Russia

Russia’s defeats in Ukraine have strategists worried about Moscow’s next move

Russia has been tight-lipped about its latest defeats in Ukraine, and strategists fear Moscow could look to punish Kyiv severely for its victories on the battlefield in an effort to save face.

Kyiv’s forces launched a massive counterattack in the northeast of the country, reclaiming thousands of kilometers of Russian-occupied land over the last few days.

Now thoughts are turning to potential Russian retaliation, with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov telling the Financial Times he was expecting a counterattack. “A counteroffensive liberates territory and after that you have to control it and be ready to defend it,” Reznikov said, adding, “Of course, we have to be worried, this war has worried us for years.”

Russia has already launched intense shelling on the Kharkiv region, starting Sunday night, leaving it without electricity and water. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister told Reuters it was too early to say Ukraine had full control of the area.

Close followers of the Kremlin say President Vladimir Putin is likely weighing his options now.

“The military story for the Kremlin is becoming worse,” Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group president, said in a note Monday. “To the extent that continues, it pressures Putin into calling for a mobilization — likely a partial one but still a politically and socially costly move for the Russian president at home, that will force him into declaring war with Ukraine, and tacitly admitting that Russia is facing military problems,” he said in emailed comments. Russia has insisted on calling its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” not a war.

“Further, it makes Russian willingness to mete out Grozny-like ‘punishment’ onto the Ukrainians higher, both in terms of inflicting mass casualties on Ukraine through greater targeting of urban centers, as well as, in the worst case, using chemical or even tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield to sow mass panic,” Bremmer added.

“If there’s a likely near-term change in the russia war going forward, it’s escalatory and not a negotiated breakthrough.”

Read more at CNBC

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