The Military Situation in Ukraine

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Here is an article by Jacques Baud, written two weeks ago, also published by the Centre


by Jaques Baud, corona-transition.org, original

Bonpourlatete.com – Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement. It will shock many. A former member of the Swiss intelligence services, a former collaborator of the UN in Africa and elsewhere, a former Swiss delegate to NATO in Brussels, now retired, Baud writes numerous books and articles. In them, he denounces the faults of the West, past, and present, in relation to Russia and other regions of the world. As Edgar Morin said in a tweet: “It is an extremely widespread intellectual weakness to consider that the explanation is a justification”. Still, the explanation must be convincing.

On the road to war

For years, I fought for peace, whether it was through war in Mali or Afghanistan. I risked my life for it. The focus here is not to justify war, but to understand why it broke out. I keep noticing that the “experts” who come in and out of television studios analyze the situation on the basis of dubious information. In most cases, they elevate hypotheses to facts. This makes it impossible to understand what is really going on. This is how panic is created.

Let’s try to examine the roots of the conflict. For that, we need to look at those who have been telling us about “separatists” or “independents” in Donbass for the last eight years. They have told untruths. The referenda held by the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in May 2014 were not aimed at “independence” (независимость), as some unscrupulous journalists claimed, but at “self-determination” or “autonomy” (самостоятельность). The term “pro-Russian” suggests that Russia was a party to the conflict, which was not the case, and the term “Russian-speaking” would have been more honest. Incidentally, these referendums were held against the will of Vladimir Putin.

In fact, these republics did not seek secession from Ukraine, but the autonomous status that would have guaranteed them the use of Russian as an official language. The first legislative measure of the new government that emerged from the overthrow of President Yanukovych was the abolition, on February 23, 2014, of the 2012 Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law, which had established Russia as an official language. This was much as if coup plotters had decided that French and Italian would henceforth no longer be official languages of Switzerland.

This decision caused a storm of indignation among the Russian-speaking population.

As a result, a crackdown was launched against the Russian-speaking regions (Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk). Repression began in February 2014 and led to the militarization of the situation and several massacres (in Odessa and Mariupol, to name the largest). By late summer 2014, only the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk remained.

At that point, the Ukrainian general staffs were too rigid and too fixated on a doctrinaire approach to warfare, so they endured the enemy without being able to prevail. Examination of the course of the 2014-2016 fighting in the Donbass shows that the Ukrainian general staff systematically and mechanically applied the same operational schemes. However, the war waged by the autonomists resembles what can be observed in the Sahel: highly mobile operations realized with simple means. With a more flexible and less doctrinaire approach, the rebels were able to exploit the inertia of the Ukrainian armed forces and repeatedly “set traps” for them.

In 2014, I was responsible for countering the proliferation of small arms at NATO. We were trying to uncover Russian arms supplies to the rebels and see if Russia was involved. The information we then received came almost exclusively from Polish intelligence and did not “match” the OSCE’s information: despite rather crude insinuations, there were no Russian arms and military supplies. The supplies come from Russian-speaking Ukrainian units defecting to the rebels.

In the wake of Ukrainian defeats, entire battalions of tanks, artillery, or anti-aircraft units gradually defected to the side of the autonomists with weapons and baggage. This prompted the Ukrainians to join the Minsk agreements. However, immediately after the signing of the Minsk-I agreement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko launched a large-scale anti-terrorist operation (ATO) (Антитерористична операція) against the Donbass. Ill-advised by NATO officers, the Ukrainians suffered a heavy defeat at Debaltsevo, which forced them to abide by the Minsk II agreement …

At this point, it is essential to remember that the Minsk-I (September 2014) and MinskII (February 2015) agreements did not provide for the separation or independence of the republics, but for their autonomy within the framework of Ukraine. Those who have read the agreements (and very, very, very few do) will note that they explicitly state that the status of the republics should be negotiated between Kyiv and the representatives of the republics in order to find an intra-Ukrainian solution.

For this reason, Russia has systematically demanded their implementation since 2014 but refused to be a party to the negotiations, as it was an internal matter of Ukraine. On the other hand, the West – led by France – has systematically tried to replace the Minsk Agreement with the “Normandy format,” which pits Russians against Ukrainians. It should be recalled that Russian troops were never stationed in the Donbass before February 23-24, 2022. Moreover, OSCE observers never observed even the slightest trace of Russian units operating in the Donbass. For example, the U.S. intelligence map published by the Washington Post on December 3, 2021, shows no Russian troops in the Donbass.

