Do you think that Putin has given up on invading all of Ukraine after hearing your speech?
I think that from a purely military point of view, he realizes that he has no choice, at least for now, but to focus his invasion only on Donbas due to its military weakness and ineptitude. There is also no indication that he has stopped trying to seize areas of southern Ukraine around Kherson.
But this is the biggest problem we have now with Putin, especially considering that he is the leader of a country with more than 5,000 nuclear weapons: his words no longer mean anything and cannot be trusted in the slightest. Even when he makes a statement or promise directly to another world leader, it means nothing. This is the real danger. During the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union already understood that his statements and promises could not be taken lightly, and that if he said anything, his words must have credibility. But Putin does not seem to understand this at all.
Putin said that NATO and Western powers were about to attack Russia. Do you really think that or is it just propaganda?
Well, this is, in itself, propaganda to try to get your people to agree and support your actions, especially on this particular day when you are trying to draw parallels between what Nazi Germany did in 1940 and what is happening in Ukraine now. But, exactly, he said that it was the West that was trying to invade Russia before his actions in Ukraine, and not that the West is about to invade Russia now.
Will Russia dare to use its nuclear capabilities if its Army fails in Ukraine?
On this question I firmly believe that yes, Putin will be willing to use nuclear weapons to achieve his ultimate goals. This is even openly reflected in Russia’s previously published war plans. What Putin will do is take as much territory from Ukraine as he can before his army loses its war power. Then, when his army can no longer attack and the Ukrainians start to launch counter-offensives to regain their lost territory, Putin will demand that the Ukrainians stop their counter-offensives or else he will use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
This is Putin’s ultimate goal, to use nuclear blackmail to consolidate his territorial gains in Ukraine and end the war on his terms by threatening a nuclear strike if the Ukrainians refuse to accept his terms. Then, of course, everything will depend on whether the Ukrainians back down and accept the loss of their territory to Putin’s nuclear blackmail.
My opinion is that they will not, and to be honest, if I were the Ukrainian president I would totally refuse to accept Putin’s nuclear blackmail. So Putin will have to decide whether he follows through with the nuclear blackmail threat from him, or whether he accepts defeat and loss of prestige. And everything I know about Putin tells me that he would rather start a nuclear war than accept the loss of prestige, because nothing is more important to him than his own ego and narcissism and the image of himself as a great leader. Therefore, he will be willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people if necessary.
Kanishkan Sathasivam is Professor of International Relations and Director of the William H. Bates Center for Public and Global Affairs.