Red Winter for Ukraine? Will Russia invade Ukraine this January? Western analysts are increasingly believing that Russia could launch an assault on Ukraine as soon as early 2022. An estimated 90,000 to 120,000 Russian troops are apparently in position along Ukraine’s border, with 2,600 of them already present inside the country, according to the Ukrainian GRU.
Gas and oil prices are high enough for Russia to currently run a very comfortable budget surplus, stashing large quantities of foreign currencies in Sovereign Funds. The EU is desperate for gas and Nord Stream II is about to be (finally) accepted and start supplying Europe with a steady stream of cheap Russian gas… The German energy regulator has suspended the approval process of the pipeline, but only because the Nord Stream 2 company is registered in Switzerland… Berlin wants the company to transfers its main assets and staffing budget to its German subsidiary. We’re talking administrative bickering, here. The project is almost 100% guaranteed to go ahead. Especially if the winter gets cold!
Italy and France are pushing for more communication with Russia, working hard to pull Moscow back from isolation. President Biden spoke on the phone to President Putin in January 2021 as well as July 2021. The two men also met in June and September 2021.
So why would Moscow gamble it all for a military adventure in Ukraine?
Here at Defensionem, we believe that the two sides of every story deserve to be explained. We take pride in remaining impartial and neutral when analyzing events, history or covering a conflict. Unfortunately, the media in general and the press in particular seem to have given up on unbiased reporting. Indeed, rather than present facts in a neutral fashion, it seems that every news outlet out there is more interested in pushing a narrative. We are not pointing the finger at one country/publication in particular, this seems to be a global phenomenon with OpEds published in well known outlets even openly questioning the need for journalistic objectivity! Long story short, this article will delve into the Russian perspective of this particular situation, not because this author or this website have chosen a side, but because the Russian perspective is very clearly absent/hidden/ignored in the West. The official narrative seems to be that Russia is some sort of brainless Hollywood baddie that is aggressive for no particular reason whatsoever. The first step into understanding an enemy is to delve into its understanding of a given situation, its motives, its point of views, fears and interests. Yet, while the press here in the West paints russia as an enemy, very little effort is dedicated to explaining why this would be so. The truth, as ever, is situated firmly in the middle between Eastern and Western propaganda. The situation is not black and white, but rather overwhelmingly painted in grey tones. So here is a list of facts, reasons, perceptions and justifications seen/felt from and by the Russian side that may start explaining why the West and Russia are currently in this current situation along the Ukrainian border.
It looks like Moscow is starting to believe Kiev is not interested in respecting the Minsk Agreement and is just playing for time, delaying while rearming. Some in Moscow think it might be time to change the situation on the ground (militarily) to force Kiev to come back to the negotiations table. During a meeting with the Russian Foreign Ministry board held on November the 18th (2021), President Putin said: “Demonstratively, Ukraine has failed to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures, as well as the Normandy format agreements… By the way, we must not forget that the Minsk agreements have become a norm of international law since the UN Security Council adopted the relevant resolutions. Unfortunately, in reality, [Germany and France] are indulging the current Kiev leadership’s course on dismantling the [Minsk agreements], which, unfortunately, has led the talks and the settlement itself into a dead end”.
The Ukrainian army has been relentlessly conducting small scale ops in the Donbass since end of 2016/early 2017. This fact is no secret and international as well as Ukrainian media have regularly reported on this topic (“RBC Ukraine” – “Creeping Offensive /How Ukraine is waging positional warfare”). While this has enabled Kiev to “shrink” the nomandland between Loyalist and Separatist troops in the Donbass and led the Ukrainian army to restore control over several local areas, this has also led to an uptick in fighting between the two sides and an increase in collateral casualties. The Ukrainian army systematically uses artillery systems to soften separatist positions (Indirect Fire on given coordinates) and has been using TB2 drones to engage rebel positions on more than one occasion since October 2021.
Russia believes the Ukrainian leadership is not interested in a peaceful negotiated settlement of the conflict, but is rather bidding its time while reforming its armed forces and shoring up international support. In early March 2021, the Ukrainian army started a build up of forces near the Donbass. This was followed by a statement from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the 19th of March saying that “The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council has approved a strategy that is aimed at retaking Crimea and the Donbass and reintegrating those territories. Said plan is based on involving the international community and potentially in calling for UN peacekeepers to secure the front, then the reconquered territories (as well as temporarily administrating them) and finally the border between Ukraine and Russia”.
