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Kremlin to lift authority for using troops in Ukraine – And?

June 26, 2014

What seems a very long time ago, at the very beginning of March, the Russian upper house of parliament approved President Putin’s request to be allowed to use Russian forces in Ukraine “until the normalisation of the political situation in the country”.

That normalisation has – arguably for some – been established with the election and inauguration of President Poroshenko a few weeks ago.

Mr Putin yesterday let it be known he has asked the Russian upper house of parliament to now rescind that authority – and naturally that authority will be rescinded.

Whether any reader will take what is likely to be The Kremlin line that President Poroshenko’s election equals the normalisation of the political situation and thus there is no need for such an authority for Russian troops to enter Ukraine – or whether any reader will believe that this step has been taken in an attempt to insure that there will be no additional sanctions placed on the Russian business sectors as was likely to occur with effect from Friday 27th, after the signing of the AA and DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine – that is their choice to make.

Those threatened business sectors were/are to be technology, defence and finance in case any reader is interested.

One would need a very short memory to forget just how easily and how quickly the request from President Putin to use troops in Ukraine was granted last time.  There is no reason to believe it would be any more difficult or lengthy for him to gain that authority once again in the future.

Thus in substance, the cancellation of this authority means very little – despite any hyperbole to the contrary.

Welcome as it is, far more important to Ukraine at the present time would be the securing of Russian borders to stem the flow of fighters and increasingly advanced weaponry.  Readers can either chose to believe that Russia has lost control of its own borders – a clear indication of a weakened State – or that it is at the very least complicit in allowing such people and weaponry to travel through its territory and cross into Ukraine unchallenged.  The choice is one or the other – and The Kremlin is not yet so weak that it has lost control of its own borders.

It should also be noted that due to current internal issues within the Russian Army itself, there is little chance of any meaningful offensive until the end of September/early October.  That has been the case since mid-May.  Russia is in the midst of a conscript release and induction/training period.  To mass 40,000 troops once more on Ukrainian borders will require a good deal of trained conscripts as well as the contract and elite troops.

That October timing, parallels with the proposed new RADA elections in Ukraine – should The Kremlin want to mirror events leading up to the Ukrainian presidential elections.

Thus regardless of the cancellation of this military authority – or not – a full scale or meaningful overt incursion into Ukraine by regular Russian troops passed its window of opportunity in mid-May, and it will not reappear until the end of September.  That said, one should perhaps be mindful of these words – “Never fight with Russians. On your every stratagem, they answer unpredictable stupidity.” –  Otto Von Bismark.

However, The Kremlin has learned new lessons over the past months.  This article from March 2013 written by General Gerasimov raised some questions for the Russian military and offered a few answers – much of which has been seen to be put into play both in Crimea and eastern Ukraine – almost to the letter.

Questions now for The Kremlin is what to do with the most extreme swivel-eyed Russian nationalists who are expecting the collection of more “Russian lands” and the ideological consolidation of the “Russian World”, when the Kremlin definition of Russian nationalism is unbending and unquestioned support for The State regardless of its decisions?  How to deescalate such people without them feeling betrayed and/or used when The Donbas and Luhansk remain part of Ukraine and they return to Russia?  These two very different versions of Russian nationalism will need to be reconciled somehow if The Kremlin wants to be sure such people do not turn their attention toward it.

The EU, its Member States and the US have also had the opportunity to try out a fairly new strategy against a sizable aggressor – one of targeted financial and economic warfare that increases in intensity appropriate to the unfolding events.

Despite the screeching of the geese and the braying of asses across the social and main stream media calling for immediate introduction of Stage III sanctions from the EU Member States over the past few weeks, the European Council have been quite wise in the timing.

To have implemented Stage III sanctions prior to the signing of EU-Ukrainian agreements would have presented The Kremlin with a “nothing to lose” scenario.  Keeping that Stage III powder dry until signatures are placed on agreements has left all parties options.

Stage III sector sanctions will probably now be left on the table for some considerable time – but are unlikely to be implemented should The Kremlin decide to secure its borders over the coming week – though it will undoubtedly switch to less obvious methods to undermine Ukraine.

Sanctions imposed in relation to Crimea however, seem destined to remain in place for many years to come.  Indeed they are likely to expand by way of names on the list as one feckless regional leader is replaced by another as time goes by.

The question now for the EU is how long and how determinedly will it support Ukraine going forward?  It will undoubtedly be expensive financially and require a great deal of unrelenting political energy – even with a willing Ukrainian partner.  Can the EU maintain sufficient unity with several Kremlin Trojan Horses amongst its ranks?

In the meantime, only the deluded will consider The Kremlin threat to Ukraine to be diminishing.  To be crystal clear, Ukraine is now – and will remain – a front line State for Kremlin shenanigans, ad hoc deniable irregular action/incidents, deception, subterfuge, espionage, international and regional obstructionism and social incitement, for at least the next decade.

Whilst it may appear – hopefully – that direct and overt Russian military aggression toward Ukraine is (temporarily) removed from the equation – Ukraine would be very wise to use this time to prepare for a possible return to such a threat by the Autumn.  That means not only better readying its military for both regular and irregular engagements, but also having a major cleansing of its incredibly infiltrated military and law enforcement ranks during this period too.  Perfection will not be achieved of course, but real improvements can be achieved even in such a limited time frame.

Such time is not to be wasted whether the tensions rise again in the Autumn – or not.

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