Putin’s nuclear threat – Middle East Monitor

The war in Ukraine is in its seventh month, and the new Tsar of Russia has failed to achieve the goals announced at the start of his “limited military operation”, as if it were a quiet exit to bring back Ukraine in the bosom of Moscow. Vladimir Putin sees the state as an integral part of Russia granted by the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, on the ruins of the Russian Empire.

Putin believes Lenin made a mistake when he granted independence to Ukrainians within the Soviet Union and abandoned Russian lands inhabited by Russian speakers. However, he found himself in a quagmire of his own making. Each time he moves away from it and is deceived by some of his victories and his occupation of Ukrainian cities, he is thrown back. When he attempted to attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, he faced fierce resistance and retreated. The same in the province of Kharkiv recently, where the Ukrainian army has recovered lands occupied by the Russians since April.

The Ukrainian army also took over the strategic city of Izyum, which dealt a serious blow to Putin. Despite its relatively small size — its population is just over 56,000 — its location on the border between the pro-Russian regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk gives it great significance. This is where the Russian army launched attacks, given that Izyum is the gateway to Donbass in eastern Ukraine and from there to the Black Sea. Russian forces used it to cut off supplies from the Ukrainian army passing through Kharkiv to Luhansk, and this paved the way for the Russians in Kharkov province to meet Russian-backed forces in the Donbass region. .

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Today the situation has reversed, with Ukrainian forces retaking control of Kupiansk on Saturday, which threatens to completely disrupt the Russian supply line and leave thousands of Russian troops on the front line in the Donbass without supplies. . The Russian forces are almost completely isolated.

The fall of Izyum is Russia’s worst military setback, as described by the New York Times; it forced a change in strategy, moving from attacking Kyiv to concentrating on eastern Ukraine.

Military operations are inherently uncertain and subject to counter-attacks. Only when the terms of a ceasefire are agreed will we know who won and who will dictate the terms of surrender. It has been reported that Putin has been seeking to negotiate with the Ukrainians secretly through a mediator, possibly Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been trying to bring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Russian counterpart Putin together since the start of the war. Zelenskyy apparently welcomed the decision, while the latter rejected Erdogan. Today, Zelensky says no and promises to defeat the Russians and regain the Crimean peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.

There is no doubt that Putin is in a difficult situation. He started the war with a feeling of arrogance and superiority, and no longer knows how to end it. Those who watched his televised address last week know the scale of the crisis. His threat to use nuclear weapons is only a means of escape and an expression of his desperation not to defeat Ukrainian forces with conventional weapons. The partial mobilization of Russian reserves is clear evidence of Moscow’s failure on the battlefield.

Like other regimes that turn defeats into illusory victories that no one else can see, Russian officials and media applauded Putin’s speech and said the call for reservists was a source of strength and victory. . However, he was exposed by the images of young Russians protesting and heading for the border rather than being conscripted to join the defeated Russian army on the front line. Airlines have sold out their tickets, despite astronomical prices.

Putin’s predicament is political, military and economic decline, and is also illustrated by his holding a show referendum in the four regions he occupied in Ukraine. Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia make up about 15% of Ukraine’s total area, and he intends to annex them. Such a referendum is a flagrant violation of international law and the UN Charter, but when it did the same in Crimea, it faced no decisive response from the West. This clearly encouraged him to do the same thing again, in indifference to the economic sanctions he managed to get around in one way or another.

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In the event that these regions are annexed to Russia, any attempt by Ukrainian forces to return them to Ukraine will be seen by Putin as an attack on Russian lands. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened,” he said, “we will undoubtedly use all available means to protect Russia and our people.” [Emphasis added]

This will give Moscow an excuse to escalate its failing war in Ukraine, moving from aggressor to acting in “self-defense” of the areas it has occupied. It is in this perspective that we can understand the words of Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, that the successful Ukrainian counterattacks were the reason for the acceleration of the referendum.

Although US President Joe Biden has explicitly stated that he will never recognize the sham referendums Russia is holding in occupied Ukraine as a pretext to forcibly annex Ukrainian lands, Washington has taken no decisive action to dissuade Russia. although she could if she wanted to. Instead, it seems that the United States wants to prolong the war as long as possible for purely geopolitical reasons. He wants to strengthen his world domination and block the rise of any other power. He is fighting Russia by proxy in Ukraine, supplying the latter with traditional weapons and withholding the more modern weapons that Zelenskyy wants. Putin threatened America and the West if they sent long-range missiles into Ukraine, which is an example of his unparalleled arrogance; he fights a country and threatens his allies if they help him to defend himself. For now, however, US support in Kyiv is limited to logistics and intelligence; there is no direct and overt involvement of US troops.

Russia thus fell into the American trap, as Ukraine was pushed into a pointless war that could have been avoided. The fighting destroyed the country, displaced its people and claimed the lives of thousands of its soldiers. Zelenskyy was stupid not to realize that he was a puppet in the hands of Washington to achieve America’s goals. Ukraine is burning for the United States to remain the world’s only superpower. As Machiavelli said over 500 years ago, the end justifies the means.

There is no doubt that the United States wants to exhaust Russia by any means possible, to weaken its economic power and its military capabilities so that the Russian army will lose its prestige and reputation. He also wants to expose the inefficiency of Russian weapons, so that their demand is reduced and Moscow loses a lucrative market.

Russia’s new Tsar thought this war would be a walk in the park and that he could restore the glory days of the pre-Soviet Russian Empire. That is why he threatened to use nuclear weapons, perhaps forgetting that the West also has a huge and diverse nuclear arsenal, but did not threaten to use it. Is the nuclear threat a reaction to what looks like a defeat he didn’t even consider possible, or will he turn out to be another Nero watching as Moscow burns?

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The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Edward N. Arrington