Russia Gears Up To Escalate Against Ukraine, 6 Months Into Invasion | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here. A little bit rainy on a Monday. I want to kick you off. Talk about the world and we're going back to Russia/Ukraine. Not just because it's in the headlines again, but also because the potential for significant escalation further escalation is unfortunately increasingly real.

Over the last week, week and a half, we've seen some Ukrainian military attacks on Russian bases in Crimea. That does reflect more capability than the Ukrainian military had shown here to fore, and is leading people around the Kremlin to call for more substantial strikes against military and civilian populations in Ukraine. But more significant than that, over the weekend, the car bomb assassination, targeted assassination of Darya Dugina, who is the daughter of Alexander Dugin. He clearly was the intended target of the strike. He's an ultranationalist, his writings and ravings have been cited frequently by Putin and by other members of the Russian regime.


He's little bit like a more extreme version for Russia of Steve Bannon in the United States, in the Trump administration, except Bannon was briefly had a formal role in the administration. Dugin certainly does not have that, but when I say more extreme, he literally is a poster child for the most vitriolic and violent extremist Russian nationalism. He has literally called for a genocide against Ukrainians. And that was before this assassination. He's now of course, saying that there needs to be retaliation, needs to be revenge against Ukraine. They need to be wiped off the map

And it's the fact that the Kremlin and Russian State Media are talking about this as proven to be from the Ukrainians. There's a lot of talk about being ordered by the Ukrainian government. It's pretty clear they don't have any direct proof of that at this point. And it's frankly hard to imagine that the Ukrainian government would make a direct order of this kind of an act in part because they benefit so much from being wrongfully invaded by the Russians, and not being a terrorist state, not engaging in clear war crimes. And this guy's a civilian. This would be a very clear transgression of that narrative.

Now, certainly that doesn't mean the Ukrainians aren't responsible for it in a war time, especially when they're taking massive economic and human losses. You're going to have partisans. You're going to have radicals. You're going to have all sorts of activities that are not necessarily directly coordinated by, or with the Ukrainian government. I, for example, have been surprised that there haven't been actions taken by Ukrainian radicals to blow up some of the pipelines that transit Russian gas through Ukraine, to Europe. So far so good. And it's not that like the Russian government has the ability to really ensure security of those pipelines so far. So I've been surprised about this.

But here we have an attack, a targeted attack, a targeted assassination just outside of Moscow. And the Russian government is making a very big deal out of it. They are. At the same time, we've seen some headlines about Russian soldiers that the Russian government allege have had severe chemical burns and disfigurement after fighting in Ukraine, claiming that the Ukrainian government is using some of these munitions. Again, absolutely no proof of that. No evidence of that from the United Nations, from the International Community and the rest from NATO. But that kind of thing implies that the Russians are gearing up to legitimize in the eyes of their own population, at that the very least, some form of further escalation against Ukraine. There is on August 24th, this is not only the six month anniversary of the Russian invasion that started on February 24th, but also is Ukrainian Independence Day.

So, we know that Putin personally finds a lot of importance in certain dates that have significance for him, and will make major military and political decisions on the basis of that. That certainly implies that this week is going to be a particularly ugly one. Most of the fighting between Russian/Ukraine over the course of the past couple of months has been limited to the Donbas and the environs of Kherson, north of Crimea, with some exceptions and some targeting of civilian areas, including in Odessa and including around Kiev, but relatively little. That of course could change. There's also always the possibility of Russians using weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, most likely that would lead to unspeakable horrors for the Ukrainian population that wouldn't be able to defend against it. They would certainly flee any cities where they were used.

Something we have to continue to be concerned about in the worst possible case, tactical nuclear weapons. I have a very hard time imagining that on the ground, unless the Russians were facing devastation of their own forces inside Ukraine. That certainly is not the case right now, but the fact that we're even talking about it, or have to talk about it as a possibility. Shows just how incredibly volatile and dangerous this all has become.

And then one other point is the fact that the Russians are claiming that the people, the woman that perpetrated this attack on Dugin and his daughter, as it turned out, has fled Russia, and is now in Estonia, which no friend of Russia. One of the hardest line in supporting Ukraine and in expressing anger and efforts to completely punish and sever the Russian economy and the Russian people from the rest of the world. A NATO member, the fact that the Russians would be calling to take action on the ground against this suspected, or claimed to be suspected assassin in a NATO country, is also something that raises the possibility of further escalation. So far in the war between Russia and Ukraine, there's been an enormous amount of military support for the Ukrainians, enormous amount of economic punishment of the Russians, but there hasn't been any real direct fighting between NATO and Russia.

You haven't seen the major cyberattacks for example, that the Russians clearly have the capacity for, but they haven't engaged in them so far, whether that will hold true in the coming days and weeks would be one of the most important trip wires that could expand the Ukraine war into something much more dangerous.

So, those are some of the things we're thinking about right now. Watch what is coming out of the Kremlin. Not that anyone should believe any piece of misinformation, disinformation that comes from Russian State Media. But clearly the fact that they don't report objectively does make it a very interesting set of statements to watch because it implies, these are the messages directly that the Kremlin intends to send to their own population and internationally. So in that regard, I think that RT and Sputnik and other organizations like this do require a fair amount of scrutiny, if you want to know what's going on inside the Kremlin at this point.

So that's it for me. I hope everyone's doing well, and let's hope that this doesn't come to pass for and on the ground of Ukraine this week. Talk soon.

For more of Ian Bremmer's weekly analyses, subscribe to his GZERO World newsletter at ianbremmer.bulletin.com
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