Now, when so much has been said in the first part and the chips are placed on the board, and not suspended in a sticky and sweet fog of self-deception, the main thing can be said.
About the hypothesis. Russian troops on the Ukrainian borders are not invading forces. Probably, they still have a completely different task - to make it impossible for Ukrainian troops to move deep into the country (or countries) of the aggressor (aggressors) in response to a strike on Ukraine. While the attack on Ukraine itself can be carried out using missiles and aircraft. I mentioned such a scenario in a June article. Now it can be considered as the most probable.
This version, unlike those often heard on the air, does not sag. For defense, not as many troops are needed as for an offensive, and, moreover, for the occupation of a large country. And, in conditions of complete air superiority, the existing troops are quite sufficient for this task. There are enough forces in the Russian direction right now. It remains only to close the Belarusian direction more reliably. Belarus has a small army, a long border, and you cannot transfer all your forces to the South.
In this regard, I will mention the broadcast with Ruslan Leviev... dated January 13 of this year. on the channel "Echo of Moscow".
The interview stated that a study of social networks (about 30 videos since the beginning of January), a comparison of this information with the data of the Russian Railways on cars, information from eyewitnesses from the field showed that the equipment of large military formations, including a tank brigade, is being transported from the Far East of Russia in the western direction. There are no official strategic exercises. And the troops are already far from their bases, have already left the territory of their own military district. Which, to put it mildly, is atypical.
Kazakhstan as a probable direction of transportation was rejected, because the decision to withdraw the CSTO contingent had already been announced. And the echelons continued to move west. Leviev made the assumption that it was about Belarus, where Russian-Belarusian exercises are scheduled for February. But in reality, Russian troops will begin to arrive even earlier.
Whether these assumptions are true or not, I can't say. But it sounds quite plausible.
It also became clear that Russia was not bogged down in Kazakhstan. At least for now. But probably in the future. Those, the most combat-ready troops will not go there. And the landing units, with the same zeal and at the same pace, can easily be transferred to the Ukrainian border.
Ukrainain Pravda quotes the American Forbes with reference to the words of US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vershinin. They say the Russian army will not have enough trucks to quickly transport equipment in the event of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. For example, "to replenish the installations for one salvo, you will have to take away half the capacity of one logistics brigade in the supply of ammunition." The nuance is that they are not going to quickly invade.
And, probably, they do not expect to use ground forces for a long time and super-intensively upon impact, unlike air. And air is much more mobile. In addition, any actions and preparations under this option are less visible to Ukraine (SC Secretary Danilov spoke of a “clear understanding” to a depth of 400 kilometers that is not critical for air).
There are more nuances here. But important. Compressing the space for making responsible decisions to hours. The destabilization, which, according to the allies, Russia is banking on, may begin as early as January 17, when Poroshenko returns to the country. The ex-president has already made a counter-accusation of treason against the incumbent President of Ukraine. And, judging by the tone, this accusation was sharpened primarily for war veterans and the army.
Even if there had not been a factor of powerful price growth due to problems (Ukrainian miscalculations with purchases, the conjuncture built by the "green" EU and dodgy Russia) with coal and gas, such a process itself could unbalance the situation in the country. But the price factor exists in a country that was previously impoverished, but now also bled white by the pandemic .
This is not enough for a Russian or hypothetical Russian-Belarusian invasion (there was already a statement about not standing aside from the conflict, I warned about this in June), because the Ukrainian forces will resist. And that means there will be losses. But there are ideal conditions for a full-scale "remote" strike on significant military-industrial facilities, arsenals, possibly on individual Ukrainian units, capable of significantly intensifying the chaos and crisis in the country. The strike under the pretext of any provoked serious clash on the line of contact with ORDLO or on the border.
We have to take into account that the Russian military-industrial complex is already far ahead of the Ukrainian one, which has stagnated for decades and is underfunded. And Russia is so little dependent on any Ukrainian supplies that it will not have a special need to save industrial facilities “for the future” (for the option of a subsequent hypothetical occupation).
Russia, in general, would be quite satisfied with the same status of Ukraine, which, in fact, was assigned to it by the Western countries - an agrarian appendage. Because when all professional lifts for talented people again lead to you, it strengthens the metropolis and weakens the periphery. This is exactly what happened during the Soviet Union.
So, after a “remote” strike, attempts by Ukrainian troops to return fire will most likely follow. And the firing forces and means, as well as headquarters and other objects, will become the next targets for strikes. For those who "attacked" the Russian military formations. Thus, Russia may try to achieve the almost complete destruction of the military-industrial potential of Ukraine and most, if not all, heavy weapons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Obviously, this scenario is bad for Ukraine. And, in many ways, too. To list everything is simply unrealistic. I will give a few points, rather as examples. Let's not be reckless.
1. In conditions of internal tension, it is difficult to predict what a very large number of armed people will do. Including what games or processes they can be drawn into by politicians from different sides, or even an elementary collapse of management, control, supply, etc. Yes, elementary hunger and cold.
2. This is a psychological shock for the population. Which can be exacerbated by the social in the event of attacks on infrastructure, allegedly to prevent the transfer of troops or the supply of military facilities with electricity, food, etc. You can always come up with an excuse in a war.
