Ukraine Could Recover Crimea Only If Russia Were Seriously Weakened, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble
The Interpreter | July 14, 2014

Staunton, July 14 – The Ukrainian government lacks the resources to recover Crimea, according to a Moscow military analyst, and could do so only if Russia were to “weaken to the point that it simply could not defend” the peninsula. Otherwise, talk about “the return of Crimea to Ukraine” is, in his words, “something fantastic.”

That conclusion offered by Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Moscow Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technology, in today’s Profil may be true in the short term and from a narrowly military point of view.

But it ignores what can happen when the international community refuses to recognize as legitimate one country’s illegal seizure of territory by another as it did regarding Japan’s seizure of Manchuria in 1931 and the Soviet Union’s occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940 and again in 1944-45.

Non-recognition policy in both cases led ultimately to the reversal of those crimes, and while it took Japan’s defeat in World War II and the Soviet Union’s impending collapse in 1991 to achieve, such a policy, already articulated by some members of the international community, can ultimately achieve the same result for Crimea.

Nonetheless, because this is a long-term prospect in an increasingly short-time-horizon world – all too many in the West will argue now as they did during détente that because something cannot be changed immediately, it should not be pursued at all — it is important to consider what Russian commentators like Pukhov are saying regarding military issues.

He told Vladimir Rudakov of Profil that for Ukraine to recover Crimea, Russia’s military capabilities would have to be “approximately what they were at the end of the 1980s” in the Soviet Union. “In other words,” Ukraine would need “a castastrophe” in all of Russia to achieve its ends. “In the foreseeable future,” that is something out of “science fiction.”

“It is clear one should ‘never say never,’” of course, Pukhov added. Who would have thought a year ago that “Ukraine would be splitting apart and that Russia would return Crimea to itself?” But Ukraine lacks the military capacity to reverse things, and it isn’t going to get more than “economic help” from the West.

Kyiv simply ought not to “expect military assistance from NATO” because “no one in Europe or the United States wants to die for Luhansk, Donetsk, Gorlovka or Bakchisaray.” And no mercenary army will be willing to get involved because it would be up against a regular Russian army and would suffer losses without the possibility of a victory.

Crimea is easy to defend, as the events of November 1920 showed. But now, an outside force if it were well-equipped and led could attack from the air and the sea and overcome the kind of defense the Whites put up against the Reds 94 years ago. But Ukraine lacks the capacity to do that, Pukhov said, and Russia’s capabilities to defend its territory are far greater.

In this situation, he continued, Ukraine is “much more likely” to seek to organize “provocations” against the Russian authorities in Crimea “with the assistance of the disloyal population, for example, the Crimean Tatars” and especially with those Crimean Tatars who are part of the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir organization.

Pukhov concluded that “in any case, provocations are easier and more secure to organize by outside hands than by one’s own,” an evaluation that certainly could be applied to Russian actions in Ukraine and that even more certainly reflects Moscow’s calculations about what Kyiv is likely to try – and even more how the Russian side can counter it.


NATO is not an assistant to Kiev
Return Crimea Ukraine – it’s an incredible scenario, says military expert Ruslan Pukhov
Profile | 14.07.2014

Experts are sure that the deplorable state of the Ukrainian army will not let her win the Crimea from Russia. Photo: ITAR-TASS / Mykola Lazarenko

Ukraine still hopes to regain the Crimea. Kiev authorities and then perform appropriate statements. According to some reports, Ukrainian troops are pulled to the border with the peninsula. Under the guise of strengthening the time boundary, in the Crimean isthmus is active concentration plants Castle. Simultaneously, in the Kherson region, which is called the main springboard for a possible military strike, declared a total mobilization of men under the age of 35 years.

Recently, a new Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey taking oath in the meeting hall of the Verkhovna Rada, said from the podium that will do everything possible to re-Crimea became part of the Ukrainian state, and was held in Sevastopol Ukrainian "Parade of victory." However, the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) Ruslan Pukhov believes such a scenario is fantastic.

– Can we seriously discuss the possibility of the return of the Crimea to Ukraine by military means? Do Kiev resources to implement this scenario?

– In my opinion, these resources have no current Kiev authorities. Seriously, this scenario can be discussed only if we admit the possibility of weakening Russia to such a level that it can not simply defend the Crimea. The collapse of the defense capability should be about the same as at the end of the 80s, the Soviet Union. In other words, the script returns the power of Crimea to Ukraine is impossible without the implementation of a catastrophic scenario for Russia. In the foreseeable future, both of these scenarios from unscientific fantasy. Clearly, the "never say never." Really, who thought a year ago that Ukraine will collapse, and that Russia will regain the Crimea? But if you get away from the catastrophic and apocalyptic scenarios, I think, other scenarios just unrealizable.

– Ukraine is not able to solve this problem by military means?

– Yes. This is due primarily to the state of the Ukrainian army, incompatibility with combat training, strength and equipment of the armies, as well as financial and economic potentials, the general collapse of the Ukrainian economy, the quality of its political elite.

– Can we assume that Ukraine for solving these problems can get outside help?

– If we talk about economic aid, it is possible. And now to the needs of the Ukrainian army unnamed "sponsors" donate body armor, night vision devices, items of equipment. However, military assistance from NATO Kiev should not wait. No one in Europe or the United States does not want to die for Lugansk, Donetsk, Gorlovka or Bakhchisarai.

– A so-called "private armies"?

– Owners of private armies – not fools. For them, it is primarily a business. And to die, none of them signed. Max, what they can do in such a situation – advice and training of personnel. But no private army does not take an army to fight a regular – American, Russian, Chinese, French, with any developed nation army.

– Always, when it comes to capturing the Crimea, the memory comes the story of a century ago: in November 1920, the Civil War, crossing Lake Siwash storming well fortified Perekop Isthmus. To date, it still can only go on such options?

– Now, of course, can be planted with sea landings, helicopter landings. But Ukraine is physically can not do. In Kiev there are not enough able-bodied and serviceable helicopters (they can be counted on the fingers, and besides, most of them involved in the Donbass). He has no mobility and combat landing craft. But there is also the people who will be ready to go on such a suicidal adventure.

– Can we therefore expect provocations? For example, attacks on Russian troops in order to draw them actually Russian military conflict in the Ukraine?

– Provocation is much easier to arrange through disloyal population – for example, the Crimean Tatars. Especially because some of them went to Syria school, especially those who are in the radical Islamist group "Hizb ut-Tahrir." I recall that in Russia and some other countries it is recognized as a terrorist, and its activity is prohibited, but during the stay of the Crimea as part of Ukraine "Hizb ut-Tahrir" quite legally operated in the territory of the peninsula. In any case, provocation easier and safer to hold other hands than his own.

[My personal translation – RD]


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