Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Sounding out and blackmailing...

What a Russian expert’s call for resorting to “a Syrian scenario” against Ukraine means
27 December, 2016 - 11:42

At last, we have got what is now trendy to call “a signal.” Moreover, it is a very serious and loud one as well. This is not some boorish words coming from Vladimir Zhirinovsky or Eduard Limonov. This is a thought-out presentation delivered by a renowned scholar who describes what he sees as the optimal action plan for the Kremlin on the Ukrainian front. In his opinion (which anyone can access firsthand here: https://youtu.be/8E1dCPHwsIY),  Russia ought to resort to “a Syrian scenario” in the Donbas in the near future, using aircraft, cruise missiles and long-range systems, and starting with the Donbas, subsequently expand such strikes all over Ukraine...

We are talking about the public presentation delivered by Ph.D. Mikhail Aleksandrov, a leading expert of the Center for Military and Political Studies at the globally prominent Moscow State Institute of International Relations, traditionally serving as the alma mater of Russia’s foreign service professionals. This is what the Russian scholar said (we have removed from his speech repetitions and purely colloquial phrases): “We should take advantage of a ceasefire violation. Once they break the ceasefire, we must launch an offensive. The Donbas troops, supported by our air force, long-range missile systems, such as the Iskander, and cruise missiles, will go on an offensive. It is in fact a Syrian option. When the main infrastructure of Ukraine’s armed forces, including communication, command and air defense centers, and heavy weapons, is destroyed, the Donbas army must undertake an offensive.”

The next step, according to the Russian expert, has to be a mop-up operation aiming to evict the remnants of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from the Donbas. “The destroyed positions, now held only by mainly lightly-armed infantry, will be taken by the Donbas troops, who will have to just mop-up the remnants of the UAF. I think that once this operation starts, the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv regions will get liberated, and then the Ukrainian regime will start collapsing under such conditions, because other regions will not recognize that government’s authority anymore. Ukraine is a rich land, there are many industrial enterprises there which our industry needs as well. They include the Motor Sich plant, since we are still unable to get production of some helicopter engines running in Russia… extra industrial assets are always welcome. Shipbuilding industry, railway infrastructure... Economically, we can only win from it,” Aleksandrov declared boldly. He then went on to tell his TV audience about the provinces rebelling against the central government in Kyiv, a regime change occurring in Ukraine since the country’s pro-Russian forces were numerous enough, forming a new military based on “the army of the Donbas,” and so on. And he ended his monolog by saying: “I believe that this option should be seriously considered by our leadership.”

Was it an attempt at blackmailing us? Sounding out the mood? Was it both? At least, it was clearly not a purely private initiative. Ph.D. Aleksandrov works for a public institution of strategic importance, and due to his status and modern Russia’s restored Soviet traditions, may not say anything that runs counter to the “general line of the party.” Yes, the future implementation of this line may be discussed and various options proposed, but only as long as they fit the “general line.” Therefore, Aleksandrov’s presentation must draw attention of our government and the leadership of our security agencies. Was it an accident that it was broadcast just before the start of the Christmas holidays, when political life goes into hibernation in the West and the East alike (remember that not only Catholics and Protestants, but most Orthodox patriarchates, too, celebrate Christmas on December 25)? I think not. According to many international affairs experts, the Kremlin is preparing to launch a number of ground and air operations in Syria, aimed at reinforcing the Assad regime and preventing its overthrow by the pro-Western opposition, in the next month and a half, the time of US power transition. Here, Vladimir Putin might even agree to an effective partition of Syria, abandoning Kurdish- and Turkmen-populated areas to the Turkish military control, so as to be able to set things straight in other parts of that country and show the West who is the real master of the Middle East. And at precisely that point, he might try to bring about “liberation” of Ukraine as well, conducted by “the Donbas forces” and supported by Russian missile strikes and bombers.

