Counterinsurgency Options for Ukraine

Counterinsurgency Options for Ukraine

Vincent A. Dueñas

The most effective strategy that Ukraine can select against Russian-backed separatists is a population-centric approach; with targeted utilization of their growing special operations units pursue militant separatist leaders in a limited enemy-centric approach. The key point being that the targeting of the separatist leaders should only continue to the extent that it serves political goals in Kiev, since this type of “kingpin” strategy cannot account for extensive degree of Russian involvement in the conflict. If it is not already understood, Kiev should acknowledge that they cannot fight to retake Crimea and that outside support is currently non-existent for such an endeavor. Moscow has made clear that it views the annexation of Crimea as an issue of sovereignty over its territory and the release of audio recordings of Russian presidential advisor, Sergei Glasyev, helps to validate the theory that the justification of the Crimean referendum appears to have been a ruse.[i] The cost-benefit analysis of a Crimean campaign leaves only the possibility of a counterinsurgency strategy for the Donbas.

In assessing the root causes for the Donbas separatist movement and their Russian supporters a short history is useful. From the perspectives of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), the region known as the Donbas, they identify culturally  with Russia, as the majority their inhabitants are Russian-speaking. The historical background to the region includes its role as an industrial power base for the Soviet Union. Having been declared independent under the fledgling Ukrainian nation over 23 years ago, it came as a surprise to its inhabitants when they realized they were no longer part of the Soviet Union. From that time forward, corruption and lack of interest in the region saw the Donbas’ oligarch’s take control of the mines and industry that did remain.[ii] The events of the Maidan revolution, followed by the annexation of Crimea set in motion the DNR and LHR’s referendum for independence with Russian support. Today, the region survives on the financial support of Russia, with Russian military leaders continuing to spearhead and fund the organization of the separatist factions.[iii] For the separatists, Russia was their natural ally. Although the people of the Donbas, to include some separatists, understand that to some extent their revolution was for the benefit of Russia, they distrusted Kiev even more. Russian information operations that vilify Kiev as fascist, corrupt oligarchs that have no real connection with the people of the Donbas have been very successful.[iv]

For Russia, it seems that the calculus to participate in the Ukrainian separatist movement was driven by their regional strategy to exert influence over former Soviet territories and intervene against the warming up of Ukraine to the EU.[v] The initial steps taken by Russia to seize Ukraine showed a disposition to exert military force precisely because Ukraine was not a NATO member. Having increased cooperation with NATO and augmented defense spending because of the commodity booms and the price of oil through 2014, Russia was content with its knowledge of the limits and drawbacks to the NATO alliance and chose pursue its own agenda in the region. This first became evident during the Georgian invasion of 2008.[vi] Russian foreign policy most likely views its greatest threat as the continuation of western democracy as a viable form of government. In this vein, Russia has consistently shown that it is willing to use Cold War tactics of subversion and espionage, to now include the application of its cyber capabilities, in order to undermine weak governments and destabilize them for their own benefit. The pursuit of such an aggressive strategy with a NATO member directly is not to Russia’s benefit, however, Ukraine, with its historic cultural ties does not pose as great of a threat. At the same time that Ukraine was experiencing unrest in 2014, Putin was experiencing a drop in ratings, thus Crimea and the Donbas presented an opportunity.

Putin probably made a reasonable assessment that the West would not stop him due to the asymmetry of interests - Ukraine is very important to Russia with minimal value to NATO members. This large interest asymmetry suggested NATO would be unlikely to intervene just as NATO chose to do little when Russia invaded Georgia. Additionally, Putin may have determined he needed an external event to consolidate his hold on power due to a 19 percent decline in his approval ratings from 2008-2013.[vii]

Russia’s further desire to simultaneously engage in Syria, while drawing down major support in the Donbas show that the calculus for its involvement is distinctive to the region. The Donbas is important to Russia because they can more easily influence the area and are able to maintain a veneer of legitimacy because a valid self-organized separatist insurgency.

The situation on the ground is essentially a stalemate, as the Minsk II agreement notes there is a ceasefire that most importantly requires the removal of heavy weapons from the frontline. This however, has not occurred due to disagreements over the timing of the removal and agreements by Kiev to undertake political legislation aimed at reducing corruption. Fighting still occurs daily, but one report indicates a possibility that a number of young men that currently fight for the separatists’ movement only do so because of money.[viii] The Donbas ideologues that organize and fight aggressively are a core group that needs to be targeted. The majority of effective fighting forces are Russian, which currently number approximately 8,000 personnel, while the rest of the separatist fight force numbers approximately 35,000 personnel.[ix]

From a Kiev’s view, the promise of more integration with the EU is fading fast, with the Dutch, most recently seeking to limit the promises of integration for the Ukraine.[x] This development signals the hard reality that for the foreseeable future, Kiev will only be able to seek minimal political and diplomatic support for their conflict, as opposed to concrete military commitments. The various dimensions of the population-centric strategy must take on the characteristics of political, military, economic and development efforts, as well the continued expansion of outside great power support. This strategy must account for the root causes that drive support for both the separatist movement primarily, and acknowledge that Russia’s great power support must be targeted as well in order to stand any chance of eventually retaking the territory. This population-centric strategy would most likely have to take place over a minimum 5-year timeline in order to make the necessary changes across the different dimensions and exhaust Russian involvement and support.

The political effort on the part of Kiev, must enforce the Minsk II agreement. Due to Ukraine’s relative weakness against Russia, adherence to the Minsk II agreement would buy it political will from the EU in order to increase its support for key military reforms and operations it wants to undertake. The removal of heavy weapons should be accompanied by simultaneous increases in information operations that will be explained later in the  essay. Kiev must also pass more robust anti-corruption laws which include requesting the support of a UN or EU anti-corruption body. This reform will be one of the lynchpins of the government to show international and Donbas populations their commitment to reform. Robust information operations will be key to this reform having the necessary effect and giving it an enduring character. Finally, the Kiev government must hold talks with the “Opposition Bloc” to discuss ways for the government to maintain ongoing dialogues over the discussion of some form of federalization for the region. The government must consider that in order to end this conflict, some form of autonomy for the region will likely have to be conceded in order for there to be a peaceful reintegration of the population and reduce a Russian preponderance to interfere. This autonomy however, will have to include physical government presence back within the region in order to reconnect the population with the government and extinguish the separatist argument that Kiev is detached. The political case must be made for the Donbas population that the responsibility for violence must be placed squarely on the shoulders of separatist leaders and furthermore, show that Russian interference would only serve to make the populations’ plight worse.

The military effort must encompass an enemy-centric component and seek to target separatist leaders from the trenches. An aggressive push for Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SOF) to increase attacks against high-value targets should accompany an aggressive political front. Adhering to the Minsk II agreements to remove heavy weapons will leave the frontline forces exposed, so aggressive targeting should be undertaken to also take out key heavy-weapons sites. Sabotage and subversion by Ukrainian SOF must also be undertaken to reduce separatist organization and capacity. A minimal footprint, but with expanded authority to engage the enemy along the front will provide opportunities for SOF to hone their skills and sow discord among the separatist and Russian ranks. Accompanying this effort, will be the rebuilding of government radio stations in order broadcast psychological messaging about Russian falsehoods. The information operations dimension of this strategy should be undertaken by the military with intelligence services support. Messaging that conveys the manipulation of Donbas populations at the hands of Russia must be aggressively undertaken, specifically, the airing of the audio recordings of Glasyev planning the annexation of Crimea. Other messaging must include the successes of the Ukrainian government in negotiating peace terms and undertaking key corruption reforms. Stories and interviews from defectors and key government figures that emphasize solidarity and shared history with the region should be shared to undermine separatist messaging. Progress on key economic reforms should also be conveyed, along with recordings of EU support and solidarity for the region.

Economic reforms will need to include the approval of a new pension law and the design and approval of a funding package to resurge Donbas industry. Currently the price of food is less expensive on the Ukrainian side than on the Donbas side and work is limited in the Donbas, so the immediate resurgence of support to region should be a point of leverage for the Kiev government.

Development reform must include the government’s push to successfully staff and fund the Agency for the Restoration of Donbas. This agency should spearhead the efforts to rebuild in the region. Kiev should also seek to increase international aid, while the quality of the local government officials must improve. This dimension is arguably the most important during the initial stages of the counterinsurgency strategy after the military has successfully targeted and reduced the military capacity of the separatists along the border. The relative speed with which development projects can be instituted will provide the first tangible evidence of involvement on the part of the government that will color what the local population believes that the government will commit to. Rapid initiation of development projects will provide a starting point for the civilian population to interact with government officials to humanize the involvement of Kiev in their communities.

In terms of seeking outside support, the Ukraine will need to continue pursuing increased diplomatic support with the hope of materializing more concrete commitments in the future. Existing support comes in the form of NATO-member countries and US military trainers that are working to improve the professionalization of the Ukrainian military forces, but are not involved in combat operations.[xi] Although limited in scope of involvement in the conflict, the extent of support is not insignificant and signals NATO’s and the US’ desire to provide a stopgap to Russian involvement. For NATO’s part they have committed to the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP), which offers the following:

1 - Advisory support: Resident and nonresident NATO and allied advisers are assisting Ukraine in a broad range of defense issues, including logistics and strategic-level reform.

2 - Defense reform: Key assistance includes capacity and institution building, professional development of civilian employees, and strategic communications.

3 - Defense education: Allied experts are cooperating with eight defense education institutions, three training centers, and the Diplomatic Academy in Ukraine to improve staff skills and develop curricula that meet Western standards.

4 - Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and demining: NATO is conducting humanitarian demining operations and will implement a project to increase Ukraine’s capabilities to counter IEDs.

5 - Explosive ordnance disposal: Allies are supporting Ukraine in disposing of obsolete small arms/light weapons, ammunition, and anti-personnel mines.[xii]

US assistance to date has also been substantial, focusing on non-lethal aid that enhances the operational and technological capabilities of the Ukrainian military:

1 - Training: 350 U.S. personnel training up to five battalions of Ukrainian conventional forces and one battalion of special operations forces, while developing a long-term institutional training capacity.

2 - Equipment: including counter-artillery and counter-mortar radars, secure communications, training aids, logistics infrastructure and IT systems, tactical UAVs, and medical equipment.

3 - Advisers: advancing implementation of key defense reforms, such as promoting civilian oversight, greater efficiency and transparency, and combatting corruption.[xiii]

While this aid is not lethal combat power that translates to the fighting, it is nonetheless an important commitment that NATO and the US is making to the second-largest land army in Europe after Russia.[xiv] It therefore should be top priority for Kiev to increase participation in NATO military exercises and encourage NATO military presence and participation within its borders. An increase in military forces by NATO members is sorely needed to help adjust Russia’s calculus on the extent to which it desires to expand the war in Ukraine. Ukraine needs more weapons and equipment as it attempts to modernize in the middle of fighting a war. Additionally, Ukraine should seek to undermine Russian support to the separatists by gathering as much hard evidence of the Russian involvement and its toll on Russian soldiers to show to the media in order to undermine Russian public support.

