5 possible military and political goals for Moscow

Russian forces are indeed withdrawing from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine, but analysts insist that Moscow needs a victory and is aiming for several military and political gains in the months to come.

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Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial objectives went far beyond the situation on the front line today, Russia can emerge militarily strengthened from this first assault, including in the event of a rapid ceasefire.

Spotlight on five possible goals for Moscow.

May 9 marks in Russia the anniversary of the capitulation in 1945 of Nazi Germany in the face of the allied troops, in particular Soviet. The Kremlin will have to present a positive balance sheet to its public opinion.

“Putin is obsessed with symbolic dates and history, so he desperately needs a victory before May 9,” said Alexander Grinberg, analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy (JISS).

“Russia cannot afford to lose,” Sergei Karaganov, honorary chairman of the Council for Russian Foreign and Defense Policy, close to Putin, said on Saturday. “The stakes for the Russian elite are very high – for them this is an existential war,” he added to the New Statesman website.

The Russians “want to achieve the complete seizure of Mariupol”, affirms Alexander Grinberg, in unison with many other experts. This city in the south-east of the country, located on the Sea of ​​Azov, has been strangled by the incessant bombardments of Moscow for weeks and will soon fall.

“It is a position which fixes a significant number of assault forces”, analyzes Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES).

Controlling Mariupol will ensure continuity from Crimea to the two pro-Russian separatist republics of Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk. This will allow the Russians “to go up to take in pincers what remains of the Donbass and to make a continuity on the south of Ukraine and the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov”, specifies Pierre Razoux.

But Russia wants precisely to secure the conquests recorded in recent weeks and ensure uncontested control of the cities and regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Its objective is “to establish long-term occupation regimes” in the Donbass, assures Ivan Klyszcz, Estonian researcher for the think tank Riddle.

The possibility of a ceasefire is on the table. And it would momentarily freeze the forehead. “The war is far from over and could turn to the advantage of the Russians in the event of a successful operation in eastern Ukraine,” said the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

If a ceasefire occurs “on the principle of + keep what you have +, Russia could keep several parts of Ukraine”, confirms Ivan Klyszcz. “It would create de facto borders where the front line is.”

“The Russian army has lost more troops in the first two weeks of the war in Ukraine than the Americans in 20 years in Afghanistan,” notes the think tank Soufan Center in New York (United States).

Faced with resistance from Ukraine, the Russian general staff had to review its objectives, but not necessarily in the long term. Pierre Razoux even evokes the possibility of a “partition of Ukraine in two” on the Dnieper river.

“But it won’t be on this sequence,” he says. Russia must replenish its forces, call up new conscripts, replace the destroyed equipment. A stoppage of the fighting would allow him to reconstitute his forces “in order to return to the assault and play the 2nd round within six months or a year”.

But the break would also benefit Kyiv. “Beyond the current battle of Donbass, if this all ultimately becomes a war of attrition, Ukraine seems in a better position,” Michael Kofman, Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) tweeted. ) in Washington.

Russia has seen the united front of Westerners. But it looks crackable.

When US President Joe Biden stirred up trouble by talking about the need for Putin to step down, French President Emmanuel Macron distanced himself.

Moreover, the British, American, French, German and Italian leaders have recently considered it useful to warn against any “loosening of Western determination” in the face of the Russian invasion.

In fact, Moscow can try to drive a wedge between Westerners, who could diverge, for example, on the use of Russian gas.

“The goal of the game is also to divide public opinion: the Europeans among themselves, part of the Europeans against the Ukrainians, the Europeans and the Americans,” notes Pierre Razoux.

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