Russia and Ukraine: in addition to the danger of invasion, there is more

(To Andrea Cucco)

The Ukrainian crisis is increasing day by day and there are numerous theses of analysts and self-styled "experts". The stakes are considerable and we must not limit the perspective to a limited vision but increase its share, both physical and temporal.

A game of chess is being played. Those accustomed to the game of checkers should, at the very least, have the decency to lower their voices. Those who have no sources and / or have never been in a place, in such a delicate moment, should remain silent.

Online Defense, also internally, it is an arena of discussion but also of debate, sometimes heated.

I decided to carry out a short interview with two analysts from the geopolitical editorial staff of this newspaper: David Rossi and Andrea Gaspardo. Their different assessments are certainly personal but the result of two fundamental prerogatives: direct experience of the countries and contacts on site.

I hope you will appreciate, perhaps enriching the discussion (in the comments on Facebook) with your thoughts on the subject.

How should the crisis in Ukraine be interpreted?

(David Rossi) Do hundreds of red-flag planes flying over Taiwan make more noise or tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border? Amputated Communist China is more dangerous than a fragment of the Celestial Empire, Formosa1 precisely, or Russia deprived of Ukraine, a piece without which it cannot rebuild the Empire it once was? When in doubt, in Washington the two challenges are seen as converging, not parallel given that it is all too evident that Putin is raising the tension on this side of Eurasia to offer the American superpower the opportunity to dialogue to avoid having to commit on two fronts. , Europe and the Pacific.

In short, if you do not want to divert part of the effort to contain China in containing Russia as well, you should come to terms. The US lends itself to this game, because it allows, by increasing deterrence towards the Russian Federation, to keep Europe and, in particular, Germany, separate from the embrace with Putin & C. That the German industrial giant and the Russian military one they have long since started a family together is all too evident: under Schroder and Merkel there was a real German energy dependence on Putin's gas. In Washington and London, no one hides the irritation. Not surprisingly, during the talks with Putin, Biden did not stop repeating that the economic measures hostile to Russia would be undertaken by the United States together with its allies. Even those closest to the Kremlin.

The US cannot afford to deploy American troops in Ukraine, but neither can it give the Kremlin a free hand, even if this has the cost of becoming cross-eyed by dint of looking to both sides of Eurasia: if they abandon Kiev to their fate, to the advantage of the Russian Federation, all in all a regional power with global ambitions, what would they say to Taiwan? Not to mention Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel ...

(Andrea Gaspardo) Ukraine is the crisis of a country-system that from independence from the Soviet Union until now has never managed to stabilize itself and find its own path of autonomous and coherent economic and socio-political development. An external crisis was also grafted onto this internal crisis, caused by the attempt by the United States and its Western partners to transform Ukraine (just like Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan) into a destabilizing element to damage. of Russia.

On the Russian side, there is an absolute need to protect their national interests in what political scientists and geopolitical analysts call "Near Abroad". This area, which includes roughly all the territories of the ex-Soviet republics, with the exception of the three Baltic States, is called by the Russians "ближнее зарубежье" (blizhnee zarubezhe) and is of paramount importance to Russia's national security.

The Russians will never accept that an external force, of whatever nature, hostile to them, can permanently establish itself at the borders of the "Родина" (Rodina - the Motherland), just as in the past the Americans did not allow the Soviet Union to deploy its nuclear-warhead ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba. Ignoring or, worse, denying these facts means only getting hurt.

Will there be a war?

(David Rossi) Wars often occur due to calculation errors and / or an optimistic (and incorrect) assessment of the scenario and the consequences. Therefore, it cannot be excluded a priori that Russia will invade the territory of Ukraine, perhaps only the regions already occupied by its acolytes, imagining that Washington will be watching or that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians will line up for the "Slavic big brother- orthodox".

As far as we know, Putin has not yet decided and his entourage is divided on the issue, with a large part that would like to avoid using the military tool: in Moscow there is widespread consensus on the need to drag the US into a dialogue on the 'Ukraine, not in a war.

For now, however, the justification has not yet been shown2, for internal and international use, the premise of a military campaign: there is widespread consensus among NATO governments to avoid setting fire to the situation by deploying personnel in Ukraine who would not give advantages in the event of an open conflict; let alone, Russian propaganda has clung, like a dog to the bone, to alleged actions or laws of the Ukrainian authorities against the Russian language, culture or church in the country.

