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26 February 2014

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oofda

Russia does conduct about six of these 'snap' exercises per year. This one is supposed to end 3 March..let us see.

Medicine Man

After the splendid example of how things turned out with Georgia, I wonder why some people in Washington persist in imagining that the US is going to intervene against Russia in another Black Sea country.

David Habakkuk

All,

Some commentators have argued that a central goal of Putin’s foreign policy for a long time has been to persuade the United States that is in its interests to act as a conventional – and conservative – great power.

In an earlier thread, Babak Makkinejad linked to an article by Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, setting out a range of considerations which would make Moscow reluctant to intervene very directly in the Ukraine, and in particular to intervene militarily. A former career Red Army officer, also I think Jewish, Trenin is usually well worth listening to on Russian policy.

Following the op-ed Putin published in the ‘New York Times’ on Syria, under the title ‘A Plea for Caution From Russia’, Trenin published an article entitled ‘Cartoon image of Vladimir Putin makes West misread Russia.’ An excerpt:

‘Putin decided to weigh in to the U.S. debate on Syria and its foreign policy in general not only to describe Russia's position but also to exploit an opening: President Barack Obama is evidently reluctant to use force in Syria, Congress is split on the issue, and most Americans are opposed to further military action in the Middle East, period. Putin has decided that U.S. foreign policy is too important to be left to the American people and its leaders alone, so he has turned to them to present his case.

‘Putin's primary goal isn't a deal with the United States on Syria, but on the international security system as a whole. His central thesis is that a stable world order should be based on the institutions of the United Nations, and in particular consensus among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, Britain and the U.S. In this vision, nothing serious could be done in the field of international security, especially the use of force, without Russia's approval or acquiescence. For Putin, this amounts to an essential equality among the major powers, which he sees as a foundation of global stability.

‘At a minimum, Putin seeks to prevent the Obama administration from striking Syria. He is convinced, and wants to convince Americans, that nothing good will come of it. He recognizes that something substantial is needed to stave off the U.S. attack – hence his chemical weapons initiative, which has led to a reprieve.

‘Next, Putin wants to convince Americans that using force at will doesn't serve U.S. national interests. The chaos and uncertain futures of post-U.S. intervention Iraq and Afghanistan are Putin's exhibits A and B in making this case. Making military intervention routine, in his view, creates a dangerous inertia in U.S. foreign policy. At some point, he must fear, the U.S. propensity to use force as a problem-solver might lead to a collision with China or Russia.’

Obviously, to rush into a military intervention in the Ukraine would completely destroy the credibility of the whole approach which Trenin ascribes to Putin. It may be that he is completely wrong, and that Max Boot, Victoria Nuland, John McCain etc etc are right. And indeed, if Putin sends in the tanks to the Ukraine before March 3 I am prepared to, in the familiar phrase, eat my hat, and acknowledge that Trenin and I are, in the familiar phrase, ‘useful idiots’.

We shall see.

For the articles by Trenin, see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/opinion/why-russia-wont-interfere.html?_r=0
http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/dmitri-trenin-cartoon-image-of-vladimir-putin-makes-west-misread/article_61ed4386-eba7-5f55-85a0-0fd99151a319.html

The Twisted Genius

This drill to test the troops' readiness serves two purposes that I can see. It obviously sends a message of Russian resolve to all parties. It also prepares Russian forces for any possible future deployment. Nothing readies a force quicker than packing for combat and moving out the gates. Logistical and organizational issues are confronted and solved. It means that those forces would definitely be ready if Putin opts for an overt invasion in the future. However, I doubt Putin is in any rush for such an overt move. Time is on his side. I think he will use every trick that old KGB officer knows to move the eastern oblasts into establishing an autonomous zone within Ukraine that then strengthens economic ties with Russia. The EU and the US will be forced to pour money into Kiev or see their Orange Revolution fail. Putin is glad to be rid of the ineptly corrupt and weak Yanukovych. Putin will craft a better neighbor to the south (one way or the other) and may just return the Crimea to Russia as payment for his efforts.

Charles I

Already underway, at least on a local basis. I just posted this below.


Globe in Ukraine: Russian troops take control of main access to port city

Mark MacKinnon

Simferopol, Ukraine — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014, 6:37 AM EST

Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014, 12:33 PM EST

"Russian troops now control the main access to Sevastopol, the Ukrainian port city that is home to a major Russian naval base, following orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin that put Russia’s military on alert.

