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Putin’s plan A failed, but there is the no less dangerous plan B: Kyiv defense experts

The meeting of the National Security and Defense council of Russia which was broadcasted to Russians. Members of the councils were persuading Putin to recognize L/DNR before he announced his decision. Source:
Putin’s plan A failed, but there is the no less dangerous plan B: Kyiv defense experts
With his statements in the 21 February address to the Russian nation, Putin de facto declared war on Ukraine at the political level and its non-recognition as a sovereign country. However, it appears that the full-scale invasion predicted by many analysts will not materialize. Yet, there are several no less dangerous scenarios that Putin may still apply, experts from the Kyiv-based Center for Defense Strategies say.

Along with already present cyber, psychological operations and attempts to accuse Ukraine of aggression against Russia along with Putin’s Big Lie narrative, the most likely military scenarios are:

  • a significant escalation of the situation in the east of Ukraine with the possible use of the Russian armed forces, including aviation, missile weapons, and the Navy;
  • crossing the contact line in Donbas and attempting to seize parts of the land and settlements around the occupied territories;
  • missile strikes on military targets and infrastructure in various locations across Ukraine, including Kyiv, with the goal of psychological pressure.

Ukraine Center for Defense Strategies (CDS) experts Andriy Zagorodniuk, Alina Frolova, Oleksiy Pavliuchyk, and Viktor Kevliuk published their analytics on 22 February, following Putin’s recognition of his “DNR” and “LNR” satrapies as independent states and regular Russian units entering their territories. Ukrainska Pravda published the Ukrainian version of their lengthy analysis while the full English translation was published by the Kyiv Independent. Here is its summary.

СDS experts highlight that Putin’s public position regarding Ukraine morphed from seeking a favorable agreement with Ukraine as a foreign country in 2020 to chauvinist claims in 2022 that Ukraine is a historical error that does not deserve sovereignty.

That is why his initial 2022 scenario could indeed have been to conduct a full-scale military operation against Ukraine. Putin was forced to postpone the scenario of a large-scale invasion, at least for a while because of:

  • Ukraine’s readiness to resist and improved capabilities of the Armed Forces (including recent assistance) and the readiness of defense forces;
  • “severe sanctions;”
  • active political and diplomatic pressure;
  • the disclosure of intelligence that exposed Russia’s plans.

The experts also write that Putin usually acts by the method of tests. Because the “test” accumulation of forces and means of the Russian Federation on the border with Ukraine in the spring of 2021 did not bring a negative result for the Russian Federation, the Kremlin decided to take advantage of the opportunities and created the current crisis of winter 2021-2022.

That is why strong international sanctions and military support for Ukraine are important now to deter him from the next steps.

The scale of the crisis and the possibility of open aggression indicate that at this time Russia has decided to finally achieve its goal.

Experts believe Putin’s new strategy excludes any direct official relations between Russia and the leadership of Ukraine but will be based on “legalizing” the militant “republics” as potential negotiators.

This goes in line with Putin’s general narrative outlined in his speech – to present Ukraine as a weak state, equal to the occupied areas of the “L/DNR” under Russian control.

The recommendations of experts include tough sanctions against Russia, martial law in part of Ukraine, mobilization of the first military reserve group, and deployment of territorial defense forces of Ukraine as well as using diplomatic tools for additional military assistance and mobilizing effective support in the framework of UN Security Council and the OSCE.

As of the evening of 23 February, Ukraine has already started all of these steps and introduced a State of Emergency. It is ready to introduce martial law in case of further escalation.

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