Monday, May 12, 2014

The Donbass referendum - yet another abject failure of US foreign policy

The exact results of the referendum in the Donbass are still unknown, but the following three facts are undeniable:

1) Participation was extremely high.
2) The yes vote won by a landslide.
3) The neo-Nazi junta tried hard, but failed to disrupt the vote.

We also know that the validity of this referendum will be rejected by a crushing majority of UN members.  Ditto for the regime in power who has already denounced it has a "farce".  As for the Ukie terror squads in the Donbass, they are unlikely to simply pack up and leave.  So this begs a simply question:

Is this referendum a non-event or does it matter?

I would argue that far from being a non-event, the outcome of this referendum is a huge development, a watershed really.  Why?  Because the importance of this referendum is not in its legal acceptance by any party, but in the fact that it now makes undeniable a fact which previously could not be established with certainty: the Donbass does not want to be part of Banderastan.

In a last ditch attempt to deny the undeniable the New York Times published an article on May 8th entitled "Ukrainians Favor Unity, Not Russia, Polls Find" claiming that most Ukrainians, including Russian-speakers, wanted to remain in unitary Ukraine.  Notice in the chart Pew goes as far as saying that 70% of the East Ukrainians including 58% Russian speakers want to remain in a United Ukraine.  This is a direct quote form Pew:
Among Ukrainians, 77% say Ukraine should remain united, compared with 14% who think regions should be permitted to secede if they so desire. In Ukraine’s west, which includes the central region around Kyiv (Kiev), as well as portions of the country that border Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, more than nine-in-ten (93%) think their nation should remain unified. A smaller majority (70%) in the country’s east – which includes areas along the Black Sea and the border with Russia – also prefer unity. Only in the breakaway territory of Crimea do more than half (54%) voice support for the right to secede.
Now, thanks to this referendum, this fairy tale is dead. Oh sure, the western corporate media will do the "patriotic" thing and claim that the referendum was badly organized, grossly undemocratic, that people had to vote under the threat of the barrel of a gun, etc.

Actually, that last point is true: the people of the Donbass did have to vote under the barrel of a gun except, of course, that that gun was held by the various various Ukrainian death squads.  One such unit called the "Dniper special battalion" played a particularly vicious and ugly role in the shooting of unarmed civilians both in Mariupol and in Slaviansk.  So yes, the people of the Donbass did vote in a de-facto war zone, "under the barrel of a gun", there was terror all around the polling stations, but it was Ukrainian terror.  In Slaviansk people literally voted at the sound of gunfire and even mortar fire. 

And the people of the Donbass were not deterred - they did vote and they voted in favor of sovereignty.

Elections, of course, can be faked.  But not when the participation is very hight and with figures in the 75%-100% range, not place where almost every person has a phone with a video of photo camera, not in an elections where people are more than happy to wait for hours in line to vote and not in an election were the ballot count is public and each ballot in counted three times.  The western corporate media can make all the claims it wants, but, just as with Crimea, this is a lost battle and the propaganda machine will have to throw in the towel pretty soon.  If they persist in explaining it all away with Russian agents, GRU Spetsnaz infiltrators or "terrorists" they will just further ridicule themselves.

Furthermore, this referendum puts the junta in Kiev in a terrible situation: not only did its repressive machine not succeed in taking a single city under control (not even surrounded Slaviansk!) but now everybody on the junta's side will have to admit to himself that this is a lost battle.  Even if the Ukie "special" (i.e., terror) forces were replaced by real combat units who could easily take many cities under control, this would not resolve the issue of what to do next.  Think about it:  so you finally "got", say, Slaviansk, you murdered part of the population and terrorized the other.  What now?  What do you do next?  Short of putting the equivalent of an SS battalion in each city of the Donbass there is no way of keeping everybody terrorized and accounted for.  The longer you stay the worse things will look for you.  So what is the point?

