PERSPECTIVE - I will not speculate on the upcoming Ukrainian Spring Offensive; it is inevitable and will be at least somewhat successful.
Russia is caught between a rock and a hard place, kind of like Gibraltar and Half Dome.
If Putin wants to continue this war, he must focus on rebuilding his army, but that can only be accomplished by ceasing military operations. For certain, the Ukrainians won’t give him any breathing room. The big question is how long will the Russian people tolerate his misadventure?
For now, he enjoys the support of a solid majority of his citizens. They believe his bogus claims of “Denazification” and preventing an invasion by NATO. At some point, the Russians must ask themselves how a country triple the size of Ukraine, with a much larger military on the land, the sea and in the air has been fought to a standstill. They may be gullible, but not indefinitely stupid. The human cost will eventually sink in despite the Russian propaganda machine’s attempt to control the narrative. Coffins and MIAs will be hard to downplay beyond a point.
They only thing keeping his invasion afloat is the support of his most trusted inner circle, among whom is General Valery Gerasimov. He was in charge of the planning and is still operationally responsible for achieving strategic objectives.
In any other army in the world, Valery would have been court martialed for incompetence months ago. But he is a long-time ally of Putin, who needs him to cover up the corruption and lack of leadership in what once was considered the second most powerful army on earth. The Russians can barely squeeze a meaningless tactical advantage in Bakhmut.
Where does Putin go from here?
He is already maneuvering to absorb the Belarussian Army. President Alexander Lukashenko of Belorussia is reportedly in poor health, and we all know from history of Russian politics that the biggest and baddest can fall dead from a hangnail. If and when Putin succeeds along this line, the Belarussian army is like the junior varsity, and under armed at that. It will mainly add to the casualty totals with little or nothing to show for the losses.
In order to restore the army’s offensive capability, Putin needs to upgrade his military-industrial complex, if it ever had an in-depth one to begin with. What’s in place is currently incapable of replacing lost tanks and other major weapons systems. As I stated earlier, it would require a major shift away from supplying the current, poorly performing, operations. It would take a commitment spanning many years.
Russian logistics is a contradiction in terms. There is no need to elaborate. Perhaps Putin should outsource logistics to Amazon.
Employing tactical nukes (also known as battlefield nukes for their limited radius of destruction and lower radiation yields) would isolate Russia from India and China - a losing proposition.
How about strategic nukes?
Using them would amount to a Dr. Strangelove strategy.
Little is known about the Russian chain of command when it comes to the authorization to launch, but whether officers who are empowered to turn the keys following receipt of such an order would do so is debatable. Suicide is not painless, contrary to the theme song from MASH.
I believe Putin’s regime (or a like-minded one) would collapse before that threshold was reached. A defeated Russia, one with an arsenal of ICBMS, would still be a powerful entity. Just think of the leverage Kim Jong Un has with a fraction of Russia’s nuclear firepower.
The only useful card Putin might pick from the deck would be the Trump Card.
Perhaps he has Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praying for a victory in the next U.S. presidential election by his patron saint, Donald J. Trump.
(Paul Hatfield is a board member and past president of the Valley Village Residents Association; former Treasurer and board member of Neighborhood Council Valley Village and an Active CPA and Accounting Consultant.)