Hannibal Barca wrote:This is a dangerous gamble but if Russia act immediately might save from a catastrophic civil war.
If they let things now unfold progressively like they always like to do might find themselves in a fully fledged, mega scale war that can last years and take decades to alter.
Now you can still paralyze Kiev's government with a successful blitzkrieg. I know this is not the kind of warfare Russians specialize into but the stakes are high.
If the condition settle on the ground Ukraine is no Georgia, is vast and populous....
It is the sort of war Russia specializes in, and unfortunately I'm incline to agree - the current military operation is almost certain to build-up into a wider civil-war, it's obvious to everyone. The second point is - Kiev shows absolutely no interest in deescelation (nor is it able to, it fears getting overthrown by its own hardliners).
A massive, disproportionate conventional strike by Russia on mobilized units active in the fighting, and other combat-capable units (artillery, ballistic missile regiments) - will pretty much rob the Ukraine of any means by which to continue the war; while all the various anti-Russian militias and so on, with next to no combat experience - can be contained far more easily.
In the extreme event, this can be combined with a decapitation strike on Kiev, to make sure that there is no leadership left to give orders. This will also stop the war, and prevent any more havoc in the south-east.
BUT, and I want to STRESS - these options are in fact pretty much as bad as letting the current situation continue and develop into a civil war. Because then, further massive
violence will be absolutely inevitable, ethnic cleansings, warlords arising, complete lawlessness and anarchy through large portions of the country - mostly western and central regions - but they are humans too don't forget.
Especially if the government is decapitated, but even it isn't - it won't hold onto any authority for long; it won't be so much as the break-up of a country, as it turning into some Syria or Afghanistan in the heart of Europe. And no-one needs such a mess lying around.
Coupled with the international reaction - this option should simply not be considered, unless there is the threat of genocide or something, or the situation really does grow out of all recognition and there is absolutely no alternative.
There are several other alternatives that are better, all of them consist of waiting and delaying any action:
a). Wait to see if the hardliners there are overthrown by a mass-uprising. The speed of events over the past week is uplifting in this regard; Kiev is very firmly under the putschists control but if a week and a half ago they all just started getting settled into their seats, started reigning in Pravyj Sektor, Turchinov was triumphently about to embark on a visit to Lithuania, etc... then now their control has slipped severely.
It's quite possible that military units will start refusing to take orders, defecting, etc.. and with them will come more towns and cities, more police departments, etc...
With this loss of confidence, perhaps someone with some sense will get a mandate from the more reasonable portion of the country in the central regions, but I admit that this isn't very likely.
b). Wait to see if the Ukraine dissolves by itself - like above pretty much, same chain of events, but it just becomes clear, to any clear-minded political forces in the country - that it's preferable to dissolve the state USSR-style, than to delve deeper into a civil war.
Federalization is also possible but less likely - if it gets to the stage where the current government is being pressed and overthrown - then I doubt any such political settlement will be an option.
c). Wait to see if the hardliners there are overthrown by even worse hardliners. Unfortunately this is the most likely scenario. Yarosh and Pravyj Sektor will increasingly gain in popularity, opposing the 'corrupt, incompetent' government that is not even WILLING to fight for the Ukraine's own territories. Now the government has stepped up to the fight, but it may not be enough for Pravyj Sektor, and for a large portion of the population - and they may decide to organize a Bolshevik-style 2nd revolution; replacing the revolutionaries with more radical revolutionaries.
Alternatively, Yarik can get elected in via the upcoming presidential election, although it's a big question whether the situation can wait that long.
The south-east can harry this process along by all voting for him. What seems on the face of it - like the worst possible decision of all - not only recognizing the election but voting in it's most rabid ethno-nationalist - may actually end up saving the south-east in the end.
If Pravyj Sektor takes power - a large amount of Kiev's and indeed the rest of the Ukraine's population will view him as bigger threat than Russia. The military and police will certainly not want to follow any orders from such a leader.
It will lead to a collapse of the country and all government authority - but in a much less bloody way than if the Ukraine were attacked by Russian forces.
d). Probably the best option - try and get the West onboard for a solution. They have no 'trust' towards Russia right now, as they claim - but at the end of the day it's not in their interests to see a civil war in Europe. Obama right now is trying to persuade Putin to help influence the east to 'simmer down'. That's already evidence of the fact. But Putin should insist on a balanced solution, a true transition government, federalization, and joint-peacekeeping forces if it proves neccessery. That the current government is non-viable and not viewed as legitimate, and that it doesn't know what it's doing or what sort of country it's leader - is something that can be proven to the EU and the US. They won't agree out of kindness, but out of mutual-interests - no-one needs a new Somalia, a new radical-right wing movement, a refugee crisis, a massive conventional war, etc...