Russia is about to launch an offensive in Southern Ukraine, Robert Lancing Institute for Global Threats and Democracies Studies reports (RLI). The strike is quite possible to be delivered from the annexed Crimea’s side and the breakaway territories of Donbas, in an effort to join them with Crimea, to get access to fresh water to meet the peninsula’s needs, and to have an overland link from Russia to Crimea along the northern coast of the Black Sea.
RLI says the offensive is likely to be launched during the Easter celebrations by the Orthodox Church.
The Kremlin is now about to shape a pretext for an invasion. Russia is likely to use the scenario tried out in Georgia in 2008: a false flag attack that would offer a prelude for a total Russian invasion for a limited time, with aircraft and precision-guided weapon. RLI suggests several scenarios likely to trigger stepping-up and head-on military clash (the most probable to start with):
– Religious strives stirred up by Russia’s SOF sabotage groups (to murder a representative of the Russian church in Ukraine, to commit terrorist attack at a religious facility).
– Violence against a representative of the Russian-associated community or organization in Southern Ukraine.
– Shelling simulation from Ukraine’s side targeting infrastructure facilities in Crimea.
These scenarios aim to put the blame for the outbreak of war upon Ukraine, to shift the focus from the invasion itself to a debate on the grounds and the legal basis for it.
Russia has built up military forces along Ukraine’s border together with a stream of disinformation by the Kremlin. Meanwhile, information and psy ops GRU experts who had taken part in war efforts in Donbas, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Donbas. As RLI reports, it means the war is quite possible to start.
The military build-up is hardly to intensify war efforts in Donbas. The Kremlin uses this area to keep on roiling and to slow down Ukraine’s integration into the West, to keep the area in shambles.
Over the strategic and long term, the Kremlin advocates total control to be set up over the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, including Mariupol, Odesa and Berdyansk. But now, Moscow’s task is to strike and seize the water canal that connects the Dnieper River and Crimean peninsula. That will give Russia a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, through the occupied areas of Donbas.
Likely onset of hostilities takes a toll on the United States and Europe. The Russian invasion will trigger a massive influx of refugees heading for Europe. Amid unfavorable epidemiological situation in Ukraine and low vaccination rates, Europe is facing more risks, as such scenario threatens the EU and requires steps to de-escalate and screw Russia into giving up the invasion.
For the United States, that could be about to damage the image of the one who guarantees security in the world. Following statements of support to Ukraine by President Biden and the State Department, possible Russian invasion could be a threatening message that a declared U.S. support for an ally does not secure from the invasion. This message would be most significantly dangerous for Japan and Israel in their standoff with Iran and North Korea.
The major challenge for the chemistry between the West and Russia today is a response to the Kremlin’s actions, so that the Kremlin is able yet to commit new aggression with impunity.
While efforts looking for ways to punish Russia and restore the status quo are being made, Moscow is making new aggressive and subversive steps.
An offensive stance on Russia, in economy, diplomatic activity, humanitarian issues, science and education, is the only way to steal the initiative and prevent a new war in Europe, likely to reshape the borders, destroy the EU economy and bring the Warsaw-like Pact back to Europe, RLI says. Moscow should lose the initiative and make efforts to reduce external pressure from within.
Lots of people affiliated with Russia’s leaders, people who finance the missions to infringe sanctions, to hide Russian policymakers’ money, have got assets in Europe and the United States. People in Russia who carry a torch against the United States and allies, have got realty in Europe (e.g., Vladimir Soloviev and Dmitry Kiselev). To shut out those assets, including a ban to enter the country where the assets are located, could be an effective mechanism to stop their subversion.
RLI concludes that it is conceivable that on April 21, in a message to the Federal Assembly, President Putin will announce that the breakaway territories of Donbas are annexed to Russia, in a similar way it was in Crimea. That will be facilitated by the referendum, held by Russia in 2014, that is not recognized by Ukraine, citing it was illegal, nontransparent and held under pressure by Russian-minded militants, mercenaries and Russia’s SOF active units. In the past 5 years, Russia has issued nearly 600,000 passports for the people who live in the areas under occupation, so that it has the grounds to declare that it protects its citizens and to explain why it has annexed the breakaway territories. In this case, the military group will invade the DPR-LPR as Russian peacekeepers, without a UN mandate. De facto, that will legalize Russia’s footprint in Donbas.