Monday 31 October 2022

Well-reasoned thesis on Putin's thinking

 ... here, in an essay from ISW.  Extract: 

Putin has likely not abandoned hopes of achieving his maximalist aims in Ukraine through conventional military means, which he is pursuing in parallel with efforts to break Ukraine’s will to fight and the West’s will to continue supporting Kyiv.  Putin is unlikely to escalate to the use of tactical nuclear weapons barring the sudden collapse of the Russian military permitting Ukrainian forces to make uncontrolled advances throughout the theater.  Such a situation is possible but unlikely.  Putin is extraordinarily unlikely to seek direct military conflict with NATO.  Putin is very likely to continue to hint at the possibility of Russian tactical nuclear use and attacks on NATO, however, as parts of his effort to break Western will to continue supporting Ukraine.  This forecast rests on two assessments. First, that Putin is setting conditions to continue throwing poorly prepared Russian troops directly into the fighting in Ukraine for the foreseeable future rather than pausing operations to reconstitute effective military forces. Second, that Putin’s theory of victory relies on using the harsh winter to break Europe’s will. These assessments offer a series of timelines that support the forecast ... over the course of several predictable time periods.

That, at last, offers a decent attempt at divining & articulating something that looks half like a coherent Putin strategy, & it's been a long time coming.  I say 'coherent', but there could be less dispassionate descriptions of a strategy that involves plugging gaps in the line with tens of thousands of human beings quite literally swept up off the streets, in pursuit of a failed war of aggression.  

PS, don't bother us again with "... but ISW are a bunch of neocons", thanks, trolls.   ISW are bloody good analysts.   



jim said...

Looks a very good essay, put yourself in Putin's shoes, what would you do? What other 'winning' options does he have?

With politicians I think 'think of the lowest thing they could do - then go a bit lower' is the direction of travel. So what might Putin do and how would the West and in particular the UK react?

People are a good weapon for Putin, empty out Ukraine on to Germany's doorstep, push their cost on to the West with plenty of pictures of misery caused - to pull at heartstrings and encourage sympathetic actions. But rattle the nuke swords if anyone looks like coming over the border.

Then food, let the poorer nations starve and migrate to the West, use newsreel to good effect. Then perhaps a little gentle covert cutting of pipelines and cables might not come amiss.

As for reaction - all a bit difficult. Let's keep it arms length, supply a handful of bullets and a few HIMARs now and again. Following that path may have an unhappy end - no more Ukrainians or joiners to use such weapons as they have.

We've tried the Putin's ill and about to be toppled schtick and the economy about to fall over as well. Not likely to happen but cheap to try.

So, we must face the fact that Putin will win unless we bite the bullet and engage more vigorously. A bit tricky diplomatically - we won't nuke if you don't. But how far back do you push the Ruskies before they cut up really rough? Nukes are wonderful things - until you get one back.

As things stand we can hide behind Brexit - one of its very few money-saving benefits. And keep Boris bottled up somewhere.

Sackerson said...

The clocks have just gone back, so let's turn them back to 2014 and ask why Minsk II wasn't implemented. 'Oh, those evil Russians!' doesn't quite explain everything for me.

Never mind; it's done, as Truss allegedly texted Blinken 1 minute after the Nordstream pipelines were bombed.

Everyone familiar with Russia's Dead Hand / Perimeter system? I wasn't until today, but then I'm only a potential civilian victim. We need another JFK in the White House, not a senile puppet run by fantasists.

Time for foxhole prayer, perhaps.

andrew said...

Putin is not in a hurry.
I think you may find a sequence of odd infrastructure fails around Europe on a slowly increasing tempo.
Possibly focusing on the UK because we are outside the eu and surrounded by water.
Then they will really do something around the end of 2023 to bits of europe and ukraine

Wildgoose said...

You may think me a troll, but I reckon that Russia has just as much capability of playing silly games with critical infrastructure as the West appears to be doing. And these kind of games are pretty stupid when both sides possess nuclear arsenals and one side (Russia) sees this as an existential threat.

We used to have serious politicians who understood the necessity for de-escalation.

Now we get dismissive comments like "plugging gaps in the line with tens of thousands of human beings quite literally swept up off the streets". Seriously? Calling up former professional (not conscript) soldiers is likened to sweeping cannon fodder off the streets? That kind of comment would be more appropriate for Ukraine, which emptied prisons of violent criminals while deliberately handing them weaponry and hoping they would shoot Russians rather than (as happened) each other.

