by Rostislav Ishchenko for Actual Comment
Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Russia keeps its most powerful grouping of troops in the western direction. Just according to official figures the equivalent of ten divisions under the control of three army HQs – not counting the grouping in Crimea, airborne divisions and forces of special operations, and also two (Baltic and Black Sea) fleets, the Caspian flotilla, the revived Mediterranean squadron, and the grouping in Syria – is concentrated in the space from the Caucasus to the Baltics. I think that I wouldn’t be mistaken if I said that over half of the fighting capacity of Russia is concentrated in the Western strategic direction. And the Ministry of Defence continues at a fast pace to increase forces in this direction. At the same time it is necessary to take into account that in recent years the Russian army gained the highest mobility, i.e., the grouping can be quickly additionally strengthened by transferring forces and means from other regions.
It is clear that this happens not because Sergey Shoigu decided to play with toy soldiers and not because Dmitry Medvedev has to spend budget money, and especially not because Vladimir Putin, showing external peacefulness, secretly plans bad things. The deployment of such a grouping of troops that is especially fully completed during war-time, as well as supplying them with the latest weapons systems and constructing modern military camps and training grounds from scratch, is an extremely expensive luxury for a country that is under sanctions and its economy showed only the first signs of growth and can be easily brought down back — to stagnation. Respectively, if such expensive actions are made, then it means that from this side Russia feels real military danger.
But what is this danger?
Our “dear partners” don’t strongly exaggerate when they claim that neither any European NATO army taken by itself, nor all of them taken together are able to resist the Armed Forces of Russia. It is also not a problem to prevent, with the help of the Air Force and the fleet, the transfer of troops from the US by closing, during a special period, access for convoys to European Atlantic ports. The US isn’t able to deploy in Europe a contingent much bigger than the existing one. And this isn’t even because it is expensive – some countries are ready to pay extra for the deployment of the American troops on their territory, but because of the difficulties in supplying a large group (and without a supply of everything necessary, the army is non-operational).
In general, the existing fighting potential concentrated by Russia in the western direction is enough in order to reach not just Kiev and Lvov, and even not just Warsaw, but even the Atlantic. Even if it isn’t in a week but in 2-3 months, and not without problems and losses.
So why is its further strengthening and improvement happening? After all, by 2025-2030, having not increased in number much, the Russian group in the West must increase its potential two-fold (and perhaps even more) only due to the completion of rearmament and the mastering of new control systems and the principles of conducting combat operations. And here we aren’t even taking into account the nuclear arsenal, which makes any attack on Russia suicidal.
Let’s start with smaller things that are closer to home. Recently Mikhail Denisenko – calling himself the Patriarch of Kiev and all Rus-Ukraine – stated that the expected reception from Constantinople of Tomos of Autocephaly will allow the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate not just to sharply increase its numbers at the expense of parishioners of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, but will make it “the only lawful Ukrainian church”. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, in his opinion, will be forcibly renamed into the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The most symbolic temples and monasteries – in particular, the Kiev-Pechersk and Pochaevskaya Lavras – will have to be expropriated from it.
It is clear that Denisenko won’t be able to solve this problem without violence. But violence means the start in Ukraine of a religious civil war. Groups of militants that will have to put the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate into a new framework now train themselves using Romanis, but are already ready to expand the area of terror to other ethnic minorities and to the Russian national majority, and also to use their acquired skills in the race for power among the Ukrainian clans.
I want to highlight that Denisenko himself, like most acting Ukrainian politicians and especially radical nationalist militants, can’t refuse terror, which provides the monopoly on power. They committed too many crimes in order to simply find themselves in opposition due to a loss of power. They risk going to prison, but taking into account that the international tribunals for war crimes more often than not use punishments that aren’t provided by national codes, so then it is possible that it can be the death penalty.
It must be kept in mind that Denisenko, irrespective of receiving Tomos, will realise his program of capturing absolute power in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The legalisation of his public organisation [the unrecognised Kiev Patriarchate – ed] by the Constantinople patriarchy, the recognition of it as the canonical church would give him additional benefits, but time is limited — Denisenko, and especially his militants, can’t wait infinitely. It is necessary to solve this issue before the termination of the next electoral cycle in Ukraine, which, by the way, most likely can end ahead of schedule and without elections in general. While the conflicting political camps (Poroshenko, on the one hand, and his political opponents who formed an oligarchical anti-Poroshenko consensus on the other hand) are busy fighting each other and need support, the window of opportunity for a forceful solution to the question with church buildings and status starts to open. If there is a delay, politicians, having solved their problems, can be much less inclined to look through their fingers at the forceful actions of Denisenko’s “patriarchate”.
