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24 February 2014

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Anon1

I don't think the Russian military has to do much to go into Ukrainian terrority. The Black Sea Fleet main base at Sevastopol and its naval infantry units would be able to move quickly to secure the Crimea and maybe Odessa. I would expect the Russian airborne forces (VDV) would be in some kind of quick reaction alert by now. I doubt anyone outside of the US Government would have access to commerical imagery over the area as they would have bought up all the imagery.

Here's an intereting opinion peace from the Moscow Times:
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/forget-kiev-the-real-fight-will-be-for-crimea/495145.html

oth

APC's in Crimea somewhere http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIGuxhnd9a4

Berkuts return, Sevastopol protests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRqW1RLSqQI

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Russia will do nothing overt at the present time.

They have a lot of opportunity in the coming weeks, months, and years to assess the situation in Ukraine and act accordingly.

I think, overall, it is foolish to expect the Russian Government to accept geographical isolation in Ukraine, Georgia, and Southern Russia.

But they can play the same game; set up their own thugs and destabilize the central government.

We also seem to be witnessing mob rule not just in Ukraine but also in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Libya, and in Thailand.

May be it is the spirit of the times....

blowback

I don't think the Russian Army will go charging into the Ukraine any time soon. More likely, it will play out like Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The western Ukrainians will push too hard such as banning the Party of Regions and the Communist Party from the upcoming elections at which point parts of southern and eastern Ukraine will declare independence and request fraternal assistance from Mother Russia including lots of ATGMs and SAMs. There will be enough Ukrainians and Russian "volunteers" trained in using them to make it difficult for the western Ukrainians to do much about it. As for looking at satellite imagery, I'd be far more interested in looking at what the Poles or Germans are up to - probably not a lot as Warsaw and Berlin would probably be the first European cities reduced to glass in the event of a nuclear conflagration.

BTW, Sevastopol is not Russia's only Black Sea port. There is also Novorossiki where I believe the Russians have been spending a lot of money improving the naval facilities.

The Twisted Genius

All,

If Putin finds it necessary to sent tanks rolling across the borders and transports disgorging airborne troops at the airports, he will precede this overt invasion with a "preparation of the battlefield" by SVR and GRU operatives and their local agents. These operatives and agents are undoubtedly already active whether there will be an overt invasion or not. Those ostensibly running Kiev at the moment are right to feel an uncertainty and disquiet over what will happen next.

harry

Are the Olympics over?

Then let the Games begin!

Cat Mack

Blowback,

I also find the fragmentation scenario very likely in the longer perspective. The economic situation in Ukraine is dramatic and none of the actors in the broader neighborhood has the financial capacity to keep the whole country and central institutions from outright collapse. This includes the United States and the usual intervention tools at its disposal such as IMF.

I would argue that Berlin is not much concerned with the Russian nukes, though. Berlin missed on waves of emigrations from the newly admitted EU member countries and Ukraine represents one the last remaining significant reservoirs of easy to integrate and relatively educated labor force. They might need it to shore up their Sozialwirtschaft in 2-3 years. Think of a new Generalplan Ost, sans the overt genocide, but with all the economic planning unchanged. Bottom line, I would not be surprised if Berlin and Moscow again redrawing zones of influence in the Central Europe according to very old plans. Which attempt is it? Fifth?

Warsaw is not a player in the region. They have disarmed themselves and their politicians and intelligence services bark as their handlers from BND and GRU require. Even if the leash was removed, they have no organic presence / connections to local networks in the Western Ukraine. As the last resort, one can always organize another Smolensk.

Anon1

Interesting take from Spengler:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-240214.html

JohnH

Agreed. Russia has natural gas, and Ukraine doesn't. Russia and Europe have financial resources, and Ukraine doesn't. Europe needs Russian natural gas.

Russia can afford to take time, assess the situation, and act accordingly.

JohnH

Personally, I don't have a lot of confidence in either neocon or R2Pers' judgement. Back in the 1960s a lot of Washington insiders were chomping at the bit to nuke Russia. When Kennedy asked, "then what?" they had no answer. War was averted.

