Following the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, more and more experts are becoming convinced that Russia is facing defeat in Ukraine.
At the same time, the Kremlin is threatening the United States with “unpredictable consequences,” should Washington continue to supply Ukraine with weapons.
In an interview with NV Radio, military expert Oleh Zhdanov explains what those proclamations could mean, how the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin might avenge the “pride” of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, whether the United States will run out of weapons, and when the decisive battle for Donbas will start.
NV: Putin keeps saying “asymmetrical response,” over and over. Were the Russian missiles' strikes after Moskva’s sinking just that, or should we expect an even more forceful response?
Zhdanov: That really is his favorite turn of the phrase. I don’t think they are capable of anything more than that. I’m not considering his other threats, i.e., WMDs. But the West is serving as a deterrent there, having warned Russia against using (WMDs).
But air strikes could ramp up.
NV: Russia’s position in the Black Sea has worsened by the sinking of Moskva, is there still a naval threat to Ukraine?
Zhdanov: Unfortunately, the threat isn’t completely gone. Russia’s situation on the sea is worse due to the loss of a powerful AA platform – cruiser Moskva. Their entire squadron was always sitting close to it. Various measures (we) take against Russian Black Sea Fleet could very well be successful now.
By the way, after the cruiser was sunk, their squadron bolted to Novorossiysk, as opposed to Sevastopol; (they were sailing) as far away as they could from Ukrainian shores.
NV: So, it’s premature to talk about the blockade being lifted from our ports?
Zhdanov: That’s right, premature. Russia has scattered naval mines along maritime trade routes. They are resorting to terror tactics, deploying singular unanchored naval mines that drift in the sea. One of them was fished out by the (Turkish) coast guard in the Bosporus.
NV: Russia sent an official protest to the United States regarding U.S. and NATO weapons being sent to Ukraine. What do they mean by their “unpredictable consequences” threat?
Zhdanov: I think those are Russian political games; I don’t see any grounds for such proclamations. We’re at war with Russia, and that puts us in the danger of missile strikes or renewed major offensive – even though we exert some control over the front lines, and there won’t be surprises for us there.
But then it comes to Russian threats to the United States and how credible those are – that’s impossible to analyze. So yeah, I think these are political statements, aimed at providing at least some excuse for their defeats in Ukraine. As far as I understand it, Russia’s main narrative is that they are at war with NATO, and therefore cannot win.
NV: Some experts fear that the United States might run out of weapons. Meaning that they didn’t expect such a lengthy war, and didn’t plan to supply Ukraine with arms for this long. What’s your opinion on this?
Zhdanov: I suspect that’s just an overly cautious analysis. I doubt the United States have that small a weapons stockpile.
The matter is well in hand. The White House held a meeting with principal weapon manufacturers, and I think that question was discussed. Most likely, state procurement will now order new production to replenish the stockpiles. We might even get direct shipments from production lines – to Ukraine. We’ll see.
NV: When do you expect a flare-up in the Donbas? Before or after (orthodox) Easter?
Zhdanov: I anticipate they will try to ramp up offensives in the coming days. We’re still waiting for Russia to deploy all of their reserves to Ukraine. That includes their Far East army, as well as forces that retreated from Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy.
Russia doesn’t care if it’s Easter. Barbaric country – barbaric intentions. I would even suspect that’s exactly when they will strike, considering how important the holiday is to us.