Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Kremlin's response to the events in the Ukraine gradually becomes more apparent

Русские долго запрягают, но быстро едут
("Russians take a lot of time to saddle up, but then they ride fast")
 Russian adage

Over the past few days the events in the Ukraine have seen a fantastic acceleration and many important events have simultaneously taken place.  I will try to look at them one by one.
  • In Kiev, the leaders of the insurgency have taken full control of the Parliament and immediately passed laws revoking the official status of the Russian language.
  • The political leaders of the insurgency have gone to the Maidan to obtain the approval of the proposed members of the new government.
  • Just as Ms Nuland had ordered, Iatseniuk has taken the post of Prime Minister
  • On the Maidan itself, deep differences are now opposing different parts of the crowd.
  • The neo-Nazi leader of the "Maidan security forces" and one of the founders of the Freedom Party, Andrei Parubii, becomes chief of the Security Council.
  • The leader of the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Dmitri Iarosh, has become Deputy chief of the Security Council.
  • The rest of the new government are mostly supporters of ex-President Yushchenko in other words: loyal US agents.
  • The new regime has disbanded the riot police thereby liquidating the last force capable of maintaining law and order in the regions controlled by the insurgents.  Now is mob rule, pure and simple.
  • The local currency is in free fall, Iatseniuk claims that $35'000'000'000 are immediately needed to avoid a default.  The full debt is $170'000'000'000.
  • In the regime controlled areas, "expropriations" (assault & robbery) are taking place everywhere and criminals rule the street.
  • Yanukovich has been exfiltrated from the Ukraine by Russian security forces (more about that later)
  • The Parliament of Tatarstan and the World Congress of Tatars has appealed to the Crimea Tatars to basically stop the crap (it was said in more police terms).  Kudos for the wisdom of these two organizations!
  • Unidentified armed men have taken over the building of the Crimean Parliament at 4AM only to make sure that this time the elected members of this parliament could enter the building and convene a meeting.  A Russian flag was raised over the Parliament building
  • Kharkov governor Mikhail Dobkin has resigned his post to run for President of the Ukraine on May 25th.
  • The Crimean Parliament has taken over all the functions of the central government and has announced a referendum on the future of Crimean to be held on May 25th.
  • The newly elected mayor of Sevastopol has met with the Commander in Chief of the Black Sea Fleet.  Both men has declared that no violence of any kind will be tolerated.
  • New popular defense militias have been formed in Crimea and their numbers are estimated at somewhere between 5'000-15'000 men organized in platoons.  They have taken control of all the key roads and are now filtering traffic for any "visitors" from the insurgency-controlled areas.
  • Senior members of the Russian Parliament have visited the Crimea to express their support for the local people and hold consultations with their Crimean colleagues.
  • In Russia the opinions are split as to what to do:  Vladimir Zhirinovksy and his LDPR Party say that Russia should stay out of it but not pay a single Ruble to the Ukrainians.  The Communists want Russia to bring the issue to the UNSC.  The "Just Russia" Party (most "moderate") are expressing full support for the people of the Crimea and say that Russia has to intervene and assist them.  All-in-all, the takeover by over neo-Nazis in Kiev seems to be triggering a mix of disgust and rage which will put a lot of pressure on the Kremlin to do something.
So what about the Kremlin?   Actually, I think that I am beginning to discern what I believe is a multi-tiered response strategy which the Kremlin will conduct simultaneously:

1) Legal level:

By getting out Yaunk and allowing to seek refuge in Russia the Kremlin has made sure that the last legitimately elected President of the Ukraine would be physically available to challenge any and all decisions of the new regime, the insurgent-controlled Parliament and the nationalist government.  Yanuk is clearly politically dead, but in legal terms he actually is an extremely powerful and important actor which should be kept alive.

2) Ukrainian level:

The (now ex-) governor of Kharkov, Mikhail Dobkin, took a "discrete" trip to Russia and came back with the decision to resign as governor and to run for President.  First, the idea to run in an election controlled by the insurgents might appear stupid, but think again.  First, in the totally unlikely event of a halfway decent election he would most likely get elected (most Ukrainians do not support the insurgents).  Second, is the election is carefully "managed" Dobkin will be able to challenge it.  Third, by the simple fact of running he can force the insurgent-controlled media (especially the TV) to give him air time to debunk the nationalist propaganda.  So all in all, this is a very slick move.

