Beyond Novorossia – what the future holds


January 16, 2014
Rostislav Ishchenko –
Translated from Russian by J. Hawk

The situation on the fronts of the Ukrainian civil war is growing more acute. It is difficult not to notice that Kiev decided to start fighting right before the Astana summit.

It cannot be ruled out that the provocation is supposed to force Putin to make a choice: if he doesn’t fly to Astana he’ll be accused of destroying the peace process, and if he flies to Astana he’d have to explain to the Russian society, what is he planning to talk with fascists about, who just killed hundreds of peaceful inhabitants of Donbass.

But it is also possible that the massive artillery bombardments and individual clashes will turn into a full-scale war. The danger of a new phase of active combat operations is extremely high. There is only one reason against it—Kiev’s forces can’t fight.

That’s true. They can’t. They couldn’t in May, or August, but fought anyway. After all, only the most naive of Maidanites still believe that the Kiev government still makes any decisions concerning its own country.

The US could care less whether Ukraine’s army can or cannot fight.

Even their budget is written by foreigners. They certainly can’t decide issues of war and peace. And the US, which is using Ukraine as a pawn, could not care less whether Ukraine’s army can or cannot fight. Just as they don’t care when Ukraine will disappear and how many millions of its population will disappear with it. They are more interested in how that will happen and what use will it bring to Washington.

The US was interested in a full-scale war in Ukraine already in March 2014. And the level of interest has not decreased since. Only the format of possible combat operations.

Between March and August they tried to compel Russia to fight openly. Therefore the utterly open and cynical violation of all Ukrainian and international laws, namely the use of the army against its people, bombardments and shellings, genocide of the civilian population and even the most recent, desperate offensive in August-September, when DPR/LPR were closer to destruction than ever.

The Americans are not idiots and understand that the militia was not saved by the “miracle on the Vistula” [a reference to the Polish victory over the Red Army in 1920], that they found tanks and artillery in their garages only days before unavoidable destruction, and that the Ukrainian army broke and fled under assault by real armed forces, and not semi-partisan detachments led by field commanders incapable of establishing cooperation among themselves.

The offensive not coincidentally stopped at the extreme range of artillery fire from the Russian border. If it continued, the White House would have gotten the undeniable proof not of Russian involvement (which was not concealed), but of Russian invasion (which is something entirely different). Turkey also intervened in Syria (its artillery also fired across the border), but did not invade.

When it became clear that Russia will not enter Ukraine officially (at least not in the form the US wished), a new approach was adopted. On the one hand Russia was to make concessions, which was supposed to undermine Putin’s internal base of support, while at the same time LPR and DPR were to be destroyed through economic blockade faster than Ukraine itself.

By the end of December it became clear that even that plan cannot be implemented. Ukrainian leaders and the “specialists” sent to help from Georgia, the Baltics, and even people with US passports turned out too incompetent, thieving, and limited. They could not accomplish the two main things: stabilizing the energy situation sufficiently to survive winter, and to put the Nazi bandits from volunteer battalions under control.

The growing anarchy and the real threat of energy system collapse, which would automatically cause the collapse of all the national life support systems clearly shows that Ukraine’s collapse will happen sooner than that of LPR/DPR, and that Moscow has its finger on the button of that collapse.

In mid-December the Ukrainian power plants had only 4-10 days worth of coal left, the Westinghouse fuel assemblies used instead of Russian ones nearly caused another Chernobyl, and Ukraine could have well met the New Year without light, gas, heat, plumbing, water, and other little things that make life bearable.

The parallel round-up of the “wild” volunteers demonstrated to Washington that it can’t place its hopes on the anarchy of the military volunteers, similar to warlord rule which blossomed on the territories controlled by Kiev. Therefore the US only had one means of using Ukraine for its own purposes (namely for the complication of relations between EU and Russia), and that is to intensify the conflict even if it meant risking a rapid defeat of Kiev’s forces.

Let’s consider the following options:

1. Kiev’s army forces the Novorossia army to conduct intensive positional battles for a lengthy period of time. Which means we will watch what has been happening for the past couple of days for many weeks—barbaric bombardments of Donbass cities and mass deaths of the civilian population. And again, just like during the summer, the question “how long?” will be addressed not to Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky but to Putin. There will be more crowds of refugees. Except it will be harder to find places for them during winter. The problem can be solved by Novorossia army offensive. It then will be blamed for breaking the ceasefire which never really existed. It’s Russia’s fault. USA and EU are very saddened and they unite to face the Russian threat.

2. Kiev’s army breaks and runs after a week or two of more or less intensive battles. The Novorossia army simply follows it and occupies new territories. Then see option 1.

3. As a result of disagreements between Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Turchinov, Avakov, Kolomoisky, the army, the national guard, the wild Nazi battalions such as the “volunteer Ukrainian Right Sector corps,” there is a military coup in Kiev, and the various factions of the former Ukrainian army start fighting one another.

The country falls into chaos, transit routes are closed, everyone and their brother are blowing up gas pipelines, Novorossia forces are insufficient to take the entire territory of Ukraine under their control. There is a need for a peacekeeping contingent.

If Russia decides to establish order unilaterally—see option 1. If there is an international contingent with specific areas of responsibility, then the US can continue playing the game.

Of course, each of these options would be difficult to realize in its pure form, therefore it’s more likely they will be realized all at once, chaotically. But a fire in a bordello is even better for the US than a bordello in a burned out building.

