Putin’s war is headed for a terrifying escalation

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping

Poland and Slovakia are Armed Kiev with a fighter. Russian fighter jets are driving American drones out of the sky. Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Moscow to show his support for President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese companies are shipping offensive weapons and body armor to Moscow’s armed forces. Putin’s war in Ukraine is heading into dangerous waters, and the chances of escalation with the West are higher now than at any time since the initial invasion.

NATO remains committed to avoiding a direct confrontation with Russian forces, but aid to Ukraine is allowing Kiev to hold out. As President Putin becomes increasingly desperate, the likelihood of escalating threats and actions to force the West to back down increases. Miscalculations in such an environment can lead to catastrophic consequences.

All the ingredients for accidental escalation are there.First, Russia faces horrible loss on the ground. Ukrainian forces are crushing Russian troops and Wagnerian prisoners in and around Bakhmut. Armed with Western weapons and training, they inflict daily casualty figures that deter other military leaders.

Second, Western countries are becoming more and more bold in their actions in favor of Ukraine. On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that Warsaw would send four Soviet-era MiG-29s to Ukraine. This is the first Western country to send fighters to Kiev since the war began. All 28 of his MiGs in Poland are likely heading to Ukraine, as the swap will take place later this year. Slovakia also sent aircraft.

Those actions were dismissed last year for fear of escalation. Ukraine’s NATO allies had restricted their actions to providing spare parts to the Soviet jet fleet in Kiev, as the actual supply of the aircraft could be seen as direct participation by the Kremlin. A line has been crossed, and Finland and the Netherlands may follow suit.

Moscow may be in trouble if the West’s willingness to arm Ukraine and cross Russia’s red line grows and the odds of victory diminish. And with the survival of his regime at stake, nothing is off the table for Vladimir Putin.

A dangerous new development has already been seen in the collision between a Russian jet and a US drone.Despite operating in international airspace, Moscow felt have the right to interveneThese intelligence gathering platforms provide a significant battlefield advantage to the Ukrainian war effort, and it’s not at all surprising that the Kremlin is now firing warning shots.

Sensing that the incident may have been a one-off opportunistic attack, Washington avoided further escalation, except for the diplomatic dressing down of the Moscow ambassador. Without a response, Moscow may now view attacks on NATO unmanned vehicles as fair game. That means no loss of life, legal ambiguity, and a huge battlefield advantage.

Further incidents in contested airspace could elicit a much more difficult military response, thereby creating the well-known risks of miscalculation, misunderstanding, and potentially disastrous escalation. I have.

This is especially true given the announcement of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Visit President Putin It will be held next week in Moscow. Beijing is trying to market itself as a neutral negotiator, but revelations that China’s state-owned defense contractors are sending military equipment to Russia have crushed this deception attempt. Far from making peace, Beijing is trying to become a kingmaker. Now that the gloves are really off, who knows where China’s military support for Russia will ultimately lead? could well start asserting itself against the West.

This pattern of escalation has the potential to elicit further British and NATO efforts until a cross-border conflict in Ukraine is no longer unthinkable. We must do everything in our power to help Ukraine win as soon as possible.

Robert Clarke is Director of Defense and Security Units at Civitas. Prior to that he served in the British Army.