Putin Invades Ukraine in Defiance of West

The much-anticipated escalation has happened. Now to see how the United States and its allies respond.

The basic facts:

WSJ (“Putin Orders Deployment of Troops to Breakaway Regions in Ukraine“):

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two breakaway regions of Ukraine after recognizing their independence, a move that threatened to scuttle negotiations with the West over the future security of Eastern Europe.

His two decrees were published on the Russian government’s legal portal after a televised address late Monday in which Mr. Putin laid out grievances about the West’s support of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Western arms deliveries to Kyiv against the backdrop of a massive Russian troop buildup near its borders.

A column of Russian military vehicles entered Donetsk overnight, according to witnesses and footage posted on social media. The local authorities, however, haven’t made any announcements. Eduard Basurin, one of the leaders of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said he wasn’t aware of the Russian troops’ arrival, according to the Moscow’s RIA news agency.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk statelets simply “legalizes its troops that were in fact already deployed in the occupied regions of Donbas since 2014.”

“A country that has been fomenting war for eight years cannot be working for peace as it claims,” he said in a past-midnight speech to the nation. He urged Ukrainians to keep calm. “We know the difference between provocations and an offensive by the aggressor troops,” he said. “For now, there is no reason for chaos. We have long been ready for anything. There is no reason for you to have a sleepless night.”

A senior Biden administration official said that in response, the U.S. will impose new sanctions on Russia by Tuesday.

Mr. Putin said the unspecified number of Russian forces would act in a peacekeeping role once Russia has signed mutual assistance with the two regions.

“The situation in Donbas is becoming critical,” Mr. Putin said of the eastern area of Ukraine, where the two breakaway regions are located. “Ukraine is not just a neighbor. It is an inherent part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said.

WaPo (“Putin orders troops to eastern Ukraine after formally recognizing two Moscow-backed separatist regions“):

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the independence of two Moscow-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered Russian forces onto their territory for “peacekeeping” purposes, a dramatic escalation in a crisis that is threatening a full-scale war.

Putin’s action — in direct defiance of U.S. and European warnings — was swiftly condemned by Washington and Brussels, with top officials promising sanctions in response to the recognition of the self-declared republics. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decried the recognition as “a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

But amid reports of Russian military columns already appearing in the breakaway territories late Monday, the White House stopped short of announcing the full-fledged sanctions that President Biden had said Russia would face in the event of an invasion.

For weeks, Putin has been holding the world on tenterhooks, with some 190,000 Russian personnel and enabling forces amassed around Ukraine’s borders, even as top Russian officials have denied plans to mount an offensive in Ukraine.

In a televised address to the Russian nation Monday, Putin dropped much of the pretense, recognizing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, and demonstrating to the international community that feverish rounds of diplomacy had left the 69-year-old former KGB officer undeterred.

“Ukraine has never had its own authentic statehood,” Putin said during a seething speech that delved into Soviet history to undermine the idea of Ukraine as an independent nation.

NYT (“‘There will be losses’: Ukraine braces for possible conflict.“):

With the dispatch of armed forces by Russia and the promise of sanctions by the United States, the Ukraine conflict entered a perilous new chapter on Tuesday as the path to a diplomatic solution quickly narrowed.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has been unsparing in terms of what lies ahead, calling Ukraine little more than a “puppet” of the United States, and Kyiv’s leaders solely responsible for whatever “bloodshed” may come next. Mr. Putin has also raised the specter of fighting after ordering troops to the two breakaway regions of Ukraine that Russia just recognized.

“As for those who captured and are holding on to power in Kyiv,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian capital, “we demand that they immediately cease military action.”

Ukraine’s leaders braced for the possibility of an intense fight to defend their territory, offering a somber message to troops on Tuesday. “Ahead will be a difficult trial,” the defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said in a statement released by the military. “There will be losses. You will have to go through pain and overcome fear and despondency.”

White House officials have said that President Biden will impose economic sanctions on the separatist regions of Ukraine, and that a further Western response will be announced on Tuesday. By then, several of Mr. Biden’s aides said, they already expected to see Russian forces rolling over the border into Ukraine, crossing the line that Mr. Biden had set for imposing “swift and severe” sanctions on Moscow.

In recent weeks, some 150,000 to 190,000 Russian troops, by Western estimates, have gradually drawn a noose around their neighbor, and the United States has warned repeatedly that the question about a Russian invasion was not if but when.

Video clips of military convoys moving through the separatist territories were circulating on social media on Tuesday, but there was no immediate official confirmation that these were Russian troops rather than the forces of Russian-backed separatists.

On the Ukrainian side, similarly unconfirmed reports on social media appeared to show the Ukrainian Army moving heavy weaponry, such as self-propelled artillery guns and tanks, toward the front line with the separatist enclaves.

The US and Allied Reaction:

NYT (“U.S. Offers Limited Initial Response to Russia as It Weighs Stiffer Sanctions“):

Russia’s decision to order troops into Ukraine on Monday presented the United States and Europe with the challenge of deciding how quickly to move in imposing stiff sanctions on Moscow, seeking to balance punishment, deterrence and maintaining unity among the allies.

President Biden’s initial reaction was cautious, limited to issuing a narrow set of sanctions aimed at two regions in eastern Ukraine that are partly controlled by Russian-backed separatists and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia recognized as independent on Monday.

The targeted nature of the penalties appeared intended to allow the United States and its European allies to hold in reserve the most aggressive sanctions they have threatened to impose on Moscow if Mr. Putin carries out a full-scale assault to bring down Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

In private, administration officials have conceded that Mr. Putin did not seem interested in further negotiations that did not address his core demands that NATO stop expanding to the east, and speculated that he had tolerated diplomatic overtures mostly to gain time to mass his forces.

White House officials said a further Western response would be announced on Tuesday, by which time several of Mr. Biden’s aides said they expected to see Russian forces rolling over the border into Ukraine, crossing the line that Mr. Biden had set for imposing “swift and severe” sanctions on Moscow.

That response will include at least some sanctions, a White House official said late Monday, in response to “Moscow’s decisions and actions.” But officials declined to provide details about how far Mr. Biden and his allies planned to go in punishing Mr. Putin.

The harshest of the sanctions that administration officials have previewed in recent weeks include cutting Russia’s largest banks off from the global economic system, starving Russian heavy industry of semiconductors and other advanced technology, and — if it comes to it — arming an insurgency as Ukrainians fight for their freedom.

But it was not clear that Mr. Biden or his more reluctant allies — especially Germany and Italy, which are dependent on Russian gas imports — were ready to unleash the full sanctions package.

Mr. Putin’s incremental approach to ratcheting up the pressure on Ukraine appears intended to exploit any fissures in what has been a quite unified NATO and European posture. Some nations may be reluctant to reach for the most punishing sanctions if Mr. Putin’s forces remain in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where Russia has exercised great influence during an eight-year conflict.

Yet the limited geographic reach of Mr. Putin’s initial claim on Ukrainian territory stood in sharp contrast to the implication in his winding, hourlong speech on Monday that the entire country was a part of Russia.

He made clear his wider ambition was to reclaim Ukraine and continue rebuilding the empire that collapsed with the end of the Soviet Union three decades ago. At one point he said it outright: “Modern-day Ukraine was in full and in whole created by Russia — Bolshevik, Communist Russia, to be precise.”

WaPo (“White House wrestles with whether Russia has ‘invaded’ Ukraine“):

The White House on Monday confronted the reality that its months-long effort to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine would likely be futile, as officials grasped for last-ditch ways to head off what one called “military action that could take place in the coming hours or days.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the holiday weekend effectively closing off one diplomatic path after another, suggesting ever more clearly that he would not be swayed by diplomacy or deterred by sanctions. And by announcing that he was recognizing two pro-Russian separatist regions of Ukraine and ordering troops into them, he forced the United States into an uneasy dilemma about whether that constituted an invasion.

