During a Thursday speech addressing Russian parliament officials, President Vladimir Putin warned that the military has barely started its operations in Ukraine - suggesting he sees a long haul fight possibly for the whole of Ukraine ahead - in a direct challenge to the West as it continues to send arms to Kiev.
It's being widely viewed as one of the fiercest speeches and challenges issued to Western backers of Ukraine since he authorized the Feb.24 invasion. He said that "the West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian" - which he called a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, before adding, "It looks like it's heading in that direction," and then put the world on notice that Russia "by and large hasn't started anything seriously yet."
"Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can you say here? Let them try," Putin said, in a direct challenge to the US and NATO, though without naming them specifically.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin says let them try if the West wishes to defeat Russia on the battlefield pic.twitter.com/1WrPcAUfKD— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) July 7, 2022
"At the same time, we don’t reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us," he added, according to a translation carried in Reuters.
Other translations of the speech quoted Putin as saying Russia's military hasn't started anything "in earnest yet". He charged that it was the West that started hostilities through the war in Donbas - ongoing since 2014. Putin further reiterated a prior theme he's spoken about of witnessing the birth of a multi-polar world due to Russia's resistance to NATO hegemony, according his words cited in The Moscow Times:
He accused "the collective West" of unleashing a "war" in Ukraine and said Russia's intervention in the pro-Western country marked the beginning of a shift to a "multi-polar world."
"This process cannot be stopped," he added.
He also warned Kyiv and its Western allies that Moscow has not even started its military campaign in Ukraine "in earnest."
"Everyone should know that we have not started in earnest yet," he said.
He also seemed to aim comments at the domestic populations of the West, and hinted at the resistance of BRICS countries to "totalitarian liberalism":
Putin said most countries did not want to follow the Western model of "totalitarian liberalism" and "hypocritical double standards."
"People in most countries do not want such a life and such a future," he said.
"They are simply tired of kneeling, humiliating themselves in front of those who consider themselves exceptional."
Given that this week the Pentagon has said it will introduce further advanced and longer range weapons systems into Ukraine's arsenal, the Russia-NATO game of chicken looks to continue dangerously into the indefinite future. Statements from US, UK, and EU officials have meanwhile continued calling for domestic populations to "sacrifice".
Biden said last week that this will go on "for as long as it takes"...
🚨: NY Times' Jim Tankersley asks Biden, "How long is it fair to expect American drivers to pay that premium" for the war in Ukraine?— John Cooper (@thejcoop) June 30, 2022
Biden: "As long as it takes." pic.twitter.com/PnRX95xT48
The US Pentagon says it will supply Ukraine with two NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems and four Raytheon AN/TPQ-37anti-artillery radar systems, introducing two new advanced weapons systems into Ukraine’s arsenal.
Putin's rhetoric as well as that of his top national security officials has grown bolder especially coming off Russian forces capturing all of Luhansk province, following Ukraine's retreat from Lysychansk city. Russian troops and their Ukrainian separatist allies are now expected to push to liberate all of the Donbas, with a siege against against the strategically located Kramatorsk city having begun this week.
Of course, none of this bodes well at all for the already bleak near and long-term outlook regarding energy, food supply, and continued global economic uncertainty persisting in the wake of the war. Recall too that given the initial Russian invasion force numbered about 190,000 troops, and that according to most estimates Russia has some 900,000 active military members across land, sea, and air - with around two million reservists to boot - Moscow does have at least the manpower capable to sustain the war in Ukraine. There's also speculation that Belarus could join at anytime.
Add to this that the Kremlin took a major step toward placing its economy on a war footing this week, as Reuters reported earlier, "The Russian government will be able to compel businesses to supply the military with goods and make their employees work overtime under two laws to support Moscow's war in Ukraine that were approved in an initial vote in parliament on Tuesday."