It remains unclear what the West, its individual states and Ukraine mean by „victory“ and what the war aims are supposed to be. While British Foreign Minister Liz Truss believes that the Ukrainian army should retake Donbass and Crimea, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil said that „Ukraine should not win, just not lose“. While Blinken offers a neutral Ukraine, Austin advocates NATO membership for Ukraine. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has formulated the goal of driving Russian troops completely out of Ukraine. „We will act faster and go further to oust Russia from all of Ukraine,“ Truss said in a speech on security policy in London on Wednesday evening. According to commentators, this not only refers to the regions attacked since the end of February, but also to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 and parts of the long-fought Donbass region. The government in Moscow has threatened the West and Britain in particular. „The Russian army is on 24-hour stand-by to launch retaliatory strikes on decision-making centers in Kyiv with long-range, high-precision weapons,“ the Defense Ministry said would be present, the ministry said. The threats are apparently in response to statements by the Secretary of State for Defense James Heappey. The Conservative politician told Times Radio that he did not see any problem with the use of British arms by Ukrainian forces against Russian territory.
Previously there had been reports of a major fire at a Russian oil depot near the Ukrainian border. It is unclear whether the fire was caused by an attack by Ukrainian forces. But the incident sparked speculation about whether weapons supplied to Ukraine by NATO countries could have been used on Russian territory. It was „perfectly legitimate for Ukraine“ to attack targets in Russia in order to disrupt the logistics of the Russian army and prevent further bloodshed on its own territory, Heappey said. If weapons delivered from Great Britain were used, it was “not necessarily a problem”. After all, there are many countries that use imported weapons. However, it is not the country in which they are produced that is held responsible, but the country from which they were fired.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin became the first US officials to visit Ukraine since the beginning of the war. There was no show in Kyiv at the meeting on Sunday, rather the two posed behind a conference table, framing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj in front of the flags of both countries. No PR consultant was able to plan for the two US politicians to be taller than Selenskyj by a (Austin) or half a head (Blinken), but it fits: the two big ones protect the brave little one who, without help, cannot face the bully from the neighborhood can exist. The photos published at the conference table of the work meeting with employees from both sides signaled: We’re talking business. Last but not least, the addressee of this message was probably the Russian government. The next two weeks will show whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will seek an agreement temporarily ending hostilities before May 9, the day celebrating Victory in World War II. This is indicated by statements by high-ranking politicians such as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in which the „liberation“ of Donbass is described as the most important goal of the „special operation“. Should such an initiative come about, the Ukrainian government would face a difficult decision. Ukraine could de facto accept the previous Russian conquests within the framework of a ceasefire agreement. This would give Russia the opportunity to consolidate its position in the occupied territories militarily and politically, for example through manipulated referenda such as in 2014 in Crimea and in the “people’s republics” of the Donbass.
Ukraine could de facto accept the previous Russian conquests within the framework of a ceasefire agreement. This would give Russia the opportunity to consolidate its position in the occupied territories militarily and politically, for example through manipulated referenda such as in 2014 in Crimea and in the “people’s republics” of the Donbass. In view of Ukraine’s military successes, even restoring the country’s territorial integrity, i.e. recapturing Donbass and Crimea, no longer seems entirely unrealistic. However, advancing on the peninsula, which is only connected to the mainland at a few points, would be much more difficult than attacking advanced Russian positions in eastern and southern Ukraine. Statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the context of attempts to negotiate with Russia indicate that his government is pursuing another option: a return to the 2014 status quo.
Ukraine would then not recognize the annexation of Crimea, but would accept it, as well as the occupation of the „people’s republics“ that Russia recognized as independent states shortly before the invasion began. Even if Ukrainian forces manage to push back the Russian invaders far enough, it’s unlikely that Putin would acknowledge this in a formal deal that he couldn’t sell domestically as a victory. Should there be a Russian offer of a ceasefire based on the current course of the front, the Ukrainian government would have to reject it if it does not want to lose territory again. That any agreement with Putin would only give the country a break before the next attack is now doubted or ignored only by those who want to stay in business with Russia. But they are not only found in Germany. In the case of France, too, it is not clear what President Emmanuel Macron’s repeatedly stated willingness to talk to Putin means; most French companies operating in Russia do not want to go out of business.
