[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]
Just a few weeks ago I wrote a column entitled “The Ukraine’s Many Ticking Time Bombs” in which I listed a number of developments presenting a major threat to the Ukraine and, in fact, to all the countries of the region. In this short time the situation has deteriorated rather dramatically. I will therefore begin with a short recap of what is happening.
First, the Ukrainian government and parliament have, for all practical purposes, declared the Minsk Agreements as dead. Truth be told, these agreements were stillborn, but as long as everybody pretended that there was still a chance for some kind of negotiated solution, they served as a “war retardant”. Now that this retardant has been removed, the situation becomes far more explosive than before.
[Sidebar: the issue of the Minsk Agreements brought to the fore the truly breathtaking hypocrisy of the West: even though Russia never was a party of these agreements (Russia signed them as a guarantor, not as a party), the West chose to blame Russia for “not implementing” these agreements, that in spite of the fact that everybody knew that it was the Ukraine which, for fear of the various Neonazis movements, simply could not implement these agreements. This kind of “in your face” hypocrisy by the West had a tremendous impact on the internal Russian political scene which, in turn, greatly strengthened the position of those in Russia who never believed that a negotiated solution was possible in the first place. In that sense, these agreements represented a major victory for the Kremlin as it forced the West to show the full depth of its moral depravity]
Second, it is pretty obvious that the “Biden” administration is a who’s who of all the worst russophobes of the Obama era: Nuland, Psaki, and the rest of them are openly saying that they want to increase the confrontation with Russia. Even the newcomers, say like Ned Price, are clearly rabid russophobes. The folks in Kiev immediately understood that their bad old masters were back in the White House and they are now also adapting their language to this new (well, not really) reality.
Finally, and most ominously, there are clear signs that the Ukrainian military is moving heavy forces towards the line of contact. Here is an example of a video taken in the city of Mariupol:
Besides tanks, there are many reports of other heavy military equipment, including MLRS and tactical ballistic missiles, being moved east towards the line of contact. Needless to say, the Russian General Staff is tracking all these movements very carefully, as are the intelligence services of the LDNR.
This is all happening while Zelenskii’s popularity is in free fall. Actually, not only his. Think of it: Biden stole the election in the USA and has to deal with 70 million “deplorables” while the EU leaders are all facing many extremely severe crises (immigration, crime, COVID lockdowns, Woke ideology, etc.). The truth is that they all desperately need some kind of “distraction” to keep their public opinion from focusing on the real issues facing the western societies.
What could such a “distraction” look like?
Phase one: the trigger
The Ukraine is unlikely to simply attack the Donbass. Kiev needs to stick to the “we are the victim of the aggressor-country” narrative. However, if past behavior is one of the best predictors of future behavior, we can immediately see what is likely to happen.
Remember how three Ukrainian Navy vessels tried to force their way under the Crimean bridge? What about the Ukrainian terrorist groups which Kiev tried to infiltrate into Crimea? And, finally, there are the many terrorist attacks executed by Ukrainian special forces inside Novorussia. The truth is that the Ukrainian special services (SBU and military) have been conducting reconnaissance diversionary operations in the Donbass, in Crimea and even in Russia.
Right now, both sides (Kiev and the LDNR) have officially declared that they have given the authorization to their forces to respond to any provocations or incoming fire. Just imagine how easy it is for either side to organize some kind of provocation, then claim to be under attack and to declare that “we had to defend ourselves against the aggressor”.
Therefore, the most likely scenario is some kind of Ukrainian provocation followed by a “defensive counter-attack” by the Ukrainian military.
Phase two: the attack
Over the past years, the Ukrainian military has received a great deal of assistance from the West, both in terms of equipment/money and in terms of training. Furthermore, in numerical terms, the Ukrainian military is much bigger than the combined forces of the LDNR. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the LDNR forces were just sitting on their laurels and not working really hard to achieve a qualitative jump in their capabilities.
The Ukrainian government is working on yet another mobilization (there were many such waves of mobilization in the past, none of them really successful), and considering the chaos in the country, it is unlikely to go better than the previous ones. If we want to do some “bean counting”, we can say that Kiev could theoretically mobilize about 300’000 soldiers while the standing LDNR forces number approximately 30’000 soliders (these are standing forces before mobilization). However, we must take into account that the Ukrainian forces are mostly conscripts whereas the LDNR forces are 100% professional volunteers fighting for their own land and in defense of their own families and friends. This makes a huge difference!