The organization of mass slaughter in Ukraine is being prevented only by the cowardice and plebeian cleverness of Ukrainian politicians who still don’t understand what situation they are finding themselves in and who still believe that “the abroad will help,” and by the lack of desire on part of even the dyed-in-the-wool Nazis to actually fight. The US, as usual, did not do its homework.

Ukrainians are not Germans, they don’t specialize in warmaking, but rather in looting and concentration camp security. Therefore Avakov’s advisor Gerashchenko is referring to Obama as a “political midget” because he’s not about to start a war with Russia over Ukraine, and Yatsenyuk is chiding the Europeans in that, unlike the Ukrainians, they don’t understand their own European interests and refuse to finance the sad excuse of a Ukrainian state. In general, everyone in Ukraine wants to savor the fruits of victory over everyone (over Russia, Novorossia, and each other), but someone else will have to do the winning.

But the US is a superpower and since they’ve decided that Ukrainians will fight, it means they will fight. They will cry, hide, conduct sabotage, but they’ll fight just the same. That’s why the war, whose inevitability has been and is being predicted by all actual experts, is becoming more real with every day.

Perhaps the Russian leadership will succeed in outplaying the US in its relationship with the EU and thus save Europe which has already stuck its neck in the noose. Perhaps Russia will manage to imitate the liberation of Ukraine by the armed forces of Novorossia, especially if the combat readiness of Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Zaporozhye underground is half of that advertised.

It’s possible, though not likely, that large-scale Makhno-style anarchy and humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine can be avoided (though I can’t imagine how thousands of war criminals no longer needed by Europe will voluntarily lay down their arms). But ultimately, irrespective of scenario, the problem of controlling the territory, confiscation of hundreds of thousands of weapons, the rebuilding of the economy, and the feeding of the population, cannot be solved without Russia’s direct participation.

This leads to the following question: what is to be done about Novorossia?

Novorossia as such does not exist. There is LPR/DPR and some improbable organization [Novorossian parliament] under the leadership of Oleg Tsarev that does not decide anything. Rapid liberation of the territory (and in the event of full-scale war it would be rapid) means there would be no time not only to institutionalize the new creations, but even for the establishment of new “national republics.”

Moreover, war would mean that attempts to reach an agreement with Ukraine on legitimizing the conflict resolution in accordance with international law have failed. And that means that Ukraine is no longer needed. At the same time the need to occupy territory beyond the realm of the eight provinces of the historical Novorossia means the new government would not be a Novorossian one, but all-Ukrainian.

If one were to apply effort and money to create a new pro-Russian Ukraine on the basis of non-existent Ukraine, this would practically guarantee a new separatist project by a provincial elite seeking support from anyone, in order to distance themselves from Russia and freely loot the “sovereign” territory.

We have seen in the example of not only Yatsenyuk-Poroshenko but also Yanukovych-Azarov how profoundly out of their depth the regional Ukrainian elites can be. Their clumsy attempts at grand politics brought Ukraine into the current crisis (in spite of their objective interests but in accordance with their naive perception of their own global importance).

So it turns out that after the war there is no place for either Ukraine or Novorossia. Nobody needs them.

The Russian part of the population has long seen itself as part of Russia, the Russophobic one will change its opinion as quickly as it did in 1991. The die-hard Nazis whom only the grave will cure are best lost along the way, and the war provides ample opportunities.

Therefore there are still two options:

1. The unreal one, assuming not only Poroshenko coming to his senses but also his ability to carry out a Night of Long Knives for his hawks. Then it will be necessary to negotiate with Kiev about “a unified federalized Ukrainian state” under Russian protectorate, because someone will have to guarantee denazification. In practice this will mean the recreation of a monstrous vassal entity akin to the Hetmanate of the 17th-18th century, oscillating between autonomy and sovereignty and serving as a source for all kinds of internal interest (which implies its quick elimination through integration).

2. Direct incorporation of the liberated provinces into Russia. They can’t exist as national republics either separately or collectively. Imagine Kernes negotiating with Plotnitskiy. And there are no other leaders. And since they don’t exist, they are not needed. If they were needed, they would have been found.

The second option is no more complicated from the perspective of international law than the first one, and it is preferable from the point of view of irreversibility.

And, judging by everything, the more astute representatives of the Nazi elite have already sensed something. One does not hear from Kolomoisky anymore, you can’t see Korban anywhere, even Filatov closed his Facebook page. And he was so proud of it.

The Privat Group vanished from cyberspace once before, on the eve of its collective flight abroad in 2013. And if in Kiev anyone can sense which way the wind is blowing, it will be the Privat folks. The rest will understand what happened only when they are on the edge of a hole in the ice over Dnepr river. And even then they’ll keep hoping that soon Ambassador Piatt or Deputy Secretary Nuland will appear and everything will end with a joyful distribution of cookies.

Translator’s Note: 

As implausible as the above might seem, these are very likely alternatives. Actually, it’s the first scenario of the two listed above that is the more probable, in my view. Russia would not want to incorporate the entire Ukraine, since the process of denazification would be a lengthy and bloody one. The objective of the Russian government has been to re-establish a positive relationship with a Ukraine whose leadership is not reflexively anti-Russian. It is true that there might be yet another attempt to create trouble in 10-15 years. But by then we’ll be living in a very different world.

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