The Ukrainian government is dependent on constant military supplies and is therefore open to blackmail. The Western states have not yet formulated clear goals in their Russia policy, and the US government has also been cautious in this regard. A bit more clarity was provided during Blinken and Austin’s visit to Ukraine. They want to „see Russia weakened to the point where it’s unable to do things like invade Ukraine,“ Austin said; a spokesman for the National Security Council added that the attack must become a „strategic failure“ for Russia. This suggests that the US would support a decision by Ukraine to launch counteroffensives to push back the Russian army, even if ¬Putin offered an end to hostilities. Two months after the start of the war, Washington sets itself new goals. The American government is preparing for years of conflict with Moscow. Two months after the start of the Ukraine war, the tone has changed in Washington. When Antony Blinken appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, he sounded almost enthusiastic: he had just returned from Kyiv with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The trip left unforgettable impressions, said the Foreign Minister. When both of them traveled through Ukraine by train, they saw landscapes that a few months ago Russia believed it could conquer within weeks. In Kyiv, people then felt that life was returning to the dynamic capital. „The Ukrainians won the battle for Kyiv,“ said Blinken. And: Ukraine will continue to be a free and independent country. He is proud of how America has supported Kyiv – and is convinced that we must not easen the pressure on Russia.
Austin had previously made it clear that Washington was not only increasing its military aid, but also changing its strategic objective. In Poland, the defense minister said on Monday: „We want to see Russia weakened to an extent that makes it impossible for the country to do what it did with the invasion of Ukraine.“ Russia has already lost many of its military resources and also many soldiers. „We don’t want them to be able to quickly replace those resources.“ Later, government officials made it clear that Austin’s testimony was aimed directly at giving Volodymyr Zelenskyy the strongest hand in any possible ceasefire negotiations in the coming months. Blinken referred to this in Congress: „Our goal is to ensure that they (the Ukrainians) have the ability to repel Russian aggression and strengthen their position at a future negotiating table.“ The American administration would not object if Ukraine would become neutral as part of a peace settlement and renounce NATO membership. However, he added that so far there has been no sign that Vladimir Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations.
Washington is aware that the broadening of strategic goals is changing the American role in the conflict with Russia. When the war started in late February, President Joe Biden was prepared. Coordinated with the allies, severe sanctions against Moscow, military aid for Kyiv and the strengthening of the eastern flank of the NATO alliance area followed. However, Biden always made it clear that he was not aiming for a direct confrontation with Russia. Therefore, he made it clear that he was not sending any American soldiers to Ukraine. And that’s why he also rejected Zelenskyy’s call for a no-fly zone. Biden continues to reject a direct confrontation, which harbors the risk of a third world war. But Austin’s words reflect the fact that, given Russia’s war crimes and Ukraine’s military successes, Washington is pursuing goals that go beyond strengthening Kiev’s negotiating position. The purpose of the sanctions was to prevent the development and production of new weapons in Russia. After all, the Russian defense industry depends on importing high-tech components. Even when Biden announced the sanctions at the time, he said the aim was to weaken the Russian economy and the military „over the years“.
In view of Moscow’s military difficulties, which have not been overcome with the concentration of fighting on the Donbass, the boundaries are blurred: Biden initially justified the arms deliveries to Kyiv by saying that he wanted to help a small democracy defend itself against a large neighbor. The heavy weapons that Washington and many Western allies are now supplying are not only intended to increase the costs of Russia’s war, but also to weaken the country in its defeat for the long term. The dispute is believed to have lasted for years. As in the Cold War, America is once again becoming the central European power. It pays a price for this: the Biden administration cannot concentrate solely on the rivalry with China. Of course, Washington’s course correction harbors dangers. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of waging a proxy conflict with Russia and warned of the danger of a nuclear world war.