Sackerson said...

@Wildgoose: according to Gonzalo Lira the reservists have been used to replace regulars within Russia to free up the latter for service in Ukraine.

Nick Drew said...

There are ample accounts of wholly untrained, barely-equipped Russian press-ganged personnel (there's no other term for it: not duly qualified re-mobilized reservists) being deployed within days to the front line and indeed being captured as well as killed, already.

If anyone can show us an account offering definitive evidence of whomever the say blew the Nord Stream lines - and I don't mean circumstantial / "well it's obvious" / "cui bono" / fantasy theories that don't bear even cursory examination - then please direct us to it. Personally I await such an account before forming a view. I can easily come up with notional motives for a whole range of different actors to be under consideration for the deed.

BlokeInBrum said...

Conspiracy nut here checking in.

Doesn't this have all too many parallels with the Covid outbreak?

Lots of ordinary folk weighed in to say that it was obviously an accidental lab outbreak and that the whole wet-market theory was just smoke and mirrors to deflect blame.

Those voices were suppressed, marginalised, un-personed.

Now of course, the consensus is that that was exactly what happened. But only of course after all the relevant players have covered their arses.

Now I'm not connected in any way, politically, militarily or otherwise, but even a simpleton like me can see an obvious cope when I hear all the risible rubbish about how the Russians may have blown up their own gas pipeline, accidentally or otherwise.

It has all the similarities with the misleading media surrounding Covid.

Sometimes, the obvious is just that - obvious.

If the Americans were responsible for the pipeline explosion, they have succeeded in preventing the EU from ever being able to compete militarily,economically or politically with them. They have screwed over Russia and prevented them from becoming a (near peer), and most importantly stopped Russia and Europe from becoming closer partners. And at the same time being able to sell expensive LNG into Europe. For the Biden adminstration it probably has the happy side effect of covering up whatever dodgy dealing that Hunter and 'The Big Guy' were up to in Ukraine.
Funny how you don't hear much about that in the media any more?

For them, it was clearly an opportunity to good to pass up and I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of people in Washington with the means and intent to do so.

Question - if the pipeline explosion was natural/accidental - there should be lots of underwater footage of it, yes? It's not like they haven't had time.

Nick Drew said...

Bizarrely, Putin has said gas supply can recommence through Nord Stream any time the Germans give the green light.

One supposes he knows.

Incidentally, it's surprisingly easy to mend lightly-damaged pipelines (they get 'blown up' all the time in some parts of the world, being the softest target imaginable), including underwater ones. There have been instances of UK onshore oil pipelines being deliberately ruptured by sophisticated oil thieves (it's a decades-old profession in E.Europe) but you never hear about it and they are quickly fixed.

Of course, no details have been given as to the nature of the damage, and one might also suppose that truly malicious damage, intended for permanent effect, could be more difficult to fix.

Anonymous said...

While we are all looking over at the battlefield, where is all this money going?

Has there been an increase in investments in munitions; or energy infrastructure companies; or infrastructure companies? Like the coming of Spring, where the cash is going will be the early indication of what will play out in the near future?

Caeser Hēméra said...

A good article. I'm surprised there isn't more mention of Russian equipment though.

Little use stiffening your defences if that stiffening mostly consists of rigor mortis by spring, and said defences actively look forward to being fired upon for the warmth and Jack Frost is more feared than enemy artillery.

We'll know, come spring, just how accurate tales of poor winter equipment are.

Maybe they've mentioned it previously, but there is also the change in how Russia uses medium and long range weaponry. It's saved for retaliatory attacks, increasingly using Iranian weaponry, and the targets are mostly civilian. That speaks of stresses in supplies, and a fear of directly facing NATO weaponry. Short of a few vanity attacks, Russia finds herself backing away to safer havens.

And then there is the Russian economy, and, more importantly, the railways. Fog of war and all that, but there looks to be stresses within the Russian rail network. The Russian railway capacity degrades below a certain point, modern Russia ceases to be viable, and it's a race between repair and collapse.

The cost for Russia has been extreme though, neighbours are actively moving away from Russia's influence, semi-allies, like Erdogan, play their own games. Six months ago I can't see Turkey having decided to continue the Ukrainian grain shipments, let alone Erdogan leave Putin waiting in a personal show of where power now lay.

