Putin is not a strategist, he is a tactician. This means he does not have a long term plan, said Mark Galeotti professor of global affairs at New York University. Putin wants a Ukraine that is willing to accept it is part of Russia’s sphere of influence and he went into the Donbas thinking it would be quick way of putting pressure on Kyiv — but it has not worked, said Galeotti.
According to Galeotti Putin does not have a plan to decisively capture the Donbas, instead he is setting up a series of potential opportunities. The troops are in place to attack from a number of directions as they choose and at present they are testing the waters. For instance, at the moment the separatist side is attacking the coke plant of Adiivka, this could either be to hurt the Ukrainian economy or a lead up to an offensive. Likewise we see the build-up of forces in Luhansk, notes Galeotti.
A key part of Russia’s strategy is realized by its Special Forces, according to Galeotti. Though they cannot be used to a fight a serious battle they can be used as the 'the tip of the spear' to allow the Russian forces to move in. They can also be used to cause mischief and may well be involved in the spate of mysterious bombings in Odesa and Kharkiv, said Galeotti.
One of Galeotti's main areas of research is the Russian Special Forces and organized crime. According to Galeotti, organized criminal groups from Russia and Ukraine are still working together and their main connection is through the GRU – Russian Military Intelligence – which is also in charge of the Russian Special Forces. Galeotti believes that what we see now in Ukraine is a new unique fusion of military capabilities, espionage capabilities and organized crime. This is very difficult for Ukraine to counter, Galeotti told Hromadske.
Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Mark Galeotti on May 24, 2015.