Biden and Putin to Talk Ukraine

Russia may invade Ukraine again. The United States would prefer otherwise.

Reuters (“Biden and Putin set to talk about Ukraine in video call on Tuesday“):

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday, with the two leaders set to discuss the tense situation in Ukraine.

“Biden will underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She said other topics would include “strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.”

The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

“The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realization of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main (items) on the agenda,” he said.

The exact timing of the call was not disclosed.

More than 94,000 Russian troops are believed to be massed near Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday that Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive at the end of January, citing intelligence reports. U.S. officials have come to similar conclusions, they said.

Biden, meanwhile, has rejected Russian demands for security guarantees in the region.

“My expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said.

The U.S. president said he and his advisers were preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at deterring Putin from an invasion. He did not give further details, but the administration has discussed partnering with European allies to impose more sanctions on Russia.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin separately said that Washington was committed to ensuring that Ukraine had what it needed to protect its territory.

The Obama administration, rightly in my view, did very little when Russian “little green men” invaded Crimea. It did only a little more a few months later when Russia annexed Crimea after a sham referendum. It did very little about the continuing Russian activities in the Donbas region of Ukraine proper (what Wikipedia calls an ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War). And, naturally, neither did the Trump administration. It’s been nothing but cheap talk and painful but livable sanctions.

And, again, I think this is the correct policy. Ukraine is not a NATO ally or even a historic partner. Indeed, it was part of the Soviet Union and Russia for most of its existence. It has been an independent country in modern times for only the last 30 years. And, like it or not—and I don’t—Crimea is once again a de facto part of Russia and will likely continue to be long after Joe Biden has shuffled from this mortal coil.

Putin’s actions have not been cost-free. He’s an international pariah. Russia has been expelled from the G-7 and is widely considered a joke of a country, “great power” or no. But, like it or not, Russia continues to have a massive military and a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons. We’re simply not going to risk World War III over Ukraine. Hell, most Americans haven’t stopped calling it “the Ukraine,” the name it held as a Soviet Republic.

I get not wanting to “accept anybody’s red lines.” We’re the planet’s most powerful country. But, to paraphrase the SEC advertising campaign, Ukraine just means more to Russia than it does to US. We don’t have to like that. But going to war to stop an invasion is in nobody’s interest and threatening to do so would be foolish.

Now, we can make things harder for Putin. We can certainly provide arms and intelligence and logistical support to Ukraine. I presume we’re already doing so, in fact. But Ukraine would be an outgunned proxy in a fight with Russia; our assistance would just prolong the inevitable, probably at great cost in Ukrainian blood.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, National Security, Russia, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    Waiting period for Right Wing Media professionals to start using Munich ’38 analogies starts now:…….

    2
  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    I’ve mixed feeling about Ukraine, the liberal internationalist in me calls for us to come to the aid of a country and people who have demonstrated the desire to be free and democratic, while the realist side agrees with you.

    1
  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were also once part of Russia and/or the USSR. Are we writing them off as well, or, because they are NATO, do we go to war for them? If we’re going to fight Russians, better in Ukraine than the Baltics.

    But @Joyner is right, we don’t have a treaty obligation. My instinct is best to avoid a confrontation, but supply the Ukrainian resistance before and after such an invasion. There aren’t a lot of mountains or jungles in Ukraine, but cities work for guerrillas, too. We can help to bleed the Russians if the Ukrainians want to put up a fight.

    I wonder though if it wouldn’t be better for all – Putin included – if Ukraine was allowed its independence but Finlandized. Occupations aren’t fun, and if the Russians push through to Odessa, they’ll be right up against NATO. Putin must know we’ll react by strengthening Romania and Bulgaria.

    4
  4. Kathy says:

    Benito would have solved this with one phone call:

    “I called Master Vladimir, and He says those are not His troops. We’ll nuke Montenegro instead to stop the hurricanes in Alabama.”

