Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risks getting out of hand, nuclear threats made

Feb Mon, 2022

On 24 February 2022, says the BBC, Russia invaded Ukraine because, asserted President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine was not a real country, Nazis ruled it, and it had always been a part of Russia. Ukraine’s military forces and civilian population rallied and blunted the invasion. A large international coalition with the US and the UK at the forefront banded together to condemn and economically penalize Russia. The coalition is also providing moral and military support to Ukraine. President Putin has miscalculated. Out of frustration, he has threatened to expand the war and use nuclear weapons. The situation risks spiraling out of control.

The invasion and the international response

The invasion began with cyber, air, and missile attacks on Ukrainian military and government targets. Invasion forces attacked from three axes of advance: Belarus in the north, Russia in the east, and Crimea in the south. These operations were air-land campaigns consisting of armor, mechanized infantry, artillery, and helicopter assault forces supported by fixed-wing aircraft. The Russian navy supported with a sea isolation campaign in the Black Sea.

The air-land forces met stiffer than anticipated resistance by highly motivated Ukrainian forces, many of whom were armed with UK-supplied Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs) and US-supplied FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapons, says the Daily Mail. Entire columns of Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers have been decimated.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Russians have also suffered from logistical problems such as a lack of fuel, plus command and control issues. Ukraine and its international supporters have waged prolific anti-Russian information operations. The US, the UK, and the EU are enacting wide-ranging and damaging economic sanctions against Russia, its central bank, and high-value personnel. Poland, a member of NATO and overwhelmingly anti-Russian, is quickly becoming the key staging area for funneling military support into Ukraine. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is pulling out of its Russian energy investments. British Petroleum is abandoning its 20% stake in Rosneft at the cost of $25 billion. The ruble has collapsed, says Time. Anti-war protests in Russia and Europe have sprung up, further eroding Russia’s international and domestic political standing. Incredible and inescapable pressure is mounting on President Putin.

On 27 February, news outlets reported additional Russian forces, including thousands from Chechnya, joined the attack to reinvigorate the stalled invasion. These forces have helped take the fight to Kyiv. On 28 February, a massive Russian armored column was approaching the capital.

Supporting Russia, Belarus has threatened to declare war on Moscow’s opponents. Also, on 27 February, says Reuters, President Putin put his nuclear forces on alert, citing NATO aggression and economic sanctions as the reason.


At the moment, there are six takeaways. First, while Russia has militarily surrounded and attacked Ukraine, Russia finds itself politically and economically surrounded by an international coalition with teeth. The Russian economy is suffering badly. And, even as it injects more forces into Ukraine, it faces fierce and growing military resistance. Russia is between a rock and a hard place.

Second, despite Russia’s high conventional military capabilities, it has not experienced the success it set out to achieve, at least initially. Aside from the above-mentioned military problems, it is likely the Russians also suffered from intelligence difficulties. Either:

1) Putin and his high command figured Ukraine would crumble, and they did not bother with intelligence preparation of the battlefield regarding Ukrainian order of battle, or,

2) they failed to correctly assess Ukraine’s level of resistance, or,

3) they correctly assessed Ukraine’s resistance, and Putin and his operations planners disregarded it, or,

4) they correctly assessed Ukraine’s resistance, and they feared telling Putin and his planners the truth.

Whatever it was, the indication is that Putin’s military intelligence, planning, and command and control echelons have severe defects.

Third, if President Putin remains determined to take over Ukraine, and if resistance continues, out of frustration, he is likely to adopt a scorched earth strategy against all impediments before him, including population centers.

Fourth, as a unilateral offramp, President Putin could cut his losses, call the invasion a punitive operation, withdraw to friendly Donbas, and conduct harassment operations from there, keeping Ukraine weak and nonfunctional. But this would invite a draining, protracted war on Russia’s European border.

Fifth, with President Putin threatening nuclear war, this is now a test of Russia’s strategic national security doctrine. While Russia has modern and capable conventional forces, its strategic national security doctrine centers on its nuclear-capable submarine fleet and its non-naval nuclear arsenal. These are Putin’s two big, giant sticks. So, he is now depending on his big, giant sticks to shore up his lack of decisive progress with his medium-sized sticks, his conventional forces. And it’s also a veiled case of nuclear blackmail – as in, “Give me Ukraine, or I’ll go nuclear.” If Putin’s current strategy fails, it means Russia’s strategic national security doctrine is exceedingly flawed.

Sixth, if this happens, Russia will have to redesign its national security doctrine, and Putin’s command will be significantly weakened. Russian power cliques will act, accordingly.

President Putin has boxed himself into a corner. But his threat of nuclear war is real. The possibility of a mass casualty, heavy suppression war in Ukraine is real. And if Ukraine falls, the possibility of an unconventional war in Ukraine, which would likely include Belarus and Poland, is also real.

Since few seemed prepared for the shooting aspect of this war, businesses in Ukraine might not have had crisis management and resilience plans in place. Those that did not can still take stock of their tangible assets and plan for replacement if destroyed. They also need to secure their finances in physically and electronically protected banks. Business recovery planning should take into consideration both short and long war scenarios.

Businesses in neighboring countries yet directly impacted by the fighting, such as Poland, should do the same. It might still be possible to buy war insurance. Since President Putin has made valid nuclear threats, businesses in Eastern and Central Europe need to consider the impact of direct or indirect nuclear detonations on their operations and make sure insurance clauses cover these scenarios. And they need to make sure exclusion clauses do not cancel out such coverage. Businesses in these areas should also consider chemical warfare scenarios, which is part of Russian military doctrine. Physical security should be increased as well in case saboteurs try to disrupt Europe’s aid for Ukraine.

Since Western European countries are actively involved in pro-Ukraine political, economic, and military activities, businesses in this region should adhere to the same risk mitigation measures mentioned for countries like Poland.

Since the US is also at the forefront of pro-Ukraine activities, US continental-based businesses should increase cyber defenses. US companies based in Europe should follow risk mitigation suggestions mentioned above.

Sources and further reading

Russian ruble is now worth less than 1 U.S. cent after SWIFT bank sanctions,” Time, 28 February 2022.

Norway sovereign wealth fund to pull out of Russia investments,” S&P Global Platts, 27 February 2022.

BP to exit Rosneft stake and may take a $25 billion hit,” Bloomberg, 27 February 2022.

Putin puts nuclear deterrent on alert; West squeezes Russian economy,” Reuters, 27 February 2022.

Why is Russia invading Ukraine and what does Putin want?,” BBC, 27 February 2022.

How Ukraine’s defiant forces are holding back Putin with £4m missile drones bought from Turkey, UK’s donation of 2,000 next-gen tank-destroying rockets and Javelins gifted by the US (as well as ammunition for 1950s artillery from the Czechs!),” Daily Mail, 25 February 2022.

Ukraine conflict: Russian forces attack from three sides,” BBC, 24 February 2022.

Institute for the Study of War, UKRAINE CONFLICT UPDATES, February 2022.

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