The Biden administration sought to hit back at Russia’s aggressive action while stopping short of declaring that it had officially invaded Ukraine, which would have triggered the array of hard-hitting sanctions President Biden has been warning about for months.

Instead, amid meetings Monday with his national security advisers and calls with several foreign leaders, Biden and his team reiterated their grim assessment of the crisis and imposed a smaller set of sanctions prohibiting U.S. investment and trade specifically in the breakaway regions.

NPR (“U.N. leaders condemn Putin after he orders ‘peacekeepers’ to Ukraine“):

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized two regions in Ukraine as independent and ordered Russian troops to conduct “peacekeeping” operations there, raising fears that Russia is paving the way for an attack. The move set off a round of international condemnation and further isolation at the United Nations, sanctions from the United States, and a promise from the United Kingdom that it, too, would sanction Russia.

[…]

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Monday evening in response, where ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. representative to the U.N., said Putin had “torn the Minsk agreement to shreds” and warned that Russian forces escalating further would create “a devastating loss of life” and cause a refugee crisis across Europe.

She warned that Putin’s ambitions reach beyond Ukraine, and that he has asserted Russia’s claims to all former territory of the former Russian Empire.

“Putin wants the world to travel back in time. To a time before the United Nations,” she said. “To a time when empires ruled the world. But the rest of the world has moved forward. It is not 1919. It is 2022.”

Russia’s Vasily Nebenzya in turn accused Ukraine of aggression and of shelling civilians in the Donbas conflict, while Ukrainian representative Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russia’s recognition of the regions was “illegal and illegitimate.”

“Negotiation is the only way to address the existing differences,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, the United Nations chief political officer. “We call on all relevant actors to focus their efforts on the immediate cessation of hostilities.”

The meeting adjourned without any collective statement or action.

POLITICO (“EU, UK leaders vow sanctions over Putin’s recognition of breakaway Ukraine regions“):

Leaders from the European Union and the United Kingdom vowed Monday to impose sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.

In a brief statement, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they “condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian President to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities.”

“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements,” the two leaders said, referring to peace accords agreed in 2014 and 2015. “The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

They did not provide any details of the sanctions to be imposed, nor the precise targets of the measures.

U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss said separately on Twitter that her country would coordinate with the EU “to deliver swift sanctions against Putin’s regime and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine,” after speaking with top EU diplomat Josep Borrell. Truss had indicated in a prior tweet that the U.K. would give more details on Tuesday.

No. 10 Downing Street said in a statement that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday morning lead an emergency COBR committee meeting “to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and to coordinate the UK response including agreeing a significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately.”

[…]

Western leaders have long vowed to impose severe sanctions on Moscow should it decide to invade Ukraine. But Putin’s decision on Monday is likely to only trigger a portion of the economic penalities the EU, U.S., Britain and others have been preparing in case of all-out war.

Psaki stressed that point in her statement, saying the U.S. measures are only the start of a raft of punishments the U.S. has lined up should Putin go further.

“To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” she said.

Analyses:

WaPo Editorial Board (“This is the way the postwar world ends“):

This is the way the postwar world ends, and the post-Cold War world, too: not yet with a bang, and not with anything close to a whimper, but with a rant. In an extraordinary soliloquy viewed live around the world Monday, President Vladimir Putin of Russia attacked and delegitimized not just independent Ukraine and its government but all facets of the security architecture in Europe, declaring both to be creatures of a corrupt West — headed by the United States — that are unremittingly hostile toward Russia.

[…]

Rebutting Mr. Putin’s arguments is almost beside the point — it’s doubtful even he believes his wild accusations about Ukraine as a future platform for NATO aggression — but not entirely. The truth is that Ukraine is a member state of the United Nations, whose security Russia itself undertook to respect 28 years ago, in exchange for Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament. Ukraine has not been waging “genocide” against a Russian-speaking ethnic minority, as Mr. Putin alleged, but defending itself from a 2014-2015 Russian destabilization campaign that created the breakaway regions and engineered the seizure of Ukraine’s strategic Crimean region on the Black Sea. Mr. Putin’s pseudo-history about the kinship of Russians and Ukrainians ignores those facts. His true reason for targeting Ukraine is not Russian national security but to preserve his own power in Moscow, which would be threatened by a successful democratic experiment in a former Soviet republic of Ukraine’s size and cultural importance.

Mr. Putin’s aggressive words and deeds followed a plea Sunday from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to assembled world leaders in Munich, in which he chided the United States and Europe for their failure to counter Mr. Putin sooner. In that city where Britain and France cut a foolish and short-lived deal with Nazi Germany in 1938, Mr. Zelensky used the historically freighted word “appeasement.” We would respectfully disagree, to the extent that after years of Western temporizing about Russia, President Biden has so far effectively rallied NATO to condemn and oppose Mr. Putin’s aggression in recent weeks.

After Monday, it is unfortunately clear that Mr. Putin has not been deterred, war is likely, and there is no longer any reason to wait in imposing sanctions — even extending them beyond the breakaway regions, which the White House immediately targeted. That would be the first step in decisively responding to this geopolitical crisis, but it can hardly be the last.

Tom Nichols, The Atlantic (“Putin Chooses a Forever War“):

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a long speech full of heavy sighs and dark grievances, made clear today that he has chosen war. He went to war against Ukraine in 2014; now he has declared war against the international order of the past 30 years.

Putin’s slumped posture and deadened affect led me to suspect that he is not as stable as we would hope. He had the presence not of a confident president, but of a surly adolescent caught in a misadventure, rolling his eyes at the stupid adults who do not understand how cruel the world has been to him. Teenagers, of course, do not have hundreds of thousands of troops and nuclear weapons.

[…]

Putin then suggested that international sanctions are “blackmail”—a word used almost daily in the old Soviet press about the West—and are aimed at weakening Russia and undermining its existence as a nation. “There is only one goal,” Putin said. “To restrain the development of Russia. And they will do it, as they did before. Even without any formal pretext at all.” This is nonsense, and either Putin knows it (which is likely) or he has become so detached from reality that he has come to believe it (which is not impossible).

Putin left no room for negotiation with the Biden administration. He is prepared for sanctions, which he says will come no matter what Russia does. He asserts that Western hostility is permanent (perhaps because it would be too painful to his ego to admit that most people in the West, if given the choice, would not think about Russia or its leaders at all).

In short, Putin is now embracing a Russian tradition of paranoia, an inferiority complex that sees Moscow as both a savior of other nations and a victim of great conspiracies, a drama in which Russia is both strong enough to be feared and weak enough to be threatened. The West, in this story, is motivated not to seek peace and security, but to undermine Russia, and Putin has cast himself as the beleaguered Russian prophet who must subvert the evil plans drawn against his people.

Stephen Fidler, WSJ (“Putin’s Endgame: Unravel the Post-Cold War Agreements That Humiliated Russia“):

The world’s attention is on eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces circle. Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions extend far beyond. He wants to renegotiate the end of the Cold War.

Whatever follows Russia’s large-scale military maneuvers, and the announcement Monday to recognize the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian regions and orders to send troops there, Mr. Putin has made clear he wants to redraw the post-Cold War security map of Europe.

[…]

The Russian leader is trying to stop further enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whose expansion he sees as encroaching on Russia’s security and part of the West’s deception and broken promises. He wants NATO to scale back its military reach to the 1990s, before it expanded east of Germany. The demands would reverse many of the extraordinary changes in Europe that took place in that decade.

In sum, Mr. Putin seeks to undo many of the security consequences of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, an event the Russian leader has called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

[…]

Mr. Putin’s approach is aimed squarely at the U.S., over the heads of the other NATO countries, and it reflects several of his beliefs: that the world’s affairs should be settled by the great powers, which include Russia; NATO is a U.S. instrument in the way the Warsaw Pact was a Soviet one, and its other members lack agency; and Moscow should control its own backyard, as it did in the Soviet era.

Robert Kagan, WaPo (“”):

Let’s assume for a moment that Vladimir Putin succeeds in gaining fullcontrol of Ukraine, as he shows every intention of doing. What are the strategic and geopolitical consequences?

