Moscow can’t afford having its war in Donbas become a frozen conflict with an unrecognized state like Transdniestria or Nagorno-Karabakh: its economy cannot exist independently and its population is far beyond the capacity of the Russian state to subsidize for very long, according to Pavel Felgenhauer.
The implications of the Moscow military analyst’s argument are that Moscow must seize more territory, force Kyiv or someone else to subsidize a population that the Russian government might try to keep under its control, or withdraw.
But Felgenhauer himself explicitly says that because Moscow cannot afford to finance a frozen conflict in the Donbas, no one should count on that happening or on Moscow’s fulfillment of the Minsk accords. Instead, he says, it is “almost inevitable” that Moscow will “restart military operations.”
“If you believe Forbes, not long ago, it was proposed to Putin that he take the Donbas, but the Russian president said that he didn’t need it,” the analyst says, adding that he “believes that Putin really doesn’t need the Donbas in any form.”
“Half of the Donbas would not be able to exist independently,” Felgenhauer continues. Its economy is in ruins, its agricultural base is too small, its infrastructure is incapable of allowing that to happen, and its population, more than ten times that of Karabakh or Transdniestria, is too large for Moscow to finance.