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Does Putin Have a Strategy? (II)

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By:Srdja Trifkovic | July 14, 2014

It’s been over two months since I first asked this question in the aftermath of the Odessa massacre. The situation has further deteriorated since that time. The Kiev forces, spearheaded by the Right Sector-dominated “National Guard,” have turned much of Slavyansk into rubble. As a massive wave of refugees from eastern Ukraine enters Russia, their horrendous accounts are finally beginning to trickle into the Western media. Writing in The Nation two weeks ago, Stephen F. Cohen noted “the silence of American hawks about Kiev’s atrocities”:

For weeks, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.” Both the atrocities and the pressure on Putin have increased even more since July 1, when Kiev, after a brief cease-fire, intensified its artillery and air attacks on eastern cities defenseless against such weapons.

Putin has resisted such pressure thus far, however, and by now it is difficult to find a rational explanation for his reluctance. “If Putin does not act, he will be discredited and seen as weak,” I wrote here on May 4. “If he does, he will be further demonized and sanctioned. Since he has already been Hitlerized ad nauseam, and since allowing the Galician storm troopers to wreak havoc in the east is simply intolerable, he should act – but prudently. Declare a no-fly zone over eastern Ukraine, cynically invoking the nebulous Responsibility to Protect doctrine for a touch of black humor. Shoot down anything that flies. Send company-sized special forces on a series of hit-and-run missions to even the playing field, without occupying the land. Do what he is already accused of: arm and train the self-defense units, and give them some competent staff officers.”

When Putin announced a week before the May 25 presidential election in Ukraine that he would recognize its outcome – even though it was no more legal and legitimate, given the circumstances, than Bashar al-Assad’s reelection in Syria – my Moscow contacts saw his move as a sign that a political solution was on the cards. Poroshenko is a pragmatist, the theory went, and he knows that he cannot win an outright military victory in the east. He will talk tough – he has called resisters in the bombarded cities “gangs of animals” – and continue some limited military operations to appease the Maidanist fanatics, but in the end he will settle for some form of political-military neutrality abroad and a modicum of meaningful regional devolution at home. Knowing which side their bread is buttered, the Europeans (Germany) will help broker a deal, parting ways with Washington’s über-hawks (Nuland & Co.).

That theory was wrong. Poroshenko is not an ultranationalist, but he is a hostage of his own Galician über-hawks, who are supported, aided and abetted from Washington. They can bring him down, kill him even, if he deviates. Their poor showing on May 25 is due to the fact that Poroshenko has stolen their rhetoric, but without them there is no “Ukrainian army.” They want Russia to enter the fray, in line with the Leninist dictum “the worse, the better.” If she does, the conflict becomes internationalized – NATO weapons, advisors, and the rest – and self-defeating EU sanctions against Russia will be duly introduced; if she does not, then “Ukrainian David defeats Russian Goliath” – and a new ersatz-nationalist myth will be born, Croatian-style.

Angela Merkel does not like that scenario, of which she is well aware – but she will not break ranks openly, for now. Germany is simply not yet ready for a grand-strategic rethinking of her priorities and interests. That Washington is nevertheless unsure of her loyalties is evidenced by the ongoing spying scandal, and with good reason. A week ago Putin declared that he values “the accumulated potential of Russian-German relations and the high level of trade and economic cooperation. Germany, one of the European Union leaders, is our most important partner in enhancing peace, global and regional security.” This resonates with many German ears. In the upper echelons of her business community there is an increasing awareness that their industrial and technological might, coupled with Russia’s unlimited energy and mineral resources, could create a mighty Eurasian continental bloc to which China would naturally gravitate.

This set-up has been the nightmare of Anglo-American strategists for many decades. It was the nightmare of Mahan and Mackinder over a century ago, but the character of the nations has changed. A deindustrialized America, flooded by unassimilable mongrels, and obsessed with the White House-promoted celebration of deviance, cannot expect to keep a serious nation such as Germany down for ever, or to keep the last bastion of European nationhood… not out, but strangled in her back yard.

On the centennial of the Great War, the key to avoiding another European catastrophe – actively desired by the Nulandist-Kaganist cabal, as evidenced in Ukraine, and which would mark the end of our civilization forever – is a long-term strategic understanding between Moscow and Berlin. To stabilize the Continent—once the crisis in Ukraine is over—the world needs an integrated “Europe,” but not in its current E.U. form, bureaucratically totalitarian and still dominated from across the Atlantic. Bismarck would understand this, and Vladimir Putin probably does; the
German political and business elite should follow suit.

