On the Brink of Peace or All-Out War?

Home / Analytics / On the Brink of Peace or All-Out War?
Sergiu CEBAN
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is gaining momentum and rapidly escalating, whereas the voice of those who call to immediately stop the war and start the peace process is getting louder and more influential
Last weekend started with a bold operation by Ukrainian special services on the Crimean bridge. An explosion caused certain damage to the facility; however, by evening, rail traffic had already been restored, and road traffic will be reversed. Despite the fact that the bridge was not completely destroyed, one way or another, the very fact of the attack had a strong moral and psychological impact on the Russian elites and society, which is an obvious success for Kyiv. Today, Moscow retaliated, harsher than before. From morning until about noon, nearly a hundred high-precision missiles were fired at virtually all of Ukraine’s major cities. The main targets were critical infrastructure, mainly energy facilities. After the massive missile attack, Vladimir Putin held a security council meeting and publicly threatened Ukraine with more attacks that would “match the level of threats posed to the Russian Federation”. This exchange of strikes came against the backdrop of a changing situation on the front, where the Ukrainian armed forces have achieved an operational breakthrough and continue to hold the military and tactical initiative. Throughout the past week, the Ukrainian Armed Forces continued to advance on the borders of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, as well as in the north of Kherson region, taking control over certain frontline segments and small settlements. Meanwhile, the rapid retreat of Russian forces, especially in the Kharkov direction, has provoked fierce public debate in Russia, exposing both discord in the upper echelons of the political class and a severe military organizational crisis. Although the Kremlin is trying not to show it, the personnel reshufflings indicate the dissatisfaction with the state of affairs both on the front and in the rear. The other day, General Surovikin was appointed as the new commander of the so-called “SVO”. In addition, some experts say other major personnel changes are expected in the Russian General Staff and the leadership of the Defense Ministry up to and including the resignation of Shoigu who recently was considered one of the main favorites to succeed Vladimir Putin. To somehow compensate for the last month’s failures, the Russian leadership finalized the process of annexing new territories last week. It appears that it was important for Putin to involve the entire state system, as well as federal and regional elites, in the process. Thus, the future Russian leader and parliamentarians will have to follow a pre-set historical trajectory. To offset the sanctions damage, Russian business will surely be allowed to enter new regions and take control of the most tidbits. We are talking about assets worth tens of billions of dollars. Last week, Putin issued a decree already placing one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, under Russian control. Similar decisions are likely to be made for other energy facilities, seaports, mineral deposits, and large tracts of land. At the same time, voices in favor of resuming peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow keep growing stronger amid the rising escalation.  Most likely, these vibes are due to the interests of some international elites, including American ones, who see serious risks in further escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation. Moscow is playing along with these opinions and is actively demonstrating its willingness to “talk”. Against this backdrop, Zelensky approved the National Security and Defense Council’s decision that it was impossible to hold talks with the current Russian president. The Ukrainian crisis is of real concern to large and influential business circles, and it is no coincidence that this issue has become one of the central themes of the U.S. congressional elections.  Yesterday, one of the key Republican leaders, Donald Trump, said that it was necessary to start the peace process as soon as possible and stop the hostilities in order not to put the world on the brink of World War III. At the same time, the former president put much of the blame for the current situation on the current U.S. administration, led by Biden. Another notable move by the republican trump supporters was the statements of the famous businessman Elon Musk, who voiced an almost pro-Russian vision of conflict resolution, where Kyiv should give Moscow the Crimea and Donbass. It is worth bearing in mind that Musk is not only a representative of the large business community, close to the Republican Party, he is also an influential opinion leader, to whom large investors and politicians listen. Most likely, with such messages Elon Musk expresses the concern of a certain part of the global business, dissatisfied with the protracted war, which brings losses not only directly to the parties to the conflict, but also threatens to destroy international trade. A clear indication of how the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation reflects on international relations and has a negative impact even on the United States is the latest OPEC decision to cut oil production, which, as we know, was promoted by Saudi Arabia and Russia. Because of this, oil prices will continue to hold high and are likely even to rise in the long term. Obviously, this situation on the energy market will affect not only business, but also the electoral moods in the US and Europe. If we follow the formal provisions of doctrinal documents, the threat of the use of nuclear weapons has significantly increased since the annexation of Ukrainian territories. According to experts, the inflated nuclear threat mainly targets Western audiences, while the Russian Federation will continue to use conventional methods against Ukraine, building up its advantage in manpower and military equipment. Meanwhile, it should not be ruled out that Moscow may issue another “nuclear ultimatum” to Kyiv demanding the release of new “Russian regions”. As many experts predicted, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is gaining momentum and rapidly escalating. Kyiv is obviously seeking revenge and is already demanding increased military support from the West and the provision of new weapons capable of striking critical infrastructure and military facilities in Russia. So now the collective West, and Washington first and foremost, has the floor. Regardless of how it sounds, the U.S. establishment, which is on the campaign trail, is facing a difficult choice where there are no good options: to raise the bar further in the Ukrainian crisis, which threatens to spiral out of control, or to move smoothly into diplomacy, which could be seen as a concession to Moscow, which has been seeking just that.