The Russian response to this statement and to the Ukrainian deployment of troops near the Donbass was swift: By mid-April, Moscow had positioned 107,000 men (33,500 more than the entire British Army), 1,300 battle tanks, 3,700 drones, 1,300 artillery and mortar units and 380 multiple launch rocket systems plus 330 warplanes and 240 helicopters along the Ukrainian border. To this, one could estimate an additional 10,500 Russian servicemen deployed in Crimea to reinforce the peninsula’s garisson (estimated at 31,500).
Kiev gave up on its planned offensive in the East of Ukraine and Moscow partially de-escalated, too: On the 22nd of April Defence minister of the Russian federation Shoigu announced that “Elements belonging to the 58th and 41st armies as well as several airborne divisions (that were deployed along the Ukrainian border) will start returning to their permanent bases on Friday and to complete the operation by 1 May”. He however added that the bulk of the hardware deployed would be left behind until September so as to be ready for ZAPAD-21. That decision must also be seen as a deterrent for Ukraine as Russian troops could be mated to their hardware very quickly in case of a Ukrainian operation in the Donbass.
However, one should not see Ukraine as being the sole bone of contention for Moscow. From the Russian point of view, Ukraine is one item amongst many on a long list of grievances Moscow has with the West! In his 18th of November (2021) speech, President Putin listed a few of them:
NATO eastward expansion
Probably the oldest bone of contention but also the biggest. It finds its roots in the dying hours of the Soviet Union and the negotiations that preceded (and followed) the German reunification and the dissolution of the Soviet Union as well as that of the Warsaw Pact. There were frantic negotiations and meetings between the West and the Soviet Union (and then Russia) between 1990 and 1993. And misunderstandings arose… Those misunderstandings still poison East-West relations to this day.
During talks with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on January the 31st 1990, German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher made clear “That the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an impairment of Soviet security interests.” He added that therefore NATO should rule out an “expansion of its territory towards the East.”
On the 6th of February 1990, the same Genscher met with British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd. British records show Genscher saying, “The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join NATO the next.”
On the 9th of February 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met in Moscow to discuss NATO’s future role in a unified Germany. Gorbachev stated “Any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable.” Baker agreed and added that “There would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east”. According to transcripts from this meeting, Baker suggested that in exchange for Soviet cooperation on Germany, U.S. could make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand eastward.” He added “Neither the President nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place.”
The next day (February 10, 1990) West German chancellor Kohl stated: “We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity”.
Less than a week later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin (Germany) reunification talks.
Meetings, statements and pledges kept on coming in thick and fast.
On the 18th of May 1990 while in Moscow, Baker stated that “The United States would cooperate with the Soviet Union in the development of a new Europe.” US president George Bush told Soviet leaders that the United States sought “a new, inclusive Europe.” Baker handed over his “nine points list” to Gorbatchev which included the transformation of NATO, strengthening European structures, keeping Germany non-nuclear, and taking Soviet security interests into account. Baker started off the meeting with this statement: “Before saying a few words about the German issue, I wanted to emphasize that our policies are not aimed at separating Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union. We had that policy before. But today we are interested in building a stable Europe, and doing it together with you.”
On the 25th of May 1990 French President Francois Mitterrand stated that he was personally in favor of gradually dismantling the military blocs (NATO and Warsaw Pact).
According to the diary of the British ambassador to Moscow, British Prime Minister John Major personally assured Gorbachev during a meeting in March 1991 that “We are not talking about the strengthening of NATO.” When Soviet defense minister Marshal Dmitri Yazov asked Major about East European leaders’ interest in NATO membership, the British Prime Minister responded, “Nothing of the sort will happen.”
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Moscow in October 1993 ahead of the January 1994 NATO summit. His aim was to soothe Moscow’s fears about a potential NATO expansion eastward. He stated that the United States “would not support new members joining the alliance, but would instead develop a Partnership for Peace program.”
