BERLIN – “We are certainly on the verge of a major offensive by Ukraine, whose main target is likely to be the Sea of Azov, in an attempt to sever the link with Crimea,” he says. Dmitry Suslov, Kremlin advisor, who heads the Center for European and International Studies At the Moscow Higher School of Economics, which is one of the most important institutes where Russian foreign policy is contemplated.
Are you worried?
Â «From the Russian point of view, the West is betting heavily on the success of the offensive, both for military reasons because the amount of weapons and ammunition that can be supplied to Kiev began to decline after the handover in recent months, and for political reasons as support for the Ukrainian cause in Western societies began to wane, especially In the United States in light of the presidential elections. It is by no means clear, for example, that Congress will authorize new funding for Ukraine in the summer when existing funds run out. In other words, the West has a strong interest in the success of the Ukrainian offensive. If this does not happen, then in the second half of the year Kiev will find itself in a much weaker position and then Russia will launch its offensive ».
But didn’t he already do it in those two months?
The Western narrative that Moscow tried and failed to attack in Donbass is false. It was not a large-scale attempt in the traditional sense of the term, but greater pressure without extensive use of forces on the ground. Small units were used, and there were no real maneuvers. Russia applied pressure to weaken the Ukrainians, which reduced Of their offensive potential.Let us also remember that Russia is still using detainees, while Ukraine is using regular forces.
In view of the last month’s supplies, from German and British tanks to Polish MiG-29 ammunition, Ukraine has objectively strengthened. Doesn’t this worry the Russian command?
We must neither exaggerate nor underestimate Ukraine’s military potential. Let’s take a look at the numbers though: So far by our estimates, 57 new tanks out of the 300 pledged have been delivered, including German Leopard 2s and British Challengers. Even if they all come, which won’t happen until the end of the year, it won’t be much. Also taking into account the rest – tanks, howitzers, ammunition and fighters – the Ukrainian is a serious threat. But I don’t think these are the “magic weapons” capable of making a difference on Earth. The most important question is another: What will happen if the Ukrainians fail despite all this Western help? If all this arsenal was unsuccessfully thrown into the furnace? The West will not have much to replace it. Ukraine will find itself almost exposed. While Russia, as some Western media correctly estimated, will mobilize 400 thousand new volunteers by the end of the year and will be ready to launch a real offensive ».
From what you say, you are not giving any opportunity to start negotiations.
“The probability is zero. The West will not allow Ukraine to enter or participate in any negotiations before the spring offensive. Our reading of the Western position is that if the Ukrainian offensive succeeds and Crimea is threatened, then the situation is conducive to negotiation. But if that does not happen, it will be Russia that will not It allows any negotiations before its counterattack in the fall. So I don’t expect anything on the negotiation front by 2023.
The new doctrine of Russian foreign policy, introduced by Putin and Lavrov, points to the United States as the “principal source of threat” to Russia’s security. Is it the assurance that every bridge has now burned?
I think, in the first place, the crucial paragraph in that document is the one in which Russia identifies itself not only as a state but also as an “independent civilization”, distinct from any other. Secondly, the document correctly describes the state of the world, where, on the one hand, the collective West is waging a mixed global war against Russia, which it wants to weaken and ultimately destroy as a power, on the other hand, we see cardinal and rapid changes. Towards the establishment of a multipolar world, in which new players appear outside of China, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Asian countries with few exceptions, and African countries. And this translates into a double foreign policy action by Russia: on the one hand to go to war with the West, and on the other hand to strengthen cooperation with the rest of the world, the non-Western world which constitutes the majority. There is a new hierarchy in our strategic interests, which places neighboring regions first, followed by China and India, then the Islamic and African worlds, and only last by the West, which is seen as an adversary. Of course, we differentiate Europe from the Anglo-Saxon West, which is the hard core. If European countries change their policy, we will be ready to resume cooperation ».
But the war in Ukraine produced the opposite effect: Finland joined NATO yesterday.
“I would also like to mention the indictment of the Russian president by the International Criminal Court, which excludes any possibility of normalizing relations with Europe in the near future.”
What are the countermeasures announced by the Kremlin after Helsinki’s accession to NATO?
“From now on, if there is a war between NATO and Russia, unlike in the past, the Finnish territory will be the central theater of the conflict. So Russia must prepare, for example by militarizing its northwest. The scale of this buildup on the northwest border will depend on what we see in Finland: whether there are medium or long-range missiles, NATO bases and forces, nuclear weapons. We will reciprocate your every step.
Putin has admitted for the first time in recent days that the Russian economy is feeling the grip of sanctions. So unlike what has been said so far, they do have an effect. Will this have an impact on political decisions?
– of course no. I think that Russia’s economic development in the conditions of severe embargoes has been successful so far. It can be said that Russia’s economic performance has been better than the military one. Admittedly, Western sanctions will have a cumulative effect, hampering robust growth. But the general perception is that they have already failed in trying to defeat Russia, which was also able to adapt thanks to the role played by the non-Western world, from China down, which refused to follow the dictates of the West. alliance.”
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