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27 August 2014

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charly

I think you are wrong to assume they will stop fighting when they capture the Donetsk region. Novorussia probably include every region of Ukraine except Galicia.

JerseyJeffersonian

Anything less than independence as a viable option for Novorossiya was done for with the massacre at the Trades Building in Odessa. After that gruesome foreshadowing of things to come, if you were culturally Russian, would you ever again trust the intentions of the people who perpetrated these atrocities enough to be willing to associate yourself with them under even a federated structure?

All along it has seemed to me that the intention was to ethnically cleanse the eastern part of the territory under the ostensible rule of the putsch, and thereby to give the Nazis their "racially-pure" Lebensraum, while simultaneously gratifying the vicious oligarchs through securing their unimpeded access to the region's natural resources, resources from which these scum could profit in collaboration with Western multinational corporations.

And then, as the capstone to the enterprise, onward to vassalage to NATO for Banderastan, moving the border forward and exciting the hyperhawks with the idea that a first strike capability against Russia would at last be within their grasp.

The concentrated evil of this plan makes my skin crawl.

steve

I vote for doubling down unfortunately, though perhaps cooler heads in the EU will prevail and see the end of this.

It's been done with virtually every crackpot US foreign policy for the last decade.

In fact I read recently that the US is still looking to find the ever elusive Syrian moderate jihadis.

VietnamVet

Walrus,

Donetsk now has a representative who can explain why they are fighting and give the justification for their sacrifices. As he said the West keeps invading Russia every 30 to 50 years. He is retelling the legends that are passed through each generation of Russians on why they fight.

What is happening now in the West is very strange and dangerous. Our history has been one of democracy, practicality and hard work. But this has been thrown in the trash as the world spins into chaos with wars fought with surrogate armies of Jihadists and Nazis in one last mad grasp for energy resources and the preservation of the petrodollar. Meanwhile, we the people are told lies and our economic depression continues.

alba etie

Walrus
Thank you for your reports here at SST . It would be maddening for some of us without any particular expertise in 'world affairs ' to have only the MSM to rely upon for information .

The Twisted Genius

Walrus,

I took this speech as a declaration of independence for the new country of Novorossiya. Zakharchenko and Kononov laid out the grievances and threw down the gauntlet. Where this will stop, I don't know. Even if Novorossiya consists only of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, Ukraine will be severely crippled. Rump Ukraine will either be a very expensive ward of the West or a failed state full of angry, resentful neo-nazis. A "zombieland" that will have to be eventually dealt with by Russia, Novorossiya and maybe others.

The Twisted Genius

Walrus,

As for what the Washington foreign policy establishment will do, I offer an observation that was wrongly attributed to Putin:

"Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game."

What a shame we are saddled with a flock of NeoCon and R2P pigeons.

Bandolero

All

I agree that Rebel morale is reasonably good.

I think two major recent developments may be cause for the better mood.

1st) Ria Novosti reported last week. Quote:

Kiev Says Ukraine Needs 5 Bln Cubic Meters of Russian Gas for Winter

Ukraine needs to purchase additional five billion cubic meters of gas from Russia for the forthcoming winter season, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday.

“Can Ukraine now survive without Russian gas? No, it can’t. How much Russian gas do we need to buy? About 5 billion cubic meters,” he said in an interview with Ukrainian TV channels. ...

He added that Kiev had reserved $3.1 billion for gas purchases in the National Bank of Ukraine.

On June 16, Russian gas giant Gazprom introduced a prepayment system for gas deliveries to Ukraine amid a dispute with Kiev over its $4.5 billion gas debt. ...

Source:

http://en.ria.ru/business/20140822/192258047/Kiev-Says-Ukraine-Needs-5-Bln-Cubic-Meters-of-Russian-Gas-for.html

Who is going to pay for that? I think that development shall give Russia some additional leverage regarding Ukraine, and that will be likely good for the rebels.

2nd) The Ukrainian NSDC published this map today as retweeted by Euromaidan:

https://twitter.com/euromaidan/status/504203490940698624/photo/1

Here it is a bit larger:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bv9KZqhIAAA8HMg.jpg:large

To me it looks pretty much like that the rebels in Donetsk got a 50 km short link southwards with Russia (Blue arrow from Marfinka to Amvrosiivka). If the space of that 50km short link is closed for Ukrainian movement than all Ukrainian troops east of that link will have a problem to keep a link with Kiev.

