Russia and Belarus are conducting military air exercises that Belarus says are “defensive in nature”. But Ukraine fears a new Russian attack. Will the Russians strike again on a massive scale soon?
Peter Wijinga, of the Center for Strategic Studies in The Hague, says the Russians have been relying on Belarus for some time for their training. “To train with the Ground Forces and now also with the Air Force. The Air Force of Belarus acts as a dueling partner of the Russian Air Force. Because it is needed for a new offensive on Ukraine, especially for aerial reconnaissance and support for the Ground Forces.”
The former commander of the army, Mart de Crieff, believed that a new offensive was inevitable. “Putin is doing everything he can and preparing for a major mobilization, all-out war. He’s running his industry at full capacity, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” There is no other way, says de Creef. “The only option he has to win this war is to let time work for him. He muster everything he has in the hope that the West will drop its support for Ukraine in this war of attrition.”
Whoever initiates it, as soon as the terrain and weather permit, the grand process will begin.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the war is at a critical stage. “So it is important that we give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win and survive as an independent country.” There will be a meeting for Ukrainian Defense Communications Groupwhich coordinates arms deliveries from NATO countries to Kyiv, among others.
De Creef believed that war on land would not be possible without heavy equipment. “Ukraine has nothing left of it, and therefore it is completely dependent on what we still have in the West or want to give Ukraine.”
Wijinga: “Providing Ukraine with tanks to defend itself against a war of land grabs from Russia is nothing more than enabling it to better defend itself against Russian aggression.”
Ukraine has long demanded heavy equipment from the West, such as tanks. At the end of last week, Britain announced that it would be the first country to send modern battle tanks to Ukraine, of the Challenger 2 type. Germany is also considering the delivery of heavy weapons such as Leopard 2 tanks, which Ukraine wants to acquire, but is still reluctant.
“You can’t box with one fist,” says de Kroff. Russia is doing everything it can to bring all its armored vehicles, tanks, everything it has to the front. “And this is usually a Russian, suddenly trying to break through with very high firepower. The best weapons against tanks are still tanks. So the handover has to be done quickly.”
With attacks, like this week in Dnipro, Russia wants to break the will of the Ukrainian people. “But the effect is reversed. Ukrainians seem only more determined to win the war.”
The intention to increase training with the Air Force of Belarus is one Reset For Russia, Wijinga believes. “Now you see the preparations they should have made before February 24 last year — the day Russia invaded Ukraine. They learned more or less from last year.”
De Cruyff says the Russians don’t make much money in the air. “They are not superior there. That is also because the Ukrainian air defenses are effective and the Ukrainian Air Force is still active.” Russian planes are in bad shape, and Russian pilots have had relatively little training. “Russia is not used to performing in large groups of aircraft.”
Wait or attack?
But he does not see attacks from Belarus anytime soon. “It’s a difficult area with many waterways, bridges and swamps. They are using Belarus as a kind of testing environment to see how differently their units have to act to have greater effect and fire weapons.”
What is the best strategy for Ukraine now: wait or attack? “If the Russians attack first, Ukraine can counterattack. And you strike them in their flank and in their rear. You actually eliminate them indirectly: by cutting off their supply lines.”
If Ukraine chooses to attack, according to de Cruyff, the Mariupol direction is reasonable. Then it cut off communication with the Crimea. Although he expects Ukraine to keep the cards in the box as always. “Whoever starts it, as soon as the terrain and weather permit, the grand operation will begin.”
By providing tanks, NATO becomes more involved in the conflict. Is there a risk of further escalation? Wijinga: “It is actually impossible to gauge what the Russians consider an escalation. One moment people are being criticized for a system that can only be used in a defensive sense, like the Patriot anti-aircraft system, the next moment they are silent, as with the heavy howitzers that previously delivered.”
Putin has not yet responded to Britain’s intention to supply tanks to Poland and Finland, so Germany may do so as well. “Maybe he will then respond to a German intent,” Wijinga says. “Because he knows there are a lot of skeptics in that country about the validity of supplying tanks.”
Because that is what Putin wants, to drive suspicion into the hearts of Western politicians and the public, with whom he hopes Western support will collapse, Wijinga says. Putin says he feels threatened by Ukraine (and NATO), and that it is a “defensive war.” From this point of view, you can see everything the West is doing to support Ukraine as an escalation. everything “.
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