The borders of Novorossiya
UPDATE 29 SEPTEMBER 2022
Following referenda held over several days earlier this week, the Russian Federation is about to declare that it has four new oblasts:
Kherson and Luhansk will amount to sunstantially the entirety of the Ukrainian oblasts of the same name; Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts will amount to some 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the Ukrainian oblasts of the same name respectively.
Here is an article showing the approximate final maps:
Note the following:
Following the Crimea model of annexation, we imagine that Russian visas will thereafter be required for travel to these four new Russian oblasts; we will update this page as and when we have information about this.
The current front lines will become borders of the Russian Federation, in particular Nikolaev / Kherson and Zaporizhzhia south but also Donetsk west and Luhansk's borders with Kharkiv. (Russia's Luhansk oblast may take in a small slither of what is currently Russian controlled Ukrainian Kharkiv oblast; see map in above article.)
The decree of the Russian President annexing these fourt oblasts appears due to be declared tomorrow 30 September 2022.
The referenda leading to these annexations appear to have been beneath international standards in significant ways, e.g. soldiers going door to door; taking residents at gunpoint to the polling booths; asking the voters orally (at gunpoint) how they vote; and then marking the ballot papers for them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given these unorthodox methods, the referenda to join Russia passed by amounts between 88 per cent and 93 per cent (although the exact figures are curiously unclear). Given the methods by which people were encouraged to vote, if anything we are surprised that the figures were this low.
Obviously this reminds us of voting procedures under Lenin. It's all very unsatisfactory.
As we have already discussed, these areas have already adopted the Russian Ruble as their currency. Whether they change time zones too, as did Crimea upon annexation, remains to be seen.
We will endeavour to travel to Novorossiya as soon as the Russian authorities permit us to do so.
This seems to end Russia's war of aggression begun in February 2022. We doubt the Ukrainians will make any headway against Russian frontline positions, now actually international borders (at least according to the Russian point of view), and we doubt the Russians will attempt to proceed further. Hence the war appears to be all over bar the shouting.
As predicted, Russia abandoned her acquisitions in the greater part of Ukrainian Kharkiv oblast.
UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2022
A Russian-medisted ceasefire is in place between Baku and Yerevan over the Nagorno-Kharabak region.
A new burst of fighting has broken out between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan over the disputed Bakten province and Vorukh enclave. It is apparent that the conflict in Ukraine is catalysing the reignition of latent territorial disputes across the former Soviet Union.
UPDATE 14 SEPTEMBER 2022
Georgia is also sensing weakness amongst the Russian Armed Forces, threatening to call a referendum to 'declare war on Russia' (i.e. to invade and recapture the pro-Russian secessionist statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under Russian control since 1992 and re-absorb them into Georgian territory).
The problem with this is that it is inherently risky; Russian Krasnopol artillery systems can reach the capital Tbilisi from their positions in South Ossetia. Hence if Georgia got it wrong, her capital Tbilisi would be shelled flat.
Nevertheless things appear to be crumbling amongst the Russian Armed Forces.
UPDATE 13 SEPTEMBER 2022
We believe that Russia has abandoned her territorial conquests in Kharkiv oblast in exchange for a delicate and unreliable agreement with Ukraine to leave Russian control of Kherson oblast and Russia's current holdings in Zaporizhzhia oblast in place.
However the deal seems to be unwinding more or less as quickly as it was created, as Kyiv is now reporting that Russian armed forces in Crimea are preparing to abandon posts (an assertion inconsistent with the precarious 'deal' as we understand it).
Kherson we are informed remains quiet although updates on that subject will not hereafter be published here but instead in this article.
Baku clearly senses Russian weakness at this stage, as Azerbaijan has rebegun the shelling of Stepanakert, the capital of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, whose peace and neutrality is supposed to be guaranteed by Russian peacekeepers.
The situation seems extremely fluid and we can expect a Russian response of some kind shortly although it is not clear what that will be.
The first step towards ending a civil conflict is the stabilisation of borders and front lines. We seem to be going in the opposite direction; borders and front lines are becoming destabilised. This is depressing.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE STARTS HERE
The outcome of wars is not generally settled by the respective merits of the parties engaged in conflict. If they were, then counties would not go to war at all to settle their disputes but to courts, knowing that the outcome would be the same with a lot less expenditure of blood and treasure.
Hence in the war in Ukraine, we need to stop focusing as much as we do upon Russia's reckless disregard of her obligations in international law, international law being something we know from long experience that Russia has scant interest in. Rather her foreign and military policies are, and always have been, dictated by perceptions of the movement of her borders: the further west the better, as in her historical experiences invaders invariably come from the west. So she pushed west to seize Ukrainian territory as she saw political changes in Kyiv threaten her level of political and economic influence over Ukraine. That is typical Russian logic in waging a war, and that is undoubtedly what drove her. We may not like it, but we have no right to be surprised: Russia's foreign policy was always like this.