The final crucial component to the outside support dimension is the expansion of cyber warfare operations. Where the Ukraine is a region that does not hold great significance to the EU and the US, it does offer a battlefield on which to test cyber capabilities with relative impunity. Specifically, Ukraine needs more expertise on capabilities that would enable it to disable or disrupt command and control systems and logistics systems of the Russian military and the Donbas writ large, in order to undermine the perception that Russia can protect and provide for the people of the Donbas. That Russia does not openly acknowledge the participation of its forces in the Donbas, it can also not cry foul for actions taken against its units in the region. Kiev should look to increase the involvement and utilization of NATO country cyber capabilities to subvert all forms of financing, operations and organization that the separatists and Russians undertake as part of their daily routine. Increasing the cost of conducting operations in the Ukraine for Russia is a key way to reduce their calculus on their involvement in the region. While currently heavily engaged in Syria, the war in Donbas can serve as a proving ground for NATO countries to engage in open cyber warfare to reduce operating capacity of the separatists and Russia.

Ukraine faces an exceptionally difficult counterinsurgency, primarily because of the extensive great power support the Donbas insurgents enjoy from Russia. The separatists’ grievances are legitimate and still plague the region today. Militarily, Ukraine is not enough of a match for Russia and they do not currently enjoy the hard support of Europe’s militaries to risk engaging in a direct confrontation with Russia. Even by fighting a successful population-centric counterinsurgency, they still run the risk of inciting Russia to action if they do not feel they can claim victory.

Ultimately, however, there is no other solution for the Ukraine. Any attempts by Ukraine at this time to use direct force on the separatists and the population through exclusively enemy-centric or punishment counterinsurgency strategies will play right into the psychological warfare trap that paints Kiev as corrupt neo-Nazis that are running a fascist state and will subjugate the population once they regain control.

A population-centric counterinsurgency offers the best opportunity to undermine Russian involvement, end separatist control and negotiate an enduring agreement. The realities that the Ukraine faces external to the country include the realization that integration into the EU will be minimal at best and that NATO membership is not possible in the foreseeable future. However, Ukraine’s capacity to wage an effective COIN campaign and effectively suppress the separatist movement, while simultaneously making key reforms in their government and against corruption, greatly increases the future possibility of integration with western society. The Donbas itself is not clearly with one side or another, but if the results of modernization do not benefit the Donbas, there is no incentive for them to side with Kiev.

End Notes

[i] Melkozerova, Veronika. "Two years too late, Lutsenko releases audio of Russian plan that Ukrainians already suspected." www.kyivpost.com. August 27, 2016. Web. <https://www.kyivpost.com/article/content/ukraine-politics/ukrainian-prosecutors-release-alleged-audio-evidence-of-russias-control-over-crime-annexation-and-civil-unrest-in-eastern-ukraine-421786.html>.

[ii] Antony Butts. Who was Pulling the Strings when Ukraine Unraveled? Reuters "War College", 2016. Itunes Podcast.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Finnery, Nathan K., and Benjamin J. Fernandes. "The Myth of Russian Aggression and NATO Expansion." www.thestrategybridge.org. December 16, 2016. Web. <http://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/12/16/the-myth-of-russian-aggression-and-nato-expansion>.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ukraine: The Line. International Crisis Group, 2016. Social Science Premium Collection. 8.

[ix] Ibid. 8.

[x] Baczynska, Gabriela, and Toby Sterling. "EU leaders to endorse Dutch demands on Ukraine: sources." www.reuters.com. December 14, 2016. Web. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-eu-dutch-idUSKBN14326Q?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29>.

[xi] Morelli, Vincent L. Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service, 2016. 30.

[xii] Ibid. 37.

[xiii] Ibid. 32.

[xiv] Peterson, Nolan. "The 2 Largest Land Armies in Europe Tiptoe to the Edge of War and Back." www.dailysignal.com. December 9, 2016. Web. <http://dailysignal.com/2016/12/09/eastern-europe-is-a-powder-keg-ready-to-explode/>.

 

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JSmith and Azor...still think there are such animals as Donbas separatists....???

Yes, recognition by Moscow of Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" passports is a new step in the dismemberment of Ukraine

Quasi Russian military annexation is now in effect.....

JSmith....and Azor....this goes to the heart of what I have been repeatedly saying....the so called Ukrainian separatists was the myth that Russia sold the West....

Check the Ukrainian thread on the shot down of MH17 and social media has been tracking and conducting their analysis on since the first hour...

This finally closes out who ordered the shot down and who pushed the BUK trigger....

BTW notice that the mentioned GRU Russian LT...was already inside Donbas and fully functioning as a so called separatist a FULL TWO years before the Russian invasion of 2014....establishing his control over a region that is now under Russian control.....

A full two years before thus in 2012 WHICH ties into the massive Russian info warfare that stated also in 2012 against Ukraine and their UAF...

Russian army lieutenant call sign Bes (Бес) in #Slaviansk #Ukraine thread has his photo...

My 1st tweet on Bezler, 2 days after @SimonOstrovsky's EPIC dispatch on seizure of #Horlivka police station.
https://twitter.com/lennutrajektoor/...5910877921280#
'
MP Rybak murder Бес gave cmnd, tortured, Стрелок made 2nd torture,"mayor" disposed body2river
http://translate.google.com/translate?

SBU, Rybak: Бес gave cmnd, tortured; Стрелок 2nd torture; The "mayor" dumped the body 2 ditch

Bezler (Безлер aka Бес) was operational in #Horlivka 2 years prior April 2014. Became de-facto ruler of the city.

Remember this @SimonOstrovsky dispatch. He revealed to the World #Bezler, a GRU operative who executed that pogrom.
THIS video is critical...
https://youtu.be/MTdkY8tl2b0

Dear Internet,
I give you Bezler (Безлер, Бес) frm May 21 2014 in #Horlivka.
In 3 months & 3 days later downs #MH17

http://www.ukrinform.ua/eng/news/sbu...320582#…

My 1st tweet on Bezler, 2 days after @SimonOstrovsky's EPIC dispatch on seizure of #Horlivka police station.[/B]
https://twitter.com/lennutrajektoor/...5910877921280#

Gloomy is not an idiot - the order was given by Bezler (Безлер aka Бес). Fails to mention accomplice is a crime too.

Gloomy: Key factors in the #MH17 investigation are:
1) Who gave the launch order
2) Who pushed the button
http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-38995957#…

Gloomy, a #GRU oper who transported BUK that downed #MH17, publicly admits he delivered the BUK to wrong destination http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-38995957#…

Thus, Gloomy explicitly confirms his part & truthfulness of @bellingcat's investigation on him.

Big thanks to Okhlobtstin for confirming the main claim of the new @bellingcat research: Sergey Dubinsky is the Khmury who served Strelkov.

MAJOR social media open source intelligence analysis win.....who has been on top of this Russian shot down since the first hour after the shot down.
A major win to @daniel_b_cat, @AricToler, @EliotHiggins.

Now waiting for Interpol warrant on Gloomy.

Ah...Girkin/Strelkov brings back memories....

Girkin / #Strelkov genuine decree of July 2014 on handing over ALL #MH17 loot for bolstering the DNR defence fund.
https://twitter.com/ProtestSPb/status/754759227202166784

Girkin/Strelkov was not a Donbas separatist but a full COL in the Russian GRU....

Eliot Higgins

@EliotHiggins
Love it, RT attacks the latest @bellingcat #MH17 report and inadvertently confirms the key premise
https://twitter.com/AricToler/status/832631812719517696 

Some light humor for today......

Irony is dead. The Kremlin warns the West about using "fake news" against @RT_com and @SputnikInt.

BTW...both of these Russian owned and operated government propaganda media outlets are part and parcel of a yearly budgeted 1B USDs for the Russian global info war effort directed against the West especially the US that represents to Putin...the leader of "global neo liberalism"....

RT and Sputnik international are found in over 126 countries and expanding to even more....and the US efforts to counter this info warfare...virtually zero....

Threats from the King of "fake news"...now that is telling....

Azor...here is my heartburn with many commenters.....

QUOTE
JSmith: “…if the Ukrainian Army was as good…it would already be sitting comfortably in downtown Donetsk and Lugansk…the UAF remains a mostly incompetent conscript force with a small smattering of professionals and a few volunteer battalions…”
UNQUOTE

If one really takes the time and works their way through the hundreds of Ukraine thread postings I have posted and takes the time to read the countless article postings then one would not have this opinion...both the Ukrainian and Syrian threads are almost like a reading primer of events to bring you up to speed on events in those areas....

One of the effects of propaganda and the use of fake news and botnet trolls is in fact to shape and distribute such comments and it does not reflect the massive NATO/US Army retraining of the UAF...the rebuilding of the UAF along NATO formats and the rebuilding of the Ukrainian defense industries....in fact it dos not reflect reality of the last two years of heavy fighting...

BTW the UAF would love to go over to offensive operations..they are though under the influence of IMF and EU to remain "quiet" and not cause waves with Russia .......and that gets them the financial support they need for the rebuilding of the country and EU eventual membership....and then NATO....

Right now...the UAF has in fact been doing what some would call a creeping advance BUT what I view as retaking of separatist held areas that are clearly defined under Minsk 2 as being Ukrainian.....these areas were clearly marked in red in the Minsk 2 agreement...and yet were taken when the UAF was still rebuilding and could barely hang on....

If one takes the time to read comments by US journalists who are currently in the front lines...the UAF could in fact go over to offensive operations and retake a large amount of Donbas but will it trigger a general war with Russia...in fact it actually might...that is just how much they have improved in the last two years....

BUT IMHO Putin will not go to war...as the Russian state and economy is close to collapse and that is why he applying strong pressure in attempting to collapse EU first....but Putin always likes to throw out the threat of war to block EU moves...

A full 1/3rd of all Russian banks have been closed....five major Federated Republic leaders replaced in the last months with one replaced now three times....strikes are breaking out...salaries not paid for months...food quality and amounts are almost at Cold War levels and the wages are sinking in Russia....and the National Reserve Fund is almost broke....

Putin in the process of trying to break his race to the bottom and survive himself and war is the last thing he wants and or needs...

BY THE WAY....do not thing for a moment that the Flynn/Trump sanctions lifting thing is not tied back to all of the above as well......

Guess who is rushing to defend Flynn?

@AP:
https://apnews.com/e225aaea0ff540d883e5f6e5fd62c43f 

JSmith: “While we may disagree on many things, I think at least we could have a rational conversation. I don't think that would be possible for me with someone like Outlaw, who I won't accuse of being part of the Ukrainian 'troll army' that was announced in the press, but who certainly seems to have plenty of time on his hands to comment here.”

I agree that we can have a rational conversation.

As for Outlaw, I believe that he is coming from the perspective of countering the Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine, of which some of the allegations are of course true. With respect to Outlaw’s prolific commentary, I have no explanation. His knowledge of foreign languages, extensive use of social media sources and overall effort demonstrate a commitment to Ukraine, the Free Syrian Army and to a strong forward US presence in East-Central Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Note that SWJ isn’t followed widely by the general public, but is frequented by Americans involved in the defense and foreign policy establishment. Draw your own conclusions…

JSmith: “…if the Ukrainian Army was as good…it would already be sitting comfortably in downtown Donetsk and Lugansk…the UAF remains a mostly incompetent conscript force with a small smattering of professionals and a few volunteer battalions…”

I’d have to disagree here. The UA began the war with a fighting strength of under 10,000. In the Summer of 2014, they were clearly on the cusp of defeating the insurgency when Russia directly invaded and then routed the UA at Ilovaisk. The insurgency is entirely dependent upon Russian support.

