Yesterday in the Rose Garden, Merkel and Obama said that the dreaded Third Stage sanctions on Russia if that country disrupts the Ukrainian election on the 25th. (Merkel phrased it “unable to hold the election.”)
But nobody that I’ve seen has asked the crucial question: what constitutes “disruption”, and disruption by Russia specifically? Is the election “disrupted” if it does not take place in some regions, such as Donetsk? Or would Obama and Merkel require the election to be canceled to deem that it has been disrupted? What if the election is disrupted by local forces but under covert Russian direction? What evidence would Merkel and Obama require to assign responsibility to Russia? Would Merkel accept NSA intercepts as evidence?
This election disruption standard came out of thin air, and for all the world appears to be a team can-kicking exercise. Now Obama and Merkel have an excuse to do nothing for three weeks. Then when three weeks comes, and the elections turn into a chaotic fiasco, they’ll be able to find some other excuse. It was Ukrainian incompetence that caused the problem. There’s no reliable evidence that Russia deliberately disrupted the election. Something. Anything.
Regardless, Putin now has a guaranteed three weeks to continue to wreak havoc using spetsnaz and local irregulars (i.e., thugs). Ukraine may counterattack in one place, or a couple. But even if they succeed (and there is no reason to believe on past performance that they will), Ukraine is a big place and you can bet that a new Russian uprising will break out somewhere else.
Will he invade? I think not. Not because he couldn’t go through Ukraine like a hot knife through butter (or sh*t through a goose, as Patton used to say), but because holding the place would be hard, and outright invasion could even force Merkel and Obama into doing something half-way serious (kicking and screaming all the way). But because he can achieve his objectives by fomenting a civil war.
If it does come to civil war, it will be vicious, especially in the center of the country, in places like Kiev and Odessa, that contain large Ukrainian and Russian populations. (Civil wars are always most brutal in such borderlands. Like Sarajevo. Or in western Missouri in the Civil War.)
Merkel and Obama have basically signaled an unwillingness to act, and have given Putin a defined time window to act with no fear of punitive sanctions. And when that period ends, it will be extended, most likely. German industry (led by Hitler’s favorite firm, Siemens) are putting unrelenting pressure on Merkel. What’s more, the country is rife with “Russia understanders” like Hans Werner Sinn, who penned this egregious oped in the WSJ. Sinn and his ilk are like termites that have eaten away German resolve from within.
Which means I cannot see Germany acting, under any circumstances. Since Obama has already said that he prefers unity in inaction to acting alone (or with a coalition of the willing), Germany-by which I mean Siemens, BASF, Adidas, etc., and “understanders” like Sinn and Helmut Schmidt and the just plain corrupt like Gerhard Schroeder-therefore has a veto over American action.
The floor is yours, Vlad. All yours.