Since nobody’s likely to be all that interested in our opinion, we’re glad to give you a few more interesting opinions on Ukraine. And we’ll admit that you might be sick of the Ukraine. We’re not, but we’re pretty sick at the lame American government response. But rather than give you just folks that agree with us, here’s a range of opinion, framed with our opinions about their opinions:
A Law Professor (Russian Émigré) Speaks
Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy law-prof group blog, now unfortunately hosted at the Washington Post:
The new pro-Russian regional government in Crimea (which came to power in a coup last week), has scheduled a referendum on independence for March 30 [but see update on the meaning of the referendum below]. Quite possibly, Putin intends to use the referendum as a justification for either annexing Crimea or creating a Russian puppet state there, similar to those Russia previously carved out of Georgia and Moldova. If the vote does not go his way, Putin and his allies will not hesitate to rig the results, as he has in elections in Russia itself.
The idea that Crimea should be an independent nation or part of Russia is not inherently objectionable. More than half of the region’s population are ethnic Russians, and Crimea only was attached to Ukraine as a result of a decision by Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. However, independence or annexation under the auspices of the Putin regime would likely result in the creation of the same sort of repressive government as now exists in Russia itself, or even worse. It could also result in substantial repression of the Crimean Tatar population, which opposes Russian control, and has a long history of oppression at the hands of Russian and Soviet rulers. Moreover, a successful Russian coup in Crimea might encourage Putin to try to lop off other parts of Ukraine, such as the eastern region of the country, which also has a large Russian population (though they are not the majority there). Finally, a real or imagined success in Crimea would strengthen Putin’s grip on power in Russia itself, and make political liberalization in that country even more unlikely than it would be otherwise.
Read The Whole Thing™ (it’s brief, but don’t stop scrolling when you get to the ad). We say “unfortunately” because the Volokh Conspiracy used to have great and informed commentators, many lawyers and law professors also, but now they seem to have lost most of them and picked up a lot of Washington Post subscribers, with a net loss of 40 IQ points.
There is one (unintentionally) amusing comment, evidently by a Russian, complaining inter alia about the mean, nasty Ukrainians’ “destruction of monuments.” That would be the Lenin statues. Say what you will about Putin, we don’t see Putin statues. Yet.
Somin’s suggestion (which is not his alone or originally, he points out) is to target sanctions narrowly against the new nomenklatura. It’s probably a non-starter — American political elites are likely to find the nomenklatura too much like themselves — and his idea of expelling Russia from the G8 is absolutely a non-starter (the Europeans are terrified that Putin will shut off the natural gas. This is especially true of the Germans, whose ill-planned Energiewende has left German industry gasping for electricity, and financially uncompetitive even with France and Italy despite Germans’ much higher productivity).
Given Russia’s history with Germany, it must make Putin happy to have them by the balls.
A Traveling Journalist’s View
Michael J. Totten is a rare journalist — one who goes where the trouble is and writes about it, without conforming to the biases, agenda and predigested narrative of a journobusiness. Here’s the conclusion of his long report (all of which is worth reading):
Ukraine could end up permanently divvied up in the future, with the Russian regions annexed by Moscow, either formally or de-facto, while the rest of the country, which naturally tilts more to the West, admitted to the European Union and NATO.
That’s a best-case scenario rather than a likely scenario. Ukraine in its current borders, though, surely won’t be admitted to the European Union or NATO, at least not before the Russian Federation liberalizes dramatically, because too many people in its political class are volunteer tools of Moscow.
Russian civilization was born more than a thousand years ago in Kiev in the medieval state of Kievan Rus. If that city ever gives the finger to Moscow once and for all and joins the EU and NATO, that would be something to see. It’s why Russia cares more about Ukraine than the West does and will probably get what it wants.
No one in charge of the fate of that country is asking what the Ukrainians want. They should, but they aren’t and they won’t. Such is the fate of the vassals of Moscow.
Totten’s entire post is worthwhile, so Read The Whole Thing™
A Flag Officer’s (Former NATO commander) Proposals
Retired Admiral James Stavridis has an essay in Foreign Policy, saying “NATO Needs to Move Now.” He begins with some platitudes about how “strong” the US and NATO’s lily-livered diplomatic reaction has been, but then goes on to suggest NATO military options:
NATO should call an immediate emergency session and weigh its options in the political, diplomatic, economic, and military dimensions.
In the military sphere, these include ordering the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), led by U.S. Gen. Phil Breedlove, to conduct prudent planning and present options in response to the situation. While such planning should be left to the current commanders and military experts, some ideas to consider would include:
- Increasing all intelligence-gathering functions through satellites, Predator unmanned vehicles, and especially cyber.
