Opinion: If Putin wishes for another cold war…

Putin photo by World Economic ForumOne of the legacies of more than 10 years of conflict, including an illegal war in Iraq, is a war weariness. Weariness on a matter so crucial as war is a healthy thing. If our government had been more weary then the unfortunate consequences we see to this day may have been avoided. But we must not let weariness become blindness. NATO has confirmed that Russia has invaded Ukraine. The most recent in a long list of endeavours from Moldova to Georgia designed to expand the territory and influence of Russia; to realise Putin’s imperial project. He’s demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice money, Russia’s relationship with the West, and thousands of civilians. We need a change of policy.

Not that I’d advocate meeting Russian soldiers on the battlefield in Ukraine. That is not what the British nor most in the EU desire. Nor is it really a possible course of action. We must pressure elsewhere and our present economic measures are laughable considering the crimes Russia has committed. We must abandon so called ‘targeted measures’ and implement total economic sanctions. We should squeeze Putin out of office and ruin his ability to fund and produce the tools of war as we do any other dictator. We must seize assets, prevent the flow of capital into Russia, not allow our businesses to trade with Russia. We must isolate them. This will no doubt cause us some financial harm; we may have to tolerate decreased investment, or not harbouring the homes of billionaire oligarchs. But what is that as a price to pay? Shall we place money over our values as it would seem our government desires? I hope we as a country have not sunk to that low.

We can no longer be complacent in the military field. Firstly the ridiculous sale by France of two Mistral class amphibious assault ships must be cancelled. Expanding Russian expeditionary capabilities in such a way now would be absurd. All NATO members need to be spending a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence, only 4 countries are meeting that at present. We need to re-emphasise our conventional capabilities. The past decade has seen near continuous cuts to the size of our tank force, our aircraft strike force, our soldier numbers, our navy. We are technologically advanced, but as General Sir Nick Houghton states risk becoming a ‘hollow force’ that lacks the size to undertake significant operations. The next white paper must be one of re-armament. Again bearing the economic brunt of our responsibilities may not be easy, but it’s necessary. NATO must establish a large permanent presence and commitment to the Baltic states and the rest of Eastern Europe. We cannot allow the occurrence in Ukraine to be repeated in Estonia, a country particularly at risk due to its large Russian minority, or in any of our allies. We along with Germany, France, and all of Europe must be clear of our political and military will to repel any violation of NATO or EU territory. Just as firmly as we were 25 years ago. This need was already recognised by the Defence Select Committee.

What we’ve heard from Heads of Government, and at the UN, is rhetoric. Now’s the time we must demand policy. If Putin wishes for another Cold War, if he’s willing to force it through continued infringements of international law, we must give him it. We must once again win it.

Photo by World Economic Forum

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  • I couldn’t disagree more.
    It is not an invasion. Yes, Putin is supplying the separatists, yes there are Russian soldiers on the ground but in what capacity is still open to doubt. The Ukraine government keeps issuing headline-grabbing statements which are subsequently found to be false.
    The Ukraine government is stuck. It is losing the war, it is broke and has no way forward apart from trying to involve the EU and NATO to bail it out. This is a situation not of Russia’s making. It was clear from the beginning that some sort of federal structure was the only solution yet the Ukraine government has resisted and took to shelling its own citizens. Poroshenko keeps promising a peace plan but nothing has ever been delivered. How can the east ever now accept rule from the west?
    Remember also that the government undoubtedly contains extreme right wing elements and can in no way be described as democratic.
    Rather than ratcheting up tensions still further, the EU should be demanding that Poroshenko announces a ceasefire and works towards talks with representatives of all Ukraine about a future federal structure.. Once the democratic though highly corrupt legitimate government was overthrown by elements from the west including far-right paramilitaries, this was always going to be the only solution to keeping the country together.

  • Yes.

  • Before you start banging the war drums, let’s rewind the history tape 6 or 7 months.
    Let’s talk incursions and motivations?
    Let’s not forget the original incursion that created this mess in Ukraine?
    Back in February, a lone woman with $5 billion in her handbag, using the EU as a puppet, planned, and successfully over threw a *democratically elected* Ukraine government, in favour of a new government more suited (read~ pliable), to Washington’s liking.
    That woman was Victoria Nuland. And for proof, just Google [ Victoria Nuland EU], to hear what she *and Washington* really think of the EU?
    Those hankering for heavier sanctions and even military intervention, need to reflect, and ask, ~ who is the Puppet Master for this planned and ($) paid-for mess? We need to wake up, because we are foolishly, being lead (by the nose), into thinking our enemy is in the east, when it just as likely, sits in Washington DC?
    Extra Note: Two facts to ponder :
    1. Americas Vice President Joe Biden visited Ukraine to give the newly installed (and paid for),Ukraine government ‘support’, in April this year
    2. Shortly after, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden gets a top job in a Ukraine Gas company.
    Maybe, we need to think this through a little more?

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Aug '14 - 10:12am

    Keith – Just so I’m clear here :

    ‘It is not an invasion. Yes, Putin is supplying the separatists, yes there are Russian soldiers on the ground but in what capacity is still open to doubt. ‘

    Is this a wind-up?

  • “We must abandon so called ‘targeted measures’ and implement total economic sanctions… We must seize assets, prevent the flow of capital into Russia, not allow our businesses to trade with Russia.”

    It’ll be a cold winter for Poland, then. In all seriousness, what you are advocating is a far larger series of punitive trade measures than were active against Russia during the Cold War – actually our restrictions on dual-use tech is quite similar to the approach taken then. (There’s a nice rundown here http://www.ecfr.eu/blog/entry/what_can_the_cold_war_teach_us_about_applying_sanctions_to_russia)

    If you think our military has been hollowed out by budget cuts, you should take a look at Russia’s.

  • Is this a wind -up? No. There is a complete lack of clarity and accurate information coming out of Ukraine. We do not know what is happening on the ground. It would seem the Ukrainian army is currently losing ground and blaming it on a Russian invasion. Obama was very clear in his statement last night not to call it an invasion.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Aug '14 - 11:04am

    ‘Obama was very clear in his statement last night not to call it an invasion.’

    Well – that clears everything up then doesn’t it, everything’s just A-OK. This is a wind up isn’t it? Please, I’m not getting at you, but I have to know, this is a joke isn’t it?

  • Liberal Neil 29th Aug '14 - 11:19am

    I’m with LJP on this – whether or not the Ukrainian government has some questions to answer, the idea that Russia armed forces entering Ukranian territory is anything other than an invasion is laughable.

  • If Russian troops are on the ground to stop the citizens of Donetsk from being shelled, I do not consider that to be an invasion. We should be addressing the actions of the Ukraine government who are committing war crimes by deliberately shelling residential areas. 2,000 dead and 600,000 displaced. Does that sound like a joke to you?

  • Sometimes the absence of information is more telling of just who is trying to ‘pull our strings’? We went from western headlines of (Putin kills 298 on Flight MH17),.. to………..(?)
    Why did Kiev confiscate Air traffic control data including verbal communications with the plane.? Why do they refuse to release that information that could show conclusively, what was in the air 15 minutes either side of the moment of the MH17 hit?
    In short, why has MH17 gone dark? And just as important; without all available information exposed to daylight, can you really be sure, just who, is friend or foe?

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Aug '14 - 12:15pm

    Keith – Sorry, I thought that the Russians regarded all this as an internal Ukraine civil matter. Or am I mistaken?

    Out of interest by the way, how do you think the Russians would react if a load of armed separatists started up in the streets of Russian towns?

    ‘We should be addressing the actions of the Ukraine government’

    I’ll address what I like, thanks all the same.

  • Ukraine and EU should have followed the Finnish option. Finland existed on the Soviet borders from 1945 without being aligned to NATO or EU and did very well. The USA , Poland , western Ukrainians and some parts of the EU played games with Putin and created a problem. Rrussia is much stronger today today than in 2000: it has $450B in gold reserves, lowest debt of any G8 country, has a profession armed forces which are being modernised supported by a country which is prepared to fight to defend national honour and has gas pipelines which make Germany and the N Italian industry dependent upon it. The USA and the EU neither has the resources or will for cold war.