The first will be a new front line of conflict in Central Europe. Until now, Russian forces could deploy only as far as Ukraine’s eastern border, several hundred miles from Poland and other NATO countries to Ukraine’s west. When the Russians complete their operation, they will be able to station forces — land, air and missile — in bases in western Ukraine as well as Belarus, which has effectively become a Russian satrapy.

Russian forces will thus be arrayed along Poland’s entire 650-mile eastern border, as well as along the eastern borders of Slovakia and Hungary and the northern border of Romania. (Moldova will likely be brought under Russian control, too, when Russian troops are able to form a land bridge from Crimea to Moldova’s breakaway province of Transnistria.) Russia without Ukraine is, as former secretary of state Dean Acheson once said of the Soviet Union, “Upper Volta with rockets.” Russia with Ukraine is a different strategic animal entirely.

The most immediate threat will be to the Baltic states. Russia already borders Estonia and Latvia directly and touches Lithuania through Belarus and through its outpost in Kaliningrad. Even before the invasion, some questioned whether NATO could actually defend its Baltic members from a Russian attack. Once Russia has completed its conquest of Ukraine, that question will acquire new urgency.

One likely flash point will be Kaliningrad. The headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, this city and its surrounding territory were cut off from the rest of Russia when the Soviet Union broke up. Since then, Russians have been able to access Kaliningrad only through Poland and Lithuania. Expect a Russian demand for a direct corridor that would put strips of the countries under Russian control. But even that would be just one piece of what is sure to be a new Russian strategy to delink the Baltics from NATO by demonstrating that the alliance cannot any longer hope to protect those countries.

Indeed, with Poland, Hungary and five other NATO members sharing a border with a new, expanded Russia, the ability of the United States and NATO to defend the alliance’s eastern flank will be seriously diminished.

The new situation could force a significant adjustment in the meaning and purpose of the alliance. Putin has been clear about his goals: He wants to reestablish Russia’s traditional sphere of influence in Eastern and Central Europe. Some are willing to concede as much, but it is worth recalling that when the Russian empire was at its height, Poland did not exist as a country; the Baltics were imperial holdings; and southeastern Europe was contested with Austria and Germany. During the Soviet period, the nations of the Warsaw Pact, despite the occasional rebellion, were effectively run from Moscow.

Today, Putin seeks at the very least a two-tier NATO, in which no allied forces are deployed on former Warsaw Pact territory. The inevitable negotiations over this and other elements of a new European security “architecture” would be conducted with Russian forces poised all along NATO’s eastern borders and therefore amid real uncertainty about NATO’s ability to resist Putin’s demands

Michael Schwirtz, Maria Varenikova and Rick Gladstone, NYT (“Putin Calls Ukrainian Statehood a Fiction. History Suggests Otherwise.”)

In his speech to the Russian nation on Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin buoyed his case for codifying the cleavage of two rebel territories from Ukraine by arguing that the very idea of Ukrainian statehood was a fiction.

With a conviction of an authoritarian unburdened by historical nuance, Mr. Putin declared Ukraine an invention of the Bolshevik revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin, who he said had mistakenly endowed Ukraine with a sense of statehood by allowing it autonomy within the newly created Soviet state.

“Modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Mr. Putin said. “This process began practically immediately after the 1917 revolution, and moreover Lenin and his associates did it in the sloppiest way in relation to Russia — by dividing, tearing from her pieces of her own historical territory.”

As a misreading of history, it was extreme even by the standards of Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer who has declared the Soviet Union’s collapse the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

Ukraine and Russia share roots stretching back to the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, a medieval empire founded by Vikings in the 9th century.

But the historical reality of Ukraine is complicated, a thousand-year history of changing religions, borders and peoples. The capital, Kyiv, was established hundreds of years before Moscow, and both Russians and Ukrainians claim it as a birthplace of their modern cultures, religion and language.

Kyiv was ideally situated along the trade routes that developed in the ninth and 10th centuries, and flourished only to see its economic influence diminish as trade shifted elsewhere. The many conquests by warring factions and Ukraine’s diverse geography — with farmland, forests and a maritime environment on the Black Sea — created a complex fabric of multiethnic states.

The history and culture of Russia and Ukraine are indeed intertwined — they share the same Orthodox Christian religion, and their languages, customs and national cuisines are related.

Even so, Ukrainian identity politics and nationalism have been irritants in Russia since the feudal czarist times that predated the Russian Revolution. Ukraine is seen by many Russians as their nation’s “little brother” and should behave accordingly.

My Two Cents:

That Putin hasn’t been deterred is hardly shocking. He’s weak at home and the Russian nationalism card, historically flawed though its premises are, is powerful. Russians desperately want to be thought of as a regional hegemon and great power and the sense that the West, and the United States in particular, stopped thinking of them in that way after the collapse of the Soviet Union is not without merit. And, as I’ve noted repeatedly since this phase of the crisis started weeks ago, Putin knows damned well that the West isn’t willing to risk World War III over Ukraine, a non-NATO member.

The Biden White House’s dithering over whether this latest escalation amounts to an “invasion” makes us look weak after so many weeks of bluster. But it comes from a recognition that there are limited options at our disposal and that some NATO allies, notably Germany, are considerably more susceptible to Russian blowback than we are.

In an ideal world, I would like to strip Russia of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It has consistently shown itself unwilling to play by the most fundamental rules of the system. But, realistically, there’s no mechanism for making that happen.

More practically, in addition to the most powerful sanctions regime for which we can muster international support (and Biden has already escalated existing US sanctions) it would be useful to send a powerful signal that the West is united. Adding Sweden and Finland to NATO, which seemed incredibly unlikely not long ago, would be just that. It would put the Alliance right at Russia’s borders but not with a former Warsaw Pact state but a former neutral.

FILED UNDER: National Security,
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. drj says:

    The Biden White House’s dithering over whether this latest escalation amounts to an “invasion” makes us look week [sic] after so many weeks of bluster.

    No, it doesn’t.

    This reflects a recognition of the basic fact that it is unlikely that Putin will stop with the de facto annexation of the separatist regions. There have been Russian troops in these regions since 2014. Putin absolutely didn’t need another 100,000+ troops at Ukraine’s northern borders to do what he just did.

    Also, the separatist regions were meant (through the Minsk accords) to act as Trojan horses to exercise vetos on Ukraine’s policy decisions. It is extremely unlikely that Putin simply gave up this leverage by supporting the independence of these regions.

    Which means that a full-blown invasion of Ukraine (aimed at Kiev) is still likely to happen, which, in turn, means that Biden needs to hold some measures in reserve in order to counter or (hopefully – though I’m not optimistic) discourage further Russian aggression.

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  2. LPNM says:

    I know it’s hardly the issue at hand but do you think this situation foreshadows an accelerated move by China to reclaim Taiwan?

    Wouldn’t this be an opportune moment? Nobody wants to go to war with Russia or China, let alone both. Sanctions are hardly likely to cripple Russia and would do little to discourage China. The appetite for war in the western world has never been lower, so why not take advantage of the moment?

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  3. Raoul says:

    Putin is out of his mind and I’m not sure one can deal with such an actor. That said, and I’m just asking a question here, is it possible to hold a referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk. The area is clearly ethnic Russian, so, do the people living there want to be part of Russia? As to Crimea, the peninsula has been Russian since the Crimean war and until the 1950s when is was given to Ukraine as a “present”. So perhaps it should revert back since the premise for the gift is no longer there.

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  4. CSK says:
  5. Scott says:

    @LPNM: I was just thinking the opposite. Can claims of self-determination and independence by Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic apply to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Why not?

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @drj: @Raoul: Ukraine is a UN member state. Russia doesn’t get to decide which parts of it are sovereign.