    4
  5. Slugger says:

    Does the USA have genuine interests at stake over there? I agree that we all have an abstract inclination to want the citizens of Kyiv to be free of the dictates of the Kremlin; however, we can’t undertake high risk international interventions based on some vague wishes about governance in a far away place. I do think that we should make it clear to the EU that we’ll follow their leadership on this issue that is actually close to them. We do have treaties with the EU.

    1
  6. Kathy says:

    @Slugger:

    All I can see is that Ukraine serves as a buffer state between Russia and some NATO states.

    1
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I opposed adding those states to NATO because I don’t think they’re worth dead Americans. Having made that commitment, alas, changed everything.

    2
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    And, again, I think this is the correct policy. Ukraine is not a NATO ally or even a historic partner. Indeed, it was part of the Soviet Union and Russia for most of its existence. It has been an independent country in modern times for only the last 30 years. And, like it or not—and I don’t—Crimea is once again a de facto part of Russia and will likely continue to be long after Joe Biden has shuffled from this mortal coil.

    The problem is that the Budapest Memorandum exists, and if we just ignore it, we’re creating a huge foreign policy problem as now everyone starts wondering what other security agreements we don’t intend to actually abide by.

    4
  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It seems like the only consistent policy in US foreign relations since of the cold war is trying to make it obvious to the rest of the world that any head of state that gives up nuclear weapons in exchange for US security assurances is a total mark.

    5
  10. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That would make it seem a little bit less likely that Putin won’t believe the US would go to war “over a piece of paper,” seeing as Russia is a signatory.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Budapest Memorandum

    A key element of the arrangement—many Ukrainians would say the key element—was the readiness of the United States and Russia, joined by Britain, to provide security assurances. The Budapest memorandum committed Washington, Moscow and London, among other things, to “respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine” and to “refrain from the threat or use of force” against that country.

    From Wikipedia

    According to the memorandum,[15] Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they would:

    1. Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.[16]
    2. Refrain from the threat or the use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
    3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to influence their politics.
    4. Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine if they “should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used”.
    5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
    6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding those commitments.[12][17]

    It appears that ship has sailed with Russia’s actions in the Crimea and there appears to be no provision for assisting in Ukraine’s defense.

    1
  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    Potential sanctions against Russia for a Ukraine invasion.

    The sanctions now imposed on Russians include asset freezes, bans on doing business with U.S. companies and denial of entry to the United States. But in seeking to punish Russia, the West over the years has weighed even bigger financial penalties.

    That includes the so-called nuclear option: blocking Russia from the Belgium-based SWIFT system of financial payments that moves money among thousands of banks around the world.

    I have no idea what Russia exports to the US, but it is likely insignificant to the US economy and available elsewhere

    2
  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Speaking of marks, that comment’s gonna leave one. Ouchies!!

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @James Joyner:..I don’t think they’re worth dead Americans.

    It’s too bad that you weren’t the Secretary of Defense after the election in 1964. Lyndon Johnson said this in a campaign speech:

    “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” —President Lyndon Johnson in a speech at Akron University on October 21, 1964, two weeks before the presidential election.

    Maybe you could have held him to those words.

    Lyndon Johnson assumed the United States Presidency on Nov. 22, 1963 the day President John Kennedy was assassinated.
That same year 122 American Soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War.

    In 1964, 216 American Soldiers were killed.

    In 1965, 1928 American Soldiers were killed.
    
In 1966, 6350 American Solders were killed.

    In 1967, 11,363 American Solders were killed.

    In 1968, the last full year of Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency,
16,899 American Soldiers were killed. 1400 a month.
    RIP…

    You too Lyndon…

    1
  15. Lounsbury says:

    @Slugger: Indirect interest with respect to Finland, Baltic states and former Sov satellites, most particularly Poland. Complete inaction will cause genuine consternation and those states are at once NATO and have extensive political impact through Eastern Europe. That begins to have the impacts on direct NATO interests, and the Baltic countries, Poland and indeed broader ex-Warsaw satellites all have well-rooted paranoia about Russia.

