For a whole month now, leading Western and recently Ukrainian media have been writing that Russia is pulling troops to the Ukrainian border for full-scale aggression this winter. At first, the Ukrainian leadership was silent and even denied such a possibility.
However, at the end of last week, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Budanov, in an interview with the American edition of the Military Times, said that Ukrainian intelligence had reliable information about the full-scale invasion being prepared by the Kremlin at the end of January. With the use of aviation and all types of troops and weapons. And after that, the American news agency Bloomberg reported that a massive mobilization of reservists had been carried out in Russia in order to control the territories conquered after the offensive in Ukraine.
It would seem that with such a threat and data confirmed by its own intelligence, and even in such a short time, the leadership of Ukraine had to urgently convene a closed meeting of the National Security and Defense Council. But not for the introduction of additional sanctions against the citizens of Ukraine, but for the development of an action plan to repel the likely offensive of Russian troops.
In addition, the mobilization of reservists, the deployment of territorial defense should have already been announced, and the Verkhovna Rada was also supposed to convene for an extraordinary closed meeting and amend the budget, allocate additional funds for the purchase of fuel for tanks and other necessary things in this case. The President should have already sent a message to the nation and urged to prepare for defense and mobilization. But for some reason all this, as well as other necessary actions on the part of the authorities, does not happen.
In my opinion, precisely because Zelenskyy himself and his entourage do not really believe in such a possibility. By the way, some government officials openly declare this. In particular, NSDC Secretary Danilov and Defense Minister Reznikov.
According to Danilov, the maneuvers of Russian troops near our borders are necessary for Putin in order to raise the stakes in the negotiations, using the already familiar argument in negotiations with the West - "saber rattling" at our borders and the threat of a full-scale war in Europe.
An absolutely logical argument. If it has always worked, then why reinvent the wheel? After all, negotiations with the United States and the West in general, and in particular on Ukraine, have long been at an impasse. The deadline allotted by US President Joe Biden to implement the tacit accords with Putin in Geneva is also coming to an end. There are no results expected by the Kremlin. Putin's spokesman Peskov has already said that there is a need for a new meeting between Putin and Biden. And in order to achieve the desired results, it is worthwhile to brandish weapons. After all, this spring, such actions have already brought results.
I am also sure that this time will not come to a full-scale war, and all the maneuvers of the Russian troops will be limited to a maximum significant aggravation on the line of contact in the Donbas. And then, not even now, but in a few months. This tactic, by the way, is also not new. This happens every time negotiations come to a standstill. For the simple reason that a full-scale war is not beneficial to the Kremlin.
There are both economic and political reasons for this.
As for economic reasons, in the event of a full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, firstly, the West will immediately introduce much tougher economic sanctions. This was stated not only by Biden, but even by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is quite loyal to Putin. Which, by the way, has presidential elections next year and it is much more important for him to resolve the conflict in Donbas, even at the expense of Ukrainian national interests, and not vice versa. The status of a peacemaker may well help him in re-election, but the expansion of a local conflict into a full-scale war with a possible massive flow of migrants can lead to defeat.
The US Congress is also currently developing a bill on additional sanctions against the Russian Federation in the event of a full-scale aggression. Back in the spring, during the previous exacerbation, EU leaders warned Putin that in the event of an attack on Ukraine, an embargo would be imposed on Russian oil supplies. Sales of oil make almost half of the filling of the budget of the Russian Federation. This means the payment of salaries to civil servants and pensioners. That is, the legitimacy and support of Putin himself and his regime.
Secondly, the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has not been completed either, and therefore gas supplies to the EU bypassing Ukraine are impossible. Our gas transportation system is undoubtedly one of the main deterrents to the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation, and at the very beginning of the heating season, there is no point in risking disruption of gas supplies under contracts to the EU and receiving billions of dollars into the budget for the Kremlin.
After all, even whipping up rumors and publications in the Western media about a probable invasion of Ukraine is already yielding results. So, on Monday, November 22, the Russian stock market collapsed sharply. Investors massively sold off assets: the Mosco Exchange index closed with a 3.58% collapse and for the first time since August dropped below 3880 points. The dollar rate on the evening of November 22 went up sharply and reached 75 rubles. (+1.5 rubles).