Despite Western assurances that NATO would not expand eastward, the North Atlantic alliance did just that: Between 1999 and 2020, NATO proceeded to roll out five enlargement rounds, swallowing no less than 14 Eastern European countries in the process and gaining a foothold not only on Russia’s Western Border but also bridgeheads in the Balkans and in the Black Sea. President Putin recently reflected: “Despite the fact that relations between Russia and our Western partners, including the United States, were (throughout the 1990’s) nothing short of unique, and the level of relations was almost allied, our concerns and warnings regarding NATO’s eastward expansion have been totally ignored.”
However, one must keep in mind that the early 1990’s were turbulent times that witnessed rapid changes. The Berlin Wall fell in early November 1989. Before the end of that month, West German Chancellor Helmut Khol had published a 10 points action plan in view of establishing cooperation between the two Germanies and potentially proceeding with a reunification of the country down the line. The economic merger between the two Germanies happened less than 7 months later, in July 1990. The following month, on the 23rd of August 1990, the East German parliament passed a resolution declaring the accession of East Germany to the Federal Republic of (West) Germany. The reunification was officially announced on the 29th of September 1990.
The Warsaw Pact was dissolved on the 25th of February 1991 and the Soviet Union was officially dismantled on the 26th of December 1991!
Those three events – German reunification and dissolution of both Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union- occurred much faster than anybody could have anticipated. It is also important to highlight the fact that all of the above statements were made orally, during meetings and private conversations between Western leaders and leaders of the Soviet Union / Russia. Those lines were never included in any official treaties. There was confusion in Western chancelleries as they were trying to adapt to new realities in Europe.The various western governments did not all sing from the same hymn sheet and there was sometimes a lack of communication between them. Furthermore, the various NATO member states at the time had different agendas, fears and priorities. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, strongly opposed the reunification of Germany following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall!
It is fair to say events ran away from all the leaders present in those times (Russians included). Ultimately, as geopolitical realities changed in Europe in general and in Eastern Europe in particular, the opportunities offered to NATO with an eastward expansion outweighed the cons, which at the time were limited to upsetting a weakened Russia.
This is why the above events are seen differently in the West and in Russia: While in the West we focus on the wording of officially signed treaties and other texts, The Russian leadership focuses on the conversations and verbal agreements exchanged prior to these. That is partially why Russia has lost confidence with the West, why they refer to NATO expansion as “broken promises” and why there is a feeling in Moscow that the West cheated a naive Russia in the early 1990s, before subsequently pushing eastward its advantage when Russia was too weak to do anything about it.
Those two Russian notions (That the West cannot be trusted and that Russia was abused and taken advantage of when it was weak) go a long way in explaining Moscow’s fears as well as Russian behaviour when considering its Near-Abroad and relationship with NATO and its neighbours. Those notions also explain a lot about Russia’s current diplomatic/geopolitical standpoints as well as some of its internal policies.
Far from bringing peace to the region, NATO’s enlargement is seen by Russia as a Cassus Belli: An encroachment in Moscow’s own sphere of influence. Some of the roots of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war can be found in 1994 when Tbilissi joined NATO’s “partnership for peace” program. Instead of bringing stability to (Eastern) Europe, NATO’s steady expansion eastward has antagonised Moscow, gradually souring relations between East and West. We have slowly but surely been sleepwalking toward a military confrontation.
Similarly, Kiev’s efforts to foster closer ties with NATO have long poisoned its relationship with Russia: In 1994, Ukraine became the first CIS country to enter NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program. In 2008, Ukraine tried to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) despite its official status as a non-aligned country. Rather than reminding Kiev of Ukraine’s neutrality, NATO instead antagonised Moscow when its then Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer announced that (Georgia and) Ukraine would eventually become members. Kiev was subsequently admitted to NATO’s MAP, which was renamed “Annual National Programme” for the occasion!
Following the Russian intervention in the Donbass, Kiev officially renounced its non-aligned status on the 23rd of December 2014. In 2015 alone, Ukraine took part in no less than five military joint-exercises and partnership programs. On the 8th of June 2017, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law making integration with NATO a foreign policy priority. And on the 10th of March 2018 NATO added Ukraine to its list of Aspiring Members. Finally, on the 12th of June 2020, Ukraine joined NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partner.
NATO’s leadership seems unable to comprehend that its expansion eastward increases the chances of a military conflict with Moscow as each round of enlargement brings it closer to the heart of Russia. From Moscow’s point of view, this can only be seen as an attempt at surrounding and neutralising Russia. NATO troops positioned along Latvia’s eastern borders would find themselves 620km from Moscow… Place those same troops along Ukraine’s eastern border and they’d be 450km from the Russian capital.
