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Ukraine: Does Putin Have a Strategy?

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By:Srdja Trifkovic | May 04, 2014

The events in Odessa and the Donetsk region over the past three days mark a new stage in the Ukrainian drama. The authorities in Kiev are ready to use indiscriminate force, their Western mentors are supporting them while continuing to blame Russia for the rampant violence, the insurgents in the east appear to be on the defensive, and Vladimir Putin, somewhat unexpectedly, seems uncertain of what to do next.

The strategy of the interim regime in Kiev, evidently acting on the advice from Washington, is to abandon nonviolent counterinsurgency (which in any event has never been tried) and to provoke an outright Russian military intervention. From the viewpoint of the interventionist duopoly in Washington and its protégés in Kiev this would yield multiple benefits.

The entry of even a limited Russian contingent into Ukraine would immediately lead to the imposition of serious Western sanctions – the comprehensive package of punitive measures favored by the Obama Administration – which the reluctant “Old Europe” would no longer be able to resist. The misgivings expressed by the German giants (BASF, Siemens, Volkswagen, Adidas, Deutsche Bank etc), among others, would be set aside in the name of Western unity “in the face of naked Russian aggression.”

It would give a belated boost to NATO, lead to the establishment of permanent U.S. bases along its eastern flank, and result in the deliveries of lethal weaponry to the interim government. It would thus reestablish Washington’s hegemony in Europe to a degree unseen since the Cuban Missile Crisis, while entangling Russia in a potential quagmire with no clear exit strategy and, for good measure, reducing Brussels to the position of a mere rubber-stamper. To paraphrase Victoria Nuland, the EU would be terminally f…ed.

The Kiev authorities also hope that a Russian intervention would enhance their control of the country by promoting anti-Russian sentiment in central Ukraine – a large area south of Kiev, west of the Dnieper bend and east of Vinnytsya – which traditionally has not been strongly nationalist or Russophobic. The immediate objective is to produce the Gleichschaltung in advance of the presidential election scheduled for May 25, which key Western leaders insist should go ahead regardless of the mayhem in the east and south – even though it will be plainly illegitimate. Their candidate of choice, an arch-oligarch by the name of Petro Poroshenko (the “Chocolate King”), is a nasty piece of work: a robber-baron steeped in the nationalist ideology that reeks of Europe of the late 1930’s.

Poor Yulia Tymoshenko, still imagining she’s the darling of the West. No, dear reader, mark my words: Poroshenko is Washington’s choice, just as “Yats” was Victoria Nuland’s designated “prime minister” three months ago, and duly got the post after the February coup. What happens in Kiev will reflect the will of the White House and the State Department, because what is quaintly called in the Western media “the government of Ukraine” has even less control over its affairs than the government of the German Democratic Republic under Walter Ulbricht.

Last winter, while quietly bankrolling the Galician storm troopers, Poroshenko remained on the sidelines of the mayhem. Now that he is being lionized in the West as the future savior of Ukraine, it is worth looking at his program as stated in his own words. It is the Maidan on steroids. Poroshenko insists that the Constitution will not be changed during his presidency; no devolution, no autonomy: “Ukraine will remain... a unitary state.” If he becomes president, Russian language will be banned in all official communication: “I will act on Article 10 of the Constitution, which defines Ukrainian as the state language... With a view to securing the unity of the Ukrainian political nation, the existing status-quo regarding the language issue must be preserved.” There is no “Ukrainian political nation,” of course, united or otherwise, but Poroshenko’s assertions are a direct challenge to the east and the south. It is tantamount to saying that only French can be used in the Flemish regions of Belgium, or that the cantons of Fribourg, Ticino and Geneva have to learn German.

Poroshenko’s commitment that “a single humanitarian space in the cultural-linguistic sphere, education, and the policy of historical memory will be preserved and enhanced” is particularly ominous, especially when coupled with his assertion that “a powerful government must learn to speak the language of force, not organize roundtable discussions with separatists and terrorists, not search out some way to deal with them. We must have an absolutely clear language that they will understand. They do not understand the Ukrainian language... They understand the language of force.” So much for the “pro-Western, reformist moderate.”

The language of force is being applied with gusto by the Kiev regime. Its strategy has been crucially dependent on the inclusion of the extreme nationalist elements – the Right Sector Maidan veterans providing the backbone – into the newly-constituted Ukrainian National Guard. In the aftermath of last month’s visits by CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden, Kiev has speeded up the creation of a small but highly motivated fighting force ready and willing both to fight and to shoot at unarmed civilians forming human shields. This is in marked contrast to two previous attempts to intervene in the east, when regular Ukrainian army and police detachments promptly surrendered and in some cases joined the insurgents. The current “anti-terrorist operation” is coordinated by Kiev’s National Security and National Defense Committee (RNBOU), which is controlled by Svoboda and Right Sector. Dmytro Yarosh, the unabashedly neo-Nazi leader of the Right Sector caucus in the Verhovna Rada, oversees the National Guard which was ordered to “reinforce regular military units defending against a Russian invasion… [and] to act as a counterinsurgency force.” He advocates “massive armament of our citizens, particularly volunteer patriotic formations.” [sic!]

