While California received a Winter of rain in one three-day period, we have had a chance to watch, up close and personal, Russia’s calculated invasion of Ukraine. The only question is, whether, having gobbled up Crimea before anybody could notice or react, Putin will stop there, or will go on to gobble up Ukraine’s Eastern industrialized portion where the population of Russians seemingly identifying with him may be receptive to more of such fine dining.
Coming right after the Sochi Olympics, a TV/Media extravaganza which was a two-week dose of Putin’s ego on display, staging the Winter Olympics at his favorite Summer resort, which was strange enough, we now see that, while the world watched snowboarders defy gravity, and make some nasty finishes due to the poor snow, Putin was at his chessboard, at the ready.
Russia’s only warm water port is in Crimea, and Russia has a long-term lease, until 2047 on that port, which is where most of the Russian Navy happens to live. It’s like the US owns Guantanamo, pursuant to a long term lease, despite it’s having been located, though 90-miles from Florida, in the midst of Castro’s Cuba, our sworn enemy since early in JFK’s Administration.
But, while the world was watching, first the Olympics, and then the incredible instability and mass killings of demonstrators in Ukraine, Putin figured out that it would only take a fairly small bunch of armed thugs wearing unmarked uniforms to suddenly appear in Crimean strategic locations, and the next thing we knew, there were 15,000 Russian troops in Ukraine and Russia had invaded.
Putin is, shall we say, a wee bit paranoid about anything associated with the West. Ukraine’s political instability – they deposed their Prime Minister, to fetch their old Prime Minister out of prison (where she was serving time for corruption, not an unusual thing in those parts), and plunging the nearly broke nation into ungoverned chaos – was the perfect excuse for which Putin had waited. Of course he needed to protect native Russians in the midst of Ukraine – after all, Putin’s goal of re-assembling the old Soviet state can wear many different uniforms.
President Obama stepped right into Putin’s trap, giving yet another threat, which Putin promptly ignored, despite, we are told, an hour and a half phone call between the two over last weekend.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that one!
August of this year will be the 100th anniversary of World War I, a war nobody really wanted, but one in which the nations of Old Europe all backed into, as a result of byzantine alliances, and one which produced factory-style, machine killing of a type which would become all too common in the 20th Century. There are so many powder kegs ready to blow on the world scene right now – and we can now add Ukraine to the list of trouble spots, any one of which could provide the necessary kindling for another widespread world armed conflagration.
NATO includes Ukraine in their junior league, which means that both European members of NATO and the US, the real power behind NATO, now have to examine their treaty obligations carefully. While pundits talk of late 1930’s appeasement of Hitler by comparison, Putin has not yet shown that he is modeling that particular road to misery. But, if Russia really longs for reunification, and still smarts from the pain and humiliation of the Soviet state’s collapse in the early 90’s and the US having won the Cold War, then are we entering another Cold War where Putin may wish to gobble up the Baltic states like Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, or perhaps Poland or other Eastern European nations?
The Russian military is not what the Soviet military once was. For one thing, some of that nearly quarter century old collection of military assets belongs to Ukraine and it’s military. Both Russia and Ukraine have nukes, and amidst all the troubles in Ukraine are two elements which should concern us greatly in coming days: 1) terrorists roaming in search of failed states in which to set up shop Taliban-style, and 2) a resurgence of Ultra-Right parties and thinking with all the ugliness and ethnic cleansing that implies. One should question why Putin would want all of Ukraine anyway – a basket case of a broke, busted and disgusted nation state right now.
Nothing is at all clear right now. A former heavyweight boxer speaks for Ukraine on TV coverage, Wealthy Ukrainian businessmen, during and before the Olympics, defied Putin and then had to run away from Ukraine to save their lives, and now cannot go home again – where their oligarchic wealth lies. A whole generation of Ukrainians has spent the last couple of months in the streets, demonstrating, dying, protesting, and being manhandled – will they now simply fade back into their regular lives?
Historians will look back on the first quarter-century of post-Soviet history and wonder what happened to all those bright opportunities of the early 90’s when democracy was available to a post-Soviet state which had known only tyrannic rule for hundreds of years of its history. Whether Putin will continue gobbling, remains to be seen.
What the US’ role may be, with Defense Secty. Hagel noting that we have been at war for 13 years now, and we now need a down-sized military, given that modern warfare is conducted with less need for manpower, and even in cyberspace, is anybody’s guess.
August is only six months away . . . .