Different assessments: Will Putin attack Ukraine?

Different assessments: Will Putin attack Ukraine?

How strong or weak is Ukraine`s military? In 2014, the Ukrainian armed forces were not prepared for war. That has now changed with the help of the NATO countries. Why does Ukraine need weapons from the US and Europe at all? After all, the country itself exports arms and armaments, for example to China, Uganda, Indonesia, Poland or Bangladesh. But the Ukrainian armed forces have two weak points: the navy and the air defenses. With the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine also lost a large part of its fleet. The naval force consists only of Coast Guard boats procured from the United States and other Western countries. This „mosquito fleet“ is defenseless against the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The air defenses are very similar. The Ukrainian army also has little to counter a massive tank attack and an offensive from the air. That is why the Javelin anti-tank missiles, thousands of British NLAW anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles the country is currently receiving from the Baltic States are so significant. The United States had already supplied Ukraine with 30 Javelin anti-tank missile systems in October. On January 18, the first NLAW grenade launchers arrived from Great Britain. They are a meter long, weigh 12 kilos and are fired from the shoulder. With anti-aircraft missiles and 48 Turkish Bayraktar drones, Ukraine is attempting to counter Russian air superiority. But the so-called M141 Bunker Busters, which Ukraine is receiving from US stocks these days, are designed to “neutralize enemy fortified structures” and can hardly be viewed as purely defensive weapons. The same applies to the US helicopters that have been deployed in Afghanistan to date.

100,000 Russian soldiers are said to have deployed at the border. They face 200,000 Ukrainian soldiers. Ever since the days of Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian strategist, it has been assumed that an attacker must outnumber them by a ratio of 3:1 in order to be successful. In fact, the Russian superiority is far greater. According to Radio Free Liberty, 850,000 people are under arms in Russia. In the air, the Russian superiority is about 13:1.But RFL is a US financed source and we don´t know if this is part of the psychological propaganda operations. According to the Slovo i Dilo (Word and Deed) portal, in 2021 Ukraine received about half a billion dollars in military supplies from the United States. The US defense budget includes an additional $300 million in military aid for Ukraine. The US has given Ukraine more than €2.5 billion in military aid since 2014. British support is almost as extensive. Last November, London provided the equivalent of 2 billion euros to rebuild Ukraine’s navy. Minehunters, modern warships and missiles are to be delivered.

Indeed, Ukraine experienced two crushing defeats at the hands of pro-Russian insurgents, in Ilovaisk in 2014 and in Debaltsevo in 2015. „If you want peace, prepare for war“ has been the mantra ever since, both in the media and in the army leadership. The insurgents are said to be unable to achieve a similar victory a third time. Now the army is better and more effectively structured, it is based on NATO guidelines, and the units are trained by NATO personnel. As early as 2014, Moscow had given the separatists military training and supported them with soldiers. On Tuesday, the leader of the Russian ruling party United Russia, Vladimir Vasilyev, said he would ask the head of state to send arms to the „people’s republics“ of Lugansk and Donetsk. It is relatively likely that Vladimir Putin will comply with this request.

But the danger is not just an allout war, but more a hybrid war.Any sabotage of the infrastructure can destabilize the situation. In January 2012, for example, three men brought down a power line pylon near the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant just because they were sawing out some pieces of metal. This reduced the power of the nuclear power plant by 40 megawatts. It is the largest in Europe and supplies electricity to almost all of southern Ukraine. The incident showed how vulnerable highly industrialized Ukraine is to even a comparatively insignificant sabotage. Russia and Belarus could also blackmail the country by stopping energy exports. Ukraine is dependent on both gas and coal supplied from or via Russia. Since Moscow blocked coal transports, the country has been importing nuclear power from Belarus, currently 800 megawatts per hour. According to Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko, Ukraine has been waiting for 660 thousand tons of coal from Kazakhstan since January. Should the Russian fleet block the Kerch Strait – the strait between the Azov and Black Seas – the damage would be extremely devastating. The same applies if Russian ships should besiege the Ukrainian seaports. If neuralgic points in the infrastructure were then attacked at the same time, panic among the population would probably be inevitable. It is possible that this will be more of a hybrid war with a naval blockade and sabotage of critical infrastructure than an open battle.

