Russian 'invasion' leaves Ukraine facing all-out war
How, in the face of video and images of Russian military hardware, can the Russians say they are not invading Ukraine?
Professor Stefan Hedlund:
This has been the policy of the Kremlin ever since they seized Crimea, to claim that it’s local business inside Ukraine and they have nothing to do with it. And they will obviously maintain that for as long as they wish.
This is, after all, not a court where we present evidence. This is a new form of warfare that the Russians, to date, have waged very successfully. And there is now so much circumstantial evidence that nobody can be in any doubt any more that the regular army is inside Ukraine, and probably in quite large numbers.
And it’s beginning to spread also in various Russian media, the body bags are coming home, there is realisation that the Russian army is fighting in there. So that makes it all the more important for the Kremlin to keep a lid on it, and keep denying it. There’s support for what Putin has done so far, but there is little support for a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine. So that’s an important division, and they will not admit that they are in there. Not by a long shot.
If Russian forces have invaded, how should the West and Nato react?
Professor Stefan Hedlund:
Yes, this is a very, very tough one. Up to date we only see ambitions to shore up what they already have, to take some pressure off the rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk and surrounding areas and to stop the Ukrainian army – what the Ukrainians call the anti-terrorist operation – and to prevent the Ukrainian army being successful in rooting out the insurgency.
And by opening up a third front in the south, heading for Novoazovsk and Mariupol, what they achieve in the short term is that they are now completely breaking the back-bone of the Ukrainian army. It’s in flight and it’s been demoralised. You have large pockets of Ukrainian soldiers that are being surrounded and are offered free passage to Russia if they give up their weapons. So that’s where we are at the present moment.
If the rebels, with Russian support, decide to expand and move west and north, then we are looking at a real invasion. Today it is semantics if it is an invasion. But if they really do decide to push on, then you will have a real war between Russia and Ukraine.
And what Ukraine needs to do then is to declare martial law, and to call a national conscription - everybody under the flag and complete mobilisation of all of Ukraine to defeat the Russian invasion.
Then the West and Nato will be forced to provide at least logistical and intelligence support, perhaps a little bit more, which Russians will view as direct intervention. And then you will technically have war between Russia and Nato. So the stakes are incredibly high now. It’s very, very worrisome.
What is the likely outcome if the West and Nato ignore Russia’s latest actions in Ukraine?
Professor Stefan Hedlund:
This is the likely outcome. There will be more talk and more empty threats of red lines, and maybe some more sanctions that will not deter the Russians. And with the Ukrainian army being in complete rout, and the government in Kiev, for some reason, is refusing to declare martial law and national mobilisation.
What is likely to happen in the eastern part of Ukraine is that we’re going to see a repeat of wars in the Balkans - that the eastern part of Ukraine will become like a Republika Srpska, the Serbian part of Bosnia that is now technically part of the Bosnian Federation but is controlled by Belgrade and Serbia.
So you can have a Republika Srpska in the Donbas region that is controlled by Moscow but technically part of a new Ukrainian Federation.
It sounds horrible to say, but perhaps that is the best solution we can hope for today if the alternative is full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine where the West gets involved.
What Russians call a ‘deep federalisation’ of Ukraine may be the preferable thing. But it’s a horrible thing to say, I realise that.
RUSSIA IN UKRAINE
- Nato released photographs on August 28 showing that as many as 1,000 Russian soldiers are now in eastern Ukraine.
- Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko declared on August 28 that 'an invasion of Russian forces has taken place'.
- On August 27, 2014, Russian troops and equipment crossed the Russia-Ukraine border at Novoazovsk, in the far south, in what is seen as an attempt to open a new front.
- Control of the area would give Russia a direct land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula.
- On August 25, 2014, Ukraine’s security services released videos of Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine.
- Mr Poroshenko met Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the first time since June 2014, in the margins of a summit in Minsk on August 26.
- Ukraine will be on the agenda of the Nato summit in Wales, UK, on September 4 and 5.
- More than 2,200 people have been killed since April 2014 in the conflict between pro-Moscow rebels and the Ukrainian military.