June 30, 2015

"Hybrid Peace-2" for Ukraine: neither War, nor Peace

Yuriy Radkovets

 

The development of recent events surrounding the Russian Federation's armed aggression against Ukraine, suggests that the qualitatively new situation that has arisen today in the east of our country is characterized by a certain “dynamic equilibrium” of the opposing forces.

Thus, V. Putin's regime in its attitude to Ukraine sticks to its strategic goals and resource- technical capabilities to implement them by scaling up the military invasion of the Russian-Ukrainian separatist forces deep into the Ukrainian territory.

At the same time, the threat of increased use against Russian of the USA and EU's increased political and economic sanctions, strengthening of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and growth of their defense capabilities in the conflict zone, as well as Ukraine's determination and readiness to defend its national interests, in a certain way restrain Russia from large-scale activating of fighting in the Donbas.

In this context, V. Putin's decision on the temporary suspension of the full-scale implementation of his military plans regarding Ukraine was greatly influenced by the visits to Russia in May 2015 of the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The US and the EU's representatives actually in an ultimatum form declared to the Russian leadership about the inadmissibility of further advance of Russian-separatist forces.

At this, according to some sources, apart from confirming the intentions of the Western countries and international organizations to impose new sanctions against Russia in case of its further ignoring the Minsk agreements and escalation of conflict in the Donbas, John Kerry also provided V. Putin with evidence of the criminal activities of his inner circle, which could cause V. Putin's personal tangible political and financial losses.

The intentions of the leading world countries to continue sanctions against Russia as well as to strengthen them in case of escalation by Moscow of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine, were also confirmed by the US President Barack Obama during the “Big Seven” Summit on June 7-8 in Germany and implemented at the EU Summit 25-26 June this year.

That is why V. Putin so far has been refraining from deploying a large-scale offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, continuing putting pressure on Ukraine, as well as strengthening Russia's positions in the occupied Ukrainian territories.

Thus, Moscow, seeking to avoid increasing political and economic pressure from the USA and the EU, while preserving the possibility at this stage to achieve its goals in Ukraine, is trying to:

  • As a minimum — to force Ukraine to comply with Moscow's terms for “freezing” the conflict in the East of our State through: actual federalization of Ukraine within the framework of the constitutional reform and local elections; recognition of the so-called “Donetsk” and “Luhansk” “People's Republic” (“DPR” and “LPR”) providing them with special autonomous status; legalization of armed groups of terrorists by the adoption of the so-called amnesty law; termination of the “economic blockade” of the “DPR” and “LPR”, which actually means the resumption of funding terrorist regimes in the occupied territories from the state budget of Ukraine;
  • as a maximum — to restore a pro-Russian government in Ukraine by implementing scenario of the so-called “Third Maidan”, in particular, having provoked a widespread socio-economic and political crisis in our country.

Russia is putting pressure on the leadership of Ukraine and Ukrainian community in the form of the continuing practice of application of economic and trade wars, as well as provoking tensions in the conflict zone in the Donbas. This is evidenced by the systematic shelling of positions of Ukrainian troops in the line dividing the sides, the Russian separatist forces' local offensive actions in certain areas, and the deployment of subversive and terrorist activities on the Ukrainian territory. In particular, following the events in Debaltseve in January-February this year, the most resonant was the enemy's provocative offensive in the area of ​​human settlements of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka June 3, on the eve of the meeting of the “Big Seven” in Germany.

To further destabilize the situation in Ukraine, to cause losses to the Ukrainian economy, to deplete Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, as well as to spread panic in the Ukrainian society (especially on the eve of local elections), Russia will try to intensify subotage and terrorist activities on the whole territory of our State, especially at the objects of critical infrastructure and those of socio-economic, cultural and religious value. Obviously, the Kremlin will strengthen its cooperation with all sorts of political forces and individual organizations and individuals of pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian orientation, including in the Ukrainian Parliament and local authorities.

Within this framework, Russia will try to achieve the desired even before the moment when in the Russian Federation itself under the influence of Western sanctions, the socio-economic problems will get worsened critically. First of all, it will come from the existing volume of its gold reserves, needed to maintain the Russian economy, and will take into account the USA and EU's position concerning the continuation or termination (easing) of political and economic pressure on Russia.

Based on the above-mentioned, the key periods of the Russian leadership's taking of critical decisions on the future strategy and tactics in the Ukrainian direction may be as follows:

  • October 2015 — the pre-appointed time for local elections in Ukraine;
  • December 2015 — the pre-appointed time for the next (after June of this year) considering in the EU of the issue of further direction of the policy of sanctions against Russia;
  • the beginning of 2016 — the expected time of the critical reduction of foreign exchange reserves of the Russian Federation and the beginning of uncontrolled processes in the Russian economy.

