Ukrainian forces would not be able to counter such an approach effectively, he says, especially after two or three days of the start of such an operation. It simply wouldn’t have the resources to respond. Russia could destroy Ukrainian air bases and then turn its attention to military units that Kyiv might try to dispatch to the regions.
If Moscow did need to use ground forces, Kramnik says, it could make use of the ones which already exist in the Donbass rather than having to bring new forces in. “The fate of Ukraine in case of the successful realization of this strategy is quite cloudy – having been deprived of the instruments of force, Kyiv would sharply lose its political weight.
Indeed, for a future Ukraine, preservation “even in the form of a confederation would be an enormous success.” If some regions revolted against the central government, Moscow would certainly move to make sure that Kyiv couldn’t respond militarily against them and that might lead some of them to go their own ways.
Any plan has to include “reserve variants” in case things change. If Ukraine did get aid from the West and especially Western forces, “the Russian military leadership would have to despite its lack of a desire to do so introduce forces onto the territory of Ukraine,” first of all in “historic Novorossiya” and then in Kharkiv, Zaporzh and Dniprpetrovsk oblasts.
That would be necessary, Kramnik says, to “guarantee the right of the population of these oblasts to independently decide on their future like this was done in Crimea and Sevastopol in February-March 2014.” Talking about other alternatives involves too many unknowns to be useful, he suggests