At a Loss over Putin

With more Russian troops entering the fray in Eastern Ukraine and the stakes growing higher, Washington is at a loss for how to deal with the crisis. After a string of victories against Russian separatists, the Ukrainian army now finds itself being beat back by a new separatist movement in the south which is backed by the Russian military. Now even Democrats are joining Republicans in calling for the distribution of combat arms to the Ukrainians. I firmly believe this is not an option that should be considered. The only reason it is being considered is because we (not just the U.S. but the EU as well) allowed a small crisis escalate out of control and did little. Putin right now has the upper hand and we

should tread carefully.

I knew and said earlier this year that the Ukrainians would rally their forces and eventually beat back the separatists. I also said that a separatist loss would drag Russian forces directly into the fray as Putin will not allow himself to be beat; now this has happened. Sanctions directed against Russia have hurt their economy but have not forced Putin to back down. Rest assured Putin will see this through to an end that benefits him. The question though is what can we do about it? More sanctions will only cause Putin to act more aggressively. Bringing the Ukraine into NATO is out of the question as direct military action against Russia is unthinkable. And giving the Ukrainians military hardware is not only unnecessary but would have disastrous consequences.

Just this past week Putin stated "It's best not to mess with us.....I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers." Granted the comments were made at a pro-Kremlin youth camp and not in a public televised addressed to the nation or directly to a foreign leader. Regardless, the words used and their connotation are a type that have not been spoken by a Russian leader in earnest since the Cold War ended. While a nuclear conflict with Russia is highly improbable, a conventional military engagement launched at another Eastern European country isn't. In this situation we are at a loss. Now that Russian forces aren't even hiding their presence in the Ukraine, we must assume that Putin has his sights on detaching eastern Ukraine and bringing it into his fold no matter the cost.

The calls to arm the Ukrainians are escalatory and unnecessary. The Ukraine has the weapons it needs; what it needs are training, money, and time, all of which are in short supply. Negotiations are being hampered by Putin's demands that the Ukraine give up its east which the Ukrainians won't agree to thus making the prospect of a negotiated outcome highly unlikely. If the Russian population begins to oppose the conflict Putin may have to step back but right now his popularity is soaring. At this point in time, the situation has become one that unfortunately it seems can only be solved through more bloodshed. World leaders who are assertive and confident like Putin get what they want when they are not directly confronted by leaders of stronger nations. How is that "reset" with Russia working out?

Posted by SPBrooker at September 5, 2014 7:15 PM
Comment #382817
Putin right now has the upper hand

Putin used to have a client state in Ukraine, today that is no more. It is very likely that a Ukrainian rump state will join NATO, which will create yet another thorn in Putin’s side. By any observation, Putin has already lost. In Donbas, Putin has only managed to channel Pyrrhus of Epirus. The Russian economy is already toast and will only get worse as Europe implements even more economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of Luhansk and Donetsk gets blown to pieces. These poverty-stricken oblasts will further sap the Russian economy if they ever get annexed.

a conventional military engagement launched at another Eastern European country isn’t
Putin did not invade Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the Maidan Revolution, instead opting for a limited annexation of Crimea. Nor has he committed any active aggression in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. He pretty clearly doesn’t have the confidence to invade a member of NATO and the reason for this is clear: Russia’s military is puny and does not stand a chance. This is the clear fact that distinguishes Putin’s bluffs from Khrushchev’s threats. Posted by: Warren Porter at September 5, 2014 9:03 PM
Comment #382834

You made several points I intended to mention. I will just add that Obama showed outstanding leadership with this issue. He coordinated with NATO and made it clear to the Russians their current path is not sustainable. The Russian currency just hit an all-time low, their stock market is in the tank, and they now face increasingly hostile neighbors on their border, former SSR’s which are now even more motivated to turn to the EU, and away from Russia. Putin is backing down because he really has no choice. The desire of Russians to bring ethnic enclaves back into the Motherland is understandable, but doing it by force is completely unacceptable. It was a bad move from the word ‘go’, and Russia has paid a high price with little to show for it.

It is a pleasure to watch Obama engage in such masterful command of his resources- military, economic, and geopolitical. His style is careful and deliberative, which is not fast enough for some, but one thing about Obama-

He is always on his game, he knows how to use the tools at his disposal, he avoids mistakes by not making rash moves, and he always comes out on top.

Posted by: phx8 at September 6, 2014 12:01 AM
Comment #382835

And knows how to feed his gullible followers…

Obama confirmed on September 3 that “Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks” had been deployed in Eastern Ukraine.

That’s not only a Lie, it is Lie which could potentially precipitate humanity into a Third World War.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) “have registered no troops, ammunition or weapons crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border over the past two weeks” (Itar-Tass)

“Throughout the week, the Observer Teams noticed a net increase of young people (both men and women) wearing military-style dress crossing the border in both directions but did not observe any weapons among these groups,” the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s report covering a period from August 20 to September 3 said.

