There is a lot of discussions going on about what Russia might do if the West ignores the Russian ultimatum. All I propose to do here is just share a few thoughts with you. This is not an thorough analysis, but only some musings of mine about what I hear.
First, Putin is both very predictable and, at the same time, very unpredictable. The predictable thing about Putin is that he only uses force when there is no other option left. The very unpredictable thing about Putin is how and where he is willing to use force. He did not intervene in the Donbass, which everybody expected, and he did not allow the LDNR to take even just Mariupol, nevermind the rest of the Ukraine. But when he moved a special task force into Syria, nobody saw it coming. Ditto for the move to protect Crimea from a Ukrainian invasion. When assessing Putin’s possible next steps, we need to keep in mind this paradox about him being both predictable and unpredictable. So moving nuclear nukes to Kaliningrad and/or Belarus is not the only option for Russia.
Second, there is no way Russia will simply start a war, not against the Ukraine, not against the EU or NATO and not against the USA. Only an ignorant fool would deliberately trigger a situation which might result in a planetary nuclear holocaust. But Russia has plenty of other options.
Third, while in the 60s the USSR needed Cuba to deploy her missiles to force the US to remove its missiles from Turkey, Russia has no such need today. Russian standoff weapons, both nuclear and conventional, can reach the USA from pretty much anywhere, including from Russia of course. Creating bases in Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua are not, in my opinion, feasible or even desirable: I rather see that money pumped into the Russian military.
Fourth, all USN carriers and other ships now have hypersonic crosshairs painted on them, and they know it. This will dramatically affect what the USN can be ordered to do or where to deploy. Some observers have accused Russia of holding the Ukraine as a hostage. This is silly nonsense. But yes, the Russians are, for all practical purposes, holding the entire USN hostage, from a small patrol boats to entire carrier battle groups. The only, but important, exception to this domination are nuclear attack submarines, where Russia has qualitative parity (or even superiority) but where the USA has a strong quantitative advantage over Russia. However, USN SSNs do not have modern missiles and they cannot win a war by themselves. They also have their hands full with China.
Fifth, we know by the size of the Russian ground force currently deployed several hundreds miles away from the the Russian-Ukrainian border that this is a defensive force whose task would be to stop a Ukrainian ground attack on the LDNR (Ukie forces, more of less of a similar size, are deployed a few tens of kilometers from that same border). So don’t expect Russian tanks in downtown Kiev anytime soon.
Besides, why should Russia interfere in any way if both the Ukraine and the EU are proactively committing cultural, economic, political, social and even spiritual suicide?
Sixth, we should not only focus on the European theater of military operations, let’s remember that China and Russia are now officially “more than allies” and that Russia can sell exactly the type of military hardware to China which would truly horrify the USA. Likewise, Russian can easily target US forces anywhere in the Pacific, covertly and overtly, by the way.
Seventh, then there is the Middle-East. Just imagine what Russia could deliver, quickly, to, say, Iran (while providing verbal, but meaningful guarantees to Israel that Russia would not allow Iran to use those systems against Israel unless, of course, Israel attacks first (Note: there is not much love between Russia and Israel, but at least both sides are intelligent enough to understand each other, so that helps a lot when needed).
Eighth, Russia has a huge advantage over US+NATO in electronic warfare (from the tactical to the strategic level) and she can easily use it to a devastating effect while NATO has nothing to retaliate in kind. This, by the way, also applies to the Middle-East where, apparently, Russia has the means to disrupt/spoof GPS signals over the entire region.
Ninth, we should not assume that Russia can only retaliate proactively, that would be a mistake. For example, Russia can do to Germany what the Kremlin did to the Ukraine: stop taking their calls and allow NS2 to be fully stopped. Why? Because while this will only marginally affect Russia (gas prices are already sky high and China was a lot of it), while being a death sentence to the German economy, especially exports. So actually allowing NS2 to get “indefinitely” (in reality temporarily) suspended would be the best and, possibly, even the only way to bring the currently delirious Germans back to reality.
Tenth, Russia could stop selling energy to the USA. Yes, the USA are importing plenty of Russia energy and if the Russians decide to stop this, the already clearly already “pre-apocalyptic” state of the US economy will suffer even more and its not like the USA can turn to Venezuela or Iran for energy :-) As for “Biden”, he already had to release a part of the US reserves.
Eleventh, Russia could close her airspace to all NATO countries, I am talking about civilian air traffic here. Russia has the most expensive airspace on the planet, and if she shuts it down to western carriers, the resulting chaos in the air and on the ground will be total. As for the coasts of flying around Russia, they would be absolutely huge.
Twelfth, we all know that Russia has a huge advantage over every other country in air defenses. Combined with her advantage in electronic warfare and automated battle management systems, that means that Russia can deploy an “electronic cupola” not only over the Baltic or Black Sea, but also over the entire Ukraine or over major areas of the Middle-East. The US+NATO calls that “anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD)” and they are quite freaked out over this.