    If Russians are reduced to a diet of black bread, pork fat , cabbage, beetroot and onions plus vodka , they can still fight.
    The USA and the EU no longer has a population capable of enduring prolonged privations. The west has no leader who has the strength of character to win a confrontation with Putin. The Russians know they can endure far more pain than any western nation. The ability to endure higher levels of pain for longer often are the factor which decides which side wins a conflict. The pain, humiliations and anger which the Russian people and Putin have endured since the collapse of the Soviet Union give them the reservoir of willpower and determination which the west lacks.

  • jedibeeftrix 29th Aug '14 - 1:08pm

    “All NATO members need to be spending a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence, only 4 countries are meeting that at present. We need to re-emphasise our conventional capabilities.”

    Agreed. Write it into law as 2.1% of GDP, exactly three times overseas aid, and I’ll be happy.

  • Charlie I think that’s exactly the sort of perception that makes us vulnerable. Having allowed similar invasions (and Keith saying there are troops inside Ukrainian borders but it’s not an invasion makes no sense, even if your position is that it’s a justified invasion) in the past has done nothing but emboldened him and allowed similar to occur in future. With regards to if the people lack the will to carry out the changes necessary I’d disagree, The ability of Western countries to make sufficient sacrifices has been shown multiple times over the past century, and I doubt any Pole, Czech or Lithuanian is keen on living under the bootheel once again. The lack of leader with strength of character is the bigger problem, particularly when governments are looking only for short term benefits to their countries be they selling 2 amphibious assault ships, or protecting the CoL. That’s why as I said we must demand a change, exerting pressure through our usual means and supporting those policies which will give the West the means and will to defend themselves.

    Mike Bird, thanks for posting an interesting article. I think the fundamental difference between applying sanctions now and during the Cold War is the level of integration between our economies and that unlike the USSR Russia’s not practically self-reliant. As your article says “The European Union is Russia’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 41 percent of all its trade.”, this means unlike during the Cold War economic sanctions, or even the threat of if we displayed enough resolve for the Kremlin to take them serious could have much greater negative effects on their relatively fragile economy. As you point out dependency on Russian fossil fuels is a serious problem, we need a European roadmap towards far greater energy independence. Though that will take time, investment, and for obvious reasons can’t be achieved in completeness. It was taking Russians away from “diet of black bread, pork fat , cabbage, beetroot and onions plus vodka” towards fully stocked shelves and pensions paid on time which is one of the leading reasons why Putin’s so popular. Could he do that without Western money? Perhaps, but it would be harder.

  • Charlie, we spent the whole cold war being told that decadent westerners couldn’t possibly hope to compete with proper manly Soviet men, with all the tropes and cliches you’ve just wheeled out. Of course, the Soviet Union is no longer with us, is it? The so-called unique ability to withstand privation is not a Russian trait, it is a human one. The Russians display it in such abundance because they have been left with no alternative by decades if not centuries of economically incompetent totalitarian rule.

    Although it must be said that the rule imposed on them fell much harder on their neighbours, which is why so much of their former empire today forms the eastern half of Europe instead of the western part of whatever Putin calls his customs union.

    And Jedi, I’m still going to criticise the writing into law of any spending levels. Future parliaments shouldn’t be prevented from spending what they feel is needed to address the issues of their day on account of the opinion of the Parliament of 2010. I would also question linking defence spending to international aid. One is an insurance against disaster with no demonstrable impact on the occurrence rate of global conflict, while the other is a proven preventative measure against global conflict. I am not going to come out against a 2% military spending level, because it is the case that we do need that insurance for if and when we fail at preventing, defusing, negotiating or otherwise avoiding conflict. But to tie our spending on our most effective preventative to the funding for our final sanction seems like a system working at cross purposes.

  • If we want to stand up to Putin , then Germany and N Italian industry must not depend upon Russian gas. Russia has developed some very formidable tanks, anti-aircraft missile and planes. NATO needs to match Russia tank for tank and plane for plane. I do not see France making a significant contribution to NATO and NATO matching Russian arms expenditure. What I am against are empty gestures which just raise the temperature but cannot deliver. Regan and Thatcher challenged Communism and forced it into an arms race which caused it’s collapse. No western leader , let alone
    Obama, Merkel, Hollande or Cameron are going to enter an arms race with Russia.

    The strength of character of The West is declining , that is why selection fro the Royal Marine Commandos is easier. Talk to the Commandos who fought in the Falklands and were instructors in the early 90s and compare to the training they receive today. We now have H and S influencing selection for the SAS/SBS. In the 1980s when someone died on SAS selection the RSM said ” It was nature;s way of saying you have failed the course”.

  • The Kremlinologist Sir Brian Barder, in discussing the Crimea, gave an eloquent explanation of why Russian official statements appear so blatantly at odds with the facts on the ground:

    “… Russia’s straight-faced assertions that the uniformed soldiers taking control of Crimea are all Ukrainians and not soldiers of the Russian army are extremely familiar to anyone with experience of dealing with Russian government and party officials in Soviet times. Westerners always marvelled at the ability of their Russian interlocutors, frequently intelligent, educated, experienced and sophisticated operators, to say things that they knew to be untrue — and that they knew we knew to be untrue. To survive in the Soviet version of communism it was absolutely necessary to be able to hold two absolutely incompatible and mutually contradictory versions of reality in one’s mind at the same time, one of them broadly true and the other almost completely false. To respond to obvious lies by saying “That’s a lie, you know it’s a lie, and you know that I know it’s a lie” would have made any future dialogue or relationship impossible. One just had to convey that message by sceptical facial expression, almost a wink. The Russians know perfectly well that their military intervention in Crimea is in flagrant breach of international law, and they know that the outside world knows that too, but it’s obviously impossible for them to admit that they are acting illegally: so they advance an almost openly fictitious account of what has happened in order to cover their illegality..”

    Ukrainian sovereignty has been guaranteed by Russia, the US and the UK. With Russia having breached its undertakings and the Ukrainian president having expressed his desire to protect his country within the Nato military alliance beginning with a Nato membership action plan, some hard decisions need to be made at next weeks Nato conference.

    Putin has to be confronted on a broad front, politically, diplomatically, economically and militarily at Nato’s borders, if peace is to be preserved in the states formerly occupied by Soviet Russia.

  • Joe writes:
    “so they advance an almost openly fictitious account of what has happened in order to cover their illegality..”
    So are you saying that Crimean’s (95% voter turnout), went to the ballot box at Russian gunpoint? Seriously? Give it up Joe, Crimea is now Russian territory, by popular voter choice. I know that LibDems viscerally hate folks having their say by referenda, (preferring Liberal paternalism), but Crimea had a free vote to re-join Russia,; they got their wish and are happy with the result. Even if so called Liberals are not?
    Oh,… and stop your Liberal warmongering.

  • Charlie, people dying on the training course may or may not represent natural selection. Without being familiar with the case, I can’t say. But it certainly does represent attrition. The point of the H&S is to prevent such attrition from happening by only bothering to start training people who stand a fair chance of survival. I disagree that it reflects badly on western values.

    A standin for the Russian point of view might say ‘We Have Reserves’. Not as many as Stalin had, mind you, but even conceding that point I would say that put bluntly, a warm body in almost any capacity is more effective at achieving goals than a corpse is.

    I would also point out that if the goal is to match Russian arms expenditure then Britain alone manages it.

    You are quite right about Russian gas, though. The European Union needs to be independent of it. We can buy some of it if Russia wants to play the good neighbour, and in that capacity its a good carrot. Russia needs something to gain from good neigbourliness. But Europe can’t be dependent on it, and in any case the Putin administration has for the time being turned away from any such policy. For that end we need a single energy grid to minimise the capacity replication problem regarding renewable energy, and we need to retain nuclear energy to handle the baseload requirements independently of risky or politicised imports.

    John Dunn, I would like to know how legitimate you would feel that the Scottish referendum would be, if it were to take place with armed British Army guards at the polling stations, British Army tanks in the streets and a solely British unionist campaign surrounding the vote.

  • This will all eventually rebound on Putin. The end result will be Ukraine in NATO, with troops and air force personnel from other NATO countries in the Ukraine right up to his border, which he is supposedly trying to avoid.
    One theoretical answer to it all would ideally be Russia joining NATO!!!!!! Is that so far fetched. Who knows we never expected the Berlin wall to come down so quickly.
    In the meantime what is our party saying and doing about Ukraine. Next to nothing it seems to me. Instead we are worrying about non seating at football grounds. Some might say that says it all.

