Listening to Lavrov today I came to the conclusion that the regime in Kiev was indeed about to try to attack the eastern Ukraine. It’s not only Lavrov, the Russian Internet is on “red alert” and chock-full of rumors and speculation about an imminent attack. This begs a number of questions:
1) Why would the junta in Kiev so overtly renege on the Geneva agreement?
2) Why would it attack when the chances of success are very small?
3) Why would they attack know that Russia would almost certainly intervene?
4) Why is the US clearly behind that strategy?
I have a hypothesis which I would like to submit to your attention.
First, the junta in Kiev is reneging on the Geneva agreement simply because it cannot abide by its terms. Remember, the junta is composed of a few politicians handpicked by the US and a few Ukrainian oligarchs. They do have money, but no power. How could they possibly impose anything in the well-armed and determined freaks of the Right Sector?
Second, the eastern Ukraine is lost no matter what. So the junta in Kiev have to pick on of the following options:
a) Let the eastern Ukraine leave by means of referendum and do nothing about it.
b) Let the eastern Ukraine leave but only after some violence.
c) Let the eastern Ukraine leave following a Russian military intervention.
Clearly, option ‘a’ is by far the worst. Option ‘b’ is so-so, but option ‘c’ is very nice. Think of it: this option will make it look like Russia invaded the Eastern Ukraine and that the people there had no say about it. It will also make the rest of the Ukraine rally around the flag. The economic disaster will be blamed on Russia and the Presidential election of May 25th can be canceled due to the Russian “threat”. Not only that, but a war – no matter how silly – is the *perfect* pretext to introduce martial law which can be used to crack down on the Right Sector or anybody expressing views the junta does not like. That is an old trick – trigger a war and people will rally around the regime in power. Create a panic, and people will forget the real issues.
As for the USA – it also knows that the Eastern Ukraine is gone. With Crimea and Eastern Ukraine gone – the Ukraine has exactly *zero* value to the Empire, to why not simply use it as a way to create a new Cold War, something which would be much more sexy that the Global War on Terror or the really old War on Drugs. After all, if Russia is forced to intervene militarily NATO will have to send reinforcements to “protect” countries like Poland or Latvia just in case Putin decides to invade all of the EU.
Bottom line – the freaks in power in Kiev and the USA *know* that the eastern Ukraine is lost for them, and the purpose of the imminent attack is not to “win” against the Russian-speaking rebels or, even less so, to “win” against the Russian military, it is to trigger enough violence to force Russia to intervene. In other words, since the East is lost anyways, it is much better to lose it to the “invading Russian hordes” than to lose it to the local civilian population.
So the purpose of the next attack will not be to win, but to lose. That the Ukrainian military can still do.
Two things can happen to foil this plan:
1) The Ukrainian military might refuse to obey such clearly criminal orders (and becoming a target of the Russian military might help some officers make the correct “purely moral” choice).
2) The local resistance might be strong enough to draw out such an operation and have to come to a grinding halt.
Ideally, a combination of both.
From the Russian point of view things are rather simple: it is infinitely better for Russia to have the East break away without any Russian intervention. If the attacking force is crazy enough to use armor, artillery or airpower, the Russian could decide to strike from the air without actually sending in ground forces. They could also use electronic warfare capabilities to further create chaos inside the attacking force. Limited pinpoint attacks could also serve to demoralize the attacking force. What Russia has to avoid all costs to find itself forced to engage in offensive urban operations which are always dangerous and bloody. It is therefore absolutely essential the the locals take control of their own streets, villages and cities.
Lavrov today delivered a very direct warning: if things go out of hand in the eastern Ukraine Russia will intervene. Hopefully somebody in the West will finally realize that the Russians are never bluffing and that they really mean it. I am not very optimistic though – if Lavrov felt the need to make a full 30min interview in English in which he clearly compared the situation in the Ukraine today to the one in Ossetia in 08.08.08 it is probably because the Russians have intelligence indicating that an attack is imminent.
We shall know very soon.