As the question concerning power in Ukraine can be solved without waiting for elections, in the summer-winter of the current year Denisenko should also hurry and meet this deadline.
I.e., a multilayered conflict can appear in Ukraine, when the intra-Kiev civil conflict will be superimposed on civil war between Kiev and Donbass, and also religious war will start to flare up on top of all of this.
In this situation neither Russia, nor the western neighbors of Kiev from the EU can remain on the sidelines. However, the European Union is already going through a rough patch – contradictions between the poor South and the rich North constantly amplify, the contradictions between the pro-American East and the pro-European West of Europe are superimposed on this. In every individual state of the EU the conflict between nationalists, who demand an urgent restoration of relations with Russia, and globalists, who want to continue the confrontational policy of sanctions, smoulders and gradually inflames. The intervention of some EU members in the Ukrainian crisis can lead to an aggravation of all these contradictions to the limit and raise the question already not about the unity of the West, which was buried by Trump during the last G7 summit, but about the unity of the European Union itself and about the stability of separate national regimes of European countries.
Having become, willingly or unwillingly, the initiator and the catalyst of the disintegration of Ukraine, Europe risks repeating its fate during the next cycle of history, having caught an incurable infection from the corpse of Ukrainian statehood. Both Russia and the US have interests in Europe that are too serious in order to let matters drift, therefore intervention and the collision of interests will also be inevitable.
At the same time it should be kept in mind that not only in Ukraine, but also in the majority of European countries the acting political elites in a similar kind of crisis situation can’t refuse power without having exposed their lives and freedom to the most serious risk. And here we absolutely don’t even take into account the factor of foreign culture (Afro-Asian) migration, which will certainly significantly contribute to the destabilisation of both certain states and the European system in general.
We are in a situation when the world that is habitual to us can fall like a house of cards across all the space from the Atlantic to the Narva and Don. Any attempt to stabilise the situation at an early stage of the crisis before the EU has finally turned into Somalia, Afghanistan, or Ukraine will demand from Russia to immediately extend a hand to Germany as the economic and political center of Europe, and without involving Germany’s potential the fight against the European crisis will unambiguously turn into a Sisyphean task.
Germany is a weak country militarily, and its importance in controlling Europe is understood not only in Russia, but also in the US, which, should the European crisis start, will become an objective opponent of Moscow in the fight for the right to define the future of the continent. I.e., it is necessary for Russia to breakthrough and provide a corridor to Germany from the flanks. At this time there must be enough reserves should there be a need to support intermediary efforts aimed at preserving Germano-French unity. There will be a need to act quickly, anticipating the geopolitical opponent in three strategic directions at once (the main one: the Western direction and the accompanying Southwestern and Northwestern flanks). The number and qualitative predominance of the grouping must ensure, first of all, the suppression of any resistance of illegal and semi-legal formations. Secondly, it must nip in the bud any thoughts about possible official resistance inside all state structures. And, lastly, is mustn’t allow the US to involve in the conflict the troops that are already placed in Europe, because of the senselessness of such an action.
In this case it is not about aggression, but about ensuring the radical interests of both Russia and the European Union, preventing Europe from slipping into a long bloody crisis that destroys the economy and the population in the huge once prospering territories. Moreover, the existence and increasing weight of this grouping serves as a good argument forcing any provokers to think three times before realising their criminal plans.
And nevertheless we can’t but take into account that a considerable part of the European elite dirtied itself by committing crimes (both war crimes and crimes against humanity). Being people who easily go back on their word, they are capable of not believing any security guarantees and making an attempt to resist up to the end. That’s why the grouping must not only look menacing, but it must be really capable of achieving objectives in the shortest possible time. The effectiveness and also low resource intensity of any operation directly depends on its brevity. The shorter the blitzkrieg is, the more effective it is, and the lower the losses and expenses are. The best blitzkrieg is the one that didn’t take place, when everything was decided only by the projection of force.
The demonstration of force and the quiet readiness to use it acts in our case as the best diplomatic argument. But it is necessary to understand that if in Germany or the US this argument is clear to all and was properly evaluated long ago, then for example, in Ukraine, owing to the progressing marginalisation of both society and the political class, there isn’t even anyone to evaluate it. Owing to the general geopolitical situation that developed around this country, which the West, by its actions, artificially attached key importance to, it is precisely Kiev where the launch button for an all-European conflict is, and, by all accounts, within the framework of existing political and diplomatic possibilities it is unlikely that it will be possible to peacefully deactivate this charge.