Monday, July 11, 2016

The Donbas Front

Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine:

Despite the existence of a ceasefire agreement, fighting in eastern Ukraine continues and is increasing. On July 5, three Ukrainian servicemen were killed and thirteen were wounded. The uptick in fighting began this past January, when Ukrainian officials reported up to seventy-one attacks a day and the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission noted the return of both Grad multiple-launch rocket systems and 152 mm artillery to the battlefield. Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk reported that every third enemy attack came from a heavy weapon or mortar banned by the ceasefire agreement. ...

A senior US Department of Defense official told Foreign Policy in April that there were still seven thousand Russian troops inside Ukraine, advising the rebels and engaging in fighting themselves. “I think they can sustain this for a considerable period of time,” said the official.

Avdiivka, a Ukrainian held crossroads town about ten miles from rebel sock puppet-held Donetsk, appears to be the focus of Russian interest.

It is in our interests to keep the Russians as far east as possible by bolstering Ukrainian defenses. From nuclear threats to street thuggery directed against our diplomats, the Russians are being world class a-holes these days.

And as Ukraine's president reminds us, Ukraine can teach us about the state of Russian military proficiency:

NATO’s collective security could likewise benefit from Ukraine’s experience and intelligence. Russia’s aggression on the eastern flank of NATO territory is an aggression not only against Ukraine, but the Western world. Yet no NATO member state has actual battlefield experience engaging with the modern Russian army. Ukraine does.

Ukraine needs our help to repel aggression that cannot stand as an accepted strategy for European affairs. And this will help NATO:

So long as the Kremlin can continue to ignite minor conflagrations in certain areas such as the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, it will use them as leverage to bully other countries.

Only a deeper partnership between NATO and Ukraine will foster stability in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Black Sea region and the transatlantic area as a whole. NATO’s support is a necessary part of the solution for defense and security threats in Ukraine.

As Russia begins a war of attrition in the Donbas, let's help Ukraine give it to them by sending Russian troops back to the motherland in body bags.

Make the Donbas Putin's "bleeding ulcer." That might check Putin's aggression.

Russia's economy isn't in the best shape to maintain a war of attrition, after all.

Yes, we want the Ukrainians to reform their corrupt economy to make Ukraine better able to afford to resist Russia, and we should push them so they can do this and become a harder target.

So this is a welcome American move:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday pledged sustained American support to Ukraine and offered assurances that the United States stands by the former Soviet republic in its territorial disputes with Russia and as it embarks on an ambitious program of reform.

Kerry met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev to discuss progress on judicial, legislative, economic and anti-corruption efforts, and on agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed separatists. In 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Kerry visited neighboring Georgia, where he signed an agreement to boost U.S. military cooperation and sent a not-so-subtle message to Russia ahead of this week's NATO summit in Poland.

Failure of Ukraine to move more rapidly on the issue of reform to reduce corruption is no reason to punish Ukrainians by making them more vulnerable to Russian conquest.

The European Union may use that as an excuse to ease sanctions. But it is no good reason when the Donbas front is raging. This is a better theater for defeating Russia than Estonia, after all.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more. The Russians start most of the violence, but full-scale war seems unlikely:

Russia has brought more of its troops to the Ukrainian border, making it look like preparations for a major offensive. A closer look reveals that these troops are neither trained, equipped nor otherwise ready for a major offensive and neither is Russia.

Of course, Russia does have some trained and equipped forces sufficient to overwhelm a small opponent even if the majority of their army is poorly prepared to fight a decent opponent. So where is that stuff if not facing Ukraine?