RE: NATO Enlargement

I agree that the inclusion of the former Soviet republics in NATO was ill-advised. If Sweden and Finland can get by without NATO, then so too can the Baltic republics. I do not think that NATO broke any promises made to the Soviet Union with respect to enlargement, particularly as both the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union were very much in existence when these US-Soviet discussions were occurring.

I also agree that offensive NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya have caused Moscow to believe that NATO is an offensive military alliance. However, I also believe that neither the US nor NATO intended to establish such an alliance. Rather, they undertook these operations to preserve the alliance and regarded them as enhanced training.

RE: NATO Ballistic Missile Defense

Both the GBI and Aegis Ashore plans as laid out are not threatening to Russia. However, Russia is concerned that future upgrades in speed and range might allow these interceptors to impact the SLBMs of its SSBN bastion in and around the Kara Sea. From a political perspective, Russia’s concerns are silly, as the US government has shied away from conflict with North Korea, which has a very primitive and less-than-credible deterrent. In addition, the US would be the major beneficiary of a “global zero” nuclear weapons agreement. From a military perspective, however, the Russians are correct that BMD may whittle down their survivable deterrent by say 10% to 20%, if the US launched a first counterforce strike. Intentions and perceptions of intentions may change overnight, so I would rather that capabilities explicitly dealing with Iran (NATO BMD) be deployed in say Israel or the GCC members rather than in East-Central Europe.

RE: Color Revolutions

Yes, the US promoted democracy movements worldwide but it is not as though the peoples of the former Soviet Union did not want democracy, rule of law and personal freedom. Certainly the protests that overthrew Communist rule in the Warsaw Pact/CMEA and then the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1991, were spontaneous and local, irrespective of any moral support from the West. Moreover, the so-called “color revolutions” took place in countries which had not been part of the uprisings of the 1989 to 1991 period, and where both the dissolution of their state and transition to democracy were top-down rather than bottom-up. It would be ludicrous to say that Poland and Kyrgyzstan were both ready for liberal democracy in 1989, but that did not mean that the latter would never be ready.

RE: Kremlin Thinking

Just because Putin sees a straight line from the Clinton through the Obama administrations, doesn’t mean that he is correct. Just as Western democratically-elected politicians suffer from short-term thinking, autocrats in Moscow and Beijing suffer from the opposite problem.

Interestingly, for such a keen student of history with many years of rule before him, Putin seemed to think that he could keep Ukraine quiet and acquiescent. Yet Ukrainians have oscillated between east and west for centuries since the “Ruin”, and re-installing Yanukovych and the Party of Regions was but one battle in a war for Ukraine’s future. The “Gerasimov Doctrine” aside, Putin underestimated the soft power of the European Union and its appeal to most Ukrainians, despite the dearth of tangible incentives that association would bring. Putin tried to sell Ukrainians on tangible benefits for joining his EAEU, but the EU was selling a “lifestyle” or a “vision”: join us and you can become like the Dutch or Germans in time. It didn’t hurt either that neighboring Poland was doing quite well…

Certainly Nuland and Pyatt salivated at the thought of prying Ukraine from Putin’s grasp, as Ukraine had always been the jewel in the Russian crown. However, Obama had little to no interest in NATO or Ukraine. If Washington was so determined to turn the Black Sea into a “NATO lake”, then relations with Turkey would have been just as important as expelling the rusting Black Sea Fleet. Putin jumped the gun on occupying Crimea. He should have waited to see what the provisional government would do...

The EuroMaidan was a spontaneous protest by a people who had never come to terms within themselves, either as part of the Soviet Union or as an independent country.

RE: NATO bases

Quite frankly, NATO doesn’t have enough assets to deploy to all these bases that it supposedly covets. In today’s age of long-range precision-strike, a NATO base in Crimea would be more of a target than a staging area. Moreover, people said that Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria were all about bases and pipelines. They’re like the Christians who predict the End of Days and then recalibrate once they survive, after having sold all of their belongings.

RE: Russo-Ukrainian War

Language is not nationality, and there are Ukrainian citizens who identify as Ukrainian, Russian and a group that isn’t sure.

After the flight of Yanukovych and the collapse of the Party of Regions, I am certain that Western intelligence officers flooded into Ukraine, interested in the technical details of Ukraine’s defense industry that was vital to Russia’s modernization plans. I am also sure that there were observers from NATO members watching the fighting in Donbas, in order to study Russian tactics.

However, there is zero evidence of NATO member servicemen fighting for Ukraine or of significant material support e.g. repair of AFVs, provision of arms (esp. ATGMs and RPGs). You do realize that with a few dozen TOWs or Javelins, the Ukrainians could have decimated insurgent armor, right? You do realize that the UA is operating with RPGs where only 1 in 5 is reliable, right?

You are correct that Ukraine is still a mafia state, but unlike Russia, it does want to change.

Azor...thanks for the words...not sure if kind or unkind...

I have a lot of time on my hands due to the simple fact I own and run a 87 person company dedicated to collection and analysis of cyberterrorism and cyberattacks mainly on the dark net side of the internet and when one has to watch data flows in the GB ranges for a small hint....or to attempt to archive a particular darknet page before it disappears..you do need a second monitor to keep one's sanity.

That is SWJ....

Actually having never really been interested much in Ukraine and or Syria even when in Iraq by the daily posting of multiple sources good and bad on the Ukraine and Syrian threads you develop a "feel" for ground events and then suddenly every single move on the ground makes sense in connection to the ongoing open political debates....

Part of our work also entails tracking of darknet botnets and the open source analysis of Russian propaganda and fakes news sites which then in turn took us directly into the US election and now back for the French and German elections....

This again confirms the tenor of the article and or goes against the tenor of the article that JSmith and many do not want to fully accept....

There was no true Ukrainian separatist movement....I have recorded records of massive Russian propaganda sites..botnets....pushing "New Russia" from three years ago...a full year before their annexing of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine....

I have actually become quite good at understanding the complex Russian info warfare as it is tied to cyber warfare and info warfare and have a respect for the Russian abilities....simply stated they are really really good at cyber...and info warfare and we are nowhere close to catching up to them....

BUT back to the article....

THIs is a major development if in fact accurate....this also paralleled recent Russian artillery school officers coming into eastern Ukraine and serving in artillery units as part of their graduation process....

QUOTE
InformNapalm: Russia deployed National Guard to fight in Avdiivka Promka
http://liveuamap.com/en/2017/14-february-informnapalm-russia-deployed-national-guard-to 
pic.twitter.com/cC9eUf9XW5
via @VidalSorokin
UNQUOTE

BTW..the latest SBU Russian military active duty count inside Ukraine stands at 8.5K.

Azor...BTW....I have spent literally years in strategic debriefing and interrogation in Europe during the Cold War Berlin days working multiple languages....worked HUMINT during those years and firmly believe OSINT provides 80% of all good quality intelligence that allows for the other INTs to either confirm or deny...and love working the open source analysis side especially with the increase in good analysis tools that social media has recently developed and released for free.

BTW....One of those many HUMINT reports was used by Reagan in his accusation against the SU in their major bio weapons accident in the 80s.....

Am a former US SF combat veteran...with experience in three different wars in my life time...and if you happen to order this book you might understand just why I tend to understand first the Soviet Army and now the Russian Army better than most.....

Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army's Elite, 1956-1990
by James Stejskal

It is a little-known fact that during the Cold War, two U.S. Army Special Forces detachments were stationed far behind the Iron Curtain in West Berlin. The existence and missions of the two detachments were highly classified secrets.

The massive armies of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies posed a huge threat to the nations of Western Europe. US military planners decided they needed a plan to slow the juggernaut they expected when and if a war began. The plan was Special Forces Berlin. The first 40 men who came to Berlin in mid-1956 were soon reinforced by 60 more and these 100 soldiers (and their successors) would stand ready to go to war at only two hours’ notice, in a hostile area occupied by nearly one million Warsaw Pact forces, until 1990.

Their mission should hostilities commence was to wreak havoc behind enemy lines, and buy time for vastly outnumbered NATO forces to conduct a breakout from the city. In reality it was an ambitious and extremely dangerous mission, even suicidal. Highly trained and fluent in German, each man was allocated a specific area. They were skilled in clandestine operations, sabotage, intelligence tradecraft and able to act if necessary as independent operators, blending into the local population and working unseen in a city awash with spies looking for information on their every move.

Special Forces Berlin was a one of a kind unit that had no parallel. It left a legacy of a new type of soldier expert in unconventional warfare, one that was sought after for other deployments including the attempted rescue of American hostages from Tehran in 1979. With the U.S. government officially acknowledging their existence in 2014, their incredible story can now be told.

Meet the Author
James Stejskal served for 23 years with Special Forces, including two tours in Berlin, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. He then served 13 years with the CIA as a senior Operations Officer (Case Officer) in Africa, Europe and Asia. He is now a military historian and conflict archaeologist. This is his second book.

ISBN-13:
9781612004440
Publisher:
Casemate Publishers
Publication date:
02/19/2017

ALL proceeds go to support SF families
 

Deleted

This might explain just why the Ukrainian government is at ease with the right wing Azor Regiment which is now part of the Ukrainian National Guard......

"But the enemy of my enemy is my friend"......

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/ukraine-turns-a-blind-eye-to-ultrarightist-militia/2017/02/12/dbf9ea3c-ecab-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?utm_term=.121707c71c87 

I must protest!

As much as I would like my own regiment, I'm still recruiting for my drinking team ;)

Eastern Ukraine so called "separatists".....

Russian ultra nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin is playing war in Ukraine, as a major in the Donetsk separatists' army.
http://www.kp.ru/daily/26642.5/3661046/#

Russian writer Zahar Prilepin(RF citizen) became deputy commander of DNR local separatists

Bolshevik Russian writer and suspected leader of OMON death squads in Chechnya, Zakhar Prilepin now Dep Cmdr in DPR

Zakhar #Prilepin, writer, ideologue of #Putin's war in #Ukraine:

"If we succeed in UA, we succeed anywhere".

Do you hear this in the West?

JSmith and Azor.....reference the concept of so called Ukrainian "spearatists"....

Ukraine News
‏@UaNews_online
"Kremlin is eliminating everyone. You will celebrate my death soon," - terrorist Girkin

http://dlvr.it/NM2Zy4

Before The Hague got him, Milošević killed off most of the spooks & thugs who did his 1990s dirty work.

Putin is doing the same, of course.

QUOTE
The Russians military killed or excluded all independent players from the city of Donetsk. That’s why Girkin isn't rule out the possibility of his assassination.
A former militants' leader Igor Girkin (Strelkov) told a Russian TV channel, Censor.NET reports.

"Zakharchenko is a motormouth. That's a clear fact that all people able to deicide for themselves and take responsibility for their words were eliminated or excluded from Donetsk. It is clear that no one will do anything without the political will of Moscow. After all, Donbas problems are rooted in the Kremlin.

"If the Kremlin decides to act, neglecting its own interests, like daughters in London and granddaughters in Paris, we will win.

