QED

Putin’s Greatest Asset

obama mouthOn one level, the news, reported in The Australian on May 29, 2015, that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had signed a decree making military losses in “special operations” during peacetime a state secret is one more marker in Russia’s reversion to its Soviet totalitarian past. On another level, Putin is seeking to sustain an utterly implausible deniability. Yet the cat is well and truly out of the bag, as the old saying goes.

The Moscow Times, under the title, “Russian Fighters, Caught in Ukraine, Cast Adrift by Moscow”, reports on a captured Russian soldier, Alexander Alexandrov, now in a hospital in the Ukrainian capital.  The unhappy captive feels abandoned by his country, its leaders, and even the local Russian consul. The report continues:

Alexandrov, 28, says he’s a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. “I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request,” he said. “I was carrying out my orders.”

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine — only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.

So Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, another Russian who was captured with him, find themselves pawns in the deepest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

Alexandrov, 28, says he’s a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. “I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request,” he said. “I was carrying out my orders.”

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine — only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.

So Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, another Russian who was captured with him, find themselves pawns in the deepest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

But, with only 20 per cent of Russians believing that Russian government forces were fighting in Ukraine and 48 per cent believing that Russians were serving there as volunteers, according to the report in The Australian, ex-KGB Putin clearly believes that now is propitious for a crackdown on freedom of information. The days of relative freedom for The Moscow Times are clearly numbered.

As Richard Fernandez noted in his blog back in July, 2014, Putin’s scenario envisages half-war, half-peace and all aggression. We can draw an analogy with the story of the Three Bears, in which Goldilocks samples three bowls of porridge. One is too hot, one is too cold but the third is just right. Now, Putin is still seeking to sustain this balancing act in his relationship with the West. On one hand, we see displays of Russian military might, violations of the airspace of Baltic countries by Russian military aircraft, Russian nuclear armed bombers flying over the English Channel and near the North American coast, but on the other hand, so far at least, avoidance of all-out military confrontation with N.A.T.O., although there are dark hints that Russian forces could reach Warsaw in no time flat. And Russia never ceases reminding the West of her vast nuclear arsenal. But for all the bravado, it would appear, at least so far, that the Kremlin perceives more risk than gain in an open conventional invasion of its neighbouring states.

Faced with a US Administration willing to supply arms to Ukraine, Putin would have the choice between massive escalation, ie, ending the balancing act or quiet withdrawal. In this context there is opportunity for the West in Putin’s duplicity. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine sends precisely the wrong message.   Putin, the brutal realist, can see an absence of American willingness to defend Ukraine if push really comes to shove. Weakness elsewhere sends a clear message. The US Administration’s dealings with Iran, the apparent weakening of US support for Israel, and US uncertainty in the East Asian region have consequences world wide. Weakness elsewhere may tip the balance towards open war in Eastern Europe.

As Victor Davis Hanson points out:

For a time, reset, concessions, and appeasement work to delay wars. But finally, nations wake up, grasp their blunders, rearm, and face down enemies. That gets dangerous. The shocked aggressors cannot quite believe that their targets are suddenly serious and willing to punch back. Usually, the bullies foolishly press aggression, and war breaks out.

We will be very lucky if Putin does not decide to tip the balance towards open war during the remaining period of the Obama Administration.

3 comments
  • en passant

    I note that Quadrant online has hired an ex-Fairfax Editor.
    I note that Quadrant online has hired an ex-Fairfax Editor.
    This is getting to be a repeat of the world in 1931-1941 with global wars threatened everywhere. David Archibald says China will be at war in Asia this year.
    ISIS is already trying or conquer the M.E. and refound the Caliphate.
    The VISEGRAD4 countries no longer trust the West to help them, emboldening Putin and Russia to take what they consider is rightfully theirs.
    Europe will be destroyed by the uncontrolled immigration of barbarians and it will break up into a series of small (but deadly) ethnic/religious wars more akin to the catastrophic Thirty Years War than anything seen since.
    The EU is economically doomed and is being hollowed out from within.
    The USA (thanks to the ObamaPlan) will decline as the next President faces the reality of the destruction caused by his ‘hopey-changey’ predecessor.
    In Paris in December, about the only catastrophe not yet visited on humanity will be foisted on the world by the totalitarians of the climate change con. And our politicians will willingly condemn us to our fate.
    I could accept all of the above including war, pestilence, famine and the Greens, no matter how hard, but there are some things nobody should have to bear such as the final indignity of Carlton finishing bottom of the AFL.
    Pass the hemlock.

  • Jody

    I just don’t see why the world should continually expect the USA to bail everybody out. Americans are tired of paying for everybody else’s adventurism. Time for the EU to man up and get their own defenses and policies sorted out.

    I agree the EU is doomed and I agree about the immigrant barbarians, having just returned from 3 months there. Sweden has increased its population by 5% through Muslim immigration in the last 12 months: 5%!!! Nobody is listening; nobody cares. Just as long as they’ve all got their iPhones!!

    • Max Rawnsley

      I share en passant’s anxiety at Carlton’s season.
      More importantly the Obama presidency while not one I held high hopes for has proven to be a major disappointment. He and the successive secretaries of state have weakened the capacity of the USA and the West generally to deal with the Russian and militant Islamic threats.

      Some commentators have accepted the Iran Nuclear deal as progress towards a better relationship with Iran. At best this is wishful thinking not borne out by the even more recent confirmation from the Ayotollah of Iran’s commitment to destroy Israel,ISIS support etc. Yet Obama is urging acceptance of the deal and release of economic and other sanctions.

      Many find it extremely difficult to square the Obama presidency with leadership either in the USA with his nakedly prejudicial actions with the incidents involving police and coloured Americans, his handling of foreign policy with the Iran negotiation, Putin’s incursions into the Ukraine or the very apparent deception of American’s in the Benghazi embassy murders.

      As ill conceived as the EC may be it does exist and needs to find some sort of economic equilibrium. Its of no assistance to have the US President fail to maintain the US role as nominal leader of the West. For what its worth this is not a time to leave a void with Putin trying desperately to maintain his position as chief oligarch and China coming to terms with the magnitude of the task it faces to maintain order and progress

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