Russian expert: ‘Ukraine is the first step’

Ukraine could see a major new offensive from Russia on the anniversary of the all-out invasion, Ukraine’s defense minister said on Thursday.

Oleksii Reznikov told the French network BFM that Moscow has assembled and mobilized thousands of troops for the potential offensive, which could begin as early as the end of February.

Wednesday night’s missile attack in Kramatorsk that killed three people and injured at least eight others, according to a report by Ukraine’s presidential office, is a reminder of the civilian cost of war.

As Ukraine braced for the possibility of a spring attack, CTV News sat down with a senior consultant for the Russia and Eurasian Program at Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London, UK. United Kingdom, author and Russian war expert Keir Giles, on Wednesday for discussion. conflict.

Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited for length, clarity, and brevity.

Ask: The anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine is coming up on February 24. What do you expect from Russia?

Giles: I hope we will see some examples from Russia of how it can damage Ukraine. I hope that we will see something tied to the one-year anniversary, but I don’t expect it to change the overall nature of the conflict, because it has long since become clear that this is not going to be the case. war that is decided on the battlefield. Instead, it is Russia’s continued operations to try to prevent Ukraine from functioning as a country that will determine whether Russia wins, because Ukraine must surrender. And that is one of the reasons why Western support for Ukraine is so important, not only in terms of supplying weapons systems, which attract all the attention, but in terms of all other measures, international solidarity, humanitarian and economic aid. aid on all that Ukraine needs to keep fighting.

Ask: Speaking of Western support for Ukraine, Ukraine has finally received some Leopard 2 battle tanks from Poland and from Canada, Why now? And how much of a difference will they really make on the battlefield?

Giles: There seems to be a consensus among military analysts who are scrutinizing this conflict, as well as Ukrainian officials, that now is the time when main battle tanks from the West will come. makes a significant difference. Now, there are two key elements of upcoming campaigns that will be crucial. First of all, it is whether Ukraine can push to further liberate the occupied territories and, most importantly, to liberate the people living in them from the barbaric Russian occupation with the ultimate aim of being expel the Russian army completely from the territory of Ukraine or not. In addition, Ukraine says that these Western main battle tanks are vital to counter Russia’s own planned spring offensive, and it is likely that this will be a slightly different attack on Russia. characteristics compared to what we have seen in the war over the past few months, because part of the Cadets Force that Russia mobilized to throw them into the war was deployed with very little prior training. line. Another section was organized for more systematic training in preparation for a spring attack. And Russia will certainly provide additional forces against Ukraine after that.

Ask: How long will the war last?

Giles: We have no way of knowing how long the war will last, because that depends on the willingness of the Western countries to recognize that for Ukraine to win is vital to their security. their own security. Once that perception pervades the Western countries – and is accompanied by the perception that they have been very successfully prevented by Russia from supporting Ukraine entirely on a completely contrived basis, and once all Western forces were actually sent in after Ukraine, allowing it to move forward and win this war – the resolution could be quite quick indeed. But it all depends on international solidarity and political will in Western countries to realize what is at stake.

Ask: What do you say to those who believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals are limited to Ukraine and that other countries are engaging in a kind of “Red Fear” to say their democracy is under threat? threaten?

Giles: It is true that sometimes people say that Putin’s goals are limited to Ukraine and that they will not promote other countries that were formerly part of the Russian empire now feel threatened. Now, those are the people who didn’t pay attention to what Putin himself said. If you look at his program and how his political goals have evolved over time, it is completely clear that Ukraine is just the first step among many others. And all the small states around the western periphery of Russia are under threat.

Ask: Is this Putin’s war?

Giles: Putin did not invent all the ideas he was pursuing in his campaign against Ukraine. Instead, he is making some very ingrained assumptions in Russian society, not only the political elite but the country as a whole, about Russia’s place in the world and its right to rule the nations. which we consider to be sovereign, separate and independent. countries like Ukraine. He didn’t invent it. Russia today is not the product of President Putin, but the opposite. President Putin is just making all the assumptions that have been made widely in Russia about what Russia should be.

Ask: What does Putin want?

Giles: One of the ways in which the job of people like me, who explain Russia for a living, has become so much easier after the start of the latest phase of the conflict in Ukraine is that we don’t I still have to explain what President Putin wants. because he himself said so very clearly. He wants to correct the historical mistakes he claims to have made 100 years ago when the Bolsheviks, the early communists, founded these independent republics based on the established states. the basis of what we now think of as sovereign states around Russia’s periphery. He said that this was a mistake because these countries have no right to exist and the peoples within them do not have the right to exist independently when not ruled by Moscow. So his program, as he sets out, is to do it right.

Ask: Some say this is a proxy war between the US and Russia. What is your answer to that?

Giles: It would be a mistake to call this a proxy war in the sense that it is a war waged by the United States. Look at the ways in which the US has been very discreet in its full support of Ukraine. Russia’s deterrence campaign was so effective that the United States had to exercise extreme restraint. Of course, by comparison, that gives Ukraine a greater weight of weapons support. But if you look at the capacity ratio of each country, it is still far behind. It was the front-line states that realized what was at stake, realizing that if Russia didn’t stop at Ukraine, they might be next, the ones that have donated more, proportionally, than the rest of the world. their weapons and also economically. and humanitarian aid, than the United States.

Ask: What is the real nuclear threat?

Giles: It cannot.

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