Girkin continue to criticize Russian government but is afraid for his future. "You will probably celebrate my death soon. I'm still surprised that I can walk around. Still I'm not sure if God will be so merciful for a long time," Girkin said.

http://en.censor.net.ua/news/425743/terrorist_girkin_confirms_mass_deser...

Terrorist Girkin confirms mass desertion of "DPR" militants deployed at Avdiivka, - journalist

Ex-leader of the so-called "DPR" Igor Strelkov aka Girkin reports about mass desertion of "DPR" militants from the 11th motorized rifle regiment involved in battles near Avdiivka.

Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov wrote on Facebook referring to Strelkov's post on a social media.

"A member of the Russian Federal Security Service and ex-Defense Minister of the "DPR" Igor Girkin (Strelkov) told about panic among the militants near Avdiivka: "Mass exodus of "fifteen-thousanders" from the 11th regiment is underway under the slogan 'I'll gladly take the military ID but will never fight.' Say hello to the boneheads!

"The Russian mercenaries call fifteen-thousanders the residents of the occupied Donbas who have lost their jobs and become employed in the only place in the "DPR" where the Russian invaders consistently pay wages - the army of the "DPR". A mercenary receives squarely 15,000 RUB (about $250) per month there," the journalist explained.

"Our 72nd Mechanized Brigade is currently opposed by the 11th motorized rifle regiment deployed near Avdiivka. According to the enemy reports in social media, commander of the 3rd battalion of this regiment Ivan Balabay, call sign Grek, and company commander with call sign Konsul were killed in battles of Jan. 29-31. Girkin tells about heavy losses sustained by the mercenaries, but he is just afraid to tell exact figures.

"The Russian command completely classified any information regarding the gross losses while the casualty figures were previously voiced. The reluctance even to publish the number of killed-in-action shows that Russian 1st Army Corps has actually sustained significant losses. It is noteworthy that Girkin started telling bogeyman story about "the offensive operation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Donetsk, Horlivka, Debaltseve" following three days of battles at a narrow section of the forefront," Butusov wrote

NOTICE the comments that in fact the current fighting inside eastern Ukraine..."NOT on the border as Team Trump seems to believe is actually happening"....is being fought with Russian troops.....

Currently there are Ukrainian State Security SBU estimates of 8.5K Russian troops still in Donbas...UP from a previous 7K....difference is made up of Russian Spetsnaz.

IMPORTANT article from a former USAF SOF type who has been writing a lot from the Minsk 2 frontlines over the last two years....

Nolan Peterson: Russian troops man Ukraine rebels' front line
http://europe.newsweek.com/nolan-pet...t-line-555141#

SO the myth of Ukrainian "separatists" is really just a Russian propaganda myth...meant to deflect from actual Russian military involvement just as their recent comments concerning ..."those 700 Russian army tanks must have come from UAF"....."ain't ours".....

QUOTE
During battles, the Ukrainians claim their enemies’ tactics reveal their identities.
“We can tell if it’s separatists, or Russian soldiers,” Burdiuh said. “They fight in different ways. The separatists are unorganized, they move like bugs in different directions. But Russian units move in a coordinated, disciplined way. And Russian artillery is much more accurate.”

Russia claims E. Ukraine separatists stole/bought their 700 tanks & 400 APCs from depleted Ukrainian army. Right ...

http://www.mk.ru/politics/2017/02/10/ekspert-rasskazal-otkuda-dnr-poluch...

BUT WAIT...one of the very first Russian excuses was that "vacationing Russia active duty troops must have taken their tanks as well to defend their fellow Russians who were being killed by Nazi's"..... 

Something that the author has not taken into consideration is the simple fact that Russia is running rapidly out of money and is playing a massive ponzi scheme to stay afloat...

1. Crimea cannot be fully supported as Russia claimed they would do when they took it over..."we will provide more for Crimea than Ukraine ever did" and right now 400,000 are without sufficient water supplies and food supplies are tight as well......and electrical power is measured in hours per day.....agriculture has come to a virtual stop..

2. At the height of the 2014 fighting it was estimated that Russia was spending an average of 4M USD per day...that figure now based on the total support for the Donbas economy....the salaries of the two mercenary districts and their employees and the funding for a 40K man mercenary army.. and the costs for stationing of an average of 6K Russian troops and trainers ARE estimated now to be 14 to 17M USDs per day......

3. It is being estimated that the Syrian costs for Russia are pushing a range of 10-12M USDs....

So now two years of eastern Ukraine "New Russia" has cost Russia an estimated 480M USDs per 30 day month using the middle value of 16M USD per day OR a total of roughly 5.7B per year and 11.4B in two years and there is no end in sight....these figures are on the conservative side....

Syria is costing thus roughly 4B per year....

Total for both wars and on the conversative side is 15.4B USDs........

The price of oil has not climbed back past 54 USD per barrel thus not giving them any budget leeway....AND Russia has shut down 172 failing banks with more to come this year....

So this reported sinking in the Reserve Fund is a major financial disaster waiting to happen...

Russia's Reserve Fund has only $16 bn left; likely to be depleted in the next several months:

So coupled with a true stagnating economy that has shown no growth......climbing inflation...food shortages......falling salaries...salaries not being paid.....unable to fully support Crimea and the ever increasing war costs....Putin is slowly coming to a major decision point.........

AND for Trump to consider just lifting sanctions for his good friend Putin when there is not a single Russian reciprocal move shows just how poorly this so called American self made man really understands the world around him....or just how compromised the Russians have him...there is no middle ground.....

In Russian from Boris Rozhin aka Colonel Cassad, who gave extensive coverage to the huge Ukrainian 'cauldrons' of late summer 2014 that resembled the 1991 Iraq War's highway of death in terms of the number of KIA and destroyed armor: http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/3240360.html

I don't think Outlaw or myself are qualified to say with certainty that Gen. Vorobyov (Sparrow) really died of a heart attack or was poisoned. Just more food for thought though regarding whether a strategy of going after the LDNR leadership wouldn't suddenly start going both ways with tit for tat retaliation not only in Kharkov or Mariupol within 50 miles of the Russian border but also in the heart of Kiev.

Even the NYTs starts to get it right with the Ukraine fighting.....

QUOTE:
New York Times World

@nytimesworld
Several commanders in the separatist army in eastern Ukraine have died far from the front lines.
http://nyti.ms/2lqMgxe

NOTE: many of these killed so called commander were blue collar Donbas low paid workers who joined the merry band of former and active duty Spetsnaz led by Girkin out of Crimea and who then made themselves into Russian paid and supported warlords and then turned their militias into armed gangs engaging in criminal activities and no longer fighting on the front lines....

As soon as someone mentions "Counterinsurgency" or "Population centric" nowadays they are immediately dismissed and ridiculed. Dismissed by Field Grade Officers or worst BN Commanders. I can list on one hand the number of "Traditional Wars" fought in the last century, which are grossly outnumbered by irregular conflicts. I've often heard irregular conflicts dismissed by terms like "steel on steel" and "Direct Action" (it's actually Decisive Action in this context). The same people who dismiss the nature of warfare are the same people training multinational militaries for deployment to irregular conflicts world-wide.

I find this paragraph interesting for a number of reasons.....

QUOTE
Last but not least, the U.S taxpayer supported Azov battalion's flag is totally not like that of the 2nd SS Das Reich division, which killed GIs during WWII including during the Normandy battle. That Wolfshook is just a universal symbol or stands for 'national idea', Major. Michigan Congressman John Conyers was just seeing things when he tried to cut off any DoD funding for arming or training them. Granted, Azov is a minority and part of the Ukrainian National Guard, not the whole UAF. But their SS rune flag and the Bandera/UPA cult issue isn't going away, just ask Jarosław Aleksander Kaczyński, the real head of the PiS in Poland.
UNQUOTE

Appears the author did not realize that in 2014 when Girkin and his merry band of former and active duty GRU Spetsnaz crossed into eastern Ukraine from Crimea where they were active as well to establish the so called "separatist zone"...the only volunteer unit standing in the way of Mariupol and Odessa not becoming "separatist" and really sealing the fate of a land locked Ukraine was in fact Azor....as the UAF was in complete disarray and rag tag at the time...Azor was just a number of self formed volunteer defense units that largely held front line positions until UAf could reorg and refit. Most of the other volunteer units were either absorbed straight into UAF or NG units as was Azor.....

In fact Girkin recently stated that his biggest failure in his "movement" was not taking Mariupol and Odessa immediately which were key Russian targets that would have allowed Donbas to have a viable economic support process...with a major industrial area and a major port....and cutting Ukraine off from the sea. Thus making it a landlocked nation state dependent on Russia....

Then Azor went on to defend and widen the Mariupol front lines in a sudden offensive when the UAF was unable to do it...and spent over a year on that front line battling Russian troops and Russians mercenaries daily....then was pulled back/replaced by UAF Marines and completely rebuilt as a National Guard unit complete with armor....

Azor had pushed their sudden Mariupol offensive when the UAF stated it was impossible to do and the Russian mercenaries were shelling Mariupol with GRADS...thus pushing Russian GRADS out of Mariupol range....

Azor has been moved back into Mariupol as the recent Russian offensive was pushing hard attacks against the Mariupol front lines...due mainly to their increased armor abilities....so maybe we should just allow the UAF to handle Azor the way they need to and not second guess the UAF or Azor who has up to now fully and completely supported the democratically election Ukraine government....and surprisingly Azor did not do well in the last round of elections thus the Ukrainians know who to support and to not support in elections...but the civil society does give them great credit in the defense of Ukraine from Russian attacks....

BTW...would highly suggest going back over the reasons for the Conyers amendment to defund Azor.......all published by European and US MSM and for all to reread....

WHEN he was pushed to exactly explain why he did the amendment when it was apparent he had little understanding of the importance played in the defense of Mariupol and Odessa by Azor....he "suddenly" admitted he had received a single page briefing on Azor from a lobbyist company in DC....WHICH turned out to be funded as a proRussian lobby firm....and then rumors started flying around that the same lobbyist company had donated to his election campaign with a six digit sum....

Since then "suddenly" Conyers not longer makes comments on either Russia and or Ukraine.....

Firstly, I'm flattered that you credit me personally for defending Mariupol. I can tell you that those were exciting times ;)

Secondly, are you explaining away AzoV's National Socialist iconography or the importance of ultra-nationalists to the volunteer war effort?

Thirdly, both Kiev and Moscow have used radicals for military operations out of necessity, and it is ironic for either to call the other "Fascist".

Lastly, Ukraine has not come to terms with the genocide that the OUN perpetrated against the Poles in Volhynia, Ukrainian collaboration in the Holocaust and Ukrainian volunteers in various German military and police units. They have yet to fully separate their desire for independence from the hideous OUN.

Azov's flag still looks just like the 2nd SS Das Reich division of Hitler's Germany, no matter how much they deny being Nazis. Azov was co-founded by Andre Biletsky, the former leader of the Social National Party (read: National Socialist) party of Ukraine. But since you appear to monitor these threads 24/7, I'll leave it to you to explain the 'coincidence'.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Azov+battalion+Nazi+flag+SS&espv=2&tbm=i...

