Putin didn’t foresee that his army would fail to take Kyiv - GulfToday

Putin didn’t foresee that his army would fail to take Kyiv

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Vladimir Putin

Russian forces suffered from low morale, poorly maintained equipment, and logistics failures.

Conflicts have consequences and unintended consequences perpetrators never imagine when they launch wars. The Ukraine war is a prime case in point.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin may have prepared for predictable consequences of his invasion of Ukraine he could never have expected what has happened. He must have thought the war would be brief. Ukraine would capitulate within days or weeks, and he would secure his political aims of installing a friendly government in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and putting an end to the eastwards expansion of NATO.

He certainly did not foresee that the Russian army — camped on the border for three months in the snow and cold — would fail to capture Kyiv and rout that country’s armed forces.

His generals made the mistake of deploying too few troops: the traditional ratio of attackers to defenders is three-to-one. When Russia invaded, the ratio was about one-to-one and Russian forces suffered from low morale, poorly maintained equipment, and logistics failures.

Putin apparently did not count on the stiff resistance mounted by the Ukrainians and the massive political, financial and materiel backing of NATO under US and British prodding.

He did not realise the West has not given up the fight against the Soviet Union or predict punitive sanctions on Russia. Sanctions are the West’s favourite weapon when proxies — like Ukraine — are fighting Western wars. By pushing Ukraine to stand against Russia, the US and Britain finished off the possibility of avoiding an unnesessary war and gave Putin a casus belli. To avoid war, Kyiv had to drop its ambition to join NATO and remove the reference to achieve membership from its constitution. And, the Ukrainian government had to rein in anti-Russian rightist militias which had been bombarding the Russian majority Donbas region since 2014.

When Biden, Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg began to provide Ukraine with the military training, arms and funds to stand against Russia, they did not plan for an expensive, devastating long war and its destructive global impacts.

The French, German and Italian leaders did express concern over potential repercussions of the war but they were criticised by the trio of Biden, Johnson and Stoltenberg who each sought to pursue personal political agendas by waging yet another proxy war.

No one considered its unintended consequences. The flight of millions of Ukrainians caused major problems for countries hosting them. As the war has dragged on from month to month, Ukrainians still at home have required humanitarian assistance. And this past week there has been an outflow of thousands of Russian men fleeing conscription into the armed forces and deployment in Ukraine.

Refuge is being denied by neighbouring countries who have received Ukrainians warmly.

UN and international agencies sustaining civilians caught up in wars in this region and Africa are being starved for funds because of the costs of the war on Ukraine.

Coming on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic, the Ukraine war is having a disastrous impact on “the global supply chain, impeding the flow of goods, fuelling dramatic cost increases and product shortages, and creating catastrophic food shortages around the world, according to experts at a virtual symposium hosted by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Wheat and livestock feed shortages are being felt in developing countries dependent on Russia and Ukraine for grain supplies. These two countries provide about 30 per cent of the world’s wheat, 25 per cent of barley, and 75 per cent of sunflower oil. These commodities have also been impacted by climate change.

The world has also been affected by rising fuel prices which drive up the costs of transportation of foodstuffs, manufactured goods, and raw materials, as well as petrol prices at the pump.

Land, sea and air routes through Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Poland have been disrupted. The war has created turmoil in financial markets and threatened to impede global recovery from COVID. Rising commodity prices have produced inflation which has already led to unrest. Experts predict recession in Europe following cuts in the supply of Russian natural gas and deep recession for the war-strained and sanctioned Russian economy which had prospered in recent years due to interaction with Western economies.

The inflation rate in Europe stands at about 9 per cent while in the US the rate is 8-9 per cent, a record level for 30 years. If this persists in the US, Biden and the Democrats could lose seats in Congress in November’s mid-term election as well as the presidency and Congressional representation in 2024. Instead of boosting Biden’s political poll ratings, the war has put him and his party at risk. Forced to resign for foolish, unsafe behaviour during the height of the covid crisis, Johnson was not rescued by becoming a war leader.

Only Stoltenberg has benefitted: NATO has been rescued from relegation to the sidelines, has been enlarged by Sweden and Finland, and is not only central to the “defence” of Europe but could be used for fresh offensives in future.

The leaders who launched this war have no excuse for failing to assess unintended consequences which are harming people across the globe. US President George W. Bush waged an unprovoked war on Iraq in 2003 without a thought of the conflict’s unintended consequences.

Instead of installing Iraqi democracy and launching capitalist development, the war transformed Iraq into a political and economic disaster zone.

Bush disbanded the Baath party, Iraqi army, and administration and replaced Iraq’s secular leadership with expatriate sectarian Shia fundamentalists loyal to Iran. The war created a security vacuum quickly filled by al-Qaeda, its offshoots, and other fundamentalist factions which fought the US occupation army and each other. Al-Qaeda’s spawn Daesh established a cross-border “caliphate” stretching from north-central Syria to northern Iraq. The pro-Iranian Iraqi militias took part in the campaign to defeat Daesh and destroy the “caliphate” have become major political players on the Iraqi political scene. Their rise has been met with widespread protests by Iraqis seeking decent governance, an end to corruption, and economic advancement. Castigated by regional and Western leaders for waging this disastrous war, Bush has retired to his ranch in Texas where he maintains a low profile instead of being prosecuted for waging a war of unprovoked aggression.

Putin, at least, can claim he faced serious provocation. The West had promised in 1990 when NATO had 16 members that the alliance would not expand even “one inch” eastwards. Instead, at the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine NATO had recruited 14 new members, the majority formerly tied to the Soviet Union, raising the total to 30. Five more have now joined.

Related articles

Other Articles