Okay peaceniks, let's talk about what's going on in the Ukraine

Things are happening fast, so perhaps my description will be out of date by the time you read this. The Ukraine underwent a relatively peaceful* revolution, chasing the pro-Russia president out of the country and establishing an interim revolutionary pro-West government. 

One house of Russia's national legislature just authorized the use of military force to protect what it sees as Russian interests and to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Crimea region.

Peaceniks chant "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Well, then of course you wouldn't have a war, but a war isn't a party you can just not go to if it's being brought to you.

I'm not going to get more specific. I'm just inviting a discussion of the situation going on in the Ukraine. What should be done? What COULD be done?

* People have died, but it's nothing like some of the other conflicts going on now or happening in recent years around the world (Egypt, Syria, etc.)..

Tags: Crimea, Russia, Ukraine

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I'm just inviting a discussion of the situation going on in the Ukraine. What should be done? What COULD be done?

It'll be a repeat of what happened in Georgia while Bush was President. The Russians will waltz in, break off whatever piece they can lay a claim to-- territory where people speak Russian is popular-- and keep it.

The world will roar and hop up and down-- sanctions this and condemnation that-- but in the end, everyone will fall silent, do nothing and accept it. If Putin wants Ukraine-- or more likely Crimea or everything east of the Dnieper River-- he's going to take it and that's it. Putin will crush the Ukrainian military if it resists.

Russia has too many natural resources to pressure economically. Where it does have economic ties to other nations it's often as a provider of those resources (which would be sorely missed). Russia cannot be pressured militarily very much, except by the United States and NATO, who won't be committing ships and troops to defend Ukraine by force.

Putin just spent millions and many years trying to rehabilitate Russia's image with the Sochi games. Now he's tossing all that into the dung heap. Control of the Black Sea territory and keeping a buffer with Europe and NATO is more important.

It'll be (useless) sanctions. Maybe some of the NATO countries-- Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia-- will beef up the military along the Ukraine border for a while as well. But that'll be it. After a while, assuming the pro-western government of Ukraine survives, maybe it'll join NATO. This would be the ideal reason.

If Putin wants Ukraine-- or more likely Crimea or everything east of the Dnieper River-- he's going to take it and that's it. Putin will crush the Ukrainian military if it resists.

Putin just swallowed Crimea. Eastern Ukraine may be his next bite. Looks like the Ukrainian military is about to hit the fan, with a little black ops help from the US.

I can't imagine Ukraine coming out on top. If there's war, it'll be brutal, ugly and quick. Then it'll be an insurgency, bloody and dragging on for years.

I think Putin is perfectly content with Crimea as it contains he's naval base and most of the offshore oil+gas fields. If Ukraine thinks it actually wants to start a shooting match with Putin they should just see how much that helped Georgia.

I think Putin is perfectly content with Crimea as it contains he's naval base and most of the offshore oil+gas fields.

You could be right, but I think it's too early to tell. East Ukraine is on the table and the dice are still rolling. My guess is Putin is just getting warmed up. Consider:

1. Government officials in Crimea-- who are likely in contact with the Russian government-- say the Crimea referendum is just the beginning.

2. There are anywhere from 80,000 to 150,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border. I don't think that's because Putin fears an incursion from Ukraine.

3. The state-owned Russian media has just started portraying cities in eastern Ukraine draped in Russian flags with mass protests and local governments pleading with Putin to join Russia via referendums of their own. (Please, Putin! Please come and invade us!)

4. Russian troops have already ignored the Crimean border and crossed into Ukraine to seize a giant natural gas plant.

Putin's problem is that Crimea depends on mainland Ukraine for most of its food and energy resources. Putin must seize that food, energy and transportation infrastructure within Ukraine. That, or start a massive campaign to ferry food, oil and gas to Crimea across the Black Sea, which seems unlikely.

The stage has been set for taking east Ukraine, militarily and politically, and keeping Crimea requires taking another bite out of Ukraine.

Pass the ketchup.

If Ukraine thinks it actually wants to start a shooting match with Putin they should just see how much that helped Georgia.

I don't think they want to, but if Putin crosses the border, the new masters of the earth who run the Ukraine government in Kiev may fight them anyway, assuming the military cooperates. Putin will destroy them if they resist, but the leadership has nothing to lose. It's their heads in the noose if Putin crosses the Dnieper to take the whole country or just set up a puppet government in Kiev.

(Click the image to see all of it.)

The stage has been set for taking east Ukraine, militarily and politically, and keeping Crimea requires taking another bite out of Ukraine.

Here it comes.

"U.S. intel assessment: greater likelihood Russia will enter eastern Ukraine"

"The United States believes that Russia might decide to go into eastern Ukraine to establish a land bridge into Crimea. The belief is that Russian forces would move toward three Ukrainian cities: Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk in order to establish land access into Crimea. Russian forces are currently positioned in and around Rostov, Kursk, and Belgorod, according to U.S. intelligence information."

I certainly hope the government is thinking about a response in case Putin wants to reconstruct the old USSR. You'd better believe that the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians, Slovaks and the rest are really sweating. 

I don't think we want to go to war with Russia but clearly Putin is willing to take short-term setbacks in exchange for long-term gains, which would make him a pretty good investor in stocks.

What, exactly, would the U.S. be willing to do, and is it already too late? 

I know the Peaceniks will ask "Why should we care? We don't live there. It's their problem, not ours." But don't forget China is watching all of this and would love to add Taiwan, the Koreas, and Japan to its sphere of influence.

If both Russia and China decided to expand like that, Eurasia would be lost for all practical purposes. One can even envision China taking over India to take advantage of its vast low-wage labor force, which would allow the Chinese populace to become more affluent at the expense of Indians. It would then be the new Chinese "citizens" in India making electronics at near slave wages, not the Chinese.

