On Tuesday 3rd March 2022 independent intelligence assessments concur that Russia seems focused on destroying Ukrainian airfields with the primary objective of preventing more military aid and possible anti-tank weaponry to be sent to Ukraine from NATO countries and others who volunteered. Israeli analysts in particular (those who write for Jpost and DebkaFile) have been helpful in forming these assessments, given the information and disinformation campaigns between the two sides.
Four interesting developments seems to evade the headlines at present:
- Victor Orban in Hungary said that he will not allow lethal weapons to flow through his country to Ukraine. Many agree that it is unrealistic and will only turn innocent Ukrainians into cannon fodder against a superior enemy. “…it is reckless of the European elite to give Ukrainians false hope against such a strong onslaught and superior enemy…”
- Erdogan in Turkey has shut the Bosporus straights to all military carriers, not just Russian carriers, however he accused NATO of only giving advise and nothing more to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Turkish staff at the countries embassy in Ukraine praised Turkish drones (operated by Ukraine) for successfully attacking Russian targets.
- TASS, the Russian government news agency claims that according to the Facebook page of Ukrainian military groups, some 70 warplanes are being sold and partly donated to Ukraine, which it seems to think Ukrainian pilots will be flying from bases in Poland for combat missions. This development is perhaps the most alarming – since it would clearly provide Putin and Russia with the incentive to strike a NATO country for participating in the war. The big concern here that it will lead to the perfect excuse to trigger article 5 and place the onus on the US and allies to rush to the “common defense” of Poland.
Russian FM Sergei Lavrov repeated claims that Ukraine is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and said “it is time that American nuclear weapons leave the continent of Europe and return to the US”.
Economic pressure against Russia is mounting:
Whereas some important countries like Brazil, China and India have indicated they will remain neutral, Australia, Japan, Canada and all NATO countries, including traditionally neutral players like Switzerland, have moved to freeze Russian assets. However it seems clear that Putin, at this stage, is no longer concerned about economic consequences.
Increasing the risk of a world war:
- In continental Europe, there is a real fear that in the same way British misinformation has drawn America into world war 2, that erroneous statements by the UK may again do this, drawing NATO into an undesirable war. For example by downplaying the severity of the Russian invasion and sheer scale of the resources Russia has committed and by giving Ukrainians false hope, the risk of a world war is increased.
- By flooding Ukraine with more drones and lethal weapons, Putin may resort to more severe measures or possibly retaliatory measures against countries that enable Ukraine.
- The silencing of alternative news sources by the EU is a concern, given that it will essentially enable one narrative of information to reach citizens.
The narrative that this is unlikely to move beyond the borders of Ukraine is nothing but a false assurance. Unless serious negotiations take place, where both sides are sincere about the legitimate concerns of the opposing parties, and if Poland or any eastern European country is used for combat missions to be launched, there is a real risk of the situation spreading rapidly beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Prominent Ukrainians such as Petro Poroshenko and Vitali Klitschko are staying put in Kiev. It is unclear what they know and why they believe there is a chance to take a stand against such a powerful invader – the situation is unfolding right now.