Russia vs. Ukraine (and the West?)

Posted: January 20, 2022 in Geopolitics

by Richard Martin

When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, there was neither the will nor the capability in the Kremlin to oppose it in an effective manner. Eastern Bloc countries and the former Baltic Soviet republics asked and were admitted to NATO.

The Russian grand strategy since 1991 has been to reclaim – explicitly or implicitly – the breakaway republics in what they call their “near abroad.” Anyone remember Georgia (Chechnya)? Just last week, Russian troops and resources, including a massive airlift of equipment and airborne troops, assisted the dictator of Kazakhstan in the bloody repression of a popular uprising against rising prices, corruption, and repression. Thousands are reported killed.

A plausible reconstruction of the word “Ukraine” is “borderlands,” or “frontier.” I believe this is what is behind the insistence of Ukrainians that their country should be called “Ukraine,” not “the Ukraine,” as was the tradition. In other words, “Our country’s name is Ukraine, not ‘The Frontier of Russia’.” Ukraine has tried to join NATO for years, and to remain autonomous and independent. But Russia has hindered that possibility every step of the way, including through subversion (of which they have much experience), political interference, propaganda, media operations, ideological warfare, psychological warfare, cyberwarfare, economic warfare, false flag operations, and even outright invasion and combat operations followed by annexation of the Crimea. 

The Russians are fixing to make a significant move against Ukraine. From the Russian standpoint, Ukraine is home territory. There are good reasons why most ethnic Ukrainians wish to be as independent of Russia as possible. But something like 40-50% of the population is ethnically Russian (similar to Kazakhstan). Ukrainian independence from Russia is like Texas separating from the US. The official Russian line is that they are the Old (Great) Russians, the Russians proper, Ukrainians are Little Russians, and Belarusians are White Russians. Do we think Russia will let Ukraine go without a fight? A Russian trope is that it is the continuation of Rome and Byzantium, the bastion of Christianity against the Asiatic hordes. This is what we’re dealing with.

Meanwhile, below the public’s radar the U.S. and the UK have been signalling the Russians for over a month now. US Navy activity and USAF command and control and nuclear readiness have been heightened since before Christmas. USAF nuclear C2 planes have been “squawking” in the clear so the Russians can see them. The Chief of the USN has announced the presence of Ohio-class cruise missile armed subs and Trident-class subs, including port calls in New Zealand, on Twitter no less. Roughly half of the US’s amphibious capability has been deployed. This is in addition to many other measures that are being deliberately telegraphed in the open. NATO and UK planes are also in action.

Russia will act; I have no doubt about it. The West will huff and puff and will do nothing beyond symbolic moves, such as sending some ammo to Ukraine, providing training cadre, and economic/financial sanctions. Biden’s Freudian slip yesterday about Russian invasion shows that will be the case. Upon specific request, the UK is sending antitank missiles to Ukrainian forces. The same request to the Canadian government has met with humming and hawing by our boy wonder PM Trudeau. Just yesterday he told reporters that sending Canadian ammo to Ukraine would just exacerbate the problem and give an excuse to the Russians to invade Ukraine. Appeasement anyone?

The line is in the Baltics and the rest of Eastern Europe. Will the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Greeks, the Turks, the Dutch fight for the territorial integrity of the Ukraine? Allow me to doubt it. They need Russian gas too much, and the Russian market. The Romanians, Poles and Baltics may be willing to fight against outright aggression, but will they go to war for the Ukrainians, when there are still centuries-old grievances between these lands. Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Copyright 2022 Richard Martin

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