Stock Groups

Should the West prepare for war with Putin?


The West and Russia had bad relations, but the relationship was not bad enough: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Switzerland in 2021 for the U.S. Russia Summit.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

This week has seen a marked increase in the saber-rattling between Moscow and West, raising concerns about if there could be a direct confrontation.

For example, Russia has stopped gas supply to two European countries in the past few days and warned several times the West about the danger of nuclear war.

Furthermore, Russian President Vladimir PutinHe stated that any intervention by foreign forces in Ukraine will provoke a Moscow response of “lightning speed”, while NATO’s Foreign Ministry cautioned him not to lose heart.

Western officials dismissed Russia’s “bravado”, “dangerous,” and nuclear war rhetoric. The U.K. called on its allies in the West to support Ukraine “double-down”.

CNBC asked strategic thinkers about whether there was a possibility of Russia confronting the West. This is what their responses were.

Nuclear attack?

Russia’s foreign Minister warned at the start of this week that the danger of nuclear war was “not to be underestimated”. He also stated that NATO’s arms supply to Ukraine was tantamount of NATO participating in a proxy conflict with Russia. 

Putin doubled the aggression Wednesday by threatening to retaliate against countries that interfere in Ukraine’s war.

The Russian’s intercontinental missile- and nuclear weapon arsenal was then mentioned by him. He warned Russia that it could have “tools” to retaliate against any attack. We will, if necessary.

CNBC was told by strategists that Putin plays on West-West risk aversion and that there is no chance of nuclear war.

Samuel Ramani (a geopolitical analyst, associate fellow at Royal United Services Institute) stated that it is not possible for there to be a war on Ukraine.

He stated that even if there is a spillover at the border, it’s possible for Moldova to be vulnerable to invasion.

On Nov. 14, 2018, a U.S. Infantryman participated in a joint arms live fire exercise at Al-Ghalail Range (Qatar),

Spc. Jovi Prevot | U.S. Army

The Russian government has used “nuclear warfare” for a long time to prevent the West’s pursuit of security policies it does not like. This was accompanied by an increase in hostile rhetoric, aimed at deterring NATO member countries from sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Moment of Danger

Ramani said that Russia’s threat could be more severe if the country feels humiliated at the front lines. Particularly, the threat could be posed by military setbacks in Ukraine on May 9. That’s Russia’s “Victory Day” — the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II.

Putin has a track record of increasing unpredictability when he believes Russia is being embarrassed. [of May]”Then there’s the risk of unbreakable actions,” he stated. “But, there’s also the logic of mutually assured devastation that will hopefully rein everyone in.”

The threat of nuclear attacks is part Putin’s strategy,” according to William Alberque director of technology, strategy and arms control at International Institute for Strategic Studies.

CNBC’s Thursday interview with Putin revealed that Putin loves taking chances and believes he has more risk appetite than the West. “He is trying to follow the old strategy of “if you terrify me enough, you’ll give up,” he stated.

Alberque explained that Russia could become a “global pariah” if the dictator uses nuclear weapons. His advice to Western leaders was: “We need to be able manage our risk, keep our nerve, and not panic when we don’t expect it.”

CNBC has not heard from Liviu Horovitz (a German Institute for International and Security Affairs nuclear policy researcher), that there is any indication of a direct confrontation.

“Both the United States and Western European governments have repeatedly said that they have no interest in escalating this conflict beyond Ukraine, and I don’t see anything suggesting that NATO troops will be fighting in Ukraine anytime soon.”

He noted that even if there was a larger war, NATO’s conventional capabilities would outpace Russia’s. What’s important now is that “all sides should avoid any steps that could create misunderstandings,” he said — steps that could lead to an accidental and potentially catastrophic war.

Economic warfare

Russian troops patrol Mariupol in Ukraine. The Russian Army took control of the area on April 22nd 2022. Analysts stated, “Russia’s war against Ukraine has no end in sight and relations will continue to deteriorate.”

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia, for its part, has attempted to cause pain in Europe by importing Russian natural gas. This week it suspended supplies to Poland and Bulgaria because they refused to pay for the gas in rubles. The EU branded Russia’s actions as “blackmail”, but Moscow defended them.

A direct confrontation between Russia, the West and Russia is not likely. However, one Russia-watcher close to me said the West should train their citizens with “war mentality”, to be ready for any economic hardships that may result from the conflict. The consequences include higher energy prices, disruptions in supply chains and the import of goods from Russia or Ukraine. These are two major “breadbaskets” around the globe.

Maximilian Hess of the Foreign Policy Research Institute told CNBC that there will likely be an increase in the economic conflict. “In some ways that’s a rational move by both sides that have had a very difficult time fighting each other in a direct manner because of the nuke escalation risk,” Maximilian Hess said.

Russia will stop gas from more countries. It will also increase ruble requirements to maintain ruble conversionibility. Therefore, the West should be prepared for war with full war mentality. Making the West understand the economic impact of this on their economies and how it affects inflation in the years ahead.

Hess stated, “If we don’t adopt this war mentality to the economic war it will be a lot simpler for Putin to win there and have success there.”

Additional flashpoints worth watching

Andrius Tursa is a Central and Eastern Europe Advisor at Teneo Intelligence. He stated that Russia’s conflict in Ukraine has no end in sight and that relations with the West are likely to continue to decline.

Russia has already changed its rhetoric from a statement of war against the “nationalists in Ukraine” to an alleged proxy war with NATO. He said that multiple flashpoints could increase tensions with West.” In a Wednesday note, Tursa indicated that recent explosions in Transnistria in Transnistria in Moldova are a possible pretext for a greater Russian presence. These could lead to the conflict being “dangerously near NATO’s borders.”

Moscow may also increase threats against NATO regarding weapons supplies to Ukraine. This is especially true after numerous military and energy facilities in Russia were allegedly attacked by Ukraine. Moscow would perceive the decisions of Finland and Sweden to join NATO as a security threat and increase tensions within the Baltic Region.