September 27, 2022

Opinion: Desperate Putin will twist, not stick

4 min read

Editor’s note: James Nixey Director of the Russia-Eurasia Program at Chatham House, specializing in relations between Russia and other post-Soviet states. He previously worked as an investigative reporter at the Moscow Tribune. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion On CNN


Russia is losing the war against Ukraine. Not yet defeated. But it is heading in that direction and President Vladimir Putin has fewer and fewer cards to play.

A collection of recent Defeated on the battlefield And Western determination – in particular, the realization that Europe can get through the winter on its reserves without Russia’s usual volume of energy supplies, and that Western politicians do not want to U-turn and admit defeat – has made Russia has been dealt a couple of punches.

Its perceived military might and status as an energy superpower to which Europeans were accustomed were largely, and turned out to be, Russia’s strongest asset.

So, Putin, an extremist at worst Mislead By his subordinates, suspicious of Russia’s true capabilities, he has been forced to ‘bend’ – in card parlance – his latest nuclear threats (he’s been doing this for 15 years). And with your other half. Sincerely, but politically less risky, a partial dynamic of speculation 300,000 reservists.

It is the threat of the use of nuclear weapons, of course, that causes Western decision-makers to pause and, in some cases, waver — as they are destined to do. After all, it should not be taken lightly from a state that has turned to fascism and has just died. Half of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Yet the growing majority of the West and Now non-western powers Realizing that nuclear blackmail cannot be surrendered, and that the consequences of Russia winning the war will have long-lasting debilitating effects on European and global security. Many world leaders want to make concessions on the heads of Ukrainian leaders. But it is politically awkward to do so when the aggressor and the victim are clearly distinguishable from each other. And when Russia is on the run.

In any case, Recent research A report published by Chatham House shows that the extent of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons is very high. Professional Russian military cadres have procedures and processes in place that mean there are many checks and speed bumps before considering the use of nuclear weapons.

It’s one thing to threaten a pre-emptive nuclear attack, but serious people in important positions in Russia know that the consequences would be dire – not least that it would put many countries at war with more weapons than ever before. will bring The deployment of nuclear weapons is not impossible – it is an inherently unsafe situation – but it is impossible.

All this said, many Western politicians are still afraid to call for the actual defeat of Russia – either afraid of the consequences of the actions of a desperate dictator, or afraid of Russia (an even more extreme leader). with). The US, German and French leaderships have not been particularly bold enough to explicitly demand any outcome in Russia’s favor or recognition, despite their distaste for it.

Instead they talk more vaguely about Russia’s crimes and support for Ukraine.“As long as it takes,” German Chancellor Scholz said encouragingly). But they cannot imagine a defeated Russia and cannot formally speak of the need Not to disparage Russia. (or even Putin) – without building a relationship that would help Ukraine successfully restore its territorial integrity, would greatly humiliate the Kremlin.

Indeed, politicians are right to fear a weak and humiliated Russia. But logic dictates that they should be more cautious than the strong and courageous.

Putin’s address on Wednesday, therefore, changes little – certainly not the Ukrainian commitment, although it is likely to make the Russian population more fearful of being caught in the draft. Many Russians Still support it (or at least are conflicted), but most, too, don’t want to fight.

Similarly, d Referenda All parts of Ukraine’s Donbass region still under Russian control will also have little effect. In fact, these ‘votes’ are not even designed to be legitimized as in many other Russian ‘elections’. That’s a big question, but one of the most ardent Putin apologists. At best, the referenda could provide a pretext for wider Russian mobilization and, in the event that the war is now being fought on Russian soil – thereby justifying new reservist pressures and their inevitable sacrifice.

Putin’s likely next move then, as he desperately seeks new ways to turn the dial in his favor, would be conventional weapons strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure and a ‘conventional’ hybrid war against the West – The real enemy in his eyes (according to his own words).

This is to be expected. Russia is down but not out. The Red Army fought badly against Finland in 1939 and was pushed back by the Nazis in 1941. But they regrouped and came back strong in the final stages of the war. More recently, in Chechnya in the late 1990s, Russia turned it around (in part by increasing brutality) after a ‘bad’ start. This is not the time for Western appeasement.

Putin’s regime is apparently stable. Currently only hairline fractures are shown (the odd mid-level deviation, the occasional disagreement from his closest constituents, and of course this latest announcement).

But the more defeats he suffers, the more his military commanders lose faith in him – to a degree they didn’t already have. That would be the best outcome – regime change from within, not by the hands or policies of the West. And it’s not out of reach. This war will bring down Putin.

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