A military checkpoint – with a Russian flag and a Russian military armoured personnel carrier and troop transport truck -- was set up on the main highway between the Crimean capital of Simferopol and the naval port of Sevastopol. The checkpoint is north of the city of Sevastopol, and so well beyond the Russian base."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/tension-in-crimea-as-pro-russia-and-pro-ukraine-groups-stage-competing-rallies/article17110382/

turcopolier

TTG

It would be clever to do it that way but an emotional reaction to the hoods who are largely in control in Kiev can not be ruled out. I imagine that there is a dispute in Russian government as to the correct response. pl

The Twisted Genius

PL,

I would definitely not rule out a satisfying, old fashioned military smack down of the hoods in Kiev. I remember the audacity of the Pristina Dash. That happened when Russia was in terrible shape. Russians are prudent, but they have balls of steel. I can also see what a chilling effect a robust military move would have on Gulf and Western designs on Syria and elsewhere.

oofda

I had met with Trenin several times while posted in Moscow. He is, indeed, someone well worth hearing out. He always offered an objective analysis-which usually was correct.

walrus

To me, I am more worried about an emotional reaction from the White house.

I wonder if Obama will have the good sense to tell Nuland and Rice to shut up? All that is needed is an inflamatory speech from those harpies about "democracy" and a a provocation (say a dead Russian family) by the current Ukranian "government" and Putin will be in.

Thomas

David,

Trenin is right and the useless idiots of our current day tragedy are still very wrong. Compare track records of policies in action.

From the article:
“John Kerry, the US secretary of state, raised the spectre of an East-West standoff as he insisted the US and Russia did not need to get into an "old cold war confrontation" over the country”

“Mr Kerry insisted that US policy toward the states that once made up the Soviet Union is not aimed at reducing Russia's influence in its neighbourhood. But it is nevertheless likely to irritate Moscow, particularly given the origins of the Ukraine crisis in a dispute over an EU partnership agreement.”

“…the question of Georgia threatened to further stir tensions, as Washington urged the former Soviet republic to integrate further with NATO and sign a partnership agreement with the European Union this year.”

Making the rounds on the morning US news programs yesterday, McCain was preaching that Russia was trying to reestablish its empire so the US should support Ukraine, and (the clincher) if asked to have them join NATO. That $20 billon loan request would probably have an attached application for just that. On Bloomberg news last night a commentator outright says that the idea is to slowly pick away at Russia. Who is trying to build an empire here?

Even if Putin is the most evil tyrant since 38, don’t you think he has satellite television to know what is going on over here? How long does one wait on an adversary to reach an accommodation on mutual interests before you turn way and fight for your own interests?

With respect.
Thomas

turcopolier

walrus

Our system is such that only POTUS can give an order for hostilities to begin and I don't think this man will do that. pl

Babak Makkinejad

The Peace of Yalta and the institutions supporting it such as UNSC and UN have become a deal letter since 1991.

I think it will be a good idea to negotiate a new peace but I do not believe that the politio-military alliance called NATO is interested in accepting voluntary constraints on its freedom of action to pursue this or that strategy - often hair-brained.

Indeed, without gutting NATO there in no such peace possible since the military strength to counter NATO does not exist.

I imagine that Putin is aware of all of that and is salvaging what he can where he can at acceptable costs to the Russian Federation.

Specifically about Ukraine, I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that the Russian leaders will wait until the situation in Ukraine deteriorates for everyone.

Then, like Bulent Ecevit in Cyprus, they will intervene under the guise of "Humanitarian Intervention" to save lives.

I do not believe that NATO will supply sufficient funds to Ukraine to address her needs. Not when youth unemployment is overwhelming southern European states and Germany is feeling the economic cold.

For Russia, even when NATO starts spending money in Ukraine, it benefits her as Ukraine could then settle her gas bill.

Russian also is in the position to benefit from a federal structure in Ukraine in which Russia gets her piece of Ukraine - de facto - and let NATO play with her piece.

I also have come to the conclusion that if Russia intervenes, she will capture all of Ukraine and will not stop at some arbitrary boundary line.

In sum, I think Russia has many more option open to her.

Babak Makkinejad

Not going to happen....

They will wait for the situation to deteriorate much much further....

kao_hsien_chih

I think one should not just conclude that "Russia will not intervene," although that probability is rather low, most likely.

