Saks: Moscow may face choice between staying on defensive or seeking truce

Military expert Rainer Saks
Military expert Rainer Saks Source: ERR

In an interview with "Aktuaalne kaamera," security expert Rainer Saks said, he believes Russian forces are now attacking so intensively in eastern Ukraine in order to reach a point where they can seek a truce.

For how long, and to what extent, will the Ukrainians continue to have the stomach for this war? Fighting spirit and morale, which they undoubtedly have, is one thing, but what about resources?

The Ukrainians are signaling that they are prepared for a long war. All their communication over the last three weeks has been very much geared toward preparations for a counter-insurgency, which will not start until maybe the second half of July or August, with the hope of liberating these areas by the end of the year.

There is a certain logic to that, because they are mobilizing and they are not short of human resources, but the weaponry that they are acquiring will take time to deploy.

You can see from there week by week, that if things are properly prepared, and the logistics and everything are organized, this is what it could look like.

And recently, they also extended the period of martial law by quite a long time, until almost the end of August. So, Ukraine wants to show that it is definitely prepared to be at war for the long term.

However, one thing that might call that into question is if their losses in this war become unbearable. So far, this does not seem to have become the case.

How has Russia managed to rally its troops for the third month of this offensive? In general, the fighting is still concentrated in very specific areas of eastern Ukraine. Does this mean that the Russian war machine has now been put to work there?

It's not working any better because they are focused on a very narrow area and trying to fight there. If we put it in scale, if these battles in that area had taken place on that scale in the first three weeks of the war, nobody would have even noticed, because it would have been such a small, marginal, advance in a narrow area. It would not have attracted anybody's attention if the war had been fought over a much larger area, with much larger movements. In that sense, it is a very different situation.

But nevertheless, on the one hand, it shows that the Russian armed forces are already exhausted to a certain extent, that they are no longer able to move on a larger scale. But, on the other hand, it is still dangerous for the Ukrainians, because even in these battles it is possible to inflict very heavy losses on Ukraine, especially to the civilian population. Russia's new approach has been to not only try to crush the Ukrainian armed forces, which, undoubtedly, they will not be able to do quickly, but also, to try to make the war intolerable for Ukraine precisely by causing civilian casualties and destroying civilian infrastructure.

We have seen a complete change of rhetoric, and probably a change of mindset, over the last three months. In helping Ukraine, has the West now also been called into 'real action'?

Western countries do not usually have a problem condemning everything quickly or reacting quickly. This was handled perfectly. They also managed to launch the first packages of sanctions, which perhaps even have a little more of a moral than a real impact on the strategic or tactical situation. The Ramstein meetings show that a group of countries – let's not call it a coalition or organization - has emerged to coordinate military aid for Ukraine. This is a very big step forward, because a few months ago it was written about at length, that not all aid is suitable to be handed over to the Ukrainians quickly, but that its deployment can be very different in terms of the training and equipment required, so that some aid may not actually be a help but a hindrance. In this respect, though, a step forward has been taken.

However, the bigger problem, in my view, is that neither Europe nor America has been able to properly lead a well-rounded international diplomatic effort, involving a larger number of countries from different continents, that would in some way put more pressure on Russia.

Have the cannons and tanks finally arrived?

This is very important. I think it is certainly the most important thing in the short term, because this assistance is not something to delay. It is very urgently needed.

How much longer do we have to talk about this war, or what are the prospects going forward?

It depends on the resources of both sides. There is no doubt that Ukraine's will to fight remains very strong. And this is where Russia made its first fatal mistake, in setting about destroying everything that is connected with Ukrainian culture, identity and politics, they have put the Ukrainians in a position where they have no choice. You cannot compromise, because you will die in any case. In that sense, this is a situation itself is one from which the people can only emerge victorious.

But what is also important is that Ukrainians are the kind of people who are very proud and ready to stand up for their independence and freedom. I think that will certainly determine the outcome of this fight. And from the Ukrainian side, I do not think there is any point in waiting for an end of this war to be initiated. Therefore, it all depends more on whether Russia's reserves will be able to continue fighting as it has done so far.

It is very difficult to predict at the moment, but it seems that, looking at how much smaller the area of active hostilities is getting all the time, one can assume that Russia is now approaching a choice between either staying on the defensive or trying to seek a truce for itself.

It seems to me that they are attacking so fiercely at the moment in order to gain momentum to reach some sort of temporary truce.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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