Russia poised to invade Ukraine again?

After Nato and the US voiced concerns about a potential Russian winter offensive against Ukraine after a massive deployment of Russian troops, Moscow has reacted by claiming it is Kyiv that is planning an offensive in the Donbass region. Ukraine denies this. Commentators draw comparisons with the past and discuss the West's options.

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Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Two ways to respond to the bluff

Novaya Gazeta suspects Russia's deployment of troops is just a ruse rather than real preparations for war:

“Just like in the spring, the whole thing is a bluff. It's that hybrid warfare again: the goal is to force dialogue. It's a response to the sanctions and other projects aimed at making it possible to dispense with Russian gas and oil. A response to the treaty signed between the US and Ukraine, and to Ukraine's unwillingness to integrate the separatist areas in eastern Ukraine on the Kremlin's terms. ... There are two ways for the US and Europe to react to this bluff: either they fall for it and start the 'dialogue', or they make it clear that in the event of war Ukraine will receive so much military aid that a Kremlin victory becomes impossible.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Preparation time is running out

Clarity on how the West should behave in the event of a Russian attack is urgent, Ukrayinska Pravda demands:

“The key question remains what the West would do in the event of a Russian invasion, because this is the most important deterrent for the Russian leader. ... Support can be expected from Nato, especially in view of the leading role of the US. Expectations should of course remain realistic. After all, we're not a Nato member so there will be no collective physical protection of our borders like in the Baltic states. In any event, there is less and less time to prepare a joint response.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Same motives as with Georgia and Crimea

Commenting in La Stampa, Russia expert Anna Zafesova fears a dangerous change of strategy in the Kremlin:

“Until a few months ago, Moscow quite rationally stuck to the option of keeping the conflict at the level of propaganda but not letting it escalate into reality. So what has changed in the risk-benefit analysis? The answer lies with the Kremlin, for whom the risks have increased in view of falling approval ratings, the devastating pandemic situation and inflation. Despite the brutal suppression of dissent, too many in Russia - especially within the Putin nomenklatura - want a change at the top. Up to now wars aimed at recapturing former Soviet territories have always bolstered the leader's declining popularity: that was the case with Georgia in 2008 and with Crimea in 2014.”

Ta Nea (GR) /

More Europe needed

The EU has not been consistent enough about winning the allegiance of parts of Eastern Europe, writes Ta Nea:

“Putin is testing Europe’s reflexes either by stationing troops at the border with Ukraine or by inciting the activity of extremist elements in the Balkans. Europe responds to these moves. ... The EU has warned Putin that there will be sanctions if he again violates the territorial integrity of another country, but it could have prevented the fire instead of having to put it out. In the EU accession process of various Balkan countries, for example, there have been unpardonable delays. Some leaders could have placed European ideals above the interests of their industries. In any event, it has yet again been demonstrated that what we need is more Europe and a better Europe. We must fight for this and keep in mind that European sovereignty does not compete with national sovereignty. It complements it.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

A real war would be bad for Putin's ratings

Commentator Matvei Ganopolski warns on Echo of Moscow that Putin will be in trouble if he continues with the current aggressive strategy:

“How the united West would react I'd rather not contemplate. But it will be justified, because Putin is attacking pointlessy, simply to conquer territory (or so it seems), and that is globally dangerous and will provoke the corresponding reactions. Other unpleasant nuances for him: ... Funerals and a pointless war are bad for his approval ratings. Russian soldiers are not cannon fodder - at least not as far as their parents are concerned. In short, a new little war like this could paradoxically lead to Russia losing the Donbass and Crimea. Nowadays, it's just a short step from stability to chaos.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Cold times ahead

The climate between the West and Russia is growing more hostile, Helsingin Sanomat concludes:

“The West should beware of seeing Putin as a skilful and cunning chess grandmaster who succeeds at everything. That is not the case, of course. ... He can't even get his citizens to have the Covid vaccine he's been touting. ... Nevertheless the situation should not be underestimated. Russia is dissatisfied with the current security setup in Europe and is trying to change it. Its leadership believes that the West has started a war against Russian interests and that this justifies Russia's actions. ... Russia is now seeking to harden the fronts. Cold times lie ahead.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Access to the Sea of Azov in danger

A Russian winter offensive is unlikely, says Adevărul:

“The redeployment of military troops is a slow process that began in April 2021, and one which the Russian authorities are not trying to conceal. This is atypical: in the military actions in Ukraine (2014) and Georgia (2008), Moscow relied on strategic surprises. The medium- and long-term threat is much more real: Russia could occupy the [southern Ukrainian] regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson and create a land corridor that connects Lugansk and Donetsk with the Crimean Peninsula, cutting off Ukraine's access to the Sea of Azov.” (UA) /

Belarus as a bridgehead for Russian aggression

Russia must also be prepared for more resistance in Donbass, writes Stanislav Shelikhovskyy of the diplomatic academy of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in

“The reaction of Western countries to the actions of the Kremlin and the Lukashenka regime has shown that the civilised world is ready to defend our state against Russian aggression. Moreover, US President Biden will hold a video conference with Putin before the end of the year in which he will raise the issue of Ukraine's security. ... At the same time, Kyiv is aware that Belarus will become a new bridgehead for the aggression of Russian troops in the future. This area is being militarised. The challenges are increasing, but Ukraine and the West are ready to respond to this new old threat.”