Even in terms of demographics, I cannot see how the kidnapping of Ukrainians will offset the volume of Russians who have left.

No matter the outcome, this is Russia's Suez, much more than the collapse of the USSR was.

Caeser Hēméra said...

And in terms of infrastructure attacks, Russia would be well advised to not move them much beyond Ukraine.

We've advanced quite a bit since WW2's Operation Outward, and they should regard Western infrastructure as having the Mark of Cain etched very clearly upon it.

E-K said...

This was entirely avoidable and has cost Europe (and us) dear.

There was no need to have provoked the Russian invasion. There was no need to have made Russia our enemy after the fall of the Berlin wall.

If there were need for it then it was the height of stupidity to base European energy supply on Russian gas and it is even more stupid to suck up to America and blow up NS supply pipes on their orders.


Matt Hancock - yet another narcissistic gamble (someone's told him he's gorgeous) I'm a Celebrity ... whilst Parliament is in session.

This, the guy we trusted when told to lock down as long as we did.

I've already sent the link about how he abused Kate Bingham during the crisis - he was having a heady affair under the romantic backdrop of lockdown leadership and didn't want it to end.

E-K said...

Here are the tax rises and crime is through the roof. A Tory slaughter in 2024 and Labour in coalition with the SNP. I always said that the cost of lockdown would be worse than the disease.

Don Cox said...

" I always said that the cost of lockdown would be worse than the disease."

Tell that to the Emperor of China. It's too late to tell Boris.


Anonymous said...

And the ONS :

"We’re changing the way we produce population & migration statistics to include all available data, including upcoming #Census2021 results. As part of this, we’re discontinuing our Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality series."

They don't want Boris's 1.1 million visas to show up. You can tell the bought and paid for Tories, they're the ones holding their noses at Braverman.

On Ukraine

"Finland's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it has received preliminary information that criminals in Finland might have captured military arms, such as assault rifles, meant for Ukrainian forces. "Weapons shipped [by various countries] to Ukraine have also been found in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands," NBI Detective Superintendent Christer Ahlgren told Yle. "

Who could possibly have foreseen that?

Anonymous said...

"don't bother us again with "... but ISW are a bunch of neocons", thanks, trolls."

But whether you like it or not, they ARE a bunch of neocons!

They hate Russia because great-great-great-grandpappy's store in Minsk got looted by drunken Cossacks in 1873, and they nurse their ethnic hatreds.

Haven't you seen the documentary "Fiddler On The Roof"?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the US is reporting that Iran is about to attack Saudi Arabia.

Does that mean that the US is about to attack Iran?

Anonymous said...

"Finland's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it has received preliminary information that criminals in Finland might have captured military arms, such as assault rifles, meant for Ukrainian forces. "Weapons shipped [by various countries] to Ukraine have also been found in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands," NBI Detective Superintendent Christer Ahlgren told Yle. "

- weapons captured by the Russians and then shipped to criminals already working on behalf of the Putin regime in Scandinavia. All part of the process of disinformaziya.

jim said...

Mr Putin tells us the highest priority is avoiding a nuclear clash. He's probably right, it would be very inconvenient.

Looking more widely, the old idea that God is on the side of the big battalions seems to have some validity. Especially if those big clumsy battalions are not under any threat from a fast moving cavalry. If that is the case then Putin can take his time.

Then we might consider the geopolitical situation. Russia is no longer the threat it was - it is bottled up in a minor situation in Europe. Germany and a good part of Europe have been economically weakened if not neutralised. The British continue to self-harm. So no need to help things along.

Which leaves the game open to the US and to China and Asia. Mr Xi and Mr Biden can sit back and enjoy each other. The only dark cloud on the horizon is the US elections and that nice Mr Trump and friends. So nothing much will happen before November 2024. Relax Vlad.

Caeser Hēméra said...

The grain situation is interesting. After Russia leaving the agreement in a huff, and everyone just deciding to continue without them, they've decided to rejoin.

Read into that what you will.

Anonymous said...

"weapons captured by the Russians and then shipped to criminals already working on behalf of the Putin regime in Scandinavia."

Yes, you'll have noticed the huge increases in Russian exports to Scandinavia and the Baltic States!

File under

"Russia blew up Nordstrean"

"Russia is shelling the nuclear plant it controls"