The rebels seem to think that's the case. Itar-Tass reports - quote:

... The Donetsk self-defense fighters blocked over 7,000 Ukrainian troops and over 400 pieces of the armor, the militia headquarters said. The pro-Kiev grouping trapped in the cauldron also included over 40 tanks, about 100 infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and airborne combat vehicles and about 50 Grad and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems, the militia headquarters said. ...

Source:

http://en.itar-tass.com/world/746795

To me it looks pretty much like Kiev's situation is looking really not good and only quick and massive western financial and military help from EU/US could save the situation for Kiev but I doubt such help is coming.

What do you think?

Kyle Pearson

The more I see these events unfold, the more I am reminded of the discussions me and my Cantor buddy used to have, over this book.

He taught me a lot about Jewish history, and much about Jewish identity that I have never heard anywhere else.

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/kuzari.html

bth

I was struck by the competence of these two men at all levels. It was the clearest articulation I have heard of "why we fight" from their perspective. It will resonate with an American audience that bears them no ill will. Very compelling as to why a federation is unlikely if they in fact represent a regional majority opinion. One statement they made if translated correctly was that they inflicted 1200 casualties on sunday seems like a fabrication. One other statement they made about Ukrainian MIA letters in fact being mass KIAs makes me concerned that the rebels may not be taking many pows.

Patrick Bahzad

Caution should prevail with anything pertaining to Ukraine and the ongoing conflict. As is now obvious, the struggle for control and influence in this country is a case of intertwingled interests of local, regional and international players, which makes reading the situation and its development quite difficult sometimes.
From a purely military point of view, it seems that Kiev is now on the loosing end of the battle, despite the massive material, logistical and financial aid they're receiving from their allies in the West. But "loosing" in this context is very relative: you'll never see Novarossija tanks or troops march through Kiev. Territorialy, Kiev is "only" loosing control over the Donbass, or at least its Northern and Eastern part (especially all the border area with Russia). I wouldn't read too much into the day-to-day development of events, but looking at things from a medium term perspective, it's now pretty obvious that the Ukrainian army, national guard, and private militias are not in a position to quell the rebellion. On the contrary, the "Separatists" (let's just call them that way) have been able to outmanoeuver and outsmart the pro-Kiev forces, once they had nullified Kiev's air superiority, destroying most of the ukrainian air force. However, news of a conventional force counter-offensive by the Separatists might be a bit premature, despite what they're announcing in their press conference. First of all, it could be very dangerous for them to assemble larger forces and risk an engagement that might end up in defeat. So these news might very well be an attempt at intoxicating Kiev with wrong info, pushing the Ukrainians to regroup their forces in the area they think the Separatists' offensive would target (Mariupol for example, or Slaviansk/Kramatorsk), and then send in smaller groups (Marauders' type) behind a very porous ukrainian front line, wrecking havoc and cutting of supply lines which are already stretched very thin accross the ukrainian 'hinterland'. The Separatists would of course incur losses, but such a move might break the ukrainian army's back, as logistical support and reinforcements wouldn't arrive anymore and the damage done in terms of morale and casualties could be very severe. Might be also that this press conference is just a "last" warning, signalling Porochenko to come to the negocation table rather than risking plain military defeat.
This brings me to the actual goal of the fighting: what is at stake for both sides is not winning the war as such, but having a strong bargaining position at the negociation table. Porochenko has always viewed this as the real "prize" in the current battle: silence the rebels or force them to make concessions through defeating them militarily, in order to strengthen his position vis-a-vis Russia during the inevitable settlement he's going to have to reach with his powerful neighbour.
Now regarding the result of that settlement, I seriously doubt independence from ukraine is on anybody's mind, especially not Putin. He wants the Donbass to remain part of Ukraine, as this is a way of creating a potential destabilisation area for the central government in Kiev, thus helping to prevent any political move that might be dangerous for Russian interests, in particular any "rapprochement" with NATO or other unwanted dealings with the West.
In the West, it seems now there is a split between the hardliners (US + some Eastern and Nordic European countries) and the "realists" (mostly France and Germany), over what line to adopt vs Russia. Not gonna go into too much detail here, it's another story.
That's for the "macro" geopolitics of the region, but given the many conflicting oligarchical interests at stake, as well as other non-State actors also trying to shape events their way, it's difficult to say with certainty if reason is going to prevail in the end of if there's going to be a "hard landing" of some sort.

elanecu

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28942065

Views on this latest announcement will be appreciated (by me)... and a general thanks to all here for keeping me partially sane.