I strongly suspect Azov's glorious 'victory' had more to do with the oligarch proprietor of the Mariupol steel works Rinat Ahkmetov paying off the LDNR not to destroy his plant in urban combat for the city than in its successes against maybe a few dozen locals armed with AKs or pistols they looted from the police station (which the Ukrainian National Guard burned to the ground with some unknown number of cops inside it during the 'liberation' of the city). Hardly spetsnaz GRU equipped with Kornets or thermobaric RPGs that would've turned self-proclaimed Swedish badass and 'ex-neoNazi' Mikael Skillt and the other Azov Nazis garbage truck armor into melted metal and flesh.

The point is if the actual Russian Army or spetsnaz that I've seen in footage from Syria were there, the Azov boys would've been slaughtered. As it is, my only interest in this discussion is enlightening the author as to the Ukrainian tendency to lie about a lot, including casualties, corruption, and the Galicia-centric western Ukrainian fixated dominant strain of Ukrainian nationalism. Which is quite different from merely focusing on better governance and what Ukrainians can actually achieve without hating 'Moskals'.

The next round of escalation which now appears inevitable is going to include lots of UAF casualties. They've already been piling up at hospitals far from the ATO zone from what I've read since the DNR (probably on the advice of their Russian advisers) launched preparatory arty/GRAD fires to spoil the planned Ukrainian offensive. Though I'll grant you the infamously incompetent UAF which outnumber their foes 4 or 5 to 1 will probably manage not to get encircled this time like they did at Donetsk Airport and at Debaltsevo. Anyway as an American taxpayer it wouldn't be my problem but for the likes of McCain, Graham and the other idiots in Congress who prop up the oligarchs in Kiev with my tax dollars.

Here's a video of 'Ukrainian heroes' burning anti-Maidan activists alive at the Odessa Trades Union Building on May 2, 2014. Not a single member of the Right Sector gangs who burned up the building and were filmed shooting, rioting and committing arson were ever brought to trial. 'European values' in Ukraine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4dJRnI-X8Q

Anyway those aren't the kind of values I wish to support with my tax monies as an American, and Outlaw, as someone of Polish descent, don't think everyone in Poland has forgotten what the 'heroes' your country now brainwashes children into worshiping did to the Poles of Volyn. You can take that blood red and black Bandera rag of yours across the border into Poland, but I wouldn't recommend flying one after dark where soccer hooligans or just plain Polish bikers are present.

And before someone accuses me of hating Ukrainians or denying Ukraine's right to exist as an independent state, I agree with this -- make peace you fools and win the peace, show the world how non-corrupt and European you can be. Give the people of Donbass or even Crimea some actual reason to want to be Ukrainian besides historic victimhood or being not-Russians. It worked for West Germany:

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/world-report/articles/2017-02-06/ukraine-w...

You make some interesting points, JSmith. I am also of Polish descent and am well aware of the genocide perpetrated against ethnic Poles in Volhynia, whilst it was under German occupation. When the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland, ethnic Ukrainians were quick to collaborate with the NKVD in 1939 and then quick to collaborate with the SS in 1941 when the Germans swept into the Soviet Union. There was not a single Polish SS unit, yet the Ukrainians were essential as SS draftees, local police and "hiwis".

The ultra-nationalism in Galicia was possible only because the Austrians and Poles were less repressive than the Russians and Soviets, who had no compunction using mass murder and assimilation at gunpoint to bring the Ukrainians to heel.

I can understand Kiev relying upon anyone and everyone willing to serve at the front, but these elements need to be purged, and Ukraine needs to come to terms with its past in order to move forward.

As someone of Polish descent, I am opposed to Russian aggression, which is why I support Ukraine's struggle. However, that does not mean that I am blind.

Azor,

While we may disagree on many things, I think at least we could have a rational conversation. I don't think that would be possible for me with someone like Outlaw, who I won't accuse of being part of the Ukrainian 'troll army' that was announced in the press, but who certainly seems to have plenty of time on his hands to comment here. I will only say to Outlaw if the Ukrainian Army was as good as he claims and had killed as many Russians as he says (as opposed to losing somewhere between 12 and 15,000 UAF KIA or at least double LDNR total losses) it would already be sitting comfortably in downtown Donetsk and Lugansk if not forcing the Russians to place tactical nukes to keep them at bay across the Perekop isthmus. I stand by my view that except for static defense and grabbing no man's lands at a cost of scores of KIA/WIA, the UAF remains a mostly incompetent conscript force with a small smattering of professionals and a few volunteer battalions with a sprinkling of euro-mercs like Mikael Skillt such as Azov that can pass for competent infantry (though Azov being as the Swede 'ex' Nazi puts it 'light infantry' would get slaughtered in the type of heavy fighting that occurred for Debaltsevo where artillery, not infantry or anti-tank weapons, dominate the battlefield -- Skillt is a bullshitter who's always been good at making up exploits beyond his part in defeating the 40 or so 'separatists' who tried to hold a city of half a million with only small arms).

If we go far enough back, I blame Bill Clinton for expanding NATO beyond Poland the Visegrad countries. If the Baltics felt unsafe, why not just sign mutual defense pacts with their historic partners the Finns and Swedes, the latter who have modern defense industries? I don't see without the American component how this arrangement could've been seen as potentially offensive even in the 'hybrid war' sense by the Russians, since no serious Russian analyst fears an overt NATO Barbarossa drive on Moscow. Much more egregious than NATO's eastward expansion, since one can always argue NATO's commitment to not expand an inch east of East Germany was purely verbal and never put in writing (a debatable point, depends on what day of the week you ask Gorbachev or Hans Dietrich Genscher's former aides) or that NATO is a voluntary club (notwithstanding the unpopularity of the Montenegrin president for life dragging that ex-Yugoslav statelet into the pact) was the bombing of Serbia. I did not support it at the time and believed that it would permanently switch the image of NATO from a defensive alliance Moscow may not have liked but could negotiate with to an offensive alliance and permanent threat in the minds of millions in Russia. You can say but there were no U.S. tanks in Europe briefly from 2013-14! as if armor is all that mattered in the equation and not the idea that BMD was being developed to erode Moscow's nuclear deterrent.

Those acts poisoned the well in 1999 and along with Dubya's enthusiasm for the 'freedumb' agenda and Colored Revolutions in the post Soviet space, particularly the Orange and Rose 'revolutions' billionaire (G)NGO conduit George Soros bragged about sponsoring, compounded Russian paranoia about encirclement. Combine that with the hubris of an Obama State Department led by hardcore neocon ideologues like Victoria Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt, and the Russians decided there was a straight line between their humiliating President Obama into backing off his 'red line' vow to bomb Assad after the East Ghouta sarin gas attack in 2013 and the acceleration of Maidan into full on civil unrest/street combat in early 2014, with a permanent NATO base in Crimea if not the expulsion of the Russian Black Sea Fleet as the grand prize. Unfortunately Donbass which is not almost an island and contains a much higher percentage of population loyal to a united Ukraine (as the excellent intel behind these assassinations of Motorola and Givi demonstrates) was the spillover from Crimea. And Crimea was ultimately all about Russian power projection and the gas deals of the eastern Med, just like the Syrian war began with Assad's rejection of the Qatari gas pipe to Turkey and Europe that would've competed with his Iranian and Russian allies energy flows.

I have seen some of the LDNR spokesmen basically denounce Girkin aka Strelkov the man Outlaw is fixated on who falsely bragged of being the sole driver of the Donbass Russian spring/uprising as a traitor. He certainly became a pain in the ass to Putin who had no intention of sending 'polite people' cavalry to Slavyansk to rescue Girkin's merry little band. If you want to wonder who Strelkov actually worked for, start asking yourself logical questions like how his crew managed to break out of a 10 to 1 encirclement at Slavyansk in the late spring of 2014. Just like asking yourself how the Maidan snipers killed both sides and all managed to slip away like OJ's real killers if they worked for Yanukovych and not Andre Parubiy's armed Maidan self defense, and you will not like the answers (irrespective of whether the snipers 'trained in Poland' as one Polish radical MEP claimed).

With truckloads of smuggled goods going back and forth and Poroshenko's until very recently sold off, highly publicized chocolate plant in the 'enemy aggressor' nation of Russia, how real is this war at the oligarchic level in the first place? And are individuals like Givi and Motorola being eliminated without tit for tat retaliation so far because the oligarchs on both sides of the UKR-RUS border wish things could go back to the way they were before the war, however impossible this objective? The gas must flow but if Turkstream actually gets built and a Trump Admin stops the feet dragging on doubling Nordstream's capacity that the US Embassy in Berlin and Chancellor Merkel have been putting up, then a great deal of the incentive for conflict on both sides goes away. Ukraine will have to live without the Gazprom transit rents to the tune of 100s of millions per year, and the Russians will have to find some way to at least allow democratic elections under Ukrainian law as Minsk stipulates to once again give Donetsk and Lugansk the option of reintegrating as autonomous regions or making their secession official should Kiev bargain for certain 'compensations' over the lost territory.

All of this is mostly people dying over hydrocarbons, not ideology or even Ukrainian vs. Russian identity (since there are a few Ukrainian speakers among the LDNR while the Azov Nazis all speak Russian, and like many Rada deputies cannot write in Ukrainian properly). Even the Kremlin opponents claim Putin has little to no ideology, while in the next breath they call him an Orthodox 'chekist'.

JSmith......it is interesting that the thesis of true separatists took a major hit when Givi was assassinated by a Russian holding a Russian passport....an ex GRU Spetsnaz type in the Somali Brigade...fragging a "Ukrainian Donbas separatist" with a thermobaric RPG.....

BTW...check you facts more closely....the Ukrainian President did not sell off his chocolate factory located in Russia....he actually simply shut down the plant..locked the doors and walked away from it as the Russians would not allow a sale....as they saw this as punishing him.

I focus on Girkin for actually a long number of reasons...

1. Girkin is a verified former and many are not so sure still GRU officer (COL) and he is living nicely in St. Petersburg in a purchased condo...and is still very much alive....when others are dropping dead around him....a strong indicator of his power position

2. Girkin fought as a GRU officer in Kosovo...and with Serbian Special Units....and has been accused there of war crimes AND he then moved onto fighting in Georgia..also with a GRU unit.....

3. Girkin was in fact a very active participant in the annexation of Crimea and was in Crimea months before the annexation

4. Girkin was in fact a line crosser from Crimea into eastern Ukraine and then basically "led" the so called New Russian "separatist movement".....

5. Girkin did in fact led a merry band of ex and active GRU Spetsnaz into Donbass...verified

6. Girkin was pulled out after the rag tag UAF had started to effectively beat his equally rag tag "separatists" but remained in control until the Russian army effectively invaded eastern Ukraine and took control over the "separatist movement"....and then replaced him with a set of Ukrainian faces after the global heat on Girkin being Russian...

7. Girkin left Donbas for St. Petersburg the home front for Putin...drives a massively new white 350 MB.....owns a massive condo.....on what his former "separatist salary".. and got married in a rather large wedding attended by many from Donbas and the spokesperson for Putin...all the while still critiquing Putin's handling of the eastern Ukraine....

BTW..he was the first Russian to actually state publicly a year ago the separatist movement had largely failed and it was time for Russia to pull out...and he was not killed for this statement...

So when one adds up all the pluses against a few negatives...Girkin is a person that needs to be understood in his role in 2014...and his continued reasons for living when all those in opposition to Putin seem to land in prison or get killed or poisoned....

