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Belmont Club

The Ukranian Crisis

February 27th, 2014 - 12:57 am

Wire reports suggest that Russia has seized the government buildings in the Crimea:

Dozens of pro-Russian gunmen in combat fatigues seized parliament and government buildings on Ukraine’s volatile Crimea peninsula Thursday as lawmakers in Kiev prepared to approve a pro-Western cabinet for the divided ex-Soviet state.

The dawn raid came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered snap combat readiness drills near the Ukrainian border, which raised fears of the Kremlin using its military muscle to sway the outcome of a three-month crisis that has pitted Moscow against against the West in a Cold War-style confrontation over the future of the strategic nation of 46 million.

The BBC says Russian forces on Ukraine’s border are on high alert: “Russia has put 150,000 combat troops on high alert near its border with Ukraine. The Russian defence Ministry says it is taking measures to guarantee the safety of the Black Sea Fleet, which is based in Crimea.”

For legal cover, the former president of the Ukraine has asked for Russian protection. “Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has released a statement saying he still considers himself president of Ukraine and asking the Russian authorities for protection.”

Ukraine’s acting interior minister has put internal security forces on high alert after reports that Russian proxies had seized buildings in the Crimea.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Ukraine said “it would regard any movements by Russian military in Crimea outside the Russian Black Sea fleet’s base in Sevastopol as an act of aggression. Acting President Oleksander Turchinov issued the warning in the national parliament after armed men seized the regional government and parliament buildings in Crimea, where some ethnic Russians want the region to join the Russian Federation.”

Another Reuters report says that “fighter jets along Russia’s western borders have been put on combat alert, the Defence Ministry was quoted as saying on Thursday by Interfax news agency”:

“Constant air patrols are being carried out by fighter jets in the border regions,” Interfax quoted a ministry statement as saying. “From the moment they received the signal to be on high alert, the air force in the western military region left for the … air bases.”

The USS Mount Whitney has left the Black Sea and is currently reported in Istanbul, rumored to be on its way back to the Med.

It is obvious that a very dangerous international crisis has emerged in Eastern Europe. The following days will answer the following questions:

  1. Will Putin take the Crimea by force? And if so, will his ambitions be limited to simply securing the Black Sea Fleet’s bases or are they more extensive?
  2. What else, besides issuing statements, are the Western powers, especially President Obama, prepared to do?

Particularly worrisome are reports that Viktor Yanukovych, who still considers himself president of the Ukraine, has invoked Russian protection. Yanukovych cannot merely be the president of the Crimea. Either he — and the Russians — rule over the whole of the Ukraine, or nothing at all. Of course Yanukovych may simply be putting on airs or being held up as a bargaining chip, but the stakes have never been higher.

So far, this crisis has been characterized by mutual miscalculation. If the West did not anticipate that the previous Ukranian government would renege on the EU deal, neither did Putin appear to recognize the power of the opposition. Both sides have blundered into this confrontation. The wild card is the Ukranians, who will now be pressed to deal, but who may not deal. Another source of uncertainty is the effect of national pride, which so absent in the West is yet a potent factor in Russia.

The last source of uncertainty is Western leadership. It seems fair to say there are differences between the EU leadership and Washington. Ordinarily, those fractures might not be vitally important. But as President Obama contemplates the ruins of his “reset” policy, all the defects of his leadership are magnified in this crisis. Things really matter now; the time for “fast and loose” is over.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
First, in answer to Peppermint's question:

>>>Belorus is smaller, with just 9.5 million people to Ukraine's 44 million (per wikipedia). I imagine the economic position of the two countries must be roughly equivalent, however--between East and West, agriculture, heavy industry, dependent on Russia for energy. Are there grievances there equivalent to those in Ukraine?<<<

There may be grievances, but no one to express them. Belorus is functionally still a Soviet Socialist Republic, with the government at all levels controlled by Moscow. It is not really independent.

As far as the Ukraine is concerned,the ball is completely in Putin's court. If they go ahead and take the Crimea, the damage done to the West as a whole will be minimal. But, mind you, it will help turn the Ukraine into the next Yugoslavia.

If they push through and go for the whole Ukraine [and now is the time to do it], reinstalling Yanukovych long enough for him to sign the country over to be reintegrated with Russia, it will have the potential to be a Sarajevo, and show that Russia has every intent of re-subjugating what they call the "near abroad". In neither case is there anything that could try to stop them other than the Ukrainian military. They will not succeed, but they have a history of guerrilla warfare against the Russians under whatever flag.

There is no possible help from the West. The EU cannot and will not fight the Russians until Russian tanks are investing Berlin. The US has dismantled its forces in Europe and is no longer capable of doing a REFORGER. And there is the detail that the US government is rooting for the Russians.

Not that it is our direct fight. Our major military goal should be getting our troops out of Afghanistan alive with as much equipment as possible. Our forces are functionally surrounded, and a major part of the surrounding force is Russian.

