Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Grim and Fatalist Post-Holiday Sitrep for the Dream that Was "NovoRossiya" and the People of the Donbass

by Mark Sleboda

Russia will obviously not allow the West-backed and installed Kiev regime to conquer the rump "NovoRossiya" by military means. This latest "offensive" of theirs will either peter out quickly or will end very badly for them if it expands in the Spring.

But the NAF is even less a coherent and organized force than the UAF/batallions (and that's saying a lot because Kiev has very limited control of its warlords and their death squads ie the "battalions) - with no real offensive capability or logistics network. They are only really a defensive force thus far, though it must be said competent at that. The Kremlin, further, purposefully and when necessary, brutally, weeds their leadership and retards their supplies and growth to make sure they cannot become truly independent of either Russia or Ukraine.

The Kremlin has gone out of their way to prevent the NAF from seizing even the rest of Donetsk or Lugansk Republics, letting them keep only this tiny rump principality which is only a third of the territory of the respective two Republics. They wouldn't even let the NAF take Donetsk airport for over 7 months. This was obviously a signal to the West of their limited intentions and an attempt to prevent the conflict from spiraling into anything bigger. The West either appears to have not gotten that message or completely ignored and taken advantage of it. The people who truly suffered from this policy of the Kremlin's are the people of Donetsk and the rank and file NAF. They have hid and died under regular Putsch regime shelling directed through the airport into the residential districts of the city since the summer.

The NAF being "let off the leash" and, after far more of a struggle than it should have been, finally taking their own city's airport tells us two things. First the Kremlin is growing frustrated with both Kiev and the West as negotiations are going nowhere. This is a signal of their discontent, but a very limited one in scope. Second it is painfully obvious that the NAF without greater Russian support than the Russian government has ever given them, or intends to give them (whatever the hysteric and regular pronouncements from Kiev or the Western MSM and governments to the contrary), has NO offensive capability to speak of.

The Kremlin has no intent to either annex Donetsk and Lugansk and take economic responsibility for them and their people - nor to let them expand and become independent. Novorossiya literally has NO economy at all - nor do they have the ability to develop one without massive outside investment which neither the Kremlin nor the West has any intent of giving them. This is very important as NovoRossiya can NEVER be independent nor is it even sustainable in the medium term without one. There is literally NO money, no paying jobs, no economy. Even the standard of life under Putsch neoliberal "austerity" in Ukraine is far better at this point. The people of Donbass are suffering and the vulnerable literally starving to DEATH, and they cannot continue much longer like this.

The NovoRossiya "project" was NOT dreamed up in the Kremlin. It was an organic idea with historical roots that grew out of the desires of the people of the Donbass to get out of the post-Maidan Ukrainian madhouse and encouraged by various Eurasianist and nostalgic-Imperial/Orthodox elements of Russian civil society. Perhaps a few in the Kremlin inner circle of the more conservative patriotic bent tried to pick it up and run with it for a while - but it is obvious that for Putin it was never anything more than toy for leverage with the West to force a negotiated settlement in Ukraine. A "bad cop" approach. But it was never more than a bluff - and it appears that the West has (correctly) called him on it - whatever their public rhetoric on the matter to the contrary.

The Kremlin is very set on forcing rump Donetsk and Lugansk back into Ukraine at some point in the future under federalized conditions that suit the Kremlin's interest and influence. That is no longer enough in the minds of many of the NAF ranks or the people of Donetsk and Lugansk, who, rightly, have no desire to being forced under the Putsch rule or back in the same country with those who have been indiscrimately massacring them in their homes and on their streets for most of the last year (equivalent to asking the Kosovar Albanians to go back to Serbia after being bombed into independence by NATO) - but they may not have a real choice in the matter. The desires of the people of Donbass and the NAF and the interests of the Kremlin widely diverge on this. IMHO the Kremlin is playing a very cynical and coldly pragmatic game with the people of the Donbass. It further says a lot that they still prefer even that to rule or cleansing by Kiev. Pity the people of Donbass that they are not Crimea. The sad truth is that the people of Donbass want Russia much much more than the Kremlin wants them...

The Kremlin still keeps the NAF and NovoRossiya firmly under its leash. They truly are not getting much support from the Kremlin beyond that limited military aid assistance preventing them from being further military conquered from Kiev - but they are completely dependent on even that. The people of the Donbass are actually getting very little in the way of economic/humanitarian aid either from the Russian federal govt. The convoys are really a token effort only for PR purposes, and represent only a tiny tiny fraction of what the people of Donbass need or even are actually getting from Russia. The majority of what they are getting comes mostly from either Russian civil society (donations, organizations, the Church, and the Russian Republic's local governments like Kadyrov) or from the native oligarchs of the Donbass like Akhmetov who are still playing a cautious double game to try to come out ahead when this is all over and the dust settles.

The ONLY hope for NovoRossiya to ever become a real "independent" rump-state protectorate of Russia (like Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria) is from stupidly escalated and protracted military attempts from Kiev to subjugate Donbass, directed and armed by the West. But even then, after what has been going on for last half a year, it is almost impossible to imagine the level of bloodshed and carnage that would be necessary to push the Kremlin past the threshold on that score. So, no, not much hope for the people of "NovoRossiya" at all. Stillborn and still dying...

Note by The Saker:

Just in order to avoid a deluge of misunderstandings, and even though I often post articles I disagree with, I will spell it out again: I do not share Mark's analysis of the situation, but he might be right and I might be wrong.  I therefore find it very important to give his analysis as much visibility as possible.  I am also personally grateful to Mark for accepting that he and I have different views and not turning that into a reason for personal hostility.  I consider Mark a friend.  The Saker