Thursday, March 5, 2015
Russia’s Blueprint for Invasion and Assimilation of Ukraine
Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper partly owned by Kremlin critic Alexander Lebedev, published on February 24 an article about a Kremlin policy paper that it said came into its possession. The document apparently laid the groundwork and justification for Russia’s invasion and conquest of Ukraine.
Presumably, by making the paper public, the newspaper’s editors believe in its credibility or at least newsworthiness. Its revelation received a lot of press in Ukraine and the free world. Even The New York Times reported its existence a couple of days later.
According to the editors of Novaya Gazeta, the Kremlin’s blueprint for invading and re-subjugating Ukraine was circulated within the highest echelons of Russia’s leadership some two weeks before Viktor Yanukovych decided that it was better for his personal welfare to flee Ukraine on February 22, 2014. A day later, Russian troops invaded Ukraine via Crimea and we witnessed a video of a lightly armed and outmatched Ukrainian garrison, commanded by Col. Yuriy Mamchur, that bravely refused to surrender to Russian invaders, while singing the Ukrainian national anthem.
The plans outlined in the policy paper are plausible because they verify Russia’s historical intention to dominate the former captive nations, beginning with Ukraine, which has always been considered by Russian officials and third-party pundits as the crown jewel, without which Vladimir Putin or whoever occupies the head of the Kremlin’s table could not begin to plan the restoration of the Russian empire.
I do not think the paper set in motion the Russian military machine’s execution of the invasion plans. Even plans for D-Day were set in motion in May 1943 – some 13 months ahead of the Allied invasion of Nazi strongholds in Europe.
Indeed, writing about the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-15, I noted that Putin had threatened Ukraine with the reformation of the Russian prison of nations in the summer of 2013, when he visited Kyiv for the anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine. He was quite adamant in his admonition to so-called Ukrainian leaders headed by his minion Viktor Yanukovych that if Ukraine accedes to the European Union, Russia’s response would not be pleasant for Kyiv. Yanukovych ultimately did renege on his promise to sign the already negotiated and prepared accession documents in the fall of 2013, which triggered national student demonstrations, the destruction of Lenin monuments around Ukraine, killings on Maidan, and the Maidan revolution which ultimately ousted Yanukovych. Then the undeclared Russo-Ukraine war of 2014-15 began with the invasion of Crimea.
The policy paper reads like a justification after the decision and plans for an invasion had been finalized.
The editors of Novaya Gazeta noted: “Moreover, if genuine, the paper gives insight into the shortcomings of Russian intelligence about the Maidan in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s lack of understanding of Ukrainian national feeling in eastern parts of the country, as well as the strength of influence of Ukrainian oligarchs on political events.”
Russia believed that eastern Ukrainians at least would greet the invading Russian soldiers and mercenaries like liberators rather than aggressors and criminals. The invasion and war seem to be poorly planned when reviewed on the basis of the Ukraine’s strong military response, the nation’s deep moral, spiritual and political support for repulsing the Russian invaders and the free world leaders’ vocal support for Ukraine, condemnation of Putin and Russia, and western sanctions against Russia which have contributed to its monumental economic collapse. Russian planning was further muddied by the murder of Borys Nemtsov who was on the verge of revealing irrefutable proof of Russia’s direct involvement in the invasion of Ukraine.
However, Russian leaders, especially Putin, have not been known for committing such fatal errors. Perhaps this justification after the fact was meant as another smokescreen to confuse the free world and throw it off the trail of Moscow’s intentions. Perhaps Putin is simply following through with his plan to re-subjugate Ukraine and the other former captive nations and restore the Russian empire-prison of nations regardless of what the free world thinks of him.
Still, the concepts of invasion of Ukraine and its integration into Russia permeate the document, confirming its national fixation.
The Kremlin leaders demonstrated fear and concern that events in Ukraine are snowballing toward chaos, which would vacate their control over their forcer captive nations. They blamed Yanukovych, Russia’s stooge, who suffered the brunt of Moscow’s disdain for what was happening in Ukraine, as well as the events surrounding what has simply come to be known as Maidan. Ultimately, they said they feared losing revenue from a major buyer of Russian energy products.
“The assessment of the political situation in Ukraine should be primarily based on recognizing the bankruptcy of [Ukraine’s] President Viktor Yanukovych and his ruling ‘family,’ which is rapidly losing control of the political process;
“Secondly, the paralysis of the central government and lack of a distinctive political body which the Russian Federation could negotiate with;
“Thirdly, the low probability of such an acceptable body emerging after the snap parliamentary and presidential elections announced by Viktor Yanukovych on February 4,” the authors wrote.
