In my opinion there is a high probability that Putin at some point made a fatal decision for himself: the die is cast and he may be willing to go all the way. He doesn’t want to die, of course, but the string of fatal decisions has become very long, and he is running out of options:
- A further escalation in Ukraine will lead to a much more active participation of the West and possibly to a direct confrontation
- A withdrawal from Donbas will lead to a crushing defeat for the few remaining so-called “separatists”, since Putin will have to send back all the Russian soldiers who make up the “pro-Russian forces”: regular Russian forces, Cossacks, Chechen and Ossetian troopers, volunteers from all over Russia. And it will be a crushing defeat at his home ground
- Many analysts claim that the best option for Putin now is status quo, where he continues to control and supply Donbas. In such a way he can keep Ukraine out of NATO and EU.
I don’t believe in the last option. It is quite easy, though very expensive, to send endless “humanitarian” convoys of weapons, ammunition and fresh soldiers. To maintain a social infrastructure, pay pensions and salaries to teachers, health personnel and bureaucrats is a complete different matter when it comes to expenses and use of resources. Putin does not consider Ukraine a sovereign state, and when he started the warfare one year ago he and his generals were quite sure that they could easily conquer the six “Novorossiya” provinces (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Odessa and Kherson) after the quick and easy victory in Crimea. That operation was not successful, and the only way out now is to expand further in Ukraine.
Putin is ready to launch such an operation. The plan has been described in an earlier blog. This time I will believe the Russian forces will head for Kharkiv from South East, i.e. Horlivka, Stakhanov and Luhansk. The numerous terrorist attacks and prevented attempts in Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk etc show an increased activity from FSB and GRU, and is probably a prelude of what is to come. By attacking Kharkiv from South East, the Russian invasion force, which is stand-by and ready for attack in Belgorod, can blend in so that Kremlin can use its deniability, which has proven effective in the propaganda war against the West and the zombified part of the Russian population. Such an operation will demand huge military and financial resources, and the loss of human lives will be in the tens of thousands. The Ukraine will give tougher resistance than Russian generals expect.
One can only pray that such a scenario will not take place. Since Minsk 2 more than 200 square km have been taken by the Russian forces, and every day they are shelling Ukrainian positions, even with GRADs and tanks, which is just another clear violation of the Minsk 2 agreement.
The rat is being pushed into the corner, and when the Dutch MH17 commission is publishing their conclusion that the Malaysian plane was shot down by a Russian BUK missile, the rat will attack. Big time. But before that a final effort will be put into conquering Kharkiv and Mariupol.