Three instruments of Kremlin against Ukraine

Originally published by , translated by UaPosition

In recent months, in connection with the relative calm in the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbas region, many Western observers have begun to classify this confrontation as another “frozen conflict” on the territory of the former Soviet Union.

But still, even if large-scale Russian military actions have stopped, this analogy is misleading. Not everyone in the West understands that the eastern neighbor of Ukraine actively uses three tools to continue the shaky condition of Ukraine.

First, Ukraine fell victim (even if informal) of a “traditional” military aggression of Russia, that has reduced, but still continues.
Secondly, it also suffers from the serious economic consequences of this classic war.

Finally, the Kremlin leads – as part of its “hybrid” war – at the same time also unarmed multi-vector attack against Ukraine, which is seen in the West only partly .

This carefully coordinated and partially hidden undermine of Ukrainian state is achieved by using of a wide range of different non-military methods: economic sanctions, operations of the security services, propaganda campaigns, targeted cyber attacks, diplomatic clashes, and political pressure – and has different kind of indirect consequences for Ukrainian society, state and economy. For example, Moscow has provided its puppet regimes in Donbas with one of Europe’s largest tank armies – far bigger than the tanks park of Ukraine or Germany.

Huge and rapid build-up of military strength of the so-called “people’s republics” is probably not only and not so much the preparation for a new military offensive. It is used primarily for projection of the Kremlin authorities in Eastern Ukraine and making a permanent threat for Kyiv, which in military sense is weaker than Moscow.

Russia’s arming of two pseudo-satellites in Donbas and significant deployment of Russian forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border don’t let Ukrainian society to focus on its internal problems. A dangerous situation in the East depletes physical, financial and human resources that are used to strengthen the defense capacity of Ukraine, and not for other immediate needs.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the “hybrid” war of the Kremlin is not its direct impact on Ukraine, but psycho-social, political, and economic calculations that lie at its core. Ukrainians should be exhausted by condition of uncertainty that continues over many years, being between calm periods and tensions, war and peace, instability and silence.

This should lead, in particular, to constant instability in those Russian speaking regions that are bordering with Russia, and along the Black and Azov Seas. Local entrepreneurs should be embarrassed, graduates – not sure in the future, civil society activists should be paralyzed, international partners should lose faith in further cooperation, and foreign investors should be scared.

This tactic, after all, has to devastate the territories of the so-called “Novorossiya”, the South-Eastern Ukraine, to such the extent that they will be drowned in isolation, depression, radicalization, and violence. By the logic of the Kremlin’s approach, this tired region should sooner or later turn itself towards Moscow.

“Hybrid” war of Moscow should also turn away Kyiv from the necessary reforms, in some sense making them meaningless.

Undoubtedly, serious internal factors such as the vitality of oligarchic corruption networks, crime among officials, and venality of many politicians, are primarily responsible for the failure of reforms in Ukraine. But the effects of multilevel Russian “hybrid” war against Ukrainian state, economy and civil society, largely explain the fact that reformative efforts of Ukrainians so far have not given results.

Development and implementation of reforms are constantly undermined by economic, political, psychological, military and diplomatic harassment from the Russian side.

After all, even fundamentally reformed Ukraine will remain a dysfunctional state in the conditions of continuing Russian threat, pressure and sabotage. Russia is too close, very powerful and ruthless and it has too long border with Ukraine so Kyiv can’t afford simply to cut itself from its neighbor.

The Kremlin can using its “hybrid” war kill three birds with one stone:

First, it prevents consolidation, recovery and Europeanization of Ukraine, but at the same time the appearance of East Slavic counter model as an alternative to Putin’s system.

Second, Moscow weakens European integration project because the EU will have to invest large sums in Ukraine for many years to keep intact the basic functions of the Ukrainian state.

Third, Kremlin forms the basis for a new territorial expansion, if its tactics of destabilizing and frustration in southeastern Ukraine is successful.

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Andreas Umland

German political scientist and historian. Study Russian and Ukrainian politics with a focus on the post-Soviet extreme right at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation (IEAC) at Kyiv, Ukraine, and Eichstaett Institute for Central and East European Studies (ZIMOS) in Upper Bavaria.
Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.
Andreas Umland on Linkedin

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