They also observed: “The non-systemic opposition (the so-called Maidan) remains beyond the control of the leaders of the systemic opposition, as the ‘warlords’ (mostly, football fans and people from the world of organized crime) (strange and inaccurate assessment – ID) set the tone there, while not having electoral influence, and apparently, controlled not so much by the oligarchic groups, but largely by the Polish and British intelligence services (the Poles and Brits were not blamed as much as the US—ID). At the same time, many oligarchic groups are funding Maidan, so as ‘not to put all one’s eggs in one basket.’
“President V. Yanukovych is a man of low morals and willpower – he is afraid to give up the presidency and yet at the same time he is ready to ‘give up’ on the security forces in exchange for a guarantee of him remaining president and having immunity after leaving office.”
A couple of pages later, the authors predicted Yanukovych’s impending political demise. “Current events in Kyiv convincingly show that Yanukovych’s time in power could end at any moment. Thus, there is less and less time for an appropriate Russian response. The number of dead in riots in the capital of Ukraine is direct evidence of the inevitability of civil war and the impossibility of reaching consensus if Yanukovych remains president. In these circumstances, it seems appropriate to play along the centrifugal aspirations of the various regions of the country, with a view to initiate the accession of its eastern regions to Russia, in one form or another. Crimea and Kharkiv region should become the dominant regions for making such efforts, as there already exist reasonably large groups there that support the idea of maximum integration with Russia.”
It is obvious that Russia hoped to use to its advantage any political calamity in Ukraine and force ripping apart the country perhaps as the first step to seizing all of Ukraine up to the Polish and Belarusian borders.
The Kremlin also did not place any confidence in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Perhaps not surprisingly inasmuch as many sources in Ukraine have pointed out that by this time Yanukovych and his junta had weakened the army to a poorly armed, demoralized rabble. In hindsight, perhaps his mission was to destroy the army so that Russia and its terrorist mercenaries could easily sweep across Ukraine.
“The position of Ukraine’s army is even more ambiguous. According to an employee of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, the army is ‘locked in barracks while the officers guard the weapons depots so that, God forbid, they do not fall into the hands of contract soldiers, who in this case would start shooting at each other,’” the authors indicated.
If this statement is true, the army or what was left of it would not be able to defend the nation from snipers, criminals, saboteurs and Russian soldiers, leaving the country ripe for the picking. Fortunately, the opposite proved true and the army, National Guard and volunteer battalions managed to hold their own against Russian invaders.
Moscow noted that the so-called snap parliamentary and presidential elections “could become the trigger for a new round of protest- and assault-like civil war, the deepening of the ‘east-west’ electoral division and ultimately accelerate Ukraine’s disintegration.”
The seemingly sympathetic concern wanes in view of today’s Russian war with Ukraine. More likely Moscow understood that it could no longer control elections in Ukraine like in the past and bring to power another puppet leader that the Kremlin could manipulate.
The authors stated that “Russia’s policy toward Ukraine must finally become pragmatic.” Part of its pragmatism rested in the conclusion that Yanukovych was useless. They wrote:
“First, the regime of Viktor Yanukovych has gone totally bankrupt. Its political, diplomatic, financial, and information support from the Russian Federation is no longer meaningful.
“Second, as a sporadic civil war in the form of urban guerrilla of the so-called ‘supporters of the Maidan’ against the leadership of a number of the country’s eastern regions has become a fact, while the disintegration of the Ukrainian state along the line of geographical demarcation of regional alliances – ‘western regions plus Kyiv’ and ‘eastern regions plus Crimea’ - has become part of the political agenda, [and] in these circumstances, Russia should in no way limit its policy toward Ukraine only to attempts to influence the political situation in Kyiv and the relationship of a systemic opposition (A. Yatsenyuk, V. Klitschko, O. Tyahnybok, P . Poroshenko, etc.) with the European Commission.
“Third, in an almost complete paralysis of the central government, unable to form a responsible government even facing threats of default and of Naftogaz lacking funds to pay for Russian gas, Russia is simply obliged to get involved in the geopolitical intrigue of the European Community directed against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“First of all, this is because otherwise our country risks losing not only the Ukrainian energy market, but also indirect control over Ukraine’s gas transportation system, which is much more dangerous. This will endanger the position of Gazprom in Central and Southern Europe, causing huge damage to our country’s economy.”
Russian planners also discounted using the Constitution of Ukraine as a mechanism for legitimately initiating the integration of Ukraine’s eastern territories and Crimea into the Russian Federation. If Putin and his junta couldn’t use Ukrainian laws as a Plan B for their diabolical goal of absorbing Ukrainian territory into Ukraine, then they would be set with their original scheme of invading Ukraine.
