Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam looks at the current state of Russia-Ukraine war
Russia getting deep in trouble widely acknowledged that Putin’s adventure in Ukraine is going nowhere causing serious discomfiture in the secret confines of the Kremlin. The cabal around Putin is gradually getting desperate and reportedly there is growing talk inside it of dispensing away Putin who is held responsible for the mess that his conflict with Ukraine has put Russia in. The Russian troops are suffering heavy losses as they undertake risky maneuvers in Ukraine that has put up lively resistance that the Russians did not factor in. After failing to take Kyiv it is now reported that the Russian military is now facing difficulties to make their advance in the Donbas region located in eastern Ukraine. This situation has resulted in a massive upset for the Russian strategic designs that has not only lowered its prestige in the region as well as uniting all credible powers that are now arrayed against it.
As the Russian military tried to implement its plan of surrounding some of Ukraine’s best-trained and best-equipped forces in the east of the country, a number of Russian armoured vehicles were destroyed by the Ukrainian forces while crossing a river. Putin is now insisting to pursue this alternate plan after the failure of his initial invasion that included seeking to seize Kyiv within days but his troops were forced to retreat from swathes of northern Ukraine. Yet even after changing the original plan and shifting the focus to Donbas but this change of plan is also being met by failure as the Russian military was mired in crossing the Siverskyi Donets River. It is amply clear that the Russian military did not take into account that conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky manoeuvre that has exerted tremendous pressure on Russian troops who are facing great difficulty in overcoming the odds.
Already Russian troops have been forced to withdraw from near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city which is close to the border with Russia after Ukrainian counter-attacks. Seizing this territory could hamper Russian re-supply lines as Putin continues to throw troops at trying to grab some success in the Donbas. It is reported that Russia is investing significant effort in this campaign whose primary objective is to envelop Ukrainian forces isolating them from support or reinforcement by units in the west of the country but this effort up to now has proved futile resulting in a virtual stand-off putting Russian plan into jeopardy. The Russian military was compelled to change war plan after its failure to take Kyiv and now this set back has deeply demoralised its troops and has given rise to serious questions about the Russian military capability.
It is reported by the western sources that Russia has likely lost one-third of its ground combat forces in Ukraine and the forces that remain are depleted and have been unable to make any territorial progress in recent weeks. The obvious result of this drawback is the loss of momentum suffered by the Donbas offensive with the result that Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition. It is also reported that these losses will increase as tactical and support equipment continues to run out. Though the Russians are denying it but their forces are increasingly constrained by low morale and reduced combat effectiveness. On the other hand, Ukrainian forces fended off the aggressors and a wave of international support has helped the smaller country remain in the fight to the chagrin of beleaguered Russian leadership.
The Russian isolation in Eastern Europe is increasing by the day and has tremendously increased by the decision taken by Finland to apply for NATO membership eliciting strong denunciation from Russia. The turnaround in geostrategic situation brought about by this decision has worked badly against Russia as Putin put his troops in Ukraine on the pretext that Ukraine could join NATO posing a threat to the Russian state. Quite conversely the outcome of Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in witnessing a major shake-up of Europe’s security architecture with Finland now moving to join NATO and Sweden expected to follow suit. Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 mile) border and a difficult past with Russia, has previously remained outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to maintain friendly relations with its eastern neighbour. Russian retaliation came in shape of disconnecting electricity supplies to Finland that counts for 10 per cent of the country’s total consumption but the Finnish authorities have decided to replenish this shortfall by importing more electricity from Sweden and by increasing domestic production.
The technical reason provided by Moscow was that it wanted the payment of electricity supplies to be made in rubles but the Finnish refused to do that insisting that they have never paid in rubles, only in euros, Norwegian crowns, Swedish crowns and Danish crowns, in line with their standard procedures. Finland’s membership in NATO would signal the end of over 70 years of Moscow’s most enduring policy and it is rated as a humiliation for Putin. Growing up in the late Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s, Finland was seen as the friendliest of the capitalist countries. Finnish products, like processed “Viola” cheese and winter jackets were the Western products a Soviet citizen could occasionally hope to buy. Finland has always enjoyed significant economic cooperation with Russia. It imports most of its oil and gas from its eastern neighbour. Maintaining constant political engagement with the Kremlin was a staple of Finnish policy but now it has drifted away from it resulting in a massive political defeat for Putin. Ever since his first official visit to Finland in 2001 he invested a lot of effort into cultivating the country’s politicians and business only to see this policy collapse within the space of a few weeks. Symbolically, Finland recently cancelled Rosatom’s nuclear power plant project
Putin’s military blackmail will not fare any better. The war against Ukraine has revealed the pitiful state of the Russian army. At the same time Finnish armed forces regularly train with NATO, possess advanced weaponry and are fully interoperable with the alliance’s armies. Russia’s strategic position in the region will become much worse. With Sweden likely to follow Finland , the Baltic Sea will effectively become NATO’s backyard. The Kaliningrad region, the Russian enclave surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, would be even easier to isolate, should the alliance wish to do so. The historical irony is inescapable: Putin made opposing NATO enlargement his signature policy — only to end up with NATO forces stationed some 130 kilometers from Saint Petersburg.
In these circumstances Russia was left with no recourse but to slam Finland’s announcement that it could apply to join the Western military alliance NATO in a matter of days. Russia retaliated that it will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising. Finland joining NATO is a radical change in the country’s foreign policy and it may constrain Russia to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature in order to stop threats to its national security arising. It is the strongest sign yet that Finland will make a formal application to join NATO. Membership would be historic for the Nordic country, which has had a decades-long policy of military neutrality. There are fears that further expansion of NATO — one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest bugbears — could prompt an aggressive response from Russia. As such, if Finland does join the military alliance, the land border that Russia shares with NATO territories would roughly double. Russia has land borders with 14 countries and five of them are NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway. TW