I don't trust Obama to even ask, 'then what?"

eakens

Last time I checked the pipelines traverse both the northern and southern portions of the country. Best case for the west is that the country splits, but even then that leaves Russia to only agree to supply the friendlies.

Perhaps this is what we meant by "Fuck the EU"

turcopolier

eakens

The divide is really east/west. Nick Burns said today that at a minimum Russia will seek to dominate Ukraine economically and failing that military intervention is likely. I agree. pl

walrus

It has been demonstrated twice in the Twentieth century that commercial/economic considerations play no part in the decision to go to war. I therefore discount "logic" about what the EU or Russia should do.

The question now in my opinion is whether Putin thinks time is on his side or not from the point of view of the Security interests of Russia and to hell with how many Ukranians get killed one way or another.

I don't believe Putin wants a "failed state" on his borders because the nastiness inherent in that may infect Russia, as Rubin already hopes. I also believe, perhaps wrongly, that Russia has a terror of disorder rather like the Chinese.

My wild guess then, is that Putin will act militarily very quickly and surprise the hell out of the Washington R2P crowd. Their choice then will be to leave the Ukranian rebels to their fate or to try to arm them, and if they do that, we run the risk of major escalation towards European war.

Tyler

Right Sector, the street fighters who broke the police line in the face of shotguns wielding baseball bats and makeshift riot shields and provided the catalyst of the last few days, aren't seeming to be very fond of the new crew of politicians who showed up in Kiev to fill the power void.

They seem to be true nationalists, not interested in trading autocrat Putin for the limp wrist technocrats in Brussels. Should prove interesting to see how events fall out and if there will be a second storming of Kiev.

Kyle Pearson

Just a quick comment, though:

the groups protesting in Thailand are A) peaceful, B) anti-Thaksin (who one-of-if-not-the most violently corrupt and anti-democratic politicians in the country), and C) genuinely represent the majority of most Thai people.

The violence that has occurred in Thailand has largely been the police and military there attacking the crowds, not the other way around. The Thai king is approaching his death, and the Prince Regent is well-known as a profligate, corrupt playboy who only cares about his own venal pleasures. It is the Prince who is backing Thaksin (with US and Western European support).

FB Ali

I have no special knowledge or insight into the situation. Nevertheless, it seems to me unlikely that Russia will undertake any military intervention any time soon.

I think they will see that there is enough weakness and uncertainty in the internal Ukrainian situation to warrant watching from the sidelines and influencing it where possible for now. There is enough potential there for a reasonably favourable outcome from their point of view.

Their control of gas supplies to not only Ukraine but also Europe, and the sentiments of Western Ukraine are powerful chips they can use in a poker game with the West.

GAW

I don't think Russia's position is all that strong, for economic reasons.

All the pipelines to Europe pass through Western Ukraine, and if Russia invades you can bet angry Ukraine natives will destroy them. Which hurts Russia much more than it does Ukraine, as the Russian income from energy sales in Europe is cut off.

Ukraine owes Russia massive debts, which for certain will be defaulted upon in the event of military action, which I have just read in financial reports would sink several large Russian Banks, or force the Russian Government to bail them out at huge cost. This is a positive for Ukraine, getting out from under that debt burden, and will be an easy choice to make in the event of hostilities.

Russia is dependent upon energy revenue flow continuing, any interruption puts their Budget far into deficit, and international lenders may not be easy to find at that point. Leading to a sudden radical downsizing of the Russian economy.

The effects are already being felt, the Ruble has crashed to deep lows vs the US $ just on the effect of the Fed tightening, and if that trend continues, it will cause hyper-inflation in Russia and then total economic collapse. Loss of European energy revenues will push the Ruble far lower than it is now.

No one doubts the Russian military capability to divide Ukraine, or occupy it in a matter of days or weeks, but that would not be close to the end of the story. Putin's reputedgeo-strategic chessmaster status will be tested here, I don't see any outcome that does not inflict long term economic damage on Russia..

David Habakkuk

All,

After Susan Rice suggested that it would be a ‘grave mistake’ for Russia to intervene militarily in the Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry produced a tongue in cheek response, suggesting that this good advice on the ‘mistaken path of the use of force’ would be better given to her own government.

