A decision by Vladimir Putin to raise the stakes even higher over Ukraine is a sign that his war is going badly, but it is also a signal that the Russian president cannot give up, writes Sky’s security and defence editor, Deborah Haynes.
A partial mobilization; the holding of referendums to turn four Ukrainian regions “Russian”; and the spectre once more of nuclear confrontation mark a serious moment of escalation and a new test for the Ukrainian government with its Western backers.
It comes in response to a significant counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces over the past three weeks, which has seized back swathes of territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region, forcing Russian troops into retreat and giving the Ukrainian side the momentum.
Analysts have said from the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion that Putin cannot afford to lose this war as it would almost certainly mean the end of his presidency.
But Ukraine has made clear it will not stop fighting until all Ukrainian territory is recaptured, meaning escalation will continue until either side blinks.
It is interesting, therefore, to consider how the position – and risk appetite – of the UK, the US, and other western allies has evolved over the past nearly seven months of the war.
There has been an unwavering desire to support Ukraine, but this support was initially constrained by a desire to avoid giving so much weaponry that it would be seen by Moscow as an escalatory step drawing Russia closer into direct confrontation with the West.
But as the war has drawn on and Russian forces have resorted to exploiting their greater stockpiles of long-range artillery to smash Ukrainian positions, the West’s appetite has grown to gift Ukraine more powerful weapons – such as long-range multiple-launch rocket systems, tanks, and aircraft – regardless of the escalatory potential.
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Source: Sky News