“Politico”: Russia walks on a razor’s edge, balancing between victory and nuclear war

Russia Walks On A Razors Edge Balancing Between Victory And Nuclear War

In the summer of 2024, Russian forces are gradually, but persistently, attempting to break through Ukraine’s defenses. Ukrainian forces, although professional, are outnumbered in both troops and equipment by the Russians. Ukraine’s allies are doing everything they can to find more weapons and new strategies to support Kyiv. The publication “Politico” noted that this only further deepens Vladimir Putin’s anger towards the West.

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Western allies’ measures to halt the offensive and the potential Kremlin response could lead to dangerous escalation, further increasing the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

Russia’s Test Offensive

According to journalists, Russia has taken advantage of its firepower superiority and the significant delay in US assistance, intensifying attacks at several points along the more than 1,000 km front line. Relatively small units are probing Ukrainian defenses, looking for weak points, possibly preparing the ground for a larger-scale offensive. The Vovchansk offensive has clearly lost momentum. However, Russia is gradually but consistently advancing in the Donetsk region, especially around the strategically important city of Chasiv Yar. Analysts suggest that the fall of this city would threaten key military centers in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. However, Putin himself has said that Moscow is not seeking quick victories and will adhere to the current strategy of slow advancement.

Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) analyst Jack Watling noted that Russia is stretching Ukrainian forces across the front. The breadth of strikes has forced Ukraine to scatter its artillery and deplete ammunition to counter successive Russian attacks. “Russia’s goal is not to achieve a major breakthrough, but rather to convince Ukraine that it can continue its relentless advance kilometer by kilometer along the front,” the expert emphasized. Watling noted that due to the lack of air defense measures, Ukraine faces a difficult choice: to concentrate on protecting critical infrastructure or to protect troops on the front. Russia’s long-range strike campaign means that the front is being stretched not only laterally but also in depth,” he explained.

The West Reacts, the Kremlin Responds

“Politico” recalled that Washington and some NATO allies have responded to the offensive by allowing Kyiv to use Western weapons for limited strikes on Russian territory. Some Western officials say Kyiv has the right to use their weapons to attack military targets anywhere in Russia. Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the Baltic states, NATO members, have also spoken about deploying troops in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin warns that this would be a serious escalation and threatened to provide weapons to Western opponents in other parts of the world.

Nuclear Threat and Putin’s Long-Term Game

Putin has stated that NATO is wrong to believe that Russia would not use its nuclear arsenal. He stressed that Russia would use “all means” if its sovereignty and territorial integrity were threatened. The Russian authoritarian leader also warned that Moscow is considering possible changes to its doctrine on when it would resort to nuclear weapons. Emphasizing this, Russia conducted military exercises with nuclear weapons, involving Belarus. A military defeat in Ukraine, Putin said, would deal a fatal blow to Russian statehood. And he vowed to pursue his goals “to the end.” Some Russian commentators criticized the country’s leader for not responding decisively to increased NATO support for Kyiv and allowing the West to constantly cross “red lines.” Others, however, said that if the damage from long-range Western missile strikes in Russia’s interior continues to grow, Moscow should strike NATO targets. Moscow-based defense analyst Vasily Kashin told “Politico” that Putin would need to take action if there were significant losses from cruise missile strikes deep inside Russia. He emphasized that Russia could respond by attacking Western drones or US spy satellites or striking some NATO country targets in foreign territories. Russian commentators argue that actions that could provoke direct conflict with NATO are not in Moscow’s interests.

Moscow-based security analyst Sergei Poletayev said the Kremlin seeks to deplete Ukraine’s resources, forcing Kyiv to agree to a peace settlement on Russia’s terms. Without resources for a major offensive, the Kremlin has chosen a slow march, aiming to maintain pressure on Ukraine without allowing the West to intervene directly in the conflict. “We must tread a razor’s edge between victory and nuclear war,” said Poletayev.

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