МАРИУПОЛЬ. Карта Стратфора: Спорный Крым. Видео Стратфора: Ukraine's Geographic Challenge
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Стратфор настаивает, что из-за угрозы потери Мариуполя силами ВСУ (немедленно появляется угроза состыковки ДНР с Крымом и возникает угроза Днепропетровску олигараха Коломойского) недостаточно материала
A Ukrainian soldier rides atop a vehicle near Donetsk on Jan. 23. (Oleksandr Stashevskiy/AFP/Getty Images)
As the situation on the ground quiets down in the wake of the Jan. 24 barrage by Russian-allied forces near the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Stratfor is continuing the watch initiated by our Red Alert. We believe, at the very least, that Russia is keeping its option to mount an offensive open, and at most, is preparing to launch an offensive to secure its hold on the Crimean Peninsula.
The artillery barrage in Mariupol has died down, and according to the Ukrainian military's local commander, there have been no attacks today. Some diplomacy is spinning up, and mutual charges of responsibility are being exchanged. The pro-Russian faction is blaming the Ukrainian military for the attack, and the Ukrainians are charging that the Russian military initiated the barrage, not Ukrainian pro-Russian factions. The fog of war is being supplemented by deliberate disinformation on all sides. The issue is whether this was an isolated incident or part of an extended strategy. If it is, it is not a Ukrainian strategy. Following recent defeats, Ukraine is not in a position to go on the offensive in this region, despite a noticeable build up and mobilization of Ukrainian forces in recent weeks. The Russians, however, have been moving regular forces, including some first-rate units, into Donbas. More important than the charges and counter-charges is this fact: At this moment, the rebels are being strongly reinforced by Russian forces, and those forces have an operational advantage but a strategic problem.
Consider this from the standpoint of a Russian military planner. The operational advantage is that the separatists have more and better forces available for combat. The strategic problem is that this advantage is temporary. If the United States chooses to increase arms transfers and training, the operational gap will close in 6-12 months. The rebels' broader strategic problem is geographical. Russia holds Crimea, but it has little sustainable contact with its forces there. Both sea and air transport can be interdicted. The best access to the peninsula is by land, but the routes are heavily defended by mobile and strategic surface to air missiles and armor to the north. Opening the route up would not be easy, but it would dramatically increase Ukraine's cost of severing Russia's link to Crimea. Without this, blockading Crimea would be relatively easy for the United States, Ukraine and other allies once their capabilities are increased and more units are deployed.
There is a connection to Crimea over the Kerch Strait from Russia proper of course, now based on ferry traffic but with plans for a bridge. But if war were to come, such tenuous links can easily be closed by a capable enemy. They are useful in peacetime, but vulnerable in war and near-war situations.
Map. Crimea (disputed)
If Russia is serious about holding on to Crimea, it has a diplomatic route and a military route that it can use. The diplomatic route would be to gain international recognition of its hold on Crimea. That will be difficult to get, certainly if Russia is passive. The alternative is to create a military presence that might be attacked but would have significant ability to resist. The third option is to use the threat of an attack on Ukrainian positions to force a more favorable political settlement. If that fails, Russia still has the superior strategic position that it has now.
If the Russians are serious about holding Crimea, and if their calculation of how the correlation of forces will shift over coming months is the same as ours, then they now have a window of opportunity to redefine the strategic reality using their current operational superiority. Whether this results in a diplomatic settlement instead of further combat will be up to the West.
The counter-argument will be that, given Russia's economic problems, the diplomatic consequences of further offensive operations would increase the strain on Russia. From a political point of view, however, pure passivity in the face of sanctions that are not the critical factor in Russia's economic downturn will hurt the government's legitimacy at home while offering no real economic advantage. In addition, the Americans are not eager for a Ukrainian conflict while their forces are engaged in the Middle East. Therefore, while nothing is certain, a Russian strategist might well calculate that the risks of passivity are higher than those that come with an offensive. The military buildup in Donbas, the concentration of artillery, certain incursions by Russian aircraft that would be needed to keep Western aircraft at a distance from the battle zone, including aircraft with standoff anti-armor capabilities, indicate to us that the Russians are at least keeping this option open, and at most, are preparing to launch an offensive.
Good strategy involves creating options while withholding commitment to any particular course until the political and diplomatic possibilities are played out in the context of a build up. It would seem to us that this is what the Russians are doing, while signaling capability if not yet intent. However, the Americans sending the commander of the U.S. Army to Kiev on a very public visit is a signal that the window is closing. That forces Russia to make decisions sooner rather than later.
The Red Alert we issued yesterday was triggered by what appeared to be artillery preparation by the Russians at exactly the point when a move toward Crimea would be launched. That was alarming. We think it was meant by the Russians to be alarming, a warning of Russian operational superiority and strategic imperatives. Things have quieted down. The quiet ought not to be taken as the end of anything.
We call Red Alerts when action is underway. While the action has now halted, the underlying crisis is intensifying. There are exits from the path to an offensive, though it is not clear that either side is prepared to pay the toll needed for the exit.
Примечание Владимира Зыкова. Насколько я понял при помощи гуглопереводчика, Стратфор считает, что без сухопутной связи с Крымом позиция России уязвима, особенно в военное время. Дескать, паромы или мост можно легко разбомбить, и войска в Крыму останутся без снабжения. И делает вывод, что Россия будет воевать ради этого, потому и атака на Мариуполь. Ну, американцам виднее, но почему тогда Россия не сделала это сразу после аннексии Крыма? Почему не помогала Стрелкову/Гиркину в Славянске? Ведь тогда это было бы гораздо проще, чем сейчас. Об этом Стратфор молчит.
Ниже, текст к карте, там общеизвестные истины насчёт трубопроводов и отношений восток/запад Украины.
Ukraine's Geographic Challenge // STRATFORvideo. 03.09.2014.
Stratfor analyzes Ukraine's "borderland" location and decentralized population centers as factors contributing to its primary geographic challenge.
Media Center, Video September 3, 2014
Ukraine is the quintessential borderland state. The country borders three former Soviet states (Russia, Belarus and Moldova) and four countries in the European Union (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania). Ukraine also has a coastline along the Black Sea to the south.
Ukraine sits on the Northern European Plain, the area that has historically served as an invasion superhighway going east and west.
Beyond its strategic location, Ukraine's geography has only facilitated such invasions. The country consists of flat and fertile plains, with the exception of the Carpathian Mountain range that arches into the far west of the country. But even these mountains can be penetrated and have not posed a significant barrier to invasion.
Given such lack of barriers, Ukraine's wide-open geography is inextricably linked to that of Russia. Ukraine's agricultural and industrial belts have traditionally been integrated with Russia's, and Ukraine serves as the primary transit state for Russian energy exports to Europe.
Due to its location and abundance of agricultural and mineral resources, Ukraine has been contested between regional powers for centuries. This competition is currently playing out in an extreme form today, with a Western-backed government confronting a Russian-backed uprising in eastern Ukraine.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that Ukraine has several population and political cores, including Lviv in the west, Kiev in the center and the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. These different cores make administering Ukraine difficult.
The current crisis in Ukraine is therefore merely the latest iteration of the country's internal divisions and the long-standing East-West conflict over the country. Maintaining sovereignty and unity in the face of this competition is Ukraine's primary geographic challenge.
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