countries such as Austria and Hungary, which currently rely heavily on Russian gas, should be at risk if they secure alternative supplies elsewhere and ensure optimal access to transport capacity, as explained in a recent CEPA article

The only three countries that will suffer as a result of the transit contract expiration would be Ukraine, the Russian-occupied Transnistrian province of Moldova, and Russia itself.  

For Ukraine, the loss of transit to European customers will mean a loss of revenue. Under the terms of the current contract, Russia is expected to pay around $1bn annually irrespective of whether it actually ships the gas.  

However, since May 2022, when it reduced supplies via Ukraine, it has been paying around 30% less.  

While Ukraine’s income from the gas transmission is much reduced compared to the substantial profit it made prior to the war, it still represents around 80% of the annual revenue of the gas transmission system operator, GTSOU.  

This means that in the absence of a renewed contract, the Ukrainian gas transmission system operator will have to dismantle vast parts of its network and find new sources of revenue to survive.  

One solution would include scaling up Ukraine’s production of biomethane, whose molecule is identical to natural gas, and ramping up east-to-west exports to Europe.  

Thanks to its vast landmass, Ukraine can produce large amounts of biomass, which could be converted into 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually. 

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However, those volumes will likely reach markets only by 2050. In the mid-term, a more realistic figure would be 3bcm by 2030.  

The other option is to work with neighboring countries — Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland — to expand existing interconnection capacity to allow more natural gas sourced in central Europe to be imported and injected into Ukrainian storage, the largest in Europe. 

Absolutely critical, however, would be Romania, with which Ukraine has the largest interconnection capacity of close to 30bcm/year, only 10bcm/year lower than the current annual transit capacity contracted by Russia’s Gazprom.  

Nevertheless, although Romania holds five interconnection points with Ukraine — four on the south-eastern border with Ukraine close to the Black Sea and one in the north close to the Hungarian border — the Romanian gas operator, Transgaz, has freed up only one interconnection point with a north-south capacity of 5bcm/year. The capacity in the opposite direction is barely above 2bcm/year. 

The additional interconnection capacity would be of tremendous utility, and not only to Ukraine, which could transit more gas to and from Romania and the region. It would also serve Romanian and Balkan traders looking to take advantage of Ukraine’s storage capacity. 

As for Moldova, the impact would not be felt except by the breakaway Russian-controlled Transnistrian province.  

Russia has historically exported 3bcm of gas annually, of which 1bcm was consumed by Moldova and 2bcm was shipped to Transnistria on the east bank of the river Dniester. Given its small population of under half a million, most of this gas has been used to generate electricity that is exported back to Moldova. 

However, with Russia reducing gas supplies to Moldova twice over the last two winters, Chisinau has learnt its lesson and managed to diversify away, securing alternative sources of supply. 

Nevertheless, Moldova will remain partially reliant until the second half of the decade when a new interconnection with Romania is completed.  

Lastly, the end of Russian exports through Ukraine will hurt Russia.  

With Gazprom cutting gas supplies to Europe last year by 80% of historic volumes, deliveries have now been easily overtaken by LNG and Norwegian pipeline imports.  

Russia is expected to supply less than 40bcm via Ukraine and Turkey this year, less than a third of its exports at the start of 2021.   

Once its contract with Ukraine expires, its transit options to Europe will be limited to Turkey since its Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged in 2022.  

That’s what makes the renewal of the Ukraine contract of supreme importance for the Kremlin. 

This may explain why Russia spared Ukraine’s gas transmission network even as it saturated the electricity transmission system with missiles.   

Its attempts to persuade China to buy more gas have so far failed, its ability to ship more LNG to global markets is strangled by sanctions, and the European market may now have closed forever after importers found alternatives.  

A global gas glut is now looming. Western sanctions to paralyze its upstream production and Europe’s decision to switch away from fossil fuels in the long term could wreak irreversible damage on Russia’s gas industry.  

The Kremlin will thus desperately seek to preserve its transit routes and, possibly, lock in more buyers.  

It may even argue that the renewal of the transit contract with Ukraine is necessary to supply gas to Moldova and use this as a pretext to extend the transit agreement to other countries.  

So Moldova needs to fast-track integration of the Transnistrian electricity and gas transmission systems with its own, attract more investment into renewable capacity, and work closely with Romania to ensure the electricity interconnection is completed on time by 2025.  

Meanwhile, Ukraine should reject the temptation to agree on a new contract, even if its gas transmission system operator is heavily cash-strapped.  

Europe must continue its unflinching support of Ukraine in finding viable alternatives, but Ukraine must play its part too.  

Aura Sabadus is a Non-resident Senior Fellow with the Democratic Resilience Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). She works as a journalist specializing in European energy markets for the London-based Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS). 

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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