On the Novorussian side the recent elections did not solve the constant infighting between the various commanders. To my great regret, this nonsense is still going on. Bezler was removed from his command, Mozgovoi was told that his brigade had to be incorporated into the Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF), which he gladly accepted, and that this would be done by breaking up his brigade into various units of the NAF, which he categorically rejected. Then there was the news that Zakharchenko had decorated Strelkov and Borodai as with the Medal of "Hero of the Donetsk People's Republic". Strelkov denied that adding that he would not take that medal from Zakharchenko anyway. The news was then "corrected" to say that this decision had been made about Bezler and Borodai. The blog of Colonel Cassad (http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/ - the most honest Russian-language blog on Novorussia IMHO) goes into exquisite details about all this nonsense and the English version of this site apparently has resumed translating his blog. You can find the English version here: http://cassad-eng.livejournal.com/.
|Voentorg in action|
Question for everybody: I have heard reports that columns of T-80 tanks has been spotted in Novorussia. Can somebody confirm whether this is true or not? So far, all the "T-80s" have turned out to be modification of the Ukrainian T-72, but the appearence of Russian T-80s could be significant because while not modern by Russian standards, most Russian T-80s have been retrofitted with modern electronics and fire systems. In other words, a modernized Russian T-80 would have a huge advantage over a Ukrainian T-72, specially an unmodified one.
I personally do not really care who of the Novorussian leaders is in command as long as it is one person. All of them have shown that they are competent military commanders so the question is a political one. Zakharchenko is by far the most legitimate political leader since he won the election, and he seems to most willing to do what the Kremlin wants which I consider a good thing. But this is also the reason why a lot of the other field commanders don't like him, especially Strelkov. But then again, Strelkov himself is far from being unanimously endorsed either and, besides, he is now out of the Novorussian political game since he now lives in Russia. The fact is that Novorussia cannot exist without Russian support, so my totally politically incorrect preference for the command of the NAF would be for a Russian general to be put in charge, but that ain't happening. Next best, somebody who will listen to a Russian general. But for the political command of Novorussia was is needed is a good administrator, a local Novorussian and a civilian capable of effectively interfacing with the military commanders. I personally liked Borodoi, but any guy close to the security services would do.
Why the security services? Because no real "democracy" is possible in a combat zone. So the next best thing is a pretend democracy where the democratically elected leader has some personal legitimacy, but is willing and capable of working closely with the military commanders and with the Kremlin. Sort of Borodai v2 I suppose. Alas, I don't see that happening anytime soon.
Ukieland aka Banderastan
The total chaos in continuing the the Nazi-occupied Ukraine. While the junta did succeed in bringing a lot of military power (man and gear) to the line of contact, no real attack has materialized. Besides the already well-know terror shelling of civilians in Donetsk, the new and rewamped JRF has not shown itself capable of anything yet. Could they do more?
Yes, definitely, they now have three things which they lacked before the Minsk agreement:
1) More firepower
2) More armor
3) Well defended sectors
These are good ingredients for a determined attack. The problem for them is, of course, that the NAF now also has more of these three categories. Finally, the NAF retains a very significant advantage in moral, tactical proficiency, local population support, knowledge of the terrain and reconnaissance. This, along with the repoening of the Voentorg spigot, might well explain the current Ukie lack of attack.
[Sidebar: I have seen a lot of nonsense about Uncle Frost, General Winter, Jack Frost, etc. This is utter nonsense. Both the Russians and the Ukrainians (as if they were different) have fought wars in the winter for over 1000 years and they can very much do that again. Even in the Arctic (in the case of Russians). The Russians train in Siberia, on permafrost, in the Caucasus and, of course, in Central Russia's brutal winters and while extreme weather conditions of the Winter or Spring (the thaw) make that harder, they don't make that impossible at all. A Winter offensive is definitely possible, is less likely]On the political side, on the Ukie side the elections has also not settled anything and all the bigshots are busy fighting each other. Most of the "action" seems to take place around Kolomoiski, but there is plenty of hatred to go around for everybody.
|the leaders of the free world|
Still, the worst problems for Russia are, beyond any doubt, self-inflicted. There is a reason why Russia has been so dependent for years on gas and oil exports: it is because the Russian economy has not been able to provide alternative sources of revenue and the reason for that is that the entire economic system adopted by Russia after 1991 has been designed to lock Russia into an "African" style of economy: Russia was allowed to export her raw materials and was told to import all the rest. How was that achieved? By telling the Russians to keep interest rates high, their savings invested in US T Bonds and keeping their main corporations incorporated abroad. Of course, none of that would have been possible without a faithful local comprador class imposing that system by its power of corruption on the rest of the country. The bottom line is that these sanctions primarily hurt Russia there were Russia is weak anyway, so in a sense you could say that these sanctions are acting like cattle-prods forcing the Russian state to very reluctantly go to its own salvation.
This is now a race against time. Who, of the USA or Russia, will have to cave in first and who will have the staying power to hold on to its objectives. Can you guess on whom I am betting? :-)
The situation in Novorussia is bad but not catastrophic. Russia will help Novorussia through the winter months and, hopefully, the infighting amongst the field commanders will eventually stop.
The situation in Ukieland is terrible and only getting worse. The Ukraine is now somewhere between the 4th and 5th Orlov Stages of Collapse. The recent gas deal with the EU and Russia changes nothing to that fact. We can begin to think of rump-Ukraine aka Banderastan aka Ukieland as something like a 'frozen Libya': a very dangerous, poor, violent wasteland run by thugs.
The situation for Russia is difficult, especially in the short term. The good news is that Russia is immensely wealthy with huge reserves of gold, currencies, natural resources and human capital and that Russia is politically extremely stable. The deep strategic alliance between Russia and China is, for both countries, the "ticket" out of the dependence upon the dollar and the way to true decolonization from the Empire.
As long as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jiping hold the course - and I believe they will - the Empire will continue to slowly erode.