Alexander Mercouris and Alex Cristophorou shared their opinions regarding the latest raid of Ukrainian combatants into Belgorod region.
They believe the point of the raid was mainly to create a distraction from the Bakhmut/Artemovsk capture. They also expressed their view that this will solidify even more the popular support of Putin in Russia. While I tend to agree that this is used to divert the Western and Ukrainian public attention from the fall of Artemovsk and the false-start of the spring offensive, there may be other objectives as well. I also believe this would be damaging to Putin and the Russian MoD.
Regarding possible goals of this attack, Igor Strelkov has suggested it may be one of the distractions, intended to force Russian military to pull forces away from the main direction of spring offensive attack. Militarily it makes sense. If the panic and dismay is strong enough, Putin and Shoigu will have a strong stimulus to secure the Belgorod region, which has now suffered multiple incursions and daily artillery, rocket and drone strikes. As it is easy to imagine, anyone living in those areas will be extremely frustrated with their government and military unable to protect them time and time again. This isn’t any more a question of understanding the rational for the SMO and the danger of Western controlled regime in Kiev, but about the ability of the government to protect Russian citizens. Clearly, Putin and Shoigu don’t have the needed competency or the will to do so.
Another possible reason for the attack, is directly connected to those public sentiments. This incursion is another piece of ammunition to be used against the current government by the emerging patriotic opposition.
In a discussion on another channel (I believe it was the “Crypto Rich”), one of the guests (Alex Krainer [edit: name corrected], if I’m not mistaken) mentioned that the Western “players” have now changed their objective. The regime change is no longer expected to come from the Russian “liberals” (e.g. Navalniy), but from the Russian extra-systemic “nationalists” (I would call them the patriotic forces, since that is how they mainly describe themselves).
The point is that the West considers any regime change in Russia to be favorable to the West. Naturally, they hope for the chaos, maybe similar to the one that followed the Russian Socialistic Revolution, with a long and bloody civil war and rapid loss of territories (Finland, Poland, potentially a part of Turkey etc.). Or at least something similar to Yeltsin’s coup and the dark times that followed. While this is indeed a possibility, it is also possible that regime change will happen more organically. There are no Russian patriots driven by ideology on Putin’s side. People know very well the level of corruption in their government, and the level of incompetency in their Ministry of Defense.
I will now try to imagine an alternative, sci-fi scenario to the regime change in Russia.
As every new event like the raid on Belgorod Oblast’ will signal a need for change of the leadership, officials and officers will start to look for alternative. At some point, right people will start to connect and make plans. At another point, they will start to talk to their subordinates. There are some public protests against the government, and police is undecisive. Russian Guard is put on the streets of major cities. Army units start to switch loyalty and some military units move into Moscow and regional centers. Russian Guard is disarmed and disbanded, the Kremlin is taken with little resistance. Putin and top government officials put under arrest at location outside of Moscow. The new government is appointed. West calls this a military coup detat, tries to push Russia from the Security Council and threatens with the use of nuclear weapons. World markets are going crazy. After some time a new Russian government announces it will serve as an interim government. The elections are pushed to later date.
What can we expect from a new, national-oriented Russian government?
- Formal declaration of war on UA and cut of diplomatic ties with the West.
- Mobilization (and probably partial nationalization) of industry
- Cutting trade to the Western countries and countries that supply UA with weapons.
- Switch away from the reserve currency and other financial assets of Western or otherwise unfriendly nations that are still used by Russian government institutes.
- Additional waves of mobilization (realistically limited by the amount of weapons and equipment available).
- Much more decisive strikes on UA, including central government, administration facilities, communication hubs, power generating plants, etc.
- Reform of various non-MoD units like private military companies, guards etc.
- Generally more hardline approach to diplomacy, including the “allies” like the CIS, Belarus, China and India. “Friendly” countries like Turkey are treated like unfriendly states.
- Russian forces are pulled from abroad: Africa, at least to some extent from Syria. No more military aid for the foreseeable future; Weapon export contracts cancelled or frozen.
This is a much worse scenario for the West. At this point it doesn’t have any influence on Russia, except for purely military options. Unlike Putin, who is waiting for his Minsk-3 (or rather Ankara-1) agreement and G-20 meetings.
From that point, the war is practically over — Ukraine has lost and the West has entered the state of escalating internal conflict, following its “zero sum game” principle.
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