President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (left) inspecting military equipment
Vladimir Putin’s goal in Ukraine remains regime change in Kyiv, something he had hoped his intervention in Crimea and Donbas would force the Ukrainians to do on their own. But that hasn’t happened, and now, the Kremlin leader is likely to launch a broader attack against Ukraine in the near future, according to Pavel Felgenhauer.
Putin has an even more compelling reason to move forward, the Russian military analyst says. If he doesn’t, he could face “very serious problems” at home. And “as a result, this could lead to regime change” not in Kyiv but in Moscow itself.
Consequently, while a move toward “a stable frozen conflict” in the Donbas is “theoretically possible,” Felgenhauer argues, it is “improbable” because for “political, strategic, tactical and economic reasons,” that would leave Ukraine in a state that is “absolutely unacceptable for Russia.”
“Therefore,” he says, “military pressure will continue,” and “Moscow will continue to attack as soon as it completes all the necessary preparations.” At the present time, “an intensive preparation for a summer campaign is going on,” one that will involve first militias it can disown but then may involve Russian units as well.
Thus, Felgenhauer says, “the probability of a summer campaign is very high.”
While an unstable truce continues in the Donbas, “the propaganda campaign against the Ukrainian regime and the West is only intensifying” in Russia itself, the military analyst says. Shifting the direction of that campaign, which hasn’t happened, could “lead to the activation of a protest movement” in Russia as the country enters a new electoral cycle.
Indeed, Felgenhauer suggests, Putin would face “very serious problems if he were to decide on a freezing of the conflict in the Donbas. As a result, this could lead to regime change in Moscow.” Consequently, he will try to inflict “tactical defeats” on the Ukrainian army in the hope that will lead to political change in Kyiv and the federalization or disintegration of Ukraine.
“In any case, according to the Kremlin’s scenario,” the Russian military analyst says, “Ukraine must not get the chance to develop independently or even more to build a democracy. This is something Moscow does not need at all, and that is exactly the outcome to which a frozen conflict could lead.”
Meanwhile, various Ukrainian writers are pointing to the Russian order of battle already present in eastern Ukraine or adjoining Russian regions as an indication that Putin may move even sooner than that, possibly as early as this coming weekend.
And Polish President Bronisław Komorowski told the Verkhovna Rada that “it is impossible not to see” that Russia has put military equipment and troops into Ukraine as part of an invasion. “Only the blind do not see this,” he said.
Komorowski said that “in the east, Ukraine is defending not only its own territorial integrity but also all of Europe from a return of the imperial past. The world will be secure only when Ukraine will be secure.” And consequently, “Europe must provide Ukraine with political economic and security support.”