Ukraine War, May 3, 2022 (I): Despite nuclear threats in media, Putin avoids military confrontation with NATO; Ukrainian success in Electronic Warfare (EW)

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Anton Troianovski and Julian E. Barnes, “Russia’s War Has Been Brutal, but Putin Has Shown Some Restraint. Why?; Western officials are debating the Kremlin’s calculations in not trying harder to halt weapons shipments in Ukraine. Analysts wonder whether a bigger mobilization by Moscow is on the horizon,” New York Times, May 3, 2022 (Updated 11:14 a.m. ET);

2) David Ignatius, “Russia is losing on the electronic battlefield,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022 (6:42 p.m. EDT);

Commentary

Putin’s restraint in prosecuting the war against Ukraine?

Troianovski and Barnes provide a provocative analysis of ways in which Putin may have been showing relative “restraint” in prosecuting his war against Ukraine. They write,

(Q)uietly, some military analysts and Western officials are asking why the onslaught has not been even worse.

Russia could be going after Ukrainian railways, roads and bridges more aggressively to try to stanch the flow of Western weapons to the front line. It could have bombed more of the infrastructure around the capital, Kyiv, to make it harder for Western leaders to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in shows of unity and resolve. And it could be doing far more to inflict pain on the West, whether by cyberattack, sabotage or more cutoffs of energy exports to Europe.

Part of the reason appears to be sheer incompetence: The opening weeks of the war demonstrated vividly that Russia’s military was far less capable than believed before the invasion. But American and European officials also say that President Vladimir V. Putin’s tactics in recent weeks have appeared to be remarkably cautious, marked by a slow-moving offensive in eastern Ukraine, a restrained approach to taking out Ukrainian infrastructure and an avoidance of actions that could escalate the conflict with NATO.

The authors quote Dmitri Trenin, until recently the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, as follows:

Why isn’t Russia bombing more bridges and railway networks, he asked, when they are allowing Ukraine’s military to receive more of the West’s increasingly lethal weapons deliveries with every passing day? Why are Western leaders — like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday — still able to visit Kyiv safely?

They also note Western officials have been asking similar questions:

(A)cross the Atlantic, officials and analysts are asking themselves similar questions as Mr. Trenin.

For weeks, officials in Washington have discussed why the Russian military has not been more aggressive in trying to destroy the supply lines that send Western arms shipments into Ukraine. Part of the answer, officials say, is that Ukrainian air defense continues to threaten Russian aircraft, and the deeper Russian planes go into Ukraine the greater the chance they are going to be shot down.

A senior American defense official said that Mr. Putin may have avoided destroying Ukraine’s rail network because he did not want to hurt his own ability to move equipment and troops around the country. The Russians have been more focused on destroying weapon storage areas than the rail network.

American officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private military and intelligence assessments.

American and allied officials have debated why Mr. Putin hasn’t tried widespread or more damaging cyberstrikes. Some say that Mr. Putin has been effectively deterred. The Russian military, struggling to make gains in Ukraine, cannot handle a wider war with NATO and does not want to give the alliance any excuse to enter the war more directly.

Others argue that a cyberstrike on a NATO country is one of the few cards Mr. Putin can play and that he may be waiting for a later stage in his campaign to do that.

While Mr. Putin has been unafraid of escalating the rhetoric, his actions have suggested he does not want to do anything that could prompt a wider war.

The Trenchant Observer

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See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

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