Editor’s Note: The ongoing geopolitical tensions between Ukraine and Russia has conflict watchers on edge, with various analysts sharing their projections. Some observers have opined that conflict cannot be ruled out of the question, while others believe it is inevitable, with the threat of nuclear war looming over the horizon. Indian strategic affairs author & analyst, Group Captain TP Srivastava (Retd) had made an argument for an "inevitable" Russian "attack" on Ukraine in his opinion editorial published on Mission Victory India.
Against this backdrop, MVI's Executive Editor, Aritra Banerjee, spoke to Moscow-based American geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko, who specialises in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China's Belt & Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare and has written for leading publications across the globe.
Excerpts From The Conversation
Q. What are your views on the assessment that if Russia does not launch a military offensive by the first week of February or earlier, the Russian campaign will get stuck into the ‘mud’, both geographically and diplomatically?
Ans: That’s an assessment which presupposes the seeming inevitability of a so-called Russian “invasion”, thus discounting diplomatic means for resolving what’s actually a Russian-US missile crisis and not a Russian-Ukrainian territorial one like it’s been falsely misportrayed by the US-led Western Mainstream Media.
In the event that Russia feels compelled to protect its national security red lines related to the inadmissibility of the US deploying strike missiles, including hypersonic ones, to Ukraine, it can potentially neutralize imminent or hot threats through cross-border artillery and missile strikes instead of sending tanks across the frontier.
Q. What factors do military analysts in Russia believe will work to their strategic and tactical advantages and the potential bottlenecks that might affect the Russian Armed Forces in a hypothetical conflict with Ukraine?
Ans: Presupposing a seemingly inevitable Russian “invasion” through tanks and other methods is a false paradigm that results in the production of inaccurate analyses. No such intervention is guaranteed to take place, which isn’t just the official Russian position, but even the Ukrainian one as recently articulated by none other than President Zelensky.
It’s extremely unlikely that a large-scale “invasion” will take place, and any cross-border action will likely be limited in scale, scope, and duration. There’s no doubt that such a scenario would in any case successfully result in Russia neutralizing imminent and hot threats to its national security red lines. Ukraine cannot defeat Russia.
Q. What is your take on a view from certain analysts that Ukraine's force preparedness is capable enough to offer stiff resistance to the Russian military?
Ans: Again, presupposing the inevitability of such a scenario is a fallacy, but even if something of the sort happens, Ukraine is unlikely to put up any serious resistance. Plus, Russia is unlikely to carry out a full-fledged “invasion” like some US-led Western “analysts” predict. Its goals would remain limited to neutralizing imminent or hot threats to its national security red lines.
There might be some far-reaching political consequences for the Ukrainian government, but they wouldn’t require an extended or large-scale Russian military presence to occur or remain in force. Russia isn’t seriously countenancing that country’s “annexation” like some have fear mongered.
Q. Do you think that Moscow’s experience during the Crimean conflict may have sowed a few doubts in Putin’s mind about a potential USA/NATO response in the event of Russian military actions?
Ans: Crimea was a unique case due to that region’s political history, demographics, and military significance for Russia. It democratically reunited with Russia in response to the US-backed rise of ultra-right and arguably fascist political forces in Ukraine after the spree of urban terrorism popularly described as “EuroMaidan” resulted in a coup there.
The US didn’t want to risk World War III by militarily responding to that. The current undeclared US-provoked missile crisis is altogether different and can’t be compared to the Crimean case. Russia solely wants to prevent the deployment of US strike weapons, including hypersonic ones, to Ukraine which risk neutralizing its nuclear second-strike capabilities.
Q. In your professional assessment, is a direct confrontation between Russia and a combined NATO/US possible? Do you think it could run the risk of a possible nuclear exchange?
Ans: That scenario is extremely unlikely. The US and NATO already ruled out the deployment of their troops to Ukraine in such a conflict. Although some of their soldiers are reportedly already present there and might be injured or even killed in the event of Russian-Ukrainian hostilities, they most likely won’t threaten a nuclear strike in response.
Of course, wars can always happen by miscalculation, but neither side seems interested in that scenario, let alone a nuclear one. What’ll likely happen if hostilities break out is that the US-led West will support Ukraine as a proxy against Russia, but it’s unclear how successful their efforts will be. In all likelihood, they’ll fail to achieve their desired goals.
Q. In your professional assessment, is a Russian military campaign to “annex” Ukraine imminent? Kindly elaborate on your response for the understanding of readers.
Ans: That scenario is highly unlikely. Russia solely wants to prevent the deployment of US strike weapons, including hypersonic ones, to Ukraine which it fears could be sent there under the pretext of “defending” that country if Kiev initiates a third round of civil war hostilities in Donbass.
Russian intelligence also suspects that the US might do so under the cover of providing Ukraine so-called “anti-missile systems” that President Putin previously warned could quickly become strike missiles with the push of a button after reprogramming their systems. The Kremlin has no interest in absorbing over 40 million comparatively impoverished people, some of whom are hostile, from a deindustrializing country.
Q. “Russian (read Putin’s) misadventure in Ukraine will go down in the annals of modern history as the most prominent bluff, which did not succeed and might even result in Putin’s departure.” What is your view on this analysis? Kindly share your opinions/counter-argument on the notion presented.
Ans: That ridiculous prediction once again wrongly presupposes the seeming inevitability of a so-called Russian “invasion”. The narrative being pushed can also be interpreted as a weaponized one that’s part of the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against Russia. It’s nothing but a poor political fantasy that has no connection to reality.
No “misadventure” is inevitable, no “bluffing” is occurring since Russia’s national security red lines are serious and legitimate, and there is absolutely no chance of President Putin being removed from office, whether through that scenario or any other. Discussing this false narrative any further is intellectually insulting and beneath the dignity of any serious observer.