The Russian military has the ability to seize Donetsk and Luhansk if no one provides assistance to Ukraine, Russian military affairs specialist Aleksandr Golts says, but he argues that Moscow “does not have the resources” it would need for “a full-scale occupation” of these and other Ukrainian regions.
In an interview published by the Ukrainian Gordonua.com news agency yesterday, Golts says that at the present time, he sees three possible variants as to how the military and security situation in southeastern Ukraine is likely to develop.
The first would involve a Russian effort to address “certain tactical tasks” involved with providing assistance to separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk via the Azov Sea now that Ukrainian forces have reduced Moscow’s ability to supply them via other routes. In that event, he says, “Russian forces should be quickly withdrawn” once that goal has been achieved.
The second variant, Golts says, would be an effort to occupy “not all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast but rather the creation of a belt of security along the Russian-Ukrainian border approximately 10 to 15 kilometers from Donetsk to Azov” so that the Russian government would be in a position to support the separatists for a long time.
That could be done by the troops available, but even in March 2014, when Russia had the largest number of forces along the border – some 80,000 men – the Russian general staff told the Kremlin that these forces alone “were insufficient for a full-scale invasion and seizure of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.”
The third variant, Golts says, would involve a decision to “occupy all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and create new borders.” But if Putin were to take that decision, “the question arises:” with what forces would he do that? There aren’t enough professional soldiers in the Russian military to do that, and he would have to use draftees.
Using the latter, the Moscow military specialist says, would result in “an entirely different story.” Such troops have “low levels of discipline, poor preparation and must be changed every six months,” characteristics that would make an occupation impossible even if the seizure of more Ukrainian territory could be achieved relatively quickly.