Ooobie on Everything

Ukraine: Going from a War of Nerves to War

kievThis whole Ukraine thing has been a seesaw of expectations. I thought for a few days there might be a diplomatic solution to the confrontation, despite the flimsiness of the Geneva accord, but at the moment that possibility recedes to the thunder of tanks rumbling toward the east from Kiev. The offensive against the pro-Russians that began with the visit of US intel chief John Brennan and was briefly halted for Easter has now been resumed, coincidentally, I’m sure, with the arrival of Joe Biden. From the start of Maidan rioting it was pretty clear this was not going to be a happy scenario. It looked very much as if the EU had connived in the disturbances, furious at having an association agreement with Ukraine snatched from its jaws with a better offer from Russia (which the West calls bribes). And whatever the EU was up to in Ukraine, the US was worse. When I was doing diplomacy, you tried to avoid appearances of meddling in the internal affairs of another country, even if you were. But our diplomacy has taken on the same coloring of arrogance and stupidity that our domestic governance has. So not only did the Embassy send out its anonymous faces to mingle in the crowds and report attitudes, the woman in charge of European Affairs at the State Department went and handed out snacks to hungry rioters. In (Russian-intercepted) phone calls, we heard Ms. Nuland express contempt for EU opinion about how to proceed in Kiev, and lastly we heard her setting out the USG’s list of desired Kiev officials to comprise what is known as an “interim government” in Ukraine and a junta in El Salvador. This direct and obvious US involvement in an illegal transfer of power in a nation of singular importance to Russia elevated the quarrel from one over Ukraine’s future alliances to one of who would prevail in this face-off. Would it be America, which lives half a globe away from Ukraine; or Russia, with a sufficient military force deployed on Russian territory and at the ready to take eastern Ukraine should the west be so kind as to provide a sufficient pretext. That would settle the thorny issue of a land-bridge from Russia to Crimea.

In the meantime, this primary face-off has triggered a secondary one of far greater importance to Ukraine, a deepening divide between the west and the southeast. A huge Russian minority is unhappy with the violent overthrow of pro-Russian Yanukovych despite sharing anger at his corruption. This is all the more so because of the manner in which the creation of a new illegal government has proceeded, with much western support and in smoke-filled rooms, because of anti-Russian measures from Kiev, and because the Russian-speaking southeast has been ignored in all decision-making. This discontent and divide has provided fertile ground for Russian psy-ops and provocation that prevents the Kiev regime from consolidating its power, a goal important to Moscow. But the clashes that have occurred and are escalating between the two sides now threaten to provoke a genuine civil war, which would most certainly prompt Russian military intervention.

The latest news is that the head of the Right Sector fascists is moving his paramilitary headquarters right into the lion’s mouth in Donetsk. Dmitry Yarosh claims to have coordinated everything with the Kiev junta and to have the okay to  move against the “terrorists” of southeastern Ukraine. This is about as dangerous a provocation to the eastern Ukrainians as you could offer. It will do no good; it will not tame the fires of separatism but flame them. And while strife in Ukraine is almost certainly not something that Russian wants or would have wished for, if it comes to real civil strife Russian must protect its interests. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in an interview yesterday, said that Russia would of course use military force if Russia was attacked, or “Russians” were attacked in Ukraine. Already dozens have been killed or injured in the Kiev operation. How many deaths will it take to provoke Russia into responding? In the meantime, ask yourself this: what is the US (which seems to own the Kiev junta) doing to pull back the extreme right-wing and push toward a Ukrainian solution that satisfies both parties instead of only one? I don’t think anybody in his right mind wants a war with Russia, but US words and actions are pushing things in that direction.

I’d like to know how united (or not) NATO is on this one. It’s one thing to drop a few bombs over some defenseless country (especially since it is mainly the US doing the bombing). It is quite another to know that your country stands in real jeopardy of becoming a target in a war that could well slide into the use of nuclear weapons. I’d guess the Europeans, at least to the west of the former Pact countries, will be looking around desperately for a way to shunt this argument from the realm of the military to the realm of the diplomatic. I’m not sure they can stay the Americans, who are being goaded toward the military by hawks on the right and the left and by a US general, Philip Breedlove, who seems to want another star on his shoulder. They say it’s a matter of credibility. I can’t speak for others, but from where I sit I’ll take a little tarnishing of our credibility in exchange for no military conflict with Russia over a place that has no vital significance for us.




There’ll be a change in the weather

supposed imageryI am absorbed with events in Ukraine. There is a growing possibility that a military confrontation between NATO and Russia is in the offing. If things go awry, I’d bet right now that it will be occasioned by the miscalculation by NATO of Russia’s will to fight on its 10-yard line. NATO thinks if things get tough enough for Moscow economically, or if NATO ramps up its military presence in Russia’s backyard sufficiently, Russia will break. Moscow will decide it doesn’t want to test NATO, it will cry uncle and give back Crimea and put its troops and military equipment somewhere far from the Ukrainian border so NATO doesn’t have to worry.

Of course that is a big load of horse poop. Russia isn’t going to do any such thing. Russia is mad as hell and it isn’t going to take it anymore. NATO has vastly increased the security of its original founding members over the past twenty years by eating away at Russia’s safety zone. It did so in violation of an agreement between western heads of state and high officials with their counterparts in the USSR that NATO would not expand eastward. And in exchange for that security guarantee, the USSR withdrew 400,000 troops from eastern Europe and made possible German reunification and continued NATO membership. I read today that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that an agreement (such as that with Gorbachev) made between officials authorized to make such agreements has legal standing as a treaty, even if oral and thus not ratified by the Senate. So from the start of Russia’s rebirth as a non-communist nation, it has seen the West renege on commitments vital to Russian interests.

NATO has gone as far as it can go without provoking a predictably horrible ending. The US deliberately flaunted its support for the mob in Kiev that ousted a legal government, immediately adopted the self-declared authorities as its own, and now is pushing itself more aggressively into internal Ukrainian affairs. It is patently clear that the objective is to “score” Ukraine for the western team, thus denying it to Russia. Victoria Nuland was choosing government officials in an intercepted conversation, and I hear John Brennan, the  man who tries to be the least untruthful he possibly can, has already been in Kiev advising. Our military is everywhere, working with the police and military. This is exactly what NATO did in Kosovo prior to their bombing — they used their “legal” cover to carry out subversive activities including liaison and coordination with the KLA and target acquisition. So I don’t get it — how do they think making Russia hyper-reactive and utterly paranoid is making Ukraine more secure? If I know what the US is up to in Kiev, so do the Russians and in far greater detail. If we turn Kiev into an anti-Russian bastion, its future is in dire peril. And the only way that the US can protect it is with war.

So here we are again at this fundamental question: do Americans want to die in Ukraine for a non-NATO member in opposition to the regional power with a rightful and vital interest in what happens in Ukraine? Russia cannot ignore or be indifferent to whether Ukraine, under the impulse of an illegal overthrow of power, moves into an enemy military alliance,  or whether it is a friendly neutral nation that doesn’t threaten Russia or anybody else.

There are all kinds of rumors floating around that NATO is planning on deploying missiles in Poland. To what end? Such a missile system isn’t going to save Poland  if Russia and NATO go to war. That is a pipe dream. Even back in the 50s we knew that nobody wins a nuclear war, and Russia will use nukes rather than tolerate NATO aggression. All that deploying a  missile defense is going to do is further heat up the re-arming and re-militarization of Europe. Russia is apparently dumping the US dollar for its gas and oil trade, it is reconfiguring its industry to enhance self-reliance and it is dealing like crazy with China. We are at the point of diminishing returns. The uglier NATO gets in its tone toward Russia, the hotter the Russian nationalist fire is burning. And they are igniting the pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine at the same time. This is the scary story many Russians grew up on, NATO with a knife at Russia’s throat.  Now Russians see this as not about Ukraine at all, but about Russia and long-time foe NATO. Their reactions from here on are going to be those of a nation that perceives itself to be under immediate threat.

I won’t be around in thirty years when historians are writing about this period of history, but I think this is the point at which the unipolar world collapses, just as did the USSR. We can actually see the new balance of power emerging. It is the first time since 1991 that NATO has had any opposition to its will worth mentioning, only third-rate opponents that could never hope to fend off NATO militarily. Now it is between the big boys. Will it be war or some form of mutually acceptable accommodation?