Six months have now elapsed since the start of the war, and specialists in civil conflict know that this is an important milestone. The front line rarely moves much after the first six months. The advancing army has stretched it's supply lines to the limit, and the retreating army has learned how to fight back. International interest in the conflict starts to fade. Hence the levels of international proxy support for one or both of the warring parties, such as USilitary and financial support for Ukraine (the largest proxy support in this war), start to level out at constants above which they will not later rise because competing demands for limited resources end up in equilibrium with proxy war requirements. Likewise, internal production and mobilisation facilities for troops and armour in a major arms manufacturer like Russia start to level out. This equilibrium creates a front thereafter tends not to move much.
At the time of writing at the end of August 2022, Ukraine is trying to keep the news alive amidst her western donors by rolling out press releases about her imagined territorial assaults upon the Russian occupied regions of Kherson and Crimea. Looking closely at the details one realises that these are nothing of the kind. Ukraine is merely report attacks upon Russian ammunition dumps, an ordinary incident of war that does not indicate an imminent territorial push. Ukraine does not have the frontline soldiers or armour for such a push; she lost them, indeed wasted them, defending the indefensible in western Luhansk oblast. Russia had put so many troops and armour into that region that Ukraine could never hope to hold it. Now she is far too short to take Kherson, which was occupied early and is now heavily armed by the Russians. Kherson oblast is the key to maintaining the land bridge between Crimea and Donbas, and the Russians will invoke their full armed might to defend it. Kherson is impossible to take and the Ukrainians are wasting resources purporting to try to do so.
Kherson will not be a matter of street fighting. The Russians are not defending native territory every corner of which they know by hand. They are defending occupied territory, and they have created a front line at the northern edge of the oblast so they are defending a line of fields and villages. This is in part a battle of logistics, as each side tries to paralyse the opponent's logistics network with a view to walking past the other side's armour that has run out of bullets, so to speak. As General Omar Bradley, United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II, famously said, 'amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.' If the Ukrainians are to make progress in Kherson, it will be desperately slow as the Russian machine will continuously update her logistics using her well-resourced Crimea route as the Ukrainians are continued to be supplied from the north with NATO-supplied armour and munitions. Neither side has a natural advantage here and an ongoing violent stalemate is likely.
Because the Russians have dug themselves in in preparation, the war north of Kherson is trench warfare, and no trench war has ever really been won. Front lines just move backwards and forwards over a few kilometres during the years, as huge numbers of people die. That is what happened in World War I, it is what happened in the Iran-Iraq War, it is what happened in the Bosnian war (the principal trench wars of the twentieth century) and it is what will happen here.
Image: the Russian frontline in Kherson, late August 2022
In the meantime Russia will forcibly russify the occupied areas of Ukraine, to the extent that this has not already happened, imposing the Ruble, Russian time zones, Russian education curricula and Russian Orthodoxy. Totalitarian methods will be employed to remove all trace of Ukrainian government systems or culture, including the use of the Ukrainian language (which few of the remaining people in the occupied areas speak anyway). Hence a complete circle of territory around the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea to the west of Crimea wille fortified, while free Ukraine will maintain the city of Odessa as her Black Sea port. And then the war will just continue with neither side making substantial advances.
Welcome to Novorossiya, also known as Russian-occupied Ukraine. Its continued existence as a de facto political territory will continue to fuel the Second Cold War and will keep it well-funded indefinitely on both sides. War profiteers take note.
Nevertheless something may happen elsewhere on the military map of Ukraine in due course - this is unlikely in Kherson, but eminently possible elsewhere where there are no trenches. Trenches are what stop land wars in their tracks; they exist in Donbas, south of Zaporizhzhia, and north and west of Kherson. In some other corner of Ukraine, another flare of warfare may erupt. As Elizabeth I lamented, 'I do not like war. It is unpredictable.' She was right.
Here is an article in a similar vein to ours:
For virtually the diametrically opposed view, expressed by a number of senior people, see here:
The principal reason we disagree with the views expressed in that article is that we do not see evidence of a degradation in Russian military capacity. Russian military capacity, although poor (it was always so throughout history), is persistent to the point of being indefinite. It is not clear to us that Russia's vast production capacity and capability to recruit (admittedly often using compulsion) is inferior to a NATO-backed Ukraine's capacity to destroy it. Nazi Germany never reached that tipping point; we don't see why NATO-armed Ukraine should be any different.
We respectfully suggest that those with the opposing view to ours are guilty of the same historical over-optimism in their capacity gradually to grind down the Russian machine as have been others in the past. The point is encapsulated in the following quote by one of Britain's most famous and highly-regarded Generals, in an observation these days almost entirely forgotten:
Rule 1, on page 1 of the book on war, is: do not march on Moscow. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good.
-- Bernard Law Montgomery
For this is what the West is trying to do, often by its own admission. If the West won this war, it would topple Moscow. Therefore everything is to play for.