The Importance of Ukraine
The Importance of Ukraine
Russia cannot occupy Ukraine for long, nor would it want to. Occupation takes time, eventual destabilizes itself and is a drain on the economy from both increased attrition and the baseline cost of the occupation effort. Other negative effects from overt occupation are poor optics and a bargaining item for other nations to use should Russia need to ‘go to the table’ for some reason. Explicit occupation in the long term has too many disadvantages.
Occupation by influence through asymmetric methods has more to offer as a control instrument than explicit occupation and employs a self-sustaining model to maintain the influence and control over the long term.
The Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) will remain under more positive Russian control because they are pro-Russian areas and will not require explicit occupation to maintain control. They are autonomous, self-sufficient, pro-Russian areas requiring little external support.
The areas outside these autonomous republics will be controlled by denying positive control by Ukraine/NATO through promotion and maintenance of Low Intensity Conflict, of which, part of this will be constant skirmishes between foreign fighters. This is an example of hybrid warfare/greyzone conflict being employed to control an area over outright occupation. In this case, control of this area through asymmetric means denies NATO occupation and provides freedom of maneuver for Russian economic maneuver and access to economic coastal and inter-modal infrastructure for Russia. Since the greyzone is short of conventional war, infrastructure will be on some spectrum of operational, maintaining the area under asymmetric control useful in the future.
From the perspective of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), the infrastructures found within the DPR/LPR offer closeness to BRI (Kazakhstan) and those market areas surrounding the Black Sea. This area is an important component to the BRI and one that NATO, the US and EU would like to maintain, hence, a desire to develop a relationship with Ukraine while excluding Russia as a means of isolating them as a chief competitor and also controlling China geopolitical expansion. While the USA is not part of the BRI, influence and control of this area provides USA access to the Initiative, therefore, USA interest in Ukraine. Fingers in pies.
DPR/LPR are vital to Russian strategic interests in that area and abroad since control of these areas affords security of the ports and inter-modal infrastructure around the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. Otherwise, Russia is left with St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad is bordered by two NATO countries with a sea area that can rapidly come under NATO control. Russia does not control the inter-modal infrastructure servicing this port. St. Petersburg is Russia’s most important port but also, a single point of vulnerability that can be blockaded by NATO. St. Petersburg is distant to the Black Sea area does not provide infrastructure for the Black Sea economic area. Not every port has necessary capability to move shipping containers.
(Below, Odessa container ship port)
Having only St. Petersburg as a port puts Russia in a sack and denies it influence in the Black Sea. Rostov, another important Russian port, is in the easily controllable Sea of Azov cul-de-sac.
Russian influence in this area would be amplified by successful occupation of Ukraine since now Russia can control/influence the Black Sea markets and provide services to countries historically belligerent to the USA and the West in addition to providing economic infrastructures not controlled by the USA or the west.
The attempts to instigate a coup or revolution in Kazakhstan may be seen though this lens. Kazakhstan plays an integral role in the BRI because of it’s adjacency to both China and Russia as a distribution mid-point and destabilization of this area would harm BRI progress and counter-China’s objectives and contain Russia. Neither China nor Russia benefit from a coup in Kazakhstan. The western democracies do benefit from instability in this area.
The national security implications for the USA are simply that such an initiative would further shape the world into a multi-polar organization, replacing the present USA dominated global organization. The USA would lose influence and control into those countries historically belligerent to the USA: Iran, Syria, etc. Russia would also gain influence to EU countries of eastern Europe, thereby challenging EU. Russia would become a larger player in deliver goods and services to Africa as well. None of this bodes well for the USA.
Some specific implications are: degrade/deny USA economic control, i.e., sanctions, and the revenue from this undertaking, de-dollarfication and the combined nuclear military capability of Russia and China that provide security to this initiative. This initiative is something USA cannot afford to have happen since it will dislodge USA from it’s current status and the USA has insufficient resources to counter the combined military and economic power of Russia and China. The USA wants a USA-centric mostly unipolar world, not a multipolar world where it has to share.
So, when viewing the ‘news,’ we should be aware there are higher, geopolitical dynamics in operation to effect a large economic infrastructure that will transform the geopolitical organization.