Tuesday, March 04, 2014

More thoughts on response to Ukraine

Whatever the coming days and weeks and months bring in Ukraine, the Russian annexing of Crimea demonstrates that Putin is an unstable 'leader'. All those pictues of a shirtless Putin wading up rivers and riding horses weren't just the Russian version of shots of Harper with kittens.

He's probably gambled that the European dependence on Russian oil and gas, and the global incentive not to mess with prices will make any response to Crimea token at best. For godsakes don't upset the oil markets. A judo expert like Putin might believe that is actually excellent leverage. Which I suppose it is in the short-term.

That said, in the short-term the rouble has declined in value and there's serious talk about punitive measures against wealthy and influential Russians and the like. Russia might even be thrown out of the G8. I don't know if Putin factored this in, but this could have consequences.

So how to respond?

The long-term is a different story because Russian military adventurism acts as a counter-incentive to engaging with Russia. I don't imagine any country wants to be dependent on Russian energy supplies if they can help it and now that Putin has confirmed himself to be certifiable, they might really be looking for ways out of that trap.

Perhaps it is possible to undermine Putin by converting to renewable energy across Europe and destroying demand for Russian energy, and therefore a significant source of revenue for Putin.

As long as Putin is in power, there is a real risk of a another arms race and Cold War, which means a greater risk of nuclear war. Unlike the Cold War, Russians are not united in support of their leaders and there's very clear opposition to Putin inside Russia.  Russia isn't isolated like it was in those days either and globalisation has meant it is also depenedent on the rest of the world for its wellbeing.

Again, these are vulnerabilities that Putin maybe has not appreciated to the degree that he ought to.

The worst thing anyone might do is promote an international military response as the way to solve this. Putin likes fighting and lord knows how he react to a NATO response.

The only military response that might help is the utterly unthinkable prospect of dragging Russia into a protracted Ukraine guerrilla war until Russians themselves tire of it and the man who started it, like Afghanistan.


Unknown said...

Here is an alternate perspective to consider...


Alison said...

More alternate perspectives

Ian Walsh :

Some Perspective on Russian Intervention in the Ukraine

Consequences for Russia over the Ukraine

David Malone :

Ukraine – some thoughts on who is playing for what

Boris said...

Alison, there's always great power manoeuvring about these things, but what I find with these kinds of analyses is that the deny the agency of the Ukrainian's themselves, portraying them as hapless pawns. It's a pretty strong thing to claim that the Euromaidan wouldna happened if the US hadn't thrown some cash in. It's also a little tricky to make claims about the loyalties of Russian-speaking Ukrainians without actually talking to them. Sure, there are pro-Russian protests by the usual flag-waving idiots, but most people tend to fear war and would rather avoid it, and where their loyalties might be directed is a much more open question, and does not necessarily one that mean that even the more pro-Russian folks would actually support a Russian occupation or war.

The fact remains that Putin has the option of pursuing normal relations with his neighbours and the RoW, but he has not and is quite willing to punch first. Right up there with Bush/Blair.

e.a.f. said...

Any war with Putin will wind up looking like another Syria. Is it worth it? If Putin continues to expand, perhaps, but then those of us in North American won't be the ones dying.

If Putin just actually wants the Crimeia, let him have it. Russia had it until 1991 anyhow.

Putin doesn't play with a full deck, never has. Ms. Merkle had a chat with him and her conclusion was he wasn't dealing with reality.

Putin's move into the Ukraine was not something I doubted. He was just waiting for the Os to be over. Now he may decide not to continue his war of agression if he has more trouble at home. this is something which could be helped along. some of the Chechan rebels may decide to continue with their activities.

Putin's plans most likely involve regaining all the area the USSR once controlled. The man is from the KGB. I'm sure if he could he'd try for Poland, and right into Germany. the man is more dangerous than any of the middle eastern countries ever were. Why? because he has a bigger country and a bigger armed forces and he doesn't pay attention to anyone but himself. any world leader who goes around looking like tarzan has a screw missing.

Putin is out to get even with everyone who he believes "offended" him. that goes back to the days he had to ask if he could attend the G7 meetings. he wasn't happy about it and he has simply bided his time.

