A ‘burn’ on the Ukrainian border

 
When it comes to Ukraine, the spectre of another potential Russian military offensive is by no means welcomed but does present certain political advantages for Kyiv to exploit. For Putin, it might be more severe than most. Given the diverse set of domestic problems with no end in sight, it is unlikely to resonate positively with locals who remain laser-focused on government accountability and exiting the pandemic. The recent success of three Russian submarines punching their way through Arctic ice is all too choreographed and a preview of what state propaganda has planned. Furthermore, the aid package included radar units for countering artillery; support for satellite imagery and analysis capability; and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures. Some countries have even gone ahead and brought back the draft because Russia’s recent behaviour has the Baltic republics and Central Europe rattled. While there is a political imperative to change the domestic narrative, the risk-reward paradigm for raising tensions with Ukraine is mismatched. With national standards of living on the decline and pent-up social frustrations simmering over COVID-19, Putin can no longer disregard the domestic unease engulfing the country. None more glaring than the lack of judicial reform. Add in the national outrage over the assassination and imprisonment of Alexey Navalny, and suddenly the question of regime survival is not so trivial. With Russian forces massing on Ukraine’s border, he unexpectedly finds himself in a position to present an image of a country under siege and desperately in need of western aid. EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

A Ukrainian soldier fires a rocket propelled grenade launcher during a training session near the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Petersburg, over the removal of a popular regional governor serves as the truest proof of the political trouble the Kremlin is in.  
For someone who is lotted for being a master tactician, Putin has mishandled this situation. Should the Kremlin go ahead with a military operation, they would do well to temper expectations. Another $150 million is slated to Kyiv, should both the State and Defense Departments certify that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on key defense reforms. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>A ‘burn’ on the Ukrainian border

By Roger Hilton
Defense and Security Fellow, GLOBSEC

epaselect epa04689116 An Ukrainian serviceman of the ‘Donbass battalion’ fires a rocket propelled grenade launcher during a training session at a shooting range near of the eastern city of Mariupol, Ukraine, 01 April 2015. Though this equipment will not change the military balance, it will allow Ukrainian forces to increase their lethality and force Russian authorities to go to greater lengths to conceal the deaths of servicemen from a wary public back home. This unpleasant sensation is exactly what could happen to Russian President Vladimir Putin if he continues his foolish statecraft with his southern neighbor. Eastern Europe is seeing an upswing in military exercises, people training to be reservists and talk of resuming conscription. Should the former Dresden KGB resident select the former, it would be a failure on two fronts. The sight of summer protests in Khabarovsk, not cosmopolitan Moscow or St. With the vaccine rollout inside Ukraine behind schedule and stubborn corruption hindering foreign investment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s western supporters remain underwhelmed by the state of progress he promised. A mortar mine tail in the Ukrainian village of Shyrokino. Just last month, the Pentagon announced a $125 million military aid package for Ukraine, that included two Mark VI patrol boats to defend its territorial waters. With his political legitimacy at stake, Putin is looking to recreate this winning political strategy by distracting locals with foreign escapades and promises of future imperial grandeur. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 01 April urged the warring parties in Ukraine to follow through on their February truce and implement the rest of the promises aimed at ending the conflict. Even more troubling, is news that the White House will appoint a special envoy to lead negotiations on halting the final stages of the project’s construction. Berlin’s support of the project, already under heavy scrutiny, will only be intensified as Moscow’s actions only serve to confirm existing preconceptions of Germany’s NATO Allies. It would be ineffective in changing the current domestic narrative and indirectly further Ukraine’s long-term strategic goals of tighter relations with the United States and NATO membership. Consequently, Ukraine as the next battleground to project this political policy is logical due to its proximity and Russia’s overwhelming escalation domination. His 2014 annexation of Crimea catapulted his sluggish approval ratings and subdued growing dissatisfaction with his governance. These calls for support have been heeded by the Biden Administration with both action and rhetoric. Furthermore, it concentrates Western governments to the failures of the Minsk Accords and puts a new spotlight on the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission reports in the Donbass, which continues to report countless ceasefire violations and fatalities. Above all else, this violent prospect has reawakened western fatigue in the bilateral conflict, that had slid down the global security agenda with the onset of Covid and the American-China rivalry. Signs of a Russian military build at the Ukrainian border are well documented and suggest preparations are underway for an imminent invasion or at a bare minimum some extreme sabre-rattling. Finally, any operation resulting in Russian casualties would surely raise the media profile of the International Memorial Society, a national NGO that reports on Russian soldiers killed in action, which holds great respect throughout much of the country. Although Russian citizens long tolerated the pervasive kleptocracy under the Putin regime, the current levels of graft have reached a breaking point. On the diplomatic stage, the evolving security situation has provided Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minster Dmitry Kuleba with newfound ammunition to attack the credibility of Russia as a strategic and reliable partner with Germany vis-à-vis the Nord Stream II pipeline. EPA-EFE//SERGEY VAGANOV
If that speculation were not enough to send Putin into a tailspin, the announcement that the Biden Administration was seriously exploring Ukrainian membership in NATO might have sent him into anaphylactic shock. The word ‘gorilka‘ is derived from the verb ‘gority‘, which means ‘to burn’ in Ukrainian. None of which are accomplished by invading Ukraine. Not only will any foreign adventure fail to sway his popularity, but it will reinforce the value of NATO and continue to legitimize a path for Ukrainian membership. Like most short-sided strategies, there is a high likelihood to get burned. EPA-EFE//ROMAN PILIPEY

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If you have been to Ukraine, you have surely tried ‘gorilka‘, the national vodka-style spirit. Of all the cardinal sins adversaries can commit against the Kremlin, none is more offensive than the prospect of NATO membership to perceived vassal states. To be clear, Putin has been in a similar predicament and survived.