By: Davorin Kopše
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, I wrote a column in which I announced that the war would be relatively short. Obviously, this is already not the case, but the fact must be considered that Russia attacked practically the entire territory of Ukraine in the first days of the war. If it persisted in the whole territory, the prediction would probably be more correct. Its goal was to overthrow the Ukrainian government, to establish a pro-Russian government, and in this way to annex Ukraine to the Russian Federation, where the Kremlin has the main say. This would mean that Ukraine is at least de facto part of the Russian Federation. In this way, Putin would secure opportunities for further expansion. First to Moldova, and later maybe to the Baltic and elsewhere.
Finland and Sweden in NATO are very upsetting for Putin. Namely, he justified the aggression against Ukraine by the alleged danger of NATO enlargement in Ukraine, which borders directly on Russia. With the accession of these countries, Putin gets two new NATO members on his doorstep. We should not ignore the policy of Serbia, which tries to navigate between evil and good (Russia and the West). The Balkans are therefore also a hotbed of warming, which is in Russia’s interest, as it undermines Europe’s stability.
The plan for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade is eloquent. The visit did not take place because Romania, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, and Montenegro did not allow the aircraft to fly through their airspace. However, the message is clear. Ties between Serbia and Russia are strong and growing. And this at a time when the whole world has imposed extensive sanctions on Russia. This also includes Bosnian Serbs who want to leave cantonal Bosnia. In this part of the Balkans, there could be a local military conflict at the beginning, but for now we do not know who would intervene and cause wider consequences. Russia undoubtedly shows this interest, and it certainly would not be the only one.
As Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade failed, threats are already coming from Russia. The director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote on Twitter that Romanians and Montenegrins will not be able to escape Sarmatia, which is the name for an intercontinental ballistic missile. It could be said that this is just another pointless and hasty threat of helplessness but given the possible desire for the aforementioned new hotbed of war, this provocation could happen. The countries that closed the airspace are members of NATO, but they are practically defenceless against such provocations for the time being.
Russia has prepared poorly for war
Decisive for the Russian army in Ukraine was that it carried out extremely poorly the so-called intelligence preparation of the battlefield. They thought they would subjugate Ukraine in a few days, which did not happen, and the war never went into the second phase as planned. Instead, they changed their goals and adjusted the course of the war accordingly. After a little over a hundred days, they are focusing mainly on eastern Ukraine. The focus of the conflict is now on the occupation of the two self-proclaimed republics within Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk, which Russia also recognised just before the war.
To date, Russia has 20 percent of its losses in combat, which is a worrying figure for any military. If conventional military activities continue like this, we may fear an escalation in the use of unconventional weapons. Russia is already using this. The use of convention-banned cluster bombs is not uncommon, and they have already used white phosphorus, which is mass-killing. It is known for its action. It ignites on contact with air and reaches up to 1300 degrees Celsius. It is dangerous to human life due to burning deep into the tissue, inhaling its smoke and ingestion. For military tactical purposes it is most useful for creating a smoke screen.
In the previous column, I wrote that Russia will be weakened and defeated, but it will undoubtedly carry out a series of strong offensives before that. These will cause great material damage, and tens of thousands of people will be killed and injured. We see that. As a result of sanctions, Russia is economically and consequently militarily weakened. That is what many of us have predicted. One of the scenarios is the spread of instability to other areas in Europe and thus the redistribution of resources of NATO and other defence forces of European countries. Even war conflicts or at least incidents could spread to a wider area.
Slovenia is threatened politically and economically by the left
We are not completely safe in Slovenia, although we are in a relationship with NATO and the EU. Namely, the extreme leftists have risen to power, and for now they are still partially concealing their pro-Russian attitude. They are also against NATO and the armament of Slovenia. I guess, but it may happen that Russian diplomats will be invited to the country again, who were denied hospitality by Slovenia during the previous government as part of sanctions, which the current Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanja Fajon strongly opposed. In this case, the EU would probably also step away from us. I am afraid that this will only happen with the negative political attitude of Slovenian foreign policy without concrete actions.
Slovenia successfully managed the obvious crisis, and everything related to it during the previous government also because of the EU solidarity. We were also respected in Brussels for our determined attitude towards the war in Ukraine. Moving away from this policy also promises a move away from EU favouritism, which will undoubtedly not be good for tackling the coming cost and lack of energy. Approaching Russia would undoubtedly bring only harm and no benefits to Slovenia. So, it is not just about military security, but also about economic and long-term political security.
At the current stage, Russia is dangerous because of unpredictability
We see, therefore, that Russia did not achieve its primary goal in the war. Now it is trying to reach the secondary, which is in the Ukrainian east and south. It has already achieved it in part by ravaging the Ukrainian south and massacring and expelling residents. There remains the East, where death sows and destroys everything before it. However, it is not doing well in this area either, as Ukrainian forces are regaining their occupied territories repeatedly with strong counter-offensives.
The supply of modern weapons is an additional stimulus to Putin’s threats. He is threatening with new attacks if Ukraine’s armaments for defence purposes continue. He even mentions new goals that have not been chosen so far. They could also be outside Ukraine. Maybe a few rockets to Kyiv after a little more than a month’s lull is a prediction of something like that. He also says that they will push Ukraine’s defence forces so far from Russia’s borders that attacks with long-range weapons on Russia will not be possible.
Given what has been described and more about the situation on the battlefields, the aggressor can only dream of pushing the defence far from the border. Not with conventional weapons. This could be tried using even more unconventional weapons already used, ballistic missiles, perhaps war poisons, and ultimately tactical nuclear weapons. It is not ruled out that they might try to prove their military reach to the territories of arms-supplying countries in Ukraine, but I believe that missile shield defence is strong enough in this part of Europe.
Putin and his generals are becoming increasingly nervous about Ukraine’s failures and the growing balance of arms. If international sanctions are not lifted, no one will want to live in their regime. Not even in the possibly occupied Luhansk and Donetsk. Because of all this, Putin has his finger on the triggers of dangerous weapons all the time. Even if he does not intend to use these weapons and perhaps selectively rocket European countries, threats are something that must always be taken seriously. And all of these are, of course, more than good reasons to argue that the security situation is getting worse.