• Is Russia Pursuing Its Own Ink Spot Strategy in Eastern Ukraine?

    Posted by: Eugene Rumer April 18, 2014

    Now largely forgotten, or relegated to the category of near-ancient history, the ink-spot strategy was all the rage at the time when the United States was fighting the counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Embraced by U.S. counterinsurgency gurus as the answer to the problem of controlling vast stretches of both countries riven by civil war or terrorist activity, the strategy calls for establishing a series of strongholds where normal day-to-day life and government activity are restored. These strongholds, secured by military and police personnel, establish security zones around them. Insurgents are gradually pushed out from these zones or eliminated, and like ink spots on paper, the safety zones spread and expand the security perimeter outward, until the blots merge into one large area.

    Is Russia pursuing a version of the ink spot strategy in reverse in Eastern Ukraine? Pro-Russian insurgents and ostensibly unidentified, but probably Russian and pro-Russian, military and security personnel have been seizing police stations and government buildings in cities in Eastern Ukraine—in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, Luhansk, etc.—spreading across the map like ink blots. They are long ways away from merging into a large area, but this strategy is proving quite effective at challenging the power and authority of the Kyiv government, undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and spreading the insurgency over a vast region that otherwise the Russian military would struggle to occupy and control. It is a strategy of denial, and it is achieving results that are the opposite of what the original ink spot strategy was intended to do—clearing out the insurgency and establishing control over a large area. A counter-insurgency strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan is proving effective as a tool of insurgency in Eastern Ukraine.

    How far will the insurgents—Russian or pro-Russian—take this strategy? It depends on the larger goals behind it, which remain a mystery. Will the insurgents and their presumed Russian masters be content to simply destabilize Eastern and Southern Ukraine and keep the region permanently unstable as a pressure point and a bargaining chip with the Kyiv government? The ink spot strategy appears well suited for this purpose. It also appears quite effective as an alternative to a full-fledged military invasion of Ukraine, which would run the risk of escalating into a protracted and costly military conflict, in which the insurgency vs. counterinsurgency roles would be reversed, and the Russian military would face the daunting task of stabilizing a vast area of Ukraine. Last, but not least, the spreading ink spots will disrupt the conduct of the May 25 election, thus making it possible for Russia to challenge the legitimacy of Ukraine’s future leadership.

    As useful as the ink spot strategy is at the current phase, it cannot be played out indefinitely. The more it spreads, the wider the area consumed by the insurgency, the greater the challenge for the insurgent force to establish its own government and build its credibility as the alternative to the old regime. That’s the point where the erstwhile insurgents will discover that a strategy of denial is a lot easier to implement than recover from it.

  • Will the Indian Ballot Solve the Country’s Economic Problems?

    Posted by: Petr Topychkanov Friday, April 18, 2014

    The Indian parliamentary election is in full swing. The name of the future prime minister and the party he will represent are not all that important. It is far more important to the voters that the new government be efficient and professional.

  • What Is in a Prime Minister Anyway?

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Thursday, April 17, 2014

    Kazakhstan’s new Prime Minister, Karim Massimov, is “the president’s most trusted man.” If his term lasts long enough, he may become a sort of political double for President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

  • East Ukraine: The Revenge of Yanukovych?

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1

    Kyiv’s anti-separatist operation could isolate and limit separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine, while the government attempts to deliver financial and economic assistance to the East, which is vital to Kyiv’s ability to reassert itself in the region.

  • The Russian State Power and the Ukrainian Human Factor

    Posted by: Maria Lipman Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Russia will likely succeed in holding sway over Ukraine and turning this country into its buffer zone, but it cannot secure itself from the people’s resentment and resistance.

  • The Mystery of Russian Strategy for Ukraine

    Posted by: Eugene Rumer Tuesday, April 15, 2014 3

    One could only guess what Russia’s real goal in Ukraine is. However, sooner or later Moscow will need to deal with someone in Kyiv, and will need a political strategy to end the crisis.

  • Ukraine: Weekend Rendez-Vous With History

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, April 14, 2014 2

    Sunday’s events put Ukraine on the brink of civil war. However, there is still a chance to prevent the worst, but it can only be used when those calling political shots inside and outside Ukraine rise to their responsibility.

  • Japan Looks at Ukraine and Fears Czechoslovakia, 1948

    Posted by: Akio Kawato Friday, April 11, 2014 1

    Japan makes judgment about Ukraine in the context of her balancing game among the United States, Russia, and China. However, if Moscow sends troops to Eastern Ukraine, the Japanese political class will unanimously support serious measures to stop Russia.

  • Kyrgyzstan: When Change Confirms Continuity

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Thursday, April 10, 2014

    It is likely that Kyrgyzstan will become a member of the Customs Union. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan’s integration process with Russia was not substantially affected by the developments in Ukraine.

  • Georgia in Ferment

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal Wednesday, April 09, 2014 3

    Despite the fact that political feuds continue, there is a clear political consensus in Georgia on a European path.



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