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TOPIC: putin

Ideas

"Collateral Benefit": Could Putin's Launching A Failed War Make The World Better?

Consider the inverse of "collateral damage." Envision Russia's defeat and the triumph of a democratic coalition offers reflection on the most weighty sense of costs and benefits.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The concept of collateral damage has developed in the course of so-called "asymmetrical” wars, fought between opponents considered unequal.

The U.S. drone which targeted rebel fighters in Afghanistan, and annihilated an entire family gathered for a wedding, appears to be the perfect example of collateral damage: a doubtful military gain, and a certain political cost. One might also consider the American bombing of Normandy towns around June 6, 1944 as collateral damage.

But is it possible to reverse the expression, and speak of "collateral benefits"? When applied to an armed conflict, the expression may seem shocking.

No one benefits from a war, which leaves in its trace a trail of dead, wounded and displaced people, destroyed cities or children brutally torn from their parents.

And yet the notion of "collateral benefits" is particularly applicable to the war that has been raging in Ukraine for almost a year.

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Western Tanks To Ukraine Trigger Russian Threats — But Also Fears Of Major Counterattack

Germany and the U.S. overcame months of reluctance in the past 24 hours to commit to sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine. Russia responded with official bluster, but others in Moscow fear that the tanks delivery could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

A week of growing expectations of a coming Russian offensive was turned on its head Wednesday as Germany and the U.S. announced their intention to send heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.

The sudden show of resolve on supplying tanks — after months of reluctance, particularly from Germany — has prompted some Russians to fear that Ukraine will now be equipped for a major counterattack. That would be a significant reversal after speculation had been growing this month about a Russian spring offensive.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government confirmed Wednesday morning that Berlin plans to send at least 14 German-built Leopard 2 tanks to the frontline. U.S. media also reported that Joe Biden’s administration is expected to officially announce Washington's commitment, with at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks expected to be sent.

The timeline remains unclear as to when the vehicles would make it into combat. Still, both sides on the war acknowledged that it is a significant development with the potential to change the math on the battlefield.

Official Russian response was loaded with typical incendiary rhetoric. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said the new tanks would "burn like all the rest, only these ones are expensive.”

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Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

-Analysis-

The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

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Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

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Shame Of A Nation: History Will Judge Germany For Holding Back Tanks From Ukraine

A retired German general spells out in clear language what the choice is for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and what the long-term consequences of half-hearted support for Kyiv as it battles for survival against the Russian invasion.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German television newscaster cheerfully predicted last Friday morning: “Today the German evasive maneuvers are ending...” And yet, the high-level meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein military base, proved this prophecy completely wrong.

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The burning issue of Germany stalling and blocking the approval of battle tank deliveries to Ukraine continues to burn.

As intense as the international pressure was, Berlin has once again refused to make a commitment. Rhetoric about the difference between what one wants and what one can achieve, the endless counterarguments, the citing of numbers...none of it however, make them any more credible. In reality they are excuses, with which Chancellor Olaf Scholz shirks the responsibility which, after all, the great, prosperous Germany will not be able to escape.

[A Sunday evening comment by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin "would not stand in the way" of other countries providing German-made Leopard tanks is only provisional, and still mentions nothing about Germany sending its own tanks.]

The final decisions are ultimately in the hands of Scholz, and one wonders if he is unable to be swayed from an idea he's committed to. Or perhaps he continues to listen to Angela Merkel’s former advisor, General Erich Vad, who said before authorizing the sending of tanks to Kyiv, it would first have to be clear whether the Russian forces should be driven out of Ukraine at all.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

The Rail War: How Belarusians Are Secretly Fighting Putin And Lukashenko

It remains unclear whether Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko will join Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Yet as popular support for the war remains low, many in the country are actively fighting back by sabotaging the rail network.

On March 24, exactly one month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Vitaly Melnik set fire to trackside railway electrical cabinets, resulting in massive delays for 22 freight and 17 passenger trains. Earlier this month, a regional court in Belarus convicted Melnik, a 40-year-old man from Minsk, to 13 years in a maximum security colony.

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Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Melnik had also "posted negative messages on the Internet about [Belarusian President] Alexander Lukashenko," announced the prosecutor.

On Dec. 27, three other Belarusian citizens were sentenced to prison for terms of 21 to 23 years. Their crime? Trying to prevent the transportation of military equipment to Ukraine during the early days of the Russian invasion.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Stanislav Zhelikhovsky

Saturate The East! Poland Revamps Its Military Strategy In Response To Russian Threat

Poland has a border with Russia and Belarus, so it is not just watching how the Ukraine war develops. Warsaw is rethinking its entire defense strategy.

KYIV — It will soon be exactly one year since the Russian Federation launched its large-scale invasion of Ukraine. During that time, neighboring Poland has been playing the role of a front-line country — NATO's eastern outpost.

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Polish government agencies have been hard at work on what to do if the country is attacked. In particular, a new defense directive. After all, Poland’s Political and Strategic Defense Directive, which has been in effect since 2018, must be updated because it simply doesn't match today's reality.

Poland's Deputy Minister of National Defense, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, announced a change in defense doctrine with the defense forces set up on the Vistula River, located in northeastern Poland. Ukraine's experience shows the need to protect the country's entire territory as quickly as possible.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Roman Anin

Inside Russia's "Game Of Thrones" To Succeed Putin

As Vladimir Putin's end increasingly seems near (political or physical), the battle to replace the Kremlin strongman heats up. Here are the main characters in this very Russian blood sport.

