Russia: Vladimir Putin’s three undeclared wars – Is he preparing a fourth?

Russia: Vladimir Putin’s three undeclared wars – Is he preparing a fourth?
Russia: Vladimir Putin’s three undeclared wars – Is he preparing a fourth?

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, now in its seventh month, shows no sign of ending.

It has devolved into a grim battle for territory between “tamed” powers, resembling the conflicts of the last century, rather than the complex mix of covert operations and hybrid warfare that is supposed to characterize modern “gray zone” confrontations such as noted in an analysis of “The Conversation” network.

Read also: Gorbachev: How his death will become Putin’s “weapon”.

Both sides play to their strengths: Russia with its dominance of firepower and Ukraine with its ability to erode the aggressor’s lines by targeting its supply.

However, this is only part of the picture. Putin is actually waging three wars, each undeclared.

It simultaneously seeks to control Ukraine, dominate Russia’s region, and hasten the fall of the West. And is an internal battle looming on the horizon?

Russian expansion

Putin’s “special military operation” is an undeclared war of imperial expansion, aimed at expanding Russian territory, as Putin himself put it, by taking back “our lands.”

Depending on how we assess its war aims – which have swung from conquest and regime change to “protecting” the people of Donbass and back again – Russia’s track record is mixed. He certainly managed to bring Ukraine to the brink of state failure. It has already left a burden of rebuilding that will take decades to overcome.

Despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s perfectly understandable desire to keep fighting until all Russian invaders leave Ukrainian soil, even in the most optimistic outcome for Kyiv the full restoration of Donbass or Crimea is far from certain. is secured.

But Putin has also decimated Russia’s conventional forces for surprisingly little gain in six months.

In the process, he has softened his rhetoric about Russian power, displayed an unrelenting disregard for human rights, and revealed that his armed forces are corrupt, mismanaged, and lacking in doctrine, discipline, and capability.

Race for regional primacy

Putin’s second undeclared war is aimed at consolidating control over a sphere of influence stretching from Central Asia to Central Europe.

It’s definitely a war: Russia destroyed Georgia’s armed forces in five days during 2008 over the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He has threatened Moldova with invasion if it abandons neutrality. And it has intervened with military forces in Kazakhstan and in the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Putin, however, is losing his race for regional primacy badly. Russia’s declining influence relative to China – particularly in Central Asia – has long been recognized. But the war against Ukraine shows how far the Kremlin’s reach has slipped.

Kazakhstan called the Russian invasion “war” and sent aid to Ukraine. Moldova is actively seeking to join the EU. With the exception of Belarus, all states that were once part of the USSR either voted for or abstained from the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion and calling on it to withdraw forces from Ukraine.

Putin’s stated desire to prevent Ukraine from turning into an “anti-Russian” country has failed miserably.

Even the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who owes his political survival to Putin, has resisted efforts to draw him directly into the conflict.

And Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO brought NATO closer to Russia, extending its border with the Alliance by some 1,300 kilometers.

War with the West

Putin’s third undeclared war is the most vague, in the form of a global struggle against the West, aimed at reshaping Europe’s strategic map.

It has three main components:

– Political war, aimed at the internal fragmentation of European and North American societies.

– Exploit dependencies for strategic purposes.

– Seeking to weaken Western influence by courting the parts of the world where its reach is weaker.

Putin’s war with the West is important to his great power vision of Russia as the “Eurasian Third Rome.” It also carries the greatest risk for those who try to curb it.

The specter of Putin looming over Europe, under the dispassionate gaze of a second Trump administration, should underscore the urgent task of healing America’s fractured society.

A coming harsh winter for many Europeans will reinforce the lesson that deterrence comes at a cost, as will over-reliance on giants that can use energy as a weapon for strategic leverage.

The West must also recognize that the rhetoric about Russia as a global pariah is untrue: there are many nations that sympathize with the Kremlin’s disinformation about NATO’s historical culpability for the current events in Ukraine.

The West’s future credibility also depends on how well it withstands Russian pressure at home and abroad. It should resist the temptation of inward-looking statism and continue to supply Ukraine with the weapons and aid it needs.

It should also actively counter the false Russian narratives currently engulfing India, Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.

Is Putin Preparing Another Undeclared War?

The car bomb killing of Daria Dugina, daughter of neo-fascist philosopher Alexander Dugin, has sparked an outpouring of bile from the Russian far-right.

Along with it came the first sign of internal fragility in Russia since the February invasion in which 15,000 anti-war protesters were arrested.

Both Dugin (who is neither Putin’s “mind” nor his muse) and Dugina (who promoted far-right propaganda) are at best “bit players” in Russian politics . However, the targeting of an ultranationalist is a rare event in Russia, where assassinations, poisonings and “accidental” deaths mostly affect moderates.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) took 36 hours to announce, unconvincingly, that it had cracked the case. Displaying a Ukrainian National Guard ID (probably fake) he claimed the attacker was Natalya Vovk, a member of the Azov Regiment, which Russia claims is a Nazi-dominated military unit.

According to the FSB, Vovk had moved into Dugina’s apartment building, followed her for weeks, carried out the bombing and then fled to Estonia with her young daughter and cat.

Although we will probably never find out the true identity of Dugina’s killer, any – even remotely – plausible explanation is damaging to Russia.

If it was indeed Ukraine’s fault, how come Russian security failed to stop Vovk at the border, since background checks are supposed to be routine on all Ukrainians entering the country? And why was she allowed to leave?

Dugina’s assassination calls Putin’s leadership into question

Alternatively, if the assassination was carried out by the FSB itself, was it a renegade anti-Putin faction, or was it acting at Putin’s behest to increase underlying support for the war? If the former is true, it points to a deep rift in Russia’s elite. If it’s the latter, Putin has cynically targeted Russia’s far right, which has criticized him for not being tough enough on Ukraine.

Finally, very few observers believe that the hitherto unknown National Democratic Army, which claimed responsibility for the assassination, is responsible. But if it was him, then it shows the real possibility of organized domestic terrorism in Russia.

In any case, the assassination of Daria Dugina calls into question Putin’s own leadership. This is something he has studiously avoided. He is obsessed with control and enjoys the support of a huge propaganda machine, to turn defeats into triumphs and blame others for his mistakes.

This is a common means for autocratic leaders to deflect criticism, and it has certainly worked for Putin.

But as improbable as a Russian revolution from below is, history is replete with examples – including the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR itself – where lies, repression and personalized power eventually revealed the emperor’s nakedness.

So maybe three undeclared wars aren’t enough for Putin. Did he just light the spark of another, more dangerous to him?


The article is in Greek

Tags: Russia Vladimir Putins undeclared wars preparing fourth

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