Will Putin Go to Seize Kherson in September? Bigger Question: Why Not?

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Will Putin Go to Seize Kherson in September? Bigger Question: Why Not?

Russia is preparing a big military exercise near Ukraine’s borders this summer and early fall. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, the exercise will involve over 100,000 military personnel,  more than 3000 tanks and armored vehicles, over 500 airplanes and helicopters, and 50 ships, including submarines. It will feature active war game scenarios likely to be played in the Crimea, in the Don river area, and in the Northern Caucasus near Georgia.

In a comment for a Ukrainian TV channel, General Ben Hodges remarked (back translated from a Ukrainian transcript),  “I hope I am mistaken, but I’ve got a vision (and that is so typical of what Russia did in the past) that during that military exercise they will declare a humanitarian crisis in the Crimea because of water, and then will say they have no choice. They must seize the dam near Kherson in the north to let water come back to the Crimea.”

 

After Russia occupied the Crimea in 2014, it lost access to fresh water supply that had come via the canal linked to the Dnieper river near the city of Kherson. There is a gate system on a dam near Kherson that controls this water supply.

Deteriorated North Crimean canal

 

 

Without the water from the Dnieper, the North Crimean canal has deteriorated.

 

Ben Hodges stressed that the problem with water in the Crimea is the result of Russia’s aggression. He also noted that Russia relies on the Crimea as the support base for its military operations in Syria and Lybia.

The grim scenario outlined by Ben Hodges -- who had served as the commanding general of the United States Army in Europe and now holds the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis – is as easy to dismiss as other “unlikely” hypothetic events which, nevertheless,  one day came to be real, such as Russia’s invasion in  Georgia in 2008, the occupation of the Crimea and the invasion in the Donbas in 2014, and the aggression in Syria in 2015.

Over and over again, Putin has demonstrated how his “hybrid” strategy is played out:  a mix of information war, subversive acts, and – when he thinks that the right moment has come – a direct military strike.  So, the big question is not whether Russia may invade Ukraine to seize Kherson. The bigger question is, what will reliably stop Putin from launching that strike?

Putin is tightening up his grip on power in Russia by forcing out a nationwide vote to “legitimize” his continued presidency for another sixteen years. He will increasingly rely on brutal force to keep the country under his control. A dictator’s best tool for keeping his people in obedience is a war against an external enemy. Read Orwell, and recall the history of the 20th century.

On June 24th, Putin staged a military parade in Moscow, to mark the anniversary of Stalin’s victory parade of 1945.

 

It is easy to mock at this effort of projecting Russia’s military grandeur. But this parade is a statement of strength addressed not only to his own people, but to the rest of the world as well. It is worth noting that military units from China and India took part in Putin’s parade in Moscow.

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It is also worth noting that Russia invited 17 countries to send their military units to the exercise planned for this summer. Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that the military exercise will not be canceled or rescheduled on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Sources:
Представник Головного управління розвідки про російські навчання «Кавказ-2020»: Україна має бути готова до агресивних дій ворога -
https://www.mil.gov.ua/news/2020/06/26/predstavnik-golovnogo-upravlinnya-rozvidki-pro-rosijski-navchannya-kavkaz-2020-ukraina-mae-buti-gotova-do-agresivnih-dij-voroga/

Росія у вересні може вторгнутися у Херсонську область, – генерал США
https://uatv.ua/rosiya-u-veresni-mozhe-vtorgnutysya-u-hersonsku-oblast-general-ssha/