Ukraine as Strategic Stepping-Stone

The readership here also might recall Putin’s words being backed up by one of his henchmen about having to invade and be as far as Poland 30 minutes before NATO or anyone else can even respond, and that they were capable of doing so.

 

What we saw previously in Ukraine was a series of Russian failures which do not resemble the kind of failures we saw in 1989-91. No, no, we must not think in terms of Russian retreat or collapse. That is not the kind of failure we see in Ukraine. What we see is a failure by Russia to conquer those parts of Ukraine the standing operational plan called for; that is, Odessa and a large chunk of eastern Ukraine (in addition to Crimea). We must keep in mind that Russia’s policy today is not based on deceiving the West that Russia is a friendly country. Today’s Russian policy, which is a war policy, more resembles Stalin’s policy of 1939-40, when the Red Army annexed Eastern Poland, the Baltic States, and invaded Finland. In this policy there is no pretense of friendship with the West. Here the hostility is open, frankly acknowledged, and accompanied by actual troop movements. Or as Putin allegedly boasted to Ukraine’s president, “If I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kiev in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too.”

In fact, as reported by the Daily Mail, Putin claimed the ability to block the adoption of decisions at the level of the European Council. He could claim even more abilities if he was inclined to indiscretion, since an entire department of the KGB was once devoted to managing heads of state who were Soviet agents. One may now imagine sub-departments for the management of mid-level bureaucrats as well. Oh yes, Russian troops can go many places. And they will, as the world shall see.

But will the Kremlin let Ukraine alone?

In 1940 Finland got a peace deal not unlike the Minsk Protocol of today. Some territory was sliced off, but Finland retained her independence. We have evidence that after 1940 Soviet Russia intended to re-invade Finland at the first opportunity, but became distracted by Nazi Germany. In his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov in late 1940, Hitler was perplexed and unhappy when the Soviets claimed Finland as theirs. Similarly, Moscow would claim Ukraine today (if this were not impolitic at the moment); and so, we should expect a future attack on Ukraine from Russia. We should expect further annexations and “separatist” uprisings. Since all the elements of the first Russian offensive of 2014 did not come together and produce the desired outcome, Moscow only needs time to devise a new plan (and to further consolidate its alliances with China and Iran). Also, in terms of Ukrainian internal politics, agents of influence are a force multiplier which failed to multiply in recent battles as disinformation did not entirely sabotage Ukrainian defenses. So time is required to fix the various problems for the sake of a second offensive.

Another victim of 1939 was Poland, and so it is only natural that astute Polish observers may have a better feel for the sitaution than others. I recently asked a well-informed Polish journalist about the situation in Ukraine as follows:

NYQUIST: I was wondering whether you think the ceasefire will hold in Ukraine and whether you have an idea why the Russians have decided to destroy their economic position through belligerence.

POLISH JOURNALIST: The Ceasefire in Ukraine is pure fiction. In a few weeks we will see a resumption of the fighting. Putin’s goal is takeover of the Ukrainian defense industry in eastern Ukraine. He needs factories that will build turbines for his submarines, and ballistic missile factories in Dnepropetrovsk. He needs 2,000 engines for military helicopters a year. Russian factories can only build him 50 engines a year. So he badly needs supplies from Ukraine. Without looting the equipment of these factories his whole rearmament program will be delayed. He’s not bothering about sanctions. He thinks about conflict with the countries of Central Eastern Europe and he’s fighting for the tools to fight this kind of war. Besides this, his strategic plan is to isolate Ukraine from the Black Sea.

NYQUIST: What you say about Moscow’s motives is very interesting. I wonder what you think the chances are that the Russian people will become disenchanted with Putin when the full economic impact of Russia’s international isolation hits them. Or will they simply become violently anti-Western, blaming NATO and America for all their problems? Or will the idea of trade restrictions toward Russia (or by Russia against others) be undermined by those in Germany and elsewhere who would rather not have sanctions taking effect?

POLISH JOURNALIST: I visited Moscow in November 2012 and I was witnessing “Russkiy Marsh” – a huge demonstration of Russian, anti-Putin, nationalist opposition. I’ve talked with these people, and most of them were saying that Putin is a thief and a communist thug who is destroying Russia. There were a few thousand people at this demonstration – cramped on a small street on the banks of the River Moskva (the only place where they are allowed to protest) – but the crowd was larger at a nearby Putin concert. Later I checked the Russian, Polish, and Western media. All of them were saying that the people of the “Russkiy Marsh” were only a bunch of bloodthirsty neo-Nazis who are supporting Breivik and Mitt Romney. The Russian media was saying that the demonstrators were chanting “Romney vpyeryod!” “Go, Romney, go!”

…In presenting my exchange with the Polish journalist, I cannot help citing a quotation from Stalin’s foreign minister, V. Molotov, which was made to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister on 30 June 1940, and is reminiscent of the sort of thinking we are seeing in Moscow today: “We are now more than ever convinced that our brilliant comrade Lenin made no mistake when he asserted that the Second World War would enable us to seize power in Europe, just as we did in Russia after the First World War. For this reason you should be starting now to introduce your people into the Soviet system, which in future will rule all Europe.” [see S. Myllyniemi, Die baltische Krise 1938-1941, Stuttgart 1979, pp. 118, 126.]

The provocative nature of recent Russian nuclear exercises must be viewed in this light. Russia is pushing out and must be vigilant that someone doesn’t push back with a nuclear first strike. As Moscow has learned from bitter experience, the question of preventive war is not an idle question. It was not an idle question for Hitler in 1940 when he read Molotov’s remarks in security briefings, or was told Russia’s demands in a personal meeting with Molotov. Today we hear Putin’s remarks but, of course, our leaders aren’t as crazy as Hitler. There’s not going to be any invasion of Russia or a nuclear first strike ordered from Washington. Instead of Hitler, we have Obama; as far as the Russians go, he is a sweetheart; yes, an anti-Churchill (to put in bluntly).

Full article: Ukraine as Strategic Stepping-Stone (JR Nyquist)

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