The fog of war is a phrase that aptly fits the nature of the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
The most recent example is Saturday’s rocket attack on the Kiev government controlled southeastern city of Mariupol which left around 30 people dead and no one wants to take responsibility for conducting it. See the above video that captured rockets raining down on the city.
Russia and their separatist allies blame Kiev for the attack but most analysts say it was Russian-allied forces that carried it out.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission have stated that the rockets that hit the city were fired from areas under separatist control reported AP.
Meanwhile the Ukrainian government says they have proof through intercepted radio and telephone conversations that it was the separatists.
So what do Kiev’s enemies gain from attacking the city and ramping up tensions?
Well let’s do our best do make sense of it, at least at a strategic level, courtesy of global intelligence company Stratfor.
“The issue is whether this was an isolated incident or part of an extended strategy. If it is, it is not a Ukrainian strategy. Following recent defeats, Ukraine is not in a position to go on the offensive in this region, despite a noticeable build up and mobilization of Ukrainian forces in recent weeks,” wrote Stratfor in a Red Alert issued on January 25.
“The Russians, however, have been moving regular forces, including some first-rate units, into Donbas. More important than the charges and counter-charges is this fact: At this moment, the rebels are being strongly reinforced by Russian forces, and those forces have an operational advantage but a strategic problem”.
For brevity of what is a great analysis, here are some of Stratfor’s main points which were taken from the perspective of a Russian military strategist.
- Russia’s hold on the Crimean peninsula is strategically weak because it is vulnerable against a potential blockade from Ukraine and its Western allies.
- Currently the Russian backed separatists have more and better forces available for fighting but their advantage is temporary. If the US increases military support (arms and training), the gap between the two sides will close in 6-12 months.
- From a political point of view, pure passivity in the face of sanctions that are not the critical factor in Russia’s economic downturn will hurt Putin’s legitimacy at home while offering no real economic advantage. A Russian strategist might well calculate that the risks of passivity are higher than those that come with an offensive.
The reports gives further detail on what possible scenarios the Russians may take but there’s unfortunately little room for optimism in what is happening and that the underlying crisis is intensifying.
“We believe, at the very least, that Russia is keeping its option to mount an offensive open, and at most, is preparing to launch an offensive to secure its hold on the Crimean Peninsula,” says Strafor.
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