Besides, like all “bean counting”, this purely numerical comparison completely misses the point. That point is that the LDNR forces are much better trained, equipped, commanded and motivated. Furthermore, the LDNR forces have had years to prepare for an Ukronazi attack, In fact, both sides of the line of contact are now heavily fortified. Yet, and in spite of all this, the LDNR suffers from a huge weakness: no strategic (or even operational) depth. Worse, the city of Donetsk is quite literally on the front line.
Could the Ukrainian forces “punch through” the LDNR defenses? I would say that this is not impossible, and “not impossible” is serious enough to warrant a lot of preparations by the Russian armed forces to quickly intervene and stop any such breakthrough by the Ukrainian forces. Does the Russian military have the means to stop such an attack?
Yes, absolutely. First, all of the LDNR is literally right across the Russian border, which means that pretty much any Russian weapons system can “reach” not only into the LDNR, but even throughout the Ukrainian tactical, operational and even strategic depth. Russia can also deploy a classical Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) “cupola” over the LDNR using a mix of air defense and electronic warfare systems. Russian rockets and artillery systems can be used not only as counter-battery fire, but also to destroy attacking Ukrainian subunits. Finally, the Russian forces in Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet can also be engaged if needed. As for Russian coastal defense systems (Bal and Bastion), they can “lock” the entire Black Sea.
The biggest problem for Russia is that she cannot do any of that without triggering a huge political crisis in Europe; just visualize what the likes of Antony Blinken, Ned Price or Jane Psaki would have to say about such a Russian intervention! Remember, these are the folks who immediately accused Russia of attacking Georgia, not the other way around. We are now all living in the “post-truth” era of “highly likely”, not of facts.
I have said that for years now the real point of a Ukrainian attack on the Donbass would not be to reconquer the region, but to force Russia to openly and, therefore, undeniably intervene. This has been a Neocon wet dream since 2014 and it is still their ultimate objective in the Ukraine. So what would a Russian counter-attack look like?
Phase three: the Russian intervention
First, let me ask you this: did you know that about 400’000 residents of the LDNR already have Russian passports? Is that a lot? Well, the total population of the LDNR is about 3.7 million people, so more than 10% of the population. This is crucial for two reasons: first, you can think of these Russian citizens as a kind of tripwire: if enough of them get killed, Putin have no other choice than to intervene to protect them and, in fact, Putin has made it clear many times that Russia will never allow the Ukraine to seize Novorussia by force or to massacre its population. Second, there are many precedents of countries (mostly western ones) using military force to protect their citizens. Examples include the USA in both Grenada and Panama, the Turks in Cyprus and Syria or the French in many African countries.
Next, in purely military terms, Russia has plenty of standoff weapons which could be used to disrupt and stop any Ukranian attack even without sending in a ground force. Not only that, but the Russian response does not have to be limited to the front lines – Russia could easily strike the Ukraine even in its strategic depth and there is really nothing the Ukrainians could do to prevent that. Still, I do not believe that the Russian counter-attack would be limited to standoff weapons, mainly because of the need to relieve the LDNR forces on the front line which will be exhausted by difficult defensive operations. In other words, this time around Russia won’t even bother to deny her involvement; at this point in time, this would be futile and counter productive.
The west loves concepts such as the “responsibility to protect” (R2P)? Good! Then Russia can use it too.
Of course, I am not naive to the point of believing that anybody in the West will be suaded by notions such as fairness or precedent. But the Kremlin will use this argument to further educate the Russian people in the true intentions of the West. This is especially helpful for Putin during an election year (which 2121 is for Russia), and this will only further weaken both the pro-western opposition (for obvious reasons) and even the anti-western “patriotic” opposition which will have no choice but to fully support a military intervention to save the Donbass.
Phase four: the Empire’s response
I don’t believe for one second that anybody in the West will volunteer for suicide and advocate for a military intervention in the Ukraine or against Russia. NATO is a “pretend” military alliance. In reality, it is a US instrument to control Europe. Yes, historically the pretext for NATO was the supposed threat from Soviet Union and, now, from Russia, but the true reason for NATO has always been to control the European continent. Nobody in the West believes that it is worth risking a full scale war against Russia just over a (relatively minor) Russian military intervention in the eastern Ukraine. However, once it becomes undeniable that Russia has intervened (the Kremlin won’t even bother denying this!), the trans-national imperial Nomenklatura which runs the Empire will see this as a truly historical opportunity to create a major crisis which will weaken Russian positions in Europe and immensely strengthen the US control over the continent.
