Original: Vzglyad.ru (by Yevgeny Krutikov) / Взгляд: Деловая Газета
Translated by Pavel Grebenkov
The defection to the militia of the former member of the Ukrainian General Staff, Major-General Alexander Kolomiets is an extraordinary and advantageous event from the propagandistic point of view. However, a number of points expressed by him at a press conference in Donetsk are highly controversial, first of all, those relating to the possibility of a rebellion in the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) and the attempts to whitewash the Ukrainian military.
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Major-General Alexander Kolomiets was dismissed from the post of chief of the Information Analysis Unit of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2012. Presently such a structural division within the General Staff does not exist, and the duties of the analytical-informational support of the General Staff of Ukraine have been transferred to the Head Directorate for Defense and Mobilization Planning – a.k.a J-5. As a result of the reforms by the new government, the structures of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff have for some reason been assigned latin-based alphanumeric designations, apparently so that the enemy would succumb to misunderstanding and confusion.
After his dismissal, Kolomiets peacefully lived with his family in Kiev on a general’s pension. At the same time, between the then Defence Minister Dmitry Solomatin and President Viktor Yanukovych, was developing a conflict which ended with Solomatin’s resignation, who was charged with low rates of arms trade deals, as well as the fact that he accepted the Ukrainian citizenship only in 2004. Solomatin, however, was the best defense minister in the entire history of independent Ukraine. For instance, it was during his time, that the average number of practice flights for pilots reached 51 hours (the Soviet standard – 100; in the Russian army the number of practice flights on attack aircraft now comes to 150-200 hours), training exercises were conducted, including airborne troops (45,000 jumps per year), and the military-industrial complex received its second wind. For example, it was Solomatin who made the most significant export contracts of armored vehicles, before being appointed, for a long time, to the post of the minister in charge of the Ukrainian Defense Industry. He attracted experts to the Ministry and the General Staff, regardless of their political orientation, and the availability of “compromising” citizenship in the past (though, under Yanukovych it was not such a trouble in the eyes of anyone, but the “orange” opposition).
General Kolomiets never had a Russian citizenship, since almost his entire career he worked in different posts in the military commissariat of Donetsk and the regions, including as its head. Now, in hindsight, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine claims that Kolomiets was dismissed for “numerous unauthorized trips to Russia, especially to Moscow.” After his dismissal, at the request of the military counterintelligence, the Major General was deprived of the access to the information representing state secrets. Although, this happens to all retirees, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, in such a way, apparently wants to emphasize that the retiree, Kolomiets, is not privy to any critically vital information on current affairs.
It is still not completely clear what exactly motivated General Kolomiets to come from Kiev to Donetsk, but at the press conference he was not alone. It is difficult to determine how many officers and soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have in fact gone over to the militia. A person can be a retiree or locally mobilized, and finally may even have purely personal, not political motives. Nonetheless, from the propagandistic point of view, the defection of General Kolomiets is currently the biggest “catch” because even in retirement, he still continued to interact with colleagues, including high-ranking officers. It is typical of his circle of friends; all professional soldiers rarely make friends outside of their circles, as they do not have enough of the so-called social time.
However, Kolomiets’ predictions of the immanency of a rebellion in parts of the AFU due to the reluctance to fight in Donbass are still uncertain. The actual reasons for the dissatisfaction in the Ukrainian army could be quite different. Anyone who did not want to fight in Donbass has already realized their unwillingness in practice by any means possible—someone fled the country, someone bought a “white ticket”. There is practically no desertion among the senior officers as they perceive the civil war as a unique opportunity for their career growth. In any army in the world, careers are made in wars, not in the barracks. Entire officer clans consisting of those who made names and stars for themselves on this or that war form. In America “the Vietnamese” dominated until they were replaced by “the Iraqis” and in between Vietnam and Iraq, the armed forces of the United States hardly developed, for what could have given the career-wise the single landing in Grenada? In the UK, wherever you point, your finger will fall on a Falklands veteran, despite the fact that the number of military groups there was not too great. In the USSR and then in Russia, the “Afghan” generation, albeit with great difficulty, pushed out the senior cadres who still remembered the Great Patriotic War, but such was the age structure of those in power in the late Union. The “Afghan” generation” was moved from the occupied posts by the “Chechens”. This process is endless and understandable, especially that the rapidly changing methods and techniques of warfare require new personnel.
