Staunton, October 12 – Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia’s most widely respected independent defense and security analysts, says that as a result of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, a new Cold War has begun and Russia, all of Moscow’s bombast notwithstanding, has “already lost it.”
In remarks to a meeting of the School of Civic Leaders in Barnaul this past weekend, the Novaya Gazeta commentator said that Russia today “is possibly in the most serious military conflict it has been in since 1945” and that the result of that conflict does not appear to be a successful one for Moscow.
“On the one hand,” he said, this war has undermined relations with the West in general and the United States in particular. And “on the other, the conflict has allowed for an assessment of the results of modernization which has taken place in the country in recent years.” That assessment must inevitably be a negative one.
One need not issue challenges to the US, he said. The Americans “love challenges and respond to them.” Russia can’t afford to pay the price that involves. Sanctions are already in place and they will be difficult to end anytime soon. No one understands Russia in the West or understands the logic of Putin’s actions.”
Felgengauer said that he does not see “a way out of this crisis with [only] minimal losses” because ”the Russian leadership has lost the trust of the West,” and Russia’s lag behind the West “will thus only increase.”
The analyst devoted most of his remarks to what he said were the four stages of Russia’s “campaign in Ukraine in 2014. The first involved the annexation of Crimea. Moscow had planned for “a Hong Kong variant” in which “Crimea would be de facto Russian but de jure Ukrainian,” something many in Europe would have “swallowed” without difficulty.
There wouldn’t have been any sanctions, “but then Putin unexpectedly said that we will take Crimea completely.” Because Moscow had strengthened its own military position there and because it had thoroughly penetrated and compromised the Ukrainian command, “everything went off successfully.”
The second “Novorossiya” stage was “unsuccessful from a military point of view,” Felgengauer said. It presupposed the use of special groups of forces to destabilize the situation in what the West now calls “hybrid war.” Moscow assumed that the Ukrainian army would collapse, but “it turned out that [Ukrainian forces] were a little better prepared.
The third phase involved “active military actions,” the analyst said. “At the end of August, the Russian counter-attack began. Russian regular forces entered the territory of Ukraine, something that for Ukraine was unexpected.” This phase was also successful because of the reorganization of Russia’s military and Moscow’s purchase of Israeli drones.
The fourth state, the one in which the two sides now are in, Felgengauer said, is “the stabilization of the situation.” Russian forces have left, an inevitable move given the approach of winter and the impossibility of fighting more this year. But the bad news for Moscow is that Ukraine will use this to modernize its forces. After a time, it too will have drones as well as “much which doesn’t exist in Russia and which perhaps won’t” ever.
“What then will Russia do?” Felgengauer asked rhetorically. “Organized modernization has not been carried through to the end, there isn’t enough money for technical re-armament,” and consequently, some in Moscow are talking about the one thing it does have that Ukraine will not: nuclear weapons.
Moreover, he concluded, “without the technical assistance and help of the West,” something Russia isn’t going to get anytime soon but Ukraine will, “it will be impossible to have any modernization of the Russian armed forces.”