What, exactly, would the U.S. be willing to do, and is it already too late?

Too late for what, exactly?

But don't forget China is watching all of this and would love to add Taiwan, the Koreas, and Japan to its sphere of influence.

A Chinese North Korea would certainly be better than the current North Korea. Would war with China be justifiable, for the "protection" of NK?

Then SK and/or Japan falling? In the big picture, the fear of world domination by the Chinese isn't justified by history, or at least not to the extent of (say) the history western imperialism.

This sounds too much to me like the old paranoic Domino Theory of our past, or more recently, fear of the power of Saddam Hussein. Why can't we focus on making ourselves better, first, and raise the visibility of our cultural success out there to be envied by repressed cultures, instead of despised?

Too late to do something other than stand back and wring our hands.

We are bound by treaty to defend NATO nations, which includes most of the former USSR). The Ukraine never joined NATO, but most of the neighboring states did.

The problem with the Koreas is that, if China is going to the bother of taking the poor Korea, why wouldn't it just keep rolling into the relatively less militarily prepared prosperous southern half of Korea? I don't think China would even want the disaster that's N. Korea, but it'd just make a good stepping stone/staging area for grabbing S. Korea.

Nothing is really keeping China from expanding into areas that would expand its economic power other than the threat of a U.S. retaliation under our treaties.

By raising the specter of the "domino theory" you seem to be forgetting that the old USSR didn't incorporate Eastern Europe through a popular vote. 

As for China, they CLAIM Mongolia and Tibet are historically parts of China and use that as justification for taking them over. Their claim is actually better when it comes to Taiwan and they can claim the Koreas and Japan as necessary for their security.

We are bound by treaty to defend NATO nations, which includes most of the former USSR).

I don't believe that's entirely correct.  NATO now includes most of the nations formerly in the Warsaw Pact, but I believe it only includes 3 of the 15 former Soviet republics (the three baltic states that were conquered by the USSR during WWII--Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.  NATO also includes parts of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia) and Albania.

Too late to do something other than stand back and wring our hands.

Ok. The more pertinent question's what can we do now besides impose economic sanctions, or do something more aggressive that destabilizes the country to rid it of "evil" (ala Iraq wrt Saddam). I won't press anyone on this (except perhaps @Arcus (: ), because I don't expect there's any kind of easy answer.

But I"ll still maintain that fears of dominoes falling (because of, say, China's lust for South Korea) are largely unfounded and irrelevant to the current topic. China's hegemony in Mongolia and Tibet still don't compare equally to historical, western imperialism.

Back more on topic... Putin's apparently still building up forces and supply lines along the east Ukranian border.

I certainly hope the government is thinking about a response in case Putin wants to reconstruct the old USSR. You'd better believe that the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians, Slovaks and the rest are really sweating. 

I don't think we want to go to war with Russia but clearly Putin is willing to take short-term setbacks in exchange for long-term gains, which would make him a pretty good investor in stocks.

What, exactly, would the U.S. be willing to do, and is it already too late?

It's not too late, but this isn't a question of ability, so much as stupidity. Consider your history.

MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is just as good as ever. High overhead, the United States can destroy Russia and Russia can destroy the United States with ICBMs. The part that's not so good anymore is NATO. It used to be that, in the sky and on the ground in Europe, you had birds and tanks and troops lined up eyeball to eyeball with the Russians. This is the cold war military deterrent that kept western Europe and the United States safe for almost fifty years. It wasn't worth invading anybody because you'd all be ashes.

Imagine what would happen if the United States and its allies in Europe pumped a few trillion dollars into arms development and a new energy infrastructure where the US supplied most of Europe with natural gas. Now all of Russia's neighbors are armed to the teeth; the whole of Europe is encircled in a ring of steel and burning natural gas from its own resources, the US and Canada. Sorry Putin, party's over. Quit fucking with your neighbors and maybe they'll start buying your gas and oil again.

But, no.

The problem, as usual, is the stupid Republicans. They're still selling deficit hysteria and the insane idea that the way to make a severely depressed economy bigger is by making it smaller. (Remember the debt ceiling crisis the GOP orchestrated in 2011?) In exchange for the Republicans not destroying the global economy, the Democrats agreed to the Republican proposal to shrink the US military to pre-World War II levels, cutting benefits and eliminating new weapons systems. Now the same Republican crackpots who cut the military off at the knees are bitching at the commander-in-chief for making the U.S. look weak.

How droll.

There won't be any stimulus spending while the Republicans are holding the purse strings. Not on the military, not on a new energy infrastructure, not on economic development, not on education, not on anything at all (except the standard corporate welfare programs and tax cuts for the super-rich). The Ukrainians are doomed. Putin may grab a few more morsels of land as well, like Moldova. Obama can't do anything of substance in the long-term without help from Republicans in Congress. The Republicans in Congress aren't trying to resolve the crisis with Obama, they're trying to use it against him, as always.

the Democrats agreed to the Republican proposal to shrink the US military to pre-World War II levels, cutting benefits and eliminating new weapons systems.

This is the first I have heard of Republicans (and I am assuming here you meant the Republican mainstream) being behind the recent proposals to shrink the military.  (It certainly goes against the stereotype of Republicans wanting a big military, and what I have been hearing from the left since 1979 has been incessant complaining about how much money we spend on that sort of thing.  You are literally the first person on the left I have heard, in my lifetime, complain that the military is too small!)  Do you have a source for this?  Or are you referencing some other proposal?  Now there was a bipartisan sequester agreement to shrink both the military and domestic spending, but the military shrinkage was a Republican concession to get the Democrats to agree to the domestic cuts.

So what is it you are referencing here?

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