Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Will Putin Push Russian Troops west to Kyiv, Lviv & Beyond?
The Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 has been going on for three years and it has resulted in the occupation of Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. Its duration so far is about half of World War II, Europe’s last continental military conflagration. So, will Vladimir Putin continue driving Russia’s military machine across Ukraine into Western Europe?
The simple answer is yes, he will, and wishing it weren’t so won’t make it so.
Russian global expansion is its historical manifest destiny – regardless of who is in the Kremlin – and trampling Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty is the means by which Moscow will rebuild its empire. After all, Russia is continuing to mobilize troops on both sides of the Ukrainian border, which doesn’t bode well for peace and stability in Ukraine and the region.
According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, a 40,000-strong diversified Russian army has recently been formed in occupied Donbas, of which 5,000 are Russian regular troops.
Poltorak said Russia has massed about 600 tanks, 1,300 combat vehicles, 860 artillery systems and 300 multiple launch rocket systems on Ukrainian territory. Military affairs observer and member of Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Tymchuk also warned of large-scale Russia military buildup along the border with Ukraine.
“Of course, with this military build-up, it is very difficult to talk about peace, especially with those who do not wish to fulfill the Minsk agreements or is very aggressively against Ukraine,” Poltorak said in an interview with TV Channel 5.
During the past few weeks, including during Christmas observances, which was designated as a holiday truce, Russian forces and their mercenary terrorists have been attacking Ukrainian positions in eastern Ukraine, killing many defenders. Ukrainian military spokesmen have said that the assaults marked a significant escalation in deadly engagements.
With the fighting spiking, the only question that remains is when will Russia unleash the full fury of its imperial assault?
Dr. Adam Lelonek, in an article earlier this month on the Polish-language website Defence24.pl, expressed the point of view that such an expansion is inevitable because Russia will not permit Ukraine to integrate itself in EuroAtlantic structures.
However, Lelonek pointed out, Russia will not yet commence a major ground war but will rather unleash an overwhelmingly vile campaign of dirty operations meant to destabilize Ukraine and camouflage its intentions from Western capitals.
Lelonek cited Ukrainian experts and pundits who believe that while a full-blown war may not come in 2017, that doesn’t mean that Russia hasn’t already begun planning for such an eventuality. After all, he reminded readers that launching a war is not a spur of the moment idea. Wars and invasions take months if not years of preparations before soldiers are put in harm’s way.
Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea wasn’t arbitrarily done two weeks after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Planning began many months earlier, while free world leaders were probably busy glad-handing Putin at a conference or summit.
While Russia is busy with Syria and elections in Western Europe, Putin understands that at the present time it is a cheaper and safer option to destabilize Ukraine, dishearten the Ukrainian population, discredit the government, isolate it from the West, create a viable fifth column operation, and weaken all levels of the country to the point where Moscow can just pick up the pieces and stick them in its pocket.
According to Lelonek, Moscow’s master plan also calls for destabilizing the internal situations and foreign policies of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Polish, Belarus, Slovakia, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Germany.
As recent history shows, this operation doesn’t require an army. Destabilization could be the result of fake news, hacking, sabotaging elections, or sleeper agents. Even confusion and indecisiveness can slow down the wheels of government enough to destabilize a country.
“Western experts still seem to mostly ignore the fact that Russian plans, including military campaigns, are prepared for the long run. Scenarios for the annexation of the Crimea or military actions in Donbas were prepared long before the Revolution of Dignity, and the dismantling of the Ukrainian defense structures and infiltration of the Ukrainian state structures by the Russian secret services were being done years in advance for the benefit of the future,” Lelonek observed.
The Polish author added that Russia is also counting on a worsening of relations among Washington, Moscow and Beijing that would distract the world’s attention from Ukraine as well as the West’s ultimate fatigue and boredom with the issue of Ukraine.
Another flashpoint that will be exacerbated by Russia to destabilize Ukraine will be inciting conflicts between the Moscow Patriarchate’s Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as well as between the Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“There is no indication of the probability of a tragedy this year, however, the majority of Ukrainian experts (theoreticians and practitioners) are nonetheless convinced that a full-scale war is only a matter of time. If Russia recognizes that it cannot stop Ukraine’s progress to the West, most likely, it will decide to apply maximum effort to destroy or seize as many resources as it can including demographic, intellectual, technological and natural,” Lelonek projected.
Andrey Illarionov, a Russian economist and Putin’s former economic policy advisor, was quoted by UA Today and channel 112 as saying that Moscow will take advantage of the interregnum in the United States to intensify provocations against Ukraine.
“This November, before and after the November 8, is the best situation for destabilization. We understand that the US presidential election is the time when neither American administration, nor the political powers in the US and Europe will care about Ukraine. The world will be focused on the developments in the US, and election results,” Illarionov said.
According to him, the world’s attention will be distracted by the US elections and inauguration, creating an ideal situation for Russia “with little or no risk to hold its campaigns in the various countries of the world.” Even a cursory review of American newspapers will reveal that the US is in such an unsafe state of flux about where are its foreign loyalties.
Illarionov reminded that Russia is capable of launching conventional and non-conventional weapons from its well-stocked arsenal against Ukraine – “Nothing can be ruled out” – in order to stop Kyiv’s westward movement.
In an interview with well-known columnist Paul Goble, Illarionov further clarified that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cannot be called a conflict, but rather it is a war. “This is not a crisis. This is a war. The war in the simplest meaning of the word,” he said.
