Friday, June 6, 2014

War Nerd: Eastern Ukraine is Putin's ploy to distract the West

Besides Gary Brecher's throwaway insults at Ukraine's interim government, (he obviously takes his cue from friend, russophile journalist Mark Ames), this article is worth reading.

Basically, Gary's thesis is that Putin's support for the uprisings in Eastern Ukraine is meant to distract Kyiv and the West from Putin's annexation of Crimea [emphasis mine]:

The new leader of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, understands what’s happening in Donetsk perfectly well: "Russia’s goal was, and is, to keep Ukraine so unstable that we accept everything that the Russians want," Poroshenko said in theinterview"I have no doubt that Putin could, with his direct influence, end the fighting."

Sure, Putin could end the fighting, but that would be a waste of combustible human material—and it’s a rule of Great Power politics that you never burn your straw dogs wastefully. Like Poroshenko says, Russia’s goal here is not to annex Eastern Ukraine—not at the moment, anyway. In the long run, perhaps. But it’s too soon to send tanks over the border with the Russian flag flying. Much better to stir this new Kashmir, let it simmer, use its misery.

"Crimea; that was worth keeping. Donetsk isn't." So Gary sums up Putin's reasoning.

The "brave" pro-Russian separatists, true believers in Great Mother Russia in Gary's narrative, are Laoist "straw dogs" that Putin is using now, but will let Ukrainian President Poroshenko burn. Putin will keep just enough of these straw dogs alive, supplied, hopeful, so that he can re-ignite the insurgency whenever it suits him.  

Gary for whatever reason insists that Russian spies and Spetznaz (special forces) are not involved in Ukraine, as if this is crucial. Personally I think they are; and nobody knows what is happening on Russia's side of the border. At a minimum, there is a massive coordination campaign.

More importantly, it has been proven that Russia is arming, supplying and paying these mercenaries, er, volunteers from Russian hinterlands like South Ossetia, Chechnya and Ingushetia, as well as Ukraine's near neighbor Rostov-on-Don (Vostok Battalion).  (Hello! Ordinary Russian "volunteers" don't possess convoys of Kamaz trucks, mortars, RPGs, the Russian military's latest automatic rifles, etc.)

It has been proven that Russia was making bank transfers and shipping cash on trains over the border; but Ukraine's government has mostly put a stop to it. Russia's risible proposal to the UN Security Council to create "humanitarian corridors" in Eastern Ukraine was an attempt to give Russia's supply lines to Eastern Ukraine an official UN mandate.  The rest of the Security Council, not to be fooled so easily, shot down Russia's proposal. (Gee, ya think maybe Russia had no credibility because it opposed humanitarian corridors in Syria, where Russia supports embattled dictator Assad against the rebels?)

Recent rebel attacks on border guard stations are likewise their attempt to keep open Russia's supply lines of matériel and fighters to Eastern Ukraine.

As a commenter on a news site remarked: "Cut the Russian terrorist pipeline. Blow up every bridge. Plow up every airport. Hunt the bandits down one by one. Post them on facebook, since they enjoy using this as a vehicle for terror."

I'm inclined to agree. Putin is not accepting the Ukrainian contingent of these murderous rebels (many of them criminals) into Russia's bosom; and they refuse to leave their home, Donbas. They can't be negotiated with; things have gone too far, they've killed too many. All that can be done is seal off the border, hunt them down, and hope the rest will stay in hiding.  

My guess is that, eventually, somebody from the Party of Regions, or another credible Eastern politician, will be tasked with negotiating a ceasefire.  Meanwhile, the Kyiv government will pass protections for the Russian language and start a process to give more autonomy to Ukraine's oblasts, thereby taking away the rebels's only political grievances.  Then the majority of Eastern Ukrainians' desire to return to "normal life," (naturally, as part of Ukraine), will overwhelm all other considerations.

By Gary Brecher
May 30, 2014 | Pando Daily


Anonymous said...

I re-read the War Nerd article. I don't think he's saying that the Russian government is not involved at all in the Donbass conflict. Instead he's saying that area residents are participating genuinely in the conflict and that the separatists are not entirely a creation of the Russian government.

"The history of Great-Power politics shows that in many cases, it’s much more useful to leave a disputed, ethnically-mixed area festering, giving your proxies there just enough weaponry, money, and moral support to keep them bleeding the occupying enemy."

In other words he considers the Donbass militias Russian proxies.

Jay Tell said...

I don't disagree with you.
But there are definitely Russian military, paid mercenaries and intelligence officers mixed into the Donbass separatist forces. As time goes on, logic compels us to believe that with a non-functioning economy, the Donbass "rebels" couldn't sustain their campaign without ongoing Russian state support. I remember corresponding with Russian-American political scientists hopefully postulating that the DNR and LDR armies were running on stolen or purchased Ukrainian military surplus. Nobody could still believe that, but let's remember that WAS the line back in 2014.
BTW, Putin was still lying that he invaded Crimea in 2014... before he came out and admitted that he did.