Will Russia risk an all-out invasion of Ukraine?

a13-iconAndrew S Bowen writes: In September 2013, Russia unnerved the Baltic States and several NATO countries by holding military exercises on the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and in the Kaliningrad enclave that involved an estimated 70,000 troops. Earlier, in April, the Russian Air Force had practiced mock bombing runs near Swedish air space. The unease caused by these events — along with many others, including the resumption of a Russian Naval task force in the Mediterranean and international flights of strategic bombers — was considerable, prompting many analysts to remark on the Russian military’s resurgent confidence and capability. It was confidence and capability born of a massive modernizatsiia program designed to remedy the inadequacies exposed by the 2008 war with Georgia, and to create a modern, professional military capable of protecting Russia’s status as a great power.

Today, Russia is flexing that newfound military might in Crimea and on its eastern border with Ukraine, where it is massing troops and carrying out a series of military exercises. As the clock ticks down toward a referendum on secession for the Black Sea peninsula, fear is mounting about a full-scale invasion of the Ukrainian heartland — this time, involving Russian troops with insignias on their uniforms. But as analysts speculate about Moscow’s intentions, the question that led most observers to discount the possibility of a Russian takeover of Crimea remains unanswered: To what end?

The most likely answer is that the Crimean invasion — and the current military exercises along the Ukrainian border — is intended to signal to the new government in Kiev that Russia’s interests are not to be ignored. In that case, they would represent a continuation of Russia’s efforts to negate any incipient relationship between Ukraine and the EU that would threaten Moscow’s influence in the region. As my colleague and FP columnist Michael Weiss notes, “That’s why the Kremlin has created a shadow EU known as the Customs Union, which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and whose sole mission seems to be keeping ex-satellites from being lured into Brussels’ orbit.” [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 thoughts on “Will Russia risk an all-out invasion of Ukraine?

  1. rosemerry

    How is it that the USA can and does, time after time, invade and destroy countries thousands of miles from its borders, and establish bases all around its cold war enemy, Russia, and take over and NATOfy dozens of former USSR satellites, yet when Russia reacts in a normal way it is accused of “invasion”, international lawbreaker etc?

  2. Paul Woodward

    Rosemerry — So let me see if I understand. You don’t have any problem with invasions per se — it’s the “normal way” of addressing perceived problems in neighboring countries. America’s problem is that it invades too often and too far away. An American invasion of Mexico, for instance, would be ok.

    I guess once America’s political leaders stop being hypocrites, then the rest of the world can get its act together. In the mean time there will remain endless fodder for the whataboutists to turn every event into an opportunity for remembering Iraq.

  3. Steve Zerger

    America did invade Mexico. That’s why we have California. Abraham Lincoln was against it. It’s all so confusing.

  4. Paul Woodward

    Steve – I don’t know if you missed my point or purposefully ignored it. The problematic nature of America’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t somehow make unproblematic all subsequent invasions by other nations simply because they can plead: “But look what the Americans did.”

    Given your longstanding and frequently expressed conviction that humanity is doomed, I can’t help wondering why you bother making these interjections. Just filling in time?

    My sense is that you are not quite as pessimistic as the posture you’ve assumed suggests. Chronically depressed perhaps, but not utterly hopeless.

  5. Steve Zerger

    Oh, I’m pretty pessimistic all right. And yes, I guess depressed some of the time. It’s a little hard for me to understand the suggestion that this might not be normal. And I still have a sense of humor.

    I saw a funny cartoon recently. You may have seen it. It’s a drawing of three glasses half full of yellow liquid, and they are labeled optimist, pessimist, and realist. Each glass has a little talking face on it. The optimist smiles and says “I’m half full!” The pessimist frowns and says “I’m half empty”. The realist looks utterly exasperated, and say “I think this is piss!”

    I think I’m really more of a realist.

  6. Chet

    “doesn’t somehow make unproblematic all subsequent invasions by other nations simply because they can plead: “But look what the Americans did.”

    What a ridiculous response to Rosemerry’s comments. It’s not what the Americans did but what they are doing! The crisis in Ukraine was created by the Americans, much as the war in South Ossetia in 2008. It’s the result of U.S. geopolitical overt/covert policies and a resurgent neocon cabal. While there are strong ethnic divisions in Ukraine, this is a manufactured crisis created to weaken Russian.