Britain’s top diplomat has called for Russia to be comprehensively defeated in Ukraine and for Nato, the United States-led military alliance in Europe, to assume a worldwide role as part of a more robust Western response to what she claimed is a return to great power rivalry. Delivering a yearly policy address to top business leaders and ambassadors accredited to the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss warned that if the Russian invasion of Ukraine succeeds, the world „will never be safe again“.
„So, we must be prepared for the long haul,“ Ms Truss warned, adding that Britain will be „doubling down“ on its military support for Ukraine, and will also „keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine“.
The appeal to inflict a total defeat on Russia confirms a marked hardening of the approach to the war, although it is far from clear that these objectives are shared by all Western governments.
Until recently, the main Western objective was to provide the Ukrainian government of President Volodymyr Zelensky with enough arms and financial aid to ensure that his country is not taken over by Russia.
Over the past week, however, top officials in the US and Britain have started redefining the war’s objective – from just making sure that Ukraine won’t lose the war, to one of ensuring that it wins.
Addressing 40 defence ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and other allied nations at a US military base in Germany at the start of this week, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said „Ukraine clearly believes that it can win“.
„And so does everyone here,“ he added, referring to his international audience.
The decision to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons such as tanks and highly mobile artillery pieces is also based on the assumption that the country’s armed forces can now change pace, by seeking to expel the Russian troops altogether.
And while in the past Western governments were worried about a prolonged war with all its implications for casualty rates among Ukraine’s population, there is now a growing acceptance that a war of attrition may be precisely what Ukraine is facing.
„The war in Ukraine is our war – it is everyone’s war because Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us. Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes – digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,“ Ms Truss told decision-makers in London.
Other British ministers are ready to go even further, by urging the Ukrainians to take the war to Russia’s own soil. This week, Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said that Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory were „completely legitimate“ and that if they were carried out with British weapons, it would „not necessarily be a problem“.
But while Western politicians may be aiming for an outright Ukrainian victory, their military commanders are adopting a more cautious approach.
For example, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that „the next two, three, four weeks will shape the overall outcome of this fight“,implying uncertainty about Ukraine’s strength.
Nor is it very clear that some of the other key Nato members such as Germany and France share Britain’s objective of inflicting a total defeat on Russia. And there is even less of a consensus about the British Foreign Secretary’s surprising proposal that Nato should assume a global role.Ms Truss began her speech by delivering a sideswipe at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who „argued that the West was declining“. She went on to reject what she called „the false choice between Euro-Atlantic security and Indo-Pacific security“.
„In the modern world we need both,“ she said. And to achieve this, she called for „a global Nato“.“By that, I don’t mean extending the membership to those from other regions. I mean that Nato must have a global outlook, ready to tackle global threats,“ she added.The proposal is well-timed, for Nato will hold a special summit in June to agree on its future structures and tasks.The discussion also started if Ukraine should become NATO and EU member. After Selensky offered Putin a neutral Ukraine without Nato membership, he rejected this proposal again and sticks now to the former constitutional amendment that Ukraine must become NATO member. Secretray of Defense Austin declared in Ramstein that Ukraine should become a member of NATO. The former US ambassador to NATO , Ivo Daalder who in 2006 demanded a “Global NATO” in an programmatic article in the Foreign Affairs, now also in an article in the Economist wants an extended NATO, also with Ukraine:
“Ivo Daalder says NATO enlargement didn’t go far enough
America’s former ambassador to the organisation says Russia would have been deterred, not provoked, by a bigger NATO
“UKRAINE IS NOT just a neighbouring country for us,” declared Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a rambling, raging speech in February which set the stage for war. “It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space.”
It was a shocking speech which reverberated around the world. Western countries mobilised an unprecedented response to the invasion through sanctions and through military aid to Ukraine. Much of the rest of the world united in condemnation of Russia—though heavyweights such as India and China did not.
Although Mr Putin made his case for why war would be justified, for some the fault lay elsewhere. The principal responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis, John Mearsheimer argued in an article for The Economist’s By Invitation section on March 19th, lay with “the West, and especially America”. He says the crisis can be traced back to NATO’s decision after the cold war to bring in new members. Professor Mearsheimer particularly blames America because in 2008 it foolishly pushed to extend NATO membership to Ukraine (and Georgia)—ignoring Moscow’s red line.
