April 24, 2024

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War in Ukraine | Putin has been completely vague about his intentions

War in Ukraine |  Putin has been completely vague about his intentions

(Paris) The town of Lyssytchansk has fallen, and the question arises as to the further intentions of the Russian forces in the Ukraine, whose advance, admittedly slow, is now regular with a large reinforcement of artillery.

Posted at 7:25 am.

Didier Lauras
French media agency

Lock down Donbass, advance, book territorial gains, negotiate to divide the West: Barring a military coup, Russian President Vladimir Putin has many cards to play but remains completely opaque about his intentions.

“All options are open,” summarizes Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES).

Alexander Grinberg, an analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy (JISS), confirms this. “Will the Russians stop and claim a major victory or do they have plans” in the south of the country?

Keep moving forward

No one seems to be able to prevent the Russians from taking full control of the Donbass, already partially held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, even if there are pockets of resistance.

Against the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysizhansk, which fell back-to-back, Moscow has attractive targets.

“Russia can be expected to take Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and its environs,” said Pierre Grosser, co-researcher at the Sirius Laboratory at the Sorbonne University. “With Sloviansk, the Russian forces will hope to find the population – to those who have been there – very friendly”.

But the Russian forces showed early in the war that they could not go deep. “Their steamroller works well near their borders, logistics centers and air bases. The further they move away from it, the more complicated it becomes,” notes Pierre Razoux.

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Lock the Black Sea

In the first days of the war, the Russians quickly took Kherson in the south, but the situation on the shores of the Black Sea was not stabilized.

“The war in the south – and the liberation of Ukrainian ports from Russian control – is of far greater strategic importance than the Donbass,” said retired Australian general Mick Ryan.

Control of the coast would give Moscow territorial continuity with Crimea, annexed in 2014, and access to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.

But, “Ukraine’s counterattacks in the south put the Russians in a dilemma. Do they continue their offensive in the east or significantly strengthen the south? “Adds a senior officer.

Kharkiv is the destination

The country’s second city, Kharkiv (northeast), not far from the Russian border, was under Ukrainian control and could be a target for Putin, says Pierre Razoux.

“A Ukrainian collapse and complete isolation of Kharkiv would force the Russians to make a choice between making an attempt to secure Kharkiv or releasing pressure south toward Kherson.”

It’s a dilemma Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky knows all too well.

“He had to organize his units to avoid a major breakthrough in the summer months, to prevent the Russians from cutting the Ukrainian forces in half and encircling the large pocket of Kharkiv,” the researcher says.

A battle for control of the city of about 1.4 million people would necessarily be devastating, and the siege could last “a year,” the expert says.

Split the western part

With every military advance, Vladimir Putin drives a wedge into Western unity. Because there is no single view of the conflict in Kyiv, Washington, Paris, London or Warsaw.

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“Russia’s goal is to continue crushing Ukrainian forces until political support for Ukraine in the West diminishes,” argues Colin Clark, director of research at the Soufan Center, a New York think tank.

However, Kyiv remains under the infusion of significant Western military aid. “The Ukrainians understand that they cannot supply all the heavy weapons they need,” recalls Alexander Grinberg.

And each week’s war raises the pressure on Western public opinion in the context of inflation and the energy crisis. “The Americans could tell the Ukrainians: ‘You can’t continue,'” the Israeli recalled.

Open negotiations

And let’s not forget the cost of the Russian advance, in terms of sanctions, human losses and equipment destruction. So, according to analysts, Putin has many reasons to end the war.

In late June, the Kremlin opened the door to negotiations. “We must order […] For Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms, all conditions imposed by Russia must be implemented. Then everything will be over in one day,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

A Kremlin strongman could justify domestically a pause in the war, declaring that he had indeed accomplished his objectives.

“Putin will be forced to negotiate at some point, his eyes are bigger than his stomach,” assures Colin Clarke.

Even within the Ukrainian political class he will find a disjointed front before him.

Because while Zelensky is desperate to leave Donbass to buy peace, his right wing and his generals “refuse any compromise with Russia”, Pierre Razoux underlines. “They can tolerate, but not defeat, a frozen conflict.”