by Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated from the Russian by Robin
Rostislav Ishchenko, political scientist and president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, was interviewed by Tatiana Dobrodeeva about the outlook for the counteroffensive by Novorossia’s army.
– How far and how fast can the Donetsk People’s Republic army continue its counteroffensive?
– Today the counterattack is for the most part over. Taking into account the territories already occupied by the militia, the most they can do is to control these areas and gradually advance by means of groups that carry out reconnaissance and small-scale attacks.
They have a complicated task: they need to control their communications, leave garrisons in the occupied towns, continue trapping the junta’s troops and destroying those already trapped, and at the same time keep up their offensive. But they don’t have the resources to achieve all these objectives. According to the most optimistic estimates published by the militia, they have 25,000 to 33,000 troops – enough to be victorious on the frontlines, but not enough to be able to control the territory.
Therefore, taking into account the depth of the offensive, it has done about as much as it can. The most the militia can do is to secure victory in the south by taking Mariupol, which is already surrounded, and to continue a partial offensive in the north to push the front line away from Donetsk and Lugansk.
Thus the potential of this offensive is limited to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Even so, they need time to regroup and reorganize, even taking into account the recently signed cease-fire. Theoretically, the offensive can continue uninterrupted, but only if protests against the Kiev government break out in Kharkov, Odessa, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, and Nikolayev.
If such protests are serious enough and sufficiently well supported, the militia will only have to lend them a hand. Then they will be able to mobilize more troops and move as far as the Dnieper.
But if they rely solely on the resources of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, then the militia will need a two- or three-week break to regroup and reorganize. The last time the militia needed to build up its forces, it took two or three weeks. And now, taking into account the captured equipment and the fact that the Kiev army has actually been defeated, they will need this break to increase their numbers and continue their advance.
Then, of course, after Kharkov, Odessa, and Zaporozhye are taken, the militia will have new resources they can mobilize, and then Kiev won’t stand a chance. Frankly they don’t have a chance even now. But then they would not even theoretically have a chance, and the militia could easily advance right up to Lvov. But, as of today, we must expect that the militia will take time to regroup, so that they can increase their strength and then launch the next offensive between the end of September and mid-October.
– During this break, can the junta resume its offensive against the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic?
– They won’t be able to resume their offensive because they’ve already lost a significant portion of their truly motivated people. Their mobilization efforts have failed because no one wants to fight the war anymore. Everybody wants to win, but nobody wants to fight. Moreover, in terms of technical strength, the sides are now roughly equal. Before, the junta had significant superiority in terms of tanks, aircraft, and artillery, but now the ratio for artillery is 1:1 and for tanks it’s 1:2. Military aircraft are no longer flying because they just get shot down.
Now the sides are equal but the militia are much more motivated. Therefore, if the militia had had enough resources to control the occupied territories, they could have advanced all the way to Lvov and they would have been unstoppable. The junta is in no position to launch a new offensive; they just don’t have the strength.
At best, they could try to consolidate all their units to create a serious front line along the Dnieper and Desna, and try to defend themselves. That’s the most they can do: to try to spill as much of the militia’s blood as possible and then come to some arrangement about the territories.
But in terms of domestic politics, taking into account the fact that the junta is channeling all its resources into “the fight for the Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” anyone who negotiates an agreement recognizing that at least two regions will not be part of the Ukraine is a political corpse.
So the junta has no option but to fight to a victorious finish – except that the victorious finish will belong not to the junta but to the militia.
– What is the likelihood that the junta will survive in its current form, given the mass protests against it in Kiev?
– There’s no chance because, to preserve the junta, it will have to be propped up. But no one will do that. The United States and all other sponsors want the junta to disappear. The only thing they are concerned about is how to pull their tails out of there without getting them stepped on. So the question now is not whether to preserve the regime in Kiev, but how to surrender it in such a way that the sponsors get out on a break-even basis.
– What do you think is the likelihood of a third Maidan? And if there is one, who will be its sponsors?
– A third Maidan would be altogether different. The first Maidan was a real mass movement, with tens of thousands of people taking part. The second Maidan saw a total of only about 10,000 people, of whom half were Nazi militants and the other half were marginal. Any third Maidan will just consist of armed men who will kill Poroshenko and install a real Hitler in his place, because Poroshenko isn’t a real Hitler, and the Nazis need the real thing. It won’t be a Maidan; it will be the next coup d’état.
– Has the geopolitical situation around the Ukraine changed?
– The situation hasn’t changed. Whatever anyone says, in reality the Ukrainian crisis is part of a global crisis – the global confrontation between the United States and Russia. Russia has already become the second superpower, and the United States is trying to go back to a time when it was the sole superpower – hence Afghanistan, Georgia, Syria, and now the Ukraine. So what is happening in the Ukraine is a confrontation between the United States and Russia. All the others are only minor conflicts.