Just an aside here: note that NATO and the US were caught completely flatfooted. This is the price of retargeting NSA and GCHQ on domestic political “dissidents” and dropping foreign targets… like Russia.
Using the NATO-Ukrainian Commission and existing military partnerships with the Ukrainian military to share information, intelligence, and situational awareness with authorities in Kiev.
Providing advice to Ukrainian armed forces to prepare and position themselves in the event of further conflict.
Developing NATO contingency plans to react to full-scale invasion of Ukraine and to a partial invasion likely of Crimea. NATO contingency planning can be cumbersome, but in Libya it moved quickly.
And they go on to some increasingly high levels:
Bringing the NATO Response Force, a 25,000-man sea, air, land, and special forces capability, to a higher state of alert.
Convening allies with cyber-capabilities (this is not a NATO specialty) to consider options — at a minimum to defend Ukraine if it is attacked in this domain (as Georgia was).
Sailing NATO maritime forces into the Black Sea and setting up contingency plans for their use.
Many will consider any level of NATO involvement provocative and potentially inflammatory. Unfortunately, the stakes are high and the Russians are moving. Sitting idle, without at least looking at options, is a mistake for NATO and would itself constitute a signal to Putin — one that he would welcome.
Frankly, Stavridis is hitting the crack pipe if he thinks any of the more forceful NATO options is even on the table. The first hurdle to overcome is the National Command Authority. We have a President who is impressed beyond belief in the power of his own words, and whose instincts in every international issue are to blame the United States, and to bow and scrape and apologize. There’s no spine there. We have a Secretary of Defense whose mission tasking is to disarm the US Military and render it incapable of overseas “provocation,” and he’s proceeding on the axis. The Secretary of State is a C-minus student and wartime bugout who thinks he’s a genius and hero (as is the Vice President), and the other foreign policy titans in DC were selected for their conformity with academic lefty anti-Semitism rather than ability or desire to achieve US national objectives.
And the US does not own or dictate to NATO. There are many nations for whom a confrontation with Russia is bad national policy. Central Europe depends on Russian natural gas for energy, and they depend on Russian forbearance for their very independence, given the withdrawal of US and other forward-based NATO forces. The same foreign-policy geniuses mentioned above celebrated the withdrawal of the US/NATO missile shield from our European NATO allies as part of the groveling, bootlicking, up-sucking “Reset” the same gang attempted in 2009.
And finally, there is a deeper problem with Stavridis’s proposals: they are all bluff, but a bluff that is announced as such is pathetic, and will only embolden Putin to seek new sources of Sudeten Russians to sweep in to his grasp. There is nothing NATO can do (even the warlike option he does not mentions, that is, blockade the straits) that will change the correlation of forces on the ground.
He has fallen into the Vietnam-era trap of using the military to send a message. This policy only works when the message is narrow and tailored to the competencies of the military. Something like, you’re dead, mother^%#^&#. Absent the will to send that message — and our entire foreign policy establishment is now staffed from end to end with battered wives, desperately pursuing any clue as to what we did to make the wife-beater so angry, battered wives who cannot imagine sending any message but the exposed face of supplicant submission — the military is not the right telegraph.
And a bit of prescience from five years ago
George Friedman is the former intelligence officer who heads the private intelligence company called StratFor, which is probably most famous for getting its subscriber list hacked. (Does it shock anyone that a company that holds itself out as a master of security, uh, didn’t have any?) Anyway, Friedman wrote a book that was published in 2009 called The Next 100 Years. Like any such prognostication, it was a bit risky to put it out there, but he seems to have nailed this one:
The Russians will pull the Ukrainians into their alliance with Belarus and will have Russian forces all along the Polish border, and as far south as the Black Sea. This, I believe, will all take place by the mid-2010s.
He also had this cautionary note about people who think today’s Russian Army is the illiterate peasant Red Army that shambled back from Berlin with the porcelain commodes of Germany among its spoils:
There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about the weakness of the Russian army, talk that in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union was accurate. But here is the new reality — that weakness started to reverse itself in 2000, and by 2015 it will be a thing of the past. The coming confrontation in northeastern Europe will not take place suddenly, but will be an extended confrontation. Russian military strength will have time to develop. The one area in which Russia continued research and development in the 1990s was in advanced military technologies. By 2010, it will certainly have the most effective army in the region. By 2015-2020, it will have a military that will pose a challenge to any power trying to project force into the region, even the United States.
You can read the rest of his extract from the book, and there are link to longer excerpts, at his site.
Just don’t give him your email address.