We have all seen how the western politicians and presstitutes have invented a (totally fake) Russian intervention in the Donbass and how they said they would “punish” Russia for “not implementing the Minsk Agreements”. We can only imagine how strident and hysterical these Russia-hating screams will become once Russia actually does intervene, quite openly. Again, if past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, then we can rest assured that western politicians will do what they always do: exacerbate and prolong the conflict as long as possible, but without directly attacking Russia. That is the purpose of the Ukrainian military, to provide the cannon fodder for the AnglioZionists.
Phase four prime: possible Ukronazi responses
Take it to the bank: “Ze” and the rest of the clowns in the Rada are no military leaders. Even Ukrainian military commanders are truly of the 3rd class type (all the good ones are either gone or fired). The first concern of the folks in Kiev will be to safely evacuate the western “advisors” from the area of operations and then to hide themselves and their money. For all the running around in battle fatigue and for all the hot air about super weapons, the Ukrainian military won’t continue to exist as an organized fighting force for longer than 48 hours. As I mentioned above, Russia can easily impose a no-fly zone, not only over the LDNR, but even over the entire eastern Ukraine. Russia can also basically switch off the power in the entire country. There is a very good reason why Putin declared in 2018 that any Ukrainian serious attack or provocation “will have very serious consequences for the Ukrainian statehood as a whole”.
Yet it would be extremely dangerous to simply dismiss the Ukronazi potential for creating some real headaches for Moscow. How?
For example, I would not put it past the Ukrainians to threaten an attack against the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) in Transnistria. This is a small force, far away from Russia, surrounded by hostile neighbors. Keep in mind that Tiraspol is about 600km west from Donetsk! Not only that, but if Moldova is not a member of NATO, Romania is. As for the current President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, she is both Romanian and deeply anti-Russian. But while all this is true, I think that it is also important to keep another factoid in mind: Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, is only about 300km away from the Crimean Peninsula. This places all of Moldova well within reach of Russian standoff weapons and rapid reaction mobile forces. For the Moldovans, any notion of attacking the OGRF in Transnistria would be really crazy, but for a desperate Ukronazi regime in Kiev this might be preferable to a defeat against Russia.
Of course, the Ukronazi regime in Kiev really has no agency, ever since the “revolution of dignity”. All the decisions about the Ukraine are made by Uncle Shmuel and his minions in Kiev. So the question we should be asking would be: would anybody put it past the Neocon crazies in the White House to egg on the Ukronazi regime in Kiev to further widen the conflict and force Russia to also intervene in Transnistria?
Some commentators in the West, and a few in Russia, have suggested that the “Biden” plan (assuming there is such a thing) would be to trigger simultaneous crises in different locations all around Russia: the Donbass, but also the Black Sea and/or Sea of Azov, Georgia, Belarus, Transnistria, Armenia, etc. The Empire might also decide to come back to Hillary Clinton’s plan to place a no-fly zone over Russian forces in Syria. I am not so sure that this is the major threat for Russia right now. For example, there is a good reason why Russia is split into military districts: in case of war, each military district becomes an independent front which can fight autonomously, support other fronts and be supported by the strategic capabilities of the Russian military. In other words, the Russian military can handle several major and simultaneous crises or even conflicts in her neighboring states. As for Hillary’s no fly zone over Syria, considering the undeniable reality that all of CENTCOM bases are under a double crosshair (the one from Iran and the one from Russia), it is unlikely that the US would try such a dangerous move.
[Sidebar: I am acutely aware of the fact that the anti-Putin propagandists are trying to convince us that Russia and Israel are in cahoots or that Putin is Netanyahu’s best buddy. I already addressed this nonsense several times (see here, here, here, here and here) so I won’t repeat it all here. I will just say that a) Russian air defenses in Syria are tasked with the defense of the Russian task force in Syria, not the Syrian air space b) Syrian air defenses are doing a superb job shooting down Israeli missiles. These Syrian air defenses are forcing the Israelis to attack less defended and, therefore, also less valuable targets (say like a border post between Syria and Iran) c) there are now numerous reported instances of Russian Aerospace Forces driving Israeli aircraft out of the Syrian air space and, last but not least, d) the Israeli strikes are undeniably good for Israeli morale and propaganda purposes (the “invincible” IDF!), but the point is that they make absolutely no difference on the ground. In the near future, I hope to write an analysis showing that these rumors about Russia being sold out to Israel are part of a US PSYOP campaign to weaken Putin at home. Stay tuned]
For these reasons, I believe that the Empire will push the Ukraine towards an open confrontation with Russia, all the while making sure that US/NATO forces remain far away from the action. In fact, from a US/NATO point of view, once Russia officially admits that Russian forces did intervene to stop the Ukrainian assault, the main objective of the attack will have been reached: All of Europe will unanimously blame Russia and Putin for everything. That, in turn, will result in a dramatic deterioration of the security situation in the Ukraine and the rest of eastern Europe. A new “Cold War” (with hot overtones) will become the determining factors in east-west relations. As for NATO, it will reheat the old principle of “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”.
