Rainer Saks: Russia might switch to longer war of attrition

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Any concessions for Russia due to soaring energy prices and reduction in support for Ukraine runs the risk of Russian aggression flaring up again in another region, security expert Rainer Saks said on the "Vikerhommik" program. Russia might be switching to a war of attrition, he warned.

Ukraine celebrates its Independence Day on Wednesday, while it will also mark six months since the start of the war.

"The Kremlin finds itself over a barrel as it cannot afford to admit its political goal and military aggression have failed. That is why they are forced to keep up the war to put pressure on Ukraine. At the same time, Russia also needs a ceasefire period to reinforce its occupied territories and prepare for new aggression. It is not something they can do in wartime. It is unfortunate for Ukraine that they have not managed to put serious pressure on Russia to push them out of occupied territories," Saks said.

He pointed out that Russia has lost the so-called visual initiative in the war, with Ukraine dominating in communication.

"Ukraine has staged attacks in occupied Crimea and in Russia and communicated it quite successfully. There is speculation that Russia might want to stage a major offensive in various parts of Ukraine to retake the initiative, like they did three months ago. It might happen tomorrow instead of today (Ukraine's Independence Day on Wednesday – ed.), however, as the moment of surprise is gone," Saks said.

He added that looking at the number of front line troops, Russia maintains a small advantage, while Ukraine is far ahead in terms of forming reserves. Russia's advantage in machinery is still massive.

"And it is this factor keeping Ukraine from launching a major counteroffensive as it would result in losses which Ukraine feels more than Russia. Unlike the latter, they are reluctant to waste their personnel. I believe the Russian leadership is yet to pay the price for this. They have followed a different logic and it affects the psychology of those on the front. Already, plenty have refused to go to the front. It is basic survival instinct once the realization kicks in that they are simply being sent to die. Russia is already paying the price militarily and will politically at a later time," Saks said.

The expert suggested that while both sides are seeing attrition tactics, this is shorter-term for Ukraine and longer for Russia.

"It is difficult to keep a war going after the economy collapses. This makes support from the West increasingly important for Ukraine. Russia is attempting to motivate the West to de-escalate the situation and dial back aid for the Ukrainian military. After all, there are groups in the West who believe it is not right to support Ukraine. But Russia is unlikely to achieve a general shift in Western policy any time soon."

He added that heinous war crimes Russia has committed are an important factor as they give Ukraine immense moral superiority.

"What Russia is playing at are utilitarian moods. Because the West's recent energy strategy has failed – mainly in Europe, less so in the U.S. and Canada –Russia is betting on the energy deficit and high prices. It is always possible to find political forces ready to go down the path of populist solutions and forsake other principles in the name of cheap Russian energy."

Saks remarked that any concessions for Russia due to soaring energy prices and reduction in support for Ukraine runs the risk of Russian aggression flaring up again in another region or heading.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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