Sunday, June 28, 2015

Close the Crimean Peninsula

If Russia's game in Ukraine is to keep taking small bites until they are full, Ukraine needs to cope with Russia by means other than just slowing down the digestion process.

Russia is preparing for a new offensive in the Donbas region:

Force levels on Russia's side of the border had not changed much in recent months, Breedlove said, but U.S. military officials had observed in Russia a "stocking of important supplies, ammunition, etc, to levels that would support operations".

Inside Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are battling Ukrainian forces, Breedlove said "we see a force that has been trained, that is led by Russian leadership, ... and is ready to do whatever mission is required of it in the Donbass (region)."

"I don’t think Mr. Putin is done in eastern Ukraine," Breedlove told reporters, and Kiev, despite Moscow's hopes, was still looking to the West for support.

You can understand why Russia likes to pretend they aren't at war with Ukraine. But why should Ukraine cooperate by limiting the war to the Donbas?

I think Russia would have trouble coping with a wider war. Blood and cash aren't limitless for Putin, whose armed forces aren't that good outside of a narrow slice of his military.

I know that Ukraine is in worse shape so doesn't want to expand ground fighting that might cause Ukraine to lose more ground faster. The prospect of even a winning long war that combines regulars, irregulars, and guerrillas to resist a Russian invasion is frightening.

So Ukraine won't expand the ground war even if Russia would have problems coping with a wider front and the resulting casualties. But since Ukraine's Crimea is such a prize for Russia, why not put it at risk if Russia's hand puppets attack in force?

If I was supreme Ukrainian commander, I'd prepare forces to strike Sevastopol naval facilities and ships in port. Ballistic missiles should be readied to strike those targets and planes should be readied and trained to use anti-ship missiles against ships in port.

These assets would be held in reserve to deter a Russian escalation while the main effort is to declare Crimea's ports closed (Ukraine still has legal sovereignty despite Russia's conquest) and plant naval mines outside the ports.

How to do this is the problem. Aerial delivery? Delivery by cruise missile or drone? Small boats at night?

On the bright side, not many would have to be delivered. Hitting a Russian warship would be a bonus. But just by having some mines in place, insurance rates would go up for any ships heading that way; and how many cruise ships would want to risk hitting a mine? So Russia would take more hits to their economy.

I have no idea if Ukraine has naval mines. If not, they should produce them.

And at least such a response demonstrates that Russia risks gains by pushing for more. The war should not be limited to Russia attacking when ready and Ukraine losing ground.