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Friday, August 29, 2014

What game is Putin playing?

Link:  What is Putin trying to accomplish by invading the Ukraine?

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a fan of "".  They don't hesitate to offer possibilities that more mainstream news sources shy away from.  As for the issue addressed in this posting (Putin, Russia and this mini-invasion of Eastern Ukraine), I wish I had some clue what Vlad is planning, or if he has script at all.  My first thought was that Russia was stepping up military activity vis-à-vis Eastern Ukraine for two reasons: first, the attention of NATO and the United Nations has been drawn back to the Near East (I chose to say Near East instead of Middle East; its how I was raised from an infant Case Officer) and this Caliphate bunch of beasties.  Second, with the eyes of the West elsewhere, an opportunity arises to bolster the battered pro-Russian guerillas around Luhansk and Donetsk. 
To be honest, I've been a bit confused by the part being played by the Ukrainian military.  I realize that the Ukrainian Army and Air Force (the Navy ceased to exist a few months back) cannot stand up to a full mobilization by Russia.  But we have yet to see anything close to a full Russian mobilization.  I would love to see it, though.  Vlad would be exposing the weaknesses of his planning and organizational capabilities to the very interested eyes of NATO.  Back to the Ukrainian Army.  The Ukrainians have been very active in every peace keeping operation in recent memory.  They have troops (not a whole lot, granted) who have seen action and also worked side-by-side with Western forces.  Ukraine recently reduced the size of its army by leaps and bounds, but this was more of an effort to modernize and streamline than anything else.  As of today, the majority of Ukraine's fighting potential is still sitting around Kiev and to the West.  Why haven't they charged into Eastern Ukraine, full force, and wiped out this bunch of ass holes that take hostages and shoot down civilian jet liners?  Obviously the new administration in Kiev does not want to act rashly and encourage Russia to raise the stakes as well.  But aggressive action is the only action Putin respects.  Taking small steps only will allow Putin to completely step over the Ukrainians.  I have been encouraged by the Ukrainian Army's recent successes, but I can't help wonder if a full assault against these thugs would not have ended this issue altogether.
I have a brilliant friend who is convinced that Putin is trying to occupy a bit of land and strengthen the guerillas to improve his bargaining position.  My buddy believes that the Russian people will not give Putin an unending vote of confidence as sanctions start to really bite the Russian middle class.  The sanctions are hurting, but mostly in the pocketbook of the richest of Russians.  But these guys are the ones who seem to be backing Putin lately (the ones who farted without his permission ended up in jail or in exile in the UK).  My friend believes that Putin will use Eastern Ukraine as a bargaining chip to permanently attach the Crimean Republic (just in name only, folks) to Mother Russia.  Crimea does appear to be the most valuable piece of this puzzle from a strategic perspective.  Putin has already reunited the Russian Navy and if he can gain some legitimacy for his military conquest of Crimea, then the Black Sea again becomes a Russian lake (no offense to the Bulgarians, Romanians, Moldovans, Turks, etc.).  The Black Sea is more than just important from a military viewpoint.  The issue of oil and its transport (pipelines, drilling, refining, shipping, all that good stuff) are unavoidably connected to the Black Sea.  Maybe Putin believes he can trade stability in Eastern Ukraine (and friendly relations with Russia) with the acceptance of a fait d-accompli in Crimea.
The Obama Administration has a very painful headache to deal with.  Instead of the proverbial two-front war (that doomed Hitler and Napoleon), Obama is faced with a two-front diplomatic crisis.  Both might one day involve the U.S. military, so forward-thinking (not this Administration's strong suit..) is a must.  I would argue that the day has come and gone for giving the Ukrainian Army and Air Force whatever they want.  The Ukrainian people are majorly pissed off at Putin and the Russians, and the regular Ukrainian Army echoes those feelings.  I say give them what they need to free their homeland, and call Putin's bluff.  As for the Near East, you will have to tune in tomorrow for that commentary.  Much obliged, folks.....

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