Haralambos

The Saker has two pieces up today that I found interesting: http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.gr/2014/08/what-is-deal-with-ukie-cauldrons.html and http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.gr/2014/08/the-defence-ilovaisk-report-by-ikorpus.html

The first is his take on the tactical considerations on the part of the rebels, and the second is 15 minutes of video from two rebel towns.

The first contains this quote on the cauldrons: The political powers in Kiev order the commanders of the so-called "anti-terrorist operation" to show some results. The latter get together and define what they consider a number of key towns and villages. They then order their forces to go in and take these towns/villages. The junta forces move in and with much superior firepower typically destroy a few Resistance roadblocks on the main roads and move to seize the said towns. At this point they report "mission accomplished - our flag is on the administration of town X". The BBC picks up the info handed to them by the Ukies and the world learns of yet another Ukie victory. In the meantime, Ukie terror squads are brought in to smoke out any sympathizers of the Resistances in the occupied towns. As for the tanks, they are used to protect the Ukie force while their artillery is used long range to terrorize the population of the next town on the list.

Then everything goes down the tubes.

First, a big forces requires lots of petroleum, lubricants, ammo, supplies, food, etc. But the roads are under constant attack by Resistance forces. Next, the Novorussians slowly but inevitably bring in some artillery which begins ponding [sic] on the Ukie forces. Gradually, the bigger Ukie forces is forced to dig in while the Resistance take back full control of the main roads and surrounding towns. That's it - the circle has closed, the Ukies are surrounded and a 'cauldron' has formed.

At that point two things happen: a) the Ukies try to retreat b) reinforcements are sent in to rescue them. But at this point the density and quality of Resistance forces is sufficient to block the main roads and to prevent both retreats or reinforcements. In some cases the Ukies succeed in breaking out or reinforcing, but typically at great costs in equipment and lives. And that brings me to another important point:

The Ukies prefer to fight on the main roads. The Resistance is at home in the forests, hills, fields and bushes (what the Russian military calls the "The Green"). That means that Ukie movements are very predictable. Not so for the Resistance. The Ukies fear the "Green" - the Novorussians love it. I don't know of a single battle so far in which the Ukies attempted to attack through, or from. the "Green". The Novorussians do that all the time.


Patrick Bahzad

Think your overall assessment about Kiev's situation not looking particularly comfortable is accurate. However, I would personally exercise caution regarding these maps (publisehd by both sides). This is not a positional war with two conventional armies confronting each other. There is no actual front and what may look like territorial gain one day can vanish into thin air the day after.
There are secondary factors however that you notice which have a strong bearing on each side's relative chances, the most important one being the winter that's gonna come soon, with no russian gas deliveries in sight and also no coal from Donbass that is still used a lot for heating purposes in a lot of Ukrainian families. The clock is ticking and in analogy to old soviet saying, i would add: "Vremia rabotaet na separatizm" ...
The other major factor is that the latest ukrainian offensive against Donetsk and Lugansk is poised to fail, after the russian aid convoy reached one of those cities and the water supply was reestablisehd in the other one. This in turn means that Novarossija units are able to redeploy some units and assign them to other tasks (they call it 'counter-offensive', but that might be slightly exagerated). But in any case, Kiev troops are in a tough spot in several regards and they could definitely suffer big losses, if the Separatists play their cards well (no doubt they got the Russian satellite imagery they need to identify weak spots in a ukrainian armour that's already riddled with bullets). Question is do they have the manpower and expertise to exploit these weaknesses ... We'll see.

David Habakkuk

Patrick Bahzad

'Now regarding the result of that settlement, I seriously doubt independence from ukraine is on anybody's mind, especially not Putin.'