    Discouraging Russian adventurism like a real attempt to reconquer the Ukraine (not entirely out of the question given Putins apparently entirely genuinely personally felt Great Russia nationalist sentiments). One can guess the Russians will indeed play little green men games in Donbas, where persons identifying as ethnic Russian (different than Russophones) are probably absolute majority of local population.

    Support to UKranian defensive capabilities, etc. reasonable. Of course it will be up to the Ukranians to actually fight – or not fight. Rather an echo lesson from Afghanistan,

    Direct armed confrontation of course unwise.

  16. Gustopher says:

    War in Europe is not in our interest. It’s time to start getting weapons into the Caucuses — keep Russia occupied on another border.

    If Chechnya were acting up, Putin would be too busy there to bother with Ukraine, now that he has Crimea. Alternately, can we interest them in Afghanistan?

    2
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    What do you think of cutting Russia off from banking? How useful a threat is it? How much damage would it do to the oligarchy? They’d still have the bags of cash they’ve stuffed into the walls of their Knightsbridge townhouses. But what does this level of sanction do to arms sales, gas exports, etc.?

  18. JohnSF says:

    Slugger:

    I do think that we should make it clear to the EU that we’ll follow their leadership on this issue that is actually close to them. We do have treaties with the EU.

    I may be mistaken, but I think almost all US/EU treaties relate to trade; which is the primary function of the EU: trade and the unified European economy.

    Defence and foreign policy generally fall under the competencies of the states, not the union.
    The EU role in those areas is limited and voluntaristic: co-operation and coordination.

    EU states include NATO members, practical neutrals and constitutional neutrals.
    Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Malta and Cyprus are all neutrals.
    And Denmark, amusingly enough, is a NATO member but has formally opted out of EU defence cooperation.

    Herding cats comes to mind.

    There is an alliance-ish element to the Lisbon Treaty:
    “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.”

    But the EU does not and cannot lead in this regard.

  19. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Russia can keep a repressive lid on Caucasia with a fraction of its force (the second rate conscripts/reservists) and still have a very large force of professional spearheaded mobile formations free for aggressive operations elsewhere.

    The problem is that US has largely frittered away the years since 2014, especially under Trump, but also under Obama, that could have built up a Ukraine’s counter-battery, anti-armour, and anti-aircraft defences.
    The odds are that the Ukraine armed force could not hold the Russian elite modernised formations and their massive air superiority.

  20. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    SWIFT cuttoff is a major escalation of the stakes.
    Problem is, it’s knock-on effect on gas sales.
    They go: and that means Europe loses access to c.4o% of gas imports.
    National dependence on Russian gas varies: e.g.s Finland 100%, Hungary 83%, Poland 57%, Germany 46%, Italy 34%, France 18%, Netherlands 5%, Belgium and UK 1%.

    Russia has Europe’s balls in vice in terms of energy supply; and for all the faffing over Nordstream 2, that is in practice irrelevant. It isn’t even operating yet; the EU is dependent on Russia for energy regrdless, and has been since the end of the Cold War.
    To disconnect the EU states from this dependency would have taken decades of effort, and use of nuclear power for reliable non-carbon baseload that the German Green/Left find utterly unacceptable.

    Ironically, now the Greens are in Germany’s new coalition, and are highly critical of the Nordstream alignment (not to mention lignite burning), but still unable to bring themselves to actually will the means for its termination.
    Energiewende retains its pied-piper attraction.

    If energy issues are in play along with military and financial grosse politik, question is will Iran try to put a squeeze on in the Gulf.
    Interestingly, that is where the interests of Russia and China markedly diverge.

    Second order issue: can the Londongrad biz survive a SWIFT cuttoff?