    @LPNM: It would be a dangerous gamble. I’m not 100% sure we’re willing to go to war to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, given that we pretend that there’s only One China. Still, the Taiwan Relations Act certainly seems to say that we will and allowing the PRC to annex them fundamentally disrupts the security architecture of the entire Indo-Pacific.

    @CSK: Cited and quoted in the OP.

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  7. JohnSF says:

    @Raoul:
    “Ethnic Russian” is a very slippery term.

    There is no “magic marker” that distinguishes Ukrainians and Russian (more Russians, especially north Russians, are blond, but that’s about it).

    Language perhaps?
    But a lot of “people in Ukraine who speak Russian” identify as Ukrainian.
    President Zelensky, for instance, is Russophone by background, and far more fluent in Russian than Ukrainian.

    Odessa is overwhelming Russophone, but also a centre of Ukrainian nationalism.

    You might compare other areas in Europe with similar non-congruence of language and national allegiance..
    Most Irish speak English.
    That does not mean they are English.
    See also Alsace, etc etc.

    Some Russian speakers in Ukraine do identify as Russian by nationality.
    Largely in the area of marked post-1900 migration; the Crimea especially, but also to some extent Donbas.

    It is notable though that in 1991 those areas voted by 80% plus for independence.
    Indeed, even Crimea voted in favour, albeit by a narrow margin: 54%

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  8. JohnSF says:

    @Raoul:
    On Crimea in particular, if Russia has a claim, and it had the support of the population, that can be pursued via the UN mechanisms for negotiated frontier adjustment.

    It is notable however, that there was pretty much zero Russian irredentist sentiment evident in Crimea, or any Russian protests over it’s status, before President Putin decided to take the Ukrainian revolt of 2014 as some sort of personal insult, and inserted the notorious “little green men” to seize it.

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  9. JohnSF says:
  10. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Strongest argument in favor of NATO membership made by Putin. Good one, Vlad. Your future biographers will give a whole chapter to this speech, and the symptoms of your mental decline.

    Poor Ukraine. From the east, they’re going to be invaded. From the far west, they’re going to be reduced to a symbol of American fantasies about 21st century status. The hard fact is: if we’re not going to put American forces – people and weaponry – on the ground in Ukraine to repel the Russians (and Putin knows we aren’t), then there is nothing more than hurling press releases at the Kremlin or issuing brow-furrowed statements about policy. And paper never turned back troops from any position they’re dug into. So here it is: America needs to put up or shut up.

    As for our European partners, it’s their backyard on this, and their reactions matter more to Ukrainians in the short term than any amount of speechifying on ours. They’ve got a lot more to lose than we have, and personally I’m willing to trust their judgements on their own tactics.

    The one thing we can and should do – and use it going forward with any dictator we claim to oppose – is make damn sure they’re not making use of the Western banking systems to stash their cash or buy property in New York, Paris and London.

    Putin’s wife, her second husband and at least one of his daughters live in France. Seize the property, freeze the bank accounts and put them on a plane “home”. But they’re innocent of all this? Sure, so are the Ukrainians. War is hell, isn’t it? Well, lets make sure hell gets spread around to the oligarchs and their families too.

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  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Last evening I was thinking about the possibility that Ukraine’s supporters may decide to burn down the London mansions of a few Russian oligarchs. Come on Boris, freeze those Russian assets.

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  12. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Ukraine is a UN member state. Russia doesn’t get to decide which parts of it are sovereign.

    Doesn’t mean that the US should give up the possibility to escalate its response.

    Holding some strength in reserve is obviously not weakness (unless it won’t be utilized under any condititon) and nobody worth their salt will perceive it as such.*

    * Unless you’re John Bolton or some other AEI flunky.

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  13. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Unfortunately, London architecture being what it is, most of the properties concerned will be apartments or more often parts of a terrace, rather than individual house.

    Torch one and the whole block likely goes up.
    Not good.

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  14. Kathy says:

    Imagine if Churchill and Roosevelt (or Truman?) had caved to Stalin’s demand that every Soviet Republic have its own UN representation.

    The UN Security Council is kind of useless when it comes to the major powers, as each has veto power. The only time it worked as intended, more or less, was in the 50s with the Korean War, when the Soviets walked out in protest (I wonder how they think that worked out for them).

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  15. JohnSF says:

    UK sanctions announcement:
    UK imposes sanctions against five Russian banks and three individuals.
    Nowhere near adequate, even for openers.
    The Rotenbergs and Timchenko have been sanctioned by US since 2018.

    Even as an opening gambit this is weak.
    Time to write to my MP (a Conservative minister) for what good it will do.

    2
  16. Scott says:

    @JohnSF: Since a military solution seems to be far down the list of options, the goal is to make this as painful as possible to Putin and those in power. The sooner the better. So what are the pain centers anyway. Unfortunately, this will be painful to the Russian people also but that shouldn’t deter any actions.

    BTW, why aren’t they including Belarus in anything yet? Also saw on the news some Russian forces (maybe a thousand) are in Moldova on the western Ukrainian front.

    I’m not an expert in any of these things but I tend to think that measured, gradual actions are not the way to go.

    1
  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    @JohnSF:

    Then order them out of the country.

    And turn their properties into Ukrainian refugee housing.

    3
  18. JohnSF says:

    @Scott:
    There is one school of analysts of Russia who think that the the oligarchs are now of limited influence in the regime.
    That the former Putin support triad of siloviki (security establishment) – oligarchs – bureaucrats/technocrats/managers/smaller businessmen has been replaced by the siloviki state system and the Great Russia nationalists.
    And that the new ascendancy holds almost all of its wealth, and all its power base, within Russia

    I don’t entirely agree: the oligarchs collectively are likely still enough of a power within Russia that hurting them can damage Putin’s political position.

    2
  19. charon says:

    via LGM:

    https://twitter.com/JackDetsch/status/1496143838402035712

    NEW: The Biden admin has support from three Asian partners for severe sanctions and export controls against Russia.

    Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan have signed on for restrictive export controls on tech-starved Russia over a further Ukraine invasion.

    3
  20. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Expropriation will be legally thorny.
    But it should be being prepped for; put the gun on the table, now.
    Both for individuals and companies.
    Time to put a bill before Parliament threatening seizure of assets on the basis of any connection to sanctioned regimes.
    And to exclude all Russian concerns from the London markets and insurance.

    But will the Conservatives have the will for it?
    Boris Johnson is suspected of blocking a report on Russian interference in UK elections because of ’embarrassing’ revelations about Kremlin links to Conservative donors

    At least the Labour Party are beginning to up their game.
    Sir Keir Starmer:

    “I understand the tactic of holding back further sanctions on Putin and his cronies. To try and deter an invasion of the rest of Ukraine. But a threshold has already been breached. A sovereign nation has been invaded in a war of aggression based on lies and fabrications.

    If we do not respond with a full set of sanctions now, Putin will once again take away the message that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs.”

    Margaret Hodge

    “The PM’s new sanctions regime against Russia is flawed. Too many of the kleptocrats that have stolen from the Russian people & support Putin will escape the net. Limp leadership in the face of a global crisis.”

    And especially Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davy:

    “Freeze and begin seizing the assets of every single one of Putin’s cronies in the UK and then expel these oligarchs from our country as part of a much stronger sanctions regime.

    Second, recognise the existential threat posed by Putin to our Nato allies by immediately cancelling [the prime minister’s] own decision, his misguided decision, to cut our armed forces…”

    A LibDem calling for increased defence spending!
    That is something you don’t see every day.

    5
  21. charon says:

    http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2022/02/all-roads-lead-to-putin.html

    In October 2019, the New York Times published a chilling story about the Russian Air Force bombing of hospitals in Syria in order to crush the resistance to President Bashar al-Assad. A report from the U.N. published in July 2020 said that the bombings – which also hit schools and marketplaces – amounted to a war crime.

    That is what was happening on the ground in Syria when Trump announced that he was pulling U.S. troops out of the country, a decision that would effectively cede control of the area to the Syrian government and Russia.

