A week ago the head of the US Intelligence Services, Avril Haynes, warned that the focus of Russian forces on the Donbas does not mean that Russian President Vladimir Putin has given up on his ambitions to occupy all of Ukraine.
A report by the Institute for the Study of War that analyzes the statements of the secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, reaches the same conclusion.
Patrushev is one of Putin’s closest allies and advisers and wields significant influence over government policy as head of Russia’s powerful Security Council.
The council formulates Russia’s security policy and is the center where information is received from Russian sources and networks from abroad.
Both deplore the end of the Soviet Union, and both share a deep distrust of the West fueled by conspiracy theories, explains academic Susan Sternthal.
According to Professor Mark Galeotti, he is the most dangerous man in Russia as he has emerged as a leading voice in Putin’s inner circle who wants to wage a merciless war in Ukraine, with the ultimate goal of seizing Kiev.
On July 5, Patrushev declared that the Russian “military operation” in Ukraine would continue until Russia achieved its goals of protecting civilians from “genocide,” “de-Naziizing” and demilitarizing Ukraine, and obliging it to be permanently neutral between Russia and NATO—essentially repeating the goals Putin had announced in his February 24 speech justifying the war.
Patrushev’s explicit restatement of Putin’s initial goals nearly five months later indicates that the Kremlin does not consider recent Russian gains in Lugansk Oblast to be sufficient to achieve the initial goals of the “special operation,” and will therefore continue to is pushing for territorial gains beyond Donbass, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War say.
“The Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war with the intention of winning much larger parts of Ukraine,” they say.
At the same time, analysts note that two elements regarding Patrushev’s statement, its timing and Patrushev’s position as Putin’s confidant, also deserve attention.
“Patrushev, given his relationship with Putin and his role in the Kremlin, is unlikely to distance himself too much in his public comments from Putin’s position.
“The restating of essentially the same maximalist goals set by Putin before the invasion, at a time when the Russians appear to be moving closer to fulfilling the limited goals of securing the Donetsk and Lugansk regions—which Putin and other Russian leaders had hinted at that they are their new targets after their defeats around Kiev – strongly suggests that these hints do not reflect any real change in Kremlin policy,” the analysts comment.
In fact, according to analysts, Patrushev’s statement should be taken into account by those who argue that some compromise proposal for a ceasefire or even peace, based on limited additional Russian territorial gains, is possible, even if accepted by Ukraine or desired by the West.