    2
  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    There’s nowhere to draw a line til you get to the Dnieper, and by then you’re giving up half of Kiev itself and Russian artillery is in easy range of the rest. At that point you sue for peace and agree to be a Russian vassal state, or blow all the bridges and prepare for things get really bad.

    1
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    Thanks for that detail. So, bottom line it’s an empty threat, especially with winter coming on.

    1
  23. Michael Cain says:

    Me, I give the US military empire another 20 years. The — we, as I am one — Boomers will be in the end throes of dying off. The generations behind us will be so deeply in debt they’ll be eager to cut DoD drastically. And, I suspect, a ton of pressure to deploy them much closer to home to stop the climate refugees.

    2
  24. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I hate to say it, being effectively a concession to Putinist autocracy, but in the present situation, if Russia can’t be deterred, and being as it’s far too late now to ramp up the anti-air defences, then the best advice to Kiev may be to reach a temporary accommodation with Moscow.
    Revenge to be eaten cold at a later date.

    4
  25. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Debt, schmedt.
    If a country wishes to vape the debt, it can.
    If it is willing to take the hit.

    US debt is currently 128% GDP; spiking markedly due to pandemic.
    At the end of the Napoleonic Wars UK debt stood at 200% GDP; the Empire was still rocking and rolling a century later, when it spiked again (WW1, then Great Depression) and hit 250% in WW2.

    And re climate migration: if the hit to ecologies/economies capacity for population life support is so great as to drive mega-migration, it will collapse logistic systems so badly as to prevent mega-migration.
    To be blunt: most people will starve in situ.
    Once the movement goes over a certain magnitude, and the ago-economy is collapsing anyway, the transport nets required for that scale of movement, and to feed the people on the move, will fail.
    The vast majority in such a situation will die before they even make it to the borders.

    2
  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    How many parties have you destroyed, you happy boy? I just tell people to think of Gilfoyle on Silicon Valley. I will absolutely mention death within the first five minutes of any conversation.

    2
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Cain: In 20 years, I’ll be 90. With my health profile, I HOPE I’m died off by then.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF: Maybe if you live on an island, but people can walk.

    Which sounds better, staying or starving, or trying to go somewhere else where there is plentiful food? Keep in mind that you’re being told that there is plentiful food elsewhere by your wealthy neighbors who would like to to go away and starve somewhere else, both for aesthetics and for safety when the starving masses get angry and violent.

    Sure, the wealthy neighbors will eventually have problems too, but things like this always hit the poor first.

  29. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Well…. difficult to do as John has noted. Depends on what one means cut off from banking, but if it were SWIFT, this will simply see acceleration of alternatives as the vulnerability of SWIFT to US pressure became apparent, and the Russians would cut gas provision to Europe. A disaster.

    @JohnSF: Additionally the Algerians are close to Putin – very clsoe, many if not most of the Generals who are the real government went to Sov training ) and are also playing gas games to the costernation of the Iberians in particular.

    The complete incoherency of the Green Left on Nuclear (from magical thinking about RE combined with both engineering and financial innumeracy) of course ensures contiental Europe is 100% hostage to Russian gas. Or combo of Russian and Algerian gas. And ensures that from Magical Thinking and adoring hair shirt solutions, that coal dependency continues while blocking nuclear and dreaming about hydrogen etc

    @JohnSF: Yes, don’t per se entirely disagree but people can walk bloody long ways as one sees now, so not fully an either or: well actually you said most people die in situ, so yes, but enough can walk to have a complete broad mess.

    1
  30. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Yes. As the other real minimum choice is lose the entire Donbass, with possibly whole country given Putin seems rather personally Greater Russia in ideology.

  31. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    @Lounsbury:

    ” people can walk”

    As both of you say.
    But to walk you need food.
    If we are positing a situation of collapsing agricultural ecology, the food won’t be available en route.
    How far can people walk on an empty stomach?

    And the wealthy neighbours will likely be starving as well.