Still this essay discuses another legal avenue for integrating Ukraine into Russia, which the authors admitted sounded paradoxical. The authors had in mind “the system of Russian-Ukrainian Euroregions, members of the Association of European Border Regions (which, in turn, is a member of the Assembly of European Regions). For example, the Donbas Euroregion includes the Donetsk, Luhansk, Rostov and Voronezh regions, the Slobozhanshchina Euroregion includes the Kharkiv and Belgorod regions, the Dnepr Euroregion includes the Bryansk and Chernihiv regions, and so on.
“Using the legal instruments of the Euroregions, legitimate from the EU’s perspective, Russia should press for signing agreements on cross-border and trans-border cooperation, and then establish direct public-contractual relations with those Ukrainian territories where a pro-Russia electoral mood is prevalent.”
With a measure of foresight, the authors suggested that in the process of what they called “pro-Russian drift” of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, “certain events should be created beforehand that can support this process with political legitimacy and moral justification; also a PR strategy should be built that draws attention to the forced, reactive nature of the actions of Russia and the pro-Russian political elites of southern and eastern Ukraine.”
The plan also called for subverting the nation by fomenting anti-Kyiv and anti-Ukraine demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, during which regional residents would proclaim that they “can’t be held hostage to the Maidan. Ukraine’s unitary state system, which allows a violent nationalist minority of the population to impose its choice throughout the country, should be reconsidered. Russia is a federal state, and such a thing is unthinkable there. Strengthening the state-legal ties with Russia, we will strengthen the integrity of the Ukrainian state.”
With Russian flags in their hands, the demonstrators were to be instructed not to insist on changing the constitutional order. “They should impute strong condemnation of ‘Western separatists, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity at the will of their foreign masters,’ as well as the demands for the swift development of ‘associative relations between the eastern regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation:’ ‘We are with Russia. No to civil war.’”
The protesters were to be trained to repeat three demands:
* A demand for “federalization” (or confederation) as a guarantee for these regions against the pro-Western and nationalist forces interfering in their internal affairs;
* The eastern and south-eastern areas joining the Customs Union at the regional level independently from Kyiv, which will provide for the necessary conditions for their industry’s normal operation and development;
* Direct sovereignty, followed by accession to Russia - the only guarantor of sustainable economic development and social stability.
The authors suggested that the pro-Russian integration process must be institutionalized and legally registered with local referendums that would decide “self-determination and further possibility of joining the Russian Federation.”
Returning to its outreach effort, the authors urged a PR-campaign in the Russian and Ukrainian media.
“This includes developing and giving out to the media concept documents, a kind of manifesto of the eastern Ukrainian and western Ukrainian separatism. The general public in Russia should speak up in support of the accession of the eastern regions of Ukraine to Russia (a possible slogan ‘Putin 2.0 – we want a Treaty of Pereyaslav 2.0’).”
Clever of them to use computer lingo in their policy paper. They could have added Tyranny 2.0, Russian Imperialism 2.0, Russification 2.0, and No Democracy 2.0
However, any Russian PR campaign would be doomed to failure because the free world realizes that its media disseminates deceit, lies and fabrications in place of news and credible information.
Novaya Gazeta’s editors correctly pointed out that the report is “drafted in a pragmatic, almost cynical style. It has no ‘spiritual-historical’ justification for Russian interference in Ukraine. No arguments about Novorossiya, the protection of the Russian-speaking population, the ‘Russian World’ and the upcoming Russian Spring. There is only geopolitics and cold expediency.”
The absence of defending the pro-Russian population in eastern Ukraine is especially odd inasmuch as Putin, Lavrov, Churkin and other Russian officials have used that argument as justification for invading Ukraine on two fronts.
Novaya Gazeta editor’s further point out that “The document’s authors made a significant error in determining the territories most ready to unite with the Russian regions: they name Crimea and Kharkiv region, considering Donetsk region, ‘Akhmetov’s empire,’ less promising. Reality has altered these calculations. But in general, the scheme was implemented.”
The Kremlin’s policy paper accentuates Russia’s overall age-old goal of destabilizing Ukraine, dividing the country and integrating its pieces into Russia, and restoring the Russian empire. This mission is its national obsession. Russian leaders were fixated by the goal of seizing foreign lands, then maintaining the empire, and now since they have lost the captive nations by restoring the empire. Regardless of the reason – acquisition of warm water ports, forming an anti-NATO buffer, protecting its realm, maintaining an energy customer or recovering its crown jewel, Putin or whoever occupies the head of the table in the Kremlin will not abandon what they consider their sacred mission.
Ukraine and the free world, acquainted with this plan, must not abandon their defensive ramparts. It would be foolhardy to treat this blueprint with derision.