Putin’s dilemma a month after the invasion


The Russian invasion of Ukraine started a month ago and the Moscow Army’s advance has stalled, even though President Vladimir Putin’s original plan was a hit-and-run. At the moment, it seems that the Russian troops are nowhere near victory. Now their immediate objective is to take the port city of Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian forcesbut they also try gain control of the Ukrainian capitalKyiv.

Moscow has intensified its attacks against civilians, something that, according to the professor of International Relations at Nebrija University, Carlos López, “due to the failure of the initial conception of war”.

The Professor of Political Science at the Pablo de Olavide University, Manuel Torres, tells RTVE.es that Russia now has the dilemma of go further in its bombardments against Ukrainian cities and towns or come to an agreement that saves your face.

The possible inevitability of Russia taking kyiv

A month after starting the invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops have taken control of Kherson and continue to bombard cities like Kharkov, the second largest in the country, on a daily basis. The Russian Army increases its efforts to take the port city of Odessa, which recorded its first attack since February 24 on Monday, and Mariupol, which Russian forces have failed to conquer despite Russia’s ultimatum to Ukraine to hand over the city. Although US government officials even predicted that kyiv would fall just a few days after the war beganthe Ukrainian capital continues to resist the advance of Russian troops.

Manuel Torres assures RTVE.es that “if the operation continues over time”, the fall of kyiv “is inevitable”although he emphasizes that “It’s not going to happen in the next few days”. “The Russian advance has stalled. Now it is costing him much more work to continue advancing and he is a long way from kyiv. So what lies ahead is a war of almost linear advanceof progressively taking ground”, details Torres.

Both the professor of Contemporary History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Josep Puigsech, and the professor of International Relations at the University of Nebrija, Carlos López, agree that the fall of kyiv seems complicated.

“kyiv has above all a central symbolic role, but in a geostrategic term, it has a secondary place”, indicates Puigsech. “We are left with the unknown of knowing what the specific Russian operation is. What we are seeing is that where the emphasis is being placed by Russia is on the control of the outlet to the Sea of ​​Azov and the Black Sea“, Add.

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Russia is nowhere near victory

The initial plan of the Russian president was to carry out blitzkrieg in ukraine. Former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov went so far as to say that Putin’s initial order was “to complete the military operation with a victory for March 2”. The resistance of the Ukrainian troops has slowed the Russian advance and crumbled Putin’s purposes.

In this sense, the professor of International Relations at the European University of Valencia, Frédéric Mertens de Wilmars, believes that Russia has committed three fundamental strategic errors: “he does not have as effective forces as he claimed have, Putin thought that there was going to be no strong resistance by the Ukraine and above all by the civilian population, and the weather, since the General Staff recommended attacking later, during the spring, but Putin did not want to wait”.

Torres believes that “Russia is beginning to perceive that the collapse of the Ukrainian resistance will not happen immediately”. The professor points out that the resistance will grow more and more “because as suffering, death, destruction increase… people’s determination to join the fight also increases”. For this reason, if Russian forces take the capital, Torres warns that the war would take a form of “guerrilla warfare”something that points out that “it is not good news for Russia either”.

From the fall of Putin to a guerrilla war, what can happen in Ukraine?

The support of Western countries to the Government of kyiv and the sanctions imposed against Russia have also changed Moscow’s strategic calculation, since “it has increased the cost for Putin in this military adventure”, explains Torres. “What remains to be seen is whether that cost has reached an unaffordable level for the Putin regime and whether it will force to seek a negotiated solution or, conversely, can have a counterproductive effect that Putin understands that his ability to deter is linked to the fact that he has to be the triumphant of Ukraine”, he adds.

For his part, the UAB professor believes that this situation “will strengthen Putin in the short term”. “A very common dynamic of the wars of the 20th century and the few that we have seen in the 21st century has been the strengthening of the protagonists of the conflict through an ultra-nationalist discourse”, indicates Puigsech, who adds that “Putin is synonymous with stability, he has managed to stabilize Russia economically and politically and has social support”.

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The Moscow dilemma

The Russian president has not achieved his goal of carry out a blitzkrieg and establish a puppet government in Ukraine. Putin now has two options: multiply bombings and attacks or negotiate with Ukraine a possible withdrawal of its troops.

According to the professor at the Pablo de Olavide University, Putin will have to face the dilemma of “going to a negotiation to try to save face and obtain some type of assignment that allows it to sell internally that this intervention has been worthwhile” or embark on a long-term war where you have to fight inch by inch”.

Frédéric Mertens of Wilmars believes that Putin “has no real will to seek a negotiated solution”. “If he negotiates it would be like going back to point zero, going back to 2014, when Crimea was annexed. Negotiating on these points for Putin is going backwards“, Add.

Ukrainian representatives have been negotiating a solution to end the war for several days. The Moscow delegation demands recognition by the kyiv government of the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsulathe independence of Donetsk and Luhanskand the ukrainian neutrality in exchange for stopping their military offensive. kyiv, for now, would only accept give up NATO membership.

Professor López points out that, due to how the conversations have evolved, Russia “is more interested in entering into a negotiation and not take too long to find a negotiated solution with the Ukrainian government”, although he warns that “it gives the impression that that negotiated solution is still far away”. “It is true that the Ukrainian government has already taken the step of recognizing the infeasibility of joining NATO in the short or medium term, but it does not seem easy to reach an agreement”, he asserts.

The increase in attacks against civilians, the last card of Putin

Russian forces have intensified its attacks against civilians. The United Nations High Commissioner’s Office has reported that, since the war began, killed more than 900 civilians in Ukraine. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 62 hospitals and other health centers have been affected by the attacks. International Law establishes that sanitary installations must be protected even in times of conflict.

Most experts agree that Russia has increased the intensity of its aggression due to its limited room for maneuver and resistance on the part of the Ukrainians. “Possibly Russia is already trying to play the last card to increase the level of violence with bombardments against the civilian population and a level of destruction in the cities that resist being taken, in case that generates a panic effect that reaches other population centers that may be besieged”, explains the professor at the Pablo de Olavide University .

However, Professor Josep Puigsech believes that Russia “it is not interested in conveying an image of the use of military resources indiscriminately, not only in the face of the international image, but also in the face of its own citizens”. “The images we see in the last days of bombings of shopping centers don’t help that perspective”, he stresses.

The fear of the Russian will to expand its zone of influence

Several Eastern European countries have accused Putin of want to revive the Soviet Union and they have expressed their fear that Russia will continue what it is doing in Ukraine in other republics that belonged to the former superpower.

Torres points out that “the fear of the possibility that Russia decided exercise that will to maintain a zone of influence”, but emphasizes that “this is not necessarily done with large-scale military operations like the one we are seeing, but also by imposing destabilizing actions through influence operations”.

Moldova and Georgia are concerned about what is happening in Ukraine

In this sense, Mertens de Wilmars indicates that “the question is whether, by investing so much military, financial and political effort at the Ukrainian level, Russia has the ability to act in the same way in Moldova or Georgia”.

Professor Carlos López explains that in the case of countries fully integrated into the Atlantic Alliance, such as the Baltic republics, “it is an unthinkable scenario because theoretically implies the activation of article 5 of the Washington treaty”. “We would be talking about a full-scale war involving NATOalthough later it would be necessary to see how it would happen in practice”, he adds.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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