  32. JohnSF says:

    My personal nightmare scenario, that I’m thinking of here, is the wreckage of the current major grain production regions due to shifting rainfall.
    Straight line “hotter, drier” projections are unlikely.
    IMO best indicators for hotter world are previous pre-Ice Ages hot spells with near current geographies: Pliocene roughly 5.5 to 2.5 million years BP.

    Best models of previous high-temp climate patterns of pre-Pleistocene (which are based on rather inadequate evidence and modelling, admittedly) indicate v. likely desertification in several key grain cultivation zones: US/Canada prairies, NE China, NE Argentina.

    Other arable areas may be less affected as straight line temperature rise or drought is not likely longer term outcome.
    So NW Europe (depends a lot on Gulf Stream effects); N India ? (depends on monsoon which we don’t really know how will be affected) .
    Some areas could even become better for agriculture due to increased rainfall or warmth: Arabia, S. Siberia, possibly the Saharan fringe.
    This is very much not as currently generally expected from naive “straight lining” everywhere hotter, everywhere drier projection.

    Problem is: the current grain zones are critical to the feeding of a planet of billions of urban dwellers via mass scale agriculture and grain exports.
    To shift production to new zones would be an enormous task.
    And the period of climatic transition would likely see violent fluctuations in weather for a long period (centuries?) before re-stabilisation.

    On top of this, some of the moister regions might still be inimical to human use if summers are too hot and humid to be bearable (and likely to mould prone for agriculture anyway).

  33. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF: You’re assuming that we go from inhabitable to uninhabitable overnight, and that people will drop dead in three days time.

    There were crop failures in Syria which triggered a wave of refugees into the EU (which sparked a rise in right wing backlash there), but the wealthy were not the ones starving or becoming refugees.

    During the Dust Bowl in the US, farm failures left a lot of people hungry and poor, and so they sold whatever they could, abandoned the rest and left to the great, green wonderland of California, encouraged by fliers promising work aplenty — often these fliers were produced by people in the middle of the country who just wanted the riff-raff gone. We’ve seen this before.

    Now, a few years later, if things continue to go to shit, the middle class and wealthy might be interested in fleeing and find that there is nowhere to flee to unless they are wealthy in stable currencies, but that will be a few years later.

  34. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Not uninhabitable overnight: but modern globalised food supply systems I fear could collapse with horrible rapidity in the event of dessication of the Western grainlands.
    Which could leave the US with serious food issues itself.
    The US might be worse off in food rebalancing than some tropical zones, so long as the peak temp/humidity in such areas is survivable.

    But it’s a cessation of food imports from the US, and other current major producers, that could be catastrophic in some densely populated areas.
    For instance also a lot of the middle east (dunno re. Central America) depends heavily on imports of grain, flours, vegetable oil, rice from the US, Brazil, Ukraine, Russia and Europe.

    Maybe people from Central America might be able to make it to the US border.
    But looking at Europe, the chances of making it across the Sahara from Africa or the middle east from further Asia, in the event of a food logistics crisis, are not good.
    Northern Syria/Iraq, perhaps doable with food that can be carried for the journey.
    But further than that, and crossing a famine zone? Unlikely.

    It’s really good argument for aiming for sub-3 degree stabilisation.

  35. dazedandconfused says:

    I think it likely the reason for the Russian deployments is about deterring Ukraine from their ambitions of re-taking Donbass and Crimea. The Ukrainians have kept it at a low boil, but they never ceased pushing and constantly gin themselves up for it. If Putin is willing to fight for it it’s a good thing that he’s making that clear.

    I have a hard time imagining Putin deeming the western parts worth the price of invasion, mainly.

  36. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    The Putinists have never bothered to conceal their contempt for the Ukrainian independence

    “there is no Ukraine. There is Ukrainian-ness. That is, a specific disorder of the mind. An astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme.”