NATO’s military support for Ukraine is seen by the Kremlin as exacerbating the situation: Not only is it seen by Moscow as NATO meddling in Russia’s “Near-Abroad” / internal affairs, but it is also seen as encouraging Ukraine not to abide by the terms of the Minsk Agreement but instead launch offensive operations against Separatists in the Donbass. Point in case are the deliveries of specific variants of missiles to Kiev. These come with strings attached: In this specific case, Washington expects the Ukrainian Army to test out those variants against Russian hardware to see how they perform. Data from those live tests are then meant to be passed back to the Pentagon as well as to Raytheon and Lockheed Martin for further analysis and possible modifications. While the West speaks about those arms deliveries to Ukraine as “enabling Kiev to defend itself” and “deterrence” vis a vis of Moscow, Russia pretty much sees this as the West encouraging Ukraine to disregard the Minsk Agreement and as a Western Carte Blanche to Kiev to conduct offensive operations against Russian-backed rebels in the Donbass. To Moscow, this is pretty much equivalent to a Western proxy-war against Russia!
Military exercises in the Black Sea
NATO warships visited the Black Sea in January, April, June, July, September, and November of 2021. Sometimes just to fly the flag, sometimes to call at ports belonging to non-NATO allies such as Ukraine and Georgia and sometimes to take part in joint exercises with NATO member states and guests. During his recent speech, President Putin stated that those exercises were provocative and went “…beyond certain limits since strategic bombers, which carry very serious weapons, fly at a distance of only 20 kilometres from our state border…”
ABM infrastructure at Russia’s border
Namely, the ground-based Aegis ballistic missile defence system in Poland and the SM-3 Block IB interceptor-based missile defense system in southern Romania. NATO and Washington insist those systems are purely defensive. The problem is, the SM-3 missile is launched from the Mark 41 VLS platform… The same Vertical Launch System used by the Tomahawk cruise missile. On this subject, President Putin said: “These can easily be put to offensive use with the Mk-41 launchers there; replacing the software takes only minutes… It is imperative to push for serious long-term guarantees that ensure Russia’s security in this area, because Russia cannot constantly be thinking about what could happen there tomorrow.”
Total loss of confidence
On the 13th of December 2001, President George W Bush informed Russia that the USA were pulling out of the ABM Treaty in order to pursue work on its National Missile Defence project. On the 2nd of August 2019, President Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the INF Treaty. On the 22nd of November 2020, Washington pulled out of the Treaty on Open Skies.
In October 2021, NATO expelled 8 Russian diplomats who were working at the alliance’s Russian mission. Moscow responded by shutting down NATO’s mission in Moscow and expelling its members.
Let’s not forget the successive American and European rounds of sanctions against Russia. From 2012 onward with the Magnitsky Act; four rounds of sanctions in 2014 alone over the role of Russia in the Ukrainian revolution/civil war; CAATSA in 2017; five rounds of sanctions imposed on Moscow for various reasons in 2018 and three in 2019, those sanctions are estimated to have cost Moscow the equivalent of 2% of its GDP in growth.
In November 2021, regarding the political situation in Germany, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said that if Germany’s new government withdraws from NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement, then the alliance would seek other alternatives and deploy these weapons in another country in Eastern Europe (Hint: Poland). Russia’s Foreign Ministry reacted immediately: “NATO statement about the possible deployment of nuclear weapons east of Germany means that the 1997 NATO-Russia founding act no longer exists.” (NATO and Russia negotiated and signed a founding act in 1997. It was designed to guide relations by building increased trust, unity of purpose, and habits of consultation and cooperation).
