Would Putin repeat Syrian scenario in Ukraine?

Author : Iryna Shtohrin

Respondent : Yuriy Kostyuchenko

Security expert Kostyuchenko on global war, militarization of chaos, and military forecasts for 2017
17:37, 28 December 2016

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What key security trends have formed for Ukraine and the world in 2016 year? Is global war possible in 2017? What are the real threats and what is fake, which aims to intimidate and discord? These and other questions has answered Yuriy Kostyuchenko, an expert on security and risks, Executive Secretary of the Committee on the system analysis of the Presidium of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Let us speak about Ukraine first. Do the threats tend to transform, and how Russian military react on it?

Ukraine has experienced a local peak of the war danger and learned to adequately respond to the current challenges. Thus, Ukraine has learned to build institutionally grounded answers, not just to increase military-technical potential and operate it according to changing circumstances.

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This could be called a qualitative change, indicating on the transformation of our security space, at least in the military sphere. But this is only the beginning of the path. We began to realize that military security is a derivative of social security, which in turn is based on the socio-economic and socio-cultural basis.

We began to realize that strategic management of local conflicts is the management of local resources, which influence the social dynamics more than military operations do.

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Even since the second half of 2015, the main challenges to the security of Ukraine were in mid field. Not only the distribution but also the structure of the dangers associated with changing global context have changed (strengthening the role of Ukraine as a subject of international politics, strengthening the Western coalition and curative policies), as well as Ukraine’s institutional mechanisms have changed (reforms, including security and management).

What are the indicators of internal threats? What are the key trends and risks?

Today we can watch a lot of both traditional and relatively new indicators of threats in the inner space of the country. These are particularly critical reduction in the discussion of important social and political problems, demagogy, populism, and rejection of critical thinking.

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Offensive vocabulary in the everyday life of the general public indicates atomization, cynicism, legal nihilism, prevailing of primitive forces in relationships.

We can witness substitution of the state discourse with Kremlin’s theses, professional and social incompetence of journalists, distortion of the information, separation of political and intellectual elites, spreading panic, disbelief, and social apathy.

The only strong trend is radicalization of the society.

The discussion is replaced with demagoguery mutual trust is lost, people declare contempt for liberal values and democratic institutions, they publicly call for unification, and thus increases the vulnerability of society.

On the one hand, this is a natural reaction to the war and the related stress, but on the other - a consequence of the lack of consolidation of intellectual and political elites, incompetence of the information space agents, anti-patriotic position of public opinion leaders.

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Alarming trend is the growth of poverty in low efficiency of social programs (especially regarding medium-income segments of the population, which are the main driving force of the economy and social change) and a significant backlog of important reforms (health reform in particular).

All this leads to political instability risks related to unsatisfactory pace of institutional changes in management.

Thus, the key threats are political and financial issues, and social instability provoked by them. The risks associated with these threats are the most dangerous.

What are the main trends of external threats to Ukraine?

External military threat remains relevant. We can say that it will remain relevant for us for a long time. Planning of the security policy measures should be correlated with the presence of aggressive, well-armed enemy that will use every opportunity to destroy our statehood. In 2016, trend of direct military support of the illegal structures in the occupied Donbas territories has slightly weakened, but the tendency to build their illegal armed formations and mobilization work under the direct control of Russian troops became stronger.

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However, the accumulated capabilities and expanded infrastructure at our borders do not disappear. Moreover, military infrastructure is being completed, a system of command and control is developing as well. That is, we can talk about creating and maintaining alert groups sufficient to inflict unacceptable losses to us in case of direct attack.

Some military resources and personnel are temporarily pulled to the conflict in Syria, which slightly reduces stress on our "theater." But the Russian military personnel in Syria is on the training, which is an additional factor of future risk for us.

Is bombing Ukrainian cities possible?

When we look today at Aleppo, we ask ourselves: is Syrian scenario possible in Ukraine? Thus, the probability really exists. Thus, the possibility of a full-scale invasion of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and complete conflict with the use of all available tools is real. Although the likelihood of this scenario today is not that high.

