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What are Vladimir Putin’s choices after Russian navy setback in Ukraine? By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a parade marking Navy Day in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 31, 2022. Sputnik/Alexei Danichev/Pool through REUTERS

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By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has but to publicly touch upon a lightning rout of his forces in north-eastern Ukraine, however is underneath stress from nationalists at dwelling to regain the initiative.

He has few fast repair choices, if Western intelligence and open supply evaluation is correct, and many of the potential steps he might take include home and geopolitical dangers.

Since coming to energy in 1999, Islamist militants in Chechnya and the broader North Caucasus area are among the many hardest armed foes Putin has confronted. In that occasion, he selected to escalate with extra pressure.

These are a few of his foremost choices in Ukraine:

STABILISE, REGROUP, ATTACK

Russian and Western navy analysts agree that — from Moscow’s perspective — Russian forces have to urgently stabilise the frontline, halt Ukraine’s advance, regroup and, if they will, launch their very own counter offensive. There are nevertheless doubts within the West about whether or not Russia has the bottom forces or adequate gear, given what number of casualties it has taken and the way a lot {hardware} has been deserted or destroyed throughout what Russia calls its “particular navy operation” to destroy the Ukrainian military.

“There isn’t a manpower,” Konrad Muzyka, director of Poland’s Rochan Consulting, stated after Russia’s setback within the north-east.

“Volunteer battalions are underneath power, and the recruitment marketing campaign isn’t delivering what was anticipated. And I feel it’ll solely worsen as fewer males will now need to be a part of. If Moscow desires so as to add males, it must conduct a mobilisation.”

Russian efforts to extend the variety of troops it could deploy embody the formation of a brand new third Military Corps, Chechen chief Ramzan Kadyrov marshalling new forces, and Putin final month signing a decree to extend the scale of Russia’s armed forces.

Putin might want to resolve whether or not to conform to calls for from nationalist critics that he sack or reshuffle the navy’s high brass, together with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, an in depth ally. Putin has historically not given in to fast stress to fireplace subordinates, however has generally parted firm with them at a later date.

MOBILISATION

Mobilising Russia’s reserves, who quantity round 2 million males with navy service inside the previous 5 years, is doable but it surely takes occasions to coach and deploy individuals.

The Kremlin stated on Tuesday there was no dialogue of a nationwide mobilisation “in the mean time.”

Such a transfer can be well-liked with nationalists, however much less so with some Russian males in city centres who, anecdotal proof suggests, are much less eager on becoming a member of the combat.

It might imply recalibrating official messaging on Ukraine and transferring away from describing it as “a particular navy operation” with restricted objectives to an open-ended warfare.

That in flip would pressure the authorities to desert their coverage of making an attempt to make sure that the lives of most Russians go on as they did earlier than Feb. 24 when Putin invaded Ukraine.

Placing Russia on a full wartime footing would include home political dangers too, notably the chance of a public backlash in opposition to a compelled draft.

It might additionally represent an admission that Russia is engaged in a full-scale warfare in opposition to a fellow Slav nation – and that the warfare goes badly for Moscow.

Andrey Kortunov, head of RIAC, a assume tank near the Russian overseas ministry, has stated he believes the authorities are reluctant on mobilisation.

“In large cities many individuals don’t need to go and combat and mobilisation isn’t prone to be well-liked,” stated Kortunov.

“Secondly I feel it’s arguably in Putin’s pursuits to current the entire thing as a restricted operation. The state want to protect as a lot as attainable because it was earlier than with out making any radical adjustments.”

Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, has stated it might take months earlier than a mobilisation would have any impact on Russia’s combating power in any case.

BET ON ‘GENERAL WINTER’

Two Russian sources aware of Kremlin pondering advised Reuters final month that Putin is hoping that sky-rocketing power costs and attainable shortages this winter will persuade Europe to robust arm Ukraine right into a truce — on Russia’s phrases.