    Ukraine is seen as entitled to, at best, the status of a client protectorate subordinated to Moscow’s superiority.
    As to the Donbas, it is regularly asserted that as Russian speaking areas, Russia is entitled to rule them.
    Russia has no more legitimate prerogative to unilaterally seize parts of other sovereign states than inter-war Germany was entitled to grab Austria, the Sudetenland and Danzig.

    Accounts differ, but most lean to most of the “pushing” on the Donbas lines being done by the Russians.

  37. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:
    The point of military is to render legalisms moot.

    If I were a Russian given to quibbling over legalisms, I would choose to quibble over the mixing of the old Hapsburg Ukraine into the same oblast as that of Donbas and Crimea as an administrative efficiency by Khrushchev, and cite the desire of many of the peoples in that region to keep speaking their native Russian language, which the Ukrainians sought to outlaw.

    The split between those two areas is deeply rooted, right down who who fought on which side during WWII. Pretending it has always, or ever, all been a nation like just another Soviet bloc state is BS.

  38. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    You appear to be confusing the geography of Ukraine a bit.
    Donbass region was part of Ukraine SSR since its establishment in 1920; and was generally regarded as part of the “Ukrainian” areas under the Tsars (the area was divided between the provinces of New Russia, Lesser Russia, and Podolia and Volhynia)
    The only part added by Khrushchev was Crimea.

    The division is more four part (to oversimplify in turn):
    – a western fringe (old Galicia) that is Ukrainian speaking and Uniate, greatly influenced by Austrian and Polish links, parts acquired by Russia only after the partition of Poland between Nazis and Soviets in 1939 or in 1945
    – the north-central zone, Ukrainian speaking and Orthodox, part of Russia since it’s conquest from the Khanate, and yet arguably the most hostile to Russian rule, see holomodor and WW2
    – the south, acquired by Russia a bit later, and heavily influenced by Cossack settlement, a mix of Ukrainian and Russian dialects, including the cosmopolitan melting pot of Odessa, generally Orthodox, but nonetheless generally Ukrainian by “identification”
    – the Don Valley in the east border and Crimea, Russian speaking and Orthodox, largely settled by Russians after conquest or during industrialisation; possibly pro-Russian politically (but worth noting, voted by over 80% for separation from Russia in 1991.)

    The Ukraine did not “outlaw” Russian; it would have been insane to try, as it is the native language of about a third of the population. Odessa for instance is predominantly Russian speaking, but also Ukrainian nationalist politically.
    Russian speaking does not necessarily mean Russian ethnicity, and even Russian ethnicity does not automatically involve allegiance to the Russian state.
    A lot of Ukrainians speak Russian but are nonetheless Ukrainian nationalists, or at least have little desire for Russian rule (a cousin is married to one).

    A lot of European regions and borders are debatable, and peoples allegiances mutable, and nationality and language do not always align.
    See (in various ways) former Czechoslovakia, former Yugoslavia, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Aaland, Corsica, Brittany, Switzerland, Alsace etc etc.

    The thing is, allowing one country the privilege of altering borders by force is dangerous in the extreme. That was the lesson of long of a bloody history learnt by post-1945 Europe, and now ignored by Russia.
    Which invaded a sovereign state, in flagrant contravention of international law, causing the deaths of some 30,000 people, and the displacement of some 2.5 million refugees in Ukraine.

    Doubtless they were all so eager to welcome their Russian liberators they got confused in their joy and ran in the opposite direction by mistake?

  39. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:
    https://www.rferl.org/a/council-europe-criticizes-ukrainian-language-laws/30312541.html

    John, you’re IMO quibbling. There are strong ethic divides in what we call Ukraine today, that much we agree on. Does it seem that unusual or amazing that a significant portion might prefer Russian rule over what has emerged in Kiev?

    Same stuff would be happening here if the US were to fall apart and a new federal government sought to re-establish it, there would be states with exactly the same issues, and being confronted just has seriously by the new federal government.

    The casting of Putin’s actions as the same sort of expansionism as that of a Hitler is what I’m pushing back against.