  • John Dunn,

    the Crimean referendum is something of a smokescreen. Russia guaranteed the integrity of Ukraine’s territory and then blatantly annexed part of it. Crimea was already an autonomous area within Ukraine with a devolved parliament and Russia has an alternative black sea naval base at at Novorossiysk that has been in preparation for many years now. There was no need for such a blatant breach of International Law to protect and preserve Russian Interests in the region. There was also good reason to believe that the Crimean people, given the opportunity, would have exercised their democratic right to self-determination as an Independent Russian speaking republic within a federal Ukraine.

    Russia today appears to be in the grip of a ruthless kleptocracy that orchestrates the embezzlement of state funds on a massive scale and seeks to expand its tentacles to its near abroad. Russian state propaganda appears to be based on the dictum of Joseph Goebbels that “when one lies, one should lie big.”

    Putin’s actions as head of the Russian State are there for all to see – the widespread corruption and advancement of favoured oligarchs; the abolition and repression of a free press with the imprisonment, kidnapping and murder of journalists; the poisoning of Alexander Litvenenko who was granted asylum in the UK following his disclosure of the plot to assassinate the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky; the death while in prison of Sergei Magnitsky after his exposure of large-scale theft from the Russian state, sanctioned and carried out by Russian officials.

    We should be in no doubt as to the length to which Putin’s administration will go. The BBC correspondent, Robert Peston, reported that at the height of the financial crisis on Wall Street “the Russians were suggesting a joint pact with China to drive down the price of the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and maximize the turmoil on Wall Street.”

    As with Crimea and the Ottoman empire, in the 19th century, China was forced to cede the Far East and parts of Siberia to Imperial Russia. During the 1960s and early 1970s, there were border tensions and even a number of armed clashes between China and the Soviet Union.

    Small parts of Russian territory were then quietly ceded to China — and more recently, the two agreed to accept the current borders — but China believes much larger chunks of what is now Russia rightfully belong to China. As if to settle these broader claims by osmosis, Chinese settlers have been steadily moving into Russia’s remote, economically depressed and underpopulated regions.

    By asserting its historic sovereignty over Crimea, Russia has set a dangerous precedent for the Chinese as they look wistfully over their northern border. Those vast empty spaces of Russia’s Far East, full of all kinds of natural resources, are what China’s booming economy craves. And now its citizens live there too, much like ex-Soviet Russians residing in Crimea.

    Russia not so long ago agreed to preserve and defend Ukraine’s existing borders. Breaking that agreement in a moment of opportunity creates a precedent for other countries with alternative border preferences, including China, to follow suit if the relevant opportunities arise.

    Beijing will no doubt bide its time and will not do anything precipitous or unlawful. But when the time comes, it will not hesitate to re-assert its claims – and Russia will have no one to blame but Putin for providing a convenient excuse for a land grab, in the form of a powerful precedent in Crimea.

    The UN was created so that territorial disputes could be settled without recourse to war. If the permanent members of the security council will not respect these founding principles what hope for preserving peace throughout the rest of the world.

  • It’s significant that Obama has been very careful NOT to call whatever Russia is doing in Ukraine ‘invasion’. If it were then the multiple US instances of, umm, ‘assistance’ to friendly and ‘democratic’ factions (read ‘local stooges’) would have to count as well. (Note: ‘democratic’ in this context simply means on the US side and has nothing to do with the freely expressed will of the people).

    The uncomfortable truth for us in the west is that our own governments have to a remarkable extent gone rogue. Tony Blair invasion of Iraq with “evidence fitted around the policy” as the infamous Downing Street memorandum put it was a case in point but far from the only one. In the case of Ukraine Clinton, as President, gave Russia at the time the USSR was breaking up a firm assurance that the west would not advance NATO onto Russia’s front lawn so to speak. The EU egged on by Washington kicked off this round of trouble by breaking this pledge and now the Ukrainians are trying to suck us into their morass by advocating they should join NATO ASAP. Russians will remember the Ribbentrop Pact between Hitler and Stalin and how that was subsequently broken. How do you imagine they feel about an action reply set up by a militaristic US that plainly feels entirely unconstrained by international law and has a dreadful track record of unjustified invasions in recent years?

    Then there is the BBC’s reporting which has been largely missing in action when it comes to covering the conflict or informing us what is happening on the ground. The other day one particularly egregious news was along the lines of “It is reported that XXX” without any attempt to stand up the referenced source. That’s not reporting; it’s merely rumour-mongering and the BBC should be ashamed. It was, I think Goebbels – Hitler’s propaganda minister, who said something along the lines of “If the government wants to start a war the people will find they support it; they will be left no choice in the matter”.

    I am deeply saddened to find warmongering apparently thriving among some here based on a naïve acceptance of manipulated media that Goebbels would have recognised instantly. Where is Charles Kennedy when you need him?

  • T-j Writes:
    “John Dunn, I would like to know how legitimate you would feel that the Scottish referendum would be, if it were to take place with armed British Army guards at the polling stations, British Army tanks in the streets and a solely British unionist campaign surrounding the vote.”
    The night after the conclusive vote in Crimea they had a fireworks display to celebrate, and people dancing in the streets. All at Russian gunpoint no doub,t if you are to be believed? If you and Joe are right, please tell me, how come Crimea is the only place in that vicinity where there is *NO* trouble on the streets? Does Crimea have a complete Russian military lockdown, you think? And why is no-one able to get a YouTube video out of the unrest and protests in Crimea? Could it be that Crimean’s are happy with their choice of association with Russia, despite EU angst?
    The good news is that Scotland will have their say. But whilst the LibDems exist we (UK), will never have a say on the EU?
    In short, LibDems are a severe blockage to our future.

  • Well, John, I imagine that the absence of Western funding, arms, materiel and troops would have something to do with why Crimea is so quiet, but, you didn’t actually answer my question. How legitimate would the Scottish referendum be, if it were conducted under British military occupation?

    I’m not looking for an apologia for Putin’s regime or for the state of Crimea today. I want to know, how democratically legitimate would that vote be under military occupation.

    I am fairly sure that most observers would find that state of affairs to be at least somewhat questionable. Why is it beyond the pale for me to question the legitimacy of Russia’s comparable poll?

    And re the EU, look at UKIP. If we were running a Putinist regime here, Nige would be in the Gulag or sleeping off a bad traffic accident, and the rest of you would be up in court on jumped up rubbish charges. As it is, you campaign unhindered and freely contest elections. Win some more of them, and you’ll get your referendum. I wish you luck, though not success.

  • GF I don’t know how you can asset that it is the West that’s being led into war via propaganda, and not Russia with its host of state news networks that have been towing the Kremlin line for years, and persistent attempts to stamp out free speech including the banning of microblogs, or attempting to influence internet debates via methods directly ripped from China: http://www.businessinsider.com/putin-paying-people-to-post-pro-russia-propaganda-in-comments-2014-5

  • “Well, John, I imagine that the absence of Western funding, arms, materiel and troops would have something to do with why Crimea is so quiet”
    Thank you for acknowledging the main point I made. That Western intervention in terms of funding and arms, is responsible for turning an otherwise peaceful region ‘on fire’. Surely the obvious lesson to be learned is * No western political dabbling, funding and arms, and leave them in PEACE??*
    Why do Lib Dems want WAR in Crimea??

  • Joe:
    I do not for a minute doubt, your expertise on the nuanced history of that region. But it adds to nought when you return to the plain simple uncontested observation.~ When it appeared that a newly installed Kiev government was going to take them further into an EU relationship, they [Crimea], rejected that, and voted instead to re-connect with Russia. The will of the Crimean people Joe.? ~ does it count for nought in your paternalistic Lib Dem world?
    Why do academic Lib Dems sit in their armchair and pontificate about a region who voted and got the result they wanted, and are happy !!! ? To be blunt Joe, the Crimean’s could care less that a Liberal in the UK frowns on their overwhelming democratic choice.
    They [Crimeans], are at peace with their choice of Russian association, for heaven’s sake leave them alone, and stop dabbling in their affairs, Seriously Joe, isn’t the fact that the rest of the world is on fire not enough for you warmongers?

  • No, John, you got it upside down. You seem all too eager to leap on Western intervention going wrong, but you also seem to be utterly, completely blind to anyone else screwing up in the exact same way.

    Central and eastern Ukraine are on fire because of a great many Russian troops, Russian funded insurgents and Russian weapons systems and equipment have been placed there. By Russia, not the West.