    It was during a meeting with congressional leaders at the time that the photo above was taken. The House had just passed a resolution to rebuke Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and Democrats were challenging the president to explain his strategy.

    Why, [Pelosi] asked, did he withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — a geopolitical calculation that allowed a toehold in northern Syria for Russian President Vladimir Putin?

    Why, she asked with lawmakers and aides watching and a White House photographer snapping away, do “all roads lead to Putin”?

    etc., etc. …

    2
  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Another chance to plant the Tree of Liberty and water it with the blood of civilian casualties and other people’s children? How can we pass that up? Let’s go show them some good ol fashion Murkan ass kicking.

    Team America–FWK YEAH!!1!!!

  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    @JohnSF:

    Granted there is a process to follow, but as you say, “put the gun on the table.” While Putin’s power may have moved past the oligarchs, they still have weight to throw around. It is possible for Putin to pick off one than another, as he has done, But to ignore, eliminate them as a group? As we both know the oligarchs put their money in the west because they viewed it as more secure than having it in Russia, make them insecure.

    2
  24. Michael Cain says:

    @JohnSF:
    Of course, Nord Stream 2 doesn’t deliver any natural gas to the EU yet. If any of the EU countries announce that they are stopping purchases of Russian natural gas immediately, to deprive Russia of hard currency, I’ll be seriously impressed.

    2
  25. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I must have missed the part where President Biden announced any deployment of US forces to Ukraine.
    Or perhaps you mean that what the US should do is cancel it’s treaty obligations to the NATO alliance?

    5
  26. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:

    “If any of the EU countries announce that they are stopping purchases of Russian natural gas immediately…”

    Small problem: around 40% of the gas usage of the EU is sourced from Russia, or Central Asia via Russia.
    Shut that down with no replacements and the entire continental economy crashes into the buffers.
    There is electricity generation, of which gas supplies a quarter, and direct industrial thermal use, where gas has to a large extent replaced coal.
    But above all, large areas of northern Europe depend almost entirely on gas for domestic heating, hot water and cooking.
    As it’s still winter, cut off that supply and you are looking at large numbers of people dying of hypothermia.

    Russian gas as a strategic vulnerability has been something some in Europe have been worried about for some time.
    But Germany has preferred to keep it’s head buried snugly in the sand, over both foreign and energy policy, for almost a quarter of a century.
    (The French have been consistently more wary)

    2
  27. Gustopher says:

    The Biden White House’s dithering over whether this latest escalation amounts to an “invasion” makes us look weak after so many weeks of bluster. But it comes from a recognition that there are limited options at our disposal and that some NATO allies, notably Germany, are considerably more susceptible to Russian blowback than we are.

    Agreed. In too many statements, the Biden administration is making it seem like a lot is riding on the use of the word “invasion” and they are reluctant to recognize the obvious. If they are going to hold back the bulk of the response, in hopes of deterring an invasion of the rest of Ukraine, just say so.

    “We’re using the word ‘incursion’ right now, to avoid triggering X, Y and Z, while consulting with our allies, including Ukraine, to determine when we want to trigger those. The word doesn’t matter, there are Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine, and Putin is going to feel pain.”

    1
  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @JohnSF:

    Germany’s decision to shutter its nuke plants is proving to be as stupid as predicted.

    11
  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: There’s always collateral damage in that kind of action. “You can’t yada yada omlets, breaking eggs yada yada yada.”

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: “… the oligarchs collectively are likely still enough of a power…”

    Only to the extent that they are of mostly one mind and have the capacity and will to do things that will thwart Putin. He doesn’t strike me as much of a fearing bad publicity/public opinion guy.

  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: I thought that the “Murkan” and the Team America: World Police references would mark my comment as sarcasm. My apologies. Still, somebody’s gonna say that sooner or later in seriousness. If only to “discredit” Biden as “weak on self-determination and freedom.”

    1
  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Foiled again! Curse you, Poe’s Law!

    1
  33. Jay L Gischer says:
  34. JohnSF says:

    Russian government prepares for the rung on their escalation ladder:
    Russia recognises expanded borders of Donetsk and Luhansk

    Russian militia force currently control a bit less than half the area of these districts.

    Attempting to seize the rest will mean large scale fighting with the Ukrainian army.

    Next move will likely be reports of “Ukrainian attacks” on the Russian controlled zones, then “self defence” strikes by “local militia forces”, then Russian “peacekeeping intervention”.

    1
  35. Lounsbury says:

    @Raoul: The Crimea is ‘ethnically Russian’ because the Russian empire / Soviets ethnically cleansed it of its native Tatars (including very notably Stalin’s wholesale deportation of Crimean Tatars. It’s rather rich of the Russians to leverage ethnic composition for the Crimea, rather rich indeed.
    @Sleeping Dog: Yes massively stupid, luckily Macron walked back the earlier foolish French steps in that direction.
    @JohnSF: German ostrich behaviour can in part be understandable given the horrid history behind it, but does not make it any less a massive blunder, in combo with Merkels utterly idiotic decision shuttering of the nuclear plants.

    @Scott: Not Moldova proper, but the even more absurd Russian-sub-sub-splinter “trans-Dniester” ‘republic’… the lesson for the day being that even as a Sov/Russian puppet that Moldova is/was, should you show any spine, the Russians are happy to f around and split you up. No real limit to the cynicism.

    @JohnSF: Although what this will do to making London more affordable, but rather than burning, property forfeiture.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Yes, evil ‘Murkican’ just evillly using mind-meld to force Putin into a 1930s style act of ethno-nationalist Blood & Soil nationalistic rant and Lebensraum style act of aggression against a neighbour for their sole crime of not being a puppet state and having a minority population who happen to speak Mother/Fatherland language… All American fault that.

    1
  36. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Which means that a full-blown invasion of Ukraine (aimed at Kiev) is still likely to happen, which, in turn, means that Biden needs to hold some measures in reserve in order to counter or (hopefully – though I’m not optimistic) discourage further Russian aggression.

    That’s a reasonable approach in theory, but it’s been reality-tested against Putin multiple times and failed repeatedly to constrain him. At best, it’s prompted him to take an iterative approach to his expansionist adventures, threatening full-scale invasion and then “just” biting off a piece of territory so that everyone breathes a sigh of relief and rewards the “de-escalation” by not imposing truly impactful sanctions. I’d argue that it’s time to try a different approach now and hit him with the strongest possible economic sanctions we can across the board and all at once until he backs off completely or gets deposed at home by the oligarchs losing their billions. And if even that doesn’t work, we still have plenty of room to escalate short of boots on the ground by further increasing our military and financial support to Ukraine, conducting cyber ops, significantly beefing up NATO presence in the Baltics, etc.

    2
  37. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: It’s really very … 1930s deja vu. The whole 1930s language of analogy over the past 70-80 years has been over-used and over-done, but here we’re seeing an actual more or less rerun of that playbook.

    @R. Dave: Given the Baltics minority population of russophones (of which a genuine minority of said minority are genuinely of question mark loyalty to their state, providing angles for Putin), yes beefing up NATO there is going to be very needed.

    2
  38. dazedandconfused says:

    Putin’s rather uncharacteristic ranting may be deliberate. He doesn’t want Zelensky to get ideas about taking back the disputed areas in Donbas.

    He probably anticipated we will be hysterical for a bit, but believes that will fade IF this ends that 8 year civil war. If he can get the Ukrainians to give up the hard stance they will never stop fighting to re-take them the path should be open to a gradual normalizing of relations.

    He commented the other day he is following the model of the break-up of Yugoslavia into three states. Clever bastard, you have to give him that.

    1
  39. DK says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Clever bastard, you have to give him that.

    No I don’t. I think he’s a lunatic and a failure who has isolated himself, turned Russian youth towards the West, ensured China keeps him at arms length, and guaranteed that every country on his Western border will be a NATO member-state by the centennial of the Cuban Middle Crisis.

    3
  40. dazedandconfused says:

    @DK:
    Time will tell.