As TTG noted below, Russia probably wants to demonstrate the readiness of its forces to intervene if necessary (and to keep up that readiness, obviously) for the West and those in Kiev to see. However, in order for their resolve to be credible, there needs to be reasonable expectation that, if a certain threshold is crossed, Russians will indeed intervene forcefully. But do we know what that threshold really is? Even if we do, do we fear the Russian intervention enough that we'd refrain from going too far? Russian nukes are indeed a formidable threat, but how many people really expect the Russians to bring them out over Ukraine? (I think they might, but I suspect that most people in Washington do not share this view.) Do the flunkies in Kiev know that threshold and do they think that they can make us pay for their crossing that threshold? AJP Taylor's analysis of the aftermath of the Sudeten Crisis was that, after having been humiliated by Hitler (even though Taylor thought that was itself the consequence of lousy diplomacy on the part of the westerners), Britain and France staked too much on the Poles, which made the Poles overoptimistic about their bargaining stance and inflexible vis-a-vis Germans. Poles wound up gambling on the westerners' money (and blood) and lost badly, and took down a lot more lives than theirs. Ukrainian nationalists might well do the same and force the westerners to choose between eating their words and reckless military adventurism. I don't think I'll be surprised if the Russian maneuvers turn out to be more serious...although I hope not.

William R. Cumming

ALL: Apparently the seizure of the "palace" and its hidden wealth of the former Ukrainian President may end up more of a driver in events in the Ukraine and Russia then many might suspect. Repeatedly bloggers state flat out that Putin is in fact the world's richest man. The recent seizure of a Mexican drug cartel leader with $18B in cash in his house [yes the number is correct] in US $50s and $100s seems to have seized the imagination of the MSM and others. Also a gold-plated AK-47!

Corruption, not politics, may be a huge issue with Putin afraid what might be discovered if he ever lost power.

And of course one might ask "Why do US Presidents need to live like kings and queens?"! Or hedge fund managers? Or Flag Ranks?

turcopolier

KHC

IMO the point of a nuclear deterrent is the uncertainty that is connected to it. The same is true of the Russian exercises under way. pl

psc

Victoria Nuland's preferred choice, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is named acting prime minister of Ukraine.

The hard men of Maidan have sacrificed a lot for more of the same. I would not charge a barricade so that the Kagans, Clintons, and Kristols get to call the shots.


Anna-Marina

This is so true.

FB Ali

I tend to agree with Babak. The folks in Kiev appear to be acting with considerable caution (there don't seem to be any Right Sector ministers in the proposed government, in spite of the Maidan chants of their supporters).

Putin has sent a shot across the bow; now he will wait and see how things develop. As I said earlier, the situation has lots of potential to allow him to wait, and meanwhile influence developments in Ukraine.

b

@WRC - "Repeatedly bloggers state flat out that Putin is in fact the world's richest man. "

And some idiots believe such bullshit. If you believe that Putin is driven by money you simply have not been watching him.

---

Russia will just wait until the Ukraine comes back to it. The Ukraine can not do without Russia but Russia can do without the Ukraine.

Kerry offers a $1 billion loan guarantee where the Ukraine needs $35 billion. Russia can offer open markets and $15+billion or closed markets. Kiev will soon see which side it has to take.

The sorcerers apprentices in Berlin, Brussels and Washington DC have called up the spirit of fascism in Ukraine and of Jihadism in Syria. Only the master sorcerer in Moscow can put them back down.

CK

David I suspect you are not valuing the closeness properly. The distance from Kiev to Moscow is short; just as the US would react militarily and quickly to Russia producing and directing a "colour" revolution in Ottawa and Mexico City, seeing Russia react to another American produced and directed attack on its near neighbours does not negate the fundamental thrust of Russian diplomacy.

Fred

Walrus,

what democracy is that? Those elected with Victoria Nuland's $5 billion are the only ones present in the rump Parliament. All the others - who were also elected in those free and fair elections - who did not support the 'revolution' have been driven out of Kiev. The new "government" promptly issued an arrest warrant for President Yanukovich. The only thing missing is the bill of attainder declaring him guilty; but of course the Western press has already done that so who needs pesky things like evidence or a trial by jury.

oofda

On today's "Morning Joe", Scarborough was in high dudgeon about Putin, blaming him for most of the world's ills. When discussing the Russian 'snap' exercise, he crowed that "Putin knows no boundaries," and predicted mischief. He further went on to blame Putin for the ongoing conflict in Syria. The usual "Morning Joe" bobbleheads, like Mikka and the execrable Donny Deutsch, lamely agreed with him. Even for Joe Scarborough, it was an amazing performance.

turcopolier

oofda

In what capacity were you "posted in Moscow?" pl

Mark Logan

oofda,

Just adding a name to the list of apparently well-informed. I saw our ex-ambassador Herbst on Feb 17 World Affairs Council, DC. confidently state Yanukovych could not ask his police to get any more aggressive or they would either abandon him or switch sides en mass, and as matter-of-factly as if he were reading the clock.

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