July 23, 2015
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
The second summer of war on the Donbass is in full swing. A year ago Kiev regime’s armored columns were engaged in bitter fights against local militias which decided to defend their right to live weapon in hand. But everything has changed in the course of last year: the front, the people, the economy, and hopes.
The fronline has long been stable, more or less along the line drawn up in Minsk in September 2014, corrected in February 2015 after the winter campaign. The strategy, tactics, and forces are different now. First of all, initiative is held by a different side. That’s very important in a situation where the front is 400km long and it’s defended by only 40 thousand troops on either side. A year ago armored columns could pass between opposing positions, covering dozens of kilometers every day which placed the opposing side in a difficult situation. UAF’s raid from Saur-Mogila to Lutugino was a prime example.
Now the war has a positional character which is wearing both sides as much (if not more) than its active phase. It’s enough to read official news releases by both sides to understand the situation at the front: the bombardments are aimed at JUNTA’s checkpoints and “separatists'” cities. Which means the JUNTA’s army is on the defense and…is afraid to leave those positions which have to be held somehow. Right now nobody is even trying to take those positions even when opportunities present themselves. As happened in Maryinka in early June.
Why? The Republican war strategy is not aimed at occupying territory but wearing down enemy forces by constant harassment fire which causes not so much physical harm as psychological. The extended front line which cannot be held by available forces, the impossibility of carrying out a mobilization as planned do not allow Kiev rotate its forces on the front lines which only worsens their moral state. Moreover, they don’t understand whom they are there to defend, and from whom.
This is a different tactic than high-intensity contact warfare. Nevertheless it brings benefits which are invisible at first glance by forcing enemy soldiers and population to jump at the slightest noise and be afraid fo their own shadow, and enemy HQs to wonder who will cover the 400km front line in six months by which time not only the tanks will be out of commission, but the ideology as well.
That’s what Ukraine’s “hurrah-patriots” are afraid of when commenting on the possibility of establishing a 30km buffer zone. They are certain that they’d lose those 30km quickly and forever.
The Junta: The presence of Junta’s army on territory which it was not able to make its own in one year is killing its soldiers more than the Ilovaysk and Debaltsevo defeats. When interacting with the most motivated Kiev regime troops at company commander level, the volunteers, one can often hear their commonsensical comments that the war on the Donbass is lost and the army must be withdrawn to the border of the regions (and possibly behind the Dnepr) to avert its total disintegration.And then hope to force the enemy to “fight for Ukraine” with some chance of success.
The army is disintegration as a result of interaction with the local population which views the soldiers as enemies and who cannot be trusted. Soldiers don’t understand for what and for whom they are fighting.
NAF: At the same time we never hear that the NAF is holding those or other positions. Their front line consists of well prepared positions which is occupied only by screening forces. The majority of forces are de-facto resting in the near-frontline zone or are perfecting their combat skills at training areas.
Tank company exercises aren’t even a secret anymore, but rather a PR tool (the exercises by the LPR Corps 2nd Brigade trained motorized rifle offensive operations with tank support).
Just recently all the armed forces were subordinated to a unified military structure, the “CORPS”. Its inclusion into the DPR Republican Guard deprives the republic’s civilian leadership of the ability to lead its “private” war. Now everything depends on the “corps” command and nobody else. which means the war has become far less unpredictable and more thought through.
The LeadersThe Republics: When the uprising began, the republics obtained a new “elite.” Since the republics were formed in wartime, the elite was military. One had to have not only organization skills but also charisma to become a commander at that time. That charisma played a bad joke on the new leaders. When the new system was in place, they had to learn to work together. Few of them knew how, therefore everyone who didn’t know disappeared from the republics’ political map. Only those capable of conducting a flexible hybrid war, even playing passive roles, remained. Nearly ALL who started the Russian Spring have been sidelined and are not influencing the republics’ politics.
Moscow is de-facto attempting to channel the new local elites’ energy toward internal creative work (especially ideological). It’s partly successful. I haven’t mentioned the one “exception” which, I think, everyone has noticed. It’s Khodakovskiy. He fits into the Kremlin’s new strategy of slow and quiet strangulation of the Kiev regime using the rope of its own errors (one can see the SBU education here where systemic thinking is taught). So I am not surprised by the rumors he is being pushed to become Zakharchenko’s replacement even as he is resisting the prospect with all his power.
Kiev: The team which lost everything in 2014 is still in power. Due to procedural issues. The US wants to have its own, controllable, but legitimate (as far as the “world” is concerned) government. They are not concerned whether it’s legitimate in Ukraine itself. That’s why Poroshenko cannot be replaced.
This is why the US have chosen the most flawed but, I think, unavoidable plan to marry the Junta and the pro-US wing of the Party of Regions (which entirely logically includes all of the party’s oligarchs) as the least painful and conflict-prone option.
Any radical attempt to change Ukraine’s top authorities will turn the country into a mess of irreconcilable differences which might affect territorial control. The US doesn’t need it so far therefore they are working with the people who are on the spot even though these people are a bunch of losers who screwed up EVERYTHING.
The biggest headache for all sides in the conflict is the social tension caused by a rapid decline in individual welfare. The West has cultivated the concept of the consumer for decades. Both at home and in the colonies. Largely successfully. Those who adopted the ideology became its faithful adherents. The ideal consumer is not worried about what’s happening around him, which makes him valuable to the US. But he has to be constantly fed (as the Strugatskiy Brothers perceptively noted). The consumer must consume in order to remain loyal, controllable, and predictable.