  41. DK says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    America needs to put up or shut up.

    No we don’t, at least not in terms of boots on the ground — unless you and yours intend to sign up to fight in WW3. Enough of this keyboard warrior cosplay toughness. Ukraine is 5,600 miles away from the US and our myriad domestic problems, including rising right wing authoritarianism of our own. We have committed weaponry and resources to Ukraine. That’s sufficient until Putin invades a NATO member state.

    As for our European partners, it’s their backyard on this, and their reactions matter more

    Quote correct, and that’s why it’s time for Europe — which has plenty of smart, healthy, able-bodied people in its population that’s twice as large as America’s — to put up or shut up.

    Biden is exactly right to recognize what Putin cannot: Cold War Era Empire Building Era is over and not coming back. US and Russia do not get to order the whole world around anymore.

    5
  42. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Putin is conjuring what should be the worst fear of Great Russian nationalists, were they rational nationalists.
    A Europe prepared to re-arm, and to take hard power seriously again after a quarter century of pleasant dreams.
    To deploy armed forces, including defensive and offensive missile systems, to Eastern Europe on a scale that dwarfs the Russian military.
    To shut Russia out of the markets and sources of technology and capital in the EU/UK zone.
    Let Putin rattle the begging bowl in Beijing.

    And if the Kremlin believes that Ukraine, or much of the rest of Europe for that matter, will just shrug and accept as legitimate expansions by military invasions, after the model of the aggressors of the 1930’s, they are in for a lot of disappointment.

    France was obliged to tolerate the occupation of Alsace-Lorraine after 1871.
    It never relented in a fixed determination to reverse that.
    There are several other examples of territorial acquisitiveness bringing ruin in its wake.
    The classic example, of course, being Germany’s “historic and ethnic claims” to Austria, Sudetenland and Danzig.

    Russia will have the zones they seize by force of Donetsk and Luhansk; and Transdnistria; and the Russian occupied areas of Georgia for that matter.
    But Russia may well in the end find the indigestion more problematic than the appetite.

    2
  43. DK says:

    @Lounsbury:

    yes beefing up NATO there is going to be very needed.

    Very. Can’t understand the pundits falling for Putin’s ‘NATO expansion made me do it’ lie (meaning smart folk like Thomas Friedman, stooges like Gabbard and Greenwald were always going to be stupid).

    One, Gorbachev and Yeltsin signed off on NATO expansion, sometimes in actual treaties. Putin’s argument is with them.

    Two, NATO has never attacked Russia. Russia has since attacked Georgia, Crimea, Chechnya, and Syria. That’s why Ukraine is desperate to get in.

    Three, that Putin is invading Ukraine not Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia is pudding proof NATO expansion was necessary for those countries.

    All this is made moot by NATO grievances being a thin cover for Putin’s belief that these nations have no right to exist. He basically said so yesterday when he let the mask fall in that unhinged, Hitleresque tirade. Putin would invade and annex every one of those, and Finland, and East Germany if he could. Like all militaristic, expansionist punk dictators, the world will be safer when he dies.

    4
  44. dazedandconfused says:

    @Scott:

    The forces in the north compels the Ukes commit a lot of hardware and personnel to the defense of Kyiv and away from Donetsk and Luhansk.

  45. Mister Bluster says:

    …Free Kossuth Budapest…Free Petofi Radio, Gyor…Attention…Attention…Budapest Calling…

    Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. officials observed the tidal wave of events with shock and no small degree of ambivalence as to how to respond. The main line of President Eisenhower’s policy was to promote the independence of the so-called captive nations, but only over the longer-term. There is little doubt that he was deeply upset by the crushing of the revolt, and he was not deaf to public pressure or the emotional lobbying of activists within his own administration. But he had also determined, and internal studies backed him up, that there was little the United States could do short of risking global war to help the rebels. And he was not prepared to go that far, nor even, for that matter, to jeopardize the atmosphere of improving relations with Moscow that had characterized the previous period.

    Yet Washington’s role in the Hungarian revolution soon became mired in controversy. One of the most successful weapons in the East-West battle for the hearts and minds of Eastern Europe was the CIA-administered Radio Free Europe. But in the wake of the uprising, RFE’s broadcasts into Hungary sometimes took on a much more aggressive tone, encouraging the rebels to believe that Western support was imminent, and even giving tactical advice on how to fight the Soviets. The hopes that were raised, then dashed, by these broadcasts cast an even darker shadow over the Hungarian tragedy that leaves many Hungarians embittered to this day.
    National Security Archive

    I dunno. Maybe Ike should have just bombed the Russians back into the Stone Age. Maybe we wouldn’t have them screwing with us now.

    1
  46. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Might not Putin believe that all those deployments would in time fade away, as they did previously, due to the cost of maintenance and a realization nuclear war is a no-win?

    He may believe the economic ties between the EU and Russia will win out in the end. Russia has oil and gas, and is potentially a whale-market for EU high quality goods. He might also believe that the neo-cons will hesitate in the future if another occasion arises like the one in Ukraine in 2014. The Bear is back.

    All depends on if this is about settling this long-running civil war in Donetsk and Luhansk or about re-taking all of Ukraine. It appears Zelensky believes that might be the case, he’s backing away from calling this an invasion of Ukraine, which our press is insisting. Unlikely he would be doing so if he felt this was just the first stage of a full invasion of Ukraine, which, for him, would likely be a death sentence.

  47. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @DK:

    You totally misread me. Calm down, try again, and see if you get it right this time.

    2
  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    Putin is 70. There’s no long game for Vlad, there’s at most a decade for him to write his name in the history books. Right now his story will be that he was a master thief who presided over Russia’s descent. He wants a cool sobriquet like, The Terrible or The Great.

    I wonder if he has a health issue. He’s going to ludicrous lengths to avoid catching Covid, though he’s surely vaxxed up. Is he immunocompromised? We wonders, precious, yes we wonders, gollum.

    5
  49. Blue Galangal says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Thank you, I wonder the same. His relentless attempts to turn the clock back to 1990 are just… bizarre. Is he banking on the long cold winters? Is he really crazy enough to want to get an entry into the history books (should they still exist) for being the first person to start a nuclear war? Because, as was so ably pointed out above, W. Europe is ~450 million people. The Russian Army is, what, 8 divisions? 9?

    I guess this may be what people in 1910 and 1934 were feeling: “Are they insane? Who’d be that stupid?”

    3
  50. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes this is Putin’s obsession, which raises the question outside of Putin and his close advisors, what does the future leadership want. Today they are going along because they must, but when Putin leaves the scene? He maybe one of those Russian leaders that is erased from history.

    Economically, Russia is a third world country, that is why Ukraine, Georgia, the citizenry of Belarus and others want to be free of it.

    1
  51. Gustopher says:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/22/russia-ukraine-updates/#link-AK7DAXBPTVB7JLR6MTI4ECGEIA

    Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine and deploy troops into the rebel-held territory as “genius.”

    In an interview with the conservative “Clay Travis and Buck Sexton” radio show, Trump said he was impressed by news of Putin’s actions.

    “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said. “So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’”

    Trump said Putin will now “go in” to Ukraine “and be a peacekeeper.”

    “That’s strongest peace force … We could use that on our southern border,” he said. “That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy … I know him very well. Very, very well.”

    The former president then went on to say that Russia’s incursion “would have never happened” if he had been in office, and accused Biden of not having a proper response to Putin’s moves.

    I encourage the Russian President to recognize the breakaway republic of Mar a Lago, and send peacekeepers. They may not speak the Russian language there, but they certainly speak Russian.

    4
  52. dazedandconfused says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    How long would we tolerate a slow-burning shooting war on our border? The assumption Putin is pulling all this out of nowhere while ignoring that context would seem odd but for the condition of our press largely ignoring the whole 8 years and 14,000 dead of it.

  53. Sleeping Dog says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    If it were a slow burning, shooting war that we started and continued to feed, we’d allow it as long as it was in our interest. After all for 50 years we’ve pursued a war on drugs that is a smoldering conflict on our borders.

