Insurgents in eastern Ukraine are likely Russian military and intelligence forces

My prediction that Russia will invade eastern Ukraine is coming true. Or so the New York Times reports, which some readers misguidedly see as an anti-Russian tool of the U.S. government. Read for yourself, and have a look at the pictures. After all, it’s evidence. From the Times:

For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

And Ukraine’s state security service has identified one Russian reported to be active among the green men as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence operative in his mid- to late 50s. He is said to have a long résumé of undercover service with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian general staff, most recently in Crimea in February and March and now in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

. . . The Kremlin insists that Russian forces are in no way involved, and that Mr. Strelkov does not even exist, at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble. “It’s all nonsense,” President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday during a four-hour question-and-answer session on Russian television. “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in at least 10 towns across eastern Ukraine also deny getting help from professional Russian soldiers or intelligence agents.

Putin and his minions are lying, as Russian troops mass at the Ukrainian border and the Russians continue to cook up accusations that Ukraine is exacerbating the situation. (Actually, Ukraine has made no moves to attack the buildings held by Russian separatists).

I predicted that Russia will invade within a month under one pretext or another, though I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.  Putin is a bully and an aggressor, and I have little patience for readers who feel that this Russian activity is justified.

I can’t believe the Cold War is starting all over again.

82 Comments

  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Agreed: an invasion of Ukraine is highly likely. If it happens, it will probably occur no later than the end of May. If it happens tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Searches for the ‘Like’ button.

  2. moarscienceplz
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “Putin is a bully and an aggressor”

    Russia never got rid of its Czars, it just renamed the office.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Still can’t find that ‘Like’ button.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        :-)

  3. Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Even if one takes the pro-Russian claims at face value, that still doesn’t justify Russia annexing any of Ukraine, any more than, say, Mexican claims of mistreatment of hispanics in New Mexico would justify Mexico invading and annexing parts of the US.

    It would warrant facilitating the emigration of Russian nationals from Ukraine, perhaps even with force of arms if necessary to protect them (though I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that Russians are being held captive in Ukraine). But fomenting unrest and civil war and using that as a pretext to invasion and annexation is so far beyond the pale, even granting all Russian claims, that it’s simply inexcusable.

    And, yes. Recent American actions in Iraq and current American actions in Afghanistan are equally inexcusable, and some of us have been quite bitter about the messes we’ve been making in Asia for…well, for a lot longer than simply since 2001-09-11….

    b&

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      any more than, say, Mexican claims of mistreatment of hispanics in New Mexico would justify Mexico invading and annexing parts of the US.

      I bet that sounds different on the other side of the US-Mexico border.

    • Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      You mean the way the US annexed huge swaths of Mexico?

      • Posted April 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and the same way the Spaniards annexed Mexico and much of the rest of the New World.

        By the way, ever look at a demographic map of language distributions in South America? Note the division between Spanish and Portuguese? That’s not a coincidence, either.

        b&

  4. Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Russia is absolutely not going to allow NATO bases on its western border. Try to put them there and it’s war, a very costly war.

    The Ukraine is an economic basket case if its economic ties to Russia are broken.

    It’s as simple as that Jerry. Are you advocating that we take military action against Russia? Do you consider the consequences of that?

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      If Russia annexes eastern Ukraine, NATO bases in Western Ukraine are essentially guaranteed.

      • Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Why? Why is it necessary to add more bases to our “empire of bases”? Who is going to pay for it? And have you taken a close look at many of the people who are in the present (nonelected) Ukrainian government? Do you know who Stepan Bandera was? A hero to half of the people in the government and the people who provided the muscle for the February take-over. Do you know Bandera’a role in the Ukrainian Holocaust? Did you know that 1/6 of the troops facing our soldiers on D-Day in 1944 were Ukrainian? I suppose “Yats” is going to control these people. Good luck.

        • K E Decilon
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          Now I can’t find the like button . .

