Original by Rostislav Ishchenko published at cont.ws; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
When, in my distant childhood, I fulfilled my military service obligation in the Strategic Rocket Forces on the predecessor of the Topol and Yars ICBMs, the intermediate-range mobile RSD-10 Pioner MRBM (NATO classification SS-20), we had three levels of combat readiness.
–“Constant”, when combat crews are at their barracks, ready to move out within 20 minutes.
–“War Threat”, when combat crews and their equipment are in garrison but ready to move out immediately.
–“Full”, when the regiment conducts a stealthy deployment in the designated area in order to increase its ability to survive an enemy first strike.
The regiment was ready to launch in any event, since the launch units (irrespective of their location and readiness level) were always in constant readiness to launch which, according to the regulations, had to take place within two minutes (Pershing II and Tomahawk flight time was estimated at 5-6 minutes), but which in reality the combat crews could carry out in 40 seconds.
In other words, raising the readiness level was not done in order to be able to retaliate (which was possible at any readiness level), but to increase the chance of survival by their deployment and dispersal. One of the main reason of the Soviet defeats in 1941 was that the attack took place before the Soviet command ordered operational deployment. This led to lost border battles, the loss of thousands of pieces of equipment (no worse than German qualitatively and superior quantitatively), of nearly the entire pre-war Red Army cadre, and several thousand kilometers of retreat.
The army and the country must be ready for war even when there’s apparently no enemy. They ought to be especially ready when a hybrid war against a geopolitical adversary has been going on for years and which can escalate at any moment into a hot conflict with several neighbors at once who are being thoughtfully pushed to fight us by the selfsame geopolitical adversary.
I already wrote that all of the conflicts in which Russia is involved right now are mutually connected. Up to now, the fronts of that war became active sequentially: Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, Syria again. But now we are approaching a major turning point.
Turkey, having shot down a Russian bomber over Syria, found itself in a strategic trap. If it accepts the current state of affairs, namely the skies of Syria closed to its aircraft and the gradually closing border, the Erdogan regime loses the geopolitical game it began over a decade ago. Ankara, which made a bid to become the dominant state in the Middle East and even to restore the Ottoman Empire in a new form, could even lose its regional power status.
One has to moreover understand that Erdogan is facing an extremely complex internal situation. He is not liked, to put it mildly, by a sizable portion of the Turkish elite. His army purges made him safe from the traditional Turkish unexpected events, his standing with the military is also unclear. In any event, the military does not need a weak, in other words, losing, leader. Such political losers were hanged in Turkey as late as the 1970s. Leaders with far less blood on their hands than Erdogan.
The concentration of Turkish forces on the border with Syria (even under the positive pretext of fighting ISIS on US request) during a state of confrontation with Russia is making a sudden escalation possible (and this escalation could be accidental or made to look like one). In any event, for Erdogan right now is a more preferable option than retreating under Russian pressure. This is not even taking into account the Kurdish factor, which is an additional irritant for Turkey.
In a war, Turkey could count on covert (and overt) US, Saudi, and Qatari support. War would make it unnecessary to conceal his alliance with ISIS. He could attempt to reignite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and hope to destabilize the Cauasus.
Naturally, the war would stimulate and consolidate the Russia-Syria-Iran alliance and might even lead to a formal relationship with the Kurds. But on the other hand it would require NATO to make up its mind as well. Yes, Greece has been dreaming all along to fight Turkey and not Russia. Yes, there are pro-Russian sentiments in the Balkans and therefore NATO won’t be able to act in support of Turkey. But it will not be able to entirely remain silent in the event of a war between a NATO member and Russia, against which that alliance has always been aimed. A compromise solution is possible in the form of EU and NATO peacemaking, under the threat of increasing sanctions and even providing Turkey with military and technical support (but without direct participation in the fighting).
The West (US and EU) would have a wonderful opportunity to use their role as intermediaries in the peace negotiations to restore their dominant Middle East position they lost as a result of their fruitless attempts to remove Assad by military force.
Naturally, while Caucasus politicians are cautious enough and will not enter into an open conflict with Russia over Turkey even with US guarantees (they know perfectly well what such guarantees are worth), Ukrainian leaders face a situation even worse than Erdogan. The Minsk process has led to Ukraine’s isolation by leading EU countries and the loss of its financial support by the West without which the country can’t survive for even one year. The frozen Donbass conflict combined with Ukraine’s economic collapse and the general impoverishment of the population made Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk government, and even the Rada whose 1/3 consists of “maidan heroes” and “ATO heroes” widely hated not only by Nazi militants (who always felt that overthrowing Yanukovych was only an intermediate step in their Nazi revolution) but also by the liberal-eurointegrationaist “creative class” Maidan drones who are all but ready to join the Nazis in a revolt against Poroshenko, just as they joined them in a revolt against Yanukovych.
Such a revolt would naturally finish off Ukraine. But that doesn’t make Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk’s life easier since it will also finish them off. The only way to postpone the danger of revolt is to intensify combat operations on the Donbass. Exit Minsk agreements and start a new war.
