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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Update On Troubles In Ukraine

Link: Russian Army Tank Column Crosses Border Into Ukraine

Its been a while since we visited Ukraine.  Syria, Iraq and West Africa have been a bit distracting as of late.  In all honesty, I was beginning to hope that cooler heads had prevailed in Moscow.  Putin had the opportunity to "magnanimously" withdraw all Russian units from eastern Ukraine, and invite the Ukrainians (alone) to join him at the negotiating table.  You know and I know that Russia will not be returning Crimea to Ukraine, and Putin's influence and reputation have suffered because of this unilateral annexation.  So a peace offensive on the part of Putin would provide a way out for those Europeans who have been looking for a way to forgive Russia, and to do so without losing face. While theoretically this could begin with a sign of good faith in form of the departure of Russian military units from eastern Ukraine, it isn't going to happen.  We now have clear and dangerous indications that Russian armor is on the move in eastern Ukraine.  Friday's actions remind me of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and I fully expect to see a mobilization of sorts from the Russian Army (In the long run, Russia's less-than prepared Army and Airborne units invading Georgia resembled Mussolini's forces invading Greece in 1940).   Putin knows he doesn't need to play "peacemaker," and negotiate to keep Crimea.  He recognizes that Russia can tear off just as much of Ukraine as she pleases.  Merkel, Cameron and Hollande (is this little pipsqueak still around?) will go to lunch and toss a few more sanctions at Russia.  Putin is well aware that this is the only recourse for the European
Union.  Since I don't see much anti-Putin agitation in Moscow these days, we can assume that the sanctions haven't been much of a deterrent.

Last month, I hypothesized that Putin was really only interested in Crimea, because of its strategic location on the Black Sea.  I believe he stirred up the shit pot among the substantial Russian minority  in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk (why do I like saying "Dnipropetrovsk" so much?) in order to create a problem that only he could solve.  I assumed that Putin was planning to offer peace and the departure of Russian forces from eastern Ukraine, in exchange for an acknowledgement of Russia's Crimean annexation.  It's really simple, when you think about it.  If you want something that belongs to someone else, you take it, along with something else of value.  In order to return the second item of value, they must accept that you are keeping the first item.  If not, they risk losing both.  I believe that Putin's original intention was to maneuver his way into receiving European and Ukrainian acceptance of Russian Crimea.  For the life of me I couldn't find a reason why Putin would want eastern Ukraine.  Forgive the rudeness, but have you been to Donetsk? Its not Vienna or Paris, that's for sure.  Hell, its not even Des Moines.  But Putin did not need to find justification for invading eastern Ukraine.  All Putin needed to do was CONVINCE THE WEST that he had reason for invading eastern Ukraine (all those poor, abused ethnic Russians).  Then when the mercenary slugs hired by Putin in the Donetsk region accidentally shot down a civilian jet full of totally innocent folks, I imagine that Putin was obliged to review his escape strategy.  But, as it is with most things, if you wait awhile, people will forget.  I can't remember the last time I heard mention of the Malaysian Airlines jet that was shot down.

The truth is, Putin realizes that he doesn't have to order the departure of Russian forces from eastern Ukraine.  The typically weak line of diplomacy offered up by Obama, Merkel, Hollande and Kirk Cameron has allowed Putin to annex Crimea and absorb the Ukrainian Navy.  And to Putin's surprise, it looks like he gets to keep as much of the Ukraine as he chooses.  It's no longer about Crimea.  The presence of a column of what appears to be functioning (nothing is guaranteed) Russian armor tooling around in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine is a clear indication to me that Putin has decided to "up the ante".  It is in Putin's nature to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, which includes the west being distracted by events on Syria, Iraq and Liberia.  These distractions, and Obama's continued mantra about "no ground troops" (which is an example to be followed by everyone....except France), have given Putin the opportunity to decide just how much of
A horse with two asses . . .
Ukraine to keep.  Interestingly enough, while Putin dances diplomatic circles around Obama and the Europeans, he has had plenty of time to send equipment, supplies and possibly air units to his buddy Bashir al-Assad in Damascus.  I'm guessing that Vlad is trying to get as much accomplished as possible before 2016, when its likely that the White House will be home to someone "with a pair".  I can just imagine what the map of Ukraine will look like in 2016.  Eastern Ukraine does have a number of lovely forested regions, perfect for a topless Putin to go on lots of horseback excursions.  I only ask, for the sake of decency, Vlad: either find a training bra or put your shirt back on.

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