He could not be more wrong. Even before Russia’s war on Ukraine, far too much ink was wasted on whether NATO was at fault for Russia’s threat to Ukraine. But after war started—after Putin had declared Ukraine’s statehood a fiction, after bombs rained on hospitals and shelters for children, after the pitiless bombardment of Mariupol had begun—after all this, still to blame NATO is, frankly, absurd.
When the cold war ended, the countries of central and eastern Europe could, for the first time in decades, look to a future free of external domination. The question was whether it would also be a future free of war. In 1990 Professor Mearsheimer argued that we all would soon miss the cold war. He believed that without it NATO would collapse along with the Warsaw Pact and that America would withdraw from Europe.
Professor Mearsheimer’s worries about Europe’s future were shared by leaders in Washington, and throughout European capitals. But rather than calling it quits on NATO and withdrawing American troops from Europe, American leaders understood that Europe’s future stability required the continued presence of both. They rallied around a vision that President George H.W. Bush laid out in May 1989 for “Europe to become whole and free”. NATO would be a critical instrument for both endeavours.
In the early 1990s, the countries of central and eastern Europe asked to join NATO so they could enjoy the same peace and security that western European members of the organisation had long enjoyed. The North Atlantic Treaty anticipated the possibility of adding new members, as it had even during the cold war. NATO adopted an “open door” policy towards membership, which was fully consistent with security declarations signed by all European countries, including Russia, enshrining the right of all states to choose their own alliances and security arrangements.
In the 15 years after the Berlin Wall came down, ten countries formerly incorporated in the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union joined the Atlantic alliance. Although Moscow expressed its displeasure at times, it developed a close relationship with the alliance through the adoption of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 and the creation of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002. Indeed, in 2000 Mr Putin even raised the possibility of Russia joining NATO.
The prospect of membership in both NATO and the European Union provided central and eastern European countries a vital incentive to reform their economies and governance structures to become market democracies. Membership also provided security guarantees from America and other NATO members that they had long desired. These guarantees were particularly important for countries such as the three Baltic states and Poland, which border Russian territory.
For NATO and the new members, as for other states in Europe, enlargement thus created security and stability in the very part of Europe that historically had been the source of conflict. Even so, Europe’s zone of security and stability didn’t extend all the way across the continent. Ukraine, in particular, remained outside NATO’s security umbrella.
In 2008, Kyiv sought to change that when it asked NATO to start the process of bringing Ukraine into the Atlantic alliance. NATO countries were divided over the wisdom of taking that step, with some worried about Moscow’s reaction. Rather than deferring the issue for lack of consensus, NATO settled on a formulation that closed off an immediate path to membership but promised Ukraine would become a member in the future. The compromise pleased no one. Ukraine received a promise but not actual membership, and NATO allies remained as divided on the issue as before.
Russia was not pleased either. “Ukraine is not even a country,” Mr Putin told George W. Bush. Despite NATO’s promise in 2008, Ukraine is no closer to NATO membership now than it was almost 14 years ago. Strangely Professor Mearsheimer claims otherwise, suggesting that it’s “a de facto member of NATO” since America started training Ukrainian forces and, later, sending defensive weapons to Ukraine after Russia first invaded it in 2014.
That’s ridiculous. Before the war, NATO repeatedly said it would not defend Ukraine because it was not a member. Five weeks into the war, NATO still asserts that it will not come to Ukraine’s defence—though it will defend “every inch” of NATO territory.
The problem is not that NATO enlargement went too far. The problem is that it didn’t go far enough. If Ukraine had been a member of NATO—if American and NATO troops had been deployed to its territory to defend the country—Mr Putin would have thought twice before starting a war with a nuclear-armed alliance militarily superior to his own army. That is the potency of deterrence. With American and NATO troops on the ground, the onus of starting a war with NATO would have been on Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the onus to intervene and go to war is on NATO—not Russia.
