'CRUNCH' TIME FOR THE PRO-RUSSIAN REBELLION IN UKRAINE?
"The downing of Flight MH17 has focused attention on the sophistication and firepower of the Ukrainian rebels’ arsenal but it has obscured a broader fact: that the pro-Russia separatists are sliding toward a battlefield defeat. A month-long counter-offensive by the Ukrainian army has pushed rebel forces back into urban centres in the Donetsk and Lugansk Kiev’s fightback began in late June, when Ukrainian forces attacked rebel positions after a 10-day ceasefire deal broke down. Bolstered by intelligence and advice from western powers, the army pushed rebels out of the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk after brief but violent sieges, forcing separatists to abandon tanks and artillery in a hasty retreat south. While the first phase of the campaign recovered swaths of largely rural territory, it left the hardest work for later. The second phase is coming to a head as Ukrainian forces grapple with just how to oust what remains of the separatist fighters from entrenched bases in the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. “We are seeing the makings of a breakthrough,” says Anton Mikhnenko of the Kiev-based Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies – though he warns Russia’s actions may, as ever, tip the balance. Kiev has so far been unwilling to countenance a direct assault on either of the two cities, apparently wary that a high civilian death toll would cost it local support. But it has succeeded in weakening rebel positions by other means".Sam Jones and Guy Chazan, "Ukrainian separatists face crunch point after army offensive". The Financial Times. 28 July 2014 in www.ft.com.
"Ultimately, politicians who miscalculate and mismanage tend not to survive. Putin miscalculated in Ukraine, failing to anticipate the fall of an ally, failing to respond effectively and then stumbling badly in trying to recoup. His management of the economy has not been exemplary of late either, to say the least. He has colleagues who believe they could do a better job, and now there are important people in Europe who would be glad to see him go. He must reverse this tide rapidly, or he may be replaced. Putin is far from finished. But he has governed for 14 years counting the time Dmitri Medvedev was officially in charge, and that is a long time. He may well regain his footing, but as things stand at the moment, I would expect quiet thoughts to be stirring in his colleagues' minds. Putin himself must be re-examining his options daily. Retreating in the face of the West and accepting the status quo in Ukraine would be difficult, given that the Kosovo issue that helped propel him to power and given what he has said about Ukraine over the years. But the current situation cannot sustain itself. The wild card in this situation is that if Putin finds himself in serious political trouble, he might become more rather than less aggressive. Whether Putin is in real trouble is not something I can be certain of, but too many things have gone wrong for him lately for me not to consider the possibility. And as in any political crisis, more and more extreme options are contemplated if the situation deteriorates".George Friedman, "Geopolitical Weekly: Can Putin Survive?" Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 21 July 2014, in www.stratfor.com. The news coming out of Ukraine as per the suppression of the pro-Russian rebellion in Eastern Ukraine appears to be 'good'. With Ukrainian forces slowly and gradually but to a good degree effectively, surrounding the two main centers of the rebellion, Donetsk and Lugansk. It seems that left to themselves, the rebels will be unable to hold-out for long against Kyiv's armed forces. Unfortunately, the rebels are receiving backing, almost indeed 'full' backing of Russia. With as per the American Department of Defence, Russian Federation forces engaging in artillery barrages against Ukrainian forces 1. Such actions raises the issue of the extent that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is willing to allow his protégés to be defeated. According to some analysts, the extent that Putin has identified himself with the rebellion and its success or lack thereof, makes it the case that the whole prestige of the regime is at stake. Accordingly, that Putin will do everything short of overtly invading Ukraine with Russian Federation ground forces to prevent the complete collapse of the rebellion. If this is in fact true, then the likelihood that Kyiv will be able to defeat the rebellion militarily is severely limited if not in fact impossible. And sans earthshattering Western (European and American) economic sanctions on Russia, there does not appear to be any countervailing pressure or assistance to help Ukraine in its struggle against Moskva and its puppets. As an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute recently noted, for those people on the ground in Ukraine, the so far muted response by in particular the European Union to the events in Eastern Ukraine in the past six months, seems "at best incomprehensible, and at worst a betrayal" 2. 1. Stratfor, "Ukraine: Military Advances to Divide Rebel Strongholds". Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 28 July 2014, in www.stratfor.com. 2. Tom Keatinge, "Downing Flight MH17: Will the Europeans Get Tougher on Russia?" The Royal United Services Institute. 21 July 2014, in www.rusi.org.