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The Goals of the West & Putin | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Authoritarian Russia's lies and the risk of escalation against NATO

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. And a Quick Take for you starting off the week. Once again, we're 10 weeks in and I wish I had something, anything good to say about the war in Ukraine. I'll find something for you by the end of this, but most of the signals are really heading negatively and very quickly.

The Russians are taking more territory in Donetsk and Luhansk, the focus of this second phase of their special military operations as they call it. The Ukrainians, having said that, are ramping up their attacks inside Russia. And we're seeing a lot of sabotage, a lot of fires, some strikes across the border. One of the explosions in a tank regiment was outside of Moscow. So this isn't coming from Ukraine directly, but maybe it's sympathizers inside Russia.

We're not, of course, hearing anything from the Russian government explaining any of this, nor should we expect to. Looks like the Russian army chief of staff was actually injured by a Ukrainian strike while he was on the front lines, but on the Russian side.

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Podcast: Examining Putin: his logic, mistakes, and hope for Ukraine

Listen: Not much has gone right for Vladimir Putin since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. Ian Bremmer speaks to political scientist and author Ivan Krastev, who believes Putin has the autocrat's curse: his back is against the wall because he can't be perceived as weak. Krastev unpacks many of Putin's problems, including his expectations about the "special operation" and how badly he misread Ukrainians. Why did Putin miscalculate so deeply? Krastev offers three explanations: Putin never accepted that the Soviet Union collapsed because communism did; he thought the West was in such decline that he'd get away with the invasion; and a sense that time is running out, because the 70-year-old Putin wants to fix all of Russia's problems in his lifetime.

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A Ukrainian service member walks near a school building destroyed by Russian shelling in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

What We're Watching: Russia's consolidation in eastern Ukraine, Shanghai's grueling lockdown

Bracing for worse in Ukraine. As Russia consolidates its forces around the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, military analysts now warn that the most violent stage of the conflict still looms. Russian forces have been trying to consolidate gains in the country’s southeast, particularly in the Russian-occupied province of Luhansk, and using “scorched earth” tactics in cities like Izyum. The Pentagon has warned that Russia’s withdrawal from other cities, including the capital Kyiv, to focus intensively on the southeast could present new challenges for the Ukrainian military. The different terrain, for example, could make it harder for Ukraine’s troops to carry out the guerilla-style operations that have been successful until now. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s assault in the east intensified on Sunday, with Russians striking an airport in the city of Dnipro, just days after dozens of Ukrainians were killed in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where Russia fired missiles at a railway station. The UN now says some 4.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee the country.

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A view shows cars and a building of a hospital destroyed by a Russian air strike in Mariupol, Ukraine.

Ukraine National Police/Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Ukrainian city under siege, Ripple Effects, Afghan railway

Zelensky calls hospital strike in Mariupol an ‘atrocity’

Children and mothers fall victim. On Wednesday, Russian bombs and missiles ravaged the strategic Black Sea port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, just 35 miles from the Russian border. In one of the war’s most gruesome moments thus far, a children’s hospital and birthing center were badly damaged by munitions, reportedly killing two adults and one child and injuring several others. A Ukrainian official said the attack occurred during an agreed-upon ceasefire with Russia. The town’s administrative center was also badly damaged. If the city falls, Russia would have all but established a “land bridge” to Crimea.

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“This Is Not a Suicide Mission” – The Wolverines of Ukraine | GZERO World

“This is not a suicide mission” – the Wolverines of Ukraine

Faced with an invasion by the world’s fifth-largest army, Ukraine is doing everything to fight back, and ordinary civilians are now part of the mission.

President Volodymyr Zelensky recently promised weapons to anyone who wants them, and so far more than 25,000 automatic rifles and nearly 10 million bullets have been handed out in Kyiv alone, according to a recent video post by Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky.

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File photo of Russian soldiers.


What’s wrong with Russian soldiers?

“Success [in war] never did and never will depend on position, or on ammunition, or even on number. [It depends] on the feeling that’s in me, in him, in every soldier.”

So says Prince Andrei on the eve of battle in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He predicts that the outnumbered and outgunned Russian soldiers defending their homeland will defeat the superior invading force led by Napoleon because the defenders have the stronger will to fight. The French forces won the battle but lost so many men in the process that their invasion ultimately stalled.

With that in mind, the Pentagon claimed this week that US intelligence sees a potentially debilitating low morale among some Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The publicly cited evidence includes reports that substantial numbers of Russian troops have surrendered their weapons with little or no fight, that some have sabotaged their own vehicles and equipment to stall their advance toward Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and anecdotal reports of lost and demoralized Russian troops begging for food.

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A protester holds up a sign calling for NATO to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine.


Should the West say no to a no-fly zone?

Debates are raging about whether the US and its allies should enforce a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace. Some observers say it is the surest way to protect Ukrainians and push back against a Russian air campaign. Others say that such a move would be catastrophic, ushering in a third world war.

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Michael Chertoff: Russia Is Not a Long-Term Strategic Rival for the US | GZERO World

Michael Chertoff: Russia is not a long-term strategic rival for the US

Even as tensions build in Ukraine, Russia is not a long-term strategic rival for the United States. That’s according to former US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who spoke to GZERO World last September. “The danger with Russia in the short-term is recklessness in the neighborhood,” he said. But even though Moscow may not be the same sort of adversary it was during the Cold War, Chertoff sees big challenges for Washington, especially in cybersecurity and hybrid warfare. “The real danger comes when the red lines are murky or fuzzy,” he added.

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