[guest post by Dana]
After the sham election in four occupied areas in Ukraine in which people freely voted at gunpoint to join Russia, President Putin is expected to announce the annexation tomorrow:
Russia will on Friday begin formally annexing up to 18% of Ukrainian territory, with President Vladimir Putin expected to host a ceremony in the Kremlin to declare four occupied Ukrainian territories part of Russia.
The ceremony would take place on Friday at 15:00 local time (08:00 ET) in the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin will deliver a speech and meet with Russian-backed leaders of the four occupied regions on the sidelines of the ceremony, he added.
Next week, Russia’s two houses of parliament – the State Duma and Federation Council – will consider the annexation.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky said that the Ukraine will “defend its people” in the russianoccupied regions:
“We will act to protect our people: both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in the Crimea,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.
“This farce in the occupied territory cannot even be called an imitation of referendums,” he said.
Days earlier, he told the United Nations via video that there can be no negotiations with Putin:
“Russia’s recognition of the pseudo-referendums as ‘normal,’ implementation of the so-called Crimean scenario, and yet another attempt to annex Ukrainian territory means that there is nothing to talk about with (the) current Russian president,” he said in a video message at a meeting of the UN security council.
“In front of the eyes of the whole world, Russia is conducting an outright farce called a ‘referendum’ on the occupied territory of Ukraine,” he said.
“People are forced to fill out some papers for a TV picture under the muzzles of machine guns.
“The figures of the alleged results of the pseudo-referendum were drawn in advance,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced this week that another $1.1 billion will be given in additional security assistance for Ukraine.
The question now is whether President Biden’s response to the nuclear threat (he obviously favors non-nuclear options) along with his warning that the United States would “respond forcefully” to any Russian nuclear strike, will be enough to deter a humiliated Putin:
The nuclear planner and two other senior officers…don’t disagree with that view, and none of them advocate any use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike. But to deter Putin from using nuclear weapons in the first place, the officers say, the United States needs to talk the nuclear talk—and not be held back by the fear of having to walk the walk.
“We’re in uncharted territory,” says a senior intelligence officer. “Threatening to respond forcefully and creating catastrophic consequences for Russia [without] suggesting nuclear war: Is that strong enough to deter Putin? And is it really clear? I’m not so sure.”
“We have to ponder whether other [non-nuclear] threats are powerful enough to deter Putin,” says a former bomber pilot who is now a Washington-based Pentagon officer.
President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan offered this week that the White House has been working behind the scenes to stress to Russia the devastating consequences they will face if they use the nuclear option:
Washington has “communicated directly, privately, to the Russians at very high levels that there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” he said on ABC News.
“If Russia crosses this line…the United States will respond decisively,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Biden administration, he said, has “spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean” in its communications with the Kremlin.
The report notes that what the decisive response would be has not been made public.
Here is a blunt assessment of Sullivan’s comments:
“Threatening severe consequences without saying that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable under any circumstances, drawing a red-line … it isn’t clear that that is an adequate deterrent threat for Putin’s ears,” the Strategic Command civilian says.
“A general statement of deterrence didn’t prevent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine not only because Putin is reckless but also because ‘no matter what’ wasn’t the threat. It was the same as Sullivan’s threat today: ‘If you do it, we’ll respond.’ That’s not deterrence.”