“This is a Russian-Ukrainian war. To be more precise, this is Putin’s war against Ukraine. Most Russians do not support the war. Putin’s war against Ukraine is already a long-term one.”
I have been referring to it as the Russo-Ukraine War for a couple of years.
Like Lelonek, Illarionov also said he was sure that preparations for the war took years – at least 11 years. “Since 2003. I can say that certain questions relating to the future war with Ukraine were discussed in my presence. I didn't think the talks would really lead to a real war,” he said.
This observation must sink in for western leaders. While they were shaking hands with Putin, toasting him with Russian vodka, signing agreements, and praising his accomplishments, he was busy planning his invasion of Ukraine and other countries.
Illarionov recalled that in year 2004 preparations were already discussed for the future occupation and annexation of Crimea but were suspended during the Orange Revolution. In 2008, Russian Journal published the leaked plan of the military command “in which you will see a detailed draft project of a war against Ukraine.” Information about actions to support separatists in Ukraine began to appear in 2009, he added.
“So, they were preparing the war for a long time. The other matter is that it is a long war that has been continuing for more than 16 months. It was officially launched on July 27, 2013, by Putin's speech in Kyiv on the occasion of the anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus. You can find here clear remarks about the start of the hybrid campaign, an intervention, but not a war,” Goble observed on the basis of Illarionov’s remarks.
Indeed, in the July 29, 2013, edition of The Torn Curtain 1991 newsletter, I also forecast that Putin’s arm twisting of Ukrainian leaders at that event would ultimately lead to Russia’s violent attempt to rebuild the torn iron curtain one way or another: “In Ukraine for the commemoration of Christianity of Kyivan Rus (ancient Ukraine), Putin made it a point to urge Ukraine to unite with Russia because, after all, they’re ‘one people.’ Nothing smacks of a restoration of the Russian prison of nations and the iron curtain more than that.”
Goble wrote in his current column that Illarionov believes the war won’t end in the nearest time.
Illarionov made similar observations to Paul Roderick Gregory in Forbes. The Russian pundit said Putin has already begun waging another type of war throughout Ukraine, one that is being conducted by Russian Spetsnaz (special operations) forces and KGB (now called FSB) agents and its aims is to topple the pro-Western government in Kyiv – destabilization.
The Spetsnaz’ orders include the sowing of civil unrest throughout Ukraine via strikes, demonstrations, staged incidents, and street battles. Putin’s subversive forces will also orchestrate neo-Nazi incidents with Nazi regalia and swastikas on full display. Their mandates also include the deliberate killing of Russian soldiers and of ethnic Russian civilians to prove the hatred and extremism of radical Ukrainian nationalists. These orders come from Putin himself, Illarionov said. Their mission is to create an image of intolerable chaos and loss of civil authority to justify a Russian takeover of all Ukraine. Putin’s goal is the destruction of pro-Western authority in Ukraine, the total humiliation of the West, and a makeover of the geopolitical balance.
Illarionov’s assessment is similar to that of Lelonek. Destabilize Ukraine and make it ripe for the picking.
His urgent advice to President Poroshenko of Ukraine is to place all your efforts into preserving civil order and avoid falling for the Spetsnaz provocations. In other words, the nation shouldn’t become a patsy.
Ukrainian authorities must immediately close all borders with Russia to slow the infiltration of Spetsnaz and FSB destabilization units. The American government has also advised this and is in the process of providing Kyiv a range of sophisticated border control systems.
The free world is also tasked with containing Russian expansion. Illarionov urges the West to understand Putin’s grand vision for restoring the “historic glory of Mother Russia.” He and others are convinced that if Russia is successful in re-subjugating Ukraine, the balance of power in Europe and the world would change for the worse and lead to further “restorations” of the former Soviet Union and ultimately to rebuilding the prison of nations.
So it’s merely a matter of time when Putin will unleash his hordes to reconquer Ukraine and the other x-captive nations.
Illarionov also explained to the Lithuanian Tribune that it’s not only about Ukraine. Russian laws essentially define four categories of Russians, he said: ethnic Russians, irrespective of whether they reside in or outside Russia; Russian-speakers, irrespective of their nationality; all former citizens of the Soviet Union and their offspring living in the territories formerly covered by the USSR; and former citizens of the Russian Empire (pre-1917) and their offspring living in the territories once covered by the Russian Empire.
“Such a legal base allows the Russian army to protect all the Russians listed in the law. Therefore, for the Russian side, such actions of the Russian army beyond Russian borders might seem completely legitimate,” Illarionov elaborated.
The x-captive nations appreciate the dangerous situation they are in and have been increasing their military budgets in hopes of building armed forces strong enough to counter a full-scale Russian blitzkrieg.
Russia’s thirst for new conquests or return of its empire will not be sated by President-elect Trump’s misguided belief in Putin’s wholesomeness and integrity. The free world should not hesitate to vigorously thwart Putin’s war by preparing accordingly.
Some US officials, congressmen and pundits have been warning Russia about this dangerous, destabilizing trend. They have placed their hope for a safer world on a new round of intensified sanctions against Moscow that will force it to withdraw from occupied Ukrainian regions.
As in the past, so too in the future, this generation will be asked, what did you do to oppose Russian expansion and protect the world from new colonialism?