By Paul Goble
Ukrainians have been thrilled by the victories of the Ukrainian army over the Russian invaders, but Moscow’s most likely response given the Kremlin’s desire to avoid mobilization could push the conflict into a dangerous new phase, one in which the Russian use of nuclear weapons becomes practically inevitable, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
Its army having lost in the field and its ability to raise more troops limited by fears of the Russian reaction to any mobilization, he says, Moscow is likely to limit new ground attacks and the losses they’d entail but instead seek to inflict maximum pain on Ukrainian civilian targets from the air (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=632392FD73D54§ion_id=50A6C962A3D7C).
Russia could carry out such attacks with minimum risk to its own armed forces, but such attacks on cities would dramatically escalate the number of Ukrainian casualties. That in turn would put new pressure on the West to provide Ukraine with more and more advanced weaponry that Kyiv could use to shoot down Russian planes or even expand attacks on Russian territory.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukrainian forces, last month indicated that even if Ukraine recovers all of the occupied territory and forces Russia’s Black Sea fleet to relocate, the threat from Russia will remain, raising the possibility that the elimination of that threat will require moves against targets on Russian territory (ukrinform.ua/rubric-ato/3566162-ak-zabezpeciti-voennu-kampaniu-u-2023-roci-ukrainskij-poglad.html).
Because such a course of events will make both Russian mobilization and Moscow’s use of nuclear weapons “practically inevitable,” the London-based analyst says, the West will try to prevent Ukraine from attacking targets on Russian territory. But if it supplies Kyiv with advanced weapons, it may find it difficult to do that.
According to Pastukhov, “we are still at a very early stage of the escalation” of the war in Ukraine “and that in the spring if not sooner, new upheavals await us. These can be avoided only by breaking the sequence described above, an extremely difficult task and one that most likely will require regime change in either Moscow or Kyiv.”