In Putin’s mind, after a month of war in Ukraine

INTERNATIONAL – The war between Russia and Ukraine is the first high-intensity conflict in Europe since 1945. With this conflict, all Western illusions, born and sustained after the decolonization wars, will be disrupted. The invasion that the Russian president wanted is a civilizational electroshock, a reminder of the living reality that has no longer been dreamed of.

Yet this war, in spite of the devastation, the deaths, more than any other, is a propaganda war, a psychological war, a war of fear, a war waged as a KGB officer. Since February 24, the Western media has acted as an echo chamber for the many attempts at destabilization emanating from the Kremlin. In response, we provoke war crimes, the Nuremberg tribunals we begin to dream of a ceasefire. But at the risk of being disappointed, stopping the weapons will not put an end to the conflict. To understand, you need to get into Putin’s head …

What does Putin think?

NATO enlargement threatens Russia’s security. Despite the promises made in the early 1990s by James Baker and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, NATO’s eastward expansion has taken place: Almost all of the Warsaw Pact countries are part of it, as well as former Soviet republics (Baltic states), while others are considered (Georgia, Ukraine). The Russian territory, marked by the invasion (Mongols, Tartars, French, Germans …) and the “border” (Far East, Crimea, Caucasus, Central Asia …), is threatened.

The West, in decline, seeks to impose its cultural and ideological values. The West is decadent: “In many countries, moral and ethical standards are being revised, and national traditions (…) are being erased,” Putin said in December 2013. The West has shown that he did not take into account the “historical” integrity of the great nations and encouraged their division in the name of a so-called “principle of self-determination”, which for Putin is akin to chaos: example in Kosovo, in Chechnya, North Ossetia, etc. The Russian president addresses here Ivan Ilyins, a Russian philosopher, views on the threats from The West.

Russia is on the rise. Putin is influenced by the ideas of Lev Goumilev, an ethnologist who believes in the “bio-cosmic” momentum that is specific to each people and of a cyclical nature. Thus, the vital energy of certain peoples would be on the rise, while the vital energy of the West would be in a declining phase. In February, Putin declared: “I believe in passionarnost. In nature as in society there is development, high point and decline. Russia has not yet reached its peak. We are on the way.”

What does Putin want?

The Russian president wants to restore the greatness of Tsarist Russia, Peter the Great, the founder of St. Petersburg, the city of Putin, or Catherine II, who annexed Crimea and founded Odessa. He wants to go down in history as the one who repaired the historic crime with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To do this, he must extend Russia’s influence to all regions populated by Russian – speakers and, above all, link the historical Russian regions to the motherland, beginning with Ukraine, its maritime border (the Sea of ​​Azov and the Black Sea) and Kievan Rus, the cradle of modern Russia and ” the mother “of Russian cities.

What will Putin do?

Putin underestimated Ukraine’s resilience, overestimated the effectiveness of the Russian military, and ultimately misjudged the strength and unity of the Western response. But one thing is certain: Putin will not accept losing face. His place in history and even power is at stake.

His new strategy is to tear down Ukrainian defense and morals and tear down cities one by one after relentlessly shelling them. The attack on Mariupol thus constitutes the “test” of a new approach, and its success will define the continuation of the offensive.

At the economic level, he will seek to guarantee financial and military support from China, sell his oil to non-Western countries (negotiations with Modi in India), ensure the neutrality of the Gulf countries and Venezuela to prevent Europe from diversifying its supplies, and continue to wave all sorts of cards to sow fear and discord in the hope that the global unrest associated with the rise in energy prices, on certain metals and the rise in agricultural commodities will be sufficient to calm the zeal of Westerners.

At the military level, aware of the domestic risk (the Russian losses, concentrated on soldiers from ethnic minorities, estimated between 5 and 10,000 after 4 weeks), he will seek to engage in conflict “friendly” troops (Belarus) or mercenaries (Belarus). The Syrians, the Wagner group). He will then continue his escalation (total destruction of cities, forced deportation of populations, hostages, assassination attempts on Zelensky, etc.), while using more and more his “modern” weapons, such as thermobaric bombs, “decoys” (to deceive air defenses) and hypersonic missiles to sustain pressure on the West.

He wants to multiply the conflicting signals: nuclear threat, offers of peace talks, feuds, distractions … He could install new tactical nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad region to intimidate Europeans, resort to targeted chemical attacks, to force the Ukrainian government to the negotiating table … Putin is a master of escalation (“escalation of dominance”), An essential concept in the strategy of conquest or confrontation that mixes diplomatic and military elements.

In the end, the most likely scenarios look like this.

Either, after months of war of attrition, he achieves enough strategic goals to force Kiev and the West to negotiate a peace deal. It reclaims the entire Ukrainian coast located on the Azov Sea and the Black Sea, with or without Odessa, a corridor connecting Crimea and the coast with the Donbass region and the two new autonomous “republics”, and it is annexed to Russia. In this case, Kiev could have a status of neutrality, but that will not be enough, and the conflict will start again shortly after, when the Russian army’s funds have been reconstituted and its logistical and command problems resolved.

Either he does not move on, gets stuck, multiplies the losses. He really has his back to the wall and he wants to escalate: opening a new front on a non-NATO country (Moldova?), Clash in Poland, attack on Estonia? While mixing nuclear threats and the use of hypersonic missiles. This scenario would bring us to the brink of widespread conflict. In this case, only a measured escalation will force Putin to de-escalate.

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