Russia does not set itself the task of occupying Ukraine or part of it without the guarantee that the political regime in Kyiv will be replaced by one loyal to the Kremlin. Furthermore, Russia has neither the strength nor the resources for a large-scale offensive. Such an opinion was expressed by journalist Yuriy Butusov in an article for Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly).
“Today, holding the occupied territories, including the Donbas and Crimea, has become a huge burden on the Russian budget and economy. This is debilitating Russia, and it shows that if Putin expands the war, a complete disconnection from the West will follow, and the Russian economy will collapse rapidly if the ‘Iranian variant’ of sanctions is used,” he writes.
In Butusov’s opinion, Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of Russia’s economic dependence on the West, and thus, by engaging in armed aggression against Ukraine, he is attempting to improve Russia’s image and strengthen the Kremlin’s position in Europe and the US.
“Without collaborating with western countries, Putin’s empire cannot exist. There is no doubt that after five years of diplomatic efforts, large-scale aggression will lead to a breaking of Russia’s relations with the US and the EU, which Putin is trying to establish, since he understands the complete financial and economic dependence on Europe and the US. Otherwise they wouldn’t have spent money on expensive PR projects like the Olympics and championships,” the journalist observes.
Butusov believes that Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine without a formal state of war is profitable for the Kremlin, since it enables it to exist under limited sanctions, without cutting off economic ties to developed countries.
“In the event of a large-scale invasion, Ukraine’s leaders would have no choice but to declare war. And Putin would have no way to avoid responsibility – he would have to acknowledge the war. But it would be just as risky for Putin to acknowledge war in Ukraine as for Ukraine. War requires the mobilization of the entire economy and population, and Russia, unlike Ukraine, will not have any allies in this war. Putin understands this perfectly well,” Butusov adds.
In addition, large-scale combat would entail sizable and irrecoverable losses for the Russian army.
“Already not hundreds but thousands of coffins are going to Russia. And this will have different impact and consequences altogether,” the journalist writes.
Accordingly, Butusov believes that Ukraine has no choice but to modernize its army, increase its level of combat readiness, and carry out military operations aimed at causing irreparable damage to the enemy.