We perish because we know not… #TLENews
The most recent allegations of soldier movement, rocket launchers, tank and missiles from Russia into rebel held eastern Ukraine would seem to fit a familiar pattern of events in the country’s separatist crisis, but for a few troublesome details.
Unmarked convoys seen near the Russian backed breakaway “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk last week are said to consist of advanced weapons systems and radar equipment never before seen during the months-long conflict crippling the nation. Analysts are speculating these supplies could be used to launch a lightning offensive by the Ukrainian separatists. Alleged past incursions near the porous Russia-Ukraine border have occurred while fighting has raged on while supposedly observing a cease fire with Ukrainian forces that Moscow helped to broker, although largely ignored by both sides.
Russia has responded to the recent allegations dismissing them as “hot air”. Wide agreements among analysts claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to destabilize the southwestern neighbor where the newly elected government in Kiev is desperately trying to foster closer ties with NATO and the European Union under “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko.
The timing and nature of the latest reinforcements has left diplomats scrambling to figure out just how far Putin might be willing to go to achieve that end.
According to Julia Ioffe and Linda Kinstler, last week’s military buildup has echoes of Putin’s annexation of Crimea back in March of this year. At the time, Putin denied a sudden incursion of unmarked troops into the peninsula was at the behest of Moscow until after a public referendum voted in favor of secession. The same could be in the works for the largely Russian speaking Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Another speculation could be that Russia is arming the rebel allies for an even deeper offensive aimed at opening up a land bridge from the separatist east to isolated Crimea, which could facilitate the transport of supplies and goods to sustain Russia’s newest citizens.
Others are claiming that although Putin continues to refer to the Donbass region as Novorossiya (New Russia) a land grab in eastern Ukraine would be counterproductive to Russia’s main objective. If Moscow were to cut off the largest pro-Russian sector of Ukraine, it would leave behind a smaller weaker state that is almost entirely pro-Western.
Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center Dmitri Trenin said, “I see Donbass as very different from Crimea. The people’s republics have been important for Putin as a foot in the door in his policy of guaranteeing Russian interests in Ukraine as a whole, such as neutrality between NATO and Russia. Annexation serves no useful Russian interest at this point.”
Most experts have ruled out that Putin would launch a “formal” invasion of separatist held Ukraine even though he has said that steps would be justified on the grounds of humanitarian aid and maintains tens of thousands of Russian troops just across the border. Polls have indicated that Russians generally approve Moscow’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine and of the “volunteer” Russian military units Moscow claims to be fighting on behalf of their separatists brethren however a Levada Tsenter poll did find that 68 percent of Russians are opposed to sending in troops and there are rising concerns over the toll Western sanctions are taking on the Russian economy.
“I think this is basically about deterrence and preparation for defense,” said Trenin. “Russia is sending a message to the West that it should under no circumstances create an impression in Kiev that it would condone a Ukrainian push against Donetsk and Luhansk. Should there be a large-scale war in Ukraine, it may escalate and effect the West.
The OSCE continues to push for a diplomatic and political resolution which most assume would guarantee autonomy for the separatist east while keeping Ukraine intact, but as shelling grows more frequent in the east and heavier weaponry arrives, said Bociurkiw, “We really do feel this is heading toward humanitarian disaster.” U.S., E.U., and Russian leaders must find political resolution soon or face the ever present threat of renewed hostilities between Kiev and the separatist held Donbass region.