Therein lies the real lesson for the future. Whenever this war ends, NATO will have to decide whether to invite Ukraine to join the alliance and thereby deter a renewal of Russian aggression. Given the damage and destruction that Russia has already caused, that should be an easy decision for NATO to make.
Ivo Daalder served as America’s permanent representative to NATO between 2009 and 2013. He is now the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an American think-tank.
In an article “Let Ukraine in” The Atlantic Ivo Daalder also demanded Ukraine`s NATO membership:
“A strong U.S. commitment to support Ukrainian membership in NATO is vital to persuade other members to follow suit. Because the key to success will be Germany and France, early, high-level engagement with Berlin and Paris will be important. Their opposition in 2008 doomed progress on Ukrainian membership, and without their consent a new effort will go nowhere. Both countries, however, are strong advocates for bringing Ukraine into the EU. NATO membership would represent a small additional step and would bring the U.S. in as a guarantor as well.”
The Russian reaction
How are the reactions in Russia to these western voices? Again, there seems to be a difference of opinion. The Russian military and intelligence elite are reportedly calling for an escalation of the war in Ukraine. So far, Russia has acted too cautiously. The Russian military elite is apparently insisting on more far-reaching attacks in the escalating Ukraine conflict. The Focus reports, citing the Center for European Political Analysis (CEPA) in Washington. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military goals are not enough for the Russian military elite, the so-called „siloviki“, they say. According to CEPA, parts of the Russian army consider Russia’s strategy to be catastrophic. According to these views, Russia is not waging a war against Ukraine, but against NATO. The US think tank, in turn, referred to high-ranking intelligence officials in its presentation. In the war against Ukraine, Russia is officially aiming for complete control over the entire Donbass and the south of the country. This has been one of the army’s tasks since the beginning of the „second phase of the special operation“, Major General Rustam Minnekayev said on Friday, according to Russian news agencies. One goal is to create a land connection between the annexed Crimea and areas occupied by Russia.
According to Minnekayev, deputy commander of the troops of the Central Russian Military District, control of southern Ukraine could also put Russia in a position to support the pro-Russian separatists in Transnistria in Moldova. This would also create a „corridor to Transnistria,“ where there are „also cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,“ he said. According to some sections of the siloviki, however, the Russian military is behaving too cautiously. According to the CEPA, some Russian military officials believe that Russia is only fighting under „peace restrictions“. So far, Russia has only launched airstrikes on key areas of Ukraine’s infrastructure. Reports of destroyed theatres, hospitals and residential areas paint a different picture. Some members of Russia’s military elite are now calling for all-out war, writes Focus.
Another hypothesis is that the Russian secret service FSB does not inform Putin properly. The former head of the responsible department, Sergei Beseda, is said to have already been arrested and is in prison.
In the Moscow Times Andreij Soldatov claims that the imprisonment of FSB intelligence general Beseda is not just a routine act like the firing of other incompetent intelligence officers or generals, not comparable to the alleged suicide waves of Russian oligarchs and that in contrast to Putin´s fight against “foreign agents” like NGOs , Russian democratic opposition as the “5th column of the West” outside the Siloviki, he now seems to shift his fight against “foreign agents” to an alleged 6 th column of the West inside the Siloviki and the elites as Glasjev, Karaganov and the Isborsk Club are demanding.
“Why is a Russian Intelligence General in Moscow Lefortovo Prison?
Incarceration in one of Moscow’s most notorious prisons is not standard operating procedure.
Updated: April 12, 2022
Colonel General Sergei Beseda, head of the Fifth Service of the FSB, is being held in Lefortovo prison.
Beseda was placed under house arrest in March. Rumor had it that Beseda fell out with Putin – it was his Fifth Service of the FSB which was largely in charge of providing intelligence about the political situation in Ukraine and, more importantly, for cultivating political support for the Kremlin in Ukraine.
The FSB tried to downplay Beseda’s arrest, presenting it as a mere questioning of the powerful general. But now I’ve learned from my sources that this “mere questioning” didn’t save Beseda from a cell in Lefortovo Prison.
