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In Global Guardian's monthly Risk Barometer, our Intelligence Team highlights current global hotspots with the potential to impact your business operations and travel. Read below for analysis on the threats we are closely monitoring this month in Ukraine and click here to subscribe for regular intelligence updates.

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War Enters Third Year with No End in Sight

As the Ukraine War enters its third year, Ukraine is again on its back foot amid recent Russian victories. The conflict may be nearing an inflection point. Western support for Ukraine — particularly from the U.S. — is fleeting. At the same time, Putin’s reorientation of Russian society towards a more total prosecution of the war is returning dividends in manpower, ammunition, and Kremlin control at home. With the capture of Avdiivka — Russia’s first significant win since taking Bakhmut roughly a year ago — Ukraine is scrambling to reform its defensive lines. Ukrainian forces are now a reverse image of their Russian opponents: losing manpower, machines, and materiel at an increasing rate.

The changing dynamic on the front is translating into personnel shake ups in Kyiv, and discursive shifts within NATO and Russia. President Zelensky finally broke publicly with former Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhny, replacing him with former head of ground forces Oleksandr Syrsky. French president Emmanuel Macron floated the idea of sending NATO troops to participate in the conflict more directly, an idea met with approval by NATO’s ex-Soviet Eastern flank, consternation from some in the West, and nuclear threats from Vladimir Putin. With the 2024 election in the United States (U.S.) approaching — and with it the realization that American support for European defense is no longer a given — European officials are looking to shore up support for Ukraine.

  • Global Guardian recommends against all travel to Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson oblasts in Ukraine.
  • Proper threat assessments should be conducted prior to all travel to the uncontested regions of Ukraine.

Recent Events

  • 11 March: Sweden formally joins NATO.
  • 07 March: France and Moldova sign a defense and economic agreement to include a French defense security mission in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, by the summer.
  • 05 March: Moldova's national intelligence agency warns that Russia is preparing to interfere in Moldova's referendum on EU integration and presidential election in the fall.
  • 28 February: Transnistria requests Russian protection from Moldova.
  • 26 February: Macron suggests the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine.
  • 18 February: Russia captures Avdiivka, Donetsk in Moscow’s biggest gain since it captured the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk in May 2023.
  • 08 February: President Zelenskyy removes Ukraine's commander-in-chief General Zaluzhny.


Russia’s war production has resulted in economic growth despite more than two years of sanctions. In terms of artillery shells, Russia is expected to produce four to five million rounds this year, in addition to a further two million acquired from North Korea last year. Russia is producing over 250,000 new artillery munitions per month and it is using around 10,000 shells a day in battle. Ukraine forecasts that Russia will be able to recruit another 400,000 men this year (even without conducting a full-scale mobilization).

Meanwhile, Ukraine finds itself depleted in terms of both manpower and munitions, hampered by a U.S. congressional impasse which paralyzed billions of dollars in aid. In comparison to Russia, the U.S. only produces around 30,000 155mm shells a month and NATO as a whole will only produce around 1.2 million 155mm shells this year — which marks a dramatic ramp up from its previous industrial capacity. Ukraine only uses around 2,000 shells a day, and is facing manpower shortages in its combat units. Ukrainian military strategists bet on its summer 2023 counteroffensive being more successful and in turn, did not focus — like the Russians did — on digging strong secondary defensive lines behind the front. Russia looks to press its advantage and possibly introduce more soldiers as the year progresses.

Looking Forward

At this juncture, Russia has zero incentive to take its foot off the gas. With the 2024 U.S. elections looming, Russia will do everything it can to gain the strongest possible negotiating position, in the hopes that a new administration in Washington will shift its Ukraine policy, or even alter its security relationship with Europe writ large.

Major territorial changes are improbable in the near-term. The pervasive use of relatively inexpensive shoulder-launched rockets and unmanned systems, combined with Ukraine’s topography, and the use of artillery and mining make gaining ground costly and challenging. However, while improbable, Russia does have the ability to open other fronts in Ukraine, which would drastically alter the overall security picture. In addition, it is possible that Russia attempts to destabilize Moldova in the lead up to its referendum on EU integration and presidential election in the fall.

Key Takeaways

While the loss of Adiivka doesn’t constitute a strategic setback for Ukraine and its Western benefactors, it does point to two overarching concerns for Ukraine: munitions and manpower. Ukrainian mobilization and securing foreign military assistance will be critical in the coming months.

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