In October 2015, Vasyl Hrytsak, director of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), admitted that only 56 Russian fighters had been spotted in the Donbass. It was the same phenomenon as the Swiss who fought in Bosnia in the 1990s and are now fighting in Ukraine.

At this point, the Ukrainian army is in a desolate state. In October 2018, after four years of war, Ukraine’s top military prosecutor Anatoly Matios declared that Ukraine had lost 2700 men outside of combat in the Donbass: 891 cases of illness, 318 traffic accidents, 177 other accidents, 175 poisonings (alcohol, drugs), 172 from careless handling of weapons, 101 from violations of safety regulations, 228 murders and 615 suicides.

In fact, the army is undermined due to its corrupt leaders and no longer enjoys the support of the population. According to a report by the British Home Office, when reservists were called up in March/April 2014, 70% did not show up for the first callup, 80% did not show up for the second call-up, 90% did not show up for the third call-up, and 95% did not show up for the fourth call-up.

In October/November 2017, 70% of those who called up ignored the “Fall 2017” call-up campaign. This does not even take into account suicides and desertions (often in favor of the autonomists), which in the NATO area reach up to 30% of the team strength. Young Ukrainians refuse to fight in the Donbass, preferring to emigrate, which also explains, at least in part, the country’s demographic deficit.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense then turned to NATO to help it make its armed forces more “attractive.” Since I had already worked on similar projects within the United Nations, I was asked by NATO to participate in a program to restore the image of the Ukrainian armed forces. However, this is a lengthy process and Ukrainians want to move quickly.

To compensate for the emigration of young people to Europe, the Ukrainian government is resorting to paramilitary militias. These consist mainly of foreign mercenaries, many of whom are far-right activists. In 2020, they made up about 40% of Ukraine’s armed forces and were 102,000 strong. They are armed, financed, and trained by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. There are over 19 nationalities represented – including Swiss.

So clearly Western countries have created and supported Ukrainian radical right-wing militias. In October 2021, the Jerusalem Post sounded the alarm and criticized Project Centuria. These militias have been operating with Western support in the Donbass since 2014. One can argue about the term “Nazi,” but the fact is that these militias are violent, spread vile ideology, and are virulently anti-Semitic. Their anti-Semitism is cultural rather than political, which is why I don’t like the term “Nazi” very much.

Their hatred of Jews stems from the great famines in Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s after Stalin confiscated crops to increase exports to finance the modernization of the Red Army. However, this genocide – known in Ukraine as the Holodomor – was perpetrated by the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), whose leadership levels were mainly staffed by Jews. For this reason, Ukrainian extremists are demanding an apology from Israel for the crimes of communism, as the Jerusalem Post notes.

The Ukrainian militias have emerged from the far-right groups. They led the revolution on the Euromaidan in 2014 and consisted of fanatical and brutal types. The most famous militia is the Azov Regiment, whose emblem is reminiscent of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich,” which is downright revered in Ukraine for liberating Kharkov from the Soviets in 1943.

Among the famous figures of the Azov regiment was opposition politician Roman Protasevich, who was arrested by Belarusian authorities in 2021 in the wake of the RyanAir flight FR4978 affair. On May 23, 2021, the deliberate hijacking of a passenger plane with a MiG-29 (with Putin’s consent, of course) was mentioned in order to arrest Protasevich, although the information available at that time absolutely did not point to this scenario.

Efforts were made to emphasize that President Lukashenko was a scoundrel and Protashevich was a “democracy-loving journalist.” Yet an American NGO had conducted a rather revealing investigation of Protashevich in 2020, which uncovered his militant activities as a right-wing extremist. As a result, the Western conspiracy theory set in, and unscrupulous media “tweaked” his biography.

In January 2022, the ICAO report was published. It showed that Belarus had acted according to regulations, despite some procedural errors, and that the MiG-29 took off fifteen minutes after the RyanAir pilot had decided to land in Minsk. So no conspiracy with Belarus and certainly not with Putin. Ah, one more detail: Protasevich, who was cruelly tortured by Belarusian police, is free. Those who wish to correspond with him can do so via his Twitter account.

Calling Ukrainian paramilitaries “Nazis” or “neo-Nazis” is considered Russian propaganda. That may be, but it is not the opinion of the Times of Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, or the West Point Academy’s Center for Counterterrorism. This point remains controversial, as in 2014 Newsweek magazine seemed to associate it more with the Islamic State … The choice is yours!