The observers said they had regular interactions with supporters of the self-proclaimed republics. “Some discussed openly with the OSCE while others expressed their total mistrust toward the OSCE. At both Border Crossing Points, some supporters of the self-proclaimed republics explained that they are not allowed to cross the border with weapons,” the report said.

The observers registered a decrease in helicopter sightings compared to last week but they were still observed at border crossing points flying at low altitude along the border.

“In either case, in as far as could be seen, the aircraft did not violate the Ukrainian airspace,” the report said. (Ibid)

The OSCE Observer Mission is deployed at the Russian Checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk at the request of Russia’s government. The decision was taken in a consensus agreement by all 57 OSCE participating States, many of which are represented at the NATO Summit in Wales.

The OSCE report contradicts the statements made by the Kiev regime and its US-NATO sponsors. It confirms that NATO accusations pertaining to the influx of Russian tanks are an outright fabrication.

NATO backed up Obama’s statements with “fake” satellite images (28 August 2014) that allegedly “show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside the sovereign territory of Ukraine”. These statements are refuted by a detailed report of the OSCE monitoring mission stationed at the Russia-Ukraine border. The NATO reports including its satellite photos were based on fake evidence.

It is obvious to those actually looking into the situation that this whole situation is directly due to NATO states trying to isolate Russia, get Ukraine into NATO, and the ultimate goal of replacing the heating oil/gas being sold to European states currently by Russia with NATO state private interests.

In much the same way that Iraq was about oil, so is Ukraine.

BTW phx8, how is that whole Libya thing working out? I guess he was at least smarter than Bush by not flying a “Mission Accomplished” banner as the chaos from his actions erupted…

Posted by: Rhinehold at September 6, 2014 6:39 PM
Comment #382838

“.and the ultimate goal of replacing the heating oil/gas being sold to European states currently by Russia with NATO state private interests. In much the same way that Iraq was about oil, so is Ukraine.”


I am sure that the NATO countries would like to replace their dependence on Russian oil and gas. However, that is not within the foreseeable future. I doubt that NATO has welcomed this confrontation with Russia. Agree, though, that NATO courting of Ukraine played a part in Putin’s grab of Russian oriented parts of Ukraine. Keep what he could before it all went to NATO and tipped the balance of power in that region.

Posted by: Rich at September 6, 2014 7:43 PM
Comment #382856

Economics does play a part in the events surrounding Ukraine, but it is not just western interests seducing the Ukraine away from the Russians. The Ukrainians and other former SSRs do NOT want to be aligned with Russia. They DO want to be aligned with the EU, and it is not just a question of trade & economics. Some of the people living in former SSRs have very unpleasant memories of what life was like under the Soviet Union. Some do not want to be subjected to domination by the Russians, who are a different ethnic group, yet often want to impose their culture upon others. And some do not want anything to do with the ongoing political decline of Russia, its kleptocracy, or its corrupt oligarchs. Let’s face it: Russia is an absolute mess. Alcoholism is rampant, along with many other social ills. Is it really any wonder the Baltic states, the Ukraine, and other SSRs want to turn west?

We are seeing an ongoing process in the Middle East unfold. We are seeing the unwinding of colonialism and Cold War dictatorships. As countries achieve self-determination, some will be successful nations. Others will be failed states.

One of the biggest problems with the post-WWII dictatorships and authoritarians is that they did not permit political opposition. Without any political structures to replace them, the fall of dictators and authoritarians resulted in people reverting to the only major cultural structure left: religion.

As distressing as it may be to see religious fundamentalists taking power in the Middle East, we have to step back, and remember who WE are. That will require a lot of patience and restraint. We have to be confident in the rightness of our ideals and approach to government, to set the example and model and encourage others to come around to our way of thinking. It will require us to work with our allies, and if necessary, intervene to prevent genocides and humanitarian disasters.

But the time to prop up dictatorships and authoritarians is over.

There is a good reason the Ukraine wants to associate with the West.

Posted by: phx8 at September 6, 2014 10:40 PM
Comment #382880
The Ukrainians and other former SSRs do NOT want to be aligned with Russia.

Obviously MANY Ukrainians do. And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? We come in and engineer a coup and new elections, helping get our guy elected. The fallout is that a civil war ensues. The US wants you to believe that this is a few rebels being led by Russians, but it isn’t. They are having a fight over the future of their country, one that is not as united as you are trying to present.

Muck like Iraq, it is not a single region but a few distinct regions that don’t see everything equally.

In reality, not many in the Ukraine want to side with Russia. But most Ukrainians do not want to be ANTAGONISTIC with Russia, which is exactly what the US is pushing them to do by whipping them up to join NATO.