I strongly agree with you that Putin's very strongly preferred option has always been and almost certainly still is federalisation. However, one of the points of the press conference, it seems to me reasonably clear, was to make clear that those in control in the 'Donetsk People's Republic' are now implacably opposed to this.

When Zakharchenko was asked whether Putin's meeting with Poroshenko 'will bring any positive solutions?', he immediately replied:

'Let me clarify. No federalization can be possible today. There is time for everything. We asked for the federalization 3 months ago, then we asked for a permission to hold a referendum. That time has passed, now we want to live independently. The Ukrainian authorities are using police methods to subdue us: they arrest us, cordon us off, and conduct anti-terrorist operations against us. By now so much blood has been spilled and so many people have died for freedom. How can we speak of federalization?'

And having explained at some length why he thinks that the Donbass can 'got it alone', Zakharchenko concludes 'I hope that the meeting between Poroshenko and President Vladimir Putin will lead to the taking of our position into account.'

It seems from the transcript of Putin's account of that meeting that Zakharchenko may have got his way.

(See http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/22852 .)

The interpretation of Putin's remarks given by Alexander Mercouris on his 'Facebook' page looks to me plausible:

'Incidentally I know there are some people who question whether Poroshenko and his European backers really did come to Minsk to look for a way out. I don't think there is any doubt that they did. That is why Merkel went to Kiev and said there the things she said there (see the Moon of Alabama on this), that is why the German vice Chancellor resurrected the topic of federalisation on the eve of her visit, that is why during the Minsk summit Poroshenko talked about the peace of Europe being in danger and that is why Ashton during the visit was the one who brought up the question of a ceasefire. It is quite clear to me that the idea was to get the Russians to put pressure on the NAF to accept Ukrainian sovereignty in return for an offer of discussions on some vague form of decentralisation (which would certainly in the end amount to a lot less than real federalisation) and a possible end to hostilities. Putin firmly rejected that idea. No other interpretation of his words makes sense.'

What Mercouris also suggests is that Putin may be putting a decisive stop to the familiar Ukrainian tactic of using control of gas transit routes to Europe to pressure the Russians into concessions on gas pricing. The current Russian position appears to be to tell the Europeans: all this is an affair between you and Kiev, so you can either sort things out or have a cold winter.

On the EU Association Agreement, Putin once again made clear that in its current form it is incompatible with continuing free trade between Russia and Ukraine. Among other things, this implies that it is likely to mean a large measure of de-industrialisation in the south and east, as has indeed been apparent right from the start. This may also be relevant to the calculations of people in the DPR, although it seems that a visceral dislike of the prospect of having anything more to do with the 'Banderistas' in Kiev is now the shaping force in their thinking.

The beaver

@ PB
"In the West, it seems now there is a split between the hardliners (US + some Eastern and Nordic European countries) and the "realists" (mostly France and Germany), over what line to adopt vs Russia. "

Well according to Rasmussen, plans for East Europe NATO bases to counter Russia.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/26/nato-east-european-bases-counter-russian-threat

However, some are saying that a " permanent presence by the alliance forces would be a direct violation of post-Cold War agreements with Russia and could provoke a very strong response from Moscow."

jamzo

i don't understand what putin had in mind when he did not grab "Donetsk People's Republic'" territory when he took crimea.....or why he did not pursue federalization more overtly....reduced russian hegemony in ukraine seems to have been settled...agreement on ukraine boundaries lingers on ...seems messy....putin seems indecisive...in a reactive posture....

