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“Crimea is a ‘red line’ for Putin”: Dr. Jeremy Morris discusses Ukraine war developments with Wikinews – Source – WikiNews

On February 24, the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, top European Union foreign policy official Josep Borrell warned of an imminent, “massive” Russian offensive.

Wikinews contacted Dr. Jeremy Morris, Professor of Russian and Balkan Studies at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark, for an interview. His responses last week are below.

In 2014, while affiliated with the University of Birmingham in England, Dr. Morris participated in a panel Wikinews interviewed on the Russian annexation of Crimea. The same year, he was shortlisted for the BBC Radio 4 program Thinking Alloweds Ethnography Award for his 2013 article Beyond coping? Alternatives to consumption within a social network of Russian workers, published in Ethnography.

His books include Everyday Postsocialism: Working-class Life Strategies in the Russian Margins, published in 2016.

Interview with Dr. Morris


Western foreign policy experts have talked much recently of a potential Ukrainian offensive to retake Crimea and whether such could succeed. What do you think?

A street in Kherson Oblast on February 21 after Russian shelling killed at least five and injured at least 16.
Image: National Police of Ukraine.

Jeremy Morris No one knows outside US intelligence because it is unclear how many usable troops Ukrainians can put into an offensive. Many emphasise high Russian losses, but Ukrainian losses are also very high.

WN If you were Ukrainian leadership, what would your plan be for such an offensive? Are there are other regions you would attack first?

Jeremy Morris I would not try to take Crimea before re-taking all of the Donbas. Crimea is easy to defend. Also Crimea is a ‘red line’ for Putin – an offensive would lead to significant escalation from [the] Russian side.

WN Now, the same for Russia: how would you shore up defenses in the south-Kherson Oblast and Crimea-, while taking care not to leave exposed eastern regions such as the Donetsk and Luhansk?

Jeremy Morris It’s hard to imagine how big these fronts are. Until one side can really effectively use combined arms, there won’t be a sustained move in lines. It’s more about reserves and manpower because any offensive will result in mass casualties, as we’ve seen already.

A diamond formation of nine Royal Danish Air Force F-16s at the 2014 Danish Air Show.
Image: Slaunger.

WN Do you think the West will donate fighter jets to Ukraine, as the latter has asked?

Jeremy Morris This is probably inevitable, but will lead to escalation on [the] Russian side.

WN Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday Russia will suspend (but not withdraw from) the New START nuclear control agreement between it and the US. Do you think this is a bluff or a serious decision?

Jeremy Morris It is a serious decision, but one taken from a position of weakness – [the] US can easily ‘out-develop’ new nuclear delivery vehicles and Russia’s advanced industrial capacity is much more limited than many think.

WN How does the Russian economy look? Have Western sanctions had a tangible impact?

Jeremy Morris On economy – yes, a serious effect on living standards. However, a high intensity [World War I]-style conflict could be sustained for many years by Russia unless Ukraine uses more advanced weapons and tactics.