A lot of the mainstream media caught up in some sort of wave of Russophobia are claiming that Russia is out to either destroy Ukraine or at least occupy it indefinitely. That’s frankly absurd.
Prior to the war starting, it was estimated that Russia had amassed approx. 120,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders. That might sound a lot to the general public, but Ukraine’s forces are, according to Wikipedia, made up of 245,000 active personal and a further 220,000 reservists.
Russian forces are outnumbered 2 to 1 and potentially 4 to 1 once the reservists are mobilised, the media have been reporting that all men between 18-60 are being blocked from leaving the country and required to enlist. The Russian forces simply are not equipped to conquer or occupy Ukraine. That’s literally what the Russians have been saying and the evidence on the ground clearly backs that up, despite the nonsense coming out of the West.
What did Iraq look like?
The last major war the West fought that sought to occupy a country was Iraq in 2003. The coalition forces involved in that numbered 380,000. Over 3 times as many troops as Russia is using for its invasion of Ukraine.
Despite Iraq being far weaker militarily than Ukraine is today - Ukraine has had 8 years of training and supplies from the West up until this point. Additionally in Iraq, especially southern Iraq where the invasion was launched from is mostly open desert, Iraqi forces have no forests or cities to hide in and could be easily monitoring by airborne reconnaissance and picked off from the air. In Ukraine it is easy to conceal armoured units from the much inferior Russian reconnaissance, either by parking them between blocks of flats or under other forms of cover.
They also haven’t been targeting key infrastructure like power, or communications. Every time the West has launched “shock-and-awe” campaigns those are literally some of the first things to be taken out its almost like they’re trying to avoid too much damage for fear of substantial reparations coming up in any negotiations.
If you compare the Russian force to how Western forces have done occupations recently, it doesn’t look like it’s out to occupy Ukraine at all. I suspect it’s just there to bring about a negotiated settlement as soon as possible.
The Kiev distraction
There’s been a lot in the press the last day or so about the 40-mile-long convoy of armour that is approaching Kiev. I don’t think this force is large enough to take Kiev and probably not to even encircle it, the Guardian reported that the Russian forces in Belarus are probably around 30,000 in number a few weeks ago which is where these units came from. Nevertheless, this is trotted out as evidence that Russia is out to occupy Ukraine.
I think the real plan would be to use this force to lure troops away from Donetsk and Lugansk. Then potentially encircle the more significant Ukrainian forces in the east of the country by pushing out the front between Kharkov and Zaporizhzhia. The Ukrianian troops there are heavily dug into their positions from eight years of fighting against the people of Donetsk and Lugansk, weakening their positions would surely be a priority.
So what’s Putin actually after?
On day one of the conflict the terms offered consisted of:
- Amend constitution to remove ambition to join NATO and become a neutral country
- Recognise Crimea as part of the Russian Federation
- Recognise independence of Donetsk and Lugansk
These are basically pretty much what Russia has been going on about for years - bar independence of Donetsk and Lugansk. The Minsk Agreement that Ukraine agreed to in 2014 called on it to recognise them as autonomous regions of Ukraine - which has been Moscow’s position up until Putin announced he recognised Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states on the 21st of February 2022.
Over the last few years Putin has also talked a lot about Novorossiya - New Russia, as shown on the map above. The area that Russia gained mostly from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. It was sparsely populated until Catherine the Great founded multiple cities in the area such as:
- Yelisavetgrad (Kropyvnytskyi) (1754)
- Aleksandrovsk (Zaporizhzhia) (1770)
- Yekaterinoslav (Dnipro) (1776)
- Kherson (1778)
- Mariupol (1778)
- Sevastopol (1783)
- Simferopol (1784)
- Melitopol (1784)
- Pavlohrad (1784)
- Nikolaev (Mykolaiv) (1789)
- Tiraspol (1792)
- Odessa (1794)
You’ll probably recognise a lot of those names from news coverage at the moment, as that’s where a lot of the key fighting is going on. It’s possible maybe Putin is also going for the land bridge to Crimea, which coincides with a lot of the territory of Novorossiya. Crimea has suffered from a lack of fresh water since Ukraine blocked the North Crimean Canal in 2014 so to some this seems an obvious move as this could be re-opened.
Putin has been saying these lands were unfairly given to the Ukrainian SSR by Lenin and the Bolshevik’s in 1922. At the time moving territory between different equal Union Republics didn’t actually mean much difference on the ground, and it probably made sense to administrate them from Kiev. Some have called this historical revisionism or Kremlin propaganda, but frankly its accurate, the Bolshevik’s policy at the time was basically look as different from the Russian Empire as possible.
Quite ironic as some of the western media are literally saying he wants to re-create the USSR - ignoring the fact he’s criticising Soviet policy. If they want to do historical comparisons, re-creating the Russian Empire is probably more apt.
But if that was really the case, why isn’t that on Putin’s list of terms?
Or will the plan be to hold the area east of the Dnieper to Donetsk until eventually there is a negotiated peace. Or possibly even to Odessa and maybe Transnistria assuming they can get across the Pivdennyi Buh. Although in a longer conflict the position east of the Dnieper would be much easier to hold.
Firstly, because everyone on the internet assumes because I’m not a fan of the Ukrainian government or their frankly criminal treatment of their own citizens that I must be a Putin stooge or support the invasion or something.
I’m no fan of Putin and if he gets overthrown on the back of this, that’ll actually be a really good outcome. How likely is that? Pretty unlikely.
Additionally widening the existing conflict outside of Donetsk and Lugansk is probably unjustified in my opinion. However a limited peacekeeping force to render the Ukrainian military unable to fight in Donetsk and Lugansk – like they agreed to do in the Minsk Agreement – would probably be justified, Ukraine has had 8 years to do this and they’ve just funnelled more weapons into the civil war and unleashed some really regressive far-right elements.
But nevertheless, it has now been done and the question surely must be how can we get back to a peace and avoid any more deaths?
In my opinion the terms Russia offered are quite reasonable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a neutral country, it works great for Sweden, Finland, Austria etc.
Recognising Crimea is basically at this point just recognising reality, they voted to join the Russian Federation 8 years ago, they pay taxes in Russia, they’re Russian.
Recognising Donetsk and Lugansk as independent may be harder to swallow – but they had 8 years to stop fighting and choose to carry on regardless, killing 15,000 of their own people. But perhaps this is the area Moscow is willing to shelve and revert to a Minsk Agreement that’s actually enforced?
The West sending more arms to Ukraine is only going to get more people killed, but of course they’re doing it out of their own geopolitical interests, and they don’t care how many Ukrainians get killed. If you genuinely support peace, a negotiated settlement should have everyone’s support.