Russia denounces a Western "proxy war," and says that, believe it or not, there are limits to its good will. Nobody in Russia wants a nuclear war, Foreign Minister Lavrov says, but we have to consider the grim possibility of a third world war. NATO seems unimpressed, and steps up air defense and counterfire materiel support to Ukraine. Cyberspace is relatively quiet, but there appear to have been kinetic Ukrainian strikes against Russian oil facilities.
Ukraine at D+61: Russia warns that its good will has limits.
The morning situation report from the UK's Ministry of Defence offers an update on the fighting in Ukraine's eastern provinces. "Russian forces are likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of Ukraine. The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium, as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east. Ukrainian forces have been preparing defences in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south."
Ukraine has apparently taken the war to Russia with what are generally thought to have been strikes against two fuel facilities in the Russian city of Bryansk. The Telegraph reports (with video) that the installations (about seventy kilometers from the Ukrainian border) that informed speculation holds that the fires were caused either by a Ukrainian special forces raid or by a Ukrainian Tochka missile. The incident represents the seventh apparent Ukrainian strike at targets in Russia.
There are also reports of minor attacks in Transdnistria, a Moldovan province Russia detached as a nominally independent (but generally unrecognized) country. Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine point with alarm to the incident, and Russia and Ukraine accuse one other of mounting a provocation intended to expand Russia's war. The targets were two antennas in Tiraspol that were associated with pro-Russian radio stations.
Foreign Minister Lavrov warns that there are limits to Russia's good will.
He was speaking mendaciously, but without irony. "Goodwill has its limits," the Telegraph quotes Mr. Lavrov as saying in a Russian television interview. "But if it isn't reciprocal, that doesn't help the negotiation process." He was objecting to what he characterized as Ukrainian bad faith in negotiations aimed at ending Russia's war of aggression. He also pointed with grim regret at the possibility of nuclear war, which of course (he said) Russia doesn't want. The US characterized Mr. Lavrov's remarks as "escalatory rhetoric."
Mr. Lavrov's remarks came after US Secretary of Defense Austin said not only that he expected a Ukrainian victory, and that the US supported Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but that it was in the US interest to see Russia so weakened that it would be incapable of future aggression of the kind its undertaken against Ukraine. When asked about Secretary Austin's expression of US policy goals, US Secretary of State Blinken said, "I think the secretary said it very well."
Western governments generally interpreted Foreign Minister Lavrov's allusions to the risk of nuclear war as a threat, but have shrugged it off as they increase delivery of weapons to Ukraine. Britain has joined the US and Canada in shipping 155mm howitzers to Ukraine. This is a standard NATO caliber, and, when coupled with delivery of US Firefinder radars, strongly suggests that Ukraine is being armed with an effective counterfire capability that will give them the means of precisely locating and quickly destroying the Russian artillery that's represented the most destructive form of combat power Moscow has been able to deploy in a war it's otherwise tactically mismanaged. Germany, in a surprising move given Berlin's unwillingness to become more heavily involved in direct, lethal materiel support for Ukraine, has announced that it will send Kyiv Gephard mobile air defense systems. These will address the other principal Russian threat: air strikes, particularly battlefield air interdiction.
Moscow has accused the US and its allies of waging a "proxy war" against Russia. "The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it," Reuters quotes Mr. Lavrov as saying. "NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war." The US has convened an international conference at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss Russia's war against Ukraine. Breaking Defense reports that forty-three nations are participating.
Planting and eventual harvest as collateral damage.
The British Ministry of Defence situation report on Russia's war against Ukraine yesterday focused on disruption of Ukrainian agriculture. "The Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly disrupted Ukrainian agricultural production. The Ukrainian grain harvest for 2022 is likely to be around 20 per cent lower than 2021 due to reduced sowing areas following the invasion. Ukraine is the fourth largest producer and exporter of agricultural goods in the world. Reduced grain supply from Ukraine will generate inflationary pressures, elevating the global price of grain. High grain prices could have significant implications for global food markets and threaten global food security, particularly in some of the least economically developed countries."
Finland and Sweden, Reuters reports, are expected to formally request NATO membership in May.