BLUF.......

If you checked my math on the current Russian war costs for both Ukraine and Syria I would argue that is what is behind the current wave of Ukrainian "separatists" suddenly dying.....is the hidden and urgent desire by Putin to find a way out of the Ukrainian mess he has gotten himself into as his national budget is on the verge of crashing and he cannot continue to support...Syria...Crimea and eastern Ukraine and urgently needs a "face saving" solution to allow him to back out without losing his President position in a Moscow style color revolt....

BTW....if you followed my early thread comments right after Crimea and the Russian invasion I have always pointed to the war costs and the simple fact that at some point Putin would have to truly fish or cut bait....IMHO Putin is at the "cut bait point"...but does not know how to disengage with "honor" and his Russian super power image intact....

WHAT is amazing and Trump actually blew it...was what was just leaked about the Trump Putin recent call......

Putin actually attempted to offer the Us a fig leaf to start discussions that could have led to a Ukraine settlement along the political lines of Minsk 2 with elections run by Ukraine under Ukrainian law being protected by armed UN and OSCE personnel....ANd he has backed off his demands that the political steps have to be first and then the military steps implemented.....there is some leeway now on the border issues that he has been signaling as well....BUT he needs to get full control over his separatists to get them to toe the line....and those are the first generate that is suddenly dying in increasing numbers...AND he needs to get some kind of military "victory" over UAF in order to shift to peace talks....thus the heavy attacks and ground offensives that are largely failing since he is not using Russian troops....

He offered Trump a nuclear deal that Trump should have jumped on but rejected it as he did not understand the implications behind the offer and he had bashed constantly during his campaign the "failure of the Obama nuclear policy around NEW START"....

Trump simply could not separate campaigning from international relations for the benefit of the US NOT the Trump businesses....AND his rhetoric...

SAD.....

"JSmith......it is interesting that the thesis of true separatists took a major hit when Givi was assassinated by a Russian holding a Russian passport....an ex GRU Spetsnaz type in the Somali Brigade...fragging a "Ukrainian Donbas separatist" with a thermobaric RPG....." The 'Russian national' in question is no longer in the DNR militia due to his injuries sustained in battle, and says the Novaya Gazeta report is BS.

55,000 people allegedly came out to Givi's funeral in Donetsk. Even if it's a third of that (and I'd say from the pics it's definitely in the high thousands to low teens of thousands), I'd say that's more than a 'gangster's funeral. While there are indeed pro-united Ukraine sympathizers in the LDNR breakaway republics, you shouldn't forget Outlaw that when Azov and the Ukrainian National Guard rolled into Mariupol, many residents came out to call them Nazis, Banderites, punishers and pederasts. To their faces, which takes balls considering many of those saying as much were pensioners born in the USSR who didn't have any arms whatsoever, and a few were shot in the face or for fun in the legs for saying so.

Here for Maj. Duenas enlightenment if not a few others who realize Kiev does STILL have a 'hearts and minds' problem in Donbass it controls, notwithstanding nice USAID sponsored seminars for Mariupol town officials (whom I suspect have had plenty of turnover in favor of Kievites or Galicians since mid-2014):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_aO8BqPkyM
'bitches' 'killers' 'we are unarmed!' 'go ahead and shoot bastards!'

There is likely no shortage of relatives of those shot, kidnapped, or disappeared temporarily or otherwise in the name of a united Ukraine who wouldn't gladly return the favor of the thermobaric rocket killing of Givi against Biletsky or Yarosh if they were in Mariupol, if not Kharkov (remember Russian border is less than 45 miles away from both, and Azov clowns are easily bribed not to check every truck or van thoroughly).

I write all of this mainly for the sake of Maj. Duenas, as a civilian who's closely followed the conflict since the Maidan and recognizes some of the 'read between the lines' omitted details from the war, like the Pentagon's admission to retired Army Gen. Scales that Russian massed fires combined with drones may actually be quietly superior to what the US Army can currently field and basically slaughtered two to four Ukrainian battalions bivouaced along the border in July/August 2014 (but don't you dare question Kiev's laughably low 3,200 KIA figure, even after the latest fighting).

As for NATO 'foreign legionnaires', particularly in the first few weeks of the 'ATO' when Kiev could not reliably count on the loyalty of units not to turn their tanks or AKs over to the LDNR rebels (or more accurately sell equipment for large sums of cash which most definitely came from Russia but at that stage the Russians weren't ready to pour armor over the border themselves), here's a 'Ukrainian' National Guardsman who speaks broken Russian to Slavyansk locals -- which sure sounds like a Pole trying to recall Russian lessons from the perestroika era to me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DIOfm5r8v8
Polish patriots and PMCs are pretty damn good at keeping their mouths shut about 'safari vacations' in the Donbass, I'll give them that

Don't forget the 'Ukrainian National Guardsman' who spoke perfect Italian to an Italian journalist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en4h-VQh7TQ

but yes of course StopFake/EuroMaidanPR must be correct, that's just a Ukrainian who was living in Italy who rushed back to serve his country :)

I could go on, but you get the point. The NATO mercs were there, and after the Russian media raised a stink, they were quietly withdrawn and replaced by true 'volunteers' though I don't think Skillt et al were fighting for the equivalent of $150 in hyrvnia, sorry. There's probably a Carl Bildt slush fund for Swedish NATO foreign legionnaires somewhere in Stockholm connected to the pro-NATO lobby in that country.

Don't drink the Ukro-koolaid Major, there's plenty of ugly oligarchic history and a vicious, stupid and Banderite side to the Ukrainian 'revolution of dignity'. Before the 'little green men' stepped off their bases, there was the Western Ukrainian progrom against a busload of Crimean anti-Maidan activists, some of whom were dragged from a bus and killed. There were the 'friendship trains' of thugs who vowed to sort the Crimeans out but chickened out once they heard rumors the Crimeans were getting guns from the Black Sea Fleet. There's fighting with cops who aren't even equipped with sidearms and throwing Molotov cocktails at them day after day, imagining no one in Donetsk or Sevastapol would want revenge for their Berkut boys shot, stabbed or killed, and then there's real war. Which the 'heroes of Maidan' found out at Ilovaisk, can quickly turn against you and involve incoming mortars, arty and GRADs.

I tried to be sympathetic to the Maidan, I really did, recognizing the vast majority of people there weren't being paid, and were not Right Sector or Social National Party of Ukraine Banderites, but after the Odessa massacre Porky, Yats and especially Avakov who helped co-organize the thing were dead to me. Anyway I'm not surprised Kiev panicked after denigrating Trump throughout the campaign and running a bungled psyop with fake docs attempting to prove Trump's campaign manager accepted millions in cash from the Ukrainian oligarchs. Trump has more leverage over Kiev than just delaying the IMF funds without which they can't pay their civil servants or soldiers. Think about how many Ukrainian BUKs were in the 'ATO zone' on July 17, 2014 and how the perception of Ukraine would change in Europe if Trump were to declassify US satellite photographs of the same, proving that Kiev lied about having no BUKs of their own anywhere close to MH17's flight path. Porky and co had better not think McCain and Graham can trump the Trump on foreign policy, because the last time I checked, no one in South Carolina or Arizona elected them U.S. proconsuls to Kiev or Idlib.

Interesting comments...Reference Debaltseve battle...

Debaltseve was declared Ukrainian owned during the Minsk 2 agreement negotiations between Hollande...Merkel and Putin directly with Putin always going back to it being "separatist controlled" which was constantly frustrating to both Merkel and Hollande during their talks....WHY because it is at the end of a very important logistical railhead link from Russian into Donbas...

REMEMBER when Putin crowed in a Norwegian press conference that the UAF had been captured in large numbers by "truck drivers and miners"...only to learn later that the entire 3500 UAF force with heavy weapons was able to strategically pull themselves out of the pocket.....it even surprised the Russian High Command...

Not done by any Army since late WW2......and one of the hardest tactical maneuvers to pull off.....

Reference Mariupol....without Azor the Mariupol front would have collapsed and Mariupol and Odessa would be now Russian controlled.....

You can say what you want but a large majority of Ukrainians that vote fully understand the politics of Azor..thus do not vote for them and they are not in the Ukrainian Parliament.....BUT at the same time respect the fighting abilities of Azor as do the Russians.......

Reference Russian Spetsnaz..... after the capture of two of the 16th Spetsnaz Brigade GRU officers and the constant defeating of Spetsnaz teams trying to push through UAF positions on sabotage missions...mine laying missions and or kill/capture UAF missions....you hardly see any GRU Spetsnaz activities along the front lines....for about the last four months total inaction WHY because they are all now in Syria.

They have roughly lost a total of 24 KIAs and over 30 WIAs in those last attempts which does not speak much for Spetsnaz abilities.....

BTW....the same 16th GRU Spetsnaz Brigade is now in Syria....so I am not so sure your comments about the quality of their fighting ability is any better there while it was not so good in Ukraine.....

BTW....Russian Spetsnaz has been taking loses as well in Syria and the Wagner PMC as well.....in the tens of loses by the way......

Bodies are being cremated inside Syria if you are a PMC..GRU bodies being flown back to Russia...as much as their KIAs were handled in Ukraine....

You are right though..the best way to defeat Russia inside eastern Ukraine is to make everything work better inside the rest of the Ukraine....

BUT what is far more interesting is that the patience of those that once supported the so called separatists in the Donbas is now wearing thin if not slowly shifting their support away from the separatists into a middle of the road approach and are slowly accepting Ukraine control again.....

This is being seen in the areas taken back under UAF control where the population is getting massive assistance via money...humanitarian aid and house rebuilding UAF activates.....in the end winning the hearts and minds is being done well by UAF units....another forgotten point is that the Ukraine is handling as well 1.6M Donbas IDPs and integrating/supporting them as best as they can and it is being respected by those IDPs....

Odessa fire is an interesting event....the building was in fact taken over by armed separatists that attempted to call out their new republic but then a fire broke out...many of those separatists inside were killed and in the end their armed takeover totally failed as Girkin now recalls was a massive failure on his part....

Who started the fire will be debated for years..but not the result..holding Odessa as Ukrainian....was far more important than who was responsible when mainly armed separatists were killed.....

BTW...I monitor 24/7 as my day job of watching ones and zeros allows for a second monitor on my desk....and it eases the concentration demands...

AND yes the Russian active duty officer led Russian mercenary army is still attacking Mariupol.....

ATO spokesperson: Mariupol sector: yesterday the tensest situation was in Hnutove. Enemy fired on our positions with howitzers and mortars

And the famous Putin victory in Donbas brings what for Russia....????

Russia's state TV: "Food ration cards may be re-introduced in 2017."
Pure joy for everyone waxing sentimental about glorious Soviet days.

If reports out of Donetsk this morning are accurate, and another DNR commander Mikhail 'Givi' Tolstykh has been assassinated in his office, then the risks of tit for tat killings of Ukrainian battalion commanders, particularly Azov in Mariupol, just went up. Of course the same Ukrainian Army soldiers who regularly waive through truckloads of coal or other materiel smuggled from the breakaway republics to Kiev-controlled Ukraine in return for bribes will be able to prevent IEDs, RPGs or sniper rifles from being smuggled into towns and cities to LDNR guerrillas just behind the 'ATO' zone front lines.