Selensky accuses Biden of scaremongering and ignorance of the situation. But Western military officials also assess the situation differently. Some assume that Putin can at best occupy eastern Ukraine, others like Milley speak of the occupation of Kiev and the whole of Ukraine, and even of the danger of spread and spillover of the war beyond the borders of Ukraine. The latter can only be assumed if one assumes that Putin’s 100,000 soldiers are only the vanguard of a much larger invading army. However, one of the Putin advisors Dr. Rahr claims that Putin”only wants get back the core states of Riussia and that is not Western Ukraine”. “Only” is a good term and would mean Belaarus and Eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has criticized the rhetoric of some heads of state and government in the conflict with Russia. According to Zelensky, they overestimate the danger of a war between Kiev and Moscow. This creates „panic“ and destabilizes the Ukrainian economy. Although the danger from the Kremlin is „threatening and constant“, the Ukrainian population has learned to live with it after the invasion in 2014. „They say tomorrow is the war. That means panic,” Zelenskyy told reporters on Friday evening (January 28). Earlier, the American broadcaster CNN, citing Ukrainian officials, reported that the phone call between US President Joe Biden and Zelenskyy „didn’t go well“. According to this, Biden and Zelenskyy would have different views on the timing of a possible Russian aggression. While Ukraine insists that Moscow does not yet have enough troops on the border for an immediate attack, the US is anticipating an invasion any time soon.

Biden is said to have advised Zelenskyj to prepare for the „attack by Russian troops“. He also hinted that the capital, Kiev, could be taken by the Russian army, Ukrainian officials told CNN. According to Biden, another Russian invasion of Ukraine is almost certain. However, Zelenskyj does not share this view. He reportedly told Biden that the threat was „dangerous but uncertain. „I am the President of Ukraine, I live here and I think I know the details better than any other President,“ Zelenskyy said in a statement to reporters. He does not want to be grateful to the United States „just because it is the United States“. He has no problems with Biden and does not criticize him. However, the only thing that matters is that he understands everything that is happening in his country more deeply than Biden. After all, Biden understands better than anyone what is happening in the United States.

According to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, an escalation of the Ukraine conflict can be prevented. „Conflict is not inevitable,“ Austin told journalists in Washington. „There is still time and place for diplomacy,“ he added. Russian President Vladimir Putin could also „do the right thing,“ said Austin, who rarely appears before the press. There is no reason „that this situation has to lead to a conflict“. Putin could decide to „de-escalate“ and „withdraw his troops“. US Chief of Staff Mark Milley has warned of the destruction and casualties that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops would result in. If war really did break out, „it would result in a significant number of casualties,“ Milley said. „You can imagine what that would look like in urban areas, on streets,“ he added. „It would be horrific,“ Milley said.

While the conflict is escalating, the German government is critizised for its denial of arms delivery to Ukraine. 5000 helmets are perceived as “a joke” as Vladimir Klitzkov thinks and Germany also could send some pillows as next support. But nobody says exactly what to deliver instead. Mines, anti-missiles, Roland, bazookas, howitzers? Some also probably think, like Baerbock, that this was a kind of division of labor – Germany as the good cop and honest broker and focusing on economic and more civilian support. Zimmermann-Strack was at the ARD/ZDF morning show MoMA today and explained that Germany would support Ukraine with cyber defense and medical aid, which nobody  would mention. Of course aid In the civilian medical sector, not for the wounded on the battlefield, but civilians. Almost perverse. Apparently they wouldn’t treat Ukrainian soldiers, would they? However CDU Chairman Friedrich Merz critizised the traffic light coalition that the would make a clown of Germany in the international public. However, Merz also refrained from Swift sanctions against Russia with the argument that this could create a financial crisis and a decoupling and formation of a Eurasian financial bloc for the West. However we don´t know how much assetts Russian oligarchs and the elite have in Blackrock capital or how much assets has Blackrock in Russia. Maybe Merz´s interest is similar to Gazprom Schröder.

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