There is also the issues of what is under the Black Sea and pipelines through the Ukraine to western europe. Part of this is most likely all about oil, gas, the usual and his friends want to ensure their companies continue to prosper. Asking the western europeans to not purchase Russian oil and gas, isn't on at this time. its winter. Then there is the issue of their economies. Suggesting alternative energies is a nice idea, but they don't exist in enough quantity to make the transition right now. Germany already uses a lot of solar energy and most likely wants to expand, but all of this takes time.

In the meantime, if negotiating with Putin can contain him for the time being, it ought to be best. this world doesn't need another war like Syria. We can only hope he develops enough problems at home, that he has second thoughts.

Alison said...

they deny the agency of the Ukrainian's themselves, portraying them as hapless pawns. It's a pretty strong thing to claim that the Euromaidan wouldna happened if the US hadn't thrown some cash in
Likewise, examples of nazi/fascist quotes/pix/actions from members of the new interim gov supported by the US does not therefore preclude those members from advancing their right of political self-determination.
However I don't think we get to look all surprised that Putin eventually reacted to US meddling due to impatience at slow pace of regime change, NATO's advancing MOUs with states on Russia's borders, and a provision in the IMF's crippling offer to Ukraine that they forgo any further aid from Russia.

Seems to me, Boris, that the US has already begun trying to "drag Russia into a protracted Ukraine guerrilla war until Russians themselves tire of it and the man who started it, like Afghanistan."
We didn't know this was the intent at the outset of the second invasion of Afghanistan; we caught up a little quicker with Syria, Libya, Egypt; this time we have no fucking excuses.

Purple library guy said...

If you want to talk about the agency of the Ukrainians themselves, the Ukrainians themselves elected that dork currently hiding in Russia. On the other hand, a relatively small number of Ukrainians toppled him, and many of the dorks currently replacing him were never elected by anyone. So which Ukrainians are we lauding the agency of? The ones who elect people or the ones who shoot them?

And it seems fairly clear that the majority in the Crimea are happy to have the Russians intervening. That majority being ethnically Russian, they weren't massively happy about the first action of the new government they didn't elect, being to try to eliminate Russian as an official language. And they were somewhat uneasy about the incidents of newly-empowered anti-Russian fascist groups attacking ethnic Russians (and Jews, among others).

Now I don't think Putin cares much about the Ukrainians, even the ethnically Russian ones; he's intervening because he's not willing to let a US-backed coup (which, whatever the nuances of the reality, is definitely what the Russians see it as) deprive Russia of its most important naval base. That's somewhat brutal realpolitik, but us or the Americans denouncing it is the height of hypocrisy. The Americans initiate something worse every year or two, they're doing worse in a few countries right now on an ongoing basis, and Canada supports 'em.

Let's imagine the Chinese backed the semi-popular overthrow of the corrupt, ineffectual, kleptocratic Mexican government to the tune of 5 billion dollars, in favour of a new government more in line with Chinese policy which would kick out American advisors, drug warriors et cetera and pull out of NAFTA. Muster your straightest face and tell me the Americans would be calmly letting the new government stand.

Steve said...

We got problems on the homefront. The Cons are trying to sneak through warrantless search again.
Go to openmedia and sign the petition.

e.a.f. said...

Steve does have a very good point. We have problems at home. Lets focus on those. If we don't we will wind up looking like Russia.

To date no one has been killed beyond those who were in the square during the protests. As long as the two armies keep it cool, who knows we may all survive. We might also want to remember,nothing is forever. Putin came, but Putin will also go. He has enough problems within his own borders and if things get worse, who knows., I do know one thing though, we don't need another Syria.

MgS said...

I think your analysis of Russia's situation is somewhat flawed.

First of all, Russia still has a significant manufacturing infrastructure, unlike the US or Canada; and it is more or less capable of being self-sufficient for energy. It can withstand a great deal of isolation - both politically and economically.

Second, an isolated Russia serves Putin's interests just fine politically. He has for quite some time been pretty blatant about "returning Russia to her former glory". If Russia is isolated, then he can use that to continue his propaganda campaign.

Ironically, because Putin is obviously something of a thug, a military response is completely the wrong thing to do. Give him a fight, and he will thrive. The more effective strategy will be to very carefully undermine his credibility on his home turf.

In that respect, he's similar to Bush II (although much smarter) ... his power does not depend on his actions so much as his credibility with supporters.