    Crimea is relatively quiet because the West has not decided to retaliate in like kind (to my knowledge, I stand to be corrected) by arming and equipping such anti-Russian groups as exist there. Large ethnic and religious minorities who by the way, boycotted the poll you’re talking about.

    If you look at what is happening in Syria, you see exactly the same process, with the West guilty of stirring the pot and creating a nightmare.

    You are defending an equally vile, bloodsoaked catastrophe, seemingly simply because it is being conducted by someone other than the West.

  • Mike Green – I didn’t argue that Putin’s Russia is a propaganda-free zone. Plainly it’s not. However, I’m aware of no evidence that Russia wants a war. Putin appears to want to keep Ukraine (ex the Crimea) as a buffer between Russia and the west, ideally leaning east but at least neutral. Russia’s foreign policy supports this conclusion; at the outset they were promoting resolution involving more devolution to the east.

    Conversely, the current regime in Kiev certainly contains outright Nazi elements who set out to pick a fight with the Russian speaking east. They are currently shelling civilian suburbs of European cities on a daily basis with the acquiescence of the EU. And you think we should support Kiev?

    When you say, “We must … implement total economic sanctions. … We must isolate them. This will no doubt cause us some financial harm …” I hope you realise that “some financial harm” would actually mean total economic collapse. The German economy has already slipped into recession largely because of sanctions and affected sectors in some other countries are hurting badly. This is around 30% of Europe’s gas you are talking about and much of its oil. Goodness knows what prices would spike to but don’t expect any European government to survive the fallout. And all this to support a seriously unlovely regime in Kiev.

  • Although, to be quite frank I couldn’t care less whether Crimea is in Russia, in Ukraine, independent or whether it votes to join France as a new external arrondisement of Paris. Couldn’t care less if I tried. What I do care about is a large power governed by a fairly troubling regime deciding that its treaties guaranteeing the territorial integrity of its neighbours don’t really count, and that it can simply move in the troops, stage a referendum and annexe territory it wants.

    That isn’t the basis of a mutually respectful relationship between equals, that’s the basis of an imperial policy in Russia towards Eastern Europe. And I’m against that.

    Crimea, well, its too late. Russia has the fait accompli, they’ve annexed it and the Crimeans don’t seem too bothered. It would be nice to have a proper referendum, sans tanks, in the future to confirm this, but well, let’s not hold our breath waiting for Mr Putin to uphold democratic principles here. The point is, a fait accompli on Crimea doesn’t translate into us all just looking the other way while the rest of Ukraine gets salami sliced back into the Russian empire.

    At the very least, we need to take a good, long look and realise, that’s what we look like to such a lot of the rest of the world, and there are reasons why. And also to realise that Europe can stand against that sort of aggression, but only if it presents a united front and acts to end its dependence on Russian energy sources.

  • GF – as T-J says the our interest is ultimately not in simply supporting Ukraine or its government on an individual basis. It’s about preparing for a hopefully unlikely eventuality when you have an aggressive neighbour on your borders. A neighbour who’s already shown willingness to disregard international law and force conflict to acquire what it sees as its rightful territory; territory we are pledged to defend. It would be reprehensibly irresponsible if we did not respond to and prepare for that, as the old adage goes ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst’. Same applies in the economic sphere. We cannot give Putin the means to attack us, be it military technology or simple money. That is not to support Kiev, but to ensure our own future protection. With the possible positive consequence that Putin might stand down sooner rather than later.

  • This is not about Ukraine, a failed state. This is about the international law and a mad dictator, Mr. Putin. He has trampled the law inside Russia for years, and now has started doing so outside Russia. NATO and the EU should be prepared for his possible incusions on the EU soil, e.g., in the Baltics. We need armies and rams and a policy to couter him.

  • The problem with this situation is that there are far too many people in the West who seem all too willing to lap up all of Putin’s propaganda that Russia and its economy are strong (more than strong enough to withstand our sanctions) and that everyone but Russia caused this crisis.

    The truth is that Russia’s economy is and has been for quite some time failing very badly. Putin’s reforms and ‘mobilisation’ plan have failed.

    Putin, therefore, needed something to strengthen his position. There is not anything better at justifying a tyrant’s existence than a bogus war against a fictitious foe.

    Putin cannot openly fight the West, but he can demonise it. The Ukraine makes a perfect tool for achieving this because he does not see the Ukraine and its people as a country and its people, but as Russian subjects. As such, when he sees the Ukraine starting to get its act together and moving towards a independent state with a much less corrupt government that is not going to just be Russian puppets, he decides to kill two birds with one stone.

    Bring the Ukraine ‘back in line’ and strengthen his vision of a ‘greater Russia’ to drum up some nationalist pride.

    Unfortunately for Putin, the problem is that after playing the Crimea situation quite well (for his own ends, anyway), he got greedy and pushed on into the Eastern Ukraine where two things he did not expect happened.

    First, the Ukrainians in the East did not welcome his ‘separatist’ friends as liberators.

    Secondly, the Ukrainian army actually got its act together and is winning against these so called Ukrainian ‘separatists’.

    He is now bogged down knowing that he neither needs the Ukrainian economy to collapse before the separatists loss control of the industrial cities or for the Ukrainians to call a cease fire. If this does not happen, then sanctions will continue to bite the economic side of the Russian elite and the military side will probably start to question how effective Putin actually is as a leader. Putin is probably a very worried man.

  • Julian Tisi 30th Aug '14 - 9:25am

    My only point of disagreement with this very good article by Mike Green is that I think that we in the West (ideally NATO) should indeed be offering military assistance to Ukraine if they wish it. Lets’s remember where we were only a week ago – the rebels were in full retreat and in both cities of Lukhansk and Donetsk the rebels had been cut off. Fast forward a week and it’s Ukranian government forces who are encircled and a new offensive started in the south with tank columns pouring into Novoazovsk. And yet still there are those – some of whom have commented above – who say there’s still a doubt about Russia’s involvement in all of this.

    If we go in now (and yes I mean with military help) there’s still a chance this could be turned around again. Maybe even a chance for Putin to try to save face and say these were just rebels so why does he care if they’re in retreat.

    But sadly – and because of war wearniness and plain wishful thinking on Putin’s intentions – the West has been weak in its response and this has only encouraged Putin. If he’s not stopped then other states are under threat too.

    This wishful thinking and war weariness is sadly reminiscent of post WW1 Europe, when we were all too eager to acquiesce and appease German imperialist expansion and rearmament, until it was too late.

  • @Dan Falchicov
    You could try Googling it?
    But let me turn this around. You are in charge of the Crimea Referendum.
    What options do you want on the ballot paper?

  • @ Liberal Al
    “Putin is probably a very worried man.”
    You think? Not half as worried as the EU. The EU is one harsh winter away from Euro~geddon. My guess is that by February, Angela Merkel’s face will be reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s ‘ The Scream ‘?
    Putin is cleverly waiting for the weather to sort the men from the boys.

  • The Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954 , when Krushchev altered the administration. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union in 1954. Crimea has been part of Russia since 1700.

    In the coup of 2014 there were Ukrainians who were wearing Nazi insignia. Thousands of western Ukrainian served in the concentration camps and murdered Jews and Soviets -see Babi Yar outside of Kiev. There is an extensive history which extends to the 1930s which is being ignored. A brother of Putin died in the siege of Leningrad . There is a large number of eastern Ukrainians in their 60s and older who remember atrocities carried out by pro Nazi Ukrainians. If the EU and especially Poland had allowed Ukraine to follow a Finnish model, there would be no problems.

    Rory Stewart has said that Britain should become involved in foreign interventions unless we fully understand the complexity which means understanding race , religion, history, culture , geography, economics, character of those involved. The reality is that 40 or more years ago there were far more people who had lived overseas, spoke the languages ,worked overseas, fought in wars and had a far greater understanding of the complexities.

  • @John Dunn, Putin needs Europe just as much, if not more, than Europe needs Russia. His laughably desperate deal with China shows that. Russia’s economy is on the rocks and reform is simply not happening.

    On the flip side, many parts of Europe could diversify their energy sources relatively easily – and this event has only made them realise how important it is for them to do so. Furthermore, the gas resources in the USA could go either to Europe or East Asia, either of these would be a real headache for Putin and its already struggling Gazprom. If it goes to Europe, Putin loses his biggest customer. If it goes to East Asia, it would massively deprecate the cost of gas there.

    The only problem Europe has is that far too many people do not realise just how weak Russia’s position is when compared to Europe.