(See http://rt.com/news/russia-usa-rice-advice-450/ )

The Crimea is a special case. It is only in the Ukraine because of Khrushchev’s 1954, ‘ukaz’, while the presence of the Black Sea fleet both makes it that much more important that it is not abandoned to a nationalist Ukraine, and makes preventing this easier.

According to the blogger ‘the Saker’, the Fleet includes a Brigade and a Battalion of naval infantry, the latter specialising in counter-terrorism. He argues that this force would be quite adequate to protect the Crimea against any challenge the nationalists could mount. If any members of this ‘committee of correspondence’ are in a position to assess the validity of his argument, their contributions to this discussion might of value.

Otherwise, I think ‘the Saker’ is right in suggesting that the last thing that Putin wants is to be drawn further into a new Cold War, which would be the inevitable result of military intervention, or indeed encouragement of separatism, at this point. A modified Orwellian scenario of Oceania in conflict with Eurasia and Eastasia is quite patently something he would prefer to avoid.

Moreover, the political situation in the East and South is very fluid and unclear. It may be that opinion hardens in favour of resistance to the nationalists who have taken over in Kiev, it may be it does not. Unless it does, military intervention would be patently foolish. In turn, how attitudes develop is likely to be a function of developments in the capital, which remain highly unpredictable.

The politician most likely to be able to cobble together some kind of compromise and deal alike with the E.U., the U.S. and Russia, making it possible to hold the country together, is Timoshenko. But whether she can control forces like ‘Pravy Sektor’ remains only one more among a long list of moot points. And it seems unclear what her state of health is.

In any case, if strong separatist impulses were to emerge in the East and South, there may be more obvious ways for these to manifest themselves, and for them to be encouraged by the Russians, than immediate secession supported by Russian tanks. It has been suggested that these regions – which supply a high proportion of central government revenues – might withhold them, for example.

If one were to end up with a situation like that in South Ossetia, where a local population determined to defend the assertion of their independence from the state of which they are legally part is threatened by stronger forces from that state, then Russian military intervention might be a possibility.

But even if it does turn out to exist, a further question may be raised as to whether – or perhaps rather, in what areas – the nationalists are in a position to mount an effective military challenge. And in seriously contested areas, where they want to see the nationalists defeated, giving support to secessionists, without actually intervening directly, might still make better sense for the Russians.

(Two thought-provoking posts by ‘the Saker’ are at:

http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-geopolitics-of-ukrainian-conflict.html http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/ukrainian-nationalism-its-roots-and.html )

What has clearly happened, however, is that the amateur aficionados of the ‘politics of the street’ in the West have raised a whole series of ghosts which are now unlikely to go quietly back to sleep.

Yesterday, a moment to Mikhail Kutuzov was demolish in Brody in the Western Ukraine. As with the renewed attempt to marginalise the Russian language, this kind of action reinforces what seems to me a merited scepticism about the willingness of the more politically active of the nationalists to make any effort whatsoever to find compromises. What ghosts may be being raised in the East and South of the Ukraine, and in Russia, is an interesting question.

A fundamental problem with much Western coverage continues to be that people anticipate continuity between Putin and his Soviet predecessors, and simply fail to grasp that in a whole range of areas, precisely what he is trying to avoid is repeating their mistakes. On Putin’s conservatism, an interesting essay has just been published by Andranik Migranyan.

(See http://rt.com/op-edge/american-fits-over-putin-555/ )

The fact that part of this conservatism involves resistance to U.S. claims to a right to intervene indiscriminately in other countries provides another reason why military intervention is likely to be a last resort. And nothing in Putin’s record to date suggests any enthusiasm for precipitate action which would prematurely close off alternative possibilities.

Rather than Napoleonic impetuosity, he may well be more inclined to follow the maxim of Kutuzov – ‘patience and time.’ And indeed, it could conceivably turn out to be the case that the U.S. and the E.U. have recklessly overextended themselves.

harry

Nationalists. Yes thats one name for them. Its the threat from the Nationalists that explains why the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine has called for a evacuation of Jews from Kiev?