Up to now, the only thing deterring Kiev was the danger of an instant military defeat to the West’s utter indifference (Paris and Berlin openly opposed violations of the Minsk agreements). But if they were to start a war a the same time as Turkey, as Erdogan’s military ally, the Russian forces fighting on all the fronts would to finish off Ukraine quickly enough. Especially since Russia does not want to raise Ukraine’s civil war to the level of an international conflict, and Donbass militia is not large enough to carry out a deep march on Kiev. Therefore Kiev could count on becoming a recipient of EU-US peacemaking on a par with Turkey. After all, Kiev and Ankara can only guess at Moscow’s plans, but they have no doubt that the US, which is losing together with them, will bless any military provocation and will use it in its interests.
During the new phase of the Donbass war, Poroshenko will try to bleed dry the remaining Nazi formations. Then, during the Western peacemaking phase, to exchange some of Ukraine’s territory (two, three, or even five regions) for peace with NATO guarantees. That has been his eternal dream. He already needs NATO peacekeepers not to attack lost territories (NATO won’t go to war with Russia over Poroshenko) but to protect himself against Ukrainian Nazis, their disarmament,a nd regime stabilization.
Therefore a simultaneous or nearly simultaneous Turkish and Ukrainian entry into war in th e form of constantly increasing provocations rapidly escalating to open warfare is not only very likely but is about the only way the two regimes and their leaders can survive.
Ukraine’s activization would mean a threat to Russia’s rear-area logistics supporting not only Syria but also anti-Turkey deployment (including the defense of the Caucasus). Serious forces would be tied down by the need to defend Crimea and ensure the support of Transnistria in the event Kiev decides to engage on this front as well (in order to draw Moldova, and through it also Romania, another NATO member, into the conflict).
Therefore one must be ready for another Donbass war which will occur should Turkey open a second front or, at the very least, mass forces on the border with Syria.
A war, especially a war against several adversaries, demands genuine unity of leadership. Up to now, the unity of command on the Donbass was ensured by the fact that the various Russian government agencies overseeing ongoing processes there answered to the president. Putin received reports through political, security, army, emergency response, and MVD channels, and coordinated their actions when needed.
Rusisa’s transition from a political into military participation in the Syria crisis demanded additional presidential attention, but the operation itself was conducted by by the MOD and General Staff, not requiring additional coordination. If both of these conflicts enter the phase of open warfare with Russia’s participation (right now they are still internal conflicts, in the official sense) and West intensifies its military, political, and diplomatic activity, the president will have to ensure an additional degree of coordination. He will be too fully engaged in the geopolitical game to quickly address the matters of coordination. Both on the Donbass and in Syria, where the range of involved Russian entities will increase and the operation itself will stop being purely military due to the increase in its political importance.
This raises the need for intermediate coordination, with the Donbass and Syria operational coordination being lowered by one level from the president. To cite an example, it would be something akin to the Great Patriotic War-era Stavka representatives to the front. They coordinated multi-front operations, while their activities were coordinated by the Supreme Commander.
The only difference is that right now the main activities are on the political fronts. It’s a hybrid war, we are still “partners” with our main adversary. Therefore the coordination will be first and foremost political.
In particular, it’s evident that if Ukraine and Turkey join the fray at about the same time, our main task will be to eliminate Ukraine’s threat to our rear areas. Considering the danger of non-neutral Western peacekeeping, one must eliminate Ukraine’s military threat in days, weeks at most. We don’t care what insignia soldiers entering Lvov will be wearing (or not wearing–what is one to do with militia…). The main thing is that they must get there.
The post-conflict political process, on the other hand, will be a long one. It’s enough to see how much effort it took to bring Donbass to something resembling normalcy in two years. And here we are talking about all of Ukraine, which is moreover full of banditry and weapons and whose population is not always friendly and whose hostile elements are concentrated on sizable territories.
It’s late now to argue whether or not we need Galicia, we have to make safe the rear areas of the Syria operation from Ukrainian rulers who need war like oxygen (as long as Turkey’s escalation is likely). Otherwise the current authorities will preserve themselves in some remaining corner of Ukraine’s territory and claim to represent all of Ukraine (even Crimea).
The armed forces can only inflict a swift defeat on Ukraine’s military. Then, without waiting for the results of the political process, one must establish administration, possibly in the form of several loosely confederated national republics or as a single temporary government or as separate regional administrations. It would be inadvisable to have only Russian occupation administration since Geneva and Vienna Conventions state that the occupying country is responsible for the population of the occupied country, and Ukraine is such a mess than it’s simpler to fight against Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and half of Europe than to maintain Ukraine.
Nevertheless, since only the most naive of former Ukrainian leaders expect Russia will liberate Ukraine and allow them to govern it as before, demonstrating their full incapacity to govern, the control over Ukraine’s territory will be exercised independently of the formal political system established there. Since we have the experience from the Donbass (governance through local representatives who are selected unhurriedly, through trial and error, to form a new loyal, capable, and flexible elite), it would be simpler to apply it to all of Ukraine.
The rapid increase in geopolitical challenges demands informal political centralization of governing controlled territories. They should be governed using the federal district format. One should refine that system right now, using the experience of the two republics, since tomorrow the political staffs will have to be deployed from the march, in an untested configuration, and without sufficient material support.
Since the Ukraine crisis is far from the last one requiring informal political control after the military phase has been completed, using it as a “pilot project” will make life easier in the future. After all, a cohesive army or navy staff can just as easily storm Berlin as Kharbin–it only needs to have forces assigned and missions specified.