December 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2023
Download Complete Forecast: PDF


Expected Council Action

In December, the Security Council may hold one or more meetings on the situation in Ukraine, depending on developments on the ground.

Key Recent Developments

Hostilities in Ukraine are concentrated in the eastern Donbas and southern Kherson regions. In November, Ukrainian forces established positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson. Concurrently, Ukrainian troops are repelling Russian offensives in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, with heavy fighting reported along the Kupiansk axis and around the city of Avdiivka, respectively. In an 18 November intelligence update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said that “neither side has achieved substantial progress” on any front, noting that “[a]s colder winter weather sets in earnest in eastern Ukraine, there are few immediate prospects of major changes in the frontline”.

On 1 November, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, acknowledged that the war had reached a stalemate and that the counteroffensive launched by Ukraine in June might not achieve a significant breakthrough. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously recognised the counteroffensive’s slow progress, cautioning against overly optimistic expectations of rapid success. Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Ihor Zhovkva rejected Zaluzhnyi’s assertion on 4 November, arguing that his statement “eases the work of the aggressor” and stirred “panic” among Kyiv’s allies.

Last month, the Security Council maintained its regular focus on Ukraine, holding four meetings, consistent with its engagement level in previous months. On 8 November, Council members convened for an emergency meeting on Ukraine at Russia’s request to discuss an incident that occurred on 7 November, in which shelling by Ukrainian forces reportedly killed six people and injured at least 11 others in the city of Donetsk. Following that meeting, the Council held closed consultations regarding the 26 September 2022 explosions that damaged the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

On 17 November, the Council convened for an open briefing on Ukraine under the “Threats to international peace and security” agenda item. Russia requested the meeting to discuss its allegations that Ukrainian authorities are persecuting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. (For more, see our What’s in Blue stories of 7 November and 16 November.) At the request of Albania and the US, Council members held a briefing on 21 November to discuss the humanitarian consequences of the war, in particular its effects on domestic and global food security. At a press briefing following the meeting, Russian Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia announced that Russia would organise an Arria-formula meeting on 8 December, focused on the history of Maidan. (The Maidan, or Euromaidan, protests in 2013 and 2014 led to the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 16 November, the Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health (Yale HRL) issued a report titled “Belarus’ Collaboration with Russia in the Systematic Deportation of Ukraine’s Children”. The report found that at least 2,442 children, including children with disabilities, have been taken to Belarus from 17 cities across the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions. The report emphasises that “Russia’s systematic effort to identify, collect, transport, and re-educate Ukraine’s children has been facilitated by Belarus” and is “ultimately coordinated” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

On 15 November, the Third Committee of the General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/C.3/78/L.42) by a vote of 77 in favour, 14 against, and 79 abstentions on the “Situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”. The resolution condemns Russia’s ongoing occupation of the Ukrainian territories and urges Russia to adhere to its obligations under relevant international law and bring an “immediate end” to violations of international human rights law against residents in the occupied territories.

Key Issues and Options

The overarching priority for the Council is to promote a solution to the conflict in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter and to facilitate dialogue among the parties to that end. The direct involvement of a permanent member in the conflict, however, continues to limit the Council’s options.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Security Council remains starkly divided on the conflict in Ukraine and the appropriate framework for achieving a peaceful resolution. Ukraine and its allies have advocated for a just peace, conditioned on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders. Other member states have emphasised de-escalation and diplomacy, with some calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities without any preconditions, a move that could freeze the front lines of the conflict and leave Russia in control of a significant amount of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine. Most members continue to express concern over the mounting toll of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure and the conflict’s global repercussions.

On 8 November, the European Commission, an executive body of the EU,  recommended initiating EU accession negotiations with Ukraine. Zelenskyy welcomed the recommendation, saying that “Ukrainians have always been and remain part of our common European family”. EU leaders are expected to discuss Ukraine’s EU bid on 14 and 15 December. On 9 November, EU member Hungary opposed starting membership talks with Ukraine, advocating instead for a form of “privileged partnership” rather than full membership.

November saw persistent concerns in Kyiv regarding the possibility of diminishing Western financial support for Ukraine in light of disagreements within the US House of Representatives over US assistance to Ukraine. In October, US President Joe Biden appealed to the US Congress to endorse a $106 billion emergency aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and the southern US border. However, on 2 November, the House of Representatives passed a $14.3 billion standalone aid package for Israel, which was subsequently blocked by the US Senate on 14 November. Moreover, a temporary spending bill signed into law by Biden on 16 November did not address the issue of continued aid for Ukraine.

The ongoing crisis in the Middle East, triggered by the 7 October attack by the Palestinian armed group Hamas on Israel, has continued to cast doubts on the ability of Kyiv’s Western allies to maintain their level of international political support for Ukraine. On 6 November, Zelenskyy acknowledged that the escalating situation in the Gaza Strip was “taking away the focus” from the conflict in Ukraine.

In his speech at the 2023 EU Ambassadors’ Conference on 6 November, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles echoed Zelenskyy’s concerns, noting that “the crisis in the Middle East is already having a lasting impact on [the EU’s] policy in Ukraine”. Borrell acknowledged that “international support for Ukraine may erode in light of what is being seen as the practice of double standards”, as some “take advantage of the crisis in the Middle East to underscore what they see as a contradiction in our positioning”. Russia has increasingly criticised Western countries’ approach to the situation in the Middle East. During the 8 November Council briefing on Ukraine, Russia drew parallels between the residents of Donbas and those of Gaza, claiming that since 2014, the former have been living in a similar “paradigm” to the latter, in which Western countries have ignored Kyiv’s crimes against the civilian population as they have done with Israel’s aggression against Gazans.

Ukraine’s Western and other allies, nonetheless, have sought to reassure Kyiv of their unwavering support. At a press conference on 7 November before a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) coalition of highly developed nations, Japanese Foreign Minister Yōko Kamikawa stressed the importance of the G7 reaffirming its “unchanging commitment to strict sanctions against Russia and strong support for Ukraine”, particularly “as tensions increase in the Middle East”. In a statement following the meeting, the G7 emphasised that its “steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine’s fight for its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity will never waver”.

Sign up for SCR emails

Security Council Meeting Records
17 November 2023S/PV.9481 This was a briefing on Ukraine, requested by Russia.
8 November 2023S/PV.9470 This was a briefing on Ukraine, requested by Russia.

Subscribe to receive SCR publications