There is something very odd going on with Putin and his war on Ukraine. Success in the battlefield requires planning, strategy and logistics in combination with a professional military. Russia does not have a professional military but relies on conscripts and mercenaries. Putin has demonstrated that there are major problems with Russia’s military technology and capability, and this includes the all-important role that logistics play in warfare.

Effective warfare is about the strategic use of scarce resources, and these include personnel and weapons. This then raises the question as to why Putin continues to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure rather than critical military targets. This targeting is a crime against humanity, a climate crime. And a war crime. Now is the time for all responsible nations to stand up and support Ukraine and to work to force Vladimir Putin to accept that he can never win his “special military operation” in Ukraine and, in fact, he has already lost. Perhaps, targeting Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure is the only option left for Putin in his failing Ukrainian war. Russia has been extremely ineffective in finding and hitting critical Ukrainian military assets. This reflects a failure in Russian intelligence combined with the limitations of Russia’s military capability.

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Russia launched over 90 missiles on Tuesday, Nov. 15, targeting Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Two missiles landed on Polish soil with the initial media coverage speculating that these were Russian missiles. Russia declared that such reports were a “deliberate provocation”. However, analysis of the weapons will rapidly determine their origins. It seems that these missiles came from Ukraine’s rapidly developing air defence network.

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There are many ways of reading this incident. One approach is to argue that this type of incident was going to happen as Russia continued to target non-strategic civilian infrastructure close to the Polish border. Russia must have been aware of the risks, and one could argue that deploying Russian missiles close to NATO borders is the act of either a fool or a madman. There was always going to be the possibility of a technical failure with a Russian missile landing on NATO territory. Recent enhancements made to Ukraine’s air defence infrastructure also meant the increasing  possibility of fallout from activity intended to intercept Russian missiles to prevent civilian deaths and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

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NATO has acted in an appropriate manner in that no action has occurred and even no statement other than that an investigation was required. Imagine if a NATO missile were to accidently land on Russian soil and kill two Russians. What would Putin do, and how would he react? One would expect some immediate action, but it must be acknowledged that such an event is unlikely. In any case, it must be remembered that this is the first such incident, and this time it involved an attempt to intercept a Russian missile. Next time there might be Russian missiles accidently causing death and destruction on NATO territory.

Under Putin’s leadership one should not expect any sensible reaction from the Kremlin; Putin’s responses are less about strategy and more about emotion. Putin is providing us with an excellent lesson in poor leadership. A leader should make informed strategic decisions and should never respond rapidly or in anger. Rapid and non-strategic emotional responses have become Putin’s modus operandi. One consequence is that many tens of thousands of Russians, and Ukrainians, have died and to what end or purpose? These are pointless deaths.

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NATO waited to assess the situation. It does not matter that the Polish missile strike came from Ukraine’s air defence system, as Russia is still responsible. Missiles were launched by Russia and aimed at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure facilities and then Ukraine’s surface-to-air missile system engaged in an intercept and two missiles landed in Poland. Ukraine needs to apologise to Poland, but the ultimate blame lies with Russia. Russia must be held to account as any missiles that have landed on NATO territory are a direct result of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The date Tuesday, Nov. 15 is a pivotal point in the war, as it highlights that Russia’s illegal war could so easily escalate by accident to NATO territory. However, NATO will never act in haste, but will carefully access the situation. It is important to remember the context. Russia continues to deliberately target civilian infrastructure. The key, however, is NATO’s response and that of countries like India and China. For the U.S. and all NATO member states now is the time to provide more funding and military hardware to Ukraine and to project a united front. The extent of this funding and military hardware should be such that Russia appreciates that there is no possibility that they can win the war with Ukraine. China and India are beginning to distance themselves from Russia, but it is time for both these countries to tell Putin that enough is enough. All responsible nations must declare that Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is a crime against humanity and a climate crime, and they must work against Putin’s attempt to weaponize energy and food.

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There is another issue, and that is one of who pays for all the damage. There is only one answer; that Russia should be made to pay for all damaged civilian infrastructure, for the rebuilding of Ukrainian cities and compensation for all Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes, and then there are all the Ukrainians who have died. The bill will come to trillions of dollars. The only question is that Russia would be unable to meet this scale of reparation. Every missile that hits Ukrainian soil adds to this bill. Putin’s only option is to retreat from all occupied Ukrainian territory and to try to negotiate a settlement that Russia can afford. The key for Russia’s future survival is the removal of sanctions and this will only occur once Russia has left Ukrainian territory.

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John R. Bryson,

Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography,

Department of Strategy and International Business,

Birmingham Business School.

Nov. 16, 2022.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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