Wake Up, it’s War Already

March 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The Russian president Vladimir Putin, FM Sergei Lavrov and the defence minister Sergei Shoigu have all recently said that ”Russia will not invade Ukraine” and ”have no intention to cross the border into Ukraine”. However, Russia have already done so, in Crimea, on the Strilkove spit north of Crimea and with covert elements in the eastern provinces of Ukraine. Whatever these three say, you can pretty much file it as an outright lie.

However you look at it, Ukraine is at war with Russia. It is hard to label the loss of Crimea to Russian subterfuge and aggression as anything but an act of war, albeit without a lot of shooting and casualties. Still, it’s a war, and it’s not over yet. Not until Crimea is returned to Ukraine or Russia completes the conquest of Ukraine. That few actually label this event as war is mind-boggling. It’s not just an annexation – it’s WAR.

Russia is currently attempting to win time, by more lying, stalling and flim-flam, so that she may complete her preparations for the final conquest before the world wakes up and takes appropriate counter-measures. The swift and easy theft of Crimea probably surprised the Russian leadership as much as it did the world, and it is likely so that Russian plans did not envisage quite such a rapid victory. The rear echelons are pedalling hard to keep up. In the mean time, Russia’s stalling is working very well indeed.

The logistics of a full-on assault on Ukraine proper are daunting, and Russia does not like to launch into such an adventure without a guarantee for success – no sane military commander will roll the dice without loading it heavily in his favour. This is why we are hearing reports of up to 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders. The defender can muster perhaps one tenth as much, and those are the kinds of odds Russia wants.

Even so, the bulk of those 100,000 troops are not needed for combat purposes. They are only there for intimidation: their pure presence is enough to twist anyone’s knickers. They don’t need to fight, and they are probably not expected to.

The real fighting – if it needs to come to that – will be done by a small contingent of paratroopers, airlanding troops and forward elements of elite armoured formations. All that is required is the very smallest of a pretext, such as a harried minority or a hostage situation involving Russian personnel. I’m sure you can imagine a few pretexts by yourself. From here on, it is all speculation:

Shortly before dawn on Monday, March 31, transport aircraft carrying paratroopers will race in and seize Kyiv Zhulyany airport and Kyiv Boryspil International airport. Any defending units there will have been neutralized beforehand by nefarious means or ”masked gunmen”. The troop-carriers are preceded by fighter sweeps and attack helicopters, cordoning off the airspace and delivering surgical strikes against radar installations and SAM-sites protecting the capital. Once the airports are secure, airlanding brigades carrying elite infantry will reinforce the paras and begin the short advance to their secondary objectives.

With the airports secure, huge load-bearing aircraft and heavy helicopters will start bringing in armoured personnel carriers and other heavy equipment. By this time, the Ukranian parliament, TV-stations and other key installations are in Russian hands. All this takes place in the space of a few hours and is complete by noon.

Meanwhile, an armoured contingent rolls out from the “partisan woods” around Churovichi, Klimov and Novozybkov in Bryansk oblast and makes their way along E95 toward Chernihiv. There, an airlanding brigade has secured three vital river crossings against very light opposition. The defenders, occupying shallow holes in the ground and armed with nothing heavier than a BTR’s heavy machine-gun put up no more than token resistance as Russian helicopters approach with maximum shock and awe. Once the Chernihiv crossings are secure, Russian armour speed unhindered to Kyiv to bolster the already imposing presence there.

All of this is achieved with very little bloodshed. The speed and massive appearance of the Russian force stuns the defenders, and the world. In just a few short hours, Putin has overturned the table and created a new, terrifyingly convincing, bargaining position. What’s to stop him? The ridiculous Ukranian army, deployed at the borders which are now well to the rear and a complete non-factor? The 20,000 volunteer militia? Some try to make a fight of it but most of them melt away, some to become partisans, others to sullen diaspora and most to whatever they were doing before all this started.

By noon on Monday Ukraine is without leadership and without practical means to communicate, either with the world or with elements of its army busy defending the borders in the Kherson, Luchansk and Kharkiv oblasts. The Russian military expedition is subsequently expanded to these areas as well, but only after the Ukranian defenders have become totally demoralized by the lack of direction and the obvious loss of the capital. There is nothing left to fight for. The borders capitulate without a fight, within the space of a week, just as planned.

NATO can only watch and take notes. They have no formal right to intervene, and, while Russia dispenses with protocol in its invasion, NATO is not going to be dragged into a fight for which it has not prepared. It will be another week before NATO musters enough hardware and warm bodies to do anything more than act out a pantomime of frontier security for the benefit of Ukraine’s immediate neighbours. By then the diplomatic and military situation has shifted again, and Ukraine’s new borders have been established – along the Dniepr.

What if nothing of this transpires? What if the world wakes up to Russia’s flim-flam and take appropriate measures to pre-empt or forestall entirely Russia’s next move? Can the West do anything without being branded provocateur by Russia and condemned by the rest of the world? Keeping in mind that Russia has already initiated a WAR against Ukraine, it seems like ”appropriate countermeasures” is not only diplomatically kosher, but legal and recommended too. Problem is, it is probably altogether too late in the day already.

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