I honestly don't see a solution in the Donbass, not for the junta and not for the Empire.  The smartest thing they could do would be to cut their losses and retreat from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, but that would immediately create two more headaches: first, other regions, including Odessa, will almost certainly follow that example and, second, the Donbass is where the money is.  That is by far the richest, most developed, part of the Ukraine.  The loss of Crimea is bad enough, but losing the Donbass is even worse.  But how do you hold on such a huge region with forces which failed to even adequately terrorize a small city like Slaviansk?

At this point a lunatic like Oleg Liashko would probably suggest that heavy artillery and airstrikes should be used to simply flatten any rebellious city.  There are two problems with that:  a) that is hardly going to make the junta in Kiev more popular and b) that would guarantee a Russian air/missile strike on Ukie artillery positions and/or the imposition of a no-fly zone.  And if the local authorities officially appeal to Russia for protection there would be a very real risk for the Right Sector thugs and the "Dniper Special Battalion" to find themselves suddenly faced some very polite and absolutely ruthless "armed men in green".  Russia could also send in just a few specialized diversionary teams like the FSB's Vympel or the SVR's Zaslon which could eliminate the local field commanders of the junta in the Donbass while making it all look like accidents.

The bottom line is this: following the referendum, Kiev has no more viable options left.  In contrast, Moscow has plenty of options, all pretty good.

First, Moscow can decide to suspend the recognition of the results of the referendum just like it had refrained from recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia until 08.08.08.  The message would be simple: "be good or else we will do an 08.08.08 on you".

Moscow could also choose to deliberately exacerbate the situation and declare that this referendum did express the will of the people and that from now on Moscow will not back any solution which would not recognize the Donbass as a sovereign state.  In this case, the Kremlin could well decide to openly send in military equipment and advisers.

Either way, we know that Psaki will continue to deny the obvious, and that Hollande and Merkel will try get the EU to impose further sanctions but that is about all they could do and, frankly, Russia couldn't care less.

Logically, the center of gravity of the Ukrainian "creeping civil war" will move to the cities of Kherson, Dniepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Zaporozhie and especially Odessa - a much larger region that the one which just voted in the referendum. 

The only relatively good news for the junta is that the three regions which have in one way or another seceded so far are also the ones in which the absolute majority of the population spoke Russian.  They are shown in dark green in the language map.  This map, by the way, is an 'official' map which is highly misleading: in reality the number of regions which speak primarily Russian in much bigger and includes Odessa, Dniepropetrovsk and even Kiev, but that is besides the point.  The point of this map is to show that even "official Kiev" knew and "sort of admitted" that Lugansk, Donetsk and Crimea were even less "Ukrainian" than any other region.

I fully expect the junta to go ahead with the planned Presidential election (even though what powers this President remains unknown since nobody knows what the future Ukrainian Constitution will be like).  In fact, by removing such regions as Lugansk, Donetsk or Crimea this will strongly alter the overall balance of Ukrainian vs Russian speakers in the country. Remember that Yanukovich was always elected with pretty thin majorities?  Now it might well be that a majority of the people of what is left of the Ukraine would at least have Ukrainian as their main language.  Still, speaking Ukrainian does not necessarily make you a Galician, a neo-Nazi or a rabid russophobe and the more "pro-Russian" regions break away from Banderastan the more the national question will be gradually replaced by the economic one.

The question now is whether the junta will continue wasting its already mostly depleted resources on fighting an unwinnable war against the Donbass or whether they will concentrate their forces in regions where something might still be salvaged.  So far, the AngoZionist Empire and its puppet-junta have literally done everything wrong: they missed every single possibility to seek a negotiated solution, they have rejected numerous offers of dialog from Moscow, they have steadfastly refused to see the reality on the ground and at every step of the way they have made things worse for everybody, including themselves.  Will the outcome of this referendum in the Donbass be enough to force them all to open their eyes to reality?  I personally doubt it very much.  I can't think of a single person in government in the West which has shown even a modicum of pragmatism: Obama and Kerry are clearly completely out of touch with reality and nobody dares to disobey their crazy orders.

Will Banderastan have to shrink to the size of the Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk regions to open their eyes to the fact that more than anything else it is their own crazy self-defeating policies which are destroying the country which for 22 years used to be the Ukraine?

I honestly don't know.

The Saker