By Paul Goble
Many Western leaders are struggling to find a compromise on Ukraine that will allow Putin to back down rather than escalate, but their search won’t work because he can’t back down and survive and so will continue to escalate in his pursuit of a new world order which recognizes his use of force as legitimate, Aleksandr Skobov says.
As a result, the West is going to face a “tough” choice in which it will “either politically recognize the dismemberment of Ukraine” by accepting new borders Russia has imposed by force or boosting its support of Ukraine politically and militarily to the point that it can liberate all Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.285053.html).
The Kremlin leader understands this perfectly and knows that the West fears both a direct clash between Russian forces and NATO and even more a nuclear war. He likely can’t long avoid the form because if Russia is to stop delivery of Western weaponry to Ukraine, it will have to attack these supplies “on the territory of the NATO countries through which they pass.”
Any such attack will force NATO to make a choice: “either retreat and stop deliveries” giving Russia a chance to expand its control over Ukrainian territory and suggesting that the West accepts Putin’s vision of a new force-based world order “or respond according to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and go to war.”
Putin has clearly “gone too far to retreat,” Skobov argues. “He has burned his bridges and there is no road back.” Consequently, “he can only continue to raise the stakes” in this way or in some other such as the use of chemical weapons that will give him “a plausible excuse to put his last argument on the table – the threat of using nuclear weapons.”
Putin’s chance to make good on his threats are directly linked to his conclusions about what the West will do. The more he thinks the West will avoid retaliating, the more likely it is that he will continue to raise the stakes. “Only a certainty to the contrary will make Putin back down,” reducing Russia to an ever more degraded “besieged fortress” dependent on Beijing.
Unfortunately, there are other possible scenarios, Skobov continues, and some of them are truly frightening. If Putin decides to test the West by launching a limited nuclear strike, “whether the Free World wants to or not, it will be compelled to end the war” at its source, in Putin’s Moscow.