New report: – Putin has been very hesitant

– Putin has consistently ignored, postponed or only partially implemented several decisions that were probably necessary for the invasion, writes the renowned think tank the Institute for the Study of War in a report published on 5 February this year.

About a year after Putin first launched the war of invasion in Ukraine, it is again expected that Russia may launch a large-scale offensive in the country.

Putin’s spring dilemma: – Only bad options

If they are to manage to get something out of it, the Kremlin’s invasion forces are probably dependent on doing far better than what they managed last year.

At the top of the power structure sits Putin, allegedly as an absolute decision-maker.

But the Russian president, who over the past twenty years has often gone to great lengths to establish himself as a strong and competent leader, is, according to ISW’s review, characterized by an inability to make difficult decisions.

– Putin continued to choose the less risky options, even when he was confronted with military blunders that spiraled out of control in the autumn of 2022, the think tank writes about Putin’s choices so far in the war.

ANTI-TANKS MINE: “Yuris” Humvee hits an anti-tank mine during an attack on Russian positions in the Mykolaiv region, November 8. Video: @nucking_futs_yuri. Reporter: Vegard Krüger.
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Radical decisions

Chief researcher at the Norwegian Defense Research Institute (FFI), Tor Bukkvoll, speaks both Russian and Ukrainian, and has complementary expertise on the security policy of both warring parties.

He has read the report from ISW and tells Dagbladet that it is interesting, but not particularly surprising.

– It correctly points to a number of cases where Putin has been very hesitant to make radical decisions – radical in the sense that they are decisions that he understands can have major disadvantages, says Bukkvoll.

Read more:  “Our life in the hands of a madman. And we who pretend not to see »-
- Can happen within ten days

– Can happen within ten days

He refers to the biography “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, which he describes as perhaps the best biography written about the Russian president.

Based on this understanding of Putin, Bukkvoll believes, the unwillingness of the Kremlin top to take “radical decisions” can be seen in the context of the time he served in the Soviet intelligence service KGB.

– It may be due to his personality, but it may also be due to his training in the KGB. In the KGB, there was a great focus on never putting oneself in a situation from which there was no way out, the chief researcher believes.

CHIEF RESEARCHER: Tor Bukkvoll is chief researcher at the Defense Research Institute, and one of the country's foremost experts on Russian and Ukrainian security policy.  Photo: Norwegian Defense Research Institute

CHIEF RESEARCHER: Tor Bukkvoll is chief researcher at the Defense Research Institute, and one of the country’s foremost experts on Russian and Ukrainian security policy. Photo: Norwegian Defense Research Institute
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– Without problems

Both Bukkvoll and ISW point to the fact that the president made the dramatic decision to invade Russia’s neighboring country Ukraine in February last year as a likely result of Putin receiving bad information.

– Putin probably acted on the mistaken assumption that Russian forces could force Kyiv to capitulate without major military losses, and saw Russia’s invasion as a limited and acceptable risk, writes ISW.

– The decision to invade Ukraine seemed very radical to us at the time, but if he thought that it was going to go more or less without problems, then it was not for Putin, says Bukkvoll.

ISW points out that military plans intercepted by the West showed that the Kremlin believed Russian forces would be able to take Kyiv in days, and that they expected the Ukrainian military to collapse.

One year later, we know that these assumptions were very far from reality.

The Wagner defector's helper in Norway

The Wagner defector’s helper in Norway

– Speaking in their favor

According to ISW, Russia has now carried out several of the military reforms that should have been carried out ahead of the invasion last year, and there are signs that Putin has gathered the strength to make another attempt at a large-scale offensive in the near future.

Whether Russia will be successful with a new offensive is currently difficult to say, believes Bukkvoll, but points out that it is possible.

Russia will probably attack with larger forces and to take a smaller area than what they did last year. That speaks in their favor, says the FFI researcher.

- Not so safe in Norway

– Not so safe in Norway

At the same time, he points out that Russia must fight Ukrainian forces who are now prepared for the attack, unlike last year, and who have fortified positions that will be difficult to take.

If Russia were to fail in the war this time as well, which ISW has previously stated as likely, it could at best mean a withdrawal during the year, believes Bukkvoll.

– If you are to interpret it very positively, then you can think that if this offensive ends, then he can find a way to withdraw to avoid risking his own position. But, it is not certain – that caution may also have to give way to desperation, says Bukkvoll.

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