MAIN TAKEAWAY OF THE MONTH
No side made major military advances in the Ukraine war during December. The weather conditions and the increasing weapons’ shortage made kinetic warfare difficult. However, Russia continued targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure, which resulted in leaving the country without heating and electricity for most of the month. Meanwhile, Kyiv has proved its ability to strike far beyond Russia’s borders, with strikes in the oblasts of Saratov, Ryazan, Kursk and Bryansk. In Russia, while Vladimir Putin declares he wants to intensify the fight in Ukraine, the public support for the war seems to be dwindling, with recent polls showing an increased interest in peace talks and more and more deserters being reported. At the same time, The Kremlin has imposed additional authoritarian legislative measures, while Western companies are being replaced by Chinese competitors on its internal market.
Also in December: The European Union (EU) has imposed a price cap on Russian oil, but its effectiveness in limiting Russian profits is being questioned and Russia announced it considers retaliatory measures. The EU’s current success in reducing its gas demand is augmented by several initiatives aimed at reducing reliance on Russian gas. Croatia’s application to join the Schengen area was accepted by the EU while those of Romania and Bulgaria were rejected. The EU needs to have consensus over decisions of expanding the Schengen area and while Austria has vetoed Romania’s accession, the Netherlands has previously announced that it will block Bulgaria’s accession. This decision has boosted pro-Russian propaganda in Bulgaria, where the internal political crisis seems to be leading into another snap election. It could also help the rise of eurosceptic parties in Romania. In the Western Balkans, regional leaders gathered in Tirana for a summit to discuss the prospects for the region’s integration into the EU. Meanwhile, tensions remain high between Kosovo and Serbia (who have still to resolve their Northern Kosovo car plates crisis), while Kosovo has sent its formal application for joining the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina has finally been granted candidate status by the EU member states.