Do you remember the antagonism the US displayed when Castro cozied up to the USSR several decades ago? Ukraine doesn’t want to be the new Cuba…

We (the globalists that have been in office the past 4 administrations, with the likes of Kerry and others) pushed this conflict onto Ukraine and are manipulating as much as possible to get what we want… The furthering of the global NATO empire.

Posted by: Rhinehold at September 7, 2014 10:51 PM
Comment #382881
We (the globalists that have been in office the past 4 administrations, with the likes of Kerry and others) pushed this conflict onto Ukraine

You need to study your geography and history more. Per the CIA World factbook

Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to achieve a short-lived period of independence (1917-20), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths.Although final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties. A peaceful mass protest “Orange Revolution” in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor YUSHCHENKO. Subsequent internal squabbles in the YUSHCHENKO camp allowed his rival Viktor YANUKOVYCH to stage a comeback in parliamentary (Rada) elections and to become prime minister in August of 2006, and to be elected president in February 2010. In October 2012, Ukraine held Rada elections, widely criticized by Western observers as flawed due to use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and harassment of opposition candidates. President YANUKOVYCH’s backtracking on a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU in November 2013 - in favor of closer economic ties with Russia - led to a three-month protest occupation of Kyiv’s central square. The government’s eventual use of force to break up the protest camp in February 2014 led to all out pitched battles, scores of deaths, international condemnation, and the president’s abrupt departure to Russia. An interim government scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May 2014. On 1 March 2014, one week after the overthrow in Kyiv, Russian President PUTIN ordered the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula claiming the action was to protect ethnic Russians living there. On 16 March 2014, a “referendum” was held regarding the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation. The “referendum” was condemned as illegitimate by the Ukrainian Government, the EU, the US, and the UN General Assembly. Russian forces now occupy Crimea and Russian authorities claim it as Russian territory. The Ukrainian Government asserts that Crimea remains part of Ukraine.
Ethnic groups:
Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%,
NATO needing to stoke the fires? I don’t see a need. “globalists”? Seriously, stop hanging out with the Turner Diarists.

Posted by: Dave at September 8, 2014 12:23 AM
Comment #382882

With all due respect, Dave, the CIA Factbook may not be the best source to refute Rhinehold’s contention that the US and EU played a role in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.

There is little doubt that certain sections of the Ukraine (Crimea) support relationships with Russia. Whether that justifies annexation by Russia is another question.

Posted by: Rich at September 8, 2014 8:25 AM
Comment #382918
In October 2012, Ukraine held Rada elections, widely criticized by Western observers as flawed due to use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and harassment of opposition candidates.

I’m not sure why the US had a problem with this, it’s how our elections are run…

Activists of the Orange Revolution were funded and trained in tactics of political organisation and nonviolent resistance by a coalition of Western pollsters and professional consultants who were partly funded by a range of Western government and non-government agencies but received most of their funding from domestic sources. According to The Guardian, the foreign donors included the U.S. State Department and USAID along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the NGO Freedom House and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. The National Endowment for Democracy, a foundation supported by the U.S. government, has supported non-governmental democracy-building efforts in Ukraine since 1988. Writings on nonviolent struggle by Gene Sharp contributed in forming the strategic basis of the student campaigns.

Yeah, the US hasn’t been involved in Ukraine at all, Dave…

The “referendum” was condemned as illegitimate by the Ukrainian Government, the EU, the US, and the UN General Assembly.

I wonder why? Perhaps it goes against their stated, public and obvious goals?

Let’s take a look at how the Euromaiden protests started and who was behind it…

On 21 November 2013 a Ukrainian government decree suspended preparations for signing of the association agreement. The reason given was that the previous months Ukraine had experienced “a drop in industrial production and our relations with CIS countries”. The government also assured “Ukraine will resume preparing the agreement when the drop in industrial production and our relations with CIS countries are compensated by the European market.” According to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov “the extremely harsh conditions” of an IMF loan (presented by the IMF on 20 November 2013), which included big budget cuts and a 40% increase in gas bills, had been the last argument in favour of the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend preparations for signing the Association Agreement. On 7 December 2013 the IMF clarified that it was not insisting on a single-stage increase in natural gas tariffs in Ukraine by 40%, but recommended that they be gradually raised to an economically justified level while compensating the poorest segments of the population for the losses from such an increase by strengthening targeted social assistance. The same day IMF Resident Representative in Ukraine Jerome Vacher stated that this particular IMF loan is worth US$4 billion and that it would be linked with “policy, which would remove disproportions and stimulate growth”.

President Yanukovych attended the 28–29 November 2013 EU summit in Vilnius (where originally it was planned that the Association Agreement would be signed on 29 November 2013), but the Association Agreement was not signed. Both Yanukovych and high level EU officials signalled that they wanted to sign the Association Agreement at a later date.

