Only Putin knows

Vladimir Putin

When you ask military experts whether Russia's invasion of Ukraine is achieving Moscow's intended goals or is more problematic than previously thought, or even whether the military strategy is wrong, the most sensible answer is that only Putin knows. That depends on what Putin's objectives were before launching the offensive. General Fernando Alejandre, former Chief of Defence Staff in Spain from 2017-2020, answered the question about the situation in Ukraine and what could happen: "You have to know what Putin and his generals had set themselves". Putin has a plan, and the Russian threat is gradually spreading across Ukrainian territory, with attacks reaching positions very close to the border with Poland and Romania. And the serious wake-up call came with the bombing of the Yavoriv military base, 25 kilometres from Poland, causing at least 35 dead and 134 wounded, a base used for joint exercises with NATO.

Putin is moving his missiles closer to areas near allied countries and is betting big on winning the game. The Ukrainians are resisting much longer and better than expected, but Russia's military superiority is gaining the upper hand and only a prolonged offensive could be a critical element due to the economic, logistical and morale costs for its troops and Russian public opinion, despite the strong censure imposed by the Kremlin. There is another challenge on the table, that the international community should be able to maintain the sanctions, which have serious effects on Russian interests and those of its oligarchs, but also on European countries, for long enough.

Another important issue, which only Putin knows how to fulfil his plan, is his readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons of one to five kilotons to impose his ambitions by demonstrating that he is capable of a nuclear escalation that is very dangerous for everyone. To know what we are talking about, the Nagasaki bomb was 20 kilotons. Unfortunately, it is not unreasonable to fear this escalation. It is what is stopping NATO in its tracks. Just remember Winston Churchill's statement: "I do not know what World War III will be like with nuclear weapons, I do know that World War IV will be with sticks and stones". Putin has used cluster and thermobaric bombs, banned since 2010 because of their devastating effect on people. Both sides accuse each other of having chemical weapons at the ready. Macron said it ("the worst is yet to come") and Putin does not want to stop.