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The Roundtable: Will Putin Escalate the War?

Increased aggression is still on the table, but it's unlikely to advance Moscow interests.

The war in Ukraine has passed its three-month mark, and while media attention has dissipated, the conflict continues to rage on. A panel of experts joined Roundtable to discuss the ongoing developments and their geopolitical and military implications. In this segment, they discuss how and why Putin might still choose to escalate the war.

Kris Osborn notes that escalation would bring an increased threat of nuclear conflict with NATO, but says this is part of official Kremlin policy, reflecting what appears to be an increased risk-appetite in Moscow. 

“The big discussion at the Pentagon is that Russia has this escalate-to-de-escalate policy. Can you truly hold the rest of the world hostage with this threat of nuclear power, and is that sufficient to keep the west at bay? That's a fascinating question, and an important one," he says. 

Osborn further observes, “There’s been speculation about Putin's health and where he might be coming from. Many say he's not known to be a rational actor.”

John Ruehl says that Russia continues to downplay the war internally, and an escalation could lead to more internal dissent.

“They could send in way more air support. They could be bombing mercilessly. They're holding back one because they want to say it's a limited war,” says Ruehl. 

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“They still see Ukraine as a brotherly country that they don't want to hurt per se. They would like to minimize as much as possible the perception of what they're doing."

Watch the full discussion below:

Roundtable Guests:

Kris Osborn, Cofounder, Warrior Maven

John Ruehl, Contributing Editor, Strategic Policy