  • @ Liberal Al
    “On the flip side, many parts of Europe could diversify their energy sources relatively easily”
    Really? I guess the next six months of weather will give us both the answer to who is right on the energy question.?
    And going back to sanctions, can someone tell us where is all that EU fruit, and vegetables that Putin doesn’t want, is going? Will it be used to bring food costs down within the EU and UK, or more likely wasted and bulldozed into the ground?
    This is why this whole article makes absolutely no sense to me. There is NO Russian invasion into Ukraine. Nor will there be. Why am I so sure? Ask yourself the question. Why would an ace strategist like Putin ‘blot his copy book’, by sending tanks, into Ukraine, when he knows full well, that a four week January frost, and bankrupt EU farmers will do the trick, just as easily, from within a disgruntled EU, *without a single Russian tank shell fired*?

  • Denis Mollison 30th Aug '14 - 2:14pm

    Charlie – if we’re going back to the 1930s, it should be noted that Ukrainian collaboration with the Germans owed something to Stalin’s forced collectivisation of agriculture, which killed several million Ukrainians in 1932/3.

  • Please don’t fall yet again for the old *WMD threat*, trick that is being re-jigged *on our TV screens today!*, to generate fear in the public to get them on side for a war with Russia. There will only be war if you allow it?
    It’s only when you get past these crazy government warmongering notions, and allow yourself to see the bigger picture in terms of Putin’s strategy, that certain curious oddities make sense. For example : Russia recently sent a convoy of nearly 200 huge articulated trucks painted in a glaring ‘Dulux ~ Peaceful White’ Full of relief supplies to Eastern Ukraine, who are being bombed remorselessly by Kievs far right wing militia.
    Western media were allowed to inspect any truck of their choice, and they found NO armaments. But curiously, they noted that many of the trucks were half empty of supplies. WHY?
    Because it was a message, not a relief convoy. Putin has *NO* intention of sending Russian tanks and army into Ukraine. He doesn’t need to.! The 200 truck convoy was a message to East Ukraine, and the message is this:
    “..When Winter comes,** Russia will feed you, and supply you with warmth**, and we can all watch, as Kiev, take cold showers in minus 30 degrees, with a bankrupt economy and no money for food or heating or pensions..”
    That is why some of the trucks were ( on this one occasion), half empty, because this *first of many* food convoys was simply a message of Winter support to East Ukraine. Putin doesn’t need tanks to solve this, which is why all of this nonsensical invasion propaganda is utter lies, trying to provoke in the Western public psyche the need for a war.
    Don’t be fooled yet again by this rubbish. It’s the EU and Washington, that wants war, NOT Putin, ~ Putin knows he has Winter.

  • Ed Shepherd 30th Aug '14 - 3:25pm

    Not only did Vladimir Putin lose a brother during the Siege Of Leningrad but other members of his family, such as his grandmother, were killed during the war. He has experienced things and done things that no serving, prominent Western European politician has ever had to undergo or to do. The Russian people have also experienced horrors and changes for the worse. I suspect it is very difficult for people in relatively stable, prosperous countries in the West to understand how Putin and his supporters feel as a result of their personal and national histories. The same could also be said for most Ukrainians, I suspect. Putin has seen what the West did to Gadaffi (a leader who had pursued rapprochement with the West) and understandably does not want to be butchered in the same way. Assad probably has the same fears. Leaders like them will fight like demons because they probably see no other choice for them. Democracy and prosperity in Ukraine is an admirable goal but I am cautious about taking a tiger (Russia) by the tail. This tiger has had different experiences to us, it does not have the same aims as us and (most importantly of all) we do not understand it’s fears. We must address the fears of the Russian leaders and their people. Prepare to defend countries under our protection by all means but let us be careful of letting them see the West as an aggressor. Give them a way to find a peace with us. Even at the height of the Cold War, when the USSR was portrayed as an “evil empire” we still traded with them and could buy Soviet-made consumer goods.

  • @Ed Shepherd

    Putin was born in 1952. He has absolutely no memory of World War II or of his brother (who died of diphtheria). These things hardly count as “experiences,” much less justifications or even explanations of his aggressive expansionism.

    Putin is simply this century’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, backed by a large military state with memories of imperial pride and an challenge him as he foments civil war and bloodshed in neighboring states who will not obey his will. Nothing else is needed by way of explanation.

  • Ed Shepherd 30th Aug '14 - 5:22pm

    I disagree with you, David. Putin will be all too aware that members of his family were killed by the Nazi’s and he will have been aware of their absence during this childhood. Millions of people who lost relatives in wars will understand that. His brother “died of diptheria” during one of histories most brutal sieges in which resulting disease and starvation killed more civilians than ammunition did. Putin then grew up in an environment which is outside the comprehension of most people now living in the Western world and certainly beyond the comprehension of most Western polticians. He ended up working as an agent of that state that ultimately collapsed. These experiences will have shaped his opinions and responses as they shaped millions of other people in the East. None of this is “justification” for his actions and those of his supporters but it is one factor in explaining them. We have to try to understand why Putin and his supporters behave as they do. To set up Putin and millions of Russians as incomprehensible bogeymen who can only be violently defeated will result in disaster. Possibly a nuclear disaster…

  • Ed, what do you mean by ‘the Western World’?

    Because a good portions of the members of the European Union are intimately familiar with life under the same system that Putin grew up in, and I think it would be hard to find anyone anywhere in the world who doesn’t have family killed in war. I’d also say that to portray Colonel Putin, KGB as some kind of victim of a faceless Soviet system strikes me as naive.

  • The economist has a useful piece ahead of the Nato summit next week http://www.economist.com/news/international/21614166-russias-aggression-ukraine-has-made-natos-summit-wales-most-important – writing:

    NATO can only act by consensus, and some members feared that basing troops in Poland and the Baltic states would breach agreements reached with Russia in 1997 under the Founding Act, which formally declared an end to hostile relations. At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April, a call from Poland for 10,000 NATO troops to be stationed on its territory was rebuffed. Some did not want to hear Mr Rasmussen’s message that years of attempts by NATO to make Russia a strategic partner had failed, and that under Mr Putin Russia saw NATO only as an adversary.

    But as evidence mounted of Russia’s engagement in the increasingly bloody insurrection in east Ukraine, the arguments of NATO’s doves seemed ever more feeble. The big shift in public opinion came in July, when separatist rebels shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 with advanced weapons supplied by Russia. “Those clinging to an optimistic view of Russia had to recognise it had not worked; they had no answer,” says a senior NATO diplomat. The alliance must be prepared to deal with an antagonistic Russia for a long time, says Mr Rasmussen. “I would caution against thinking this is just about Putin. It is deeper-rooted in Russian society.”

    According to Bloomsberg News the UK will propose that the EU act to block Russia from the SWIFT Banking Network http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-29/u-k-wants-eu-to-block-russia-from-swift-banking-network.html

  • Joe writes:
    “The big shift in public opinion came in July, when separatist rebels shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 with advanced weapons”
    Evidence ??

  • Mike Green (@ 10:55 pm on 29/8) “An [aggressive] neighbour who’s already shown willingness to disregard international law and force conflict to acquire what it sees as its rightful territory ….

    I assume you mean Russia but actually this is a much better description of the US record of recent years. Certainly there are those here think that and for sure the Russians will too. Given the family background of Putin plus millions of ordinary Russians I would say they have good reason to be nervous. Should we respect their concern and deal with them on an equitable basis or should we stick a mailed fist in their face?

    Liberal Al (12:45 am on 30/8) I agree that , had this sorry business NOT kicked off, then Putin would soon have had a domestic political crisis on his hands caused by economic problems. For the rest I think you are mistaken. The crisis wasn’t started by Russia but by events in Kiev where the dysfunctional and oligarch-riddled politics of a failing state were heavily stirred by the US (see others’ references to Victoria Nuland above). The net result of the west’s ham-fisted meddling has been to cause Putin’s approval ratings to soar just as EU leaders’ have fallen. Brilliant!

    Nor do I think the Ukrainian army is winning as you imagine. Sure they were initially able to advance given their huge initial advantage in organisation, in material, in an airforce etc. But all reports suggest that their leadership is dire, support is limited and that morale has collapsed. I can’t imagine it does much for the decent elements in the rank and file to be ordered to shell residential suburbs where some of them likely have family connections. So yes, the rebels have been pushed back but are far from beaten. Reports suggest they have managed to capture significant amounts of arms and have high morale.