On this score the Junta is doing very badly. The consumer noticed his “ration” has shrunk, he has “lost weight”, and his practically atrophied brains have come back to life. And he started to ask questions. That’s a very dangerous thing for the West, it’s what it fears the most. It is losing support and therefore it is coming up with all manner of devices to keep the starving consumer under control. Here are the reasons for the republics’ blockade which has been pursued through a variety of strategies.
The first strategy was the destruction of social institutions on territories not under Kiev’s control–the withdrawal of civil servants and banks in late 2014. It struck a serious blow against those local inhabitants who wintered over in LPR/DPR. These people were on the brink of survival which was useful to the Ukrainian media as something to scare their own people with. But the first “blockade wave” was overcome after retirees were paid pensions and the civil servants salaries.
Incidentally, one of the greatest taboos on Ukrainian TV then and now are not the local inhabitants’ praise for the militia, but the price of bread in the republics: 2 hryvnya 80 kopeks. Inhabitants of Ukraine, did you know about that?
Kiev developed a new plan in the Spring of 2015. Ukrainian goods which were cheaper than Russian would no longer be supplied to LPR and DPR markets. The idea originated with the former MVD General, volunteer battalion crime fighter, and comic Gennadiy Moskal. It was also his idea to turn off water supply to the rebellious regions. A sort of a fascist “gauleiter in an embroidered shirt.”
Kiev thought the idea good and proper and ordered it spread to Donetsk. It lead to a conflict between Donetsk military administration head Kikhtenko and Poroshenko. Kikhtenko, also a retired MVD general, opted not to become a fascist like his colleague but retired instead. Zhebrinskiy who came to replace him is an old nationalist who adhered to Moskal’s guidelines which only created a new problem for Kiev, namely smuggling at the frontline.
Everyone is participating in smuggling: LPR, DPR, SBU, NG, UAF, MVD. Everyone has their own channels, structures, markets. Every participant gets a cut.
But that’s not Kiev’s, and especially Washington’s, main problem. LPR/DPR and Junta officers are growing closer together. It’s a good thing for the republics: the delivery of cheap goods is accompanied by opportunities to recruit junta officers and establish communications channels. I have a great deal of assurance that the purge of SBU “moles” in DPR occurred thanks to leaks of information directly from SBU archives. That’s why gauleiter Zhebrinskiy launched the idea of creating food markets on the line of contact, and he’s making a show of fighting corruption on the border. Though it’s too early to talk about results.
People have grown accustomed over the course of the year. Everyone is now used to the situation, the people of the Donbass, and of the ATO zone, and the Junta’s rear areas. And everyone is adapting to it (which is characteristic to Ukrainian mentality).
People in Donetsk are almost ignoring the customary shelling. Rather to the contrary. A calm day when nothing blows up is a major event which is discussed and around which theories are spun by local “experts.” There was one exception when shells struck the capital’s new regions and the satellite city Makeyevka, which for the people of DPR also became an event.
On the one hand it’s good (the internal mobilization precludes rebellions) but horrifying on the other. People who get used to war become asocial, cities used to war are dangerous to the country, a country used to war is dangerous to its neighbors. It’s axiomatic. That’s what the US is trying to achieve. Everyone in the country ought to grow accustomed to conflict which the puppetmasters want to last for decades. Washington can use that conflict (if the Kiev regime is preserved) to influence EU and Russian actions. The victims will include the inhabitants of former Ukraine and neighboring countries which thoughtlessly threw themselves into the game.
That’s why I’m doing everything I can to bring down the Kiev regime and any of its mutations and call on my countrymen to do the same. The pro-US regime in Ukraine spells RUIN for its ECONOMY, WAR for the POPULATION and, ultimately, the DESTRUCTION OF UKRAINE for the benefit of the US.
J.Hawk’s Comment: As usual, great commentary from yurasumy although I’d disagree with his assessment of US means and motives. Because is Poroshenko et al. doing anything he doesn’t want to do himself? Or in response to pressing domestic concerns that the US can’t/doesn’t want to help him with? Yurasumy correctly notes that Poroshenko is irreplaceable–if he goes, the country goes with him. Ukraine’s staying power is now too low to tolerate another political upheaval. But if you are irreplaceable, it means you have a considerable amount of power of your own.
Some months ago I made an argument (extremely controversial one, as it turned out) concerning LPR/DPR “Stalinists” and “Trotskyists”, with the former ultimately displacing the latter in the interests of ensuring the Kremlin has control over the events in order to prevent unpredictable developments. What amounted to a purge of the original Russian Spring organizers, the sidelining of politicians and commanders who did not play well with others but preferred to wage their own private wars, and the centralization all military command and control in the hands of “The Corps” is all part and parcel of that process. The Stalinists have the upper hand which greatly improves Novorossia’s chances. The Trotskyists like Mozgovoy have been retired because their freelancing, their pursuit of extreme objectives, was endangering the entire enterprise.
Where do we go from here? My thinking is that we are not going to see the UAF go on the offensive. It simply can’t. It would be pure suicide. The “rally around the flag” effect can be achieved only as long as a certain level of residual loyalty toward the political system exists. Once you cross that threshold an armed conflict will only accelerate the collapse. Look at Yugoslavia in 1941, for example. Or France in 1940. And Ukraine is even worse off than the other two. That, of course, really places Poroshenko in a tough spot. He can’t please either side. He can’t win the war (because Russia won’t let him and the West won’t help him) and he can’t end it either (because his own court Nazis won’t allow that–what, exactly, is their purpose in peacetime?). So at this point I don’t really know what Poroshenko might do next. Of course, he doesn’t know either. He’s a half-decent tactician absolutely bereft of a strategic sense and therefore out of his depth as a leader of a sizable European country. But since now Ukraine’s future is riding on Poroshenko’s qualities as a leader, I’d say it’s not a country with a bright future. Or much of a future at all.