    Putin caused the strife in eastern Ukraine.

    2
  54. just nutha says:

    @dazedandconfused: Might not fighting for control of “the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk” be the smarter choice? Asking as someone who has no idea of what that part of the whole is about (among all the other things I don’t know).

  55. just nutha says:

    @Mister Bluster: The days when we could have made Moscow and Beijing disappear in flashes of light on some cold December night are long gone. And may have been long gone even back then,

  56. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Benito gets one thing right: this wouldn’t have happened if he’d been in office. He’d have handed Vlad Ukraine in exchange for some flattery.

    You know, flip-flopping, threatening to leave NATO, threatening sanctions on Germany and France, insulting everyone except Boris, and claiming no one’s tougher on Russia.

    If I were religious, I’d thank Hera for driving him out of office.

    3
  57. dazedandconfused says:

    @just nutha:

    Look back to the events of Maidan in 2014.

    It is a view not without merit to say the President that crowd tossed out of office was playing a smart game, one which the Kremlin was willing to play. Ukraine was allowed to play the East and West off against each other for their own profit. He got an massively generous counter-offer from Putin after first getting an offer from the EU. When he accepted it, a mob of protesters assembled, and tossed him from office.

    Is should shock no one that some small sections of the country, far away from Kyiv, and rather used to being Russian, might say the government was no longer a fairly elected one as it was a mob that tossed an elected President out, and break away.

  58. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    If Trump thinks Putin’s move is “wonderful,” why is he also claiming it would never have happened if he’d been in office?

  59. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..If Trump thinks Putin’s move is “wonderful,” why is he also claiming it would never have happened if he’d been in office?

    I know you know this but I’ll say it anyway.
    Because he’s an idiot!

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRUMP’S ALLIES CALLING HIM AN IDIOT

  60. dazedandconfused says:

    @CSK:

    As put by my business partner eloquently put it to me a couple weeks ago:

    “No, I don’t give a rip. The mindless ramblings of Trump entertained me for a while, but I have found a much more enjoyable and useful pass-time in repeatedly slamming the break room refrigerator door on my junk.”

  61. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Yes, but contradicting himself so blatantly seems unusually idiotic even for Trump. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? There is no bottom to that man’s idiocy.
    @dazedandconfused:
    The mindless ramblings of Trump have seldom entertained me.

  62. Scott says:

    If Russian banks are under sanctions, does that mean that Trump doesn’t have to pay them back?

  63. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Might not Putin believe that all those deployments would in time fade away, as they did previously, due to the cost of maintenance and a realization nuclear war is a no-win?

    He might think so; but that would entirely contradict his pissing away the Russian hydrocarbon earnings of the last twenty years on sustaining and modernising the Russian military.
    Money that was desperately needed to invest in a productive, not just extractive, economy
    2020 estimates of 4.3% of GDP.
    Some $600 billion over the past decade.

    If NATO in Europe were willing to spend at that rate, the consequences are plain.
    If the UK was willing to ramp to just the levels of the 1980’s, never mind the 7 to 10% levels of the 1950’s and 60’s, it alone could outspend Russia by double.
    Easily enough to re-create the BAOR and RAF-G and deploy them in Poland.
    And V-Force, for that matter.
    Similarly, France could easily afford a new version of the FFA; and Germany to rebuild the 12 division Heer of the 1980’s.
    We can do without such zero-sum nonsense, but if Russia is determined to play this stupid game, it may find itself against player with much deeper pockets, and the capacity to create their own decks full of aces.

    …economic ties between the EU and Russia will win out in the end. Russia has oil and gas…

    That would be nice; and the vision the Germans and the City have pursued for more than twenty years.
    Well, he’s just set that alight and poured petrol on it.
    Security wins out over economics, when dealing with an aggressor state.

    Besides, “oil and gas”.
    That is business with a problematic long-term future; net zero is a genuine objective in Europe, despite the German (and British) unrealism about the policies required.
    And who now is going to be stupid enough to rely on Russia as a supplier in the short to medium term, after their transparent gas market games of this winter?
    Transitioning from Russia as a supplier will not be easy, quick, or cheap.
    But it’s a stone cold certainty now.

    “…potentially a whale-market for EU…”

    Potentially, had Putin not idiotically thrown away the opportunity to reform and modernise over the past decades, and has now wrecked it completely.
    As of today, it has an import market total c.$350 billion.
    Less than Belgium.
    It’s a joke.

    The bear is back, indeed.
    More like, the “bear” (or rather the current leadership of Russia) is suffering from delusional dementia.

    And what’s been happening in Donetsk/Luhansk is not a civil war, it’s an invasion.
    Just because it’s been conducted by special forces, mercenaries, and miscellaneous gangsters in pursuit of “implausible deniability” does not make it any less so.

    The red line for President Zelensky will come if Russian forces follow the “provocations” script to create an excuse and move in to the Ukraine controlled areas of Donetsk\Luhnask.
    At that point the Ukrainians army will engage.

    1
  64. DK says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    How long would we tolerate a slow-burning shooting war on our border?

    I’ve heard variations of this question for weeks and it’s a red herring. The proper question is would Mexico be expected to tolerate the US invading and annexing Baja California? Would Canada want to be allied with America if we had a dictator who murders political opponents and says Canada has no right to exist?

    For all of America’s flaws and foibles, one thing we got right is maintaining healthy relations with the nations on our land borders. That’s the missing context you’re looking for. We don’t have a shooting war on those borders because unlike Russia, we don’t treat those neighbors like crap (as for our sea borders, Cuba is pending normalization).

    When are Putin’s apologists going to stop blaming everybody except Putin for the predictable outcomes of his own scumbag behavior and failed leadership?

  65. Scott says:

    I do hope we are doing more than sanctions. A little offensive cyber warfare. Maybe stir up trouble in Chechnya or the Caucasus.

  66. Kathy says:

    @DK:

    The proper question is would Mexico be expected to tolerate the US invading and annexing Baja California?

    No, same as past governments did not tolerate the invasion and annexations of Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona, and I think parts of Colorado and Utah. There just wasn’t much they could do about, and there’d be less now.

    For all of America’s flaws and foibles, one thing we have gotten very much right is maintaining healthy relations on our land borders.

    Sure. After annexing Texas, New Mexico, California, etc.

    4
  67. Liberal Capitalist says:

    To those conservatives that believed in Trump’s 4-D chess…

    How can someone be this stupid?

    Trump praises Putin’s ‘genius’ plan to invade Ukraine: ‘You gotta say that’s pretty savvy’

  68. dazedandconfused says:

    @DK:

    Wasn’t a red herring, it’s a serious question.

  69. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Russia makes nearly all their own military gear, so an investment into that is an investment in Russian economy. Certainly we feel the same way, which is why we have a ridiculously large one. Military spending as a jobs program is established practice for the US.

    I wonder myself if Putin intends to extend past the current lines of contact to the borders of the oblasts. Certainly noises are being made that indicate that might happen, but whether or not it’s posturing designed to frighten Zelensky remains an open question.

  70. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    “Is should shock no one that some small sections of the country, far away from Kyiv, and rather used to being Russian, might say the government was no longer a fairly elected one as it was a mob that tossed an elected President out, and break away.”

    It should hardly surprise anyone, given the energetic activity of Russian special forces, Russian armed and organised militias, and mafiya gangs with ties to Moscow in pursuit of that “break away”.
    Or do you think that the shooting down of airliner MH-17 and the killing of 298 people, was carried out by local democratic enthusiasts who just happened to have a Buk SAM system in the garage?

    And to reduce the events of the Maidan to a “crowd” or a “mob” is just silly. The protest became violent and massive after President Yanukovych (or others in senior security positions) began using force on the demonstrations.
    When security forces resorted to sniper fire on demonstrators, members of Yanukovych’s own party joined the opposition in disgust, enabling Parliament to act, perfectly legally, to impeach the President.