    Then there is the economic front. It’s difficult to imagine that Kiev ever though they could win that one. They have in effect started a civil war against by far the most industrial part of the country and have refused/been unable to pay for the Russian gas on which much of the economy relies. At the outset they had around three months reserves in storage but much of that is gone now with winter rapidly approaching. It’s going to be a cruel hard one I fear.

    And that sheds another light on Russia’s strategy. Putin has no need to send in troops. A few ‘special forces’ (the usual US formula in such circumstances) and a few arms are all that is needed plus a few months for Ukrainian reserves of gas, money and morale to run out -all of which are happening fast. Even if Kiev manages to drive the separatists out of the key cities that doesn’t magically put their heavy industries back on track despite goodness knows what physical damage and in the face of a population that must by now be pretty hostile. In fact it only creates a further liability for Kiev. So Putin has no need to send in thousands of troops and he would have known this from the outset. Moreover, the allegations of thousands of Russian troops come largely from Kiev (which has a track record of claims that later prove to be fantasy) and/or from the same people that brought us all those WMD in Iraq. If I am roughly right about this then the Ukrainian military situation could unravel rather quickly which perhaps explains Kiev’s rather panicky desire to join NATO now, right NOW. I surmise that they have just worked out that they are toast without outside intervention.

  • Ed Shepherd:

    He ended up working as an agent of that state that ultimately collapsed. These experiences will have shaped his opinions and responses as they shaped millions of other people in the East.

    Ed, this is no mystery for me. I was born and raised in Russia, and I’m not much younger than Mr. Putin. Everyone there had war deaths in the family and kin that persihed in the purges and/or famines of the Communist time. But it shaped different people differently. What really shaped Mr Puting is his working-class background, limited education, and, above all, his long service in the KGB. The latter taught him to distrust “lack of order” (i.e., democracy) and believe only in “orderly management”, i.e., dictatorial rule. He worked really hard to impose that for 15 years, and now the edifice is almost completed.

    As to the West, he distrusts NATO and probably sincerely believes it is directed against Russia (or his rule, which is the same for him). So in Ukraine he is resisting (as best he can) its inclusion into NATO.

    Now, the West can care about his sensibilities, but first and foremost it should care about itself and the international law. Politely, but firmly. Otherwise, Mr Putin will go from one foreign adventure to another.

  • GF. the US hasn’t annexed any territory since… what, the purchase of the Danish West Indies in the early part of the last century? Something like that. They have a seriously trigger happy foreign policy with a worrying fondness for badly thought out regime change, see Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, half of South America and so on, but their bad behaviour doesn’t justify Russia’s territorial expansionism. What we’re looking at in Putin’s Russia is a classic example of a European territorial empire, someone here linked it to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s one, and that comparison I think is very valid.

    If you’re going to condemn American bad behaviour but overlook Russian, then you’ve taken sides and with the greater of two evils to boot. Being opposed to Russian imperialism does not mean that one is automatically in favour of the things that the Americans do in the exigencies of their global hegemony.

  • @Jedi, yes, the Telegraph, that most enlightened of newspapers on energy policy.

    @John, warmongering West? I think this shows John that basically you have allowed your dislike of the West to mean you will back anyone who also ‘dislikes the West’. The West has spent the last 20 years building relations with Russia and ignoring quite a few of their indiscretions to achieve that. Even now, after another ‘Russian’ indiscretion, you will not find any one in the mainstream of Western culture with a stomach for fighting Russia. Heck, even fighting separatists in the Ukrainian is beyond what they want to do.

    GF, bringing up the failures of US foreign policy is at best a moot point unless you are saying that events such as Iraq justify events such as Georgia? Even if Putin’s expansionist policy was not simply a non-comparative with the US’s interventionist policy, trading off on who has the biggest track record for being a <<<<er really a zero sum game.

    As for blaming the Ukrainian for this! The Ukrainian's government was dysfunctional because Russia kept purposefully screwing it up, which kept leading to Ukrainian uprisings and protests, followed by more Russian meddling to ensure they failed to deliver meaningful change. This was basically the course that the Ukrainian had been following for 20 plus years. The problem was that this time it looked like this uprising might not fail (despite the West once again basically abandoning the Ukrainian people in favour of Russian appeasement).

    Putin needed to act on that because much of the propaganda in Russia drumming up the tender support for Putin dispute the failings of his reforms is about the idea of a greater Russia. If the Ukraine, one of the key countries in this idea, suddenly become a key partner of Western Europe and a functioning democracy, that would not look good for Greater Russia, would it?

    As for his approval ratings – of course, they improved, that is the point. I can see it now, the Russia media speaking of how Putin is the one man calling for peace and stably, when the evil Western Superpowers continue to beat drum of war against poor, bullied, but never defeated Mother Russia!

    You carefully use the words 'imagine'. The fact is that Putin is sending those 'aid' trunks in because he knows that the only way now for the Separatists to win is for Russian to openly support them (something Putin does not wish to do) or for the Ukrainian people to start supporting them. Best way to achieve that, send them food and supplies – show that Russia is their friend.

    As for your economic point, well, I did not disagree with you there, I do not believe. It basically depends, either the Government of the Ukraine gets back the key cities first, or they go bankrupt first. Putin is banking on the latter looking likely to happen so he can force the Ukraine to the negotiation table and make himself look like an honest broker. The problem is that they are being stubborn. The only minor point I would raise is that to call this a civil war is complicated because of who these separatists are – aka not Ukrainian leaders of the Eastern Ukraine.

    As for stating Putin wishes to send in thousands of troops into the Ukrainian right now, I do not believe I did say that. I think that far from him not thinking he needs to do it, he would probably do all he can to avoid doing that.

    I am trying to say I think the West handled this situation well, but I do believe that those rationalising/justifying Putin's actions are really underestimating Putin – and those making out that Russia is basically a victim of the evil West and forced by the evil West to act as they have in this situation are really underestimating Russia.

  • I am NOT trying to say I think the West handled this situation well (worst Freudian slip ever, haha.)

  • @ Liberal Al
    “…warmongering West? I think this shows John that basically you have allowed your dislike of the West to mean you will back anyone who also ‘dislikes the West’.”
    I’m simply responding to the thrust of this article, which I believe has got it wrong. There may be many reasons to dislike Putin, but I can assure you that some kind of *Tank invasion into Ukraine*, is the very last thing on his, ‘To-do list’. But don’t take my word for it, listen to Putin himself to get the measure of his intentions and strategy? He gives lots of clues.
    For starters, whether you like or dislike Putin, for sure, you have to agree that he is a formidable strategist. And even though not observed by many, he also has an awesome, if at times subtle, sense of humour. How So?
    A couple of days ago Putin made a visit to a youth forum in Russia. He introduced himself, before going into a Q &A session with these young students, and he clearly enjoys the ‘banter’, with young thinking students. But here is the subtle message : During the intro, Putin was sitting in a chair wearing what looked like an ‘outside wear’, jacket. As the Q&A began, he stood up, and took off the jacket, casually throwing it over the back of the chair, whilst speaking in Russian, to the effect~ “… It’s far too warm in here for my liking..”
    Right there was the message : The humour and the strategy, for the world to see.
    The message might be lost to a cosseted western eye, but to Ukrainians who were his target audience, the message was this :
    “..Will you in Kiev be so luck in a few weeks time to have the luxury of being able to take your coat off ?..”
    Putin’s strategy could not be more plain. His weapon of first choice in the coming months will be ~ the thermostat, ~ NOT an armoured tank?
    Indeed, it would not surprise me in the least, if, February, saw maiden protests to overthrow the present EU facing Kiev government, in favour of a more Russian facing government ~ And all, without a single Russian tank shell fired !?
    And finally, I do not dislike the West. What I do hate, is how the UK and EU ‘mouth’, like a ventriloquists dummy, the words, desires and instructions of Washington?

  • John Dunn: “Putin’s strategy could not be more plain. His weapon of first choice in the coming months will be ~ the thermostat, ~ NOT an armoured tank?”
    Gas is indeed his main weapon (and will work well in a few months), but he also needs to keep the war in the East going on, and that means supplying weapons, and apparently, occasionally sending in troops.

