Russian President Vladimir Putin He put himself in trouble in Ukraine. And it is true that the Russian leader is ready to escalate, perhaps to the brink of nuclear war, rather than admit defeat.
It is not impossible for Russia to lose the lands it occupied since 2014 if Putin’s forces can’t stop Ukraine counterattack.
In the face of humiliation, Putin issued a new threat: conduct “referendums” In the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions, which could lead to their annexation to Russia by early next week.
In the mind of the official Russian leader, this would turn the “special military operation” in Ukraine into a defensive war in Russia, opening up the possibility of full packingdeclaring war and even a nuclear strike.
“Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks either the threshold of our imminent victory or the threshold of nuclear war. I see no third option,” said Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state-owned channel RT and a member of Strong War Lobbying.
There is no doubt that Russia’s plan – to hold sham referendums to annex Ukrainian territory and threaten a large-scale military escalation – is blackmail.
The Ukrainians were quick to recognize it as an attempt to stop the counterattack. “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territory and will continue to liberate it, as Russia says,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
But since February, it has become clear that few actually understand the depth of the Kremlin’s obsession with Ukraine or Putin’s desire to waste the life and well-being of Russians, as well as his legacy, in order to exercise his will on his neighbour.
The Kremlin’s strategy is risky. The new annexations could undermine Russian control over regions such as Crimea, by convincing Ukraine and the West that Moscow is making empty threats and reducing reluctance to reclaim territory officially annexed by Russia.
So, is the latest threat an ultimatum aimed at saving Russia from defeat? Or is Russia ready to move forward?
Both may be true. Analysts say that if the supporters of Ukraine and the West blink (which is unlikely), Putin will be happy. If not, then everything that comes next is not our fault, the Kremlin believes.
Alexander Baunov, a Russian political analyst, wrote: “Moscow’s actions, therefore, are taken either to end the war as soon as possible or, if this does not work, to blame others and turn the Russian invasion of a neighboring country into a defensive war.
“Moscow hopes that this distinction will make the conflict more legitimate in the eyes of ordinary Russians, leaving the Kremlin free to make any decisions and take any actions it deems necessary.”
Putin is sometimes called an expert on the “escalation-de-escalation” strategy – avoiding conflict by threatening a large-scale retaliation.
But it seems that Putin does not want to calm down. A more appropriate description of his strategy might be “win or escalate”. As Simonyan says: Russia will enter everything.