The Russia-Ukraine war has entered its 37th day, and there is no war on the Western Front, but under the calm, at least three new trends have appeared on the battlefield, or, in other words, one good news and two bad news.
The good news is that the Russian army began to withdraw voluntarily. Ukraine has confirmed that Russian troops are withdrawing from the occupied Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
In the first week of the war, the nuclear power plant and the surrounding area fell into the hands of the Russian army. At that time, the West also made various accusations that the reckless attack of the Russian military would cause serious nuclear leakage. Now, the Russian army has withdrawn voluntarily.
The Russian military announced on March 31 that they intend to hand over the nuclear power plant to Ukraine. The U.S. Pentagon also confirmed that they saw Russian troops “retreat” in the direction of Belarus from Chernobyl and the surrounding areas of Kyiv.
Of course, the Ukrainian side claimed that the Russian army had suffered severe radiation, so it had to evacuate. While NATO accused the Russian military of not retreating but redeploying.
According to the previous statement of the Russian army, Russia has completed the first phase of combat tasks, and the next step is to “completely liberate” the Donbas region, namely Luhansk and Donetsk.
The “Luhansk People’s Republic” announced that as of the morning of March 31, 2022, more than 90% of its territory had been “liberated”; the other “Donetsk People’s Republic” announced that it had taken control of “about 55% to 60%” of the territory.
Before the war broke out on February 24, the two declared independent “republics” occupied about one-third of the land in Luhansk and Donetsk respectively.
The most fierce competition is Mariupol. The “Donetsk People’s Republic” claimed that a decree was signed on March 31, and the municipal reception team had been formed. It is only a matter of time before the Russian army takes full control of this strategic city.
This is good news, but the first bad news is that Western weapons are coming.
It is true that the West did not participate in the war, but Western weapons are being sent to Ukraine. The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that “six batches” of supplies have entered Ukraine in less than two weeks under the plan that Biden signed on March 16.
“Those goods have already arrived. In fact, it took only four days from the time Biden signed the order to the first shipment of goods… I can tell you that these need to be transferred. The supplies will be transported to Ukraine by the convoy soon, very fast…” said by US department of defence
These supplies include “food, body armor, helmets, small arms and ammunition, medical and first aid kits,” as well as a number of anti-tank missiles.
In fact, the decree signed by Biden at that time, the latest military aid of 800 million US dollars, includes:
• 800 sets of “Stinger” air defense systems;
• 2,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems;
• 100 sets of tactical UAS;
• 100 grenade launchers, 5000 rifles, 1000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns;
• More than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds;
• 25,000 sets of bulletproof suits;
• 25,000 helmets.
Among them, 100 sets of tactical UAV systems are Switchblade UAVs
This is only the US side. British Defense Secretary Wallace announced on March 31 that the United Kingdom and its allies will provide more lethal weapons assistance to Kyiv.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced on the same day that Australia will provide Ukrainian troops with an additional total of about 25 million Australian dollars in military assistance, including drones, ground systems, and medical supplies.
This may also be the most troublesome place for the Russian army. The Russian army’s weapons are consumed in large quantities, but Western weapons are continuously imported into Ukraine, but the Russian army cannot effectively destroy these transportation channels.
The second bad news, the most intense “vindictive” began.
On March 31, Putin signed a decree requiring unfriendly countries (European countries) to buy Russian natural gas and must open a ruble account in a Russian bank, which took effect on April 1. And if they will deny, then the contract will be terminated.
Putin’s words are beyond doubt: “If you don’t pay, we will consider it a breach of contract by the buyer, and the buyer will be responsible for all consequences. No one sells anything to us for free, and we do not intend to do charity.”
He stressed that gas transactions are paid in rubles, a step towards Russia’s financial sovereignty.
As I said before, I feel that Putin’s move, which seems to be out of common sense, is actually killing three birds with one stone:
First, reduce reliance on foreign exchange, since dollars and euros cannot be spent anyway, this is also a counterattack against the West. Second, it will help strengthen the ruble. Third break the sanction against Russia by paying the oil and natural gas bills.
Macron and Scholz have separately called Putin, vehemently opposed to paying bills in rubles. But the objection was invalid, and Putin still signed the order.
For Russia, it’s very simple. You sanctioned Russia in every possible way, Russia hit you back with your dose of medicine.
In the latest reaction, France and Germany remain strongly opposed, with their economy ministers announcing on March 31 that they would still pay in euros, “contracts are in euros, must be paid in euros, and will be paid in euros.”
Of course, Russia is not blindly reckless, and there is no lack of artistry in doing things. Under Putin’s decree, Gazprom will open accounts on behalf of Western buyers, buy rubles on their behalf, and then transfer cash into Gazprom’s accounts.
Of course, if the face is torn apart, it does not rule out that Russia is really dying. For the sake of this, there is nothing to lose anyway. Of course, it is more likely that Europe can’t stand without Russian natural gas.
Remember, Russia supplies 41% of EU countries’ natural gas, 46% of coal and 27% of oil. Germany, in particular, relies on Russia for 55% of its natural gas supply. The consequences of the gas cut-off will be a nightmare for Europe, and the price of natural gas, which has soared, will go even higher.
However the oil and gas sector accounted up to roughly 40% of Russia’s federal budget revenues, and up to 60% of its exports in 2019. In 2019, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry estimated the value of natural resources to 60% of the country’s GDP.
Finally, what do I think?
The situation is complex and should be at a new crossroads.
First, I feel that the Russian army is also adjusting its countermeasures.
If the advance of the battlefield is unfavorable, then quickly change the move. Therefore, Chernobyl, which has been taken with great effort, must be withdrawn when it should be withdrawn; but in eastern Ukraine, the Russian army will definitely not give up. According to the analysis of the Polish Prime Minister, Ukraine may be divided into two parts, and the Russian army will control one-third of Ukraine’s territory, and then everyone will talk slowly.
Second, the West is trying to drag Russia to death.
Russia is not the Soviet Union, and its national strength is even less than that of the West today. The stockpile of weapons is getting smaller and smaller, and Western weapons are continuously being sent to Ukraine. This effectively becomes a proxy war, and the West uses this to drag Russia to death. Poor Ukraine paying price for this.
Third, Putin is opening up a second battlefield.
Therefore, when the situation was not right, adjustments were made quickly on the battlefield, and a second battlefield was opened at the same time. Aiming at Europe’s soft underbelly, start with natural gas. Forcing Germany and France to compromise, even if they refuse strictly on the surface, they still have to cooperate in secret. This also creates a wedge between the US and Europe. But there is no doubt that this is a thrilling game that tests the wisdom and courage of both sides. The game is still going on and affects each of us.