Nothing at all. The Eastern and Southern Slavs do not move troops if there is no "brother" to save. Not even the Soviet Union dared to move the Red Army without first making it clear that there were "comrades" in danger to be rescued. Putin cannot afford a war outside of "international legality" and without a strong cause that moves alongside him not only deep Russia and Siberia, which almost always follow him, but also the rich and intellectual metropolises of European Russia.

(Andrea Gaspardo) It is extremely difficult to say for sure whether or not a war will break out now. We recall that Russia has been conducting military maneuvers on a small and large scale (even much larger than what we are seeing now) on the borders with Ukraine for at least 7 years, that is, since the crisis began.

The Russians are masters in the art of "maskirovka" which is an organic part of their military traditions and doctrines at least since the Middle Ages and of which there are countless examples. The current maneuvers could indeed be the prelude to an invasion but could also be an attempt to put pressure on Ukraine and the West in general to reduce them to more mild advice.

In any case it is good to remember one thing; for years now Russia has been involved in two conflicts at the same time (Ukraine, since 2014, and Syria, since 2015), an enterprise that in the long run proved impossible for the United States of America to manage (remember all the "twin failures "Of Iraq and Afghanistan) which had and have at their disposal human, material and financial resources far superior to those of Russia. Although the two wars have undoubtedly brought great benefits to Russia in terms of global geopolitical levers, nevertheless they are also proving to be a burden that the Russian leadership will have to face decisively sooner or later, especially in view of 2024 when we know. if the Putin Era finally comes to its conclusion.

In any case, if Ukraine (like Georgia and Moldova) were really willing to join NATO, the Russian invasion would then be inevitable.

What would be the consequences in the event of an armed conflict?

(David Rossi) Of everything, even the third world war. Let's not hide behind a finger: Kiev is worth Taipei and those who claim the opposite would do well to devote themselves to football and not to geopolitics. Washington did not deploy forces in Ukraine not out of disinterest, but in order not to turn a deterrent into a casus belli.

In the scenario of a rapid invasion of Ukraine, up to the encirclement of Kiev, Odessa etc. Poland and Turkey, but also Saudi Arabia, would be so panicked that they would try to have their own nuclear umbrella.

Aside from this extreme scenario, neither Biden nor other NATO leaders will be able to ignore the official entry of a single Russian soldier into Ukraine. On the Russian side, the consequences would be the ruin of the state and the economy: the total blockade of Russian exports of hydrocarbons, the ban on the sale of food and consumer goods to Russia, the survival of China alone as an economic partner, the crisis with the huge Ukrainian community employed in the country3, the fibrillation of minorities, the breakdown of all alliances and good offices built in recent decades, the loss of all Russian investments abroad, the end of foreign investments in Russia, etc.

For Europe, the sudden disappearance of the Russian energy and economic partner would cause damage that we would only be able to repair in ten years, except for involvement in the war itself. In which case, it would happen as with the First World War: the level of freedom and development of trade of 1914 was only exceeded after 2000.

(Andrea Gaspardo) As the experiences of all the most important conventional wars that have occurred from 1991 to today have shown (Gulf War, NATO intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo War, 2003 Iraq War, 2006 Lebanon War, Second Nagorno War- Karabakh 2020) such conflicts cannot last more than 100 days. After that date, the risk that the fibrillations of the financial markets give rise to a systemic collapse becomes too great and the warring parties would then be subjected to multilateral diplomatic pressure such as to necessarily interrupt operations, otherwise serious damage to the world economic system. .

Russia certainly has the means and strength to overthrow Ukraine. Furthermore, given the irrelevance of Ukraine in the priority list of national interests of most NATO countries (including the United States!), There is a reasonable certainty that, in the event of a Russian invasion, no one (except perhaps a few rowdy Polish and Baltic) would really like to "die for Kiev", something that the Russians have done several times in the course of their history.

What kind of damage would Ukraine's socio-economic infrastructure suffer is beyond my computational capacity. On the other hand, I do not believe that the fear of new sanctions or the collapse of the Russian economic system could be a deterrent for Moscow in the far from remote case that the international position of Ukraine ultimately becomes a perpetual threat to Russian national security.

1 The ancient name of the island of Taiwan.

2 I don't mean a generic casus belli: a somewhat disrespectful telegram was enough for Bismarck to pull the France of the second empire to war ...

3 Between 3 and 4 percent of the Russian Federation's workforce

Photo: MoD Russian Federation / Online Defense