Nuclear threat, Third World War… Does the Russian verbal escalation reflect an admission of failure?

Nuclear threat, Third World War... Does the Russian verbal escalation reflect an admission of failure?

Vladimir Putin in the Council of Ministers on March 10, 2022 – AFP

Since February 24, the war between Russia and Ukraine has also been played out in the communication field. On the Ukrainian side, President Zelensky did not hesitate to stage his transformation from television series actor to warlord, with great recourse to speeches posted on social networks or short phrases, such as the now famous “I need ammunition, not a driver”.

On the Russian side, we also decided to indulge in big public statements. But rather than winning hearts, we aim to shake minds. Only three days after the start of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of the country’s “deterrent forces”, indirectly brandishing the possible use of nuclear weapons.

“An admission of weakness on the part of the Kremlin structure”

Two months later, warnings from the Kremlin, mainly aimed at Westerners who have formed a united front against the Russian aggressor, have followed one another. Latest, that made this Monday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, brandishing the threat of a third world war.

“The danger (of a third world war, editor’s note) is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it”, he declared during a long interview granted to Russian television.

More worryingly, he even considered that NATO was already at war with Russia, through the aid it provides to Ukraine: “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through an intermediary and it arms that intermediary. That means war.”

For Pierre Servent, a specialist in defense and military strategy issues, invited by France Inter on Wednesday, this new threat actually illustrates the difficulties faced by the Russian staffs.

“I consider this an admission of weakness on the part of the Kremlin structure,” he said.

“When we look at the sequence over the 60 days, each time he (Vladimir Putin, editor’s note) takes a hard hit, bam, you have a statement on nuclear power, on the Third World War…”, continues. -he.

The humiliation of the Moskva

In any case, it happened after the destruction of the Russian flagship Moskva in the Black Sea. This boat, which played a major role in this strategic area, was most certainly disabled by Ukrainian “Neptun” missiles on April 13, before it sank the next day. A humiliation for Moscow, a major military achievement for kyiv.

876450610001_6304001260001 “The loss of the Moskva is an insane event. A flagship. Can you imagine, compared to Putin’s pride?” Judge Pierre Servent.

But no way to lose face. Just under a week later, the Russian military announced the first successful test firing of a new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, dubbed “Satan 2”, capable of carrying up to 12 nuclear warheads, with maximum power estimated at 50 megatons, or 2000 times Hiroshima. Fired from Moscow, it could even reach London in 6 minutes and be able to jam the radars.

“It is truly a unique weapon that will enhance the military potential of our armed forces, keep Russia safe from external threats and make those who try to threaten our country with wild and aggressive rhetoric think twice. “, has seen fit to clarify Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian resistance

Destroyer missile, possibility of a third world war… So many words suggesting a cataclysm on a global scale, while on the ground, no military objective has yet been fulfilled.

By launching his offensive on Ukraine on February 24, Vladimir Putin expected a lightning campaign. According to his first declarations, the master of the Kremlin, by wanting to “denazify” the country, even intended to overthrow the power in place. Except that the Ukrainians resisted, and that Volodymyr Zelensky never left the national territory.

The young Ukrainian army even managed to prevent the capture of kyiv, by holding Russian troops north of the capital. So much so that on March 26, Moscow announced the reorganization of its offensive, focusing only on Donbass, a region partly occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

“Everyone thought it was folded. And there, surprise, not only Ukraine resists, but Russia reveals huge holes in the racket”, analyzes Pierre Servent. “Putin lost 20% of his forces, I think between 25,000 and 30,000 men, that’s more losses than in Afghanistan where it lasted 10 years,” he continues.

A return of the talks?

So many elements that made the head of the Pentagon, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, say on Monday that kyiv could “win the war, with the right equipment”.

Maintaining a relative balance of forces on the ground could also push Moscow to seriously return to the negotiating table, since, as Pierre Servent believes, “Putin only understands the balance of power. If he is not not in the pain of an adverse force, he is not in otherness”.

It remains to be seen whether the Ukrainians will hold out in Donbass, where the bulk of Russian troops are now concentrated and where many localities fell again on Wednesday.

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