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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Greater destruction or diplomacy, Putin’s options

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For Ukraine, the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, in the south of the country, marks its third major success since the conflict began in late February. The first was to prevent the Russians from seizing kyiv at the beginning of the invasion and then, in September, the recapture of the Kharkov region (northeast).

Objectives

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With their spirits inflamed, the Ukrainians now have in their sights other territories occupied by Russia in the east, as well as Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014 and whose reconquest the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, raised as a condition for their end the war.

But the torrent of Russian missiles targeting civilian infrastructure across Ukraine reminded Tuesday that the price to be paid will be high, as Putin considers such a condition to be out of the question.

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“Historically, the Russian authorities have never negotiated from a position of weakness,” said Cyrille Bret, a researcher at the Institut Jacques Delors cabinet in Paris.

With the recent mobilization of 300,000 reservists, the Russians “are thinking about how to alter the balance of forces, with military operations but also with diplomatic, economic or even covert initiatives,” he explained.

A war of attrition punctuated by aerial bombardments, for example, could undermine the resolve of the Ukrainians over the winter.

The fact that the days have fewer daylight hours also limits the ability to carry out operations that allow Ukraine to retake territory in the east.

“The Russians are better than when they arrived in the country in February,” said a Western official who requested anonymity. “We are seeing a greater degree of coherence in the overall military approach” being taken to the conflict, he noted.

If Ukraine registers more successes on the battlefield, it could increase its pressure for a negotiated settlement, say analysts, who however recall that Zelenski’s willingness to recapture Crimea has aroused concern among his Western allies.

Source: Ambito

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