Thursday, November 6, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine Now Fighting Not for Donbas but for Its Survival as a State and Nation, Babchenko Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 6 – Even though some Western leaders cannot bring themselves to describe what Russia is doing in Ukraine as “an invasion,” Ukraine today is under a mortal threat, and according to Arkady Babchenko, Kyiv and the Ukrainian people are fighting not just to recover the Donbas and Crimea but for their survival as a nation and a state.


            In a blog post that has been reposted in Russia and Ukraine, the military journalist says that unfortunately not all Ukrainians recognize this tragic reality, but “the more rapidly the country begins to  acknowledge it” and act accordingly by full mobilization, “the fewer” the adverse consequences “will be” (


            Everyone needs to recognize, he continues, that “Ukraine is not dealing with separatism. And it is not fighting for the preservation of territory. [Instead,] Ukraine is dealing with a terrorist formation, initiated and completely subordinate to a neighboring aggressor state. And thus it is already fighting not for the Donbas but for the existence of its own statehood.”


            At the present time, that aggressor is strong, having used the ceasefire to build up its forces, while Ukraine focused on other things, including its election.  But because that is so, Ukraine should not be talking about how to “liberate the occupied territories.” For the time being, it “can speak only about how not to lose new ones.”


“For what appears to be the first time in the modern history of the aggressor” – that is, of Russia, “time is working against it. Sanctions are having an impact as is the decline in the price of oil.” Given that, Babchenko says, “the main task of Ukraine is not to allow new castastrophes” before Russia is forced to back down.


That will require general mobilization of the country because tragically there will not be any resolution of this conflict except a military one. Such a mobilization won’t be easy for Ukraine especially because Western countries currently are less than enthusiastic about it, but Ukraine has no choice if it is to survive.


 According to Babchenko, Russia very effectively used the ceasefire, something Ukraine had no choice but to agree to; but Ukraine has not so clearly used it to build up its forces in response.  Yes, Ukraine had elections and saw the formation of new political parties, but it has done less about “the more important task” of “preserving the country as such.”


“Defense is the chief task of Ukraine now. Not politics, not economics, not the harvest, but defense, although it seems that not everyone in the country understands this yet,” Babchenko says. And that may open the way to a tragedy because “the current concentration of Russian and separatist forces” indicates that “at a minimum” there will be more aggression from their side.


The Russians will continue to attack as long as they see that there is weakness opposing them. “They will not attack only if they see strength,” the military expert says. “Ukraine has shown its weakness as only it could. Instead of using the ceasefire for an intensive buildup of its forces, Ukraine wasted time on domestic political affairs.”


“As a result,” he points out, “the enemy has come to the conclusion that it can attack without catastrophic consequences for itself.” The situation isn’t going to end with some kind of frozen conflict or unrecognized states. That isn’t how Russian forces are proceeding, and it should be clear that “Ukraine will not be able to tolerate this situation for long.”


“This situation requires a resolution,” he continues,  and unfortunately, the resolution here can only be a military one,” however much Moscow propagandists, Western diplomatists, and Ukrainian optimists think otherwise.


Unless Ukrainians and their supporters understand this and act on that understanding, Babchenko concludes, “all talk about the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian Donbas and the inalienability of borders is exactly like the [Russian cries of] ‘Crimea is Ours’ only from the other side.”




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