Interesting news two days in a row. First, the Russian MoD did conclude that the explosions at the Russian airfield in Crimea where the result of a diversionary operation (I use the term "diversionary" in the Russian sense of "diversiia" meaning sabotage/wrecking). And today, the Russians have announced that they have arrested two employees of the Zaporozhiie nuclear plant (one guard and one engineer!) who were providing the Ukrainians with targeting coordinates and strike correction. Now Russia is warning that a major strike on this nuclear plant would have catastrophic consequences.
My purpose today is not to discuss the situation around the ZNP, but to treat this as a tip of a much bigger iceberg.
So far, only my friend Andrei Martyanov has mentioned the very real risks of sabotage and/or terrorist attacks by Ukrainian diversionary groups, including the possible sabotage of the Moskva cruiser and the attack on the airfield in Crimea. As usual, Andrei Martyanov is spot on. What I want to do next is to expand a little on this topic in my favorite bullet-style format.
- First, it is simply undeniable that the Ukronazi SBU/GUR have proven that they can, and have, conducted very effective diversionary attacks, including the murder of plenty of LDNR leaders. Sometimes the Ukronazis used special SBU/GUR units, other times they have successfully recruited locals (be it in the LDNR or Crimea) to conduct acts of sabotage and terrorism.
- Second, it is important to understand that while the SMO is not a real civil war, it has definite civil war ASPECTS, beginning with the undeniable reality that there are pro-Russian segments of the population in the Nazi occupied Ukraine but also that there are pro-Urkonazi segments of the LDNR/Russian population. Thus both sides have people capable and willing to help the other side, including anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian elements in LDNR/Russian controlled areas (including Crimea)
- Third, besides ideological motives and simple corruption, you have to understand that both the SBU/GUR and the Russian SVR/G(R)U have access to databases which allows them to blackmail a person on the other side into collaboration. They can use compromising information of any activity (past or present) which can, if made public, get a person in a lot of trouble, but they also can pressure family members, they can even directly threaten and cajole someone into collaboration. Finally, there are a lot of poor and destitute people on both sides, and they need money badly, maybe not to purchase a multi-million dollar yacht but to, for example, get medical treatment for a family member. Western special services are very good at spotting and using such people.
- Fourth, as with any other conflict, when a war occurs, there is going to be some people who will benefit from it, but there is always going to be those who will lose a lot and who might be really unhappy about that. Resentful people make for great recruits for special services (most Soviet defectors betrayed their country not for money, though some did, but because they fell unfairly treated by their superiors or the Soviet state).
- Five, special services are very skilled at 1) spotting vulnerabilities and 2) making use of them. Since, by definition, humans being humans, there will be such vulnerable people on both sides of the conflict.
- So far, the Ukrainians have already made extensive use of such diversionary tactics, while the Russians have not (at least as far as we know, and there is a lot we don't know). The point is not to call one side "good" and the other "bad", but to realize that both sides can, and will, use such special operations to disrupt the operations, and morale, of the other side.
Now one thing which will have a HUGE impact on this is the Russian decision to basically hand out Russian passports to any Ukrainian wanting one. No, I am NOT critical of this decision, which was made on both moral and pragmatic grounds, but I will point out that this decision will come at a very real cost: a sharp increase in the numbers of Russians citizens whose true loyalties lie not with Russia, but with the Euromaidan or even Ukronazi ideology. There are even such people in Russia proper!
The fact that such people are only a tiny fraction of the Russian population is irrelevant: all the SBU/GUR needs is a few, maybe a few tens, of such people.
And yes, of course, this is a direct challenge to the Russian intelligence and security agencies (SVR, FSB, GUSB/MVD, FSO, G(R)U and others). But the reality is this: no matter how good the Russian intelligence and security services are, you cannot catch absolutely everybody, and neither can you place all potentially suspicious people under 24/7 surveillance (even if you knew who these people are). The truth is that there will always be "leakers" who will successfully elude detection and interception. You can catch many hundred of such people, but a few will always seep through the net and they will be used by the other side.