In an interview with Lally Weymouth, Ukrainian billionaire businessman and opposition leader Petro Poroshenko said: “From the beginning, I was one of the organizers of the Maidan. My television channel — Channel 5 — played a tremendously important role. … On the 11th of December, when we had [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State] Victoria Nuland and [E.U. diplomat] Catherine Ashton in Kiev, during the night they started to storm the Maidan.”

On December 11, 2013 the Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, said he had asked for 20 Billion Euros (US$27) in loans and aid to offset the cost of the EU deal. The EU was willing to offer 610 million euros (838 million US) in loans, however Russia was willing to offer 15 billion US in loans. Russia also offered Ukraine cheaper gas prices. As a condition for the loans, the EU required major changes to the regulations and laws in Ukraine. Russia did not.

How did the people of Ukraine see this whole protest? I’m sure you have heard that the people were in full support of the revolt, because that’s what the western media has told you…

According to December 2013 polls (by three different pollsters) between 45% and 50% of Ukrainians supported Euromaidan, while between 42% and 50% opposed it. The biggest support for the protest can be found in Kiev (about 75%) and western Ukraine (more than 80%). Among Euromaidan protesters, 55% are from the west of the country, with 24% from central Ukraine and 21% from the east.

In a poll taken on 7–8 December, 73% of protesters had committed to continue protesting in Kiev as long as needed until their demands are fulfilled. This number has increased to 82% as of 3 February 2014. Polls also show that the nation is divided in age: while majority of young people are pro-EU, older generations (50 and above) more often prefer the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. More than 41% of protesters are ready to take part in the seizure of administrative buildings as of February, compared to 13 and 19 percent during polls on 10 and 20 December 2013. At the same time, more than 50 percent are ready to take part in the creation of independent military units, compared to 15 and 21 percent during the past studies, respectively.

According to a January poll, 45% of Ukrainians supported the protests, and 48% of Ukrainians disapproved of Euromaidan.

Posted by: Rhinehold at September 8, 2014 1:11 PM
Comment #382919

Let’s hear from Victoria Nuland:

“Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government - all that is necessary to achieve the objectives of Ukraine’s European. We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals. ”

And a leaked phone call between Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt (US Ambassador to Ukraine) shows some of the behind the scenes manipulation…

Voice thought to be Pyatt’s: I think we’re in play. The Klitschko [Vitaly Klitschko, one of three main opposition leaders] piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you’ve seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we’re trying to get a read really fast on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you’ll need to make, I think that’s the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader]. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I’m very glad that he said what he said in response.

Jonathan Marcus: The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future”. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. Russian spokesmen have insisted that the US is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs - no more than Moscow, the cynic might say - but Washington clearly has its own game-plan. The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

Nuland: Good. I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Pyatt: Yeah. I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Oleh Tyahnybok, the other opposition leader] and his guys and I’m sure that’s part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all this.

Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.

Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?

Nuland: My understanding from that call - but you tell me - was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a… three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?

Pyatt: No. I think… I mean that’s what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he’s going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they’ve got and he’s probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.

Nuland: OK, good. I’m happy. Why don’t you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.

Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.

Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can’t remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?

Jonathan Marcus: An intriguing insight into the foreign policy process with work going on at a number of levels: Various officials attempting to marshal the Ukrainian opposition; efforts to get the UN to play an active role in bolstering a deal; and (as you can see below) the big guns waiting in the wings - US Vice-President Joe Biden clearly being lined up to give private words of encouragement at the appropriate moment.

Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.

Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.

Jonathan Marcus: Not for the first time in an international crisis, the US expresses frustration at the EU’s efforts. Washington and Brussels have not been completely in step during the Ukraine crisis. The EU is divided and to some extent hesitant about picking a fight with Moscow. It certainly cannot win a short-term battle for Ukraine’s affections with Moscow - it just does not have the cash inducements available. The EU has sought to play a longer game; banking on its attraction over time. But the US clearly is determined to take a much more activist role.

Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there’s a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I’m sure there’s a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep… we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.

Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president’s national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US Vice-President Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden’s willing.

Pyatt: OK. Great. Thanks.

Jonathan Marcus: Overall this is a damaging episode between Washington and Moscow. Nobody really emerges with any credit. The US is clearly much more involved in trying to broker a deal in Ukraine than it publicly lets on. There is some embarrassment too for the Americans given the ease with which their communications were hacked. But is the interception and leaking of communications really the way Russia wants to conduct its foreign policy ? Goodness - after Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and the like could the Russian government be joining the radical apostles of open government? I doubt it. Though given some of the comments from Vladimir Putin’s adviser on Ukraine Sergei Glazyev - for example his interview with the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper the other day - you don’t need your own listening station to be clear about Russia’s intentions. Russia he said “must interfere in Ukraine” and the authorities there should use force against the demonstrators.

Posted by: Rhinehold at September 8, 2014 1:23 PM
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