This is a good indicator of how the relationship between Putin and his beloved secret services had changed by the second month of the war.
The Fifth Service is the only department in Lubyanka that was created by Putin when he was director of the FSB. In 1998 Putin established a tiny directorate to supervise regional sections in charge of recruiting foreign nationals and gave the directorate a large mandate to spy in the former Soviet Union. In twenty years, it became the powerful Fifth Service, Putin’s chosen weapon to keep former Soviet countries in the Russian orbit. And it was run by one of Putin’s most trusted generals at Lubyanka, Sergei Beseda.
Beseda started his career in the Department of Counterintelligence Operations, the crème de la crème of the FSB. There Beseda was promoted to the position of deputy to Valentin Klimenko, the chief of the section in charge of countering CIA operations in Moscow. Ironically, Klimenko was also one of the main liaison contacts for Moscow’s CIA station in the 1990s and the early 2000s.
In 2003 the tiny directorate created by Putin became a full department, and that was when I began to investigate its actions. The new department kept operating in the former Soviet Union but was also given a new sensitive task – to take over the role of Klimenko’s unit as liaison contact with the CIA. Beseda, as a former deputy of Klimenko, was transferred to the new department and put in charge.
The work of the department, later made into the Fifth Service of the FSB, was actually nothing but a series of diplomatic disasters. Beseda’s officers were caught red-handed everywhere, from Abkhazia to Moldova to Ukraine, where Beseda himself was present during the Maidan revolution. But Putin kept Beseda around — until this war.
There are several explanations for why Putin decided to throw Beseda under the bus now. Some say it’s due to the bad intelligence before the war. But inside the FSB most sources seem to think it was his failure to create and fund a pro-Kremlin opposition to Kyiv’s regime. In any case, that is being used in the official line of investigation, according to sources.
But those theories cannot explain why Putin decided to send Beseda to Lefortovo. Putin had plenty of other options. He could have fired Beseda, as he did with Roman Gavrilov, the deputy commander of the National Guard. Putin could have also transferred him to another agency, as he did with the powerful General Oleg Syromolotov some years ago, when he made him deputy minister of foreign affairs. Instead, Putin placed Beseda under a false name in Lefortovo prison – the only prison in the country under control of the FSB, a place with a gruesome reputation from the 1930s and 1940s. The prison still has an underground shooting range pitted with bullet holes made during Stalin’s purges when this cell was used for mass executions.
The most likely explanation is that Beseda’s Fifth Service was also still in charge of maintaining official contacts with the CIA. Many people in Moscow and the Kremlin have been asking themselves why U.S. intelligence before the war was so accurate. This might have added more to the already existing climate of paranoia. And when Putin gets paranoid, he starts looking for traitors in the places and institutions which are known to have official contacts with American intelligence.
That was the case in 2016, when Putin became paranoid about what the U.S. intelligence knew about his agencies’ interference in the U.S. election. Back then the Information Security Center of the FSB was purged, and the deputy head of the center, Sergei Mikhailov, who was officially in charge of sharing information with the Americans on cyber issues, was promptly sent to Lefortovo under a charge of treason.
In 2022, Putin is once again in a paranoid and angry mood, and Sergei Beseda is already in Lefortovo.“
According to Focus, Russian blogger and intelligence veteran Alexander Arutyunov has also called for the war in Ukraine to escalate. In a video addressed to Putin, he is said to have said: „Dear Vladimir, make up your mind, are we fighting a war or are we just playing around?“ The video is said to have subsequently gone viral in Russian intelligence and military circles. Another Russian Telegram channel associated with the Russian Air Force announced that from now on more Ukrainian targets will be attacked in order to stop arms shipments from the West. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had also indicated this. In addition, according to the report, the channel claimed that further successes by Ukrainian troops would “almost certainly provoke the use of nuclear weapons”.
