Thursday, March 30, 2023

DC Edit | Will Putin see reason, stop war in Ukraine?

13 October 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin may believe he was merely wreaking revenge for the attack on a bridge by raining missiles once again on the capital Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. The renewed heavy missile strikes, some deliberately aimed at cities in peak hour traffic, have resulted in more civilian deaths, including that of school children. Militarily, the missiles appear not to have changed the war situation much since only about a third of them, Iranian kamikaze drones included, are getting through Ukrainian defence shields.

As Mr Putin hits out from his Kremlin corner, he is fast losing friends. China, a “no limits” friend and India, staunchly neutral on the war to the extent of not condemning the loss of lives in the Russian offensive, have progressively changed their stance. India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar unequivocally condemned the targeting of infrastructure and causing civilian deaths in the latest attacks, saying “it is not acceptable in any part of the world”.

China said it was hoping “the situation would deescalate soon” after Russia began its barrage of vengeful aerial attacks in retaliation for the blowing up of a key strategic bridge connecting the Crimea and Russia, which act may have been that of the Ukraine intelligence service detonating 20 tonnes of explosives driven in a lorry on to the Kerch Bridge.

In continuation of its departure from initially not taking an adverse stand on the Russian invasion at the UN, India joined 106 other countries in voting against Russia’s call for a secret vote in the UN General Assembly on a resolution condemning the referendums held to annex four Ukrainian territories. Russia will learn soon how many of the UN’s 193 members vote against its sham referendums as there is no veto power in the assembly like in the UN Security Council.

The defence ministers and military brass of about 50 nations gathered at Nato headquarters Wednesday to discuss how to sustain the supply of weapons to Ukraine even as Volodymyr Zelenskyy keeps appealing for more sophisticated air defence systems and shields against Russian missiles.  The escalation of the conflict in terms of Russian bombardment and the deployment of air defence and more weapons from allies on the ground in Ukraine are all taking place under the shadow of nuclear threats from Mr Putin.

The US President, Joe Biden’s use of the word “Armageddon” is chilling, even if he does not think that it will come to pass. Russia may have been toying with the idea of using a tactical nuclear weapon in the battlefield, but only if Ukraine chooses to further attack Crimea. The real problem is Mr Putin may be running out of time as his war machine has been weakening after eight months of engaging with feisty Ukrainians defending their homeland.

 The question is whether there is any way Russia and Ukraine can be convinced into agreeing on a cessation of hostilities first; if so, there would have to be someone capable of telling Mr Putin off about his huge miscalculation about his being welcomed “with open arms in the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv”, as Joe Biden phrased it. Mr Putin, who may not be thinking rationally in the heat of what seems an unwinnable war now, may fear a backlash from within his own elite circles more than any adverse UN vote or Ukraine's defensive weapons supplied by the West.