And Russian speaking Ukrainians are Ukrainian too.

Ulenspiegel

Please, get correct hard data on German demography, net immigration, mortality surplus...

Hint: You are talking nonsense. :-)

There is absolutely no need for immigration from Ukraine, the influx from Romania and Bulgaria plus Spain is more than enough to produce a net growth of 100-200.000 per year, a number that can be provided with jobs.

A more interesting pool of educated people is Russia. :-)

Ulenspiegel

That is a naive take of the situation.

Russia only exports commodities in meaningful volume. Pipelines chain the producer to certain customers, a replacement takes at least one decade and the alternative customer China would very likely not pay European prices.

In addition, LNG terminals in Europe offers options for the buyer, esp. when the buyer has no shares of the pipeline system in Germany. Russia OTOH has no meaningful LNG capacity.

If you follow a little bit the changes in industrial contracts - the conditions became worse for Russia - you may realise that the affair is quite interesting: cutting her exports means for Russia cutting her lifeline.

The whole situation was analysed by a think tank affiliated to Germnan industry around 2005, their predictions came true, for me a good indicator that their basic strategic assumptions were solid.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, I agree.

http://carnegie.ru/2014/02/23/why-russia-won-t-interfere/h1mw

It is very difficult for me to envision a situation in which EU or US would be able to give to Ukraine tens of billions of dollars over many years while their own economies are suffering - specially considering what is going on in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Ireland, UK and soon Germany as well.

kao_hsien_chih

Interestingly, the stories that I've heard (and I have quite knowledgeable contacts in Southeast Asia) are quite different.

While Thaksin (and his organization/family) may be corrupt, they are also very good at organizing electoral support. (Not unusual in a lot of "democracies" in the developing world--India is full of this.) Particularly among the rural Thais, he and his family are much beloved and the support his party enjoys is quite genuine.

In fact, while the Western-leaning/"sophisticated" Thais may despise Thaksin, they simply cannot match his organizational ability and cannot actually defeat them in a fair election, which is all the more reason they are resorting to street protests.

In addition to the urban elites, Thaksin has also earned displeasure of the king, who, despite the good PR (nobody is supposed to criticize him, after all) is in fact quite reactionary, along with the more conservative elements of the society who are skeptical of his populist ways. So, an unlikely coalition of the liberal city dwellers and the conservative elite have formed against the government.

All in all, this sounds remarkably similar to the situation in Ukraine, or even Morsi's Egypt, or Venezuela. My sense is that the Western countries' position vis-a-vis Thaksin is rather mixed: they are not hostile to him or his sister per se, but they won't miss them if they are overthrown. I don't have good firsthand information so I can't vouch for these--although I can vouch for my contacts being knowledgeable. What I do find stunning is that virtually the same narrative is emanating from so many places that suffer from exactly the same issue. All these governments are dubiously democratic: that is, they have all been "demoratically" elected, but their legitimacy is questioned by large segments of the population. All preside over highly divided societies and have gained power by exploiting and exacerbating the social divisions. All have repaid their backers through corruption and/or abuse of government authorities at the expense of their political opponents. Their opponents have limited means to remove them through legal and "democratic" means, so they seek to use illegitimate and forced means to defeat them.

Fred

TTG,

A very important point. What kind of ground work was laid by the Obama administration's $5 billion in spending? To me it seems they've created a mess where the rebels or protesters (whatever name they have now) are more interested in eliminating their political opponents (with laws, for now) than in creating any kind of coalition government - the kind that was being called for just a few days ago.

Fred

GAW,

The gas is still in Russia and the customers aren't in Ukraine. Glad to know those customers are buying billions of rubbles in natural gas they really don't need and can go for a year or so with a supply of zero.

If you think the Russian's are going to bail out the Ukrainians by paying Western banks - just like the Greeks did - then you failed to pay attention to the Russian response to that 'crisis' or see what the IMF led bail out did to the Greek economy. It would do the same to Ukraine's, which is the reason for the crisis.

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