July 26, 2014

How Goes The Ukraine?

"In war, truth is the first casualty."

From my POV, trying to understand the situation in the Ukraine is like watching a cock fight after someone tosses a smoke grenade. Here's some angles on what may be happening and the risks involved.

Ukraine Army Advancing Against Rebels
The Kyiv Post (a Ukrainian news outlet) reported yesterday that Ukraine army units were advancing against the rebels and recovering previously lost territory after heavy fighting in the Donetsk region. Donetsk is the major metropolitan area in East Ukraine with a total population of about 2 million; the city itself is about 980,000. Rebel forces are reported to be retreating.
While most eyes of the world were focused on the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that killed 298 people, Ukraine’s government forces continued assaults that regained territory from Russian-backed separatist fighters.

Using everything from small arms and mortars to heavy artillery and airstrikes, they have managed to retake some key cities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts [an oblast is a Russian term for an administrative district ~sig94], home to 15 percent of Ukraine’s population, forcing the insurgents to retreat to provincial capitals and their outskirts.

The military is closer than ever to fully encircling the rebels. But the wins have come at a steep cost. Hundreds of civilians have been killed since the government launched its anti-terrorist operation in mid-April.

[...]Despite the significant gains, Ukraine’s military have not been able to close the Russian border completely, and alleges that its positions are shelled by artillery from Russian territory. NATO continues to see evidence of weapons being moved into Ukraine from Russia since the downing of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine last week, a NATO military officer said on July 23. So long as a corridor remains open for reinforcements and munitions, the rebels will likely continue to fight.

“We have noted an increase in the amount of weapons being transferred from Russia to Ukraine in the last several weeks. We continue to see evidence of the movement of weapons into Ukraine from Russia since the downing of (Malaysia Airlines flight) MH17, which is a cause for concern,” said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
And what do the Russians have to say?
This story from Pravda and this one also.
The Moscow Times says this and this.
And you can date Ukrainian women here

Putin's Gamble?
This Forbes Magazine (not yet the property of the Chinese) opinion piece has a different take on the political acumen of Vlad Putin and the reasons why he apparently is blowing his wad on the Ukraine.
Why would the leader of a powerful country in reasonably good standing want to risk everything by putting himself in the same league with Muammar Gaddafi?

Many say that it is all part of Putin’s master plan, that he has been scheming for years to create a greater Russia and that he has been skillfully moving his chess pieces around the board in order to attain that objective. Yet most Kremlin experts say otherwise. They insist that he is a talented tactician with little taste for broad strategic thinking.

[...]Since the crisis began, he has been taking on ever greater risk—not to mention serious damage to the Russian economy—with negative return. Before the crisis began, Ukraine was slowly moving towards Europe, now it is actively running away from Russia. European public opinion, even before MH-17, has turned decidedly against Putin. Russia’s most talented citizens are leaving in droves.

So it appears that Putin is not only a poor chess player, he is an exceeding bad poker player, constantly raising the stakes while facing a decreasing expected return. If he ever could return Ukraine to the fold—an exceedingly unlikely prospect—he would accomplish no more than a return to the status quo ante.

[...]After the election of Petro Poroshenko to Ukraine’s Presidency came more setbacks. The rebel strongholds of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk were retaken by Ukrainian anti-terrorist troops and they began moving toward Donetsk and Luhansk. So Putin escalated again, sending heavy artillery and more sophisticated weapons, including the one that shot down MH-17.

Miscalculation. Failure. Escalation. The downing of MH-17 is a logical consequence of the pattern. Putin took the actions that lead to the downing of MH-17 because he believes that he has no other choice. He’s stuck, for lack of a better term and it’s not at all clear that he sees a way out. He must either continue to escalate or betray his own ambitions.
After spending two weeks vacation in Croatia, my Army daughter is home for a visit. I asked for her opinion on the events in the Ukraine. Her response, "If they pull us out of Afghanistan completely I don't think we'll be out of a job very long."  Yeah, she's a cynic.


Euripides said...

The lesson to be learned here is that centralized government cannot be trusted to work in the best interests of its citizens. Whether it's in Russia or here in Obamanation, government is always dangerous.

sig94 said...

Euripide - indeed, that was a lesson learned by the Founding Fathers and forgotten in less than a hundred years.