    • eric
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      The internationally legal and ethical course of action is to let the Ukrainians decide that, not the Russians.

      And the reason we would add more NATO bases in western Ukraine (or in the Baltic states, or in any of the other FSU countries) would be because those countries asked us to, in order to – irony of ironies – prevent Russia from annexing them via military force.

      Are you advocating that we take military action against Russia? Do you consider the consequences of that?

      Well the consequences of not doing it appears to be Russian miltary takeover of surrounding countries. You seem to be happy to give away those people’s freedoms rather than get in a war over it.

      Personally I think the western powers should stay out so long as Kiev itself doesn’t start a shooting war with the Russians. But if Kiev does, and if they then call for help against Russian forces, I think the UN should go in with peacekeepers at the very least. That is what the UN is supposed to be all about – limiting and reducing conflicts between member states.

      • JT
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        How would the US react if say, Russia and China signed a collective security agreement and extended this protective blanket right up to the US border with Mexico (or Canada)? No fucking way they’d let that happen. Not a chance.
        So why should Russia be okay with the same thing?
        Think about how you would feel and then maybe you’ll understand why Russia would see NATO expansion into Ukraine the same way.
        I don’t like thugs like Putin or Russian imperialism either, but American imperialism is no better.

        • Adam M.
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          But everyone knows it’s one rule for the US and another rule for everyone else! (Though to be fair, they don’t have a monopoly on double standards…)

        • eric
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          Um, JT, the USSR DID extend a security agreement right up to the US border – over Cuba. And while we did try and invade in the 60s (because our jingoistic rightists were just as bad as Russia’s jingoistic rightists), we have succesfully and peacefully lived with this security agreement for 50 years.

          So you’re wrong about what we would allow. You’re wrong about how we would react. And you’re wrong about what the consequences of such a close great-power satellite would be. As is Putin. Though I will happily admit that he may be thinking exactly the same way you’re thinking.

          • K E Decilon
            Posted April 22, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            Eric, does it occur to you that the “Security agreement” you are talking about included the Russians packing up their missiles and bombers and taking them home? And the US secretly agreed to dismantle Nuclear ICBMs that we had deployed in Italy and Turkey?

            How would putting NATO bases in any part of the Ukraine be different from the Russian missiles and military bases in Cuba in 1962?

      • Filippo
        Posted April 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Would it not have been some reasonable and appropriate “Bigger Picture” thinking had the U.S. and other Central/Eastern European countries not made any noises about the latter joining NATO (and establishing missile bases), so as not to give the Russians the heebie-jeebies about NATO’s prospective expansion up to or very close to Russia’s borders? How hard was it to predict the Russian reaction?

        As JT effectively says, who is the U.S. to hypocritically deny Russia the privilege, however presumptuous, of declaring its own Monroe Doctrine?

        And whether or not Russia annexes East Ukraine, there is no reason to believer that the U.S. will not continue to intervene as it pleases in Latin America. (And to re-intervene in the Western Pacific. When I was in the U.S. Navy in the early-to-mid-80’s, my ship transited the Taiwan Straits, the U.S. by doing so reinforcing its claim that the Straits are an international waterway. Where does any Eastern Hemisphere navy presume to transit the Florida Straits or Caribbean Windward Passage [if I'm correctly remembering my geographic terms]?)

    • Posted April 21, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t Russia already have NATO bases on its Western border with Poland?

  5. Robert Seidel
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    > (Actually, Ukraine has made no moves to attack the buildings held by Russian separatists).

    That’s wrong:

    http://www.thestate.com/2014/04/15/3388728/ukraine-leader-announces-anti.html

  6. John J. Fitzgerald
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    This issue has been building for a long time. Why do we continue to expand NATO and continue to encircle Russia with military installations?
    I think the legitimate government of the Ukraine was overthrown by a coup back in February. Was the CIA a part of the coup? I don’t know. I do know that there are NAZI admiring Ukrainians and they seem to be interested in stirring up bigotry against Jews and Russians living in the Ukraine. We should back off from this and let the Europeans handle the situation. We do not need to go to war to protect Ukrainians from their neighbors.
    Cf. What Georgia tried to do to Russia a few years ago. I think it is quite important to not let militarists like Senator John McCain push our foreign policy agenda.

