According to Western government sources and think tank experts, these are the possible scenarios for the coming weeks and months.
(UKRAINIAN – AFP) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 rocked the world, and President Vladimir Putin shows no signs of letting up. According to Western government sources and think tank experts, the following are possible scenarios for the weeks and months ahead.
1) Military impasse
Ukrainian forces have resisted the Russian invasion, defeating to take the capital in the opening days. However, they are suffering a heavy siege in the country’s second city of Kharkov and the strategic port of Mariupol.
Although Russia claims to have complete air superiority, Ukrainian air defenses around the capital Kyiv and other areas have been hit. However, they are still functioning, according to Western officials.
That has caused them a lot of problems,” a European source, who requested anonymity, told reporters on Friday. In addition, large numbers of Ukrainians have joined the territorial defense units, and there are doubts about the morale of the Russian army and its logistical support.
Backed by Western intelligence and an influx of anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, Ukrainian forces could hold out in the capital and force a military stalemate.
Increasing Western sanctions choking the Russian economy could force Putin to change his calculations.
The West could adopt some sanctions to pressure Putin to abandon his military goal of decapitating the Ukrainian government and installing a pro-Russian puppet,” Samuel Charap of the U.S.-based RAND Corporation think tank wrote this week.
Pressure from Beijing, increasingly allied with the Kremlin under President Xi Jinping, may also be needed.
2) Russian internal change
Putin is keeping a close eye on domestic dissent. The crackdown on the independent press and international media eliminated all alternative sources of information on the war, cementing the control of the state press, loyal to Putin.
Nevertheless, small anti-war demonstrations have occurred in several cities, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with at least 6,000 arrested, according to human rights groups.
There have also been signs of a break among the ruling elite, with some oligarchs, lawmakers, and even the private oil group Lukoil openly calling for a cease-fire or an end to the fighting.
Although not considered likely at this stage, the possibility of Putin being overthrown in a popular uprising or even a palace coup has not been ruled out.
His security is excellent and will be very good until it’s no longer suitable,” said Eliot Cohen of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. That has happened numerous times in Soviet and Russian history,” he added.
3) Russian military success
Given Russia’s arms superiority, airpower, and devastating use of artillery, Western military analysts anticipate that it will continue to advance.
A massive convoy of vehicles formed up outside Kyiv ahead of what was anticipated to be the assault on the capital.
French President Emmanuel Macron concluded that “the worst is yet to come” after talks with Putin on Thursday morning. Putin wants “to control all of Ukraine,” a Macron adviser later told reporters.
But even if Russian troops depose Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky and break Ukrainian resistance elsewhere, Putin will face the challenge of occupying a country of 40 million people.
Entering a city is not the same as holding it,” wrote British military historian Lawrence Freedman, a professor at King’s College London, in Substack.
4) The conflict spreads
Ukraine borders four former Soviet countries that are members of NATO, which considers an attack on one member an attack on all. Putin’s nostalgia for the former Soviet Union and his commitment to protect Russian minorities in the Baltic states raises questions about his territorial ambitions.
After Ukraine, some speculate that Putin may have Moldova, a former Soviet country located between Ukraine and Romania, in his sights.
Few expect Putin to attack a NATO member, which would involve the risk of nuclear war, but other provocations are possible.
Neutral Sweden is keeping a watchful eye on Russian intentions with Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea,” wrote analyst Bruno Tertais for the Institut Montaigne, a French think tank.
RAND’s Charap warned of the “risks of an accident, incident, and miscalculation getting out of control in a NATO-Russia war,” such as a stray missile or cyberattack, which could generate the conflict.
5) Confrontation with NATO
Such a war has always been considered unlikely because of nuclear weapons, which are a guarantee of mutual destruction. The United States and Russia have opened a so-called “deconfliction line” to exchange military information quickly to reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.
They used the same system in Syria, where forces from both countries have been active on opposite sides of that country’s civil war since 2015. But Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to remain on alert, and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned that “World War III can only be a nuclear war.”
Western analysts say such warnings should be seen to dissuade the United States and Europe from considering initiatives such as a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
These announcements are predominantly aimed at the Western public to make us feel fear and insecurity,” commented Gustav Gressel, a missile defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
They use nuclear deterrence as a form of information operation. There is no substance,” he said.
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