Finally Perhaps We Can Make Sense Out of Putin’s Decisions
Paul Craig Roberts
I have been attempting to make sense out of Putin’s halting of the Russian offensive in Donbass, thus handing the initiative over to Ukraine, which Ukraine has attempted to exploit in counter-offensives. The first counter-offensive in Kherson was destroyed, but the second one in the Kharkov area, where Russian forces were thin, forced a Russian pullback.
I have also been attempting to make sense out of Putin’s endless announcements of red lines that he never enforces while the “limited conflict” widens precipitously, now with Ukraine’s request for Washington to supply long range missiles capable of attacking the Kerch Bridge, Russia’s Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and Russian towns and cities. Already Ukraine has attacked Russian villages close to its border to little effect, which is perhaps why the attacks called forth no response from the Kremlin. Washington, eyeing Putin’s lack of response to violations of his red lines, and so far encountering no Russian response to the widening of the war, is considering supplying the long-range missiles, perhaps through third parties, to Ukraine.
A war, which a properly conducted campaign could have ended in victory in three days, as the Russian Federation Chechnya leader said, and would have been the case had he been in charge, is now in its sixth month. No one in the West any longer fears the Russian military, which has been endlessly exposed in the Western media as ineffective and incompetent. The Kremlin supports this conclusion with its whining that Russia wants to make a deal but the Jew Zelensky won’t negotiate with them, thus accepting that Zelensky has the upper hand in the conflict. It is impossible to imagine a war as poorly conducted, both in appearance and in fact, than the Kremlin’s “limited operation” in Ukraine.
But now news reports from RT and Sputnik bring a different light to the situation. Both the Donbass Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donesk People’s Republic have renewed their requests, stupidly rejected by the Kremlin in 2014, to be reunited with Russia, hardly an unreasonable request as Donbass is inhabited by Russians who were formerly part of Russia. The Public Council of the Kherson area of present day Ukraine has also expressed the desire to disassociate from Ukraine and has joined the Lugansk and Donetsk Civic Chambers in calling for reincorporation into Russia. https://sputniknews.com/20220920/kherson-region-public-council-proposes-to-hold-referendum-on-joining-russia-1100997757.html
Putin, being a goody two shoes character, feels he cannot act outside of international law. His belief might yet destroy Russia as no one in the Western world cares a hoot about international law. But Putin thinks it is important.
The Luganst and Donesk requests materializing again after the Kremlin’s rejection eight years ago and joined by Kherson’s suggests that the Kremlin, finally realizing that it is at war, in order to free its hands is turning the war into one between Russia and Ukraine and whoever else is involved. Once the Donbass is again part of Russia, Ukrainian attacks are attacks on Russia and, therefore, Russia is justified under international law to attack the entirety of Ukraine. Such an attack would quickly end the war and demonstrate, finally, that there are Russian red lines after all.
So as a working hypothesis, I assume it finally dawned on the Kremlin that Russia is really at war and not engaged in a limited police action in Donbass as the Kremlin intended. To avoid being legally the aggressor, the Kremlin needs to turn Ukraine into the aggressor of Russian territory by accepting the requests from Luganst, Donesk, and Kherson to be reunited with Russia. Thus, the Russian offensive was halted while the political ground is prepared. If the Kremlin again denies reunification, there is no explanation for the Kremlin’s behavior but stupidity.
I respect Putin’s concern with law. But I nevertheless think the constraints the Kremlin places on its actions are ridiculous. No one in the West cares about international law as US, NATO, and Israeli attacks on other countries illustrate. All the Kremlin has achieved by its goody two shoes behavior is to lengthen its conflict with Ukraine until it widened into a conflict involving the US and NATO.
The consequence of Russian restraint and indecision, if it persists, is likely to be nuclear war. It is nuclear war that I am writing against.