    As he fled Kyiv, escorted by a bodyguard of Russian Spetnaz special forces, before the hearing occurred, Parliament then ruled he had abandoned his office and should be replaced by elections in 2014.
    Lawyer can quibble over the details of procedure, some saying it was within the prerogatives of Parliament, others (mostly Russians, amazingly!) disagreeing.
    But regardless, it is pretty clear that Yanukovych had totally lost the confidence of the people and the parliament.

    To assert he was just “tossed out by a mob” is simplification to the point of absurdity.

    And if the people of Donbas were so attached to being Russian, why the 80% votes for independence in 1991?
    Was their putative “Russian-ness” so compromised by a economic deal with the EU?

    1
  71. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    We were talking about this above in the thread. Putin read Trump and all his pathological insecurities precisely back in 2015 or 2016 when he described Trump as “smart.” Trump, who knows or fears he’s not smart, adored Putin forever after. And Putin knows he has Trump in his pocket.

    1
  72. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:
    I feel gish-galloped. Not going to play the game of taking pages to refute assertions which only take a moment to make.

    The guy was chased out of the country by a mob, not an election, that’s the way the people who were for the Russian deal felt about it. If you believe the situations in Luhansk and Donetsk are purely the result of Russian special forces we must agree to disagree.

  73. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Russia makes nearly all their own military gear, so an investment into that is an investment in Russian economy

    Western Europe produces most of it’s own military gear also.
    And that it does not could easily be ramped up in short order, given the money and the will.
    It has taken to buying rather more “off the shelf” from the US due to the shrinkage in value.
    Change that, the whole calculus shifts.

    But European view has mainly been that military spending is one of the least effective and productive ways to stimulate the economy, with relatively little “multiplier”.

    And this goes even more for Russia, whose economy is far more in need of infrastructure, diversification, and development of consumer goods and services.

    For a country with an economy the size of Brazil or Australia to attempt to maintain peer-status as a Superpower is folly.

    The US can do it quite easily; but its economy is roughly 20 times that of Russia (and in fact military spending probably entails some damage in investment diversion for the US).

    Similarly, a co-ordinated, integrated European defence policy would have an economy behind it not far behind that of the USA and ahead of China
    Russia would be a minnow by comparison.
    (The UK by itself has an economy double the size of Russia.)

  74. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    He wasn’t “chased out by a mob”.
    Yanukovych was being impeached, perfectly legally, by Parliament, and fled of his own volition.

    The deposition by Parliament, after he fled the scene, might have been legally questionable; but plenty of Ukrainian lawyers (and others) consider it within the bounds of Parliamentary authority.
    And given Yanukovych was in Moscow by that point, the whole question is moot; he had in effect, abdicated his office.

  75. DK says:

    @dazedandconfused: As serious a question as “Are you still beatimg your wife?” and “Yeah, but what about if unicorns were flying with pigs, then what?”

    Serious is focusing on what’s actually happening, not trying to distract from that with questions about alternate realities that don’t exist.

  76. DK says:

    @Kathy:

    Sure. After annexing Texas, New Mexico, California, etc.

    Ah, I see, we’re no longer discussing moderntimes. We’re now on board with time travel into alternate realities, bringing to fruition Putin’s grand idea to base 21st century foreign policy decisions on 19th century maps and conflicts. Dissolving NATO and the UN, and letting Russia, France, Austria and the UK divvy up the continent. Congress of Vienna II.

    We can also endorse getting rid of Israel, and maybe finally let red states secede into their Confederacy of Dunces.

    Maybe that will satisfy everyone’s grievances.

  77. Mister Bluster says:

    @just nutha:..The days when we could have made Moscow and Beijing disappear in flashes of light on some cold December night are long gone. And may have been long gone even back then,..
    I have a vague memory of my parents sitting on the front porch talking about what they would do if a another World War war began. I remember where we were living and I’m pretty sure it was before my brother was born in August of 1953. I would have been all of 5 years old. I remember them being anxious when they talked.
    At that age my only images of war were from the newsreels of tanks on the battlefields from the Korean War that I had seen on our very modern black and white TV.
    All I remember them saying when I asked about it was: “There are bad people in the world.”

  78. dazedandconfused says:

    @DK:

    How is asking how long the US would tolerate a shooting war on it’s border on a par with “When did you stop beating your wife?”

  79. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF: There’s a bit more to it than that.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/21/ukraine-crisis-president-claims-deal-with-opposition-after-77-killed-in-kiev

    He forged an agreement with the opposition but the crowd in the square wouldn’t accept it, so it’s fair to say the mob was in control of the situation.

    Are you pretending this is how government normally works, thereby the pro-Russian factions in the Ukraine could not possibly have a legitimate gripe?

  80. Bob@Youngstown says:

    There is a serious separatist movement in Quebec.
    Only a matter of time before France deploys peacekeepers to the region.

    1
  81. drj says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    How is asking how long the US would tolerate a shooting war on it’s border on a par with “When did you stop beating your wife?”

    Assuming this was asked in good faith:

    Because, according to your analogy, the US would, first, have actively instigated said shooting war and, second, deployed army units (including armor and artillery) to take part in the fighting.

    And, third, followed this up by complaining that there is fighting going on.

    To put it slightly differently, what Russia is saying is basically this:

    “Why do you make me keep hitting you? You must stop it right now and do what I tell you, or I will start seriously fucking up your face.”

    As to your subsequent comment, it should also be noted that Ukraine has had free and fair elections following the Euromaidan protests, which cannot be said of either the DNR or LNR (or Russia, for that matter).

    And, of course, Yanukovych had previously deployed the country’s riot police to falsify the 2012 parliamentary elections.

    It is therefore no wonder that most Ukrainians wanted to get rid of him. However, as noted, Ukrainians could have subseqently changed their minds. Which they did not.

  82. dazedandconfused says:

    @drj:
    Notice they didn’t have to dispatch police to screw with the election in Donetsk or Luhansk? Perhaps the separatist movements in those regions are organic and not entirely engineered by Putin? There have been long-standing splits in Ukraine, going back to things before the eastern parts supporting the Nazis in WW2, and fighting with them. Deep, deep hard splits.

    Something like that happened in Yugoslavia. Most of the people hated Tito but knew that the day that strong-man was gone that fighting would be inevitable.

  83. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Of course they didn’t need the police.
    The Donbas mafiya were perfectly capable of screwing with elections without any assistance.
    (Their strength there deriving from the part played by the criminal/managerial/nomenklatura overlap in exploiting the privatization of Donbas heavy industry; which also accounts for their ties to Moscow, where the “sell off” was arranged).

    And Yugoslavia predated Tito by a quarter of a century; what doomed Yugoslavia was the superiority/inferiority complex politics of the Serbs, which Tito barely held in check.

    Which is interestingly paralleled by the “Great Russia” assumption of a right to rule.
    (And for that matter German claims to rightful ascendancy over Slavs, even predating the Nazis, and the attitudes of Anglo-nationalists to Ireland)

  84. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Seems the solution was to break it up into separate republics.

  85. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    …break it up into separate republics.

    Russia?
    Perhaps.
    However, President Putin and the “Great Russia” idealogues appear to have a problem with that.

    Other partitions have also been problematic.
    See Ireland for one example.
    A URA might be , umm, interesting; or problematic; depending on your point of view.

    “Do not call up what you cannot put down.”

  86. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:
    No, it’s about justifying the partitioning of Ukraine. That’s where the people were shooting at each other, after all. Now they got someone else shooting at them. It’s on like Donkey Kong, as they say.

    Can’t damn Putin for not wanting his republic broken into bits. How he’s going about it is looking to be quite damnable though. Most disconcerting was what went down in the Security council meeting. Putin declared war while it was going on and the news seemed to catch the Russian ambassador and his staff by surprise. An ungood omen, that. Either Putin has gone rogue or wants everybody to think he has.

  87. Gordon T says:

    Reams of searching analysis. But cut to the chase and do a word-search for Monroe Doctrine and whatdyaknow? “Not found.”