23 April 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
On Friday, Acting Commander of Central Military District Forces Rustam Minnekaev announced a new goal for the invasion of Ukraine: establishing total control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine and also securing a land bridge to Crimea.
Of course, General Minnekaev is far from any kind of big shot among generals, let alone politicians. But Minnekaev does seem to be saying what’s on Putin’s mind, and conversations about the need to punch a land bridge through to Crimea have been going on for a long time, at least since the peninsula’s annexation in 2014.
It’s worth pointing out that Vladimir Putin is quite consistent in carrying through on his plans. His general concept of a great Russia unambiguously assumes the country’s restoration within the boundaries of the Russian empire. He has made virtually no effort to conceal this in his pseudohistorical treatises devoted to what he considers the artificial statehood of the territories once joined to Russia. He has spoken directly about the Soviet Union’s breakup as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the twentieth century. The solution to these geopolitical plaints is obvious: take back the lost territories.
SEIZURE OF TERRITORIES
There is no need to go into the reasons for these ideas of the country’s greatness, which sound so strange for the twenty-first century, those reasons being not its modern technologies, high standard of living, successful science, good education, or decent healthcare but the amount of its territory and its intimidating military force. Now it’s too late to reflect on why someone living by the values of the last century came to head up an enormous country. We have that fact, and we must start from there.
In the near future this means that Russia’s armed forces are going to be used to annex territories that could become a beachhead for further military expansion. The seizure of southern Ukraine with access to the Transnistria fits neatly into the Kremlin’s plans for the Soviet Union’s geographical resurrection. There’s no need to make up anything here. It’s all been said long ago and confirmed by the military efforts of the past two decades in countries adjacent to Russia.
REPRESSION IN RESPONSE TO SANCTIONS
Western politicians and military strategists clutch their head in horror each time the Kremlin shamelessly encroaches on foreign territories. For them, it’s shattering news each time, and each time they try to reach an agreement with Putin to resolve the conflict, to find convincing arguments, to hint at undesirable consequences such as personal or economic sanctions. And each time it doesn’t work!
One might do well to ask why not. The answer is quite simple: for the Kremlin, the strategic goal outweighs any temporary tactical loss. That is why they take Western sanctions lightly, adding to them almost derisively with their own countersanctions against their own people. That is why they are not reckoning with the economic losses or losses in manpower during military confrontations. For them, all that is small change against the backdrop of their great plans, for which they will spill as much of other people’s blood as they like.
They’ve stumbled a little in the war against Ukraine. The sanctions’ scale is such that it could reflect on the army’s battlereadiness and, even worse, on the moods of their impoverished and deceived population. They will deal with the first problem by buying everything essential for their military machine from third-party countries at triple the price; with the second by expanding political repression against those dissatisfied with Kremlin policy. As we have observed in recent weeks.
The war against Ukraine is a military training exercise and combat reconnaissance, an intermediate goal on the path to Russia’s restoration inside Soviet borders. If Putin manages to deal with Ukraine, the next targets will be Belarus and Kazakhstan. Then will come the turn for countries that are NATO members. If he can’t deal with Ukraine, then more than likely Putin will not remain in power, and Russia will get yet another chance at a democratic future and the return of all seized territories.
Translated by Marian Schwartz