After the Invasion – The Road Forward for Ukraine

Apparently all key points on the Crimean peninsula have been taken over by Russian forces, which now effectively control the area. Any major counter-movement by the Ukrainian armed forces seems to have been curiously absent, which raises questions about the loyalty of the Ukrainian armed forces as a whole and the upper echelons in particular.

My personal opinion is that there seems to have been a window of opportunity to try to retake the major airfields yesterday (280214) morning, when they were function despite the presence of lightly armed soldiers on their grounds. By e.g. having a company or two board regular flights a counter-coup might have been stage by the Ukrainian army. A determined response at this early stage might (keyword) have unsettled the Russians enough to force a peaceful withdrawal. I believe that, as the “enemy” force apparently consisted of relatively few soldiers with only their personal weapons, such an operation could be launched simply by sending of a properly sized unit with their own personal equipment to establish a bridgehead and buy some time to start thinking about the next step. This also means that next to no logistical planning would have had to be done at beforehand, as the unit would operate in a functioning civilian society with (relatively) abundant food and water supplies, hopefully without even needing to fire their weapons. Naturally, if the Russian response would have been to start an all-out counter-attack, the bridgehead would most probably swiftly have been overrun. This does not seem to have been the probable Russian response judged on their operations so far, but fear of similar losses might have been what made the Ukrainian HQ opt against any swift and unsecure troop movements at this early stage. Now, this window is decidedly shut after only a few hours, and the major options for Kiev seems to be either to accept the fait accompli, or to go in with a major force, knowing that this might very well lead to war.

Lars Gyllenhaal amongst others have pointed out that the last time unrest on the Crimean peninsula sparked a major conflict, this conflict spread to both the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, with Finland suffering coastal raids and Sweden harboring fleet detachments from belligerents Britain and France at Gotland. This time around, as stated in my last post, I don’t believe France, Italy or Great Britain (or Turkey for that matter) are prepared to go to war for Crimea. Neither do I believe in Russia trying to seize the whole of Ukraine. Crimea is important strategically, and has a historical significance to Russia (as do Kiev). The rest of Ukraine is interesting, but the situation is not urgent. A similar path as the one taken with Georgia might prove very successful. By capturing part of their territory and proclaiming it an independent state (possibly with a referendum about whether to join the Russian federation or not), they will not only secure the territory in question (and thus safeguard Sevastopol), but also provide the Kiev-government (and other potential troublemakers, like the Baltic states) with a constant reminder about what happens if they get too far out of line.

A few disturbing facts are perfectly clear from this:

1)      Russia is perfectly capable of and has the political willpower to execute a strategic coup against a neighboring state

2)      As has been repeatedly stated by NATO officials before: NATO protects their member states, and their member states only

3)      The “outdated” Cold war-scenarios in which a sovereign country suddenly attacks another sovereign country aren’t outdated at all, but can happen in Europe this very day

Let us hope that the politicians in both Finland and Sweden admit these basic facts, and that we can have an open and serious discussion about what conclusions should be drawn from these points.