Well, now it’s Ukraine’s turn. In five and a half years after 08.08.08 war against Georgia, the Russian troops, mimicking the so-called Crimean self-defense, have invaded the sovereign territory of Ukraine and are trying to establish occupation regime on the peninsula. So far these attempts are confined within Crimea only.
Yes, they might be still dragging the legal guise behind, but fundamental norms on international law are violated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has already clearly stated the fact, while Vladimir Putin at his March 4, 2014 press conference acknowledged it. Anyway, there are quite substantial words by the Russian president on the Russian Federation’s denial of undertakings established by the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. By the way, if even Moscow recognizes that Ukraine is now “a new state,” let’s prove it and build a really new efficient state (undoubtedly being a legal successor of the “old” Ukraine, primarily in the international obligations sphere).
The current operation, undoubtedly plotted beforehand, shall be considered as another implementation stage of Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, that is coercion to fraternity. I’d remind, that this strategy has been unswervingly pushed through for the last 5-7, if not 10 years.
Let be, that on March 2, 2014, two days after operation launch, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel basically agreed to the monitoring mission departure to Crimea, and the next day ordered to complete large-scale military exercises in the Western and Central military districts and return armed forces units to their permanent dislocation places. It’s too untimely to hail the victory, the operation continues. Obviously, the analysis of the course and results of Russian activities as well as Ukrainian response is still to come, however several very important conclusions might already be made.
First, the Russian system of influencing the policies and economy of Ukraine hit its bottom. For the first time in these 23 years the Kremlin cannot rely on the efficiency of available leverages and decides to apply the last argument, that is military force. The question who won’t Moscow just wait and repeat the successful experience of 2005, when revolutionary leaders got dragged into quarrels over power and allowed to restore Viktor Yanukovych, has quite a simple answer. Moscow cannot shoot Yanukovych anymore, he’s already spent, Mr. Putin made it clear; other negotiable partners do not meet all the demands. However, there are other reasons not to be neglected.
It’s highly questionable how important is the psychological factor (the so-called “lost contact with reality,” as Ms. Merkel smartly put it), and how much of pragmatic circumspection there is. Only one thing is clear: this is the battle not only for the future of Ukraine, but also for the future of Russia. Vladimir Putin fights for Kremlin and is, unfortunately, supported by many Russians. According to the data from some Russian sociological agencies (whose credibility is, nonetheless, uncertain) even in Moscow 51% of citizens support the invasion. Even wannabe liberals, for example, former head of the Kremlin administration A. Voloshyn, supported the invasion. However, he’s used to such sort of things. After nuclear bomb threats during Tuzla crisis of 2003 his current statements are an easy bit.
Second, the stand and the response of Western countries is not a great concern for Kremlin chiefs. Surely, Russia’s being expelled from G8 is unpleasant, but bearable, as well as targeted economic sanctions, which are not to be implemented immediately, if at all. Moderately stern response of the West, with the exception of almost improbable military intervention, is in a certain sense a facilitator for the Russian citizens consolidation around their current leaders. The distorting mirror of Russian propaganda supports conspiracy theories about international plot against Russia. Upon external threat Vladimir Putin from a controversial person turns into the sole defender of the country. Don’t change horses in the midstream. This assumption prevails over all other ones.
Third, Russian regime is undergoing deep transformation. Russia is out of resources to maintain “velvet authoritarianism” ever further. They are mostly sacked or spent up. We can witness, how the regime is getting more brutal, approaching the historical examples the very mention of which makes our blood run cold. Surely, Russian police was never a paragon of humanism towards the protesters, but arresting people for a handmade poster “Peace for the world” is an unnerving novelty even for Moscow. Russian propaganda was never scrupulous. But the psychosis raging today surpasses even the Brezhnev times. Hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking refugees tortured in Luhansk, Lvov and other “Banderivtsi subways” is a brand new phenomenon. If Napoleon had Pravda or RTR channel, France would never have got to know about Waterloo.
Fourth, the fact that Russians, duped with their own propaganda, have a vague notion of the situation in Ukraine, was proven once more. The myth about the two Ukraines, about beep, albeit civilization difference between Lvov and Donetsk, on the desire of Eastern and Southern Ukraine to become a part of Russia, on the absence of the Armed Forces in Ukraine and many other illusions are a driver of Russians’ actions. The aggressor looked forward to red carpet and flowers, and rejoicing crowds, but even in Crimea faced a very apprehensive attitude. Of course, many people celebrate the Russian troops, not less of them are outraged, while the majority is fearful and hiding. Ukrainian Armed Forces demonstrate fortitude and toughness. If the most pro-Russian region of Ukraine is like this, what should be expected from the other regions?
