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Russia presses the panic button and increases the risk of nuclear war

A Russian tank destroyed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the city of Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region, Ukraine (Reuters)

What many observers of the war in ukraine they feared is about to happen. The separatist leaders of four enclaves controlled by Russian forces and their proxies in Ukraine announced the celebration ofreferendums” between Friday and Tuesday to decide whether their territories join Russia. These votes, which are illegal under Ukrainian and international law and considered by most analysts to be a farceare similar to those Russia deployed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Unlike then, military control of the Kremlin about these states in the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk y Zaporizhzhia is dimmer, since Ukraine is in the midst of an offensive to expel Russian troops from more parts of the country.

A new Russian annexation of Ukrainian lands – regardless of the spurious nature of the movement – marks the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s last roll of the dice. Humbled on the battlefield in recent weeks, you may believe that changing the political facts on the ground could slow Ukrainian gains and force a recalculation among Western governments. “Following the annexation of the territories, Moscow would likely declare Ukrainian attacks on those areas to be assaults on Russia itself, analysts warned, a possible trigger for a general military mobilization or dangerous escalation such as the use of a nuclear weapon against Ukraine.”, wrote my colleague Robyn Dixon.

At the time of writing these lines, Putin was scheduled to deliver a speech early Wednesday in which he would possibly outline the next steps of Russia. Your country’s parliament is promoting a bill that will toughen penalties for a series of crimes, such as desertion and insubordination, if they are committed during military mobilization or in combat situations. War hardliners have called for these tougher measures to bolster the country’s ailing war effort. Russia. They also believe that greater control over the Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia will increase the bet in favor of Kremlin.

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Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks either the eve of our imminent victory or the eve of nuclear war.”, he tweeted Margaret Simonyaneditor-in-chief of the state propaganda channel RT. “I don’t see any third option”.

Ukrainian officials were unimpressed. “Fake ‘referendums’ won’t change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization’”, replied the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba. “Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine has every right to liberate the territories from it and will continue to liberate them whatever Russia says.”

The French President, Emmanuel Macronechoed that sentiment when speaking Tuesday on the dais of the UN General Assembly. He called Russian actions since the February 24 invasion “a return to the era of imperialism and colonies” and spoke directly to the nations of the developing world that seem to be sitting on the fence during this conflict. “Those who are now silent in the face of this new imperialism, or are secretly complicit in it, show a new cynicism that is overthrowing the global order without which peace is not possible,” he said. Macron.

The Russian head of state, Vladimir Putin, during a speech in which he announced the mobilization of 300,000 soldiers to fight in Ukraine (Reuters)
The Russian head of state, Vladimir Putin, during a speech in which he announced the mobilization of 300,000 soldiers to fight in Ukraine (Reuters)

Other Western diplomats condemned the annexation plans being considered. “Russiaits political leaders and all those involved in these ‘referendums‘ and other violations of international law in Ukraine they will be held accountable, and further restrictive measures against Russia will be considered,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrellit’s a statement.

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With the exception of rhetorical support from a group of far-right allies in Europa, Putin he can’t count on much support from elsewhere either. Last week, at a summit in Uzbekistanfaced some pressure from the leaders of China e Indiawhich have historically maintained warm ties with Moscowto reduce hostilities in Ukraine.

Those countries signaled to Putin that he should end the war as soon as possible. and stop pretending to represent the entire non-Western world,” he tweeted. Alexander Baunov, Russian journalist and expert on international politics. “Moscow’s actions, therefore, are being carried out to end the war as soon as possible, or, if that doesn’t work, to shift the blame to other people, and turn Russia’s invasion of a neighboring country in a defensive war.

The surprising victories of Ukraine in the northeastern region of Kharkiv they set the table for this strategic shift. The rapid Ukrainian advance exposed a depleted and disorganized Russian army that fell apart. It also further collapsed the propaganda narrative of Putin around the war. For months the Kremlin framed the Russian invasion as a “special operation” with one inevitable result: to return a rebellious little neighbor to the Russian fold. The severe setbacks have illustrated the apparent impossibility of a decisive Russian military victory.

and many in Russia they are realizing it too. “Judging by the scathing comments on Russian Telegram channels and the change in tone in the Kremlin-controlled media, the Russians are in the process of losing the last glimmers of their perceived military might.”, they wrote Gian Gentile y Raphael S. Cohen in Foreign Policycomparing the Ukrainian victory in Kharkiv with the American victory over the British in Saratoga in 1777, which changed the course of the War of Independence.

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That analogy may be a bit premature. Dara Massicotcolleague of Gentile y Cohen on the Rand Corporationwarned that the next phase of the war – which is still heavily influenced by Western military support for Ukraine in its attempt to recapture its lost territory – could see a whole new series of Russian provocations. “If the Kremlin’s annexation gambit fails to stop the fighting and support for Ukraine, the Kremlin will have to lash out to show it means business.”, he tweeted. “That means an escalation that could come in different forms” – including more missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian areas and energy infrastructure, cyber attacks and exercises that involve “wielding nuclear weapons”, if not their deployment.

What is at stake is increasingly important. West”should remind Russia of the invisible rules of war: that neither side wants to turn this conventional war into a broader confrontation between NATO and Russia”, they wrote Liana Fix y Michael Kimmage in Foreign Affairs. “A nuclear escalation would violate these rules and could lead to NATO involvement. It would be to everyone’s detriment.”

In the meantime, Fix y Kimmage They argued that the attempts of the Kremlin ordering a general mobilization could only sink approval of the war among the Russian public and undermine Russia’s own control. Putin about power. “Putin’s Russia has been unable to develop a clear concept for its war, unable to learn from its mistakes, and unable to execute many of the functions of a world-class military,” they wrote. “Mobilization per se would not change any of this.”

(C) The Washington Post.-

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