An invasion of Ukraine could turn into a disaster equivalent to the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan.
CON COUGHLIN, DEFENCE EDITOR. Jan 27, 2022
One of the familiar refrains from senior military leaders about the deepening Ukraine crisis is how one minor miscalculation could easily lead to all-out conflict. The prevailing view in British military circles is still that this is a dangerous game of brinkmanship on the part of Vladimir Putin, aimed at forcing concessions from the West over Moscow’s long-standing grievances, such as Nato’s military deployment close to the Russian border and the unlikely eventuality of Ukraine being granted full Nato membership.
Nevertheless, as Sir Alex Younger, the former head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, remarked earlier this week, Mr Putin is not so much engaging in a clever game of chess with his Western adversaries as a high-stakes game of poker – one that, if he does not play his cards right, could have devastating consequences for both himself and his country.
With a heavily-armed, 100,000-strong force camped on the Ukrainian border, and fleets of warplanes and warships ready to provide support, Mr Putin may well be tempted to believe that he holds the upper hand, especially given the state of disarray in which Western leaders find themselves. Some of them – particularly in Germany – appear to be only too willing to appease the Russian President, fearful of the consequences of taking a more robust response.
However, there is another perspective that the Russian leader would be well-advised to consider as he plots his next move. If the West somehows discovers its resolve and he continues to make maximalist demands that are impossible to meet, he may end up painting himself into a corner where he is left with no option other than to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
For the moment, Mr Putin’s aggressive posture towards his southern neighbour appeals to the patriotic sensibilities of many Russians, not least because they have little else to cheer about given their country’s stagnant economy. But by making constant references to the Kremlin’s unhappiness about Western designs on Ukraine – a territory most Russians regard as being inextricably tied to Mother Russia – Mr Putin has ensured that expectations are running very high. At the very least, the Russian public will surely expect their leader to deliver tangible gains from his latest confrontation with the West.
Failure to do so would not only have the effect of weakening Mr Putin’s standing at home. It might also persuade him that his only remaining option is to settle the Ukrainian issue once and for all through force of arms.Such a move, though, could prove to be a misjudgment of catastrophic proportions, not least because, unlike 2014 when Mr Putin launched his military intervention to annex Crimea, Ukraine is far better placed to defend itself against a Russian assault.
Thanks to the arms supplies and training it has received from Western allies such as the US and Britain, the Ukrainian military is better equipped and organised than it was eight years ago. Any Russian military incursion into Ukrainian territory is likely to be met with fierce resistance.
The Ukrainians could also expect a degree of continuing support from the West to sustain their efforts – although no one in Washington or London is giving serious consideration to deploying ground forces in Ukraine at present. And, even if the Russians succeeded in gaining the upper hand on the battlefield, they would certainly encounter bitter resistance from the Ukrainian population at large, who have no desire to find themselves once more subjected to Russian oppression.
So, far from being the relatively straightforward military exercise the Kremlin was able to mount in Crimea in 2014, Mr Putin could soon find himself having to deal with another ill-fated military intervention more akin to Moscow’s disastrous involvement in Afghanistan during the 1980s, with the Russian people having to cope with a steady procession of their young offspring returning home in body bags instead of enjoying the spoils of war.
Nor could Moscow be able to draw on long-standing alliances for support, as Mr Putin’s pugnacious persona is not one that is naturally inclined to attract close allies.
The other key factor Mr Putin needs to take on board as he ponders his next move is the economic devastation his country is likely to suffer as a consequence of invading Ukraine. The Russian economy is roughly equivalent in size to that of Spain. The Kremlin says it is not worried at the prospect of being hit by fresh sanctions, as it has already become used to operating against a backdrop of US-imposed measures. Invading Ukraine, though, would most likely result in the implementation of punitive action on a completely different scale.
The notion, for example of banning Russia from access to the Swift payment system, a move openly mooted by Boris Johnson earlier this week, would hit Moscow hard, as it would exclude Russia from all international transactions, cause massive capital outflows and trigger currency volatility.
Mr Putin may believe he holds all the cards on Ukraine, but he may yet find that he has been dealt a dud hand. All the more reason for the West to show unity and resolve now.
The DT mods allowed me to post the following:
Almost half the entire Soviet losses in WW2 were Ukrainians. More than one third of the entire holocaust victims were Ukrainians. This on top of the systematic genocide inflicted by Russia upon Ukraine just ten years earlier, known as the holodomor.
No nation on earth has suffered as much from totalitarian savagery as Ukraine.
Ukraine deserves all the help we can give them x 2.
“The notion, for example of banning Russia from access to the Swift payment system, a move openly mooted by Boris Johnson earlier this week, would hit Moscow hard, as it would exclude Russia from all international transactions, cause massive capital outflows and trigger currency volatility.”
SWIFT is a powerful weapon and should be used, regardless of what the trash country Germanystan says.
“Mr Putin may believe he holds all the cards on Ukraine, but he may yet find that he has been dealt a dud hand. All the more reason for the West to show unity and resolve now.”
With such full-blown losers as Biden, Germanystan, frog land and so forth, how can unity ever be achieved?