Russia’s Donbas offensive seems to have been largely ineffective, with Russian soldiers unable to commit troops to the region and replenish losses in a timely manner to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.
Russia has been making gains in certain areas, particularly in the South. However, most of these gains have been outside of urban areas, which Ukraine has proved very capable of defending. Ukraine’s fighting retreat has turned Russia’s attempted ‘war of attrition into a failure. Coupled with Biden’s lend-lease, which consists of more than half of Russia’s total defense budget in aid, it is now very unlikely that Russia will be able to maintain its offensive. And once Russia’s momentum crumbles, it is widely believed that Ukraine’s counterattack will include pre-2014 regions, such as Crimea. The U.K. echoed this sentiment, which has reiterated its full support for Ukrainian attacks to reclaim all of occupied Ukraine.
Given that Russia considers Crimea an integral part of its territory (and given the recent push from the DNR and LNR for federalization), an attack on what Russia perceives as Russian soil could potentially create a nuclear escalation. Yet, knowing the effects of a nuclear strike are an inevitable NATO escalation, most likely resulting in the end of Russia, it is likely the only scenario such a strike would be authorized is one where Putin was fully convinced of his own personal defeat.
Echoing Adolf Hitler’s own demise, Putin has allegedly begun taking greater control over Russian forces, giving control of Russian internal affairs to Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, to micromanage the war. Given the recent stance of Russian state media ‘comforting’ citizens on the prospects of a nuclear war, Putin could have adopted Hitler’s mindset of Russia ‘deserving’ its fate, feeling that responsibility for Russia’s defeat would lie solely in the weakness of the Russian people.
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