Depending on the nature of the situation, V. Putin's regime may choose at least three options:

  1. transition to the effective implementation of the Minsk agreements — in case of immediate continuation (strengthening) of the US and EU sanctions against Russia, beginning of the large-scale socio-economic crisis in the country, as well as Ukraine's defending its clear and uncompromising positions (Russia's giving up the support for the separatist and terrorist forces, withdrawal of Russian troops, weapons and military equipment from the territory of Donbas, regaining control on the Ukrainian-Russian border, as well as the return of the Crimea into Ukraine), and increasing its efforts to protect its national interest, including by force;
  2. increasing (building up) pressure on Ukraine in the political-diplomatic, economic (especially energy) and military-terrorist spheres if the Kremlin manages to cope with the Western political and economic sanctions and controls the financial and economic situation in the country, as well as achieves certain “success of the Russian policy on the Ukrainian direction”;
  3. activation and expansion of offensive operations in the East of Ukraine (including blocking Mariupol and moving towards the Crimea and Trans-Dniester) in case if Western countries are not united in their attitude to Russia, as well as if the socio-economic and political problems in Ukraine are worsen dramatically.

Today, the leaders of Russia, given the unpredictability and the difficulty of forecasting further development of the situation, is preparing for a possible implementation of all of the above-mentioned options, as evidenced by:

Regarding the first option — the suspension of the so-called Russian implementation of the project “Novorossiya”; the physical elimination of the most odious, uncontrollable and unpredictable leaders of illegal armed groups; the construction of artificial obstacles on the border with the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

Regarding the second option — the continued presence of Russian troops on the territory of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”; Russia's providing assistance in the development of armed formations of separatists; creation of a system of comprehensive support for Russian- separatist forces in the occupied territories of Ukraine; stockpiling of weapons, ammunition, petroleum, oil, lubricants in the conflict zone;

Regarding the third option — building up the grouping of the armed forces of the Russian Federation near the borders of Ukraine and building up an operational reserve; continued active operational and combat trainings of the Russian troops in the southwestern strategic direction, mainly of offensive and provocative orientation.

https://informnapalm.org/

At the same time, despite the uncertainty (in the terms of time frames) of V. Putin's regime's actions, concerning the direction and content of future efforts in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow is likely to implement the second option (at least until the end of 2015), best suiting its current goals and opportunities.

This does not exclude the possibility of “cyclical” Russia's actions to intensify and expand the scale of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine in order to force it to fulfill Russian conditions of the settlement of the conflict. In particular, such actions are possible in response to Ukraine's measures for strengthening control of the demarcation line with the “DPR” and “LPR”, which does not meet the interests of the Russian Federation, trying to return the self-proclaimed republics formally into our state, preserving the actual control over them.

Besides, a separate reason for Russia's escalation of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine could be Russia's desire to stop the trend of mass moral corruption of members of illegal armed formations (IAF) by involving them in active hostilities. By some estimates, today this trend not only reduces the combat capabilities of the IAF and causes an additional aggravation of the situation in the “DPR” and “LPR” (because of the ugly behavior of militants towards the local population), but it also is a serious threat of instability for neighboring regions of Russia. Thus, according to law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation, since the beginning of this year, the number of serious crimes in Rostov region has increased by more than 30 %.

At the same time, because of unscrupulousness, cynicism and irresponsibility of V. Putin's regime, one could argue that the threat of a large-scale military invasion of Russia in Ukraine, as the last and most radical means of “solution of the Ukrainian question” still exists.

https://informnapalm.org/

This is evidenced by the plan of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to seize the Left-Bank Ukraine, brought to light on 16 June, 2015 by the Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine A. Herashchenko. The plan provides for a rapid establishment of control over the territories and communications of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Poltava, Chernihiv and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. The invasion also will be carried out under the guise of the so-called “Militants” of the “DPR” and “LPR” in order to “resume the constitutional order in Ukraine.”

It is hard to tell whether the document is genuine. However, based on Russia's current policy and actions towards Ukraine, one should not even doubt in the existence of such a plan, and that Moscow is ready to implement it practically.

 

So, in the conflict against Ukraine V. Putin, most likely has seriously overestimated his capabilities. That is why he will have to act now more cautiously, without resorting to open warfare. That is, most likely, there will be no open war, but tensions, constant threat of escalation, as well as a range of non-military confrontation — sabotage and terrorism, financial and economic (primarily debt and energy), and so on — will remain.

Today Russia simply does not have the resources to conduct an open war. Potentially, the Russian army could defeat the Ukrainian one. But Russia will not be able to provide its military in the offensive. Besides, the Kremlin must always keep in mind the unpredictable USA and NATO that can intervene in the conflict to support Ukraine from the air.

 

The article was published in the editions of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company” —

“Geostrategic Pulse” № 196/5th of August 2015 and № 203/5th of December 2015.