    • eric
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Why do we continue to expand NATO and continue to encircle Russia with military installations?

      At least in part because the host counties ask to join. And they do that because they fear Russian military aggression.

      You’re treating this like the US and Russia are the only two countries whose wishes matter. Do the Estonias and Latvias of the world have no right to self-determination in your eyes? Do they not get to decide for themselves who they ally with and who they don’t?

      • John J. Fitzgerald
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Re: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. They have the “right” to be a sovereign nation to the extent that they can defend their own sovereignty. If they depend on us for their defense, then they are a client (puppet?) state and not a sovereign state.
        The expansion of NATO has proved to be quite lucrative for the “Military-Industrial-Complex” that basically controls American foreign policy. A lot of military manufacturers have made a lot of money producing weaponry for use by NATO and the Pentagon, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. What happened to the United Nations approach to international diplomacy? Look at the historical record, NATO has essentially rendered the United Nations to second or third class status.
        By the way are you ready for another war? The troops we sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are showing some serious battle fatigue. Are you ready to fight and die for the Ukraine?

        • mordacious1
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Are you seriously saying that if a nation is too weak to defend its borders without alliances, that it should not be considered a sovereign nation? During the Cold War, there were only two nations that could have withstood an invasion by the Soviets (without assistance), the rest being puppet states (if we use your logic). What if France, the UK and Germany ally against Russia, who then is the puppet state?

        • eric
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          NATO has precious little to do with the build-up of the military industrial complex. We sell more arms to Saudi Arabia than we do to any of the NATO signees. Not only that, but we essentially force the Saudis to buy our military equipment because we give them grants that can only be used to buy our military equiment. THAT is the sort of behavior you should take strong issue with – and NATO has absolutely nothing to do with it.

          As for your definition of soverign vs. client state, like mordacious I find it ludicrous. You’re lumping practically all of Europe, Japan, and the Africa into the category of puppet states. None of them could independently defend their borders against the US, Russia, or China without allies.

          • John J. Fitzgerald
            Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            Here is the wikipedia definition of a sovereign state. It seems appropriate to this discussion.
            A sovereign state is a nonphysical juridical entity of the international legal system that is represented by a centralized government that has supreme independent authority over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states.[1] It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state.[2] The existence or disappearance of a state is a question of fact.[3] While according to the declarative theory of state recognition a sovereign state can exist without being recognised by other sovereign states, unrecognised states will often find it hard to exercise full treaty-making powers and engage in diplomatic relations with other sovereign states.

            • mordacious1
              Posted April 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

              There are 195 sovereign nations currently recognized as such. 193 of these could not defend their borders without alliances, I think you’re misunderstanding the definition you posted.

      • Darkwhite
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Remember what happened when Castro agreed to let Soviet Russia deploy nuclear weapons in Cuba; after a failed US coup in Cuba, and after the US installed nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy?

        • Adam M.
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure what your point is, but I’m glad somebody remembers that the Cuban missile crisis was a response to the US doing the same thing to Russia. Somehow most people in the US don’t seem to get taught that part…

          • Darkwhite
            Posted April 22, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

            It is a direct response to eric’s principle of self-determination, which has never been worth much in American eyes. Playing by rules which other’s don’t is a losing strategy.

            • eric
              Posted April 22, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

              The US does exactly what you claim is a ‘losing strategy’ in regards to international copyright law. We play by the rules even while China doesn’t. Why do we do that? Because we benefit more from obeying the rules and being seen as a globally trusted actor than we do from breaking it. China, which is in an entirely different economic position, may not have the same cost/benefic calculus.

