Military and intelligence analysts and Ukraine scholars offered a somber assessment of the weeks ahead in Ukraine, saying that despite the resistance offered by Ukrainian fighters, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday at Harvard Kennedy School’s JFK Jr. Forum that the invasion’s slow pace is going to make Russian President Vladimir Putin anxious to bring it to a conclusion.
“I foresee worse coming in the days ahead,” said Carter, the Belfer Professor of Technology and Global Affairs and director of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “It’s going a lot worse than [Putin] expected. Therefore, there’s going to be some desperation. … I think he’s going to turn the dial up on the violence.”
Carter, who served as defense secretary during the Obama administration, said Putin has the forces to take Kyiv within weeks and that the Russian military doesn’t have a history of conducting itself with an eye toward minimizing civilian casualties.
He pointed to “unbelievably brutal” tactics used to subdue the civilian population of Chechnya, where casualties were estimated in the tens of thousands, and said that, if Putin appears interested in finding a way out of the conflict short of resorting to that brutality, Western nations should help him find it.
Carter said that while the timing was unexpected, nobody should be surprised that Putin took such a step, since he has made plain his grievances with the West and views of former Soviet nations since 2007, when he gave a speech in Munich that Carter said foreshadowed the hostilities.