Russia’s Vladimir Putin is grabbing Eastern Ukraine, his next big bite after swallowing the Crimea. The method, since it worked for Crimea and has worked for Russia for centuries, is the same we have just seen. Send Special Forces into an area with a lot of Russian-speaking citizens, organize protests, disrupt government and demand a vote that will be counted by frightened locals watched by armed Russians. It worked for the Czars and for the Communists and now, it’s working for Putin.
The ‘masked gunmen’ are already seizing city government buildings, airports and other key points in various Eastern Ukraine cities. They are organizing protests (of Russian speakers) and forming mobs. They either bribe or intimidate local officials to lay low. They’re making excellent progress. Its notable that the Russian speakers in East Ukraine represent about 38% of the population; the majority are Ukrainian speakers but their government in Kiev is unorganized compared to the Russians. And Putin has warned Kiev to remove its troops from the East. To do so will hand the East to Putin; to refuse risks invasion by the 40,000 Russian soldiers poised at the border.
Putin’s order to Ukraine is the equivalent of our telling you not to enter your living room on pain of home invasion. What Kiev (Ukraine) will do, remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, Ukraine has had no government but Russia for a very long time; the corrupt thieves who set themselves up when the Soviets dissolved in 1991 hardly deserve that title. And the recently deposed Russian-leaning Ukrainian president fled to Russia, leaving the place (it’s hardly a country at this point) in a condition ripe for taking.
If Kiev somehow pulls itself together and sends troops to the East to put down the carefully manufactured “rebellion,” it does so at risk of Russian invasion or perhaps a civil war. If it does not, it hands the East to Russia. And its troops include enough Russian-speakers to make their reliability a question. Putin has timed it right.
From his point of view, he’s facing a weakling with one hand tied; a pushover. He needs to worry only about NATO stepping in. But NATO is Europe, a place dependent upon Russian heating gas in winter and mostly demilitarized and financially weakened by debt; a place very disinclined to get tough with Vladimir. And the U.S. is reducing its military because it can’t afford what it has and it is a long way from the scene.
President Obama is expressing his indignation with “sanctions” on Russia. These will be felt, but only enough to be annoying, a cheap price for Ukraine and probably, a chunk of Moldova too. And while all this is proceeding, Putin has his military playing war games on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Chess, anyone?
Letting reality set in, there isn’t much the U.S. can do. Bomb Moscow, maybe. A place that has bombers and nukes. And Putin is, in both Ukraine and Moldova, picking up a tar baby, those places are financial disasters that will drain an already strapped Russia. But meantime, Vlad is The Man to his Russian public and it will be some while, if ever, before they notice the size of the bill.
Maybe Kiev will pull itself together and clamp down on the troublemakers in its East; if that occurs, we will bet Russia will not invade under present conditions. But we don’t know that nor does Kiev. Maybe Europe will man up and get into the game but we’re betting on the Chamberlain factor rising yet again.
And in the background, the whole world, or at least most of it, is spending itself into debt-poisoned impoverishment. As the U.S. and Europe weaken, the ambitious dictators come out to play.