On December 17th, the Institute for the Study of War published an analysis titled “Russia’s Pressure Points on Ukraine.” The article presents a hardline anti-Russiann look of the situation in Ukraine.
The ISW present itself as a US-based non-partisan think tank providing research and analysis regarding issues of defense and foreign affairs. Critics described at as a “hawkish Washington” group favoring an “aggressive foreign policy.”
Its article allows to get a general view how mainstream media outlets and think tanks attempt to rationalize their politized anti-Russian stance in the issue.
The key takeaway from the report is the following:
“Russia is expanding the variety of means it uses to threaten Ukraine along multiple borders – from the Sea of Azov and Donbas to Western Ukraine. The Kremlin retains the capability and intent to escalate these threats as necessary in order to challenge the Government of Ukraine. The Kremlin is attempting to inflame religious and social tensions to polarize Ukraine ahead of Ukraine’s 2019 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Russia will continue to use all means necessary to advance its long-term objective to reassert its sphere of influence over Ukraine.”
Thus, it completely disregards any scenario that the incident near the Kerch Strait was a Ukrainian provocation, and presents a picture in which Russia is the sole side that must be blamed.
The arguments in the analysis are all separated into paragraphs, every single paragraph begins with “Russia” and something that it is allegedly doing, in a way presenting a very skewered picture of what is actually going on.
Separate into points, it claims the following:
- Russia continues to bolster its military capabilities on the occupied Crimean Peninsula, while Ukraine, the US and NATO with increased activity along the Russian border, clearly are not doing anything to warrant that bolstering;
- Russia continues to threaten military escalation and maintain a de-facto blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov – Russia continues to maintain that it does not wish for war with Ukraine or the West and will not initiate such a thing. It has also refuted any claims that any Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov are blocked;
- Russia is fueling tensions over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s recent acquisition of autonomy from Moscow to polarize Ukraine – according to Ukrainian officials, the Russian security service FSB is organizing protests in Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, and Mykolayiv against the autonomy. However, Russia apparently failed;
- Russia is preparing its separatist proxies for a potential escalation in Donbas in Eastern Ukraine – the LPR and DPR have repeatedly warned of foreign experts assisting the Ukrainian forces in preparation of an escalation. Russian officials have also repeatedly warned that the martial law may be a preparation for precisely such an escalation;
- Russia is subverting the upcoming elections in Ukraine – Ukraine’s security service the SBU accused Russia of “troll factories” to interfere in the March 31, 2019 presidential elections. No evidence was provided, furthermore, if there is another escalation that would create the conditions for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to delay the possible escalations indefinitely. Which would solve this problem – if there’s no elections, there’s no way Russia can meddle in them;
- Russia is intensifying its information campaign in Southern Ukraine in order to sow distrust and weaken the legitimacy of the Government of Ukraine – Russian media claimed that Ukraine plans on attacking the Kherson region near Crimea on December 24th or 25th, it is yet to be seen if that comes to fruition;
- Russia is targeting the borders of Western Ukraine – allegedly Russia is using “subversive” tools to inflame ethnic tensions and separatist sentiments in Zakharpatiya in order to create tensions between Ukraine and its neighbors Hungary and Poland. That is because, the Ukrainian neo-Nazi movements aren’t doing a good job by themselves.
The following is an older map, which shows Anti Access/Area Denial capabiltiies of Russian in the region: