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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Is Russia making preparations for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine?

The Russia of Vladimir Putin has a habit of telegraphing its intentions ahead of time.  Putin's foreign policy and its imclusion of Russia's military in one way or another, is all about aggression against his neighbors, intimidation, and force projection.  Although most analysts are closely monitoring Russian  military activity in Syria and on its borders with Ukraine, the truth is, every move Putin makes is primarily directed against the United States.  Sadly, everything Putin wants, he gets.  The United States has such week, reactive policies regarding Russia, that Putin must be very tempted to push the envelope one more time before the Obama Administration leaves office.  In fact, the recent Russian military buildup on its borders with Ukraine has all the indications of a full-scale imvasion.  It not only fits the Putin mold, but it makes sense geo-politically, at least in the way Putin has played the game lately.  One of the few cards we have left to play against Russia is our membership (and stewardship) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  This military force presents Putin with a potential enemy which would be very difficult to defeat with a conventional force.  There was a time when NATO was discussing a possible membership invitation to Ukraine, which would have really pissed off the folks in the Kremlin.  No doubt Ukraine, for defensive reasons alone, would have quickly accepted any such formal invitation, but no one in Kiev is waiting for the mail these days.  All Putin had to do was diplomatically complain and threaten a bit to put to flight the idea of Ukrainian membership in NATO.  Since then, Putin has demonstrated that Russia now calls the shots.  At one time, the Baltic Republics showed an interest in NATO, bit that issue has been run off the table as well.  The worst casualty of the willingness to let Russia dictate policy has to do with defensive strategy in Eastern Europe.  There was a time when NATO intended to deploy a missile shield in Poland and other Eastern European nations.  This device, if it operated as intended, ideally would destroy any missiles fired from Russia into Eastern Europe.  The Russians had no answer to the missile shield, so they threatened and blustered until that option also appears to now be off the table.  Why is Putin allowed to maneuver with such impunity?

On August 7, Russia issued formal complaints against Ukraine, accusing Kiev of attempting to either invade Crimea (!) or of trying to destabilize upcoming elections.  As proof, Russian television broadcast video of a handful of ragged so-called Ukrainian guerillas and a small cache of explosives and ammunition.  Staying true to their M.O., the Russian military was simultaneously building up its forces on its borders with Ukraine.  From August 7 -12, the Russian military deployed additional air and naval units, ground forces and military hardware on the border with Ukraine.  We believe this new military posture from Moscow is an indication that Russia intends to invade Ukraine before the Obama Administration leaves office, and a potentially less pliant government takes the reigns of power in DC.  Putin has everything to gain and nothing to lose.  The Ukrainian Army is in dire need of new equipment, parts, ammunition and training.  The Air Force appears to be in even worse shape.  The Obama Administration has continually refused repeated requests from Kiev for assistance, although some U.S. personnel have been detached to assist in training the Army.  Russia will steamroll the Ukrainian military, and the leaders of Europe, who follow behind Obama like a line of baby ducklings, will convene to discuss what sanctions to impose on Moscow.  Putin will permenantly eliminate the troublesome Ukrainians and their flirtation with NATO, the Baltic States will be cowered into acquiescence.

During the last 8 years, no matter what the issue or location, Russia has dictated the end game.  In Turkey, President Erdogan used the recent coup attempt that he very likely supported himself, to quash any pro-west sentiment, and then made nice with Putin.  Turkey's membership in NATO hangs in the balance, as do the missiles NATO has positioned in Turkey which are, we assume, aimed at Russia.  With Turkey and the Kremlin now best-of-friends, how safe are the U.S. military personnel still based in Turkey?  What about the U.S. military installations and aircraft?  All the while, U.S. foreign policy remains exactly how it was left by former Secretary of State Clinton: as a reactive, useless waste of taxpayer's money.  The only time we see Secretary Kerry is when he is stuck behind a bunch of media microphones, trying to explain how the ransom used to free U.S. hostages in Iran wasn't actually ransom, but part of a larger effort to repay Iran for a broken arms deal in the 1970s.  Sorry for straying a bit off-topic, but why are we repaying Iran for ANYTHING?  They remain the world's largest supporter of terrorism, so you can imagine where that money will end up.  This arms deal was in the 1970s; has Iran offered to compensate the family of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer, who was killed by Iranian agents in 1985?  Has Iran paid any compensation for destroying our Embassy in 1979 and taking over one hundred Americans hostage?  Why is U.S. foreign policy always about placating the bad guys, Russia included?

I have no idea how either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will deal with Vladimir Putin.  As Secretary of State, in 2010 Hillary Clinton negotiated and signed the disasterous New Start Treaty with Putin, and Trump has praised Putin, seeming to not recognize the danger the Kremlin presents today.  Hillary has had her shot; I would rather take a chance on a new approach than continue the crippling foreign policy of the Obama Administration.  

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