Countdown to the Start of War…Putin’s “Six Options” for Invading Ukraine | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Countdown to the Start of War…Putin’s “Six Options” for Invading Ukraine

Tensions in Russia: "It's All in Putin's Calculations" ~Buntaro Kuroi Report

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Tensions in Ukraine. It all depends on this person’s “feelings,” he said. Tensions are running high in the international community over Russia’s decision Photo: Reuters/Afro

Will the Russian military really invade Ukraine?

Various speculations are being reported every day, but it is President Putin who will make the decision. No one can know what’s in his heart. But from the words and deeds of Putin himself and other key figures in his administration, we can guess the scope of what he is aiming to do in the future.

What Russia is doing now is trying to control other countries by threatening them with military force, something that could be condemned by the international community, but which they will always justify to themselves. In response, they always justify themselves by publicly announcing their actions and words in advance.

For example, in the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent pro-Russian uprising in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine, they used the rhetoric of “saving their Russian brethren. The rationale was that the Russian-speaking people who lived in the area in large numbers were considered “compatriots,” and that they were being oppressed and persecuted there, so they should be helped. There is no evidence that Russian-speaking residents were systematically oppressed at the time, but the Russians justified their military intervention with this logic.

In this light, what is being pushed forward this time is the demand for a guarantee of non-expansion of NATO. The blame lies with NATO, which expanded rapidly before Russia did, thereby threatening Russia’s security. Russia is only making a legitimate demand,” is Russia’s own logic.

It is true that the number of countries participating in NATO has been increasing and that it has become a threat to Russia’s security, but this is where “each country’s own decisions” come into play. It cannot be justified to forcefully enforce another country’s policy by military force, but that is what the Russian side is trying to justify.

There is no way that NATO, the U.S., or Ukraine can accept such an unreasonable demand. In fact, the U.S. formally responded to the rejection on January 26, but what is noteworthy is what President Putin said on December 21, 2021, as a milestone.

If the West continues on its clearly hostile course, we will take appropriate military countermeasures and respond harshly to unfriendly actions.

This is nothing more than a warning that if Russia’s demands are rejected, “we may blame the West and invade.

Russia’s “self-justification”

In fact, the scale of the deployment of the more than 100,000 actual troops from all over Russia is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War, and it is safe to say that preparations for military operations are already underway. If President Putin decides to do so, he can, as he says, call it a “military countermeasure” and invade.

However, even if stopping NATO expansion is the stated political goal this time, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine should not be seen as an end in itself. The Putin regime has already laid the groundwork for self-justification of further actions.

In July 2021, President Putin himself published an article entitled “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” in which he argued that “they are the same people” and condemned Western intervention. This is tantamount to declaring that “Ukraine is Russia’s territory.

In other words, President Putin has gone beyond merely protecting Russian speakers in Ukraine or preventing Ukraine from joining NATO, and has laid the groundwork to justify turning the whole of Ukraine into a satellite state. It may be a gradual goal rather than a sudden and sweeping one, but if the whole of Ukraine were to become a satellite state, the benefits to the Putin administration would be great.

Russia can strengthen its own security by placing Belarus and Ukraine between it and the West, but that is not all. The major threat to the Putin regime is the spread of human rights consciousness and democracy from the West into Russia, but this can also be blocked by bringing these countries into the fold. Furthermore, it would satisfy the nationalism of the Russian people, which would increase the popularity of President Putin.

Taking these factors into account, even if Ukraine were to give in to the Russian military this time and promise to become neutral, there is a very high possibility that Russia will use various maneuvers to establish a pro-Russian government and strengthen its control.

In any case, it is President Putin who will decide Russia’s future actions. Militarily, almost all options are at the ready. President Biden was quick to officially deny any U.S. military intervention, so the Russians will only have to deal with the Ukrainian military. NATO-deployed troops, including U.S. troops, will probably be deployed in neighboring countries, but NATO will not act in defense of Ukraine. In other words, the risk to Russia is not great.

However, the Ukrainian military also has a strength of 200,000 troops. If the war becomes a guerrilla war, there is a possibility that the Russian military will suffer heavy casualties, and if that happens, President Putin will be responsible. Economic losses would also be a negative factor.

However, in a situation where Putin has made such large demands, touted his own justifications, and lined up many possible military operation options, we should assume that he is not just bluffing and doing nothing from the start. Looking at his past performance in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, Syria, and elsewhere, he has no hesitation in making choices that he judges to be “doable.

After calculating these risks and disadvantages, President Putin will choose a strategy that he judges to be “doable” at this point from the options available at the time, depending on the situation.

Six Predictable Possibilities

Let me now list the options that currently lie before him.

(1) Conclusion through military pressure alone. (1) Conclusion through military pressure alone. Full autonomy for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and a guarantee of Ukraine’s neutrality would be the minimum for the Russian side. Or, against the backdrop of military pressure, a plan to establish a pro-Russian government through secret operations.

(2) Military intervention in Donetsk and Lugansk to protect their compatriots. (3) Military intervention in Donetsk and Lugansk to protect their people, with the possibility of recognition of their independence, which has been withheld until now. (2) Military intervention in Donetsk and Lugansk to protect their people.

(3) Further invasion of areas with a large number of Russian speakers. 3) Further invasion of regions with a large number of Russian speakers: blockade of Odessa, capture of the coast of the Sea of Azov and opening of the corridor between the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and Crimea, and even siege and control of the large city of Kharkov.

(4) Bombing, encirclement, and invasion of the capital Kiev.

(5) Widespread invasion east of the Dnieper River

(6) Simultaneous invasion of all of Ukraine, including Crimea and Primorsky Territory.

In the above, for (3) and below, long-term stationing and short-term withdrawal are possible, but for (5) and (6), the burden and sacrifice of the Russian armed forces would increase, so at least long-term stationing would be difficult.

Considering the political risk on the Russian side, the easier choice would be (1) and (2), but that also depends on how the Ukrainian side reacts. If the situation proceeds to (3), there is a very high probability that it will eventually escalate into further fighting.

However, it is a militarily viable option, and depending on changes in the situation, it may be possible, so we should not be too optimistic that it will never happen. Even if (4) were to be implemented, it would result in a tremendous number of civilian casualties and a drastic change in the situation. What will happen after that is completely unpredictable.

Regardless of which of the above strategies is chosen, it is certain that preparations are steadily being made.

  • Reporting and writing by Fumitaro Kuroi photo Reuters/Afro

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