“Half a step from full scale war”

Russian convoy at Ukraine border 


Pavel Felgenhauer

The independent Russian military analyst on the current situation in Eastern Ukraine and the significance of Mariupol

The main problem is that for Russia, military defeat of Novorossiya is completely unacceptable. Recently, everything has been moving towards this outcome. Rebels have been driven out, and have retreated and retreated. Today, Russia has taken a step that had to be taken to avoid a rout. In other words, it has dramatically increased its presence.

However, this is not a full-scale invasion – not formally, nor in reality. Russian aviation is as yet not involved in the conflict, the contingent of Russian forces is limited: in total 3-4,000 military personnel according to the “DPR leader” Alexander Zakharchenko. This is in fact quite a lot, but not the 20-30,000 that could be there.
This means that we are half a step from a full-scale war. This war will happen if the current situation does not deliver the results as set by Moscow. The strategic aims, as stated by Putin since April, is is a sustainable ceasefire. In order to achieve this, a military balance is required on the battlefield. This means crushing the Ukrainian forces, driving them out of Donetsk and Luhansk, and surrounding the area controlled by the rebels. The DPR leadership has repeatedly stated that they want full withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The main battle will evidently now occur around and in the city of Mariupol. If there is no success in driving out Ukrainian forces, a real war will start. And a war from the air, throughout the whole of Ukraine. And then tens of thousands of Russian soldiers will follow. The air force will seek to gain air superiority and remove the Ukrainians. In an expanded version, perhaps not only from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Little time remains. Autumn is approaching. The shorter daylight hours and low cloud will make air force work more difficult. It will be hard to support forces on the ground – pilots in SU-25s need to be able to see their targets.

In addition, from October 1, it will be necessary to carry out a new rotation of troops, demobilizing those currently at the border. Precisely for this reason, the question will have to be resolved now.


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