The escalation in the Donbas conflict is on the rise. Russia and Ukraine reinforce their forces near the conflict zone. The question is why? This analysis will try to delve into some possible endgame scenarios and explain why they might happen. The reader should not take this article for anything other than an analysis from a hobby enthusiast.
show of strength
The most likely reason is that Russia is trying to undermine itself against Kiev and Washington. Many experts argue that the recent Russian military movement does not include sufficient force for a conventional invasion of Ukraine. With the Russian military position, it appears to be mainly coercive and pretend in nature so far.
This argument is supported by the fact that, on April 3, Russia’s Western Military District did not mobilize the major regiments and divisions that would likely be necessary in support of an offensive against Ukraine. Moreover, Russia has also not built the required logistical warehouses – including fuel, ammunition, and medical supplies – for a major offensive. Despite the likelihood of residual infrastructure from numerous skirmishes and threats of escalation over the past seven years, it is unlikely that Western and Ukrainian intelligence has picked it up.
The third point is the lack of stealth and prowess in the military buildup. If the attack was the primary target, the Russian military would not have publicly sent the telegraph to the ongoing deployments, according to Mason Clark, a leading Russian analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. ** On Telegram, Twitter and other social media, there are many photos and videos to spread the forces that make it easier to follow the movement.
The timing was also an argument against the invasion. At the moment, Ukraine and Russia at that time of year are called Rasputitsa. Time when traveling on unpaved roads or across country would be difficult and would definitely be unfit for an attacking force.
The second reason that might explain Russia’s behavior if the preparation for a military campaign was to send Russian “peacekeepers” to the Donbas region. Russia denied the presence of official military forces within the region, and blamed all victims or Russian captives as voluntary soldiers without Moscow’s orders. An exciting event, whether natural or bogus, could provide Russia with Casus Belli to move to Donbas after an “invitation” from the local government under the pretext of protecting Russian citizens.
It would have the advantage of preserving the current regional arrangements, at least on the surface, but it would allow a revival of military operations at any moment Moscow required it. Moreover, the only military option that fits the observable evidence: move troops from Russia and mobilize domestic reserves.
The least likely, but not impossible, option is an all-out invasion of Ukraine. But among all the analysts they found, no one saw this as the main reason for the escalation of Russian forces in the region. The Crimean water crisis is often an argument as a cause for war. ****
A forced takeover of the canal from the Russian army should be considered a last resort, since the cost of such an operation for Russia will greatly exceed the potential benefits in almost any class.
The attempt would mean that it would be necessary to seize more than 70 kilometers of Ukrainian territory all the way to the left bank of the Kakhovka Reservoir, which would face strong resistance from a different Ukrainian army that was in 2014 and also entail new sanctions.
Meanwhile, the canal that has been shut down in the past seven years has deteriorated, and without major repair, Russia will lose most of its water during transportation. The canal would also be a very dangerous target for sabotage by the Ukrainian army, which would require many resources to protect it.
An invasion at this degree would depend on more goals or motives than just the waters of Crimea.
So what caused this escalation?
Test new head
When Trump took office in 2017, there was a party in the Kremlin. However, the party soon ended with both penalties, and the distance between Washington and Moscow continued. In some respects, the pressure on Russia increased. The Trump administration dispatched and approved the use of Javelin missiles for frontline service. A very welcome weapon for fighting Russian tanks of the Ukrainian army, although it did not change the rules of the game. ******
The Biden presidency showed early support for Ukraine, and it could be the latest escalation to see how far the new administration wants to go. Putin may hope that Biden will be a continuation of the Obama presidency, a man that Putin has not taken seriously. However, the Russian president may be disappointed. Biden’s history in American politics goes back to the 1970s, and he has experience with Putin’s Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union.
Zelensky’s new stop
Something happened with the Ukrainian president in 2021. First, he stopped broadcasting three pro-Russian TV channels, then the sanctions of the country’s oligarchy spread, even the owner of the TV channel that made Zelensky famous, Ihor Kolomoysky. These events can be viewed as a domestic issue, with US support to agree to his low approval ratings. Then the real bomb struck. On February 19, Viktor Medvedchuk was placed on the Ukrainian Sanctions List for terrorist financing.
Medvedchuk was named as Putin’s man in Ukraine, and the Russian president is also the godfather of Medvedchuks’ daughter. A man who has always been at the center of Ukrainian politics and has always been promoting Russian interests. Sanctions rendered him impotent in the country. Zelensky could not have taken such a step without guarantees from a stronger ally than the national oligarchy and Russia. The truth is that, within two months, Ukraine wiped out a pro-Russian propaganda network that took years to build. It must have come as a surprise to both Medvedchuck and the Kremlin to see him play on the sidelines so quickly.
The ghost of Nagorno
The war in Nagorno-Karabakh may have ushered in a new era of warfare, the era of drones. The conflict, in which Armenia was supported by Russian and Azerbaijani arms by Turkey, was a withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces. Turkish drones destroyed purchased Russian tanks and armored vehicles.
Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones overnight became a sought-after weapon, and Kiev was one of the first buyers, which had already managed to use 6 of them. A joint project between Ankara and Kiev has also caused a headache for Russia, which must now use more resources to research and integrate drone warfare into its armed forces. The joint venture is seen as a win-win situation, as Ukraine creates a new market and military capabilities, while Turkey may avoid Western arms sanctions.
It should be noted, however, that the drone program, like Javelins, is not a game changer. However, it is placing another weapon in Ukraine’s arsenal that again requires more resources to combat it. In this sense, it is not surprising to see Russia transporting an S-300 missile or other toxic system near Ukraine. This system may be permanently placed in the Donbas, as evidence indicates that the use of drones has been a serious problem for front-line separatists. In a simple sentence, after seven years, Ukraine has found a war zone where Russia is lagging behind.
All of the countries bordering Russia, with the exception of China, place strategies for a war with Russia on the following equation: How much damage can we inflict before Russia perceives it as unworthy of it. It was the best window to Russia in 2014.
Although Ukraine remains heavily shortened, especially the Navy, no one can argue against the progress made. Russia will win if this is a one-on-one conflict, but the costs are likely to be high; Many think it is too loud.