Germany has gone along with various American idiosyncrasies for a long time, but with the Ukraine crisis her elites have finally ceased to be comfortable with the ideological arsenal of American interventionism. In geopolitical terms, Germany—like Russia, but unlike the United States—is a continental power and has limited and “rational” strategic and security objectives. Both are wary of America’s self-appointed global missions, although Russia is more directly threatened, and therefore more vocal about its misgivings.

Putin needs to act decisively in Ukraine, not only for the sake of his prestige and Russia’s reputation. He needs to act in order to help demolish the interventionist duopoly in Washington. As the United States continues to lose her briefly held position of world dominance, the traditional nation-states of Europe—the main victims of 1914—need to rediscover the benefits of togetherness based on spontaneously emerging, interest-based links. Acting accordingly would display the degree of wisdom and statesmanlike seriousness that Europe so conspicuously lacked in the summer of 1914.



robert m. peters
7/15/2014 12:25 AM

  My comments to your article will likely appear as several different posts since the number of characters in the blog window are limited, and there will likely be other posts between them; so I will attempt to hold my thoughts together. (I also wish that we could create paragraphs.) Besides what appears on the cyber pages of Chronicles and what appears from time to time in the hard-copy version, my access to reliable information on what is happening in Ukraine/Russia is limited, with the operative word being "reliable." I can understand and read enough Russia to catch the gist of what is being said. I also frequent sites in English, recognizing the varying degrees of their reliability. Out side the main stream media in German, France, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain, there are a number of alternative sources which seem reliable. At the end of the day, however, I do not know what is in the mind of Putin. I do not know much about his inner circle. I do not know the players beyond that inner circle which influence the advice of the inner circle. I do not know how much of what Putin represents as embodying the traditions, customs and habits of historical Russia is actually believed by him and even members of his inner circle and how much is embraced for very practical reasons to hold the political forces together so that he can effectively rule. That is important in that it seemed until just recently that at the very least he used the rhetoric cultivated by Alexander Dugin. Now, it seems, there has been at some level a break between Putin and Dugin; however, I have no way of knowing if Dugin is or was even a peripheral player with Putin. I mention the alleged break because it seems to have taken place over Putin's most recent actions or non-actions pursuant to Ukraine. I also have no insight into Putin's relationship to the secessionists/insurgents in Ukraine. Likely no one does.

robert m. peters
7/15/2014 12:40 AM

  That also goes for Col. Igor Stralkov. He seems to play an important role at the tactical level among the militias, but he goes out of his way in all of the interviews which I have seen and heard to publicly stay out of political decisions among the separatists. I also do not have any insight into the factions among the separatists at the military or the political level. We also do not get much information about local support for the separatists. I hear about hundreds if not thousands of refugees fleeing eastern Ukraine to Russia; yet, there is little to substantiate that. There are several questions associated with that. Are the refugees like most normal folk: they flee danger to protect their lives and the lives of their families? That is understandable. Are they fleeing rather than fighting because over the last few weeks, rightly or wrongly, they perceive that no help is forth coming from Russia and the nascent republics are being and will be crushed with bloody reprisal? That, too, is understandable. Are the able-bodied men among them not opting to fight because there is simply not enough equipment to outfit them and not enough time to train them as the window closes? I heard Col. Stralkov speak to that with some concern. It does not seem that many refugees of the eastern Ukraine are fleeing westward which implies that there is little to no trust at a fundamental level for Kiev. Has the door closed for Putin to effective act for the people of eastern Ukraine, assuming that there was ever such a door? Is the east of the Ukraine for Putin merely a tactical pawn in dealing with the existential threat posed by the United States and its vassal states and agencies? Is the loss eastern Ukraine as Dugin has asserted the existential threat and if fully and completely lost, as in losing face, losing the support of the people, the ethnic cleansing of the people, and the destruction of the infrastructure, the beginning of the end of an independent Russia?

robert m. peters
7/15/2014 12:48 AM

  Is too much expected of Putin? He has, of course, made mistakes. He is not a man whom I would want to cross; but he has been successful in marshaling the forces of Church and State to escape the Yeltsin years, at least on the service. Yet, he is not a superhero; he is not a magician. Can he finesse the current crises without playing into the hands of his external enemies on the one hand and without losing the considerable support of the traditionalists like Dugin and those whom he represents on the other? Both are political threats and both are existential threats to him and to Russia. Some of the rhetoric from the traditionalist camp already contains the term "treason." Would you comment on these issues? Thank you!

jack bailey
las vegas
7/15/2014 06:53 PM

  "unassimilable mongrels", really???

Miles Pilkington
Las Vegas
7/16/2014 10:50 AM

  This piece seems to be based more on preconceived notions and wishful thinking than the facts I'm afraid.


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