New NATO offensive?

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By CAIO BUGIATO*

NATO's general offensive against Russia has been going on for a long time, with the advance of the military organization in Europe towards the borders of the Russian state

The Russian victory at Bakhmut

The Wagner mercenary group and the Putin government announced the complete takeover of the city of Bakhmut. The battle in the city lasted about nine months, destroyed the city, claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is considered the biggest war in Ukraine and on European soil since World War II.

The Russian victory has a double meaning. First, it opens the way towards more strategic cities for the takeover of the Donbass region, including towards the Ukrainian interior and Kiev. Second, it is a political victory for the government of Vladimir Putin, which has not had a significant victory in the war since the beginning of 2023, boosting troop morale and strengthening its positions in Russian domestic politics. Bakhmut was considered and propagandized by the Zelensky government as the great Ukrainian resistance, which now no longer holds.

Certainly, Ukrainian military operations in Bakhmut were sponsored by the West, whose weapons made the city's defense possible. NATO's support for Ukraine makes it clear that the war goes far beyond a confrontation between two nation states, as assessed by the Putin government itself. Such support reverberated in Russia amid the victory celebrations in the Great Patriotic War (World War II), when the Soviets overthrew the Nazi war machine and conquered Berlin.

The deployment of German Leopard II tanks by the coalition of Western states prompted news and speeches in Russian newspapers such as "The Fourth Reich has declared war on Russia" and "German tanks are on Russian soil again." Whether Bakhmut will be as much of a turning point in the war as Stalingrad was remains to be seen, but it is likely that Kiev's supporters in the West are reflecting on the use of all the military and financial resources sent to the Ukrainians.

New NATO Offensive?

NATO's general offensive against Russia has been going on for a long time, with the advance of the military organization in Europe towards the borders of the Russian state. The military offensive came as Western-sponsored Ukrainian military forces repelled Russian advances after six months of war. Thus, the territorial conquest of Russia currently extends from the Crimea province along the entire east of the country to the Luhansky province. Amid the defeat at Bakhmut and Western concerns, NATO intends to launch its third offensive, heralded by the Ukrainian military as the 2014 operation to re-establish its borders.

Obviously the details of the operation are kept secret. However, documents leaked a few weeks ago indicate that NATO is training Kiev's armed forces on Ukrainian soil. In a recent statement, the secretary general of the military organization Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the provision of billions of euros in support to Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February 2022. He also reaffirmed that NATO countries have trained thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and are supplying more jets , tanks and armored vehicles for the Ukrainians as they organize for a counter-offensive. Furthermore, Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that Ukraine's place is in NATO and that the military alliance is with Ukraine to help it achieve NATO standards and confirm its membership in the organization.

Ukrainian officials echo NATO's assertions, such as Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov. The secretary said he was ready to start the operation when the commanders calculate that "we can have the best result at that point in the war". He also stated: “we have to understand that this historic opportunity that is given to us – by God – to our country we cannot lose, so that we can truly become a great independent European country”. "It could happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week." Volodymyr Zelensky even proposed a fighter coalition to the West, similar to the tank coalition.

On the Russian side, aware of the possible new offensive, the mobilization and training of three hundred thousand reservists has already taken place, in addition to accelerating the production of weapons and organizing significant amounts of equipment and ammunition. Russian troops are positioned in eastern Ukraine and have begun to advance into various regions along a 724 kilometer front.

The Ukrainian defeat at Bakhmut and the possible NATO offensive suggest an intensified confrontation now and in the coming weeks, but advances and setbacks on both sides are difficult to predict. What appears to be at stake now is that Volodymyr Zelensky's government needs to show its citizens, Ukraine's armed forces and Western allies that it is capable of breaking through Russian lines and justifying its role as a puppet of the West. Therefore, the failure of the third offensive could indeed bring new directions to the war.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.


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