Ukraine’s Military Buildup Against Rebel Donbass Continues, Summer War Feared

For various reasons I am upping my probability of intense fighting in the Donbass this year (probably this summer) to over 50%.

The Ukrainian buildup on the border continues. Wheeling in all those guns and equipment and letting them stand idle is expensive. The Americans have sent a cargo ship which is unloading more equipment in Odessa and a Global Hawk is making overflights over the Black Sea.

The other reason is that quite a few people I know who are connected with the Donbass are near certain about a coming conflict to an extent that I don’t recall seeing in years (this excerpt from a discussion featuring Igor Strelkov on Sergey Zadumov’s show is not unrepresentative). Expected timeline appears to be late April to July.

I covered the likely development and consequences of an escalation in another post from a week ago.

The Ukrainian Army is much stronger relative to the NAF than it was in 2014, so absent Russian intervention, the success of Ukraine’s “Operation Storm” is assured. There may be pro-Russian/Donbass cheerleaders who will claim otherwise, but the facts are that in 2014, the Ukrainian Army was dysfunctional, and the conflict was primarily fought by high-asabiya volunteers from both sides, with Russia lending its support to the rebels at critical moments. Today, after six years of spending 3.5% (SIPRI) or 5% (official numbers) of its GDP on the military – whatever the precise numbers, drastically higher than the 1% it was spending before 2014 – the Ukrainian military is much more capable.

Meanwhile, most of the high-asabiya NAF volunteers have left and the bulk of it now consists of former Donbass miners collecting paychecks. This will now be more of a “classic” state vs. state struggle, and with Ukraine’s population and GDP being 8-10x bigger than that of the LDNR, the outcome of such a contest isn’t hard to guess. One can compare this with Karabakh War II, with the LDNR in the place of Armenia and Ukraine in the place of Azerbaijan (down to having received Turkish drones).

Putin can’t allow this to happen, so it will have to intervene, and more openly than in 2014. There will be a ramp up in American-European sanctions against Russia and what is very likely to be a last minute kibosh on NS2.

I would array the probabilities something like this:

  • 10% Russia allows Ukrainian Operation Storm to succeed
  • 50% Russia moves troops in forcing Ukrainians to retreat, but otherwise retains status quo
  • 25% chance it recognizes LDNR/officially incorporates it
  • 10% chance it expands LDNR to encompass the entire Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts and recognizes/incorporates it
  • 5% chance it expands elsewhere (e.g. Kharkov)

Probably much will depend on the kremlins’ read of the international situation. If it looks like the West would stop at symbolic sanctions, then it will opt for the “retain status quo” option. But it looks like the West unifying around Iran-tier sanctions, then it will have fewer incentives not to opt for the hardline options.

For the Ukraine, the optimal outcome would be to “sever” the LDNR for good while minimizing military deaths (bad for Ze’s ratings) and provoking the hardest possible Western sanctions regime against Russia. This will kill reclaiming the Donbass as a third rail of Ukrainian politics, alleviating nationalist pressure against Zelensky; it will foreclose any possibility of the Donbass being “shoved back” into Ukraine and bolstering Russophiles; and it will also save Ukraine billions of dollars worth of gas transit fees. It’s a risky gamble, but it might just work out for Ze.

Source: The Unz Review

Donbass War
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  • GMC

    I haven’t been able to figure out the Russian strategy in Donbas and Crimea, but if the Ukies take Donbas , they could be cocky enough to try for Crimea, if not checked. American people don’t give a shit and since anything Russia does , will be an act of War instead of protecting their people and country, personally , I’d wipe out the entire Ukrainian army, The consequences will be the same whether they destroy them , or just move them back. But, if you don’t destroy them, the American military and the Zionist Jews ,will keep arming them , until Donbas and Crimea looks like Syria – eventually.. My 2 rubles – Thanks A E

  • yuri

    much conjecture already
    any concerted ukrop invasion will generate a direct military response from Russia and sever donbas permanently from ukropistan
    ukrop leaders may be stupid enough —the amerikan cowards are not so stupid; they are aware that any direct military involvement will create another humiliating defeat. the best outcome would be for Russia to terminate all gas to Europe. Europe can declare itself a US colony and Russia can further focus upon relations w Asia, Africa, latin amerika

  • tobi999

    there is one more option the author for got to mention! Option X…..Russia pinpoins the Ukras from beginnen, when they start moving, they hammer them down with artillery located in Eastern Ukrain, and turn them into death meat….and wash their hands….no missile no shell flew from Russian controlled area….or space…..thats a matter of the Ukraine and the Republics there…. do not try to make us responsible for your clown show there….NATO is spying there so intesly because they are afraid of this possability and that the Russians could waste their money toy army in Ukraine too fast…

  • Jerry Hood

    The Ukrofascist and zionazis will lose the entire Ukraine! There is no way that the Russian Varyags of Donbass will lose this war! Tbey know what’s coming and are prepared for that onslaught…There will be massive Russian support and volunteers! Even the Subcarphatian Ruthenia will be finaly free from the khazarian hordes of Ukraine! This will be complete colaps of Ukrainian artificial statehood! Russia must beat these zionazis for its own safety , and RF will win it!!!

  • ken

    I am sure Russia is watching closely… and hopefully preparing.

  • DannyWhite

    Hopefully the Russians and the Chinese will step in and smash the Ukies into oblivion.
    would be awesome to watch them nuke the Ukies
    Push them back to the dneiper river

  • James

    Russia will likely crerate some legal situation such as a referendum or other matter that will leave the door open for them to intervene militarily when the time comes. Then as the ukronazis start the assault, Russia will use air power and TOS systems to wipe them out, as well as iskanders to level their bases country-wide. The sudden crushing defeat will allow them to move troops in to strategic areas, such as the nuclear power plant and the port in Odessa. But of course, I’m just guessing.

  • Steve

    Earlier today I saw a Twitter post claiming that some elements of the Russian Army invaded parts of eastern Ukraine today.

    Looks to me like the war might break out a lot sooner than this Summer. The Ukrainians are likely going to find themselves in a meat grinder soon.

    The US, UK and NATO probable response to this appears to be a big question mark right now.