Jay Kuo. April 27
There were explosions inside the borders of Moldova, another sovereign nation that itself has been concerned about increasing Russian aggression. There’s an enclave within Moldova called Transnistria on the border of Ukraine that is controlled by pro-Russian forces, similar to how parts of the Donbas in Ukraine were contested by pro-Russian separatists. Russian propaganda is falsely claiming that ethnic Russians are being targeted, and observers fear that these explosions are a kind of “false flag” that Russia could use to justify attacking Moldova, thus expanding the war.
Paired with those explosions have been a heightened series of warnings from the Kremlin for the West to cease its arms shipments to Ukraine or face a “real risk” of nuclear conflict—meaning, of course, that the shipments are proving highly effective and that Russia fears it will face defeat in Ukraine should they continue.
Could Russia really lose? If the war drags on without decisive victory by Russia soon, a loss certainly is a stark possibility for Moscow. Putin already has poured much of the country’s military resources into the war, but Ukraine surprisingly has held out and now receives replenishment of ammunition, supplies, weaponry and critical spare parts from multiple Western partners including the U.S. These shipments now include heavy weaponry such as howitzers and attack helicopters along with the existing supply of anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles and drones.
On the other hand, for Russia the sanctions are beginning to bite, with the Russian army finding that it may not be able to replace much of its military hardware so readily without key spare parts from abroad. Even the Chinese have pulled back, with leading drone maker DJI suspending its operations in Russia.
It has always been understood that as the situation grows more dire for Putin, he might begin to lash out and threaten the use of his most dangerous weapons to achieve some kind of face-saving stalemate after his disastrous decision to invade. We are nearing that point. But Putin must also understand that there is no conceivable way the West would ever stop its arms shipments now or otherwise back down in the face of even a nuclear threat. That would lead to even further aggression by Russia, so it’s a non-starter. That leaves Putin in a very bad spot, with his army fatigued, demoralized, and undersupplied while Ukrainian forces have seen an uplift in morale and continue to receive critical resupply.
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