The only remaining course for the former Warsaw Pact countries and FSU republics who wish to remain independent is to arm up big time. And that includes such WMD's as they can acquire from any source. Countervalue deterrence. Because all they have is each other.

2014 is the Year of Consequences, when the vultures come home to roost.

Subotai Bahadur
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Although it seemed the right thing at the time, the stink of Slobodan Milosevic was not enough to justify bombing the Serbian population into penury. I suppose everybody was supposed to feel good that the poor, oppressed Muslim Kosovars were saved from those nasty Orthodox Slavs. To this day nobody from any administration admits that the Kosovar freedom fighters were actually imported al-Qaeda types. What we ended up with was the extra-legal trashing of Serbia's centuries old sovereignty for another Muslim state in Europe. How is that a good thing?

I see much of the same today. The stink attached to Putin makes Russia the enemy whatever the circumstances. Crimea was part of Russia for centuries until 1956 when Khrushchev for some reason tossed it to Ukraine. There are centuries of connection between Ukraine and Russia too. Maybe blood and earth don't mean much to us but they sure do for the people living in those ancient lands.

The big media to-do now is that we are supposed to hate Putin and Russia because Putin is tight with the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting ancient Christian values contra Western Europe's fixation on abortion and homosexuality as important societal values. The narrative is that: (a) Putin/Russia is tsarist reactionary, and (b) Putin/Russia is neo-USSR. That those are contradictory assertions means not a wit to either journalist or professor.

I think it a huge mistake for Kerry et. al. to pummel Russia to score a few political points while the Iran cauldron is boiling away and while we still have troops in Afghanistan.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe we could arrange a swap? Give Soros to Putin in exchange for Yanukovich. Both deliveries to be made at 10,000 feet.

The Mount Whitney has to run away, ugly as the image is. Turkey has been on the other side ever since 2003. She certainly does not have our back, except to plunge a knife in it. Who can the Ukrainians count on? Poland, Finland and maybe Rumania, Albania and Croatia do not make a war winning coalition. The Black Sea is becoming a Russian lake and the Eastern Med may not be far behind.

The American people have no idea how vast our strategic collapse has been. The tragedy is that this was all avoidable. The mathematics was on our side. Bush had Putin boxed in and the Islamists and Iranians on the run. He had built a winning coalition and was nursing the Europeans into a stronger role. China is financially and demographically over a cliff. If we had just held the line we would have been poised for a new American century. Now we stand self eviscerated as the world burns.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (129)
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Mitt Romney had it right about Russia being the biggest geopolitical threat to Europe and the west, which Obama mocked. Prescient. However BC readers already get it.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Apparently the international Left is finally getting ready to go full Nazi.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Soviets don't have to 'take the Crimea by force', they already have it.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Russia is never as strong as or as WEAK as she appears to be." Old adage that proves itself to be true over and over again. Our "post modern" world is may actually be going "back to the future"....all the way to 1914.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
VLADIMIR PUTIN YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

If you dare order Russian troops to invade pro-Western, freedom loving Ukraine you won’t be getting off so easy like Assad did when he defied Obama by killing civilians with WMDs. That’s a mistake he won’t be repeating as he can’t afford the humiliation. To your lasting regret they’ll be hell to pay if you cross the red line on military intervention. What will Obama do? Punish you within an inch of your life by replacing the current US Ambassador to Russia with retired gay congressman Barney Frank, or openly gay football star Michael Sam. Checkmate! Don’t underestimate the man.

Click www.apollospeaks.com for more.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
BC Alexis said "Kiev was once the capital of could be regarded as the first Russian state – the word “Rus” refers to Viking overlords. The “Rus” were Slavic in the same sense that Normans were French.

Putin needs to keep in mind that there is a term of art for a pissed off Viking...

BERSERKER

Let him fuss and fume on his side of the border. But

KEEP OUT!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pootie Poo needs to remember the example of Finland.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Finland_during_World_War_II
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Doesn't anybody in France regard it as arrogant when Americans claim they “won” World War I or World War II, never mind that each ally contributed to a common victory? Charles de Gaulle claimed in “Vers l'Armee de Metier” that France won the Great War. It didn't matter to him that World War I was won by a massive alliance that France was only one part of. Even within “French” ranks, Senegalese and Arab Algerians fought – they were hardly French. Then, there were Chinese laborers. Among the soldiers, Britons, Canadians, Australians, Romanians, Americans, Serbs, Greeks, Italians, and many more fought in that war – a war that Charles de Gaulle claimed that France won.

