With "no progress" toward Kyiv on the ground, the U.S. is seeing indications that the Russians are putting far more energy into their operation in the eastern Donbas region, particularly around Luhansk, the senior defense official said.
The U.S. believes Russia is trying to "fix" Ukrainian forces in the east "so that they can't be used elsewhere," including in Kyiv.
I believe the case to be the opposite. I don't know if I've mentioned it here on the blog, but my evaluation from pretty much the beginning (expressed in places such as comments at Antiwar.com) has been thus:
- The objective of the Russian invasion is to secure the "separatist areas" in the Donbas region, aka the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and a land corridor along the Sea of Azov to connect the DPR/LPR to Crimea.
- All other Russian operations, including the supposed attempt to take Kyiv, are feints intended to "fix" Ukrainian forces in the west so that they can't interfere with (1).
- When and if (1) is accomplished, Putin will declare victory, pull his forces in western Ukraine out, and unilaterally assert a new border with Ukraine incorporating Russian annexation of those LPR/DPR/land corridor takings.
One reason I think this is that I don't believe Putin is either insane or misinformed to the extent of the archetypal "isolated dictator."
He is not going to conquer, occupy, and set about "de-Nazifying" Ukraine and remain in power, and unless he's mentally round the bend and/or in a king-hell "only tell me what I want to hear" information silo, he knew that before he launched his invasion. So the "de-Nazification" guff is just there as part of the distraction, and to "negotiate away" in any ceasefire talks.
Could I be wrong? Hell, yes.
Is it possible that the Russian forces are as ineffectual and in as much disarray as the western mainstream narrative asserts? Absolutely.
Is it possible that Putin has suffered a complete mental break with reality, and/or that he's isolated from good information by a clique who see their job as telling him what he wants to hear? Yeah.
And even if I'm right, and even if Putin pulls off what I think he's attempting, whether it's really a "win" is questionable.
Suppose he gets LPR, DPR, and the land corridor to Crimea out of this, and is willing to keep a force there of sufficient strength to make the Ukrainian regime think twice about trying to take them back.
What's he trading for that?
Well, Germany is re-militarizing (what could possibly go wrong?).
Poland is militarizing.
The Baltic NATO member states are likely set to receive major infusions of weapons, aid, and larger permanent US/NATO troop presences.
Absent an immediate possibility of direct confrontation with Russian troops, US troops and weapons will flood into Ukraine to "rebuild" it and "guarantee its security." Probably under the rubric of "peacekeeping," albeit without the imprimatur of the UN Security Council, on which Russia has veto power. Basically, Ukraine will instantly become a de facto, though not de jure member of NATO.
That doesn't sound like a very good trade to me. But it might to him. Especially if he can turn western sanctions into the straw that breaks the petrodollar camel's back as a bonus.