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Ukraine, a Moscow attack? Not a new Crimea but an extension of the Donbass

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No surprise or annexation. A possible attack by Russia on Ukraine now would not replicate the modalities of the 2014 intervention in the Crimea. With 100,000 soldiers amassed at the border, and an extensive territory such as Ukraine, an occupation of the country is also unthinkable (Just to carry out peacekeeping operations after the 1995 Dayton agreements, NATO sent 60,000 units to Bosnia). A new Moscow intervention would be more realistically articulated – according to one of the scenarios hypothesized with Adnkronos by Western military analysts – in two different phases. The first, of ‘breakthrough’, a massive conventional offensive lasting a few months, would be followed by a second “proxy” maintenance phase: “As in the Donbass, but in a much larger portion of territory”. In short, Moscow’s planners would aim to extend the portion of Ukraine beyond Kiev’s control, the gray and unstable area of ​​the country that is affecting its economy, morale and development prospects. The disorder by proxy would not arrive in Lviv. Nor in Kiev. The reference cities for a new operation would be Kharkiv (just 30 kilometers from the Russian border) and Odessa. Ukraine is no longer the country it was in 2014. It has since reorganized its defense. This does not mean that it is no longer vulnerable, but that it is certainly less vulnerable, it is specified. In the event of an attack, the command and control system would not collapse, like that of Georgia in 2008. Kiev has strengthened its defense apparatus in all sectors, with the exception of a few shortcomings, first of all in air defense and ammunition (due to Moscow’s operations against warehouses abroad). Ukraine can count on the second largest tank fleet in Europe after Russia, which it continues to modernize and on which constant maintenance is carried out. “They are in better condition than the Russian ones.” The military complex produces a lot of anti-tank missiles. For every American Javelin that is imported, ten locally produced Javelins are produced, infinitely cheaper and longer-range. Over the past three years, hundreds of launchers and thousands of missiles have been produced. They also have drones, which constitute a force system against the ‘proxies’ that Moscow would deploy on the territory. And then, in addition to the regular forces, there are volunteer forces in Ukraine, in addition to 50 thousand reservists a year. Among the scenarios hypothesized in the West, we therefore indicate a possible beginning with sabotage actions (infrastructures, from electricity networks to telecommunications networks), aerial bombings, and therefore from an intervention from the ground. The Ukrainians would be forced to gradually withdraw their defense to concentrate it in the inhabited centers, built with reinforced concrete that resists artillery very well. It is at this point, after an intervention that could be compared to the first Gulf War, when in a few weeks the soldiers of the US-led coalition vanquished Saddam’s Republican Guard, that the second phase would begin. “Even by adding all the irregulars they can actually count on, the Russians may well have the upper hand, but not maintain this position of superiority for long. They would be able to weaken the country but not conquer it”, analysts underline. In cities, they would succumb to snipers. But also to the flow of weapons that would surely arrive from the western borders, hundreds of kilometers behind NATO countries that they would not be able to seal. Moscow’s target could therefore be the model tested over the years in Transnistria, Abkhazia and also in the Donbass. Regions in fact controlled by ‘proxies’ which the West forgets over time. When could this surgery begin? It is true that the thaw makes the marshy ground much more difficult for tanks. But this is an important element, but not considered a decisive one. There may still be time for diplomacy.

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