Streetwise Professor

February 18, 2015

Ukraine Grieves: Putin Gloats

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:55 pm

Ukraine bowed to military reality and hastily withdrew its remaining forces from Debaltsevo. There are only so many Alamos that one country can survive. It was unwise in the extreme to have attempted to defend that salient for so long.

Yes, an earlier withdrawal would have damaged Ukrainian morale, but the flight under the current circumstances has harmed morale far more than would have been the case earlier. Not least because it has given Putin the opportunity to gloat. Twisted little man that he is, he seized upon it:

“Of course, it’s always bad to lose,” Putin told reporters. “Of course it’s always a hardship when you lose to yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers. But life is life. It’ll surely go on.”

Not only is this an unchivalrous swipe at Ukraine (which he despises as much as he covets), it is a gratuitous insult directed at Merkel and Obama and the West generally. The reference to “miners and . . . tractor drivers” implies that Russian forces had nothing to do with Ukraine’s humiliation at Debaltsevo, when he knows, and knows that everyone else knows, that they had everything to do with it. Putin is saying, in essence: “Yeah. I’m shamelessly lying about Russian troops and equipment being in Donbas. What are you going to do about it? I know exactly what you are going to do about it: nothing.”

And in that, he’s correct. Today “Germany said it was too early to call the broader Minsk peace plan dead or ratchet up sanctions against Moscow.” It’s not dead. It’s resting. It’s stunned. It’s pining for the steppes. Extend and pretend is the European response to Russian depredations, just as it has been to fiscal profligacy in the south.

One can only hope that these words come back to haunt him. That his hubris calls forth nemesis.

No eulogist will say of Putin: “He was magnanimous in victory.” Well, given that the eulogist will be Russian, and perfectly capable of saying up is down with the straightest of faces, he probably will.

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  1. Putin must be mad because most of the encircled Ukrainians did not surrender as he openly hoped they would after the Minsk talks. Most of the troops managed to break out of the encirclement, even though there are allegations that the Ukrainian military command did not plan or coordinate the breakthrough, brave but necessarily chaotic. I think Putin is also mad because the Ukrainians are fighting so hard despite being underarmed and erratically commanded, and most of the fighters are not his favorite straw-man nationalists from the West but bilingual or Russophone men from the Center, South, and East. Also, the Kremlin seems to be hopeful that some of the disaffected soldiers would stage a military coup in Kyiv.

    Almost everything about Putin is the opposite of magnanimity: he’s a small man in most of his ways. OK, releasing Khodorkovsky and Lebedev came close to a goodwill gesture but it had to do with the Olympics. Compare Yeltsin’s reluctance to prosecute the plotters of 1991 and 1993.

    Comment by Alex K. — February 19, 2015 @ 1:15 am

  2. I think by now it is clear that Khodorkovsky was not so much released as he was sent to Europe to play Putin’s “good cop” in promoting Russo-fascist agenda.

    Comment by Ivan — February 19, 2015 @ 1:41 am

  3. Maybe the Ukrainian high command will learn something from this on the utility of using armed force in a locality where the enemy has escalation dominance.

    Or not. In which case Ukraine needs a new high command.

    Comment by PailiP — February 19, 2015 @ 4:21 am

  4. Yes. On that I can heartily agree with PailiP: they do need a new high command. I would suggest importing some staff officers from Canada for starters.

    Comment by LL — February 19, 2015 @ 5:55 am

  5. Surely the “Harper regime” (Kremlin quote) could come up with a few officers speaking decent Ukrainian. But they’ve gotta make sure Ukraine’s sovok generals don’t just send them to die in the next “Ilovaysk”, the way they’ve already wasted at least one Ukrainian-American West Point graduate:

    Comment by Ivan — February 19, 2015 @ 6:27 am

  6. “it is long past time to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine and to impose additional sanctions and costs that can change Putin’s behavior, including the removal of Russia from the SWIFT financial system.”

    At the White House, nobody’s home.

    Comment by Ivan — February 19, 2015 @ 6:42 am

  7. Meanwhile, Poroshenko seems to be getting completely delusional. Now he wants “EU peacekeepers” to stop the Russian aggression. A plea to Martians would be more effective, at least there were some news bulletins in 1938 suggesting they might have the capability.

