Here is one theory why the Ukrainian president has chosen to be reluctant in response to the Russian invasion. Many in Ukraine and abroad consider him an incompetent coward not able to deal with the expansion of Russian military forces on his own territory. Well, there may be another explanation of his seemingly very careful strategy.
By constantly keeping to the Minsk Agreement, and not ordering a full blown counterattack in Donbas, he lures Putin into making more and more mistakes. Russia’s aggression is getting more attention in the Western press, and Putin himself, as Russia as a country, is turning into an international pariah. This strategy is of course very costly, and has lead to – and will lead to more – losses of civilian and military lives. Poroshenko probably thinks the alternative strategy will be more devastating to Ukraine, and that striking back will increase the risk of losing the war.
As long as the Russian expansion is not too fast, he may believe that time is on his side. Russia’s economy is getting weaker every day, and even Western news channels are now starting to report about actual Russian troops on Ukrainian soil.
Poroshenko also has to acknowledge the fact that his forces are far from strong enough or well enough equipped to form a sufficient defense against Putin’s heavily armored spetsnaz troops. Less than one year ago many of the SBU and army leaders were in the pocket of FSB and GRU, and it is still hard to tell how much strategical information is being leaked to Moscow.
His strategy is also dangerous from a domestically political view. If Debaltseve will be encircled and thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are killed, he will have to face a rage from a large part of his fellow citizens.
Time will show whether this strategy is the right one. If this is his strategy. Or he may turn out to be an incompetent coward.