The occupation of Belarus and the preservation of control over Ukraine are of fundamental importance for the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian authorities ought to understand that the conflict in the Donbas is the part of Russia's great strategic campaign; the main objective is new agreements with the West. At that, there are a few significant dates for Russia in the war with Ukraine - this autumn it may try to annex the occupied Donbas, in 2020 a new expansion of the Krimea is possible, military expert Alexei Arestovich told in the interview with apostrophe.ua.
If to take a look at the situation with Donbas in the near future, this autumn it may drastically change. On upcoming presidential elections in Russia only the image of land collector can save Vladimir Putin. Therefore, he can begin annexation of the LPR and DPR, which will be accompanied by the entry of Russian troops to "protect compatriots." Then the referendum follows with all that it entails . This scenario is seriously considered by the Russian side.
The question is how the Ukrainian government will react when Russian troops march across the border if it has not yet recognized the Donbas as an occupied territory. This greatly reduces opportunities to put pressure on the Russian Federation at the international level. It is also pointless to talk about any responsibility of Putin, even despite his signature under the Minsk Accords. As long as the aggressor remains an observer and guarantor of one of the parties to the conflict, no document will have any impact on him. Now the Minsk Accords have turned into an ordinary paper, a framework agreement, that no one obeys, but it suits everybody.
Under current conditions, Ukraine has no way to withdraw from the Minsk Accords, as this will be a blow to the reputation of the Germans and the French, who act as guarantors. Ukraine will simply spoil relations with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is re -elected for the next term.
One can withdraw from the agreements if there is an alternative proposal and a unified state policy is formed. Only then will it be possible to avoid an internal political crisis. We do not have a common position, and all proposals for new formats are expressed at the level of the expert community or individual experts and do not have support of international players.
If we talk about the time frame of the conflict in the Donbas in the long term, then the second wave of the Russian expansion should be expected by 2020. Russia believes that by this time it will fundamentally change its fighting capacity, deploy additional units on the border with Ukraine. The seizure of Belarus and the preservation of control over Ukraine are fundamentally important for the Russian Federation, since it is a sacred territory the entire historical identity of Russia is built on. During military exercises West-2017, a smooth occupation of Belarus should take place, and this is a threat to the Baltic countries, Scandinavia, Poland and Central Europe. Putin is assured that such a threat will force these countries to make any deal, including exchange, which involves the surrender of Ukraine to guarantee their own security. Russia hopes that its plans will be successful because of Europe's weak hand.
One needs to understand that the Donbas campaign is a strategic game, but not the way to decide who owns Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant or Luhansk Thermal Station. This campaign aims at new Yalta Accords, new rules of the game. Therefore, spending a few billion dollars a year to support the war in the Donbas is not the sum that will stop Russia with the potential to realize such global plans. The West is slowly realizing that the conflict in the Donbas is not a showdown within the CIS, but a large-scale campaign. And they are ready to oppose Russia.