World leaders are doing another diplomatic effort hoping to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraineeven as heavy shelling continues in eastern Ukraine and the Kremlin considered recognize the independence of breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
Heavy shelling has increased in recent days along the tense line of contact between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatist rebels. in Donbas, the industrial heart of eastern Ukraine.
It is a war that began in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The fighting has claimed at least 14,000 lives, but it has been silent for a while.
Ukrainian military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchyuk said that Ukrainian positions were shelled 80 times on Sunday and eight times early Monday, noting that the separatists were “cynically firing from residential areas using civilians as shields.” He said Ukrainian forces were not returning fire.
A Biden-Putin meeting would offer new hope of averting a Russian invasion that US officials say could start at any time. from the estimated 150,000 Russian troops that have amassed near Ukraine.
However, international analysts see different reasons why Putin might decide not to invade Ukraine:
The cost will be high
Hundreds of thousands may flee Ukraine, presenting Europe with a major refugee and humanitarian emergency. cannot be ruled out gross human rights violations and chemical weapons atrocitieslike in Syria. And the one that will have to pay internationally will be Russia.
The truth is, economically, Russia is a power in decline. Its GDP is about half that of the state of California, United States. Russia, a petrostate dependent on oil and gas exports, It is suffering from sanctions imposed by the West after Russia hastily seized Crimea.
The West has threatened to impose huge sanctions if Moscow decides to enter Ukrainian territory. The depth of these economic measures to punish the Kremlin will continue to hurt Russia’s relatively small economy, especially if is excluded from the Swift banking systemas some request. Swift handles international financial transfers and is used by more than 11,000 institutions in more than 200 countries.
The White House has told the chip industry United States to be prepared for new restrictions on exports to Russia if Moscow attacks Ukraine, including potentially blocking Russia’s access to global electronic supplies.
Similar measures were deployed during the Cold War, when sanctions kept the Soviet Union technologically backward and slowed economic growth.
Sanctioning individuals through asset freezes and travel bans is a commonly used tool. The United States, the European Union and Britain have already imposed sanctions on a number of Russian citizens.
A bill introduced by Democrats in the US Senate provides the imposition of sweeping sanctions on senior officials in the Russian government and military, including Putinand President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to consider imposing personal sanctions on the ruler.
Moscow has said that any move to impose sanctions on Putin himself would not harm the Russian president personally, but would be “politically destructive.”
Existing sanctions against state banks would also be tightened or the list of restricted financial institutions would be expanded, possibly to include private banks. The big Russian banks are deeply integrated into the world financial system, which means that sanctions could have repercussions far beyond its borders.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said an invasion could begin in the next few days or “hours” as Moscow stands ready to strike with up to 190,000 forces moving toward the Ukrainian border from multiple sides. Ukraine will resist, at least initially. Even though her forces are vastly outnumbered by Russia’s, there will be casualties on both sides.
The United States estimates that artillery, missile and bomb attacks and ground clashes they could kill 50,000 civilians, a figure that may be conservative if the fighting drags on. A long fight would involve even more bloodshed.
an international outcast
When Russia annexed Crimea, the political cost was skyrocketing, and the West was turned against it. This time around, experts project it will be worse, even among its biggest strategic allies: even China could sideline it. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Minich Security Conference: “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each country must be safeguarded. Ukraine is no exception.”
The aforementioned unprecedented US and EU sanctions to follow an invasion will also lead to diplomatic isolation and target the personal wealth of Putin and his oligarch cronies.
At home, the optics will not be positive
Sending weapons or deploying Russian troops to Ukraine is unpopular, and it has become even more so as Russians grow weary of the war that Moscow and its proxies have waged in eastern Ukraine since 2014, according to the latest poll. the Washington Post to 3,245 Russians in December, only 8% think that Russia should send military forces to fight the Ukrainian government troops. Only 9% think Russia should train or equip separatist forces with Russian weapons.
Support for armed intervention has nearly halved since 2016. And that drop has been among supporters of Putin’s United Russia Party, the communists, and the nationalist LDPR party alike.. Among those most nostalgic for the Soviet Union, for whom the restoration of the Soviet sphere of influence is expected to resonate most, less than 10% want to see Russian troops fight in Ukraine.
If Putin invades Ukraine, he will have to convince the Russian people that it was the right move or risk damaging his popularity, which remains lower than it was during most of his time in office.
Furthermore, according to the same survey, only about 6 percent across the country said Russia should approach the West as an enemy.
it could all go wrong
Ukraine’s armed forces will not be easily defeated. Civilians can join the fight and are already doing so. The United States and the United Kingdom have not ruled out arming resistance fighters, as was the case during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and are already collaborating by sending military equipment. British ministers predict a long-lasting “swamp”, with Russia suffering significant casualties. In such a scenario, Russian public opinion could turn against Putin.
According Andriy Zagorodnyuka distinguished member of the Eurasia Center and former defense minister of Ukraine, “Ukraine has managed to stop Russian forces before, and each battalion has direct battlefield experience.. All senior commanders in the Ukrainian Armed Forces are battlefield officers. Of course, they realize that it will be a very difficult challenge, particularly given the overwhelming advantage of the Russians in the air. But since they are ready to change tactics, even operate in small group formations, this advantage will not be decisive.
The Russians need to acquire territory with ground forces moving with tanks and armored vehicles. The number of anti-tank weapons Ukraine possesses exceeds the number of tanks and armored vehicles Russia has assembled around its borders, ex-minister says. The armed forces also have popular support, are empowered by territorial defense, have reserves, are more motivated and know the area.
“Based on an assessment of capabilities, I believe that Russia cannot complete the large-scale occupation of Ukraine with the forces it has managed to muster. They can acquire some specific areas (including cities), but in this case the question would be to maintain those areas, since they will be constantly attacked by Ukrainian groups day and night.”
(With information from Reuters and AP)
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