As for asymmetrical strategies that would make it clear Kiev's sponsors won't just be able to fight 'to the last Ukrainian' as the sarcastic Russian expression goes, the 'NATO foreign legion' 'ex neo-Nazi' Swedes, Croats, Frenchmen, Austrians, if not Poles in UAF ranks or 'blending in' also don't blend in nearly as well in the eyes of local LDNR informants (even while minimizing speech in their native languages on the streets) as they think they do. Especially not in Mariupol. I think the GRU guys in Donetsk have a pretty good idea where they are. Ukraine, especially in terms of the LDNR's 'vacationing' 'polite people' backup counterbattery fire, drone operations and jamming UAF equipment including some of the new NATO stuff, isn't Iraq or Afghanistan. Just ask Gen. Hodges or retired Gen. Scales.

A CINC Trump tiring of NATO allies not paying their fair share of 2% GDP targets is hardly likely to pour the billions into Kiev necessary for Maj. Duenas strategy of winning Donbass hearts and minds through reconstruction and employment to work (even allowing for reduced 'skim' by the oligarchs such as Kholomoisky who've pillaged IMF funds for Privat Bank etc). Also Ukrainian pensions are still half to a third of those in Russia, notwithstanding the ruble devaluation. Turning Ukraine into a Slavic Tiger economy or a West Germany to Crimea's East Germany or a South Korea to LDNR's North is a long way off. There's a reason Kiev prefers punitive strategies, they're much cheaper.

Last but not least, the U.S taxpayer supported Azov battalion's flag is totally not like that of the 2nd SS Das Reich division, which killed GIs during WWII including during the Normandy battle. That Wolfshook is just a universal symbol or stands for 'national idea', Major. Michigan Congressman John Conyers was just seeing things when he tried to cut off any DoD funding for arming or training them. Granted, Azov is a minority and part of the Ukrainian National Guard, not the whole UAF. But their SS rune flag and the Bandera/UPA cult issue isn't going away, just ask Jarosław Aleksander Kaczyński, the real head of the PiS in Poland. Or is he a Russian agent for bringing up the Volyn massacres of 1943-44 and the current Kiev government glorifying the perpetrators?

1. Yes, Tolstykh is dead. Whether or not he was assassinated by a RPO-A or a bomb, and whether or not the assassination was ordered by Kiev or Moscow, remain unanswered questions.

2. I highly doubt that Azov’s commanders are in specific danger because of the spate of insurgent commanders’ deaths. If Kiev ordered the assassination, then it was executed by special forces/intelligence operators reporting directly to Kiev.

3. What “NATO foreign legion” are you referring to? What about the various mercenaries from Russia, Belarus, Chechnya, Serbia and Central Asia that Moscow has cobbled together to bolster insurgent manpower?

4. The Azov Regiment comprises less than 8% of the Ukrainian National Guard and 1% of Ukraine’s active ground forces. Nor has the Ukrainian Far Right received any significant support in the post-revolutionary elections

5. You would do well to research the number of Far Right Russians and Serbs that are to be found in the insurgents’ ranks. If Galician Ukrainians romanticize Bandera and the OUN, many Russians romanticize Stalin’s conquests, which involved genocides and other atrocities that reduce the bodycount at Volhynia to a mere rounding error.

6. The Polish government is well aware of the lack of truth and reconciliation in Ukraine over the Ukrainian wartime genocide of the Poles and collaboration with the NKVD and SS in mass murder. Nevertheless, it saw fit to help Ukraine integrate into the West, stave off a Russian invasion and preserve its independence.

https://informnapalm.org/en/russia-paving-way-admitting-polite-military-...

Is Russia paving the way for admitting its “polite” military invasion of Ukraine?

Russia has changed its official stance on many issues many times. One can hardly expect anything else from a country whose past is rewritten by every new ruler. Presumably, we’ve encountered a situation when Russia will start admitting its involvement in the war against Ukraine. However, they will be doing it gradually and with the familiar cynicism.

Putin has been telling stories about the local “people’s militia” in Crimea with the uniform and equipment purchased from a “surplus shop” since the very onset of war against Ukraine. However, he admitted later that the Ukrainian military units were blocked and disarmed by Russia’s regular forces; InformNapalm—international intelligence community—covered details of the Crimea occupation operation in its OSINT studies a number of times.

Gradually, Russian “political technologists” seem to start paving the way for the admission of the Russian military incursion in Ukraine. Local separatists, numerous Russian mercenaries, and Novorossia advocates have always been aware of the presence of the Russian regular troops and equipment. They’ve even coined a special term — Northerly Wind — to refer to this.

Russians — and Soviets before them — frequently replace conventional terms with some oblique euphemisms or come up with an altogether new terms. For instance, all Soviet Union’s military operations abroad were referred to as “brotherly assistance” or “international duty” in spite of their being acts of aggression and intervention in fact.

Military equipment supply to Donbas is referred to as the Voentorg (“military surplus shop”); Russian troops are known as Otpuskniki (“vacationers”) or Ikhtamnet (“they-are-not-there”) etc. This substitution of terms is a fine psychological move. For instance, the Russian media pushed the term “little green men” upon us, and we have accepted this euphemism instead of referring to the Russian Army.

Is it mere coincidence or a result of the conscious effort of professional media psychologists?

Putin’s jocular reference to rumors of Donald Trump’s adventures in Moscow is a recent example of such substitutions. The word “prostitute” would sound too gross, direct and confrontational, but a comment about “girls with reduced social responsibility” made the media almost ecstatically happy. So, is it mere coincidence or yet another result of the conscious effort of professional media psychologists?

However, let us get back to the Russians’ attempts to make overtures for the admission of the fact of involvement of the Russian military in the War in Donbas. Political scientist Sergey Markov made a statement on Osoboye Mneniye show on Echo of Moscow radio.

His style of speech is somewhat reminiscent of Zhirinovsky at the early stage of his political career. They play similar roles by voicing ideas that have been hatched by the Kremlin, but are too outrageous to be officially announced.

“Yeah, I believe there are “surplus shop” supplies, there are some “vacationers”. According to my sources, there were two “vacations” of one week each. Do you remember that critical moment with the encirclement at Ilovaisk? Indeed, there were some vacationers there, who, so to say, contributed to tightening the noose at Ilovaisk, and they also helped later with the encirclement at Debaltseve. Otherwise, everything has been done by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) army which Stockholm Institute of Strategic Studies ranked, I believe, fifth or sixth in Europe in terms of its potential.”
 
One can readily notice the euphemisms, such as “vacationers” or “surplus shop”. Markov effectively admits the participation of the Russian military in the war against Ukraine in both Ilovaisk and Debaltseve. So, Russians are trying to console us instead of admitting the fact of the aggression: Yes, there was some involvement but only twice. And “just a bit” doesn’t count.
Russian agitprop might gradually move to such an interpretation of this war with time. For the first three years, Russians kept demanding proofs (“Where’s the evidence?!”) However, the rhetoric can change gradually along the lines of their being unable to stand aloof and having to intervene twice. Merely twice. Many Western partners would even be glad to “accept” this version.

However, let us recall that the first officially recognized Russian POW Andrey Balobanov was captured by the Ukrainian Army on July 16 or 17, 2014, one month before the Battle of Ilovaisk; two more Russian soldiers—Petr Khokhlov and Ruslan Garafiyev—were captured in early August. Both these events occurred before the Battle of Ilovaisk.

GRU special forces soldiers Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev were captured on May 16, 2015, long after the Battle of Debaltseve. Russian Army major Vladimir Starkov was taken captive in summer 2015, also long after Debaltseve.

InformNapalm analysts have been observing activities of Russian troops in Ukraine from the very beginning of the war until now.

In addition to the regular infantry, there is regular technical military personnel deployed to Donbas on a permanent basis to maintain sophisticated equipment in service only with the Russian Army.

It is important for Ukraine to steal initiative at a right moment and demonstrate their permanent presence. Interestingly, it was after the presentation of our group’s materials to the NATO and the OSCE that LPR and DPR propagandists became more active trying to discredit investigations pursued by the Ukrainian volunteers.

Sooner or later, courts will pass their judgements. Sooner or later, courts will resolve that Russia has been supplying arms to Donbas. Sooner or later, the Northerly Wind will be called the regular Russian Army. And sooner or later, Russia will have to pay reparations to Ukraine for the military aggression and inflicted damage. And this agression will not be reduced to the two episodes.

This publication was prepared by Anton Pavlushko, translated by Oleksandr Ivanov, edited by Artem Velichko

I want to highlight that Maj. Dueñas raises an interesting possibility: what if a wedge can be driven between the pro-Russian population and leadership of Donbas on the one hand, and the Kremlin on the other?

Of course, this possibility is predicated upon the assumption that there is significant indigenous or local demand for regional autonomy or independence in Donbas, irrespective of Russian intervention. Interestingly, the polls and referendums conducted in the DPR and LPR seem to indicate that the population would prefer territorial integration with Ukraine, but with greater autonomy or devolution of government power. Demand for outright independence or annexation by Russia seems to have little support among the population, even if various insurgent leaders are in favor of the “Novorossiya” idea.

This wedge would probably not result in the people of Donbas overthrowing insurgent leaders or expelling the Russians, but it would make Russia’s position in Donbas untenable.

Far from being spontaneous or surprising, Putin is actually rather predictable. The issue for the West is its refusal to recognize an inconvenient pattern. Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev, Putin is cautious of popular protests. This caution probably results from his personal experiences in East Germany when popular protests overthrew the SED and StaSi, and breached the Berlin Wall, knowledge of the contemporaneous and failing war in Afghanistan, the popular revolts that overthrew Communist rule and dissolved the Soviet Union, and the disastrous First Chechen War. Putin had seen unarmed protesters defeat the world’s most feared one-party states and secret police forces in 1989 and 1991, and the world’s most powerful land army had been defeated successively by guerrillas in 1989 and 1995.

Putin’s key to victory in the Second Chechen War was co-opting the Kadyrovs. Since then, Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Crimea have all been made possible with local support. In Donbas, where support for Russia is not nearly as high as disdain for Kiev, Putin has avoided integrating the region. Basically, under Putin the Russian Army has attempted to avoid staying where it is not wanted, and where it can find itself facing popular protests and guerrilla warfare.

This is why Putin may want to end the war in Ukraine if he loses support in Donbas. Putin would not be able to allow the possibility that his special forces, intelligence officers and “volunteers” could be surrounded by civilians and disarmed, or defeated by insurgents and made to suffer capture and death before the Russian people.

Russia barely denies backing proxies in Ukraine. Trump? Not so sure. Where's he think the endless weapons come from?

https://nyti.ms/2jWhNpR

Relevance?

Interesting comment in the face that during the so called Trump Ukraine call.....Trump repeatedly mentions the "conflict on the Ukraine/.Russian border" evidently not knowing the fighting is a full 250 miles inside eastern Ukraine.....AND not evidently knowing that the Russians fully control the eastern Ukraine border and does not allow even OSCE to monitor the full length of that border...only two crossing points while most of the military logistics flows over three other non OSCE observed crossing points....

