Staunton, Jan. 22 – Many Russians who oppose Putin’s war in Ukraine and even more Western analysts are convinced that Vladimir Putin needs a breathing space to build up his forces and that he will be dissuaded from going nuclear if the West doesn’t give Ukraine sufficient weapons all at once to allow Kyiv to go on the offensive, Aleksandr Skobov says.
But both of those assumptions are wrong, the Russian analyst says. On the one hand, Putin has never called for a ceasefire or proposed genuine negotiations and he is getting all the respite he needs by the way in which the West is carefully dosing out military assistance to Ukraine (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=63CD42CB69C69).
Each time the West commits to giving more assistance to Ukraine, as it has done with welcome regularity, it does so in a way that any aid won’t reach Kyiv immediately and thus gives the Kremlin all the time it needs to prepare to counter anything that the West and Ukraine may do, Skobov argues.
Each successive assistance “’package’ can be both larger and better than the previous one,” but none of them reach the front immediately, Skobov points out. “As a result, when this package eventually reaches the front, Putin has managed to replenish his cannon fodder and bring up more weapons to the Russian side.
The last 11 months have shown, unexpectedly to many and perhaps even the Kremlin, that Putin can constantly draw on more human resources from the Russian population because of “the complete insensitivity of the majority of Russian society not only to war crimes in Ukraine but also to Russian losses.”
And on the other hand, Skobov argues, the West apparently has decided to dose out aid to Ukraine lest a massive supply all at once would raise the specter that Russian would lose the war and prompt Putin to use nuclear weapons. By such dragging out of the process of arming Ukraine, the West clearly hopes to avoid that outcome.
However, this dosing out of assistance in fact “does nothing to reduce the risk of nuclear war,” Skobov says. “Russia today is ruled by cold calculating scoundrels;” and thus, a Kremlin decision to go nuclear “will not depend on whether it is presented with the fact of a swift defeat or whether it is convinced that it will eventually lose in Ukraine.”
That decision, the Russian analyst says, will depend “exclusively on how confident the Kremlin is that it will win a nuclear war.” At present, Putin and his entourage believe that “a nuclear war, even a total one, can be won.” That almost certainly is a delusion but it is what the men in the Kremlin think.
Thus, the West can keep the Kremlin from using nuclear weapons only by convincing them that they will lose that war, something that will require the West to change its approach to show that it is willing to provide Ukraine with enough weapons to defeat Russia on the ground now and to show that it will respond overwhelmingly to any first use of nukes by Moscow.