Phase five: the situation after the end of the war
Again, if past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, we can expect the Russians to do many things like they did in the 5 day war (really 3 day only) against NATO-backed Georgia in 08.08.08. For example, irrespective of where exactly the Russian military actually decides to stop (could be along the current line of contact, or it could include a complete liberation of the Donbass from the occupying Ukronazi forces), this will be a short war (long wars are mostly things of the past anyway). The Ukrainian military will be comprehensively destroyed but the Russian forces will not occupy major Ukrainian cities (just as they stopped short of taking Tbilisi in 08). As one LDNR officer declared in an interview 2015 “the further west we go, the less we are seen as liberators and the more we are seen as occupiers”. He is right, but there is something much more important here too: Russia simply cannot afford to rebuild the quasi totally deindustrialized Ukraine. The propaganda from their curators notwithstanding, the Ukraine is already a failed state, has been one for years already. And there is exactly nothing that Russia needs from this failed state. Absolutely nothing. The absolutely LAST thing Russia needs today is to get bogged down in a simultaneous effort to restore the Ukrainian state and economy while fighting all sorts of Neonazi nationalist insurgencies.
If they try to join the fight, then both Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Air Force will simply vanish, but Russia will not launch any amphibious assaults on the Ukrainian coastline.
There are those who, on moral and historical grounds, want Russia to liberate at the very least the Ukrainian east and the Ukrainian south (the area from Mariupol to Odessa). I categorically disagree. It is all very fine and cute to say “Putin come and restore order”, but the people of the Ukraine must liberate themselves and not expect Russia to liberate them. Opinion polls in Russia show that most Russians are categorically opposed to a war (or a protracted occupation) and I see no signs that the people of the southern Ukraine are desperate to be liberated by the Russian military. This entire notion of Russia disinfecting the Ukraine from the Nazi rot is an ideological construct with no base in reality. Those who still dream of Russian tanks in Kiev or Dnepropetrovsk will be sorely disappointed: it won’t happen.
Thus, I fully expect the Ukrainian state to still exist at the end of this war, albeit a much weaker one. Furthermore, it is quasi certain that should the Ukrainian military attack Novorussia, then Russia would again repeat what she did in 08 and recognize the LDNR republics along with some kind of long term integration program. Civil unrest and even uprisings are likely, not only in the east, but also in the south and west of the Ukraine. Needless to say, the EU and NATO will go absolutely crazy and yet another “curtain” (maybe a “salo curtain”) will yet again split the European continent, much to the delight of the entire Anglosphere. At the end of that process, the Banderastan-like Ukraine will simply break apart into more manageable chunks which will all come under the influence of their more powerful and better organized neighbors.
As for Russia, she will mostly turn away from the West, in total disgust, and continue to develop a multi-polar world with China and the other countries of Zone B.
Conclusion: back from the brink, again?
In truth, all of the above are just my speculations, nobody really knows whether this war will really happen and, if it does, how it will play out. Wars are amongst the most unpredictable events, hence the number of wars lost by the party which initiated them. What I presented above is one possible scenario amongst many more. The last time when a Ukrainian attack appeared to be imminent, all it took was Putin’s words about “very serious consequences for the Ukrainian statehood as a whole” to stop the escalation and convince Kiev not to attack. This time around, the Russians are making no such threats, but that is only because Russians don’t believe in repeating threats anyway.
At this time of writing, there are serious clashes between the VSU (Ukrainian) forces and the LDNR defenders. Both sides are using small arms, grenade launchers and artillery systems. According to one well informed blogger, his sources in Kiev are telling him that:
“A while ago, an order came from the office of the old senile Biden to prepare the VSU for an offensive in the Donbass, but wait for the final go-ahead from the White House. At the same time, this source also said that similar military operations will be conducted in other countries where there are Russian interests, in order to deflect the public attention from the Donbass and weaken any support for the Donbass”.
There are many more such posts on Telegram, including pro-Ukrainian commentators spreading rumors about Russian mercenaries seen near the frontline east of Mariupol. We can already say that the informational battle has begun. Only time will tell whether this battle will turn kinetic or not. But right now it looks like we are “all systems go”.