Saturday, September 3, 2016

Russian Experts Speculate about What US Might Do If Moscow Expands Its Invasion of Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 3 – The statement by Daniel Fried, the US State Department’s coordinator on sanctions policy, that Washington has prepared a plan on how it would respond to a new round of expansion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has generated speculation among Moscow experts about what that plan includes.

            The American ambassador said that the US has “discussed it with Europe,” including Germany, France, Poland and the UK, but does not want to get into details about “a hypothetical situation.” But he added, “if the worst happens and [he] has in mind a full-scale invasion in Ukraine we have a plan worked out.”

            That has sparked discussions in Moscow about what that plan might consist of beyond additional sanctions, and those discussions among the expert community there are important because any anticipated response by the West is likely to be an important factor in the Kremlin’s decision to adopt this or that policy.

            On the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal, Dmitry Rodionov interviews three Moscow experts about what they expect and equally important what, on the basis of past practice, they do not expect the US and its Western allies to do in the event of expanded Russian military action in Ukraine (

                Stanislav Byshok of the CIS-EMO Organization, says that any Western response would involve “above all economic and political measures.”  Military ones, he suggests, would be “secondary” at most. Sanctions would be increased. But one military response might be an American attack on Russian military bases abroad and above all “in Syria.”

            Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich might have asked Moscow to intervene in 2014, Byshok continues, but the Russian government almost certainly would have abstained from any major steps precisely because that Ukrainian leader had completely lost control of the situation there and Ukraine could have been pacified only with extreme difficulty.

            Asked why Moscow did not repeat the Crimean scenario in the Donbass and annex it, the Russian analyst says that it did not do so not because it couldn’t have but because it would have been far more difficult to deal “with the sharply pro-Ukrainian population of the Donbass, the percent of which while small was much higher than in pro-Russian Crimea.”

            Consequently, Moscow limited itself to the dispatch of volunteers and “humanitarian convoys. It could only make more overt military moves after the Donbass population ceased to feel loyalty to Ukraine because of the attacks on pro-Moscow positions by Ukrainian military forces, he argues.

            Bushok suggests that “some compare the current crisis with the start of World War II. In reality, at that time varioius European countries concluded among themselves a mass of technically unfulfillable agreements about mutual military assistance in the event of foreign aggression which they feared from Germany.”

            As a result, he says, “feeling themselves defended by these agreements, certain countries began to conduct themselves in an extremely sharp way toward Germany … because they were certain that they would be defended by their partners.  What happened after that,” Byshok adds, “we all know.”

            According to the Moscow analyst, the US is “completely comfortable with an unstable Ukraine continuing in a state of ‘no peace but no war’ with Russia. They will not fight for Ukraine against Russia although this doesn’t mean that they will not continue to use this conflict to contain Russia both in this region and in others.”

            Aleksandr Eliseyev, a historian and political analyst, dismisses Fried’s coments as “propaganda,” as an effort to play on fears in the hopes that the US will spend more money on arms. At the same time, he suggests, while the US won’t send its own troops, it and other Western countries already have “mercenary volunteers” on the ground there.

            If pro-Russian forces kill one of these, he says, Hillary Clinton will use it in her electoral campaign against Donald Trump.

            Eliseyev also dismisses Fried’s statement that the West would increase sanctions against Russia in the event Moscow were to launch a large invasion of Ukraine.  That too is simply “propaganda,” he says.  Russia simply needs to keep calm in the face of this “war of nerves” the West has unleashed.

            Nikolay Dimlevich, a security expert at the Russian Foundation for the Development of Advanced Technology, agrees, saying that the West will seek to make use of mercenaries and collaborationists not only in Ukraine but in other former Soviet republics against Russia in the future. Talk about anything more is simply “propaganda.”

            The possibility that the US would intervene directly is microscopically small as Moscow knows Western intensions quite well, Dimlevich says.  The US is seeking to provoke Russia into acting because it has as its goal the expulsion of Russia from its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

            The US, he says, is following the model used against the USSR in 1939 when following Soviet intervention in Finland, “the West excluded the USSR from the League of Nations. If Russia goes into the territory of Ukraine, the UN would,” under this plan, “would deprive Russia of permanent membership in the UN Security Council.”

            Dimlevich adds that a softer version of this tactic would be a dilution of Russia’s role there by adding more permanent members, including perhaps, Germany, India, Japan, Brazil and South Africa.”

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