On the other hand, the lack of coordination of the eastern insurgency reflects its home-grown character and its members’ unclear, even disparate objectives, as depicted in a major New York Times feature on May 5. Had the Russian officers and special forces units instigated, armed and led the insurgents, as still alleged by Obama, Kerry et al, there would have been a clear command and control structure in place and far more professional groundwork. The roads connecting Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Lugansk, and other foci of rebellion would have been blocked and mined. This is not the case. Makeshift barricades manned by lightly-armed men on the outskirts of those cities are separated by many miles of unguarded countryside, giving Kiev’s forces some considerable freedom of maneuver.

To conclude: If Putin does not act, he will be discredited and seen as weak. 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.

On past form, the U.S. Government would have used the massacre in Odessa as ample proof that an armed intervention is warranted, with or without the UN Security Council resolution. The stage-managed “Markale market place” in Bosnia, the carefully choreographed and utterly non-existent Racak “massacre” in Kosovo and the “imminent massacre” in Benghazi come to mind. Not all massacres are equal, of course, and not all victims are worthy of protection. Killings Christians in Syria is fine for as long as it is our, moderate Islamists who are doing the work. Burning Orthodox shrines in Kosovo is also fine, no genocide ever happened in our ally Turkey’s Armenian lands, and the Serbs in Croatia never existed anyway outside the confines of the Croatian “political nation.”

Ukraine is a pathetic non-country with lots of nasty people with guns, a failed state that could have made something of itself until last fall. Western meddling has turned it into a Hobbesian nightmare, and Russia’s response has been inadequate and incoherent. Putin needs to get his act together, not only for his country’s sake, but also for ours. You need not agree with Pat Buchanan that “he is one of us” to see the catastrophic consequences of allowing the Duopoly to do its thing unopposed in the most geopolitically significant region of Europe.
 

Comments

 

 
Dan
Austin
5/5/2014 03:45 AM
 

  There is no saving Kiev's government after the Odessa Massacre. Poroshenko might not be a contender very soon either if rumors of his involvement keep spreading. Russia should fight at the UNSC and get permission there, even if the regime keeps committing atrocities, unfortunately. Europeans are not going to plunge their economies into the dark ages over more "yellow cake" rumors.

 
 
John Sobieski
New York
5/5/2014 02:10 PM
 

  I wonder if Dr. Trifkovic has seen the videos of what happened in Odessa. What I saw was unarmed soccer fans getting shot at and killed by a pro-Russian group. When it became clear to the incredulous crowd that the police were actually protecting the attackers, they simply did the logical thing, i.e., defend themselves. This hardly constitutes indiscriminate force directed by Kiev.

 
 
Dan
Austin
5/5/2014 05:40 PM
 

  John, Do you even know which side is which? The "unarmed soccer" fans were the ones shooting guns at people trying to escape the burning building. And how could they be the attackers since they were the ones who set up tents in the field? In the videos, the ultras are the ones streaming towards them like ants.

 
 
John Rutowicz
Niles
5/5/2014 06:35 PM
 

  Mr. Trifkovic, I have great respect for your scholarship and agree with a great deal of your writing. I was very vocal in my opposition to America's actions against Serbia in the 90's. I also agree with you that Russia has some legitimate complaints about American meddling and attempts to add Ukraine, Georgia, etc. to NATO. What I find unbelievable is the idea that the United States, a country that values racial, religious, and cultural pluralism above all else is helping to set up the Third Reich in Kiev. Tymoshenko is part Jewish. Victoria Nuland likewise. I can't see them as big fans of Stepan Bandera. Again, since Arseniy Yatsenyuk seems hand picked by Nuland, why would she put in power a new Bandera? This neo-Nazi government in Kiev is the part of the story I'm having trouble with. Can you help me with this?

 
 
John Sobieski
New York
5/5/2014 06:45 PM
 

  Dan, you need more complete information. The story begins with the soccer fans of Odessa and Kharkiv(!) singing patriotic songs together in a show of unity for Ukraine before the game, in Sobornaya Square. That's where the violence begins, not at the Trade Union building. Pro-Ukrainians are the first victims. From what I can gather, the separatists' tents were full of guns and molotov cocktails. Surely the pro-Ukrainians were happy to make use of those on their assailants.

 
 
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