The differences of opinion between the Kremlin chief Putin and parts of his military elite are a new phenomenon in this form. According to Focus, the siloviki were united behind the Russian president when Crimea was annexed in 2014. It is likely that the Ukraine war will escalate further. Although Putin is the supreme commander, it is still the military and the secret service that carry out the military actions. May 9th is a special day for Russia. It is victory day for the country. The day of the surrender of the German army in 1945. The victory in the anti-fascist Great Patriotic War. Every year Moscow celebrates this date with a parade on Red Square.
In the wake of the Ukraine war, many experts assume that Vladimir Putin wants to celebrate a great victory on that day. A great victory that he desperately needs to strengthen his power. But not all war analysts still share this view. Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) assume a different scenario in their latest study on Russian „Operation Z“ in Ukraine. They believe that Putin does not want to celebrate victory on May 9, but wants to unleash an inferno. Watling and Reynolds write: „May 9 has turned from a deadline for victory into the beginning of a huge mobilization.“ The Russian leadership has recognized that it needs time to realize its goals in eastern and southern Ukraine. For that you need a major offensive in the summer, they say.
A serious victory by May 9 has long been unlikely. Therefore, „Victory Day“ could be used to mobilize large numbers of troops. The war researchers speak of a “turning point”. „May 9 could be the day when the Russian leadership no longer speaks of a ‚military special operation‘ but of ‚war‘. In Russia, the rhetoric is already changing, according to Watling and Reynolds. It’s no longer about a conflict with Ukraine. Statements by the Russian leadership have long been about a conflict with NATO. Foreign Minister Lavrov recently emphasized that NATO is waging „a proxy war in Ukraine“. – Prepare for a long war Experts at the Center for European Political Analysis (CEPA) agree: In a report they write: „Russia’s military believes that it is a mistake to limit the goals of the war. They argue that Russia is not fighting Ukraine, but NATO.“ The Russian military is therefore demanding total war, including a large-scale mobilization. Mike Mazarr, defense expert at US think tank Rand Corporation writes about the new theory: “It could be threatening gestures by the Russians. But it could also be true and Putin is actually changing course. The risk of such a scenario cannot be ignored.”
Should Putin really start the national mobilization on May 9th and announce to his people that they are at war with NATO, according to Mazarr this would mean „a great dilemma for the USA and NATO“. So far, the US has been trying to “massively weaken” Russia. But if Putin allows the situation to escalate further, the question arises whether direct war intervention can still be avoided.
And how does Putin address his people in the official Russian propaganda? Putin seems to be leaving no threat unspoken in the Ukraine conflict. On Wednesday (April 27, 2022) he threatened other countries with a “rapid reaction” if they intervened militarily in Ukraine. The Russian military will not hesitate to use the most modern weapons, Putin told parliamentarians. Russia has “all the tools” for a quick counterstrike: “We will not brag about it for long: we will use it if we have to. And I want everyone to know that,“ Putin said. Of course, Vladimir Putin alluded to Russia’s nuclear arsenal with “tools”. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also insisted on warning of a third world war. Russia’s state media also seem to have picked up their president’s rhetoric, the US news portals Daily Beast and Newsweek report. Russia: Propaganda compares West in Ukraine war with Adolf Hitler Accordingly, the state media claimed that World War III was imminent. Speaking on the Russian program 60 Minutes, host Olga Skabeeva described the Ramstein summit on Ukraine’s rearmament as a „sign that this is a third world war, not just a special operation anymore.“ A total of 40 countries are united against Russia. „They declared war on us.“ The political scientist Mikhail Markelov even compared the opponents of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to Adolf Hitler. „The representatives of these forty different countries are today’s collective Hitler.“
That same evening, the head of Russia Today, Margarita Simonyan, fantasized about the outcome of a possible nuclear war between Russia and NATO. In the show “Evening with Vladimir Soloyov” the presenter Soloyov initially complained that the West had decided “to play the big game. Those are the bastards with no morals.” Finally, Margarita Simonyan added: “I personally think that the most realistic path is that of World War III, knowing us and our leader Vladimir Putin and knowing how everything works here, it is impossible – there is no chance – that we give up.“ In an absurd-sounding fantasy about a possible nuclear apocalypse, Simonyan added: “It will all end with a nuclear strike. To me that is more likely than the other outcome. I’m appalled by it, but I also know that’s the way it is.” Soloyov agreed, reassuring the Russian audience that “we’re going to go to heaven while they’re just going to die. We will all die one day.”
