August 12, 2016

A Controlled Conflict: the Algorithm of Russia's New Acts of Aggression against Ukraine

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

In previous studies, experts of the Independent Analytical Centre for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” have repeatedly stressed the relatively high probability of intensifying and scaling up of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine from mid-August of this year. A similar opinion is shared by the majority of Ukrainian, Western, and even Russian experts. At this, they give different estimates of V. Putin's possible steps and their goals. At the same time, so far there is no clear and comprehensive vision of the strategy and tactics of Moscow's actions to achieve its goals for Ukraine in the short and long term. Given the fundamental importance of these issues for the interests and security of our Country, it is advisable to once again come back to them.

 

So, at this stage the main goal of Moscow is to create preconditions for the abolition of the USA and EU's sanctions against Russia with the simultaneous implementation of Russian interests in relation to Ukraine (first of all, disintegration of our State and returning it under the Russian Federation's control). These issues are of particular relevance to the Putin regime in the context of the approaching parliamentary elections in Russia this autumn, which makes the Russian leadership demonstrate obvious success of its policy.

To achieve these goals, within the framework of its “hybrid war” against Ukraine, today Russia is implementing the scenario of a “controlled conflict” in our State, which provides for:

  • Discrediting the Ukrainian leadership, which “cannot ensure stability in the country” and thus is “responsible for the conflict in the Donbas”. Based on this, Moscow would raise questions before the USA and the EU about the “lack of justification for the continuation of sanctions against Russia”;
  • Creating conditions for restoration of pro-Russian government in Ukraine. According to V. Putin's regime's expectations, such a government could easily take decisions which would suit the Kremlin, first of all on the issue of the Crimea's belonging and agreeing to Russia's conditions of settlement of the conflict in the Donbas, or at least reducing the sharpness for the Ukrainian society of the problem of restoration of territorial integrity of the country.

Such a scenario was implemented by Russia after the completion of the active phase of its military aggression against Georgia in August 2008.

As part of the above-mentioned approach, very important for Moscow becomes a series of key events with the relevant time limits, namely: parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation in September 2016, the EU's next revision of sanctions policy against Russia in October 2016, as well as presidential elections in the USA in November 2016.

Taking into consideration these circumstances, Putin's regime gradually carries out a set of interrelated activities of political, economic, special and informational nature, united under a single plan of actions against Ukraine.

The preparatory phase of the plan began in March and April 2016, and will continue until approximately the second half of August 2016.

At this stage, Russia has stepped up military operations in the conflict zone in the Donbas in order to strengthen pressure on the leadership of Ukraine, causing additional tension in the Ukrainian society, as well as moral and physical exhaustion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“Truce” in the Donbas

Such provocative actions of Russia's are accompanied by shelling of peaceful settlements on the territory of self-proclaimed republics that are used by Moscow for accusing our Country of “violating the Minsk Agreements” and statements about “Ukraine's preparations for the use of force to regain control over the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. This way an excuse is being created for further expansion of the armed conflict in the Donbas under the guise of “actions in response to Ukraine's offensive”.

At the same time, in July of 2016 Russia launched massive public actions of different shapes and orientation, which are carried out for the sake of preparing a large-scale destabilization of the political situation in Ukraine, as well as to test the Ukrainian leadership's reaction and its ability to counter social unrest.

The active phase of Russian action plan for the implementation of a controlled conflict in Ukraine can begin in the second half of August 2016 and last until October this year.

At this stage, we may expect the Russian-terrorist troops' limited offensive operations on one of the most important directions for Ukraine in the conflict zone in the Donbas. At this, to create another good reason, a resonant terrorist attack related to massive killing of civilians and a murder of one of the separatist leaders can be organized on the territories controlled by the “DPR” and “LPR”.

During the offensive, the Russian side would try to inflict the greatest possible damage to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in order to demoralize them, to stop their further resistance, and to provoke “an explosion” of anti-government sentiments in the Ukrainian society.

In turn, the above-mentioned would be used by Moscow as a catalyst for the spread of mass protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities under the slogans of resignation of the leadership of Ukraine and holding early parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as the expansion of regional rights (up to granting them the status of autonomies). During such actions unrest would be organized, including clashes with the police, blocking transport communications, attempts to seize government buildings and so on.

