Streetwise Professor

February 27, 2014

Do As They Say, Not As They Do

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:32 am

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Twitter timeline has to be read to be believed.  Some words that come to mind: chutzpah, irony, projection.   Some samples: “Russia advises everyone to give up provocative statements on Ukraine.”  “Russia calls on Ukraine to avoid religion based conflicts.” (Recall the earlier MFA statement about violations of Orthodoxy-meaning that the MFA was injecting religion.) “Lavrov urged OSCE to condemn growing nationalist sentiment in Ukraine.”  “Russia urges West to realize responsibility for #Ukraine’s failed peace deal.”  (The latter tweet is directed to the German, French, and Polish foreign ministries.)

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  1. It is all to easy to believe: think of AH issuing requests that those Bohemians stop being nationalistic against the poor Sudeten Deutsch! This is a set up, or the build up of a set up to say – “See they didn’t follow our advice, but kept up their EEEEEEEvil ways so we had to do (whatever).”

    Battlefield prep.

    Comment by Sotos — February 27, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Yes, this is all to provide a pretext that Putin can present to the world and his own people should he stage an intervention. However, we must remember that Putin is nothing like AH. While a dictator, he is neither megalomaniacal nor genocidal. He is more like Mussolini than Hitler. In terms of risk taking, he is also more like Stalin than Hitler. Very opportunistic, but I think he’s hesitant to even take calculated risks and far from the repeated geopolitical gambling that Hitler did. Instead, he is aggessive, but patient. Furthermore, the international situation is not like it was in 1938 or even 2008 during the Georgia war. The Atlantic bloc is on alert and aware of the threat Putin poses. It is fairly united and has much more leverage relative to Russia than the Franco-British alliance did towards Germany.

    In the end, I think Putin will rue his early and easy victories in Georgia, Syria, Snowden, and the November volte face of Yanukovych. It prematurely galvanized the West. He probably also regrets the Olympics as it likely tied his hands in a very critical moment.

    Putin has historically played a weak hand very well, but it is a weak hand relative to the cards the West holds, and he knows it.

    I can imagine any number of scenarios where Putin could seize Crimea from Ukraine quite easily. I also imagine it would be met very quickly with a series of economic and political responses that would cause Russia to be an outcast nation, harms its economy, and freeze the financial holdings of its top leaders in Western banks. That would severely hurt his ability to remain paramount leader in the long term and greatly harm Russian prestige. Unless I am grossly misreading him, Putin won’t make a real move in Crimea unless he knows he can do with a low chance of repercussion.

    Most likely he will remain patient and hopes Ukraine and/or the West makes a huge error that provides him the opportunity he needs. Given the weak leadership in Washington, if Kiev enters a Jacobin phase, or if there is another grave international crisis that diverts the attention of the West, this might still happen, but I think the odds decrease in the long term.

    Comment by Chris — February 27, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

  3. @Chris. I have no doubt that Putin has a weak hand. I have made that argument repeatedly. Which makes it all the more infuriating that Obama and Merkel don’t call his bluff. They have the cards, and don’t play them. Indeed, they seem intent on proving that they don’t even want to be in the game.

    I have a different view of Putin’s patience. Years ago, at the very beginning of this blog, I referred to him as a man in a hurry. The fecklessness of the US and EU, and the chaos in Ukraine, present him with an opportunity. I agree that he is an opportunist, and this is his main chance. If he waits, and the situation in Kiev stabilizes and the West provides support and awakens to the danger that Putin poses, that chance may disappear.

    IMO, he will pursue multiple courses. Some of which will be focused on the long run. But he will not hesitate to grab if he thinks the grabbing is good.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 27, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

  4. Depends on the definition of genocide Chris, he ordered ethnic cleansing of Georgians from lands they have inhabited for all of recorded history.

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 12:11 am


    Look at the film, modern Russian equipment. That is a Russian army soldier.

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 12:52 am

  6. Meanwhile, unidentified Russian military units (in unmarked uniforms, but clearly professional and well-armed) have occupied the airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol. Tweets about unfounded insinuations coming from Lavrov in 3,2,1…

    Comment by Ivan — February 28, 2014 @ 2:17 am

  7. Russian military units blockade the airport in Sevastopol

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 2:19 am

  8. Looks like Ukraine is invoking the Budapest agreement

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 2:58 am

  9. You don’t have to be a genius to understand what’s going on in the Crimean airports.

    Tuesday: Berkut is disbanded.
    Wednesday: Berkut arrives in Crimea to a heroes’ welcome.
    Thursday: unidentified gunmen start taking over government buildings.

    Remember when Rumsfeld disbanded the Iraqi military? Such a stupid move on behalf of the Rada…

    Comment by aaa — February 28, 2014 @ 5:39 am

  10. “Where are the carriers?” (C)

    Comment by LL — February 28, 2014 @ 5:59 am

  11. Not the same equipment or uniforms, that is Russian Army kit they are wearing aaa.

    If the Russians have supplied them that is a major breach of international law.

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 6:52 am

  12. Also, regarding the issuing of Russian passports, Ukraine’s constitution forbids dual citizenship, particularly with Russia.

    Comment by Andrew — February 28, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  13. Getting rid of nukes, not a good idea.

    Comment by AP — February 28, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  14. Well, I was obviously completely wrong.

    Today’s actions in Crimea are definitely an escalation. Despite my overall cynicism, I am very shocked at how blatant this is. The troops are wearing Russian uniforms! Some analysts say the soldiers may be private contractors hired by the Russian base in Sevastapol. They are obviously very well disciplined since all are refusing to talk to media as they expand their area of control. The proffered explanation is that they are securing the airport and approaches to Crimea to prevent a mob of revolutionaries from forcing their way in and seizing control of Crimea. By backing away from any official ties to the soldiers, Moscow thinks it can protect itself from any retaliation. It looks like an intermediate step to cut off any possible way Kiev could control Crimea. Afterwards, Putin will presumably interfere, occupy or annex Crimea at his leisure.

    I wonder what the governments in other former Soviet states think of this. I can’t imagine even fairly pro-Moscow governments are happy about this, but it could be an effective “kill the chicken to scare the monkey” tactic.

    aaa, I had the same thoughts when I heard all of Berkut was gone. A smarter move would have been to remove the officers and kept the ordinary footslogs on the payroll, at least temporarily. Presumably this was though to be unacceptable to Maidan so they cashiered everyone at once. I don’t think these guys are Berkut though. Way too little time to organize them, equip them, train them in new tactics, and carry out a new plan. I would not be surprised though if the unorganized militia surrounding the capital and engaging in other acts are former Berkut.

    Comment by Chris — February 28, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

  15. @Chris. Don’t feel bad. Everyone has been wrongfooted by events in Ukraine. I guess the lesson is that we have to pull a lot of lead on the target given how fast it is moving. No cynicism is too much. As Lily Tomlin said, we try to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up. Especially when Putin is involved.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 28, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

  16. turns out that one of the airports is owned by Yanukonvikt’s son

    Comment by elmer — March 1, 2014 @ 9:49 am

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