    Comment by Ivan — February 19, 2015 @ 7:37 am

  8. Canadian staff officers? What expertise would they add? The Canadian officer class is another ceremonial, caste like institution. The best place to look for battle field commanders is on the battle field, the best place to look for staff officers is at UPS or FexEx or another logistics corp because thats what staff officers are.

    Comment by d — February 19, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

  9. SWP, your statement, (Putin is saying, in essence: “Yeah. I’m shamelessly lying…),
    Putler is an honest liar, the bigger problem is that the leadrship in the west are lying too, it’s just that they are more diplomatic about it. Not only are both sides liars but both sides are cowards.
    Russia togetther with Germany have a history when in an aggresive mode, they attack the weak, and when in a “grave concerned” mode of not helping the weak. Although, Germany in a symbolic way is helping the Kurds militarily right now. But in reality Germans and the rest of “Old Europe” is more intereseted in keeping their fat asses warm and their profits up than being honourable.

    What was it the Winston Churchill said, ” …you did not chose honour, you will have war”

    Comment by traveler — February 19, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

  10. Sorry, above, ment to say “choose honour”.

    SWP any thoughts on Europes Greexit problems. Here is an interesting article,

    One of the issues the article brings up is the Greeks deposited their Euros in German banks and if Euro system explodes, then it seems to me one interesting problem would be Greeks traveling to Germany to withdrawl their savings, that is if there are any left.

    Also, not being sarcastic here, but do deficits matter. What would happen if the European central bank just issued money to cover bank shortfalls?

    Comment by traveler — February 19, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

  11. +++What expertise would they add? +++

    They would add Western military education. Because the Ukrainian command seems to be suffering from its Soviet schooling. Something that the Russians seem to have overcame recently.

    Comment by LL — February 19, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

  12. What does Western military education have to do with anything when its not backed up by actual combat experience? American officers embarrassed themselves pretty badly in both Iraq and Afghanistan before through the sheer process of combat darwinism the totally inept were shuffled back off to state side and were replaced by competent one. Not only is appointing random foreigners dangerous because foreign officers will be just as inexperienced at war as the locals but its also dangerous because foreign officers will have expectations of fighting in a 21st century army instead of a 1970s version. Russian success is wholly based on the amount of money they can throw into this fight, despite a preponderance of artillery, tanks and initiative they choose to take dumb head on fights against the Ukrainians. Eventually Ukrainian artillery runs out of shells and a fortification falls. Rinse and repeat.

    Comment by d — February 19, 2015 @ 7:57 pm

  13. Ukraine is not a factor in this war because it has learned the lesson of the 2008 war with Georgia. The worst thing that can happen to the Ukrainians is a battlefield victory, as this will only lead to further escalation on Putin’s part and more inaction from Europe and Obama.

    Comment by aaa — February 19, 2015 @ 8:10 pm

  14. LL, it isn’t a matter of ‘Soviet schooling’, but the 25 years the Ukrainian armed forces were left to rot. Ten years ago, the Russian armed forces were no better. The only real difference is that about 10 years ago the Russian government decided to make something useful out of their fores, while the Orange oligarchs backing Yushchenko and Timoshenko decided they’d rather fight among themselves over the spoils they got in 2004.

    It really is that simple.

    Comment by PailiP — February 21, 2015 @ 2:47 am

  15. The decimation of Ukrainian armed forces was greatly accelerated when Yanukonvikt took over.

    That also included Kremlinoid appointees inserted into various government positions in Ukraine.

    Comment by elmer — February 21, 2015 @ 9:25 am

  16. No, PailiP, it is much simpler than that. About 10 years ago Russia began to get the windfall from the oil prices and suddenly and quite unexpectedly became very rich. While Ukraine has never have anything even remotely close.

    See, the success of capitalist developement in the West lead to massive investement and rise of China and India which in turn created a huge demand for oil… in essence, Russia is flashing its wealth from unearned money and the labors of Americans and Chinese finance its imperialist endeavors.

    So the solution is quite simple: make Russia poor again and keep it this way. Back to the 90s, when they simply had no money for weapons and crap like that. An added benefit: much fewer irritating types at Carribean resorts :}

    Comment by LL — February 22, 2015 @ 7:57 am

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