All this would be accompanied by the Russian Federation's active information campaign with the “evidence” of “the Ukrainian leadership's losing control over the situation in the country”, “unlawful use of force by the authorities against the civilian population”, “Kyiv's purposeful exacerbation of the armed conflict in the Donbas to divert the society's attention from domestic problems”, etc.

The final phase of the plan could be launched by Russia against the background of a peak aggravation of the situation in Ukraine, tentatively in October 2016.

In this situation, Russia could initiate adoption of a new “road map” to resolve the situation around Ukraine — a so-called “Minsk-3”. The main directions of this Moscow's approach were presented during the meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk as a joint document of Russia and the “DPR”/“LPR”. These would include the following demands to Ukraine: termination of the ATO in the Donbas and the economic blockade of the breakaway republics; entry into force in its entirety and on a permanent basis of the law on the special status of the Donbas (“On the Special Status of Certain Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions”) without any time limits, as well as amendments of its provisions to the Constitution of Ukraine; providing full and unconditional amnesty to militants, as well as local elections in the Donbas.

This initiative would be promoted by Russia within the framework of the “Normandy format”, and in other formats, in particular among Ukraine's partner countries, which expressed willingness to join the development of the “road map” to resolve the conflict in the Donbas.

Besides, Moscow could offer its mediation role in establishing dialogue between the Ukrainian authorities and the central leadership of the “DPR”/“LPR”. At this, it would demand holding early parliamentary and presidential elections in Ukraine, federalization of the State, moratorium on Ukraine's joining NATO, and so on.

This Russia's activity would be accompanied by Moscow's active attempts to establish a political dialogue with the USA and the EU, first of all in the context of imposing on Western countries and international organizations the Kremlin's approaches to the settlement of the situation in the Donbas, as well as assuring Ukraine's partners that continuation of the sanctions against the Russian Federation would be inappropriate.

 

In case of failure of Moscow's above-mentioned plans, V. Putin's regime would intensify activities to destabilize the situation in the whole territory of Ukraine (according to the scenario, similar to the “Russian spring” of 2014), and would keep intensifying combat actions in the Donbas.

As an ultimate means to resolve the “Ukrainian issue”, Russia could resort to conducting a full-scale offensive against Ukraine under the slogan of “protection of the Russian-speaking population” in southern and eastern regions of our State and of the Russian population in the “terrorism-hit” Crimea. At this, the preparatory stage of this operation would be strategic exercises “Caucasus-2016”, scheduled for this autumn in the Southern Military District of Russia, that is close to the Crimea and the conflict zone in the East of Ukraine. Carrying out similar exercises in the summer of 2008 was the prelude to Russia's attack on Georgia. In preparation for and during the Strategic Command Post Exercise (SCPE) “Caucasus-2016”, provocations are possible, like those that have been carried out recently in the Crimea.

In this context, Russia would also rely on diversion of attention of the USA as Ukraine's main ally, to its own internal problems due to the electoral process in the country that would not allow Washington to promptly respond to Moscow's actions.

 

To date, there is a number of signs of Russia's practical implementing of the above-mentioned plan. The evidence of this is as follows: preservation of the increased level of tension in the conflict zone in the Donbas, despite the Western countries' leader's attempts to influence Moscow's position and the regular meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk; strengthening groups of Russian- terrorist forces in the occupied territories of Ukraine and of the Russian Armed Forces near the Ukrainian border; Russia's accusing Ukraine of violating the Minsk Agreements, which is voiced by Moscow in the UN, OSCE and other international organizations, and is a separate direction of the Russian Federation's information campaign against our Country; the terrorist leaders' threats “to take adequate measures against Ukraine”; activation in Ukraine of different kinds of protests and other provocative actions with a significant number of participants (in particular, the so-called “Sacred Procession” under de facto pro-Russian slogans).

 

These actions of the Russian side are a direct threat to national security of Ukraine and actually become an aggressive challenge to its independence and sovereignty. At this, the above-mentioned threat can be realized by Moscow already during the nearest time, which requires from our State mobilization of all its resources to reject the Putin regime's possible aggression.