Serious people have started seriously talking about war
The possibility of a large-scale war, which could be initiated by Russia, has been discussed with varying intensity since 2014. These speeches became especially active in the spring of this year when huge forces were concentrated on the borders of Ukraine and increased combat readiness was announced in all parts of the Russian war zones. Although many observers point out that Putin was just provoking, threatening Ukraine and the rest of the world, that he never wanted to fight, the question remains of what he would have done if he had not gotten the "saving" phone call from Biden. If the bluff hadn't worked?
Well-known Russian political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky, who sits alongside the next president in Vitaly Mansky's documentary on the 2000 presidential election "Putin's Witnesses", admits that in such a case Russia would have been forced to start a completely unnecessary, pointless war. The path of retreat was cut off because then one would have to admit defeat of one's will. Pointless, because even if the Russian army would occupy Kyiv - what then? I myself was just in Kyiv and even a local Russian (or as we say - Russian speaker) did not want to speak Russian with me, although as soon as a local acquaintance called him on his mobile phone, he spoke to him in Russian without delay.
Already in the spring, serious (there are none more serious in Russia), experienced military observers - such as Aleksandr Golts and Pavel Felgenhauer - warned about the very high probability of a large-scale military confrontation. These views have now been joined by no less serious, experienced politicians and political observers. People have varying opinions on Grigory Yavlinsky, the "father" of the political party Yabloko, but no one would call him an irresponsible blabbermouth who populistically talks about everything that comes to mind. The man is steady, balanced, not to say cautiously prudent. He is never reckless. Speaking of Putin's article on Ukraine in July and the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev's rude addition to it posted a few days ago in the newspaper Kommersant, Yavlinsky writes: "If anyone had doubted [the Kremlin's] plans so far, now everything has become obvious: Russia is heading for war."
The aforementioned Pavlovsky, who is well acquainted with the Kremlin's laws and customs because he was on Putin's team during the first years of his reign, has just published an extensive article in the online publication Republic.ru. Pavlovsky's style of expression is rather vague and hazy. He is not characterized by clear and precise statements, so a slightly longer quote from him states:
"The Russian Federation is quick to start a war. Intentionally or accidentally. The Russian System adapts to emergencies. Both self-created and ones given by others. As soon as something important is failed to be delivered - you can expect something extraordinary for which the military-strategic [leadership] format removes the issue of leadership quality. Power is incompetent in managing the simplest of issues, but will it be competent in war?
Despite Clausewitz, the decision on war [in the Kremlin] is separate from political decisions. A new war will initially be indistinguishable from normal special operations. It will be a decision to defend something that is needed by no one - either discredited values or Donbas. We are expecting not a "world war", but an era/war, a war/world order - a deadly trap for Russia."
Pavlovsky speaks seemingly reassuring, about how the war will initially be "quite unnoticeable, like special operations", but such a hybrid war is already taking place, and not only is everyone in the world used to it, but in fact they have come to terms with it. It is therefore a matter of moving to the next level of warfare. To the hot phase.
In an interview with the same publication Republic.ru, Vladimir Pastukhov, another authoritative Russian policy expert and researcher at the London College, warns that the most important thing for Russia at the moment is not to fall into some incomprehensible war. Speaking about the recent Russian City Council elections, Pastukhov noted their decorative, ceremonial and politically pointless nature, but at the same time pointed out that even such ceremonial elections were important because they created an unusual stress situation for the government, exposing its less visible flaws.
"The political result of the elections is the electoral depletion of the Crimean factor. This means that Putin's "recoverer of Crimea" factor ceases to play a role. The people have swallowed it, become accustomed to it and no longer are ecstatic about it. Consequently, Crimea is no longer suitable as a substitution treatment for pensions and other trifles. Is it good or bad? It imposes on you the need to stay vigilant. To overcome the next barrier in 2024 [when the presidential election is scheduled], they are very tempted to create something like the "second Crimea". That is why the threat of military actions will increase rapidly in the next two years. They need new electoral doping.”
Returning to the already mentioned article by Medvedev, one can find a seemingly soothing conclusion in it. Medvedev asks himself the question: What to do now [with Ukraine]? And he himself answers - nothing. We have to wait until adequate leadership [in the Kremlin's opinion] appears in Ukraine, with whom everything can be negotiated. Unfortunately, this answer only seems to indicate acceptance of the current situation. Given that in the foreseeable future Ukraine won't have a legitimately elected state leadership that could be acceptable to Moscow, not even in theory, a more plausible option is a pro-Kremlin puppet government appointed by military force in Kyiv.
It must be acknowledged with some concern that Ukraine is not the only one when considering possible candidates for the "second Crimea". A more effective, more triumphant option to "humiliate NATO" could be considered, when a sudden, unexpected military strike is directed against a NATO country that is not very strong in the military. Latvia, for example, and while NATO leaders are recovering from the shock and feel reluctant to trigger Article 5, Putin is already offering his "peace rules". Acceptable enough for the West, but also humiliating, to accept these rules with some insignificant concessions from Putin in the spirit of Merkel and Macron, as an important step in "maintaining peace in Europe and around the world". The possibility of such events unfolding must never be forgotten, and it must be reminded from time to time so that our leaders do not fall into languid carelessness.