In Other News – No Easy Victory in Sight for Putin in the Ukraine-Russia War – 4/28/2022

April 28, 2022

No easy victory in sight for Putin as the Ukraine-Russia war reverberates across the world. Russia was likely hoping to secure all of Donetsk and Luhansk and its holding of a land bridge from the Donbas to Crimea before Moscow’s annual commemoration of World War II on May 9th, but the Ukrainians continue to challenge Russian progress. Thus far, Moscow’s military gains have been below expectations, and effective resupply efforts and offensive measures by both Ukraine and Russia will be paramount to success in the regional battle. At the same time, other fronts of the war are becoming apparent. Russia may be preparing a potential action in Transnistria and the Ukrainians have likely made tactical strikes on mainland Russia by bombing a fuel depot across the border. Reports of Russian cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have also intensified in coordination with the military’s kinetic attacks. Further, the war is intensifying beyond the frontline.

Earlier today, President Biden asked Congress to approve $33bn in additional money to support Ukraine, a significant funding increase. NATO countries are also strengthening their resolve to eliminate their dependence on Russian gas. Germany has made cuts to its reliance on Russian oil sufficient to make a full embargo “manageable” and Washington is hard at work to come up with alternate suppliers. This week, after Poland and Bulgaria refused to pay for Russian gas in roubles, Moscow cut off their natural gas supply in a move that the EU referred to as “blackmail.” As the West and NATO allies grapple with how to best support Ukraine given the direct economic ramifications for their nations, the knock-on effects of the war continue to impact nations all over the world through food shortages, rampant inflation, protective trade restrictions, new political alliances, and the uptick in armament of multiple nations.

As the West and NATO allies provide heavier arms to Kyiv, Moscow threatens to escalate the conflict. Since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, the United States, NATO, and allies have provided Kyiv more than $3bn of military aid, much of it defensive like anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. But as the conflict has continued, and shows little sign of waning, the West has shifted to equip Ukraine with heavier artillery. Notably, Germany’s parliament just overwhelmingly approved the transfer of heavy weapons to Ukraine, and the latest package announced by President Biden includes howitzers and weapons like Switchblade drones that will require Ukrainians to receive US training to use. Unsurprisingly, the increase in heavy artillery has outraged Moscow, and the Kremlin has warned that any attempt to “interfere” in Ukraine threatens security of the continent and will be met with a “lightning fast” response. But given the Russian military’s performance to date, the effectiveness of this threat is questionable.

In addition to ramping up Ukraine’s supply of heavy weapons, the West has also been more actively vocalizing support of Ukrainian offensive actions against Moscow. Russian propagandists are increasingly presenting the nuclear option as a defensive posture for Moscow, and it’s likely that Putin’s close advisors will increasingly blame the West for any ensuing struggles that the Russian military faces. According to the editor in chief of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, the West’s “overt backing” for Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil will not damage Russia but instead lead to the complete destruction of Ukraine. But this propaganda-laden approach is likely to end on hollow ground in the West, and there are signs that even within Russia Putin’s approval rating has begun to waiver.