    It is continuation of what America has been doing all over the world (like coup in Gaza in 2006 organized by neocon Elliot Abrams and supported by Rice because the wrong party was democratically elected). Any resistance to American interference in other countries receives hysterical and hypocritical condemnation. It’s acceptable to fund and covertly organize the violent subversion of a democratically elected government and install a right wing government that could not be democratically elected but when a neighboring country stands up for its strategic interests against U.S. interference it’s condemned as another Hitler. And when someone disagrees with your questionable interpretation of events it can’t be because of a realistic different view but rather it must be reverting to some nonsense about “tribal” affiliations.

    If the events in Ukraine were resolved in the “normal way” there would not have been a coup. Normally, the opposition/demonstrators would have accepted the compromise agreement with the EU that was agreed to by the President and EU representatives, which included decreasing the president’s power and holding early elections. It seems your “normal” is resorting to violence to accomplish political ends and any resistance to your “normal” by neighboring countries whose strategic and national interests are threatened is irrelevant.

  7. Syd

    “Rosemerry …. You don’t have any problem with invasions per se …. America’s problem is that it invades too often and too far away. An American invasion of Mexico, for instance, would be ok….”

    I’ve never supported any invasions. I like to think I’m a peaceful person. But if we lived in a mirror universe where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, Gorbachev expanded the Warsaw pact into Central America after promising not to, and the Soviet deputy Foreign Minister talked about gluing the Mexican opposition parties together right before a coup — I think I’d probably support a limited American invasion of Mexico.

    It was only a few years ago that Foreign Affairs had an article saying that the US now had a first strike nuclear capability and “…the weight of the evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy. …” If I were a Russian I’d be scared.

    None of this is an apology for Putin. He’s scum. But George Kennan warned us 20 years ago that expanding NATO into Eastern Europe would bring about a new Cold War. How could it not? We keep pushing.

    “…In the mean time there will remain endless fodder for the whataboutists to turn every event into an opportunity for remembering Iraq.”///

    If I’m not misinterpreting you, you’re saying that the Iraq war is not important to understanding this issue? I couldn’t disagree more. Kerry supported that war, no matter what he says now. Victoria Nuland is married to the neocon Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century. The same people who wanted to dominate the world 15 years ago while using self-determination as a stalking horse are now in charge of our policy towards Ukraine. ‘Remembering Iraq’ is important if you want to understand US policy.

  8. Paul Woodward

    “None of this is an apology for Putin. He’s scum.” But if you cast this as a situation where Russia has its back to the wall and has been left with no choice, then that is an apology for Putin.

    The fact that my criticisms have been directed at Russia, doesn’t mean that I regard the US as an innocent actor, although I don’t share the widely held view that Americans are the masters of the universe shaping political events all over the planet. The fact that Americans such as Nuland have grossly interfered in Ukrainian politics doesn’t make the Ukrainian people mindless American pawns.

    Whether it’s in relation to Ukraine, or Syria, or Libya, or elsewhere, the irony of the position so often adopted by those who want to defend the world from America’s heavy hand is that the people who are nominally being defended also end up being treated as irrelevant. “If I were a Russian I’d be scared.” And if you were a Ukrainian you’d understand you were just suffering the consequences of making the wrong friends?

    In the mirror universe you describe — a reasonable construction for the sake of this argument — the element you leave out is the political condition of the weakened America that feels the need to invade Mexico. In that America, if the government was clamping down on political dissent, shutting down the media, encouraging the growth of paramilitary nationalist movements and promoting the revival of American imperialism, would your attitude simply be: America’s got to do what it’s got to do?

    20 years ago, when Clinton used to like to talk about the “peace dividend” it’s a shame he didn’t try and put some substance behind what turned out to be an empty political slogan.

    The end of the Cold War presented huge opportunities that America squandered. NATO could have been dismantled. Russia could have become part of a Europe that left behind its East-West fractures. Nuclear disarmament could have been pursued seriously and not simply dangled as a distant dream. But all of this would have required political leadership with courage and imagination that none of the actual leaders of that period possessed.

    But acknowledging the US/EU/NATO’s many failings doesn’t legitimize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For anyone who claims never to have supported an invasion, why become so sympathetic to this one?

Comments are closed.