Fears are running high today that Russian President Vladimir Putin could declare all-out war on Ukraine, signalling an escalation of the conflict.
May 9 is Victory Day in Russia, and the date has been anticipated around the world as one where Putin will make a significant announcement regarding the invasion, which is billed in Russia as a “special military operation”.
Malcolm Davis, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Today this morning there were two possibilities for Putin.
“The first is that essentially it goes ahead and Putin tries to declare victory in Ukraine to give himself a victory, maybe by claiming that they control the east in Donbas and the south. That is as far it goes,” he said.
“The other one which is more interesting that he declares war on Ukraine and it fires a mass mobilisation of Russia against Ukraine.”
Davis said the second option would potentially raise the risk of a broader war between NATO and Russia.
“We will move very carefully and the last thing we want to be dragged into is a war with Russia,” he said.
“Everyone understands where that leads and risk of nuclearisation and so forth. We will move very carefully.”
Davis also suggested that recent revelations that the US was providing not just military hardware, but intelligence, to Ukraine, could prompt a harsher Russian response.
“The Russians would utilise that intelligence support to say that the Americas are involved by proxy,” he said.
The largest risk of nuclear deployment would come in the face of a decisive Russian defeat in Ukraine.
“The Russians have a thing which they call ‘escalate to de-escalate’, and force the other side into negotiations on Russia’s terms,” Davis said.
He predicted the Kremlin might sanction the use of a “low-yield” tactical nuclear weapon, of less power than the one dropped on Hiroshima.
“Of course if (Putin) uses a nuclear weapon, NATO has to respond to that,” Davis said.
May 9, known as Victory Day inside Russia, commemorates the country’s defeat of the Nazis in 1945.
It is marked by a military parade in Moscow, and Russian leaders traditionally stand on the tomb of Vladimir Lenin in Red Square to observe it.
The Russian president has a keen eye for symbolism, having launched the invasion of Ukraine the day after Defender of the Fatherland Day, another crucial military day in Russia.
The Soviet Union lost a staggering 27 million people in World War II, which it calls the Great Patriotic War.
The conflict, which devastated cities and the countryside, caused enormous suffering and left a deep scar in the national psyche.
Victory Day is a rare event in the nation’s divisive post-Soviet history that is revered by all political players, and the Kremlin has used that sentiment to encourage patriotic pride and underline Russia’s role as a global power.
The annual celebrations feature a massive military parade on Red Square showcasing the latest armaments from tanks to fighter jets to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This year, the array of weapons to be displayed in the parade has been significantly curtailed from last year in an apparent reflection of the military’s heavy engagement in Ukraine.
– Reported with CNN, Associated Press
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