Is the offensive in the Donbass really possible tomorrow? 07/02/2017 22:35:00. Total views 1260. Views today — 0.

Recently, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities are actively hinting and "accidentally" talking about the possibility of an early "military-diplomatic" operation to liberate the Donbass. I would very much like to believe that, but the analysis shows that this is unlikely to happen before the spring of 2018, when the presidential elections in Russia will be held. Why so pessimistic?

Because, the Russian and Ukrainian armies are still incomparable. Therefore, our military in any case will take into account Russian tanks, which will be able to arrive from the border to Donetsk in 2 hours. That is, the planning of a military operation is possible only if there is at least some certainty that Putin will not introduce troops.

And what can force him not to introduce them, considering that before the elections "a small victorious war" is even useful to him?

The first reason is the threat that the "little victorious" can turn out to be big and fatal. Is there such a threat now? It is unlikely, because if Putin gets involved in an open war (and it will not be possible to hide such a thing, Poroshenko will have to admit an act of aggression), then in case of a defeat he will use aviation, but here our forces are incommensurable.

It is also doubtful to rely on the American Javelins only because no one has given them yet and they are unlikely to be given, at least until Trump meets Putin, when the first may be disappointed in the latter. Well, they can give antiaircraft weapon too, but again, only for the destruction of the military equipment of the separatists, and not for the war with Russia. Neither Western Europe nor the U.S. are interested in the war.

Second reason is if he decides that the Donbass adventure takes too much energy and money, and the game is not worth the candle. Theoretically, Russian budget has limits and he can come to such a decision, but clearly not before the elections. And if such a decision comes to his mind, we will be able to observe the propaganda campaign in the Russian media, telling about the ingratitude of these Ukrainian separatists, whom Russia fed, helped, and they turned out to be thieves, corrupt officials and, in general, traitors of the "Russian world".

There is no such campaign at the moment. And without it, Putin definitely will not refuse to support "Russian-speaking brothers" because it will damage his image.

The third thing that can make Putin ignore the military operation of Ukraine to free the Donbass (this is the most realistic option) is Trump's urgent request with an explanation of the advantages of such behavior and a clear indication of responsibility for misunderstanding.

Again, theoretically, this can happen, but so far this has not happened, since Trump and Putin did not personally meet, and such things are not sent by diplomatic mail.

Moreover, now the American media report that Trump still harbors illusions about the next "reset" of relations with Russia and Putin personally. These illusions may disappear only after a personal meeting.

Well, in that case, we will also see a turn of the Russian propaganda machine against the separatists...

Ukraine, too, is unlikely to decide on such an operation without the consent of the United States. And there is no such a consent yet, because it would be declared at once, or, on the contrary, would be hidden. And since Poroshenko did not meet with Trump in a "one-on-one" format, but only in the presence of ambassadors, ministers and journalists, there are no secrets. Ukrainian parliament ministers and analysts would not chat about such secrets on TV as well.

In addition, it is necessary to take into account the fact that Germany will definitely not support the military operation. Especially before the September elections. And Poroshenko is still more focused on Germany than even on the United States, his statement in Washington about the absence of alternative to Minsk agreements testifies to this. And this is after Secretary of State Tillerson has strongly hinted about Washington's tolerance for any format of the situation resolution…

The fact that Berlin will not support the escalation of conflict with Russia confirms the negative reaction of the German MFA and the Austrian Chancellor to sanctions against the Russian Federation, a bill about which was recently adopted by the US Senate. That is, unfortunately, Nord Stream-2 is clearly more important for Berlin than the territorial integrity of Ukraine…

Although the support of President Macron is a good signal in itself, but it brings hardly anything all alone. Moreover, neither France, nor Germany are authorities for Putin in terms of military, who respects only force.

So the geopolitical background is favorable for changing the format of diplomatic solution to a conflict in the Donbass (which Poroshenko persistently does not want to use), but not the military one.

On the other hand, as the MP from the PPB Ivan Vinnyk has recently stated, "Now the status quo has changed".

According to him, in 2014, "we actually did not have an army. So we had to reckon with the opinions of our Western partners. And the Western partners said us not to go to any escalation against the Russian Federation under any circumstances". Now, "the status quo has changed: we have held the election, Western partners have supported us - sanctions have been applied, everything that is needed in the context of international support, including visa-free travel, Ukraine has received; we have formed a Ukrainian army that is now able to oppose, at least the land constituent of Russian army. We are able to launch an offensive today".

Considering the fact that this was said literally the day after Turchynov's statement announcing the bill on changing the ATO format, when very few people saw this document, Vinnyk expressed not only his thoughts and moods. It is not hard to guess – whose. But not Turchynov leads the troops. He is only the NSDC Secretary, not his Chairman. And will Poroshenko take such a step?

If there are no at least non-public guarantees of support of the West and the pressure of Western capitals on Putin – he definitely will not want to be left alone with Russia.

On the other hand, the West is so tired of the "Ukrainian problem" that in case of its successful resolution (even at the price of great cost), it would turn a blind eye to the violation of Minsk and to anything else – the winners cannot be judged. But if there is no victory?... Careful Poroshenko just will not take such a risk.

There is also no domestic political advantage of ending the war in Donbass for Poroshenko now, two years before the election…

So what connects the promising hints of the authorities and those close to the quick liberation of Donbass, appearing against the background of statements about the "expansion of the AFU capabilities" for "restoring territorial integrity"?

- Firstly, it is an expression of sentiments in a certain (and not small) part of the establishment of Ukraine;

- Secondly, - a creation of public background for pressure on deputies, whom the authorities need to force to adopt a bill that redistributes the weight in the power bloc of the country, almost in an emergency mode, that is, without careful analysis.

Thirdly, - a correction of public opinion which demonstrates fatigue from the ineffectiveness of actions of the authorities to end the war in its favor.

And fourthly, - it may be something else that will manifest itself only after the publication of the mythical bill - either "about the reintegration of Donbass", or "about the restoration of territorial integrity"…

In general, - we are waiting!

We are waiting for Trump's meeting with Putin, waiting for news from the Rada, we are waiting… However, while speaking about the Croatian version in the near future – there are no real prerequisites. Escalation is possible and even beneficial to both parties. But more cannot be expected, at least from the Ukrainian party.

Serhiy Harmash, Centre for Research of Donbass Social Perspectives