Troubling 2024: What Challenges Will Ukraine Face?

November 7, 2023
The turbulent year 2023 is coming to an end, but the year 2024 promises to be no less perilous for Ukraine.
Photo credit: Meysam Azarneshin /Adobe Stock

The prolongation of the war and Russia’s increased military capabilities mark the end of this year. But is 2024 going to be even more challenging? And what are the options?

UkraineWorld asked Valentyn Badrak, the Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

Three major challenges can be singled out for Ukraine in 2024. The first - external - a reduction in financial, material and technical assistance to Ukraine. It is especially concerning as the war moves into the "attrition warfare" phase.

Not only the level but also the quality of material and technical support is at stake. The USA, Ukraine's main source of support, is experiencing political unrest and more questions are being raised in political circles about the scope and content of Ukraine's assistance.

The representatives of Congress want to see a plan for how Ukraine will win, what weapons are needed, and how these weapons will turn the tide in the war. Thus, more conditionality of support is looming.

The US House of Representatives has already approved a separate military aid package for Israel separate from the Ukraine aid package.

This situation, however, has the potential to develop in one of two ways. The assistance could be reconsidered with a negative outcome for Ukraine, or it could open up possibilities. The outcome is heavily influenced by political developments in the United States.

However, Ukrainian operations continue to be significant for the US. Ukraine should be more articulate in substantiating the gravity of its support by appealing to more rational arguments.

In this regard, General Zaluzhnyy's article in Time magazine was exceptional. He outlined the challenges that the Ukrainian Army is facing and offered solutions, emphasizing technological solutions.

Another factor of this issue is financial assistance to the Ukrainian government. If the Ukrainian government does not receive adequate funding, the issue of financing military production, weapon procurement, and military salaries may arise.

Furthermore, it would jeopardize Ukraine's overall economic stability.

The second challenge is internal. Its first aspect consists of the issue of mobilisation and military training. Corruption scandals hindered the operation of territorial centres of recruitment, and now it is so important to restore their smooth operations.

Military training necessitates the involvement of a larger number of Ukrainian combat instructors. NATO instructors are less effective because they are unfamiliar with the nuances of this war and lack first-hand experience.

Another aspect is the lack of an effective defence industry management system. Numerous entities are responsible for fragmented tasks. For example, the Ministry of Economy deals with modernization; the Ministry of Digital Transformation works on drone capabilities; the Special Service of Ukraine is responsible for sea drones; the Ministry of Defence is in charge of innovations.

Ukraine lacks a structured approach to weapon design, production, and procurement, as well as a strategic development vision. For example, more than 200 companies of different forms of ownership are involved in drone production in Ukraine. But they aren’t integrated into a system that provides the strategy of this segment development.

Another issue is associated with the modernization of basic assets. Approximately 45 defence companies have been damaged to varying degrees.

There’s no publicly available information on the stage of their renovation. However, it is important to not only restore but also modernize these facilities.

It would be unfair to say that Ukraine failed to develop its defence industry. On the contrary, its relaunch was scheduled for 2023.

More funds have been allocated to local weapon production. The production of drones and ammunition has received special attention. The production cycle and testing process were simplified, resulting in faster weapon delivery to the frontlines.

However, these positive gains can only be scaled up if a well-structured defence industry management system is in place.

The last challenge is of a geopolitical nature. It is the war in Israel. It is a part of a wider picture.

It can be considered as the asymmetrical attack of Russia together with Iran on the Western bloc in an attempt to undermine current global security architecture and exhaust the West.

It has several other side effects for Ukraine. First, the shift of international focus away from Ukraine. Second, if the war in Israel is prolonged, Ukraine could receive less assistance than it needs.

Currently, the situation looks manageable. Regional players - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar - don’t seem to be interested in escalating the conflict, and the USA and Europe are managing to keep the situation under control. But this challenge is likely to persist in 2024.

Anastasiia Herasymchuk, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at UkraineWorld
Valentyn Badrak, the Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.