As the situation in Ukraine spins out of control, we have a very timely Guest Saturday post from Norma Brown of the Ooobie on Everything blog.
We are at the very precipice, the very eleventh hour before Russia invades eastern Ukraine to stop the mayhem that is now spiraling out of control. My husband and I agree that the military operation underway in eastern Ukraine by the so-called Army and Kiev’s leading fascist group is being run with the advice of NATO (US in first place) military and intelligence. The Right Sector is probably coordinating with the Army but they are doing their own vicious thing there, and it is igniting the eastern Ukrainians as never before, literally. This is the perverse effect of murdering whole groups of people you don’t like, by however brutal a means is available. Burning them to death or forcing them to jump to death to escape the fire is as good as a laser ray as far as these testosterone-laden Neanderthals of the far right are concerned.
The Russians got it right when they said that this new violence against the pro-Russians has taken things to the point of no return. Russia went to the UNSC but know as well as anybody that this is not going to do anything or go anywhere. Nevertheless the Russians have been busy checking off all the boxes, from the quick Geneva accord that obligated both sides to disarm thugs and free occupied public buildings, to the multiple appearances at the UNSC, to intervention to free from the pro-Russian forces the western military attaches to Kiev masquerading as OSCE observers. Kiev decided it could escape the need to try (fruitlessly) to disarm the Right Sector and its allied goon squads in western Ukraine by deputizing same and “allowing” them to continue “guarding” the public places. Russia in return did nothing to calm down its side, which is now busy agitating that ancient Russian instinct to rally when the village bell sounds warning. People are dying now. A 70-year old eastern Ukrainian told a reporter that the people have no choice but to take to the streets now, they are abandoned by everyone and must defend themselves however they can. This is civil war, not the earlier stalking and marking of territory by proxies of the two chief foes, Washington and Moscow. Now the population in both Russia and eastern Ukraine is engaged and angry and frightened. Every ugly thing they ever heard about NATO is very real for them now.
For those who think NATO is trying to calm things down, the comments by Alexander (Sandy) Vershbow the other day should give pause. Vershbow is very smart and somewhat scholarly, a professional US diplomat who served as US Ambassador to both Moscow and to NATO. In his retirement years, he has become a no doubt highly-paid NATO apparatchik and it was in this capacity that he was speaking. What he said was that NATO now (reluctantly) had to put Russia in the enemy category. Also as a consequence, NATO should start beefing up its eastern member states militarily and even arming the remaining buffer states (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) with so-called defensive arms immediately. This is a man with a deep knowledge of Russia and he’s demanding NATO rush to encircle Russia as far as it can and to do so in the spirit of enmity? I ask you: what is Russia to do? How is Russia to react?
Whatever Russia may have wanted prior to the Kiev putsch, it was faced afterwards with a situation that directly affected its vital interests (the ultimate alliance of Ukraine). The EU was aggressively pushing its own interests as opposed to Russia’s and in many ways to the disadvantage of Russia, and Moscow knew that the ultimate goal was Ukraine’s membership in NATO. It was with reference to this that Putin, after he annexed Crimea, said that had Russia not acted, the historic Russian territory would be hosting a NATO naval base. It was not going to happen. Russia is world-class when it comes to Realpolitik. After Kiev it was clear where this was heading. No international organization was going to keep Ukraine out of NATO, so Russia would have to do it — through forceful diplomacy or force. Moscow has pushed negotiations aimed at creating a federal state in Ukraine that gives eastern Ukrainians equal power with Kiev and treaty-based neutrality for the nation. EU/NATO and their puppet regime in Kiev reject federalization although they have deigned to recognize the majority-language of eastern Ukraine (Russian) as a legitimate and legal language (although not through legislation). Their overt concern is that Russia will manipulate that federalism to Kiev’s disadvantage. As for neutrality, it is of no interest whatsoever to the ever-expanding western military bloc.
Now Russia will do what the US would do in an analogous situation (far more serious than that in, say, Granada in the 1980s). It will invade and occupy and reassert order. And whether the outcome is federalism or an independent eastern Ukraine or an annexed eastern Ukraine, things are unlikely to revert to the status quo ante.
Everything beyond that certainty is open to chance. How will NATO respond? Can Germany continue to block US ambitions to push NATO right up physically to Russia’s border? And how about our publics? In the US, a WSJ poll just found that a majority of Americans want a pull-back in America’s presence abroad and an end to wars. By a huge margin they want the US to keep out of Ukraine and let the Russians do what they will. They oppose war against Syria. They don’t think the US owes Ukraine anything, much less a defense against Russia. In Germany, there is plenty of opposition to NATO expansion and threats against Russia, and don’t even mention the possibility of going to war against Russia. This sector wants Germany to keep out of the Russia-Ukraine squabble and in many European countries there is a strong resistance to any further economic sanctions. Despite the unanimity of will NATO leaders point to, it doesn’t exist. The fractures are there and they are deep and NATO’s latest threats against Russia have inaugurated a new era in international politics.