In late January, as Western countries escalated their rhetoric about an “imminent invasion” by Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy questioned this narrative at a press conference with foreign reporters. “I’m the president of Ukraine and I’m based here and I think I know the details better here,” he said following his phone call with US President Joe Biden.
So what to expect about this warmongering narratives, panic and media hysteria which prevails everywhere except in Ukraine.
The Russian Federation has deployed land, air and naval forces that give the Kremlin a range of possibilities should it seek to initiate military action. The US has warned war every day , now it should begin straight after Olympics. US has perhaps forgotten, unlike the Ukrainians, that the latest war began already 2014.
Just after 2004 Orange Revolution Ukraine took course towards Nato and EU, the new leadership had popular backing to fulfill fast forward hopes its policy. Instead of the fast forward progress scenarios the outcome has been a totally different crisis scenarios including possible confrontation between Ukraine and Russia, a new dispute over the supply of Russian natural gas to and via Ukraine, different ethnic tensions with minorities and of course declining economy with all social impact.
US had big role especialy with Euromaidan 2013-14 when it began openly training the battalions – notably the neo-Nazi Azov battalion. These far-right elements came well-armed paramilitary organization with thousands of members, and Members of Parliament; Right Sector became the symbol of the brute force at Euromaidan. Neo-Nazis have their big influence also today both in Ukraine’s political sphere as well in military forntline against separatist regions.
I see four possible military scenarios for the current conflict in Ukraine:
Scenario 1: Full-scale invasion
With full invasion approach all of those forces around Ukraine as well air units located further north would seek to defeat Ukraine militarily; attacking from Russia, Belarus, Crimea and Transdnistria with separatist forces. They would use recent experience in combat operations in Syria to defeat any popular insurgency against Russian forces. This scenario costs too much politically and economically especially as it would lead to long guerilla warfare.
Scenario 2: Decapitation
In the decapitation approach, Russian military and security forces would seek to remove the current government and state powers in order to insert replace them with people more favorable to (and owned by) Moscow. This alternative is very challenging to implement.
Scenario 3: Secure separist regions
The most likely scenario in my opinion is the limited eastern war approach. Here, Russian forces would seek to reinforce the breakaway regions in the Donbas with arms, supplies and intelligence. These areas would then be used as a springboard to take more Ukrainian territory to more fully cover those areas where ethnic Russians and Russian speaking Ukrainians are located. With this scenario it might be possible to avoid Western sanctions.
Scenario 4: Novorossiya
War in the east could take Russian troops as far as the Dnieper river, which splits the country into east and west. It could also stretch across the coast of the Black Sea all the way to the Moldova border (where another Russian reinforced Transdnistria region is located). This scenario could be next step if there is coming Western sanctions about implementing scenario 3.
In my opinion a Kremlin military offensive – more limited in scope than full-scale – seems possible if not likely. Now or probably after small military operation there might be also diplomatic solution. When Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought to become Ukraine’s president he stood on a platform of peace. Zelenskiy promised to sit down with Vladimir Putin and to reach a deal with Russia. He would end the unpopular war in the east and concentrate on important domestic reforms. These included ridding the country of corruption and oligarchs. From my point of view now is good time to implement these promises.
In public, western governments have expressed solidarity with Zelenskiy, but critics think that by refusing to make concessions to Moscow, Zelenskiy is steering his country towards disaster. So the way out is to find a pragmatic solution to the dangerous standoff with Russia. Ukraine needs a more constructive approach towards the Minsk accords where Kyiv would grant more or less autonomy to the separatist regions and ruling out Nato membership for Ukraine for now.
The obstacle of this pragmatic solution is Zelenskiy’s fear of a backlash from supporters of his hawkish predecessor Petro Poroshenko and rightwing nationalists and reducing his chance of winning reelection in 2024. From my viewpoint he could take the risk as he still is Ukraine’s most popular politician and I believe that most of Ukrainians prefer peace instead of nazi propaganda.
In my opinion Ukrainian nationalists do not care what most Ukrainians would think about sacrificing themselves in a long-term crusade against Russia like Ukrainian nationalist movement. Neither the Ukrainian oligarchs nor US imperialism has an interest in ending the conflict because it is simply too profitable. What people need is jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions, not war. “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems such as transnational corporate looting and polluting.
At the best the outcome might be an international agreement about Ukrainian neutrality – with or without its Eastern autonomies – or the so-called “Finlandisation” of Ukraine, which refers to Finland’s historic decision to associate with Europe, but avoid hostility towards Russia.