Some European diplomats imagine that Ukraine’s current battlefield success has undermined the urge of some Europeans to push Kyiv to make concessions nevertheless, whereas nations like Germany seem to have grown more durable on Moscow in current weeks and extra decided to trip out winter power issues.

The European Union has banned Russian coal and authorised a partial ban on Russian imports. Russia in flip has sharply reduce fuel exports to Europe and made clear it might ban all power exports, a lever Putin has but to drag.

EXPAND MISSILE TARGETING

After its setback in north-east Ukraine, Russia struck Ukrainian energy infrastructure with missiles. That prompted non permanent blackouts within the Kharkiv and adjoining Poltava and Sumy areas. Water provides and cell networks have been additionally affected.

The transfer was cheered by some Russian nationalists who want to see Moscow use cruise missiles to cripple Ukrainian infrastructure on a extra everlasting foundation, a transfer sure to draw worldwide condemnation.

The identical nationalists have additionally lengthy known as for Moscow to strike what they name “decision-making” centres in Kyiv and elsewhere, one thing that it’s unlikely could possibly be achieved with out vital collateral injury.

END OR DOWNGRADE GRAIN DEAL

Putin has complained {that a} U.N. and Turkey-brokered deal that enables Ukraine to export grain and different foodstuffs through the Black Sea is unfair to poorer nations and Russia.

Putin is because of holds talks this week with Turkish chief Tayyip Erdogan to debate revising the deal, which supplies Ukraine with a lot wanted price range revenues. If Putin desires to instantly damage Ukraine he might droop or cancel the pact or refuse to resume it when it expires in November. The West and poorer nations in Africa and the Center East would accuse him of worsening world meals shortages; he would blame Ukraine.

PEACE DEAL

The Kremlin says it’ll dictate to Kyiv the phrases of any peace deal when the time comes, whereas Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has stated he’ll use pressure to liberate his nation.

Zelenskiy has stated that features Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Moscow has repeatedly stated that Crimea’s standing is settled eternally.

Conceding captured territory in jap Ukraine within the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk Individuals’s Republic or Luhansk Individuals’s Republic additionally seems to be politically inconceivable for Moscow because it has formally recognised them.

Totally “liberating” the 2 self-proclaimed statelets from Ukrainian forces was one of many foremost causes given for the “particular navy operation” within the first place.

Handing again captured territory in southern Ukraine the place Russia partially controls three areas seems to be like a tough home promote too.

The southern Kherson area is straight north of annexed Crimea and the situation of a canal which provides the Black Sea peninsula with most of its water.

Together with the neighbouring Zaporizhzhia area, Kherson additionally provides Russia a land hall by way of which it could provide Crimea, one thing Moscow has touted as a serious prize.

GO NUCLEAR

Russian authorities officers have dismissed Western solutions that Moscow would use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, but it surely stays a fear for some within the West.

Aside from inflicting mass casualties, such a transfer might begin a harmful escalatory spiral and formally draw Western nations right into a direct warfare with Russia.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine permits for using nuclear weapons in the event that they – or different sorts of weapons of mass destruction – are used in opposition to it, or if the Russian state faces an existential risk from standard weapons.

Putin, in a quasi-autobiography in 2000, recalled cornering a rat in a nook with a stick when rising up in a dilapidated house constructing in then Leningrad and being shocked when the cornered animal threw itself at him and turned the tables.

Brenton, the previous British ambassador to Russia, has warned {that a} cornered Putin might go nuclear if he confronted a humiliating defeat with no face-saving off-ramp.

“If the selection for Russia is combating a dropping warfare, and dropping badly and Putin falling, or some type of nuclear demonstration, I would not wager that they would not go for the nuclear demonstration,” stated Brenton.

Retired U.S. normal Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Military forces in Europe, agrees it is a threat however has stated he thinks it unlikely.

“There isn’t a actual battlefield benefit to be gained, it might be inconceivable for (the) U.S. to remain out/not reply, and I do not assume Putin or his closest advisers are suicidal,” stated Hodges.


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