Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens to turn into something even more dangerous.
As political strategies, military tactics and war aims change on both sides this week, the possibility of a conflict between Moscow and NATO has suddenly become more likely.
Statements by senior US and Russian officials in recent days reflect the growing threat of a broader and more unpredictable war. They also included, once again, thinly veiled Russian warnings about the dangers of a nuclear exchange.
While this threat has been dismissed by Western officials as Kremlin bravado, along with developments on the battlefield – with Ukrainian forces appearing to be stepping up attacks on Russian soil and Moscow appearing to be launching false flag provocations in Moldova’s breakaway “republic” of Transnistria – there is a feeling that the war is undergoing a great change.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned of the real danger of a third world war, adding provocatively that he was doing his best to prevent a nuclear exchange. “I don’t want to artificially increase those risks. Many would wish for that. The danger is serious, real. And we mustn’t underestimate that.” he saiddoesn’t do much to erase fears.
Lavrov’s comments were as reaction to Overt missile and covert attacks by Ukraine on Russian soil, targeting a fuel depot and military facility in the southwestern city of Bryansk, 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. There is also widespread suspicion that a Ukrainian secret mission could be behind a fire at the Central Research Institute of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Tver, northwest of Moscow, last Thursday.
Taking the fight to Russia demonstrates Ukraine’s operational prowess, in addition to its growing confidence as it refuses to be intimidated by Kremlin threats of escalation.
The composure of Western leaders in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil is also telling.
Just weeks ago, behind the scenes, Western officials were urging Ukraine to show restraint and refrain from attacks inside Russia, fearing it would prompt President Vladimir Putin to order retaliatory measures against, say, Poland.
Retired US General Ben Hodges had complained as recently as the past week, the Western Allies had not yet decided whether they were ready to make the sacrifices and do whatever it took to achieve victory. “I think the bigger problem for us or the bigger challenge — that’s the collective ‘we’, which includes Canada — is that we have to decide that we’re going to win,” he told CBC News.
That seems to have changed now: Winning seems to be the goal.
It seems Ukrainian confidence in Kiev’s Western allies is rubbing off as officials speak of a Ukrainian victory, and both America and Britain seem poised to rule out the risk of a spillover as they believe that defended Ukraine’s right to counterattack.
“First of all, it’s the Ukrainians who make the decision on the target, not the people who make or export the kit in the first place,” said British Defense Secretary James Heappey told the BBC on Tuesday. “And secondly, pursuing targets at the depths of your opponents to disrupt their logistics and supply routes is perfectly legitimate,” he added.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin addressed the risks of a contagion during a news conference the same day after a meeting at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, where he invited counterparts from dozens of countries to discuss increasing shipments of heavy armor and artillery to Ukraine to discuss.
“We don’t want to see any spillovers and again it’s important to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure Ukraine succeeds. And that’s the best way to counteract it (risk of spillover)” he said.
Accordingly, NATO is seeking to call the shots in what British military historian Hew Strachan has termed “escalation dominance”.
“Individually [NATO] Members – most notably Britain – have shown themselves willing to take risks they rejected six weeks ago. Moreover, they do so openly, discarding the plausible denial that characterized their previous efforts to help Ukraine.” In return, Strachan points to the West’s willingness to offer far more advanced equipment now than before.
Western, or at least American and British, war aims are also being recalibrated – with Austin, supported by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying Washington wants to “see Russia weakened to the extent that it cannot do things like that that it did when it invaded Ukraine.” did.”
These significant shifts in Western thought and action come at a time when the Kremlin has pared down what appears to be its military targets and is concentrating on the Donbass and southern Ukraine, having abandoned attempts to seize Kyiv. But both former and current Western military officials say the Russian withdrawal from the northwest and east of the capital should be viewed as a strategic retreat.
A key objective of the intensified Donbass offensive is to target and encircle a large group of the Ukrainian military’s most experienced and battle-hardened units that have dug into the Kyiv-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. If successful, Russian forces could then pirouette back to Kyiv, they say.
However it ends, the conflict is likely to get a lot hotter now before it’s over.
https://www.politico.eu/article/war-in-ukraine-escalate-nato-russia-us-moscow/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication In case you missed it, the war in Ukraine just got hotter - POLITICO