  • O.K. Let’s recap: on this potential Putin menace, and try to add an element of balance into our ‘threat thinking’.?
    As the year turned from 2013 to 2014, Ukraine had a *democratically elected* government. That *legitimate government*, was at the final stages of negotiating with Russia for $15 billion in much needed funds.
    That democratically elected Ukraine government *could* have been challenged at the upcoming ballot box. But,.. Washington couldn’t take the chance of the Ukrainian electorate democratically *choosing the wrong* government? So they sent Victoria Nuland with a heap of cash, to fund an uprising, to oust a democratically elected Ukrainian government, and fund the installation of a government that Washington did approve of.
    As a mark of gratitude, Washington then sent Vice President Joe Biden to give even more support, and followed up by sending his first born son Hunter Biden to take up an influential job in **a leading Ukraine Gas company** ???.
    Since all of these Washington *paid for* machinations, Ukraine has now turned from a *potential* economic basket case, into, an *actual* economic basket case. The IMF have offered Ukraine a loan of $17 billion. In order have any hope of paying that loan back, Ukraine will have to sell rights to Ukraine’s resources, including Ukraine’s **Gas Transit system** ???? Who do you think is going to buy those resources and infrastructure rights ?
    Spot the emerging pattern?
    So, by all means question Putin’s intentions, but balance your thinking with this equally important question: ~ Why is Washington, so hell bent on getting its hands on Ukraine.? For certain the answer to that question has nothing to do with any benefits to the EU. Proof of that lies in Victoria Nuland’s unguarded phone conversation, who told us *very loud* and *very clear* what Washington thinks of the EU?
    Final Point : Are we witnessing Ukraine as the ground zero of a new Cold War, or is the analogy closer to an East / West Tug-o-War?

  • NATO nor the EU have the resources or a stomach for a fight with Putin. Obama is reducing th capability of the Armed Forces and is not a war leader. Only Germany in the EU has any money and is dependent upon Russian Gas. Schroder is friendly with Putin and Merkel is nor hostile to him. If one is going to start a Cold War one needs the following
    1. Support of a fit and tough population who will not buckle at the first blow.
    2. Money.
    3. Large well trained armed forces .
    4. Not dependent upon one’s enemy: Germany and Italy needs Russian gas and the USA need Russia to launch it’s satellites. If Russia destroys American satellites how can they be replaced? Germany has spent large amounts of money building factories in Russia , these could be taken over by Putin.

    Personally I wished we had the will and resources to confront Putin but we do not. Encouraging Ukrainians to confront Putin but being unable to force him to back down will leave them in the lurch.

  • “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH35raTPVu8#t=1009”
    Please watch from around 14.12

  • John Dunn,

    I don’t think there is any discernible element of balance in the recap you have posted. Although the ‘Maidan’ protests of 2013/2014 attracted a small Neo-fascist element to their ranks, they were largely a popular uprising against a corrupt administration. Even Russians blush at the level of corruption in successive Ukrainian administrations.. The then Ukrainian president fled the country to avoid the fate of former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been imprisoned by Yanukovych over a gas deal with Russia in which she was charged with exceeding her powers.

    Her release was one of the conditions facing Mr Yanukovych before he baulked at signing an EU-Ukraine trade and partnership agreement last November.

    In terms of US financial aid – In addition to $92 million in FY2013 State/USAID funds and $86 million in FY2014 funds, $50 million in technical assistance and the $1 billion dollar loan guarantee under the authority passed by Congress on April 1st has been provided. US electoral assistance includes $11 million for non-partisan election activities, including efforts to support voter education and civic participation” as well as participation as observers in the Presidential elections. In addition to the 100 OSCE observers sent, the United States is supporting 255 long-term observers and over 3300 short-term observers. Financial aid also involves $18 million in non-lethal security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces and State Border Guard Service to enable them to fulfill their core missions.

    Ukraine’s Orange revolution has been a long ongoing process stretching over a decade. The country has recently held democratic elections and a new president is in place.

    That Russia and the US vie for political and economic influence is hardly breaking news – the exercise of ‘Soft Power ‘ is what the Foreign office’s of countries do. While diplomacy can and should encourage respect for human rights and the development of democratic institutions, it should not extend to unwarranted interference in another State’s domestic affairs. The tapping of Victoria Nuland’s phone calls by Russia and its release into the public domain in an effort to engender friction between the EU and the US is proof enough of Russian intent to interfere in Ukrainian domestic affairs – even if Russia had not publicly stated its intent to do so on a number of occasions.

    The Ukrainian Crisis remains principally an internal domestic dispute within the borders of a sovereign state. The introduction of Russian troops and armaments to the dispute serves only to heighten tensions and prolong its resolution on the basis that a weakened and disorderly Ukraine serves the interests of the present administration in Russia.

    If Russia will not abide by International law – then what choice do state’s threathened by its illegal actions have, but to collectively impose sanctions and prepare for the defence of their borders?

  • Here’s yet another level of Ukraine curiosities?
    Europe already have Nord Stream as an alternate gas route to Europe.
    Recently the EU rejected the gas pipeline project South-stream. WHY?
    Does it make any logical sense? Given that the Ukraine gas transit system, is a bit ‘dodgy’, in terms of regular supply, you would think that the more pipeline *alternatives* the better ? Would you not? So the EU South -stream rejection looks as logical as shooting yourself in the foot.
    Here’s how to make sense of it.
    If the ultimate goal is for Washington to plunder Ukraine’s resources, especially the Ukraine Gas transit System * with the help of Hunter Biden !!*, it is only then that it makes complete logical sense, because the eventual American, *new corporate owners* of the Ukraine gas transit system, do not want competition in the form of another South-stream route for gas to Europe.?
    The EU rejection of South-stream, is on the instructions of Washington.!
    When something doesn’t quite add up, and leaves to scratching your head. Just ask the question ~ What’s in it for Washington.?

  • Joe:
    “If Russia will not abide by International law – then what choice do state’s threathened by its illegal actions have, but to collectively impose sanctions and prepare for the defence of their borders?”
    Washington regularly flouts international law,….any sanctions against USA ??

  • Joe:
    “The tapping of Victoria Nuland’s phone calls by Russia and its release into the public domain in an effort to engender friction between the EU and the US is proof enough of Russian intent to interfere in Ukrainian domestic affairs”
    And Washington tapping *the whole planet*, is OK, Joe?
    Do you accept that Victoria Nuland’s derisory view about the EU, represents Washington’s true opinion?

  • John Dunn,

    we clearly have different views about the benefits of ‘Pax Americana’. Naturally, there is wide variety of opinion over time on the efficacy of US foreign policy, not only here in the UK, but among Americans themselves.

    In the aftermath of WW2, the US did not occupy the European states it had liberated as the USSR did for 45 years. It instituted the Marshall plan to rebuild the economies of the continent and restored sovereignty to Japan after 5 years. Soviet Russia annexed the Japanese Islands it captured in the final days of the war.

    The US has taken on the role of policeman of the free world from the British empire most notably in the middle-east. Without US membership of Nato, there would likely be no International Law worth speaking of today.

    It is US and allied military power that has preserved European freedom and maintained International law throughout the cold war.

    The current Obama administration has withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration nevertheless is criticised from both sides e.g.. for weakness in not intervening in Syria or for leaving Iraq/Afghanistan too early or for allowing the US to be drawn back-in to foreign conflicts.

    The conflict in Ukraine is between the majority ethnic-Ukrainian catholic Slavs and elements of the minority ethnic-Russian speaking orthodox Slavs. Support for separatism appears to be relatively low, even in Russian speaking orthodox Eastern Ukraine where ties with Russia are closest. Opinion polls suggest that the great majority of the population want to live in a unified Ukraine where they are free to speak and use their native language and practice their religion.

    Conflict and tension in Ukraine is not in the political, economic or military interests of the US, the EU or Nato. It is only Russia that appears to perceive the destabilisation of Ukraine as being in its strategic interests in what it calls its ‘near abroad’ or ‘novorossiya’ (New Russia).

    Left alone, there is no reason why Ukrainians cannot sort out their differences in their own way – either peacefully or militarily. Russian military intervention inevitably draws in the US and EU to the fray.