Among the blue chips at the evening session, Yandex shares fell the most. By 20:20 (Moscow time) they had collapsed by 10%. The leaders of the fall by Monday evening were also shares of Sberbank (6%), Polyus (5.83%) and shares of Gazprom (5.28%), which I have already mentioned.
The quotes of the commodity market also fell. Oil has already fallen in price by 9% from the local maximum reached on October 26 ($ 86.4 per barrel). In addition, Joe Biden intends to start selling strategic reserves and calls on the leaders of the largest economies, including China, in order to reduce prices on the world market. So this fall in prices is probably not the last and is becoming a short-term trend.
The situation with RosNano credit receipts also adds negative factors and risks to the Russian securities market. On November 19, Moscow Exchange suspended trading in all nine bond issues of the state company, and soon it became known that it was looking for ways to restructure its debt.
Additional pressure on the ruble comes from sales on the federal loan bonds market and an increased volume of foreign currency purchases by the Ministry of Finance. Also, in November and December, the demand for foreign exchange for the purchase of imported goods for the New Year holidays increases. In general, as we can see, the West has already begun to give clear signals of how the Kremlin's gamble may end, and the market immediately reacted to this.
In addition, in the EU as a whole and Germany as the largest economy in the region, there is a peak in the incidence of coronavirus and the governments of some countries have already introduced new restrictions and announced lockdowns. In particular, Austria. In the Netherlands, there are massive protests against new restrictions with clashes with the police. If the situation continues to deteriorate, this will inevitably lead to a decrease in business activity and a slowdown in the pace of economic recovery after last year's decline. This means an additional drop in oil prices, as was the case last year.
As for the political factors that reduce the risks of full-scale aggression, they have remained unchanged for the last 7 years.
Quite recently, Putin said once again in an interview with the Russia-1 TV channel that the "European partners" are trying to reconsider the status of the Russian Federation in the settlement of the conflict in Donbas. That is, more and more often they openly call Russia not the guarantor of the settlement of the conflict in Donbas, but the aggressor country. To which Russia, according to Putin, will never agree.
And if suddenly the Kremlin dares to start a full-scale war, this will not only entail sanctions, but thereby it will demonstrate to that part of the population of Ukraine and Russia, which remains in the myth of "civil war" that all these years Putin lied to them. And this will certainly negatively affect the level of support in both countries, even among his most ardent supporters. A logical question arises: why take such risks?
Moreover, as pointed out by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov, the Ukrainian army today is much stronger than in 2014-15, and therefore the losses for the Russian army will also be much more significant. This means that the flow of coffins will grow significantly, which will also negatively affect the internal political situation in the Russian Federation and support for the Putin regime.
In addition, now the grouping of Russian troops near our borders is much lower than this spring, which also indicates that Russia is not ready to attack right now.
I have already repeated more than once that the Kremlin has long been betting on internal destabilization in Ukraine. And here, unfortunately, certain successes have been observed recently. This is especially true in the field of energy security. Winter is ahead and the Kremlin hopes that in the event of severe frosts and a shortage of gas and coal, the Ukrainian leadership will agree to all the demands recently voiced by Lavrov on the unconditional implementation of the Minsk agreements in exchange for a direct contract with Gazprom and the supply of energy.
It is for this that Ukraine has already been officially denied by the Kremlin in the supply of coal and electricity from the Russian Federation. But all the years of the conflict, we continued to buy coal directly from Russia. Including coal from the occupied territories, on which, after the start of the blockade of temporarily occupied territories, the Russian Federation also began to earn extra money. So the Kremlin will now wait, not force events. They have already learned this in the last 7 years.
If we talk about the Kremlin's motives to create regular tension on our borders and the threat of a full-scale war, Putin is thereby gradually teaching the Ukrainian leadership and society as a whole not to respond to this challenge. Thus, undermining confidence in their own intelligence services and authorities. Everything is like in that fairy tale in which the boy shouted “Wolves! Wolves! ”, and when they really attacked, no one believed it and did not come to the rescue.
Alas, the Ukrainian authorities, to please their momentary interests in order to divert public attention from their constant mistakes ("Wagnergate", the threat of disruption of the heating season, etc.), itself helps the Kremlin in this. Zelenskyy inherited this pernicious technology “don't rock the boat, or Putin will attack” from his predecessor, Poroshenko. How it ended for him in 2019, we all remember very well. But Zelenskyy seems to start forgetting.