US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov spoke briefly at a G20 meeting in New Delhi. There were no deep discussions or negotiations held. Only a ten-minute talk described by a US official as being conducted ‘on the move.’ According to the same unnamed official who spoke to reporters, Blinken took the opportunity to call on Russia to reconsider its decision to depart the New START treaty and to release US citizen Paul Whelan who is serving a sixteen-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges. The brief discussion marked the first time that Blinken and Lavrov have met in person since the start of the war.
Ukraine’s hold on the eastern city of Bakhmut is growing more tentative. Despite the arrival of reinforcements earlier this week, Russian advances continue to the north and south of the city. As envelopment grows more likely, the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut face an increasingly untenable situation on the ground in the city. Ukrainian officials claim that should its forces be forced to retreat from Bakhmut it will not prove decisive to the outcome of the war. While true, seizing Bakhmut will give Russian forces considerable tactical advantages as they continue their drive west to secure the remainder of the Donetsk region.
Tension continues to mount in Moldova and Transnistria as Russia has moved recently to influence the political situation in Chisinau. Many observers see the Russian action as an attempt to divert the attention of Europeans from Ukraine to a new area. New anti-government protests earlier in the week have spurred concerns that Russia is preparing to take action aimed at toppling the Moldovan government in a fashion similar to Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014. The increasingly tense situation in Moldova is causing concern in neighboring Romania, a former Soviet ally and present-day member of NATO.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the world against underestimating the chances of a nuclear conflict emerging from Russia’s war in Ukraine. “The risks now are considerable,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia’s state television. “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.” Lavrov’s warning comes as the West increases its material support for Ukraine as the war shifts to the Donbas region. Heavy weapons are now being shipped from NATO nations into Ukraine, including self-propelled artillery and self-propelled anti-aircraft gun systems. Russia’s previous warnings that NATO equipment could be considered a legitimate target of war once it enters Ukrainian territory. In Washington, Moscow’s ambassador to Russia has told the United States to stop weapons shipments to Ukraine, warning that Western weapons are inflaming the conflict. Lavrov extended the argument in his comments. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
While Lavrov’s warnings could be nothing except for bluster, his words should not be dismissed entirely. The risks of a potential nuclear escalation are at least present at this stage. We’re at a point now where the United States and her allies need to consider the viewpoint of Russian leadership. It would help to view the situation from the perspective of Russia and not make decisions largely based on interpretations stemming from a prism of Western views and opinion. The stakes for Russia in this conflict are enormous, to say the least. If Vladimir Putin concludes there is no chance of a victory on the battlefield through only conventional means, all bets are off.
The West should not be intimidated from supporting Ukraine. However, at the same time, some government officials in Europe and the US might want to consider how their recent remarks are being interpreted by the Kremlin. For example, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted a US goal now is to see Russian military capabilities significantly weakened to the point where it cannot conduct military operations abroad in the aftermath of this conflict. Austin’s words run the risk of being interpreted as the US posing an existential threat to Russia and provoking Moscow into expanding the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Escalation is not in the best interests of anyone.
The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine commenced late Monday following missile strikes against military targets in western Ukraine and preparatory artillery fire strikes against Ukrainian forces in the east. Russia has spent the past two weeks reinforcing and resupplying its forces in the Donbas region in preparation for this moment. Ukraine had also resupplied and reinforced its ground forces in the east to the best of Kiev’s ability. These efforts have attracted Russian attention, as was made apparent by the missile attacks on military targets deep in the Ukrainian rear areas like Lviv. Disrupting the flow of war supplies from outside Ukraine has become a high priority for Russia, a lesson learned the hard way earlier in the conflict. The supply routes coming from Poland and other NATO nations into Ukraine are going to be targeted more as the offensive in Donbas is now getting underway.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that a new phase of the war has begun. During an interview with India Today, the diplomat said, “This operation in the east of Ukraine is aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” When he was questioned about the growing rhetoric over nuclear weapons, Lavrov blamed the Ukrainian government, and specifically Volodymyr Zelenskiy for fueling false allegations.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is modifying its forecast for global economic growth over the next 24 months as the ripple effects of the conflict in Ukraine continue to expand. When the war started in February, 2022, economies around the world hadn’t yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now these recoveries will be hampered by the war, jeopardizing growth in nations mainly across Europe and Asia. Naturally, Russia and Ukraine are feeling the most direct and immediate effects of the war.
Defense Department officials have confirmed Russia’s claim of using hypersonic missiles in Friday’s attack on an aircraft repair facility in Lviv. This marks the first use of the weapon-type in combat. Officials also said the US was able to track the missiles in real time, although they did not confirm that the missiles were launched by MiG-31K Foxhound fighters, as Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed.
Prisoner of War camps are now operating in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have said there are officially 562 Russian POWs in Ukrainian custody. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova stated that international humanitarian law on prisoners of war will be observed by her country. We assume this is a reference to the Geneva Convention.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insists Russia and China will continue to forge closer ties and cooperation in the face of Western efforts to negatively affect relations between Moscow and Beijing. Lavrov’s comments come one day after a video call between US and Chinese leaders, in which President Joe Biden urged China to cooperate with Western efforts to force Russia to end its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.
Ten humanitarian corridors were scheduled to be open today in Ukraine. These will include civilian evacuation routes from Mariupol, Kherson, areas in Luhansk and a number of towns northwest of Kiev. There have been no reports on how well the corridors are operating, but concern is growing about the situation in Mariupol where fighting has reached the center of the city. Street fighting there is disrupting rescue efforts at Mariupol theater according to the city’s mayor.
Moscow is projecting the appearance of leaving a door open for further discussions of its security concerns, even as Russian military exercises continue and, in some cases, intensify. Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting a need for further discussion, even as he emphasizes his nation’s worries about “the endless, in our opinion, and very dangerous expansion of NATO to the East.” At the moment, Putin is referring to the possibility of Ukraine becoming a NATO member. Putin met with his senior advisors today for an update. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Putin’s positive comments on more dialogue with NATO and the West while Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that some of the military exercises are drawing to a close while others will end in the near future.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has embarked on the shuttle diplomacy circuit. Today, he is in Kiev discussing the crisis with Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky. Scholz has come under fire for Germany’s somewhat skittish support for Ukraine lately and hopes this trip will help to erase the looming misperception that Berlin has been reluctant to back Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia to curtain natural gas supplies to Germany.The German chancellor will arrive in Moscow tomorrow for talks with Vladimir Putin.
As Scholz arrived in Kiev, Western nations are withdrawing more embassy staff and military personnel from Ukraine. More airlines are also avoiding Ukrainian airspace as the crisis with Russia continues. The Ukrainian government announced it was ready to assume financial responsibility for the safety of aircraft flying through its airspace. Kiev has dedicated over $500 million to keeping its airspace open to commercial flights in the face of many insurance and leasing companies balking at carriers use of Ukrainian airspace as tensions and the threat of Russian military action rise.