Ukraine: Will the East secede?

Novorussia becoming a full fledged state would result in calming down the crisis and opening up opportunities to defuse the conflict by means of politics. A “solution” like this may count on the tacit approval by Berlin and maybe Paris. But it is doubtful if the US, their eastern european junior partners and Ukrainian nationalists would accept such a move.

This posting tries to abstain from providing documentation about rapidly changing, highly propagandized fortunes of war. Instead, I try to predict a possibe outcome in concreto – something I try to avoid whenever possible. Actually the crystal ball does not belong to the tools of my trade.

But there is a very plausible conclusion, which ohne must draw from the events of the last 72 hours: that the Ukraine will lose today’s “territorial integrity” permanently. The four easterm/southern Oblasts Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson could be lost. A new, officially independent state with close links to Russia then would come to the fore.

This newly formed Novorussia would

  • join the eurasian free trade zone and enter a military pact with Russia. It would not be recognized by the West, but by a host of Third World Countries and especially the BRICS. This is the precondition for being funded from the newly created BRICS development bank, with which infrastructure in and around the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk could be reconstructed. Novorussia indeed would need a lot of funds. Its infrastructure is damaged heavily as a result of a disproportionate use of heavy artillery on the part of the Ukrainian army and its rightwing allies.
  • Economic basis of new Novorussia will be the heavy industry in the Donbass region, which would have been destroyed by economic integration into the Union within a few years. In a Eurasian block Donbass industries could be viable for some years to come. Nonetheless Novorussia would have to be subsidized heavily by Russia – e.g. by cheap gas. In a way it would be comparable to the subsidies of the former Soviet Union for their eastern european (and their cuban) satellite(s).
  • What would this situation merit to Moscow ? Primarily it would be a military-strategic advantage. A Novorussian state within the mentioned borders could provide a secure terrestrial access to Crimea and undisputed control over the Asov Sea.

Of course such a solution would be anything but optimal for Russia. There would be a strong political backlash in “Rump Crimea” and the rest of the country would be swallowed by NATO. There is no doubt that – having the choice -  Russia would opt for an “Austrification/Finlandization” of an integrated Ukraine, in a pre 1989 sense: political independence, but strict neutrality in military terms.

Today the most important enabling factor for a secession like this is a military one: The Ukie military offensive against rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine has foundered and given way to a counteroffensive by the “militia”.

This took place not to the west and north of the war arena, as one could have expected, but to the south. The rebels did not go against Dnipropetrovsk or Kharkiv, but headed for the Asov sea instead. If they succeed, a “liberated” strip extending from northeast to southwest will emerge, a strip, that could be more or less congruent with the borders of the already mentioned oblasts.

Those big cities in the North and the West – as well as Odessa – would be out of reach (without a direct military intervention by the russians). But the success of the rebels’ operations is not guaranteed at all -and it is the necessary precondition for the secession-option. Without massive territorial gains in the south no independent Novorussia.

The second indication for a secession derives from a press conference from  Alexander V. Zakharchenko, Chairman of The Council of Ministers of the self proclaimed Donetsk National Republic (DNR) and his defense minister, a “watershed press conference” as Vineyardsaker, a blogger sympathetic to the russian cause put it.

Zakharchenko stated that what had been a militia was no longer one, but a regular army, whose sole objective was “defending our country”. Donetsk and Luhansk citizens were different from the rest of Ukrainians in many respects and wanted to be left on their own – nothing else. Here is the transcript of this press conference.

“No federalization can be possible today (…) We asked for the federalization 3 months ago, then we asked for a permission to hold a referendum.”

“That time has passed, now we want to live independently. The Ukrainian authorities are using police methods to subdue us: they arrest us, cordon us off, and conduct anti-terrorist operations against us”

“By now so much blood has been spilled and so many people have died for freedom. How can we speak of federalization?”

Russia’s official stance still is with what she had demanded from the beginning: a ceasefire, negotiations between Kiev and the rebels, a constitutional reform and  a far reaching federalization. But an about-turn in this official position could emerge at any moment.

One may assume, that what Zakharchenko had said, reflects what Moscow thinks, at least partly. Putin seems to have ditched his demand for federalization and to have stepped up military support for the Novorussians. But he still does not seem to be inclined to start a full scale military intervention. The uninterrupted howling of “Invasion, invasion !” by the western press is complete nonsense, at least at the time being.

As Zakharchenko put it (and he is completely right with this): “If Russia was sending its regular troops, we wouldn’t be talking about the battle of Elenovka here. We’d be talking about a battle of Kiev or a possible capture of Lvov.”

Putin may very well change today’s factual approach to Novorussia though, methinks (not only me) – in case there are new facts, new risks or a really tempting offer. Not necessarily because he is corrupted, but because from Moscow’s point of view there is a lot  more at stake than Novorussia. A LOT.

There is always the possibility, that Russia can be brought to her knees by economic sanctions or even an outright war. But also, that Kiev buckles under the weight of its unsolved economic and political issues.

Unabhängiger Journalist

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