Ukraine’s dangerous drift towards chaos

David C. Hendrickson writes: One of the most deplorable features of the Ukraine crisis has been the unwillingness of both Russia and the United States to restrain their respective allies. Until yesterday, when reports emerged that Washington is now counseling a go-slow approach to the prospective sieges of Donetsk and Lugansk, Washington has betrayed little anxiety that the Ukrainians might go too far. About the only daylight observable between the two states has been that the U.S. State Department refers to the insurgents as separatists, whereas the Ukrainians call them terrorists. But American officials have not condemned the use of that terminology by the Ukrainians, and they continue to defend Ukraine’s military actions as “moderate and measured.”

The language of the Ukrainian authorities is of a war to the death. “We will not stop,” said the newly appointed Defense Minister, Valeriy Heletey. He continued:

We will bring in maximum numbers of troops and weapons, and strengthen them with National Guard soldiers, police troops and the Security Service – all will be thrown in to defend the Donbas . . . to defend those cities from terrorists.

Those not willing to give up arms [will] understand that waging a war against the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people is not just dangerous but it will mean doom for these people . . . We will continue the active phase until the moment there is not a single terrorist left on the territory of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Heletey, the fourth defense minister since February, was appointed on July 3; in his maiden speech, he promised to liberate Crimea. “There will be a victory parade,” he declared, “in Ukraine’s Sevastopol.” The minister acknowledged that the people in the southeast “are disoriented and afraid of Ukraine, of Kyiv. They are afraid they will be punished and tortured.” But he also warned the residents, in effect, that you’re either with us or against us. “The residents have to . . . first and foremost not support, passively or actively, those terrorists. If it works this way, the process will be very quick,” he said.

Another piece of ominous news, from the New York Times, is that the new Ukrainian forces have learned to kill their fellow countrymen without being conscience-stricken about it. This, the Times intimates, is great progress. “They have overcome that psychological barrier in which the military were afraid to shoot living people,” says one local expert. Once the military had gotten over their silly phobia, “and it became clear who were our people, who were foes, the operations became more effective.”

There is no shortage of similar talk on the Russian side. [Continue reading…]

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