SIGNIFICANCE.....either Trump does not get DIBs on Ukraine from the IC ...or his own Flynn/Bannon run NSC is not fully briefing him OR he is content to accept the Putin view of Ukraine events....there are no other explanations possible for this massive info failure on Trump's part...

Then Trump states that the Russian mercenaries are maybe not under control of Russia...also another interesting small white lie...as all logistics...fuel...munitions......natural gas deliveries ......funding and 7K Russian troops later Russia does control their own mercenaries....

Followed by the Russian FM statement saying Trump is saying all the right things on Ukraine conflict.....

BTW...the Trump WH readout of their call was a total of two long sentences...the Ukrainian readout a full seven paragraphs.....

Attention to detail is apparently not a Trump WH "thing"

BTW....Russia is now wrapping up their loose ends on the so called separatists" who gave into Donbas with Girkin.....

NOTE:
DPR commander Mikhail Tolstoy, known as "Givi" was assassinated in #Donetsk this morning multiple pro Russian sources report

Pro Russian sources say Givi was killed by a bomb explosion in his office

Statement from #Zakharchenko blaming #Ukraine for Givi's death in 3..2..1..

Here we go: #DPR chief Zaharchenko convenes emergency meeting on death of Givi
http://liveuamap.com/en/2017/8-february-dnr-chief-zaharchenko-convenes-emergency-meeting …

The "Commander of Battalion Somalia" was killed in a "suicide attack", the "Operational Command of the People's Republic of Donetsk" says.

I remember Zaharchenko vowing he will march to #Kiev after Motorola assassination. Expect smth similar. It only matters what Russia wants.

Pro-Russian sources say Ukrainian terrorist, war criminal and world-class dancer Mikhail Tolstykh aka. "Givi" killed in Donetsk.

"Interesting comment in the face that during the so called Trump Ukraine call.....Trump repeatedly mentions the "conflict on the Ukraine/.Russian border" evidently not knowing the fighting is a full 250 miles inside eastern Ukraine....."

Or alternatively, the reality is staring your pro-Kiev kleptocracy self in the face that Trump isn't interested in propping Poroshenko's government up with more 'free' IMF money the U.S. taxpayers have to fund and that Ukraine's people cannot afford to pay back when their gas and electric bills triple this spring...Trump isn't acknowledging de jure that a new border now exists between Kiev controlled Ukraine and the breakaway statelets but he certainly seems to be acknowledging a de facto border now exists. Which is incidentally, what the Minsk 2 accords due as well (text is below in case Maj. Duenas never read it):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11408266/Minsk-...

You'll note that contrary to Kiev's rhetoric the agreement Poroshenko signed only permits full Ukrainian control over the border after elections are held in Donbass according to Ukrainian law, which Kiev has not permitted by continuous shelling of 'separatist' territories. In other words, Minsk 2 forced Kiev to de facto but not de jure recognize the separatists republics, despite your denials. Sure it's true without Russia paying LDNR salaries and supplying the ammo they'd collapse next month, but the flip side of that is Kiev is too damn broke to continue waging this war without the taxpayer dollars of myself and other Americans. Beggars can't be choosers and if Trump won't float NATO allies who won't pay their share, why should he subsidize the kleptocrats in Kiev who use the war funds to steal and let volunteers feed Ukrainian soldiers?

Interesting all the pullout of all foreign armed groups and mercenaries portion also never applies to Kiev held Ukraine either. There is no omission in the text for Canadian, American or other NATO troops participating in the training mission at Yavoriv or elsewhere.

Hell freezes over: guest blames Russia for war in Ukraine on Russian state TV live [VIDEO]

http://euromaidanpress.com/2017/02/0...state-tv-live/

Hague Tribunal Recognizes Crimean Annexation as RU-UA Mil Conflict.RU's presence in Donbas also falls under the law

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/hague-tribunal-recognizes-crimean-annexa...

Ah, that old chestnut. "No such thing as a Russia-Ukraine conflict", says Peskov.

Just an "intra-Ukrainian conflict" etc etc.

SEEMS he forgot Crimea.....

BUT WAIT.......
Russian 247 Air Assault Regiment on mission in Starobesheve, Ukraine, August 2014. More -

https://informnapalm.org/en/nov29-donbass-247/

BTW...interesting side comment....Ukraine launched this week their full scale Tartar language TV and radio stations beamed straight into Crimea...the historical home of Tartars...who are doggedly passively resisting Putin and Russia....

Long term this single info war move will have a great local impact and Russia in their state media comments and military jamming attempts fully recognizes this info war threat...

Turkey is also helping with the funding of the satcom stations as well as they have expressed full solidarity with the Tartars....

ALSO just after the Russian annexation of Crimea...Putin and his Duma passed a series of so call anti color security measures...as Putin does in fact fear a similar Maidan in Moscow....

Strangely this occurred this week.....

This is unexpected: Duma deputies draft bill to cancel a 2014 law that criminalized protesting without a permit.
https://meduza.io/news/2017/02/06/v-gosdume-razrabotali-zakonoproekt-otmenyayuschiy-ugolovnoe-nakazanie-za-neodnokratnye-narusheniya-na-mitingah 

Either Putin feels totally secure with his newly created National Police Force or he is attempting to head off building population pressures as the rising living costs...low salaries...virtually no infrastructure construction work...and many companies including state own companies not paying their employee salaries for months....some up to 18 months of no salaries...

On top of an existing trucker strikes concerning high road tolls which will be raised again this month....driving many out of work...

BTW...there have been a reported increase in the demonstrating of single Russian citizens with homemade signs protesting the Ukraine fighting and the death of Russians in Syria.....

"BTW...interesting side comment....Ukraine launched this week their full scale Tartar language TV and radio stations beamed straight into Crimea...the historical home of Tartars...who are doggedly passively resisting Putin and Russia...." They'll be plenty of Hungarian language broadcasts into TransCarpathia as well...I'm sure some Fidesz linked businessman can show a Hungarian subtitled version of Volyn to remind the people living there of what the Right Sector thugs are capable of if they weren't occupied with the fighting in Donbass...

https://southfront.org/fear-appeal-ukrainian-intellectuals/

"BTW...there have been a reported increase in the demonstrating of single Russian citizens with homemade signs protesting the Ukraine fighting and the death of Russians in Syria....." And the SBU won't be able to arrest, disappear, or simply send Right Sector thugs to beat every Ukrainian who peacefully opposes the 'ATO' either. Ukraine is a repressive authoritarian kleptocracy just like it claims exists on the other side of its border.

"What, one might ask, about NATO's membership "criteria"? These are equally misunderstood. They were informal guidelines on how to prepare for joining, invented in the 1990s for the emerging batch of European democracies, not legal restrictions on granting membership. NATO has always in practice waived some of these criteria when admitting new members in the East."

"Nevertheless it is probable that many Russians really believed that taking territory from these countries would have the side-benefit of preventing them from ever joining NATO. The reality is just the opposite: it is pushing them into NATO, and pushing NATO toward accepting them."

http://www.atlantic-community.org/-/the-myth-that-ukraine-cannot-join-na...

With that said there is a notion of consensus, which is fundamental to the Alliance.

Actually well put....an interesting but little discussed effect that might have driven the Russian intervention into both Crimea and eastern Ukraine...is/was just how deeply the Russian military industrial complex was tied straight into Ukrainian military industries....especially in the Donbas region along with coal and the largest European coking plant in Avdiivka...where the last Russian ground offensive failed again....

AND if one really looks closely at the economic side of the Crimea annexation you will notice Russia literally stole all Ukrainian oil/gas drilling rigs and is currently taking oil/gas out of Ukrainian producing wells that were within the Crimea economic zone and is drilling more wells....stealing even more Ukrainian oil/gas...

INADDITION to literally stripping and disassembling those Ukrainian military industrial factories in eastern Ukraine and then shipping them to Russia where they were rebuilt AND the massive theft of Ukrainian coal...

This has been not only a Russian political war against Ukraine but an economic war as well....then forcing Ukraine to buy it back from Russia...

Part of the Russian failure in eastern Ukraine was their calculation that Ukraine could not sustain a full scale war and continue forward to join EU and NATO and to economically develop...and that was a serious miscalculation as it appears Ukraine has the longer breath.....

In some aspects Russian and Putin miscalculated the ability of the Ukrainians to reform..fight and economically develop...granted with a lot of outside financial assistance but even IMF was greatly surprised at the Ukrainian ability to put into effect all reform demands that they asked for and then some more on top....and fight corruption along the way..still not beaten but at least they are trying to implement major anti corruption measures....

All those reform "things" that Putin has largely killed off in Russia....

Russia's state TV: #Ukraine can't join #NATO as long as it has any land disputes. Therefore, Ukraine will have to let go of #Crimea and Donbas.

Ah...know we fully understand just why Russian annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine.....as a simple blockcade of NATO it appears....
 

I thought that was the obvious reason for the conflict and the annexation of Crimea. If NATO (really the US) had kept it's word and not expanded eastward none of this would have happened.

Now here is the interesting narrative myth that has taken hold over Ukraine and the so called NATO eastward expansion.

REMEMBER at the beginning of Crimea annexation Putin expounded often and in front of the Duma and in his press conference about the "humiliation of Russia" after the fall of the Wall and NATO "promised" not to expand....

If we are willing to accept what both the German Chancellor Kohl and Russia's Gorbi have repeated over the years...there was no guarantee ever issued to not expand eastward by NATO nor any western leader in that time period....

What Putin interprets as this guarantee is the German Reunification 4 plus 2 agreements which state NATO will not establish and maintain "permanent" bases in the Baltics and or Poland....

WHICH Putin drumbeat for months after Crimea....EVER notice that Putin no longer uses the term humiliation nor the NATO eastward expansion....as arguments.

Am surprised that this Putin myth still is hanging around.

This Russian comment is actually quite valid in that NATO will not accept new members if there are any ongoing armed border disputes.....JUST as IMF in theory does not grant loans if there is an ongoing war and or armed internal disputes....

BTW...Putin tried to play the IMF card but IMF changed the rules of the game and since then Putin has never bought it up again.....

This is the strangest of all strange things around Ukraine..now it appears the WH believes that the fighting in eastern Ukraine is all about "a border dispute".....

No mention suddenly of "separatists"....

Azor take notice of that new alternative fact...and from the WH....

QUOTE
Bizarre readout of Trump/Poroshenko call, as if conflict was a border dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

"long standing Ukraine/Russian dispute"......."restore peace along the border"

1. this WH apparently does not fully understand the "long standing dispute" and

2. Ukraine has been trying to get back full control of their "border" since Russian militarily annexed it....

THIS was followed by a public statement by Putin's spokesperson Peskov

"The resumed serious fighting is a early reason to start a dialogue and cooperation between Russia and US including Ukraine"...

THUS the reading between the lines of his statement would be as follows....

Russia escalated attacks on Ukraine, destroyed 30,000 town #Avdiivka to initiate talks with Trump.

NOTICE not a single mention of "separatist rights....defending the Russian language right....or "of improving the living/earning conditions of the oppressed eastern Ukraine Russian speakers"....

If this is in fact correct as stated by Peskov..then the article above needs to be seriously rewritten to match the actual Russian driven narrative....

And it is not about "separatists"....

Outside of the Putin fear of color revolts..the underlying fact is he wants a new Yalta 2.0....and has openly stated that since 2006....