By the way, for the West and the Nazis in Kiev to declare that all the explosions in the LDNR/Russia (including Crimea) are the result of missile attacks makes perfectly good sense! Not only does it boost the morale of the Ukronazis (Wunderwaffe and all that), it shows the western curators of the Nazi regime in Kiev how "effective" and "combat capable" the Ukrainian military still is. Last, but not least, giving the credit to missiles is a very logical way to try to move the spotlight away from saboteurs and terrorists. The Russians perfectly understand that, but the folks in the West apparently not, hence the systematic dismissal of the diversionary operation by so many commentators who prefer to daydream about some super-dooper missiles and other assorted Wunderwaffen and dismiss less "sexy" acts of simple sabotage.
Bottom line is this: if the SBU/GUR managed to recruit 2 employees of the ZNP, whom else do you think they might recruit in the future (or have already recruited)? Think about folks involved in technical maintenance, transportation, logistics, prisons and POW facilities. etc. etc. etc. Heck, the Ukies even tried to corrupt a Su-34 pilot and have him fly his Su-34 to the Ukrainian side in exchange for a EU passport and money. This SBU/GUR plot pathetically failed, and the Russians even managed to get some classified info about the Ukrainian air defenses, which were promptly demilitarized. However, the main reasons here are probably double: first, Su-34 pilots are definitely a highly motivated elite type, and they are also very closely monitored by Russian counter-intelligence services. So, maybe next time, the SBU/GUR needs to "aim" for a more modest and less protected target.
And who is to say that the next time around the SBU/GUR will fail?
Some will wonder why the Russians could not do in the Ukraine what they did in Chechnia. There are many key differences here, including:
- Chechnia is a tiny piece of land compared to the Ukraine and it is comparatively easy to "lock"
- Chechnia's population is dwarfed by the Ukrainian population (even after millions left)
- There is no equivalent of Ahmad Hadji Kadyrov or his son Ramzan in the Ukraine
- Chechens Takfiris never had the kind of firepower or weapons the Ukronazis do
So no, the precedent of Chechnia does not in any way imply that the Nazis in the Ukraine will be as comparatively quickly defeated as the Takfiris were.
This is a major problem for Russia and, worse, this is a problem which will not go away anytime soon.
The only thing Russians can do is to 1) prepare for a very long counter-intelligence and counter-diversionary operations lasting many years and 2) accept the reality of war for what it is and not freak out the next time the Ukronazis blow up something, be it a ship, a train, an aircraft, a bridge or any other target in the LDNR or Russia.
The one good news the Russians also need to keep in mind is that most of such diversionary/terrorist attacks are still fundamentally part of PSYOPs and are mostly designed for PR effect. In terms of their actual impact on Russian military capabilities, it is close to zero, just like the Israeli strikes in Syria have made exactly *zero* difference on the ground in Syria. To really affect military operations you need to have a large, viable and sophisticated partisan/"stay behind" force, which the Ukrainians do not have, not by a long margin. Also, to really affect military operations, such diversionary tactics need to be carefully coordinated with "regular" friendly military forces (like the Soviet partisans during WWII who closely worked with the Soviet armed forces).
So yes, this is a problem, a very unpleasant one, one which will be hard to deal with, but not one which will affect Russian military operations. Even if the Ukronazis blow up both the Chernobyl AND Zaporozhiie NPs, this will not significantly affect the SMO or even the war between Russia and the united West. The entire Russian military is trained, and well trained, to operate in a hostile nuclear, chemical or bacteriological environment. As for Russian logistics, they are extremely sophisticated and highly redundant, so even if the Ukronazis blow up one node of the resupply network, it will be quickly fixed and/or easily replaced or bypassed.
That being said, I would personally recommend that we all mentally prepare for what is almost certainly about to happen in the not too distant future. If we understand what such operation can and cannot achieve we will see them in a sober, pragmatic way, and not cave in to the hysterics (by many sides, including the Russian 6th column) which will inevitable follow any such attack.