Russia threatens to retaliate as Finland seeks NATO membership

Thursday, May 12, 2022
author picture Daniel Marino
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Russia Threatens to Retaliate As Finland Seeks NATO Membership

Finland is preparing to accede to NATO‚ as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed them and promised them a smooth process of accession. Finland and Sweden are gaining traction in the NATO membership process after Finland and Sweden repelled Russian forces from the Kharkiv region. However‚ a recent statement by Russian officials warned of nuclear missiles on the Baltic Sea.

Russian forces try to blow up the bridge used to evacuate people from the steel plant in Kharkiv

The destruction of the road and steel bridges in Kharkiv by the Russian military echoes the retreat from Chernihiv‚ according to a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute‚ a Washington-based research group. The Russians may have been sending a message to prevent counter-offensive actions by Ukrainian forces‚ who are trying to isolate them from the rest of the country. Local residents of Kharkiv are desperate for signs that Russia is returning. People have been displaced from their homes and are clamoring for proof that Russia has come home. The breakaway region of Donetsk and Luhansk say Russia is nearing Severodonetsk‚ the easternmost city still held by Kyiv. Meanwhile‚ the only significant Ukrainian city that Russia has seized is Kherson‚ which they captured in the summer. On Friday‚ a senior Russian parliament official visited Kherson‚ and stressed that Russia would remain in the southern part of Ukraine forever. The Russian military has been making limited progress in the last 24 hours. Fighting continues in the Izyum-Severodonetsk axis and Mariupol. The Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian assault on Izyum‚ inflicting heavy casualties on the Russians. The Ukrainian forces also continued their slow advance into Mariupol‚ but they were unable to make significant territorial gains. Earlier‚ Russian forces tried to blow up the bridge used to evacuate people. But the Ukrainian forces managed to rescue about 50 people in a humanitarian convoy in the eastern city of Mariupol. A further 200 civilians are stranded in the last stand of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. These survivors may face a long‚ dangerous‚ and costly battle in the coming days. Western intelligence sources say that Xi Jinping knew about the Russian invasion and asked Russia to postpone the operation until after the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese president may be attempting to cover up the failure of the Kyiv axis in this conflict. Although the Russian military may be attempting to encircle the capital‚ it is not clear if they will succeed in their goal. On March 5‚ as the Russian forces were moving back towards the northeast of Ukraine‚ Ukrainian defenders blew up three road bridges near Kharkiv and Tsyrkuny. In addition‚ Ukrainian forces destroyed a T-90M tank‚ which was used to evacuate people from the steel plant. Meanwhile‚ the Russian government is trying to make propaganda for its victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. This Russian campaign has met stiff resistance‚ prompting the United States and Europe to impose sanctions against Russia and the Putin inner circle. Russian media has been largely state-run‚ and independent news agencies have closed down under pressure from state prosecutors. This war may be the last opportunity for the independent media in Russia. Only Novaya Gazeta has avoided reporting directly on the conflict. Meanwhile‚ social networks have been accessible within the country. However‚ Russian officials have restricted access to Facebook and Twitter.

Russian forces might be capable of achieving most of those goals

The Ukrainians have proven that a smaller force can fight a more powerful and technologically advanced enemy. While the Russian military is considerably less sophisticated than the U.S. military‚ they are still capable of carrying out many of the same missions. The question remains‚ can Russia actually accomplish most of those goals? We can only speculate. But if Russia can achieve most of those goals‚ we might be able to expect a Russian military breakthrough. As with any nation‚ the Russian military struggles with modern equipment production. The 2014 war with Ukraine set back Russian military procurement by years. Ukraine had been a major producer of components for the Russian military‚ and the divorce between the two countries damaged Russian military procurement. Moreover‚ the sanctions imposed by Western countries have hampered Russia's military procurement efforts. This means that the Russian military has fewer modern weapons and equipment to defend itself against its adversaries. The Ukrainians are motivated and determined to win‚ and their president appears to be a compelling wartime leader. The question remains whether Russia will win. Ukraine's resistance could end in a stalemate‚ with Russian forces wearing out the Ukrainian military force. And there's always the possibility that the Ukrainians could retaliate with a counteroffensive and seize parts of the region that Russia controls. Russia's war against Ukraine is aimed at stopping NATO's expansion eastwards‚ rolling back NATO's earlier expansion‚ and removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. But the current Ukrainian crisis will accelerate the Russian desire for Western allies. The United States needs to back the Ukrainian government in the interim and raise the costs of a conflict. However‚ this does not mean that the United States should ignore Russia's intentions. The fight in Ukraine has continued near Kyiv‚ Mariupol‚ and Kharkiv‚ and a column of Russian military vehicles has appeared to stop in recent days. Despite the Russian military's pause‚ senior military fellows at the Atlantic Council summarize some of the challenges Russia faces. They note that Russia has failed to establish air superiority and has not developed a dedicated SEAD force. If Russia fails to achieve these goals‚ it suggests serious issues in their doctrine and training. As part of its efforts to isolate Ukraine‚ Russia has encircled the Crimean Peninsula and Kherson. It also claims to have captured the city of Kherson in the south of Ukraine. It also claims to control the water source in Crimea. In addition to encircling the peninsula‚ Russia is also establishing a land bridge from Donbas to Crimea. This land bridge could be extended to Crimea. The Russian Navy may have an increased emphasis on power projection in the near future. It is currently assembling Yasen-class nuclear attack submarines‚ and its older Soviet submarines are receiving Kalibr cruise missiles as part of its ongoing modernization. If the Russian military decides to strike a major target in Ukraine‚ they might be able to do so with little effort. If they are not pushed to a breaking point‚ they might even resort to more risky nuclear signalling in order to get attention. While these objectives remain undefined‚ there are many other possibilities for how Russia might attack the West. It might conduct extensive irregular operations in Ukraine and in the Western world‚ including cyber attacks‚ disinformation operations‚ psychological warfare‚ subversion‚ and sabotage. Russia already has significant equipment inside Ukraine‚ including the Buhaivka training area. If Russian forces manage to achieve most of their goals in Ukraine‚ it would likely embolden the Chinese leadership and highlight how weak the West is.