3) In Crimea - political level:

For the Crimea I would say that it is a done deal: it will become an independent state in May.  That state will then have options open to itself.  If, by some totally unexpected and basically impossible miracle, Dobkin becomes elected, the Crimea can agree to a status quo ante but with the clear understanding that this will be a federative arrangement the Crimea can leave at any time.  If some crazy nationalist is "elected" then the Crimea will break all ties with the Ukraine and join the Economic Union with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia as an independent state.

4) In Crimea - security level:

Russia will use force to defend the Crimea if needed. The preferred solution is to assist the local authorities to defend themselves by providing funds, weapons (if needed), expertise (if needed), intelligence (if needed), etc.  But in most cases, that will not be needed simply because the locally based Black Sea Fleet can provide it all.  At most, the Ukies can send the kind of mobs they used in Kiev.  In contrast, the Black Sea Fleet can engage the 810th Independent Naval Infantry Brigade the 382nd Independent Naval Infantry Battalion and even the 102nd Independent Detachment of Navy Spetsnaz (see their emblem on picture), that is something like 1300-1400 elite soldiers all commanded by battle-hardened and experienced officers, backed by artillery, airpower, armor, etc.  In fact, I expect that local authorities, police forces (including the local Berkut and the popular self-defense militias will be able to handle any "visitors" from the insurgency by themselves, without any help from the Black Sea Fleet.  Bottom line: the insurgents will never control Crimea.

5) Eastern Ukraine:

That's were things become far more murky.  My sense is that the Kremlin is adopting a "wait and see" attitude towards the eastern Ukraine waiting to see what happens on a local level.  The core principle behind the Kremlin's policy is "we only help those who help themselves and deserve our help".  Crimea is a perfect example of this approach.  The fact is that the nationalists do have a strong presence in Kharkov, Dniepropetrovsk or Poltava so the outcome there is far more delicate to predict.

6) Rest of the Ukraine:

Here I think that the correct policy is self-evident: first, let the crazies fight each other to their heart's content. Let them run the already ruined economy into the ground, let them see how long their can survive by singing the national anthem an screaming "Бий жидів та москалів - Україна для українців" (beat the Jews and the Russians - the Ukraine for the Ukrainians).  Let the EU and the US come up with $35'000'000'000 to pay for this color-coded revolution and avoid a default, and then let them manage this new "popular and pro-western" regime.  And once they all run out of money, wait for them to call the Kremlin and ask for help.  And then, basically buy them off, one by one, factory by factory, politician by politician, oligarch by oligarch, region by region.  Russia owes these Russia-hating Nazis *nothing* and it will give them nothing for free.  The Ukies will try to retaliate by messing around with the Russian pipelines going through the Ukraine, but that is not a viable strategy: it hurts Europe first and foremost, and Russia has built two pipelines bypassing the Ukraine anyway.  Eventually, the Ukraine will break up with the west going to the EU and NATO and the Crimea to Russia.

As for China, it is already suing the new regime for breach of commercial contracts (I think, just heard/saw that somewhere on the news).  China will follow the Russian lead on this one.

7) The upcoming violence in the eastern Ukraine:

Barring a miracle, there will be a lot of violence in the eastern provinces of the Ukraine.  At this point in time I do not see a Russian military intervention to protect the Russian-speaking population which will have to defend itself.  Russia will provide a) political support b) financial support and, possibly, a limited amount of c) covert support.

That's about it, at least for the time being.  I might have to correct/refine this analysis.

As for the US/NATO, I don't believe that they will intervene militarily.  There will be A LOT of Russia-bashing, a lot of pro-Ukie propaganda, millions of US dollars will continue to flow into the pockets of the insurgency leaders, but eventually the US and its EU puppets will have to come to term with the fact that they failed to boot out the Black Sea Fleet from the Crimea and that the Crimea is going to Russia instead as a direct blowback to the color revolution the US and EU unleashed in Kiev.

What the US/EU will not do is to recognize any type of pro-Russian authority anywhere in the Ukraine.  So the country might be split like Georgia or the two Koreas are today.  That's ok, Russia and Crimea couldn't care less - let them have their own version of Kosovo for a change :-)

What do you think?  Does the above make sense?

Many thanks and kind regards,

The Saker