Moreover, the political situation in Ukraine is, at first glance, conducive for the implementation of such a plan. Support for all branches of government and their heads is very low. The “opposition” (which should be properly called the Kremlin’s fifth column) has been ably using this factor, flirting with the government and provoking disagreements between the patriotic forces. The fifth column is well-supplied with means of deceptive influence on the conscious and subconscious minds of the Ukrainian masses. If not for it, why would sociological indicators be so worrying overall, despite all that has happened in recent years? Half of the Ukrainians, according to the Razumkov Center, still believe the Russians to be a “brotherly people”; more than 40 percent (a plurality) do not believe a full-scale war with Russia to be possible, and a third are mentally prepared to normalize relations with Russia at the cost of formally renouncing our sovereignty over Crimea... Add to this shortcomings in the conduct of combat operations (and shortcomings is too mild a term), once again revealed during  recent clashes in the Svitlodarsk salient (it is unclear why civilian volunteers still have to evacuate wounded soldiers and bring ammunition to the UAF, and where did public funds allocated for this purpose go?). The list of our failures and negative phenomena can go on and on, and it may well contribute to the Kremlin deciding to send “the Donbas forces” on an offensive supported by Russian missile strikes and aircraft (by the way, the Moscow expert was clearly talking about the imagined actions of the Russian Armed Forces and “the Donbas forces” as the actions of something coherent and unified, and answering to a joint command). Therefore, a Russian military offensive is possible, and so is an attempt to blackmail Ukraine with the threat of it, aiming to force our government and people to seek peace on the terms dictated by the Kremlin, that is, amounting to surrender.

The way out is simple: the Ukrainians must clearly demonstrate their unity, and our government must show efficiency at least in the matters related to repelling the aggressor. Of course, the gamble involving the probable offensive of “the Donbas forces” is in any case doomed to fail, but what price may Ukraine have to pay for it?


Valentyn BADRAK, director of the Center for Army, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies:

“Russia has always employed this sounding-out technique. For this purpose, they use experts, or academics, or ‘scholars’ working for some foreign institution. I personally witnessed it in 1998, during the preparation of the first wave of NATO enlargement, when a Russian scholar described what would happen should NATO dare make such a move. He listed countermeasures including placing nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad Region, deploying Iskander missiles, and the like. I witnessed it again in 2008, when the Kremlin’s favored Russian expert Igor Dzhadan described the project called ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ It included a detailed scenario of the conquest of Ukraine.

“Now to the abovementioned statement and the reasons for it. Until the new US president is inaugurated and the Kremlin understands how its relationship with the new US administration will look, the Kremlin is unlikely to dare take any military action. And it applies not only to military actions, but to any radical steps in general, until a clear picture of the relationship’s new reference points emerges. So I think that this statement was an attempt at sounding out. As for the probability that this individual made such statements in order to draw the attention of his superiors, I give it one to two percent. I am 98 percent sure that it was a planned move, designed by the Russian security services. While sounding out the entire world, they targeted several focus groups. They aimed to find out the reaction of the US, the same of the rest of the Western world, that of Ukraine, and even the reaction of the Russians themselves. In this way, they adjust their stances using information technology. For instance, they may put increased pressure on the population or the government in Ukraine. Maybe, they aim to study the genuine public opinion in Russia about the possibility of military intervention and the expansion of the war against Ukraine. Then, they may enhance information and propaganda work to shape the perception of a massive aggression by the Russians. So I see this statement as one with a mostly strategic purpose and aiming at more distant future.

“But it is clear that Russia will use the military option whenever it realizes that the target is weak and vulnerable. This should stimulate us to implement the plans and ideas aimed at strengthening the national defense. These plans have already begun to be implemented. I mean the missile program, creation of the powerful Special Operations Forces, with capable Special Forces soldiers being a major component, and so on. All this is necessary to create a deterrent for the foreign aggressor. I cannot rule out that the abovementioned statement has something to do with the fact that Ukraine has repeatedly demonstrated its missile and air defense capabilities. Both Ukraine and the Russian Federation are now repositioning to form new formats of relations with the Western nations, first and foremost with the US.”