So the West is supporting and arming militias that have committed numerous crimes against civilians since 2014: Rape, torture, and massacres. The Swiss government was very quick to impose sanctions on Russia, but not on Ukraine.

In the Ukrainian military system, paramilitary forces are part of the armed forces, but not part of the Ukrainian army: they do not maneuver units but are perfectly suited for urban combat and control of the Russian-speaking population in large cities. For this reason, they are deployed in Russian-speaking cities. Over the years, they have been responsible for numerous atrocities; journalist Anne-Laure Bonnel reported on some of them. To these troops are added CIA mercenaries, composed of Ukrainian and European fighters, to carry out acts of sabotage.

The war

In plain English, Joe Biden knows that the Ukrainians are starting to shell the civilian population in the Donbass. This presents Russia with a difficult choice: help the Donbass militarily, creating an international problem, or stand idly by while the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass is trampled.

Vladimir Putin does not have many options: He knows he must intervene, if only because of the international obligation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). He also knows that his intervention will trigger a flood of sanctions. Whether he limits himself to the Donbass or goes further to put pressure on the West over Ukraine’s status, the price will be the same. Therefore, on February 21, he decided to grant the Duma’s request and recognize the independence of the two Donbass republics.

Subsequently, he signed treaties of friendship and assistance with them. On February 23, the two republics, pressured by Ukrainian artillery, asked Russia for help. On February 24, Russia invoked Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for mutual military assistance within the framework of a defense alliance.

In his Feb. 24 address, Vladimir Putin listed the two goals of his operation as “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine. Thus, the aim is not to invade Ukraine, and probably not to occupy or destroy it.

In fact, the objectives of the operation are clear from the outset: a) encircle the Ukrainian army massed on the Donbass border by attacking from the east via Kharkov and attacking from the south from Crimea; b) destroy the paramilitary militias that control the cities of Odessa, Kharkov, and Mariupol in particular.

The Russian offensive is following a very “classic pattern.” Similar to what the Israelis had done in 1967, the initial objective is to destroy the Ukrainian air force on the ground and neutralize its command and intelligence (C3I) structures. This will be achieved within a few hours. Subsequently, according to the principle of “running water”, it should be advanced on several axes at the same time: everywhere where the resistance is weak, it should be advanced, leaving the cities (which swallow a lot of troops) for a later date. In the north, the Chernobyl power plant was immediately occupied to prevent acts of sabotage. Pictures of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers guarding the power plant together are not shown, of course …

Conclusions

Whether the term “genocide” applies to the abuses against the population in the Donbass is an open question. Usually, the term is used for cases of larger scale (Holocaust, etc.), but its definition in the Genocide Convention is probably broad enough to apply here as well. Legal scholars will appreciate this.

Clearly, this conflict has driven us into hysteria. Sanctions seem to have become the preferred instrument of our foreign policy. Had we adhered to the Minsk Agreement, which we negotiated and supported with Ukraine, none of this would have happened. In condemning Vladimir Putin, we are also condemning ourselves: There is no point in whining after the fact that we should have acted beforehand, and neither Emmanuel Macron (as guarantor and member of the UN Security Council), nor Olaf Scholz, nor Volodymyr Selenskyj kept their commitments.

Ultimately, Vladimir Putin will likely achieve his goals with Ukraine. His ties with China have strengthened. China is acting as a mediator in the conflict, while Switzerland is now on Russia’s list of enemies. The Americans must ask Venezuela and Iran for oil to escape the energy impasse they have brought themselves to: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is finally leaving the stage, and the U.S. is woefully forced to roll back sanctions against its enemies.

Meanwhile, our rulers are trying to collapse the Russian economy and are making the Russian people suffer. Some are even calling for Putin to be assassinated. Even though they have retracted their statements – in part – this shows that we have no more values than those we hate.

The lesson we need to learn from this conflict is to look more closely at the volatility of our sense of humanity: What makes the conflict in Ukraine more reprehensible than the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya? What sanctions have we imposed on those who have deliberately lied to the international community? Have we imposed even a single sanction on those who supply arms to Yemen – with its 377,000 war victims? Read the full article (in French, with a paywall)


About Author: Jacques Baud was a colonel in the Swiss Army and worked for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service and was a NATO delegate in Brussels. Baud has worked for the UNHCR in Africa, among other places, and is the founder of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (CIGHD). He is the author of numerous books and articles on intelligence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism, and disinformation.

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