During his 18th of November speech, President Putin said: “Indeed, we constantly express our concerns about these matters and talk about red lines, but of course, we understand that our partners are peculiar in the sense that they have a very – how to put it mildly – superficial approach to our warnings about red lines… Scepticism exists with regard to whether we can count on and hope for serious agreements in this area, keeping in mind that, after all, we are dealing with, to put it mildly, not very reliable partners who can easily backtrack on any previous agreement. Nevertheless, as difficult as it may be, we need to work on this (with the West)…”
It is doubtful that Moscow wants war with Ukraine or anybody else. Russia occupies a good position as a major exporter of oil, gas, food stuff, arms and ores/minerals and its budget looks healthy. Russia can only benefit from peace and a war would impose additional hardship on the Russian economy and on its people. A military offensive in Ukraine would be counterproductive, to say the least, diplomatically but also economically (costs of war plus foreign sanctions). Saying that, those considerations will not weigh much compared to what is perceived in Moscow as the strategic security of the country and the external factors threatening it. Russia was in a very good place in 2008 economically and diplomatically speaking. Yet when Moscow perceived a threat in Georgia, its leadership never hesitated to react militarily. And looking at the current Russian military posture along its Western border as well as the exercises its armed forces have been conducting for the past six months, there is no doubt Moscow is prepared for a large scale war.
We have previously written about what a Russian offensive in Ukraine would look like https://defensionem.com/ukraine-what-would-a-russian-offensive-look-like/ Although that is seen from the perspective of Kiev and in the optic of a total war against Ukraine. Moscow may have different goals, limited in space and time.
The main objective for Moscow seems to be showing its displeasure to the West and to Kiev. Push for Ukrainian and Western leaders to open a dialogue with Russia and act on Russian red lines, fears and demands for guarantees. The Kremlin has announced that formal NATO membership for Ukraine would be seen as an automatic Cassus Belli as any further military expansion (NATO) on Ukrainian territory poses a threat to the Russian Federation. Indeed, NATO arms transfers to Kiev alongside NATO troops’ presence on Ukrainian territory and NATO-Ukrainian cooperation in general are seen by Moscow as not only a cause for concern but as a direct threat. Those comments are not new. However, they have recently been repeated by Russian ministers and by the Russian president himself, with an emphasis put on “red lines” and with a military build up to highlight the points even more. What Russia wants for Ukraine is a non-aligned status and guarantees that no further coups/revolutions could threaten this position. Moscow wants a large buffer zone between itself and the EU/NATO.
Will Russia be heard? Probably not. NATO doesn’t have a habit of listening to Moscow and after over a decade of ostracising Russia and painting the country as a threat, there is little indication we are about to see a U-turn from the North Atlantic Organisation. Great Britain is apparently ready to send 600 SF troops to Ukraine. Poland is calling for more NATO troops to advance East. Canada is apparently mulling an involvement in the current situation. As for Ukraine, their main plan rests on the involvement of the international community in general and NATO in particular, in the current affair. Why blink now?!
So, what would a Russian offensive in Ukraine look like?
The most likely scenario would see a multi-pronged assault on Ukraine, with up to 50 Russian Batallion Tactical Groups pushing from Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk and Voronezh. The large concentration of Russian troops in Yelnya could advance into Belarus to shore up the border between Belarus and Poland. They could be used if needed to drive into Ukraine from yet another position and target land corridors between Ukraine and Poland, but we are talking total war, here. And it looks more like it would be part of a plan B rather than the initial Plan A! Moscow would first and foremost try to inflict overwhelming and irrecoverable losses on the Ukrainian army to force a political capitulation. We are talking about a war of movements, manoeuvres and attempts at cutting off and encircling as many Ukrainian units as possible as fast as possible, rather than a war based on the occupation of territories.
Based on the Russian campaign in Georgia in 2008, it is not impossible to imagine Moscow targeting the Ukrainian economy, with a combination of sea blockade, cyber attacks and the destruction of infrastructure such as the sea port of Odessa or even pipelines.
Should the above not be enough, we can easily imagine Moscow aiming at controlling the “Russian” Ukraine and creating a line along the Dnieper river and taking over cities such as Kharkov and Mariupol. This would have the advantage of desenclaving Crimea by linking it to pro-Russian area in the Donbass with a land corridor. It would also present the advantage of being able to restore water supply to the peninsula: For its water needs (drinking water/industry/agriculture/irrigation), Crimea depends on the North Crimean Canal linking the peninsula to the Dnieper river in Ukraine. This canal represents 85% of total Crimean water supply. Canal which the Ukrainian army dammed back in 2014, depriving the 1.9 million civilians living in Crimea (including 600,000 Ukrainians and Tatars) of drinking water. This is in direct breach of International Humanitarian Law (IHL, also called the law of armed conflicts) but nobody talks about it.
