The Russians are Coming
By Walter Derzko
After the much anticipated Russian invasion of Crimea, the entire world has unilaterally reacted, supporting
Ukrainian sovereignty and independence. The risk of eastern oblasts
destabilization and invasion is high too.
Russia can start a war in Crimea, but they won’t easily win it. Look at the ratio of professional soldiers to
conscripts. Ukraine’s armed forces are 60% professional; Russia’s only 30%. There are hopeful signs of eventual
de-escalation. The 16,000 invading Russian troops are docile. So far, no
shooting, bloodshed or loss of life. Russia has not undertaken any false flag operations
yet but may still kill Russian-speaking citizens to provoke and justify a war.
Russian aggression is uniting
all Ukrainians. Mass pro-Ukrainian rallies were held to oppose the invasion in
Kharkiv, Odesa, Sumy, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Poltava, Kryvyi Rih and Dnipropetrovsk. Ukraine is mobilizing
its military reserves and patriotic Ukrainians are voluntarily
enlisting. Tatars will not recognize separatism, and will fight to stay in Ukraine. Putin’s goal is to discredit Maidan so it
won’t spread, domino style, to Russia and threaten his own regime. Russia invaded Crimea to protect ethnic Russians minorities. Many members of
this supposedly oppressed minority reject
Putin’s military interventions. Normally endangered people get evacuated, not
In a stabilization plan,
Oleksandr Turchynov announced on March 2, the appointment of two oligarchs as
Oblast governors – Sergei Taruta in Donetsk and Ihor Kolomoysky in Dnipropetrovsk. Steven
Pifer, former American ambassador to Ukraine, said “They need people who have credibility in
eastern Ukraine. The risk is this will be seen as business as
usual by putting wealthy people in government. That has been part of the
problem for the past 22 years.”
Seventeen US war ships and three nuclear subs are now in the
Aegean Sea on “standby” and if Ukraine requests, other Sixth fleet vessels could
eventually form a naval blockade to choke off Crimea from Russian war
supplies. This will be strengthened if Ukraine closes the Russian boarder or announces a No
Fly zone, or threatens to simply cut off fresh water supplies to Crimea for a day or two. Ukraine’s envoy to the UN said that Kyiv would ask for
international military support if Russia expanded its military action in his country.
NATO troops are being deployed to Poland.
Russian Isolation and Collapse?
While the situation currently looks dark for Crimea, I think we are seeing the early warning signals of
Putin’s downfall or even a break-up of the Russian Federation. Sound improbable?
Russia could turn out to be a victim of its own
medicine. A Russian Duma bill allowing Russia to “absorb new territories from
neighbouring states” by local referenda that override international
agreements, could backfire on Russia and even lead to its self-destruction
claims Moscow commentator Irek Murtazin in Kasparov.ru. Two can play that
game. What will happen, Murtazin asks, “if tomorrow a similar law is adopted by
China, Japan, Mongolia, Ukraine or Belarus? “If Tyva, for example, wants to combine with Mongolia? A couple of districts of Orenburg with Kazakhstan? Taganrog and Novorossiisk want to join Ukraine? And Smolensk and Pskov with Belarus? If any of those things happen, what will the
Russian legislators of this new measure say? That it “contradicts
international law” given what they have done themselves?”
If fact, on March 1, China passed a similar law for annexing Russian land,
likely targeting Siberia, so Putin has a choice: capture Crimea or jettison Siberia.
US Secretary of State John Kerry
warned that Russia could be ejected from the Group of Eight (G8).
“ Putin, was “not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if
this continues, he may find himself with visa bans and asset freezes on Russian
business. American business may pull back, there may be further tumbles of the
rouble.” The MICEX stock index fell 10 percent and Gazprom was down more than
13 percent. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion
by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext,” Mr Kerry told
the CBS program Face the Nation.
are appeals to all liberation movements inside Russia to intensify their
activities. Imagine, if “Muslim Maidans” break out simultaneously across
the Russian Federation
demanding freedom and self-determination. Then Putin will have a very difficult
strategic decision on his hands: Do I keep armed forces in Crimea
or do I take them out to prevent the breakup of the Russian Federation?
A call on Maidan said: “if a single drop of Muslim Tatar blood is spilt in Crimea,
Red Square in Moscow will become true to
its name. By starting a war in Crimea,
Mr. Putin, you are starting a war against all Muslims in your own country.”
the EU eventually decides to wean itself off Russian gas from Gazprom? This
could very quickly bankrupt the Russian Federation,
just as we saw in 1989 as the USSR collapsed.
E.ON signed an agreement with Canada’s Pieridae Energy for
liquefied natural gas, or LNG to diversify away from Russia. The deal is worth
several billion euros per year, supplying 5 million tons of LNG per year, over
a 20 years period, starting in 2020. The deliveries start from Goldboro’s LNG
terminal on Canada’s
east coast, in the first quarter of 2020. Who is next?
will blink first and stand down? Putin or the West? You can guess my bet.