Putin failed to achieve his 3 goals in Ukraine because he’s not ready to launch a major war, Polish analyst says.

Moscow’s open movement of forces toward the Ukrainian border this spring was intended to achieve three goals, but because it was never intended as the beginning of a thrust that would lead to a major war between Russia and the West, Vladimir Putin failed to achieve any of his three goals regarding Ukraine this time around, Jerzy Targalski says.

In 2014, Putin used stealth to advance Russian forces toward and into Ukrainian territory; but this time, the Polish defense analyst says, he flaunted what he was doing in the expectation that such a display of force would be sufficient to achieve his goals. It wasn’t and he didn’t.

First of all, Putin wanted to use his actions as a test of the new US president and to find out whether Joe Biden would support Ukraine or cave. Washington didn’t cave. In fact, Biden’s proposal for a meeting with Putin, while the Kremlin leader may have welcomed it at one level, worked very much against Russia’s plans.

A trainload of Msta-S self-propelled howitzers reportedly recently arrived in Russian-occupied Crimea as part of Putin's aggressive military buildup targeting Ukraine (Source: Social media)

A trainload of Msta-S self-propelled howitzers reportedly recently arrived in Russian-occupied Crimea as part of Putin’s aggressive military buildup targeting Ukraine (Source: Social media)

It significantly strengthened the position of Ukraine, Targalski says, because it meant that talks about Ukraine were going to involve the US and the UK facing off against Russia rather than France and Germany who would likely be more willing to compromise with whatever Moscow wants.

Second, Putin wanted to force Kyiv to agree to the Steinmeier plan for elections in the Donbas. Such elections, in which Russian citizens would vote and the OSCE would supervise, would in Putin’s plan lead to the reincorporation of the Donbas into Ukraine but as an entity more loyal to and controlled by Moscow.

More on the topic: Minsk protocol and “Steinmeier’s formula” – conflict resolution or conflict conclusion?

That would have weakened Ukraine beyond recognition. And because his bluff didn’t work and the Americans didn’t back down, Kyiv continues to refuse to consider such an arrangement, a second defeat for the Kremlin in this round, the Polish security and defense analyst continues.

And third, Putin had as his goal the sowing of fear and panic among Ukrainians in the hope that they would force Kyiv to accept Moscow’s conditions in order to avoid a major war. But buoyed by Western support, the Ukrainians organized to resist so that Putin and his associates would know that any invasion would cost him dearly.

“I consider,” Targalski says, “that Putin lost on all three fronts.” Had Putin been prepared for a major war, he might have been willing to pay such a price. But it is clear that he “does not intend to set off a full-scale war now.” Hence when his bluff failed, he pulled back, yet another defeat but not one he planned for.

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