In Other News – Put Has Cemented Ukrainian Sentiment Further Against Him & More – 17/3/22

March 17, 2022

Putin is aware that complete occupation of Ukraine is becoming highly unlikely, but he’ll try to cut the best deal possible under unfavorable circumstances. Putin continues to launch his brutal attack on Ukrainian civilians, but he’s also attacking the same infrastructure that Moscow would need to effectively command Ukrainian territory in the case of a complete takeover. The UN estimates that infrastructure damage in Ukraine already amounts to over $100 billion, indicating that Putin aims to leave Ukraine in the weakest position possible. Instead of absorbing Ukrainian cities as functional entities, Putin might think that a city left in ruins will be more receptive to one of his puppet leaders. But Putin should be careful that his next steps don’t further the growing internal and external resolve against him.

If ground losses provoke Putin to escalate the violence much further, he risks losing China’s fragile support and perhaps more importantly, the support of his own people. There are already indications that Putin’s not only confronting demonstrations on the street but facing resistance from the inside. He’s rumored to have recently taken actions to neutralize army generals and members of the intelligence services, indicating a high degree of distress and awareness of the discontent. There’s likely a great deal of unease and unhappiness within other governmental institutions about how this invasion was rolled out. Longer term these factors will present a threat to his position. In the short run, the prospects of a satisfying agreement for either Putin or Zelenskyy looks increasingly unlikely. Both leaders will be forced into making concessions, and while thousands of lives have been lost, no party will emerge victorious.

In negotiations this week, Zelenskyy acknowledged that Ukraine “must admit” it won’t join NATO to move peace talks forward, appeasing one of Putin’s primary demands. But key NATO members were already opposed to admitting Ukraine before the invasion and Putin knew that. What Putin wanted was complete ownership of Ukraine, not just a defensive separation between Moscow and NATO members. But as the war progresses, it’s become apparent that to succeed in his quest at expansion, Putin didn’t need NATO guarantees he needed the acquiescence of the Ukrainian people. The irony is that every action Putin has undertaken in Ukraine, whether it be the support of Yanukovich, to the egregious invasion of Crimea, to the current invasions have done nothing but cement Ukrainian sentiment further against him.

Where is the Hybrid Warfare? Russia’s cyber capability to augment its physical assault on Ukraine, and to respond asymmetrically to Western sanctions, remains an ongoing threat. And yet, thus far the expected deluge of cyber warfare has not come. While the Ukrainian cyber agency SSCIP has reported more than 3000 cyberattacks against Ukraine since February, Ukraine has deftly been able to fend off much of the assault and further launch its own rather effective cyber campaign against Russian military infrastructure. Russia’s reported cyberattacks have mostly been paired with local kinetic attacks to limit Ukrainian communications and maintain access to information, but they have largely failed. There could be a larger cyber wave looming, or Moscow might have been taken aback by the degree of Ukrainian defense. It also remains to be seen if Russia’s planning a wider attack targeting the West or if it’s holding that option in abeyance pending the war’s outcome. Regardless of Russia’s cyber strategy, there will be knock-on effects of the increase in malware circulating on a global level and proactive cyber security efforts are warranted.