However, the cons of such a strategy would mean turning a Russian army of invasion into an army of occupation. Considering that Moscow does not want to get bogged down in a long active conflict, with the securisation and insurgency problems that would automatically arise from such a situation, it is fair to assume pushing to the Dnieper and occupying those territories would be a temporary solution, using them as bargaining chips in the subsequent negotiations with Kiev and Western chancelleries.
Make no mistake, a Russian military offensive in Ukraine, even limited in scope and objectives, would represent a conflict unseen in scale and intensity on the European continent since the end of WWII. We are talking volleys of tactical and cruise missiles targeting command posts, troop concentrations, air defence batteries, air bases, barracks, communication nodes, ammo and fuel dumps and other military infrastructure. Simultaneously, one can expect intense cyber attacks and electronic warfare operations as well as massive artillery barrages. All of this in the opening hours of the conflict. The land invasion would be supported by air power. Those moves could very well be followed by both amphibious and airborne operations across Ukraine. The Russian Art of War, just as its Soviet predecessor, emphasises on overwhelming force and multiple thrusts in multiple directions to keep one’s enemy imbalanced so as to seize and retain the initiative and dictate the tempo. We are talking about a full-spectrum war.
In short, Moscow would want a short but brutal fight conducted in order to destroy the Ukrainian army capacity and will to fight so as to dictate political terms. One will most probably also see temporarily occupied territories as part of an embargo (South coast / Odessa, Mariupol, Karkhov) or as a bargaining chip.
For more details on Russia’s Art of War in Ukraine, check this article: https://defensionem.com/debaltseve-and-ilovaisk-hybrid-warfare-in-europe/
What could the Ukrainian army do about this? On paper, the Ukrainian armed forces are outclassed, despite having been reformed, re-equipped and re-trained since 2014. While the professionalisation of the Ukrainian forces and their mentoring by Western instructors will play in Kiev’s favour, it is doubtful that the Ukrainian army will be able to hold the line against the Russian army. Instead, they will try to inflict a maximum of damage on the Russian army while trading space for time. They will try to hold the integrity of their units/line and manoeuvre in order to avoid being cut off or encircled. They know the Russians will try to fracture the front and create pockets to be reduced later… The main aim for the Ukrainian army would be to inflict a maximum of casualties on Russian troops while also surviving this conflict so as to be able to fight another day.
Ultimately, fighting will also occur in the media/information sphere. One can expect Russia emphasise on the notion that NATO is trying to encircle it, the agressive expansion East and the attempt at expanding further still with Ukraine and even Georgia. Russia will also speak of Kiev failing to meet its obligations under the Minsk Agreement and about the rights of the oppressed Russian minority in Ukraine. All in all, such a fight would be presented by Moscow as Self Defence in the face of NATO’s aggressive stance and uptick in presence and activities on the Russian western and southern flanks. Meanwhile, Ukraine will try and drum up support and present itself as a victim of Russian aggression/expensionism/Post Soviet imperialism. Accession to European and NATO membership will be presented as a solution for peace and Kiev will remind all NATO member states that expressed their support to Ukraine to fulfill their pledge. Kiev sees salvation in the internationalisation of this conflict.
All in all, both Kiev and Moscow will deploy their efforts to flood the mainstream media as well as social media with their own version of the truth. Expect Washington and other Western chancelleries to join the fray. Besides state actors, expect an uptick in activities from fan/troll farms from both sides, publishing and sharing pre-prepared comments and flooding comment threads with them. Expect a fair few blog posts to also appear in favour of both sides.
The stakes are high… Russia is frustrated with what it perceives as the West complete lack of interest in Russian fears, own interests, warnings and red lines, as well as what is perceived by Moscow as the belligerent and expansionist policies of NATO. NATO on the other hand has long cast Russia as a rogue state, a competitor, an enemy, a threat to stability and peace in Europe, an entity that must be deterred, pushed back, isolated and contained. NATO has also spoken of its ironclad support for Kiev… In short, due to a lack of communication, understanding and efforts to see the other side’s point of view, both Moscow and NATO have backed themselves into a corner. If Russia really goes in with an offensive on Ukraine, NATO will be faced with two bad choices: WWIII on behalf of a non-member state or not going in and lose credibility in front of its international allies (Taiwan, Australia, Japan ect…) as well as in front of the real threat to global peace and the real elephant in the room: China.
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