Nothing similar has transpired in Ukraine, so for Ukrainian officers, the desire to make a career for themselves is now the main motive. In the second place – not even an official reason – is the “conscious patriotism”, the so-called “sailor’s shirt patriotism”, peculiar to junior commanders which is reducible to the toast, “for lads we cannot bring back”. They are fighting by inertia and by the habit of anger, revenge or other similar psychological deviations inherent to any war. They are not vulnerable to propaganda. It would rather be possible to offer an alternative to a careerist, Lieutenant Colonel, than to a lieutenant from a two-year-in-fighting airmobile brigade, brutalized by the loss of two-thirds of his personnel. And the longer the war lasts, the bitter and more numerous becomes this category.
So, it is unlikely that a riot in the AFU on political grounds is to be expected. The Ukrainian army is already a sufficiently monolithic force in terms of its political and ideological framework. Having said this, resentment can come from unexpected places. Now, for example, the most common motive for protests within UAF has become the indignation with incompetent generals. A series of terrible defeats and encirclements in close succession cannot be endlessly explained by “Russian tanks,” “belligerent Buryats” and other ghosts. This is especially so since the soldiers and junior officers have seen with their own eyes what, in fact, actually happened. So, it is actually dissatisfaction (which gradually grows into anger) with the General Staff, where General Kolomiets served, that may be the most destructive factor for the UAF, and only then inadequate supplies, broken-down machinery, corruption, boredom and drunkenness.
Another disturbing trend that the press conference with the Major-General revealed was that the distinction between the “evil” volunteer squads and the “white-fluffy” regular troops has been made much too often lately. This is a tactic used by Kiev, which, by means of intrigue and propaganda methods, attempts to get rid of the Maidan fanatics, who are of little use at the front line anyways. The centralization of command also presupposes the destruction of political opponents, and for President Poroshenko the radicals have long ago turned from support to dangerous competitors. The Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lughansk People’s Republic willingly or unwillingly play up to this tactic, apparently assuming that the conflict between Kiev and the volunteer battalions causes a split in the ranks of the enemy.
This is an illusion. Those who are from the volunteer battalions, where people are more intelligent (e.g. “Azov” and “Dnepr”), have long ago integrated into the official system; they changed their stripes with the swastika to the more photogenic ones with the trident, and have retained their previous status; some even train with the Americans in Yavorov. Those who are more foolish and slow (e.g. “Aydar” and “Tornado”) have received on the head and will no longer lift it up again. Furthermore, the witch-hunt launched against the volunteer fighters by Kiev should, according to plans, help to improve the international image of Petro Poroshenko, so that no black senator could notice the Ukraine racist ideology.
At the same time, not a single volunteer battalion has ever had at its disposal heavy artillery, multiple rocket launchers, and one could count their tanks on the fingers. They considered themselves offended, outraged, shouting “Zrada!” (Treason). They were agitated, but the Ministry of Defense categorically refused to provide them with anything more capable than a mortar. Therefore, the shelling of the residential areas in Donetsk, Horlovka, Dokuchayevsk and the other towns and villages of Donbass, as paradoxical as it is, is fully and completely on the conscience of the regular army. The slaughter in Marinka also began with a reconnaissance mission of the 28th Odessa mechanized brigade of AFU. Earlier, the 93th Cherkasy mechanized brigade of AFU began similar battles in Peski. The list of the members from the artillery batteries, who entertain themselves with nightly shelling of Donetsk, has long been known. Not one “pravosek” (a member of the right sector) is on it; it consists entirely of the regular officers.
Virtually all wars, within the post-Soviet space, involved, in various numbers, volunteer units with various forms of fascist or semi-fascist ideology. In 1991-1993 in Georgia, they even formed the core of all the armed forces. Their fate was similar to that of Ukrainian volunteer fighters – sooner or later, the central government began to disown them and dump the blame on them for ceasefire violations and war crimes. In contrast, the regular army was extolled as a model of military virtues. So, nothing new is happening now.
The main thing—do not give in to provocation.