Shock and awe in Ukraine

Kiev early this morning.

At this point in time, the Russian invasion of Kiev reminds me of the initial phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—except that the Russians so far seem to be doing their best to avoid civilian casualties and refraining from destroying the electrical grid, water and sewerage systems and other vital infrastructure.

Looked at purely as a military operation, it looks like a brilliant success.  Of course so did the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in their initial phase.

What made these wars disasters for the United States were the failed occupations and the unsuccessful attempts to establish friendly, self-sustaining governments.

President Vladimir Putin’s rule began with a bloody war to pacify the rebellious Chechen region.  Since then  Russia’s military occupations have been short and decisive.

Putin has stated he does not plan a permanent occupation of Ukraine.  He also says he plans to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine and to bring to justice all those who committed atrocities against Ukraine’s Russian minority.  Taking him at his word, is this possible without a long-term occupation?

The ideal outcome, from the Russian point of view, would be for the Ukrainian government to quickly surrender and agree to Russia’s terms.

What terms of surrender would Russia accept?  Would Ukraine be forced to become a puppet of Russia, like Poland during the Cold War era or the Central Asian countries today?  Or would Russia be willing to settle for neutrality, like Finland and Austria during the Cold War.

The least Russia would demand would be purging of Nazis from the Ukrainian government and armed forces, and turning over accused war criminals to Russia or to international tribunals.

This also would be the best outcome from the point of view of minimizing human suffering.  But it would leave Russia as the strongest—because most feared—power in Europe.

The risk Russia has taken is the possibility of getting bogged down in a long quagmire war, as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.

A war between an occupying power and a resisting power ends when one side or the other gives in.  Or sometimes it ends in genocide, but this is not in question here.  If there was such a war in Ukraine, which side would have the most staying power?

Here is a data point.  It consists of answers to the question, “Would you fight for your country?”, asked by pollsters in 2014.  Here are “yes” answers.

Ukraine – 62%

Russia – 59%

USA – 44%

Canada – 30%

France – 29%

UK – 27%

Germany – 18%

I’m surprised the percentages are so low, including the percentages for Ukraine and Russia.

A war, including a war of resistance, doesn’t need a majority who are willing to fight, just a fanatic minority.  The worst possible outcome, for Russia, Ukraine and the world, would be a resistance movement spearheaded by Ukrainian and international neo-Nazis, perhaps supported by the CIA in the same way it has sometimes, for its own purposes, helped radical Muslim jihadists.

Here’s what Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism thought:

 I think we will fund and support an insurgency within Ukraine, no doubt using Azov Battalion types plus mercs and dupes, in an attempt to bleed Russia, dreaming of a Color Revolution.  I doubt very much that will work even in its own terms, because we have form (losing) and Russia has form (winning).  And if that means hardening the border with the EU, then (from Russia’s perspective) so be it.  Notice this policy has continuity with previous US policy[

Then again, I’m not sure Putin’s ambitions would be satisfied with subduing Ukraine.  His long-term goal is to roll back NATO, which conquest of Ukraine does not accomplish.  

Until now, his actions have been careful and calculated.  But if one bold gamble pays off, there will be a temptation to roll the dice again.


Why the West may want Russia to invade Ukraine by Ali Rizk for Al Jazeera.

Prominent Russians join protests against Ukraine War amid 2,800 arrests by Andrew Roth for The Guardian.

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4 Responses to “Shock and awe in Ukraine”

  1. wtfbuddy1 Says:

    Interesting article – comparing Nazis in Ukaine is the reason for invasion and not talked about, Putin’s own private armies and security enforcement units is like apples and apples. You should do a blog on his private armies and the “Night Wolves” MC. Cheers


  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Personally, if I were the president of Ukraine and Finlandization would get the Russians to leave, I’d jump at it. Finland is doing pretty darn good for itself.


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