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Its implementation requires the destruction of state institutions in Ukraine and chaotization of public space. You need to destroy the international political, military-political and military-technical support to Ukraine.

If we, confused and uneven, remain alone with the armed and mobilized enemy, the enemy will attack us.

Situation in Aleppo looks like a sign that the humanity is slipping into global war. What trends do you see?

General trends that shape the present and future are globalization and decentralization, as well as complication of the communication space due to the failure of political elites to make decisions against the background of the role of self-organization and self-regulation.

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In today's world, conspiracy and agreement between geopolitical players concerning the section of "spheres of influence" just do not work: those who consider themselves the elite, can divide the world, but people who live in this world would not agree to admit it. However, dictators’ attempts to impose an agreement on the distribution of "spheres of influence" and our lack of understanding of the nature of these "agreements" are a threat to security.

The essential problem and challenge is that national and international political elites replaced real politics with political technologies. That is why "false news culture" has formed, creating an alternate reality, information attacks, and mudslinging. This is a threat to our security.

Moreover, the level of fear is growing because the feed is filled with reports of acts of terrorism and local conflicts, and mankind is watching online what is happening in Aleppo. It can be defined as chaotization of violence and militarization of chaos.

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The tragedy of Aleppo as Syrian war in general, is a boundary, a landmark for human social and cultural phenomenon. Humanity has seen and responded to "online genocide."

What people perceive as "the collapse of the global security system" is actually a crisis of communication. Objectively, violence has not become more severe, people began to talk about it more and more.

Why international institutions and the UN were so powerless, especially in the situation with Syria?

In my opinion, geopolitical interests and regional interests of global players were dominated by the interests of the Syrian people. This eventually led to a situation when the international community had not more legal instruments to solve Syrian crisis and stop the massacre.

It should be understood that the positions and views must be accurate, the decisions must be taken in time, the aggressor has no right to veto decisions that affect the fate of the victims and the basic rights.

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In other words, International Security model of the UN and the OSCE needs improvement. While the existing mechanisms do not allow to do so. At the same time, we cannot refuse from the UN.

So what are the main security dangers of 2017? Are we going to die from the "global apocalypse"?

Danger of local conflicts is mounting. The likelihood of their occurrence is high; the availability of both traditional and new weapons is increasing. This leads to increased risk, snowballing the danger of local conflicts from escalating into regional and global increase in voltage due to local conflicts.

It is clear that the dictatorship is another danger factor. Modern authoritarian regimes tend to turn into archaic barbaric regimes. Without modernization projects, with no desire to progress, it has intentions to destruct and abuse.

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This transformation of dictatorships in modern barbarism is an interesting phenomenon, and a certain factors of danger too. However, the danger of global conflict is not significant, although it is growing in recent years. In fact, nuclear potentials of the Russian Federation does not allow their use for mass causing unacceptable damage to the enemy. However, the uncertain state of the nuclear potential of Russia is the main threat today.

Risks associated with the use, inappropriate technical status and placing nuclear technologies to the terrorists are now quite real. This is the main threat to the world. More than the threat of global nuclear conflict.

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The possibility of Russia’s military expansion to the Baltic States probably should not be treated seriously. We have seen the statement of "capture of Europe" for "two weeks", "three days", "48 hours", "10 minutes" and the "destruction of NATO by one phone call." It is the traditional Russian "show-off".

"The hybrid scenario" of the Russian expansion requires certain socio-political conditions, and secondly, is to use of 500 -1,500 troops. The second stage uses more powerful force - to 3-5 thousand people.

Currently, NATO forces that are deployed on the western borders of the Russian Federation are able to quickly and efficiently repel the attacks of such power.

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The Russians can effectively fight only with much weaker and vulnerable priori rivals.

Powerful alliances are invincible for them. The question "Are you ready to die for Narva" should be addressed to Putin, not to the European politicians. The answer is obvious: he is not ready. He was ready to kill for Debaltseve, until the price was too high. Now he is ready to kill for Aleppo. But the price for this might occur too high…

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