Today, Russia deservedly ranks among the most isolated and inhuman regimes in the world. And it's not just because of the war — this is the result of two decades of political and moral degradation of the Russian state.

The clans surrounding Vladimir Putin today resemble organized crime groups.

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Some of them command their own armies, like Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and the head of the Rosgvardia, Viktor Zolotov. Others, like Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council, have security units.

And each clan has its financial resources — banks, state corporations and large companies. Some clans own entire regions, like Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Benjamin Quénelle

Exposing The Faces — And Silence — Of Russia's Liberal Elites

Back in the 1990s, the Russian elite were busy maneuvering behind the scenes. But today, Moscow's liberals know better than to contradict the strongman in the Kremlin.

MOSCOW — As the war in Ukraine nears its first anniversary, Russia's liberal elites have fallen silent — criticizing the disastrous invasion in private, but not daring to risk Vladimir Putin's wrath by speaking out.

A source in Moscow, close to the inner circle that currently still wields major political and economic power, said would-be reformists have been watching events closely, both at the Kremlin and on the battlefield: "The withdrawal from Kherson highlighted the mistakes made by the military command since the beginning of the war," the source noted. "It also exposed how bad Russia's senior political leadership is."

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The source summed it up this way: "Many want Putin’s regime to end. But no one is ready to do something, or willing to get involved in order to bring the regime down. So nothing will change."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Why Putin's Choice For New Ukraine Commander Is All About Closing Ranks At Home

The choice of General Valery Gerasimov to replace General Sergey Surovikin is a political defeat for Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — and a sign that Putin may be getting skittish on the home front.

-Analysis-

Vladimir Putin has once again replaced his supreme military commander in Ukraine, just three months after a previous change at the top. The announcement Wednesday is clearly a sign of Putin's disappointment in the direction of the war – but perhaps more notably, a major political victory for the military establishment over outsiders who had been trying to gain influence.

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Putin’s choice of General Valery Gerasimov to replace General Sergey Surovikin is not expected to affect the immediate course of the war, but it speaks to a change in the Russian president’s mindset. Unsatisfied with the Wagner PMC mercenary group, and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, recently tasked with a bigger share of the fighting, Putin has decided to rely on the established military elite again.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Yevhen Rudenko

Meet The Mufti Of Ukraine, From Friday Prayers To The Front Line

Russia has a complicated history with Islam, often built on Moscow's repression of the religious minority. Now, Muslims in Ukraine are ever more committed to a project for a multi-religious society that Kyiv espouses. Ukrainian Mufti Said Ismagilov has taken up arms for that cause, and to defend his nation.

BAKHMUT — Before Feb. 24, Said Ismagilov dedicated his service to the Muslims of Ukraine. Since Feb. 24, his service has shifted to the front line.

A native of Donetsk, Ismagilov was the Mufti of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine (UMMA). His decision to volunteer at the front, currently fighting in one of the paramedic brigades in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, is connected to his roots.

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"Russians have been coming to my family for a century, destroying and taking away everything we own, everything we value," says the 44-year-old.

Recently, a video appeared on social networks of Said reading out Sura 48 of Al-Fath, one of the chapters of the Quran dedicated to victory. The clip showed the ruins of Bakhmut, against the background of the unfinished mosque, delayed due to the full-scale invasion.

Among the many motives for Ismagilov to take up arms is a personal one that embodies the history of Ukraine.

"In 2014, the same Muscovites came to Donbas and persecuted me," Ismagilov recalled. "I had to go to Kyiv to settle in Bucha. But the Muscovites came there in 2022 and robbed my apartment. Honestly, I'm getting sick of them. We have to destroy this empire."

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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

European Defense: How Russia's War Changed Everything And Nothing

The EU and NATO have vowed to expand cooperation, which may mean a major long-term shift in European defense strategy. Still, the French know that the reality on the ground means that European defense effectively still means NATO.

-Analysis-

PARIS — It's undoubtedly one of the great paradoxes of Vladimir Putin's war: It triggered a rapprochement between the European Union and NATO — the exact opposite of what the Russian president hoped. Yet for the EU's leading military, France, this has not exactly been the dream scenario.

Even though NATO and the EU's headquarters are only a few kilometers apart, their leaders have long kept their distance from each other.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Commission's and European Council's top representatives, finally met and signed a declaration that promised “a higher level” of collaboration between both institutions.

It may seem trivial, but there is nothing obvious about this newly formed alliance. For most of its existence, the European Union has mostly been keeping at bay from defense issues.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

Blood Of Bakhmut: Why Both Sides Are Ready To Die For A Deserted City In Donbas

Fighting has been fierce for the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. What is the price of a victory that is, above all, symbolic?

-Analysis-

PARIS — The name of Bakhmut will go down in history as one the fiercest, most contested battles in the Ukraine war. Fighting has been raging for weeks, in this city of the Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine's Donbas. The toll of victims is rising considerably.

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What’s at stake today is less strategic than symbolic — which is not a trifling thing in this type of conflict. There is something about Bakhmut that’s reminiscent of World War I, where men die to conquer a house or a neighborhood only to lose it again the next day. The weapons, of course, differ: 21st-century drones, geo-location, missiles.

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