  • Joe:
    I note 3 things after each of your replies.
    1. You make broad confident general statements, without any supporting background links of support for what is in essence simply *your view*
    2. You *never* respond to specific questions with specific answers, preferring ‘hand waving’, vagaries.?
    3. You earlier made the bold statement that:
    “The big shift in public opinion came in July, when separatist rebels shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 with advanced weapons”
    I asked for evidence, and you gave none. If you cannot provide evidence for *that* bold statement, then why should I or anyone else for that matter, see what you say as anything other than merely, Joe’s uncorroborated views?
    ~ Do you actually have evidence of who took down MH17?
    ~ Do you believe Yes or No that Victoria Nuland spoke the true Washington opinion?
    You say:
    “Left alone, there is no reason why Ukrainians cannot sort out their differences in their own way”
    ~ So why don’t we ‘back off’, [As the Russian minister has asked today], and call for a ceasefire, *from both sides*! instead of this racheting up of war drums from the west?

  • John Dunn,

    I would regard broad general statements without any credible support to be the exaggerations and embellishments typical of Russian propaganda e.g.
    ” Washinnton ….sent Victoria Nuland with a heap of cash, to fund an uprising, to oust a democratically elected Ukrainian government, and fund the installation of a government that Washington did approve of.” or “The EU rejection of South-stream, is on the instructions of Washington.!”

    As to your questions:

    1. I believe the position with respect to MH17 it is that the crash occurred during the Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion, part of the ongoing war in Donbass, in an area controlled by the Donbass People’s Militia. According to reported US intelligence sources, intelligence assembled in the five days after the attack pointed overwhelmingly to pro-Russian separatists having shot down the plane using a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the territory which they controlled. The Russian government however blamed the Ukrainian Government. The Dutch Safety Board is now leading an investigation into the incident and is expected to have a preliminary accident report at the end of August.

    The US sources stated that their judgement was based on sensors that traced the path of the missile, shrapnel patterns in the wreckage, voice print analysis of separatists’ conversations in which they claimed credit for the strike, and photos and other data from social media sites all indicated that Russian-backed separatists had fired the missile. Immediately after the crash, a post appeared on the VKontakte social media attributed to Igor Girkin, leader of the Donbass separatists, claiming responsibility for shooting down a military aircraft but after it became clear that a civilian aircraft had been shot down, the separatists denied any involvement. See Guardian report for details http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/20/three-pro-russia-rebel-leaders-suspects-over-downed-mh17.

    2. The transcript of the bugged telephone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt was published by the BBC Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The BBC reporter gives what I believe is a balanced assessment of the conversation. The US opinion of EU actions and vice versa is likely to vary from issue to issue. The conversation between Ms Nuland and Mr Pyatt revealed differences of approach between America and Europe at the time. Washington seems to have prefered a deal brokered by the UN rather than Brussels.

    3. It is up to the elected government and president of Ukraine to determine Ukraine’s course of action in dealing with its internal affairs. It falls to the US, EU and Nato to deter Russian aggression within Europe, where it can.

  • Joe:
    So in short Joe, you accept that you haven’t a clue who actually downed MH 17? Perhaps you should join the Russian request for the release of suppressed flight data, *AND*, air traffic control data, that Ukraine confiscated so we can get to the facts rather that speculation?

  • John Dunn,

    you and others can make your own assessment of where the probable truth lies. This guardian article indicates further intelligence with respect to likely pro-Russian separatist responsibility for the downing of MH17 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/23/mh17-ukraine-separatists-buk-missile-system. The black box appears to be in the UK and the Dutch safety board are undertaking the investigation. It is reported that two of Ukraine’s Su-25 military jets have also been shot down.

    I have not seen any reports that Russia is providing information to or otherwise co-operating with the investigators. Regardless of the outcome of that investigation, Russia will almost certainly stick by whatever version of events it has pre-determined should be the outcome.

    In the absence of an admission of responsibility, there is only intelligence gathering and witness statements as a source of evidence. Flight or air traffic control data may confirm a missile launch but will not determine who fired the missile.

    Putin has made his intentions quite clear as reported in this New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/world/europe/ukraine-crisis.html?ref=world saying “We wanted to support the residents of Crimea, but we also followed certain logic: If we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future,” Mr. Putin said, adding that “NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.”

    Russian policy is to deny its neighbours the right of self-defence. It’s actions in Ukraine and its public pronouncements are all in furtherance of that military strategy.

  • Joe :
    In the whole of this thread, I’ve tried to point out that it’s thrust of *…Here comes the Russian Invasion…*, is totally without any logical foundation, (despite Washington’s transparent propaganda for war). Equally, I feel that I have confidently proved that the sound of war drums are coming from Washington, and *NOT* Russia?
    Fact : Putin knows he does not even need military force, when a four week December frost can do ‘the heavy lifting’ of success, in winning the hearts and minds of Ukraine ?
    Why don’t we just agree to disagree, and calm down.? We should call for a total ceasefire in East Ukraine *from both sides*, and wait for six months or so and see how this pans out?

  • John Dunn,

    Ukraine has a great deal to lose as a consequence of deteriorating relations with Russia and has sought to maintain its export trade and gas supply contracts as best it can – notwithstanding its loss of territory and military weakness compared with Russia.

    Both the UK and EU have major investments in Russia and many European countries are dependent on Russian natural gas supplies. In the full knowledge that it will harm their economies and quite possibly their prospects of re-election , EU leaders in Germany, France, Holland, Italy and Poland among others have felt it necessary to implement incremental sanctions to deter the prospect of military expansionism by Russia.

    Mogherini, who will be the bloc’s next foreign policy chief, said the European Commission will present a strengthened package of sanctions against Russia over its military invasion of Ukraine by Wednesday. EU ambassadors will meet on Thursday and Friday and the decision will be taken by Friday.

    Mogherini told the European Parliament “We need to respond in the strongest possible way. Things on the ground are getting more and more dramatic. We speak about an aggression and I think sanctions are part of a political strategy,” she said. Mogherini declined to give details of the sanctions package but said they would target Russia in four sectors, which include defence, dual use goods and finance.

    EU leaders decided at a summit on Saturday that the direct engagement of Russian troops in the war in eastern and southern Ukraine called for a stepping up of the sanctions imposed so far unless Russia pulled its soldiers back.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led the push for a tougher EU response, said on Monday that Moscow’s behaviour in Ukraine must not go unanswered, even if sanctions hurt the German economy, heavily dependent on imported Russian gas.

    These sanctions are an escalating response to the increasingly aggressive actions of Russia since the crisis began. This has been long building – at least since Russia’s war with Georgia.

    The EU-Russia relationship is no longer a partnership. As Mogeherini has said “A strategic partnership is over. Clearly it’s over and that was Moscow’s choice … We have a problem on the Ukrainian territory. We have a conflict, clearly,”

    For heads of states of all EU countries, European parliamentarians and a the great majority of the UN general assembly to denounce Russian actions purely on the basis of false intelligence concocted in Washington would be quite a feat of US statecraft, given the economic sacrifices that sanctions entail for so many countries.

    All that it takes to defuse this crisis is for Russia to allow Ukrainians to manage their own internal affairs without outside interference. Without Russian interference there is no EU or Nato engagement with Ukrainian security matters.

  • Joe:
    No matter what I say, you do seem to be quite determined to have a war, but it looks as if sense is breaking out and a much needed ceasefire is in coming together?
    My next suggestion is that the warmongers concentrate their attention on *who*, is going to pay Ukraine’s $5billion outstanding unpaid gas bill.?

  • John Dunn,

    there is no serious prospect of military engagement between Russia and Nato over Ukraine. The Nato defence pact must do what it is intended for – make it unambiguously clear that the collective security pact is able and willing to confront any military incursion into the Baltic states or other formerly soviet occupied European states within the Nato pact. The EU/US sanctions program is an economic deterrent to further Russian expansionism in Europe.

    Ukrainian’s have no option but to defend their country and are justified in calling upon Russia, the US and the UK to abide by the guarantees of its security and territorial integrity given in the Budapest memorandum of 1994, when Ukraine gave up what was then the third largest nuclear stockpile in the world. A major achievement on the road to nuclear disarmament.

    Ukraine is the wronged party here. For a current perspective on the invidiousness of their position, there was a useful hardtalk interview last night with Olexander Scherba – Ambassador-at-large, Ukraine Foreign Ministry http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04hztfv

  • “…there is no serious prospect of military engagement between Russia and Nato over Ukraine.”
    Good.! Sense prevails at last. But let’s also hope that Washington can keep its dirty corrupt fingers away the puppet strings of their paid for Ukrainian government.? If the ceasefire between Kiev and East Ukraine, fails, you can be certain that, it’s because Washington doesn’t want a ceasefire ?
    Now where’s the cash for that $5 billion Ukrainian gas bill, Joe?

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