The example of legal grounds behind the invasion is blatant as well. Having no single fact of Russian-speaking population rights violation in Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the UN V. Churkin quoted the invitation from Viktor Yanukovych whom the Russians still see as the President of Ukraine. Meanwhile, they were too lazy to analyze Ukrainian laws. The Constitution of Ukraine and the Law “On the Procedure of Foreign Armed Forces Admission onto the Territory of Ukraine” stipulate that the President’s decision on the admission shall be legally valid only if approved by the Verkhovna Rada, whose legitimacy was recognized by Vladimir Putin himself. The same law envisages that in the event of interference with the domestic affairs of Ukraine these foreign armed forces must be immediately removed from the territory of Ukraine. Thus, Yanukovych’s statement must be considered as a politically and legally void appeal from an individual to the state bodies of Russian Federation.
Fifth, the operation plotted and planned as a reconnaissance in force is unwillingly and rapidly exceeding its initial restricted scale. The Russians, maybe unwittingly, made a decisive step in Ukraine and involved a good share of their hidden reserves. There is an acute shortage of power, so they have to give out many stashed resources. Military staff and opportunities prepared for decades, are being wasted in a week. This is a combination of arrogance, traditional haphazardness, contempt of Ukrainians held as an inferior nation, understanding that the conflict evolves into a decisive phase…
The Russian President deserved a specific appraisal, as he formed an universal criterion for Ukraine. there are no more secondary nuances and the things get crystal clear – whom do you support, the masters of policy, safety and culture? Ukraine or Putin? And conventional formulas get null – there is only one question.
It’s a good old “hit-or-miss” game. Stopping and retreat, in addition to obvious external and internal political losses, will mean serious undermining of already weak positions for Russian influence in Ukraine. I would say it again, it is quite unlikely that the events would not turn critical and remain limited to establishing the control over Sevastopol or Crimea. The attempts to grasp control over a bigger territory are possible and even plausible. But the Russian positions will get even weaker till the next attempt.
As of the moment of writing this article it’s not clear if there will be a pause after ultimate overcoming the peninsula, and for how long. but the forces will obviously be regrouped and Putin would launch a new attack. The operation will halt where it faces the resistance. The Russians will go that far, as they are allowed to go. At the moment the Russians are presumably stuck in Crimea, blocking Ukrainian military units. But Crimean Tatars did not make their move yet…
Sixth, the Russian doctrine implemented in this conflict gets more and more obvious. It is based on using puppet structures to do the actions mirroring Maidan technologies. In Ukraine Russians try to work through the feigned self-defense forces of Crimea and southeastern Ukraine. The structures pretending to be independent, but backed up by the Russian forces seize administrative and other objects, block Ukrainian military units. That’s what V. Putin said on his press conference.
The “Independent Crimean state” within the legal framework to formed by March, 30 referendum is expected to be formed in the shortest outlook. This state will have its own army, recruited from Russian soldiers and local collaborationists, which is going to act against Ukraine. Russian forces would lurk in shadows, as Moscow is very well aware of the fake nature of the legal grounds for invasion. Crimean collaborationist S. Tsekov statement dated March 3, claiming that Kherson, Nikolayev and Odesa oblasts want to join the Crimea, fit this scenario perfectly. The same does the Russian travelling circus trying to capture administrative buildings in Southern and Eastern regions.
Crimean Tatar line is very interesting, as Russians involve in this matter not only Kazan Tatars, but even Chechens. Ramzan Kadyrov’s role in the Russian politics is not decreasing, so what’s gonna be there as the state policy weakens? Hey, ye Orthodox community!
Seventh, Russians are still trying to avoid shooting. There are some chances for peaceful resolution of the conflict. This chance must be used. Well, the Russians do not recognize the new government, they are brutally arrogant, but the dialog is necessary. And actions taken by Ukrainian government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs deserve the most profound respect. Restoring the negotiations with Moscow is ultimately important. They may be initiated on condition of the Russian troops withdrawal to their dislocation sites and discontinuation of separatist forces support . Only after that all other matters need and must be discussed, as no one could deny the existence of substantial Russian interests in Ukraine. A compromise must be sought on the basis of mutual observation of national interests. Time will tell, to what extent this compromise is possible.
And last, but not the least. On-going events have proven that Ukraine do has Armed Forces. They can resolve extremely difficult assignments in very strenuous conditions. Security service officers act is vigorous and successful manner. The state’s priority task is to build the efficient security sector on the existing basis which would be able to reliably safeguard the national security. We have full potential to do so.
Translated by Iryna Babanina