September 25, 2022
How Russia might react after the humiliating defeat in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin telescopes on the Tsenter-2019 military exercise in the Donguz range near the city of Orenburg on September 20, 2019.

Alexey Nikolsky | AFP | Getty Images

Russia has remained silent about its latest defeat in Ukraine, and strategists fear Moscow may try to severely punish Kyiv for its victory on the battlefield in an attempt to save face.

Kyiv’s army launched a massive counterattack in the country’s northeast and recaptured thousands of kilometers of Russian-held territory in the past few days.

Now thoughts are turning to possible Russian retaliation, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov told the Financial Times. expect a counterattack, “A counter-attack frees the area and after that you have to control it and be ready to defend it,” Reznikov said, “of course, we have to be worried, this war has worried us for years.”

Russia has started heavy shelling in the Kharkiv region since Sunday night without electricity and water. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister told Reuters it was too early to say that Ukraine has full control of the region.

Russian airstrikes hit Kharkiv as Russian troops are pushed out of the area

Followers close to the Kremlin say President Vladimir Putin is now considering his options.

“The military story for the Kremlin is getting worse,” Ian Bremer, chairman of the Eurasia Group, said in a note on Monday. “To the extent that continues, it pressures Putin to call for mobilization – possibly a partial but nonetheless a politically and socially costly move for the Russian president at home, which will prompt him to declare war with Ukraine.” and secretly admit that Russia is facing military problems,” he said in email comments. Russia has insisted on calling its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”, not a war.

“Furthermore, it seeks Russian to inflict Grozny-like ‘punishments’ on Ukrainians, both through greater targeting of urban centers inflicting mass casualties on Ukraine as well as, in the worst case, In the case of using chemical or even tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield to spread panic on a large scale,” Bremer said.

“If there is likely to be any change in Russia’s war in the near future, it is going to go ahead and not be a negotiated success.”

growing desperation

Ukraine’s victory on the battlefield in recent days, and its ability to reclaim dozens of towns and villages in the Kharkiv region, put Russia on the backfoot. It is now scrambling to defend its territory in Donetsk and Luhansk, where two pro-Russian “republics” are located, in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian military is widely believed to The north-east of the country were surprised and outnumbered by Ukraine’s counterattacks. There were signs that the Russian army was retreating hastily, leaving Russian stocks of equipment and ammunition.

Prior to these counterattacks in the northeast, Kyiv had promoted a counter-offensive in the south of Ukraine—which caused Russia to redeploy troops there.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Russia’s goal in Ukraine remained the same – “liberating” the Donbass – and insisted the fighting would continue.

However, discontent is raging in Russia, with even staunch Kremlin supporters questioning the war in Russia in public forums, including on state TV.

“We have been told that everything is going according to plan. Does anyone really believe that the plan was to be abandoned six months ago [the city of] Balaklia, repelling a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region and failing to capture Kharkiv?” Viktor Olevich, a generally pro-Putin political expert Told on official NTV channel, Moscow Times reported,

Another public figure, Former MP Boris NadezhdiniSaid that Russia would not win the war if it continued to fight as it is, adding that “either mobilization and a full-scale war needed to happen, or we would walk out.”

Analysts at global risk consultancy Teneo noted in emailed comments Monday evening that military losses and the humiliation of Russian troops “pose a risk to the regime of President Vladimir Putin, as domestic criticism of the conduct of the so-called special military operation has been mounting from various sides.” Is. “

“As a result, Putin is facing increasing pressure to respond to increasingly hostile dynamics on the front lines, which can include either escalatory moves or calls to launch ceasefire talks,” he said. .

Putin’s ‘tough choice’

Putin’s regime now faces a difficult choice; The war is progressing and its short-supplied forces are likely becoming discouraged as they come under pressure from Ukraine’s well-organized and well-armed forces.

Timothy Ashe, Senior Emerging Markets Sovereign Strategist at BlueBay, said: “Now I think Moscow is facing a tough choice: facing a humiliating defeat in Ukraine – which is the result of the current military force deployment, the supply chain and Ukraine’s security.” And looking at the pace, it seems inevitable.” Asset Management said in a note on Monday.

“Or go ahead with mass mobilization and WMD [weapon of mass destruction]Or perhaps the indiscriminate leveling of Syrian-style Ukrainian cities.”

Ashe said Putin had barred the option of mass mobilization, which would put Russia on a war footing and see many of its citizens recruited. “The risk is that they come home in body bags and cause domestic social and political unrest in Russia,” he said, but added that Putin was also unlikely to resort to unconventional weapons – such as the WMD.

“Putin had a chance and he failed to pull the trigger because he knows these are only really deterrents and once he takes them off we are in a whole new ball game, the risk of World War 3 , and a series of events that would be very difficult to manage, but where he is clearly seen as the aggressive/mad man and loses most of his friends internationally, including China, et al,” Ash he said.

He said that after more intense airstrikes in Ukraine, he expected Putin to attempt to launch “serious” peace talks. “But he has to be quick because the field in Ukraine, and possibly even Moscow, is rapidly slipping under his feet,” Ash said.

“At this stage a total collapse of Russian forces across Ukraine is entirely possible – including the ones in Crimea that took place before February 24, and even a possible split in Moscow and Putin’s stay in power. Talk about the risks. Watch this space.”

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