Patrick Bahzad

DH, you're right about stating the different narratives given by Putin on the one hand and representatives of the DPR. There is no doubt about that, I agree with you.
The question is however how much of a genuine or fundamental difference there is between the representatives of the DPR and the Head of Russia. Or is there some kind of gamble going on, sort of good cop/bad cop routine to maximise benefits that Russia (ans to a lesser extent people in Eastern ukraine might get out of this). There certainly is, within Russia itself a very nationalistic interest group that wants to push for Novarossija independence, possibly followed by another referendum for joining the mother-country. However, I believe that Putin has the situation firmly under control, just as much as he has control over the representatives of Novarossija. They may say what they like today, and genuinely mean it, but they are proxies in a much larger conflict and when push comes to shove, I don't think they will be in a position to contradict Putin's final stand.
This may not happen over night of course, it could be a process, but that's what political parties and lobbies are for: there will be those in favour of independence maybe, and then there will be the "moderates" favouring "only" a federalized status. I'm simplifying of course for sake of clarity.
As for Porochenko, he really is now between a rock and a hard place: deep down inside, as a business man, he knows he has to come to an agreement with Russia. The conflict is costing him millions in earnings from his chocolate factories alone, so that should suffice to shake him back into cohesion. But he is hard pressed on his right by Yatseniuk, Paruby and Iarosh, as well as their backers in the West, who want to take a much tougher stance against Separatists and Russia, and on the other hand the main players on the European stage (Germany, but also France and others) who would like reason to prevail and get back a normalisation of trade relations with Russia. The free-trade agreement with the EU is certainly an obstacle to such a normalisation, especially for the Russian side, but i'm pretty sure some kind of common ground could be found if the military deescalation is achieved and a more peaceful political process is set in motion. The problem is, there are strong economic interests (states, corporations and even very wealthy individuals) which are on collision course with such a peaceful settlement.

mistah charley, ph.d.

This Washington Post piece, quoting a report by the Guardian, asks if the Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine could really be there "by accident", and concludes "maybe."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/26/russia-says-it-invaded-ukraine-by-accident-is-that-possible/

Gayle

I suspect the "double down" order has indeed been given from DC - Kiev has now announced forced military conscription for women.

robt willmann

Walrus writes, "There is always the possibility however that the Washington foreign policy establishment will try to double down rather than admit to triggering partition of Ukraine...." This is the most likely course of events.

The U.S. has had a gangster foreign policy for a long time. It became especially obvious during the George Bush sr. administration beginning in 1989. It has not changed.

The only way it does or would change is if enough domestic political resistance emerges at home or the prospect of nuclear war would cause political and financial operators to stop the particular policy.

Those involved in the "foreign policy" of the U.S. also will not admit they were wrong on an issue, and will not even admit they made a mistake. Part of that attitude comes from the nature of government itself as "The Sovereign", which it literally is, as a mandatory monopoly with which there is not voluntary interaction.

The situation in Ukraine is particularly dangerous. The erroneous U.S. policy toward the present Russian government has created it. Moreover, outsiders are lusting after the good farmland and shale natural gas deposits in Ukraine. Vice president Joe Biden's son is now on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company; you know, because of his "expertise" and all that jazz.

The dangerous aspect of Ukraine is that the U.S. policy includes at least covert violence, and the "other party" is not someone easy to push around, like Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc., but is Russia, which has an air force, missiles, and a lot of nuclear weapons. You want a land war with Russia? Where is the staging area going to be to set up your invasion force? Do you think you can mass an invading army secretly so Russia does not know it is on their border? If not, do you think that Russia is just going to sit there while you prepare your invasion and wait to get hit in the face as hapless Iraq had to do while the invasion force was building up in Kuwait to invade it? What happened to the Israeli and U.S. trained Georgian soldiers who thought it would be cute to invade South Ossetia backed by a full-throated propaganda campaign?

Any confrontation with Russia over Ukraine would quickly go nuclear. The fools in Washington D.C. may actually realize this and so far have been very careful to use words like "imposing costs" on Russia. But the fact that the U.S. is obviously helping to promote the violence in Ukraine creates the great risk that the violence will escalate and, as they say in the State Department, we might be "overtaken by events".

charly

It depends on how many soldiers flip side. If units start to change side from Kiev to Donetsk. Something which did not happen until now. The question is if that is because they don't want to switch or because they took the safe road as Donetsk seemed to loose.

Babak Makkinejad

TTG:

I think you are remiss in not including the Foreign Policy Establishments of UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Canada in your comments.

kxd

Babak,

Your thoughts on this article?


http://www.unz.com/mwhitney/did-iran-just-knife-putin-in-the-back/

Haralambos

All, I am not competent t asses the accuracy or the strategic significance of of these reports from the Saker today. I would welcome comments and evaluation of the utility of my posting such. If they are a nuisance or distraction, please let me know. http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.gr/2014/08/overview-of-situation-in-donbass-region.html

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