3. In a war, I repeat, anything can be attributed to “justified” strike targets. So, Russia will begin to determine which enterprises and which businesses to strike, and which ones not to. It is clear that large Ukrainian business is sensitive to the impact that can be made on it at any time. And this leverage is much tougher than admission or non-admission to the Russian market, etc.
4. For a randomized country left without a military-industrial complex (remember the story with an “impossible” cartridge factory or with protected arsenals that have never been built - Ukraine simply will never raise the restoration of a destroyed military-industrial complex) and heavy weapons, there will be a huge risk of invasion at any moment. And this invasion, with such a superiority in heavy weapons and in the air, there is little that can be effectively countered - as the experience of the Turkish offensive against the Kurdish regions mentioned in the June publication shows.
5. In such a situation, Russia can return the “legitimate” Yanukovych from political non-existence or invent some kind of government of national salvation. And then the ORDLO corps, replenished with "vacationers", with intensive air support (while formally, Russia "is not there" and "there is no invasion") and a complete preponderance in heavy weapons can solve tasks of a completely different scale. Punching a corridor to the Crimea, creating Novorossiya and even moving to large cities - not only Mariupol, but also Kharkov, Dnipro or Kyiv. Because they will no longer meet enough organized and large-scale resistance.
6. Even if this does not happen, a disarmed Ukraine will become even less interesting to Western partners . And its chances of joining NATO will drop to zero. And the chances of joining the European Union will drop to zero. Because the EU does not accept ruins, and not a single serious investor will enter risky Ukraine.
And this scenario of a forcibly “disarmed” Ukraine, alas, can suit many people outside its borders.
It is clear why it suits Russia. It gets the opportunity to play almost any game at almost any moment in a critically weakened and chaotic Ukraine. But most importantly, the West can impose sanctions for such a strike much less than for a full-scale land invasion with the inevitable large loss of life and gigantic flows of refugees .
The States get the opportunity to impose sanctions on Russia. But comfortable for them. The significance of NATO will rise, and transatlantic ties will once again become stronger. Europeans will calm down and become kinder. It will be possible not to explain to anyone in the world why the United States must be firmly present in Europe. There is no trouble with Ukraine's membership in NATO either. Plus, the growth of incomes of various raw sectors of the economy. Plus a reason to invest into the military-industrial complex. Maybe one day, together with the EU, to participate in some kind of restoration of the Ukrainian economy. Land and minerals as assets will remain. And it will cost practically nothing. So for one new almost nothing, Ukraine will pay off with everything.
The EU will get the same flexibility in imposing sanctions that are unpleasant to themselves, they will receive the promised strengthening of the US troop grouping in Europe. Russia will be slightly isolated in places that are especially convenient for Europe. The chances of the restoration of the USSR on the eastern border will become even more illusory. There will be further decarbonization of Ukraine, if the reader understands what I mean. There will not be a huge wave of refugees. But the river of filtered guest workers will definitely not dry up. In general, everything is quite decorous, quiet, tolerable.
Everyone will get a slightly larger share of the arms market. Because Ukraine will disappear from it completely and forever. Maybe they will get the opportunity to sell weapons to Ukraine itself a little bit - well, maybe there in exchange for the remaining wheat. The USSR bought it that way. Even at the cost of hunger. Etc.
So, to prevent it from happening.
1. Ukraine must constantly focus the attention of Western partners on the fact that not only the invasion of Ukraine is unacceptable. Any use of force against Ukraine should lead to the imposition of unambiguous, non-gradual, immediately tough sanctions. Although it is clear that the result does not depend on Ukraine.
2. It is necessary to realize the degree of non-illusion and danger of such a scenario. The scenario of turning Ukraine into a beggar, devoid of the slightest prospects and influence on its own destiny. In the territory of eternal chaos, poverty, nonsense and other suffering.
And therefore stop playing games and wars of thrones within the country, splitting the country. It depends on Ukraine, on Ukrainians. From politicians and citizens who will resist attempts to split and adventurous loosening of the situation. No, guys, if someone thinks they're going to stock up on popcorn and watch this show from the sidelines... It might not be popcorn.
3. The only proactive move I see so far. Dear reader may suggest others. Now any, but fast and proactive options are important. We need to realize that our statehood is a tool for protecting the interests of the Ukrainian nation, and not a toy. Protecting the lives, health and well-being of millions of people. Not abstract ideas, not slogans, not the interests of noisy politicians.
As one of the ways out of the situation (it partially coincides with the solution proposed by Alexander Chaly), it is necessary to consider the option when Ukraine gives guarantees not to join NATO for 10-15-20 years in exchange for solving another extremely dangerous problem - ORDLO in an acceptable option for Ukraine and the signing of a new, rigidly and legally binding document on guarantees of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. With the involvement of the USA, Russia, China, Germany, Great Britain, France. Possibly also Turkey.
In any future geopolitical scenario, the treaty should protect Ukraine. Really, unequivocally.
Yes, with the inclusion of the issue of Crimea for the future. Because now Ukraine will not be able to join NATO - there is someone there to block even the supply of not the most serious weapons to Ukraine, not like joining. And now Ukraine cannot return any Crimea. We cannot make Ukrainian statehood a hostage to an issue which can be solved only entirely depending on another player. This is ridiculous.