So yes, Charles de Gaulle was arrogant. It helps to read his actual writings rather than react with a Pavlovian reflex of French chauvinism, defending every action of de Gaulle as if he were some kind of deity. Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt's attitude toward de Gaulle was counterproductive, to the point where FDR's hostility toward him rallied French sentiment behind de Gaulle, Charles de Gaulle underestimated pro-French attitudes in the United States and overestimated pro-British attitudes in the United States. His talk of a so-called “Anglo-Saxon” conspiracy did more to promote anti-French attitudes in the USA and cement Anglo-American relations than anything that a British politician could have ever done.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
that's the first time that someone refers to de Gaulle as saying that "France won the great war", meaning alone (?) don't you think that you're extrapolating what he said?

anyways, since I canrecall the context in 1914, the African and asian colonies were part of France, even if some subjects were hold as sub French, anyways, it seems that the Maghrebin were held in respect since France built the first Mosquee in europe for thanking their war effort, and each nation that participated into the war have a marble in Paris

Sorry to tell you but the Italians, the Serbs, Romanians... weren't fighting in the french front but in the Balkans and most likely the Austro-Hungarian Empire

It also help to read Delano writing to De Gaulle (or rather to a intermediary, since he hated de Gaulle), for understanding de Gaulle responses

Of course de Gaulle knew of what the anglo-Saxons were able and of what they were aiming at, making of France a american colony (ever heard of "Amgot"? and of the fake money that the US launched in france, that no french wanted to use !

oh and of the dollars brought back in NY with a Fregate for exchanging them with gold?

But it's rather because he fired out the NATO offices from France that French bashing became hot in the US (hey imagine that the Nato underground cells were conspiring against him and the communists in France, the "Petit-Clamart" temptative to kill him? a Nato cell coup !



38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps it isn't arrogance for someone to regard Americans and especially American cowboys as nothing more than cannon fodder. Perhaps one is supposed to expect that American cannon fodder for European wars is the natural birthright of every Frenchman, Belgian, and Briton alike. No, there's nothing arrogant about that attitude if it comes from an Arab, a German, a Russian, or a Chinese Communist either. If Europe needs to be defended, it's “isolationism” for the United States to avoid such a responsibility. If America needs to be defended, Europeans have made their views very clear over the past twelve years – American soldiers exist for defending Europe, not the United States.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
sorry, but if you check the WW1 and WW2 casualties, it doesn't seem that the american casualties were the most numerous, and if it wasn't because Stalin was winning on the eastern front, I wonder if you'd come to our rescue in WW2, cuz good ol Hitler was fighting the commies, and who subsidied Hitler ? the american banks and corporations that helped him to build his army (Ford, General electric...) documented !




38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kiev was once the capital of could be regarded as the first Russian state – the word “Rus” refers to Viking overlords. The “Rus” were Slavic in the same sense that Normans were French. That said, the Mongol invasion disrupted Russia and turned Ukraine into a wild frontier – the very word “Ukraine” means “Frontier”. It is a frontier not only between east and west, but more importantly between north and south – specifically Christianity and Islam.

Kiev's historical memory includes loyalty to Poland-Lithuania and later to Muscovite Russia. Institutionalized nationalism in Ukraine seems to date from the early twentieth century. In contrast, France, England, and Spain have solid institutional memories and a keen sense of “nationalism” based upon the dialect of the royal court. In comparison, Italy and Germany are neophytes. Ukraine has even less institutional memory of nationhood than Italy and Germany and definitely less than Poland.

There is no chance that Ukraine will have anybody like Charles de Gaulle because men like him only arise within strong military traditions with vivid institutional memories. Although de Gaulle was definitely intelligent, albeit annoyingly arrogant, his ideology was a product of his military environment. Although “Vers l'Armee de Metier” is definitely worth reading as a commentary on how the automobile reduces strategic depth, it is also worth reading as an illustration of his tactless grandiosity.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
funnily only Anglo-saxons find de Gaulle arrogant and grandiose, not the chinese, not the arabs, not the Germans, not the French... I wonder why

ahahah
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The kind of statesman Ukraine needs is someone who can charm his neighbors and major powers. Conventional military genius doesn't count in Ukraine as much as diplomatic talent. Indeed, the ability of Ukraine to repel a Russian invasion will depend at least as much on loudspeakers as bullets – Ukrainian victory depends upon convincing Russian troops to go home.

The linguistic divide between Ukrainian and Russian is like the divide between German and Dutch – it exists, but it is not as stark as the divide between French and German. Or between Hungarian and its neighbors. This, in turn, shapes the nature of the warfare, which would look more like a civil war than a normal nation-against-nation kind of fight.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
a Janukovych opponent MP says that the EU helped to settle a neo-nazy government in Kiev

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1di876_ukraine-un-putsch-neonazi-pousse-par-l-otan_news?start=3#from=embediframe
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Left fascists have been going on like this for awhile now, prepping the world public for the coming conquest of the Ukraine by Russia. Once again a sovereign European nation is overwhelmed and crushed by an aggressive fascist state while the rest of the world impotently watches.

So much for "Never Again."
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I heard Soros bet big, really big, against Ukraine a few weeks ago, as he did against the British Pound and Thai Baht.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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