I have written a lot about the external and internal threats to Ukraine recently – particularly those on the immediate horizon in the run up to, and immediately after, presidential elections of 25th May.
The problems any new president will face will be enormous. Economic, social, political, civil, internal, external – you name it, problems exist.
However I haven’t written much about the problems facing Mr Putin and The Kremlin recently relating to Ukrainian ambitions – problems that sit upon an equally immediate horizon.
At the moment Petro Poroshenko appears to be the next President of Ukraine in waiting – according to some polls sitting very close to the magic 50% that would negate any second round of voting.
A disaster for The Kremlin should that occur, dismantling any question of legitimacy and decision made thereafter.
In this situation, the perverse arises whereby both The Kremlin, separatists and the far right all are opposed to the result for various but different reasons.
There is then the issue of a referendum over the unity vis a vis federalisation of Ukraine. The Kremlin’s vision of a federal Ukraine has only 19% support from those who are determined to vote – 71% of such solid citizens voting for a united Ukraine. Another nightmare result in the waiting.
25th May being something of a dire day for setting back (but not canceling) Kremlin plans, of course the temptation is to prevent any such voting occurring.
However, despite The Kremlin provoking incidents in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts at present – and making renewed threats of military intervention should Ukraine take robust measures to restore order – a drum it is continually banging – nothing was said about the recent incident in Mariupol when the Ukrainian military repelled an attack on one of its bases killing and wounding several Russian speakers whom the Kremlin claims its actions are to protect. Not a murmur.
How did that Ukrainian stand fail to garner a very vocal Kremlin response – or even acknowledgement? Mr Putin failed to mention it during his 4 hour TV phone in too.
If such a Ukrainian response, limiting casualties as far as possible, is to continue to bring with it no outraged local community as “separatists” are necessarily arrested – or shot – what then? The support for “separatists” is not exactly overwhelming, and less so now they have started taking hostages and being accused of murdering local politicians.
We can be sure that Ukraine will act more robustly – if carefully – within the regions Kremlin sponsored/coordinated shenanigans occur prior to the elections. Deaths though, there will inevitably be.
If unconventional warfare (and that is exactly what is happening) is having mixed or poor results when it comes to favourable Kremlin traction, a more conventional military intervention beckons? If so, under the guise of R2P/peacekeepers or simply an invasion?
A small incursion would also have economic effects detrimental to Russia through more market uncertainty, further sanctions and more capital flight.
That being so, if there is going to be a military incursion, why not make it a big one and blame “the west” for the hardships that will follow?
Ukrainian resistance there would be – not only from the Ukrainian military but also from the Ukrainian public according to recent surveys.
How to explain those Russians who would fall in eastern Ukraine to a domestic audience propaganda fed that eastern and southern Ukraine would meet the Russian military with garlands of flowers after saving them from a fascist rule? Particularly difficult when Russian speaker fights Russian speaker do defend against Kremlin designs, as the truth will out in Russia eventually.
After all, for the past 2 or 3 months the Russian public has been dutifully prepared for war by the political, intellectual and religious classes via the controlled media on an hour by hour, day by day basis, but the enemy -whilst being almost every man and his dog – has not been identified as the Russian speaking Ukrainian citizenry – they are the victims. Yet Russian speaking Ukrainian citizenry would fight if necessary nd in sufficient number to undermine The Kremlin pretext.
Thus, whilst The Kremlin and Mr Putin quite simply cannot allow Ukraine to plot its own course – for that will ultimately lead to the demise of Putinism, “the Russian World” currently under construction and all the other associated ideological drivers employed to create nothing more than a Russian sphere of influence under various guises – none of the options to prevent Ukraine remaining free of undue control appear to be particularly attractive in the time frame prior to 25th May.
This is perhaps why we are seeing continued irregular and denied provocation in eastern Ukraine that act as little more than a destabilising mechanism whilst Kremlin thinking caps are donned and scenarios worked through.
What is the least worst option to keep Ukraine on The Kremlin leash?
Time for deliberation is running out in Moscow if it sees 25th May as a significant date – In the grand scheme of things though, perhaps The Kremlin doesn’t see that date having much influence on its designs at all.