However, fierce rhetoric and dramatic doomsday-saying, maybe even as psychological weapon to influence the Western public and its decision makers, but I remember that during the Korean war and after the first Sovjet nuclear bomb test, everybody thought that Stalin was invading Berlin and then the rest of the West within 3 weeks. But it didn´t happen. Then the Berlin crisis when US and Russian tanks were confronting each other at Check Point Charlie, ready to shoot at each other at any time as a potential trigger of WW III. But it didn´t happen. Then the Cuba missile crisis which brought the world at the abyss of a global nuclear war. But it didn´t happen. Then I the 80s the NATO maneuver Able Archer 83 which nearly caused the Third World War which also was described by the bestselling book “The Third World War” by Sir John Hacket and other NATO generals. And it didn´t happen. And while Putin wants a general mobilisation at May 9th at the Red Square, we doesn´t want to be barbecued by US strategic nuclear forces. Even if Russia uses chemical, biological or tactictal nuclear weapons in Ukraine, this will cause no NATO intervention or a nuclear response by NATO. The Baltic state scenario of a hybrid attack to paralyze NATO is more plausible in the midterm, but not an attack on NATO states. Maybe a nuclear demonstration explosion off the Scandinavian coast to prevent their membership. But in the West there are a least two factions. On the one side those who think Putin is only bluffing and that the West should not appease his inflationary nuclear and escalation threats as Reagan, the idea of limited nuclear war and offensive deterence and not the Ostpolitik lead to the fall of the Evil Empire and those who think that the West is underestimating the escalation potential and acting like “Sleepwalkers” as Christopher Clark described in his book the situation which lead to WW1. Well. We are also not sure, but believe that the first option is more plausible, even if we see the danger of some sort of escalation.
However, general mobilisation in the midterm means that Putin would mobili, se the economic and military resources, fresh troops, even not voluntarily youth and remaining resources to get the Donbass, the landbridge and head towards Transnistria and in the next step occupying the rest of Ukraine. As the Ukrainian forces are very resilent and alos would be especially as a guerilla against a occupation force, this needs a general mobilisation as at the moment there are no real progresses at the war front for Russia. And if he got stuck in a Ukrainian trap like Brzezinski always wanted ato see the Russian collapse in Ukraine like the Afghanistan trap, Putin has no other option than a general mobilisation. And if even this should fail , he might use weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical or tactical nuclear weapons without a real perspective to get a Novorussia that is not contanimated by nuclear radiation, pandemia or whatever. And also with all reactions of the world community as even the Chinese might not support this sort of final solution. However, even in the event that Putin is using weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine, NATO and the USA will not intervene directly and militarily. Ukraine will then only be a failed state out of the map with no perspective of a reconstruction and on the other side no win for Novorussia. Lawrow also said that Russia would attack Kijv and not care about the security of Western politicans who want to visit Selensky in his headquarter. However, when Gueterres vistited Selensky there were some Russian rockets on Kyiv, but they were more noise than a real threat. However the question was if Selensky and Melnyk would bring Olaf Scholz to their headquarter for a Canossa path, what would happen if Scholz got killed? Would we experience some sort of reaction like the assasination of the Austrian crown prince at Sarajevo in 1914? Also not very likely. At the moment general mobilisation would mean try to conquer Ukraine and maybe Transnistria. It would not be the total mobiilisation for a great war against NATO with nuclear strikes against NATO territory and the roll back of NATO to the 1997 borders. Maybe it would be more like the more holistic “protracted war” Putin´s friend Xi implements on the Chinese military, economy, culture and society at the moment. But if Putin has success with his general mobilisation and in Ukraine, maybe there will be an even more extended general mobilisation to confront the NATO states directly and to transform the Russian economy in a purely war economy for a longterm standoff against the West with the support of Xi-China´s” protracted war” preperations.