Thirteenth, then there is the obvious move: recognize the LDNR as sovereign states. There is a strong support for such a move both in the LDNR and in Russia. The Kremlin could do that without moving a single solider or firing a single shot, and then watch what the Ukronazis in Kiev would do about it. My guess is that the Ukronazis would not do much about it, but if they do, the Russians will simply declare a no-fly zone over the LDNR and warn that any attack on the LDNR will result in the destruction of the attacking force. If the Ukies persist, the attacking forces will be vaporized while the rest of the Ukie military will lose its cohesiveness and break apart under the combined effect of Russian strikes and A2/AD capabilities. Putin recently spoke of “not yet recognized” and he spoke of “genocide“. Now that we know that a submarine launched Kalibr has a range “over 1000km”, let’s look at how a Russian sub can reach the entire Ukie cost from the very center of the Black Sea (Odessa would be less than 500km from that sub) and remember that the Ukies have no ASW capabilities at all and Soviet era air defenses only (and those are in terrible shape anyway). FYI – the Black Sea fleet has 6-7 SSKs while the Russian coastal defenses “cover” the entire Black Sea.
Fourteenth, it is rarely, if ever, reported in the West that the Ukraine has conducted terrorists attacks in both the LDNR and even Russia proper. So far, Russia has never retaliated in kind. But remember what happened after the Takfiris blew up several buildings in Russia? If not, what happened is the 2nd Chechen war and the total obliteration of the Takfiris in Chechnia (which all western “analysts” said was an impossible task to begin with). So far the FSB has successfully foiled all of the Ukrainian attacks, but if one succeeds, then it’s over for the Kiev regime.
Fifteenth, the Ukraine is currently building naval bases for NATO in several locations, including one of the Sea of Azov (that is the plan the two geniuses Johnson and Ze came up with). This plan is supposed to create a Ukrainian navy within two years. Can you imagine how easy it would be for Russia to let Johnson and Zelenskii “play Lego” for a little while and then simply disable these future bases?
I am quite sure that there are many more options which I have not even considered above.
The power of the Russian ultimatum is precisely in the fact that the Russians have promised to do “something” military and/or military-technical, but have not spelled out what that “something” might be. I bet you that, in reality, we are not dealing with one single “something”, but a succession of gradual steps which will bring more and more pressure to bear on the US and NATO/EU (not that the latter matters in the least). Keep in mind that while the USA can make counter-proposals they are in no position to make any credible threats, hence the fundamental asymmetry between the two sides: Russian can make credible threats, while the US can produce only more words, something the Russians have basically stopped paying attention to.
From now on, the game is simple: Russia will gradually turn up the “pain dial” and see how the Empire will cope with this. China will be doing the exact same as Russian and Chinese actions are obviously carefully coordinated.
My feeling is that Uncle Shmuel will let the Europeans squeal in pain and only provide them with “firm moral support for our friends, partners and allies” while only caring about one thing: himself. As soon as the pain starts seriously biting the USA, the latter will be forced to negotiate with both Russia and China.
At which point Russia and China would have won.
How soon will Russia turn up the pain dial?
By guess is that the first steps will be taken soon unless the US side shows some tangible signs of being willing to not only meaningfully negotiate but to do so quickly. Putin has just repeated today that no US delaying tactics will be acceptable to Russia.
So far, it appears that the US will make a counter-offer to Moscow. If it is the usual bullcrap about the USA’s exclusivity, the pain dial will be turned up very soon, in the next couple of weeks. If the “Biden” admin actually serious and shows tangible, verifiable, signs that Washington will negotiate, then Russia could wait a little longer, we are talking a month, maybe just a bit more. But nobody in Russia is talking about years, or even many months. The clock is now ticking and the USA must act with great speed: before March for sure.
I will end on a semi-optimistic note: “Biden” has already surprised me at least twice and maybe “he” will do it again? Quite a few Russian analysts seem to think that Sullivan is the voice of sanity in the US admin. We also know that General Milley was not willing to risk a Chinese preemptive attack (which would be a fart in a hurricane compared to what the Russians could unleash against the USA if they decided to preempt a US attack on Russia). Maybe there are even more such sane voices in the US state (deep or otherwise)? Maybe the US will do what Russia did and try appear to retreat just to win time? Even that would be preferable to a fullscale war. Besides, the Russians are well aware of a possible delaying strategy, hence they made their ultimatum pegged to a specific deadline: “show us something tangible, not just platitudes, or else we will take unilateral action“.
Any sane US President would not try to “call Putin’s bluff”.
Let’s hope and pray that “Biden” has enough sanity to understand that. The US has just announced that an official reply will be presented to Moscow on Friday.
I remain very, very dubious, but hope dies last, I suppose.
PS: today Putin spoke to Sholtz and Macron, yesterday with Johnson.
PPS: Putin has declared today that he is “fed up” with the West: “And when international law and the UN Charter interfere with them, they declare all this obsolete and unnecessary. And when something corresponds to their interests, they immediately refer to the norms of international law, the UN Charter, and international humanitarian rules. I’m fed up of such manipulations ”.
PPPS: just to give you an idea of the mood in Russia, today’s “60 minutes” talkshow on Russia TV featured not one but TWO generals who are both also Heroes of Russia, including General Shamanov, the man who destroyed the Takfiris in Chechnia, and who declared that Russia will “rip into shreds” any imaginable enemy. Does anybody think that Shamanov is bluffing? I sure hope not.