              Your whole position is premised on the concept that international relations is a zero sum game. Which is nice 19th century thinking but fortunately for everyone, its wrong. We can indeed benefit from playing by the rules while others choose not to. Sadly, however, I think there are a lot of American politicians (mostly on the right) that see things your way, not my way.

              • Darkwhite
                Posted April 22, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

                There is a very crucial distinction between coincidentally following the rules whenever it’s convenient, and actually respecting them even when it goes against your interests.

                The first is sensible public relations, whereas the second is what’s a losing strategy. Whether the game is zero sum or not is perfectly irrelevant – prisoner’s dilemma, for instance, is not zero sum.

      • Adam M.
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        I would say that no, they don’t get to decide for themselves who to ally with because alliances must be mutually agreed upon. So there should be some mutual benefit involved. What benefits do Estonia, Latvia, etc. provide to NATO, and they worth antagonizing a major power? (Though I sometimes think the US considers antagonizing Russia to be the main benefit of these relationships in the first place. :-P)

        • eric
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

          Sure, NATO has the right to refuse them if they don’t see any benefit. Because the NATO countries also have self-determination about who they ally with.

          All countries should generally respect the right of self-determination of other countries when it comes to trade and international agreements. You are correct that the Latvias and Ukraines of the world cannot unilaterally decide to join NATO – they too have to respect the right of self-determination of other countries, in this case the right of the NATO countries if they say “no.” What I’m saying is, Russia has to (well, should) respect the right of self-determination of other countries too.

          And yeah, we all know that US foreign policy is often hypocritical about this. But folks like me and Ben are not hypocrites when we complain that Russia is violating this expected norm, because we also complain when the US violates it.

          • Adam M.
            Posted April 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

            I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek in mentioning mutual agreement, but it does leave me wondering why NATO wanted the small Baltic states on the Russian border in the alliance. I doubt they actually thought Estonia, etc. would contribute much militarily…

    • aspidoscelis
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      “I think the legitimate government of the Ukraine was overthrown by a coup back in February.”

      That’s my understanding as well. The Ukrainian opponents of their current government do appear to have a legitimate grievance with which we should sympathize, if not support.

      In terms of truth, justice, the American way, and all that jazz… perhaps we should be equally opposed to both the current Ukrainian government and to Russia’s actions. Instead, media in the U.S. seems to be regurgitating a tired old story. Those on the pro-American side (regardless of their other attributes) are the “good guys” and the anti-American side (again, regardless…) are the “bad guys”. This story is so predictable, blatantly self-serving, and has proven wrong so often in the past that we should be skeptical whenever it is presented. It might be correct in this case, but we should start by assuming otherwise.

      Our role *if any* should be to help Ukrainians freely choose their own destiny.

      • aspidoscelis
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        Regarding the “if any” in my final sentence:

        SIWOTI Syndrome is not an appropriate basis for foreign policy. Yes, something is wrong in the world. That is not, of itself, an argument that we can or should do anything about it.

  7. Jeffery
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    It was a standing joke in the old Soviet Union that the only thing “true” about the official newspaper, “Pravda” was the name (Pravda means, “truth” in Russian).

    • Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      In the Soviet Union, the people often said that the difference between Soviet propaganda and US propaganda was that the people in the USSR knew that it was propaganda and simply ignored it, whereas in the US the people don’t know that the US propaganda is propaganda and they actually believe it. That last part has not changed one iota.

      • Posted April 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        I’m sorry but that’s simply insupportable apologetics for Russia. In my own lifetime the U.S. media has brought down two presidents for lying: Nixon and Johnson. The papers are constantly monitoring the government and criticizing the President and other elected officials. In Russia, journalists get KILLED for doing that, and, in the days of Khrushchev and before, simply weren’t allowed to do it. If you think the New York Times is just as propagandistic and full of lies as Pravda, you are living in Cloud Cuckoo land, and can convince yourself of anything.

        • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          You get first prize for Straw Man fallacies!

          • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            And for the Red Herring fallacy too! :)

  8. JBlilie
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    This is alos straight from Hitler’s playbook. He also sent agents provocateurs into Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland ahead of his invasions. And all the rest too.

    Shall we just sit by and watch him knock off his neighbors one by one?

    Hitler told the world he had no further interests after each of his conquests as well. And the world was so afraid of another war, they missed the chance to nip it in the bud and got WWII instead.

    • Adam M.
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      I would say yes, we let them dominate their neighbors, or we just oppose them diplomatically and economically.

      A military confrontation with Russia isn’t going to be like Iraq and Afghanistan (and we can’t even seem to win there after a decade of trying). Russia has serious military power. Do you personally want to go fight and be killed for Ukrainian independence? Or do you think only other Americans should be sent to die for it? In the end, we would probably lose the war anyway, like we did in Viet Nam, and it would be a big waste of life.

      I think what really led to World War II was Germany’s (foolish) invasion of the major powers of Europe, and Russia. If Germany just picked off a minor country or two and left it at that, I doubt the major powers would have gotten so exercised.

      • mordacious1
        Posted April 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        Ugh…of course, the difference is that Russia has nukes. With that being said, the US could “win” a conventional war against Russia (perhaps with NATO help) in a matter of weeks. Russia still has a circa 1979 military and the US has a 2014 military (with plenty of combat experience). That’s a 35 year separation. Compare the armies of 1918 with those of 1953 as a comparison. Sabre jets against Spads…

        It’s not that we didn’t win militarily in the wars you mentioned (we did, in all of them). We lost the political battle. If we decided to rebuild Russia after we beat them, yeah, it could take years. To conquer them militarily, not so long (and Putin is no dummy, he knows this).

        Of course, we are going to war against Russia over Ukraine. They are not an ally and it wouldn’t make sense to do so. If Russia attacks a NATO member, OTOH, all bets are off.

        • mordacious1
          Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

          NOT going to war, that is.

        • peterr
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 1:51 am | Permalink

          Are there people here naive enough to believe that US and Russia could fight a war not involving nuclear weapons? I know education can be seriously deficient, but this kind of historical ignorance (of, e.g., the Cuban missile crisis) is just breathtaking.

          • eric
            Posted April 22, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

            I think you need to study your history before you accuse people of breathtaking naivte for thinking something that is currently going on, and has happened before could happen again in Ukraine.

            The Korean war included troops from China fighting US troops when both countries had nukes (Russia provided material support to the NKs, but no troops). And brushfire/border wars between India and Pakistan over the past decade or two are also examples of nuclear powers fighting conventional wars against each other.

            So yes, I have very little doubt that nuke-wielding countries can meet on the battlfields of Ukraine without nukes being exchanged. Because that is exactly what happened 60 years ago in Asia, and to a “lesser power” extent its also exactly what is still happening today in Asia. Naive is forgetting and discounting the lessons and history of the Korean war. Its not naive to remember it.

        • Adam M.
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure why you think we won in Vietnam. We went in to defeat the communist North Vietnamese (and the Viet Cong guerrillas) and prevent reunification of Vietnam under communist rule. We failed to achieve either objective.

          In Afghanistan our stated goal was to remove the Taliban from power. Although they were quickly removed from the official government, after 12.5 years they haven’t been defeated and still control some parts of the country. It seems fairly probable that if the US forces leave, they’ll reassert themselves over the country, especially given that the Karzai government we’re propping up has little popular support.

          It’s true that the Russian military is outdated. (They have some fairly modern technology, but haven’t had the budget to construct many new craft.) I can’t see us defeating Russia itself without a nationwide effort that we don’t have in us right now, but perhaps we could kick them out of Ukraine (and maybe that’s all you were referring to). Even then, I don’t think it’d be a cakewalk if the Russians decide to put up much of a fight.

          • mordacious1
            Posted April 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

            The objectives you mentioned are political objectives, not military ones.

    • Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Playing the Nazi card…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum

  9. Jerry Zhompson
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Putin is a corrupt oligarch. While he pretends to represent the Russian people, he is in actuality a corrupt bureaucrat. Putin has destroyed the Russian economy. He personally owns a vast amount of stock in Russian resource companies, and wishes to keep the nation under a “resource curse” so as to maintain his own private wealth. The country’s transition from a resource economy to a services economy has been stifled by the administration’s corrupt antics. Western liberal democracies, despite their problems, lead to far more economic growth, wealth, and prosperity than the corrupt Russian system.

    • Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Nonsense.

      • Posted April 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Medvedev#Relationship_with_Putin

        Putin has done some fancy footwork to get in as prez again. He’s worn out his welcome, and qualifies as an oligarch by the way he clings to power. He should have observed the term limits! One could say he’s a megalomaniac too.

        Medvedev is but a figurehead.

        Excerpt from wiki:
        “As both Putin and Medvedev could have run for President in the 2012 general elections, there was a view from some analysts that some of Medvedev’s contemporaneous actions and comments at the time were designed to separate his image from Putin’s: examples noted by the BBC included his dealings in late 2010 with NATO and the United States, possibly designed to show himself as being better able to deal with Western nations,[115] and comments in November about the need for a stronger opposition in Russian politics, to present himself as a moderniser. The BBC also noted that other analysts believed the split to be exaggerated, that Medvedev and Putin were “trying to maximise support for the authorities by appealing to different parts of society”.[99] There was belief that the court verdict on former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev, both of whom funded opposition parties before their arrests, would indicate whether or not Putin was “still calling all the shots”.[116]

        On 24 September 2011, while speaking at the United Russia party congress, Medvedev announced that he would recommend the party nominate Vladimir Putin as its presidential candidate and that the two men had long ago cut a deal to allow Mr Putin to return to the presidency in 2012 after he was forced to stand down in 2008 by term limits.[117] This switch was termed by many in the media as “rokirovka”, the Russian term for the chess move “castling”. Medvedev said he himself would be ready to perform “practical work in the government”.[118] Putin accepted Medvedev’s offer the same day, and backed him for the position of the Prime Minister of Russia in case the United Russia, whose list of candidates in the elections Medvedev agreed to head, would win in the upcoming Russian legislative election.[119] The same day the Russian Orthodox Church endorsed the proposal by President Medvedev to let Putin return to the post of President of Russia.[120] “

        • Posted April 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          In addition, from the same wiki link:
          “On 22 December 2011, in his last state of the nation address in Moscow, Medvedev called for comprehensive reform of Russia’s political system — including restoring the election of regional governors and allowing half the seats in the State Duma to be directly elected in the regions. “I want to say that I hear those who talk about the need for change, and understand them”, Medvedev said in an address to the Duma. “We need to give all active citizens the legal chance to participate in political life.” However, the opposition to the ruling United Russia party of Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin dismissed the proposals as political posturing that failed to adequately address protesters who claimed the 4 December election was rigged.[121] On 7 May, on his last day in office, Medvedev signed the last documents as the head of state: in the sphere of civil society, protection of human rights and modernization. He approved the list of instructions by the results of the meeting with the Presidential council on Civil Society and Human Rights, which was held on 28 April. Medvedev also approved with his decree “Presidential programme for raising skills of engineers for 2012–2014″ for modernization and technological development of the Russian economy.[122] Medvedev’s stepping aside for Putin’s return was seen by many in Russia as anti-democratic and played a part in the protests that erupted in cities around Russia following Putin’s election. ”

          Also see this on Russian Oligarchs during Putin’s presidency:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_oligarch

        • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          A Wikipedia article written by anti-Russia propagandists! Not a credible source by any stretch.

  10. stevenjohnson
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    The most important issue is whether you support the neofascists in Kiev, or whether you oppose them.

    • Chris
      Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Well, or the neo-fascists from Moscow.

      Great choice, isn’t it? One that Putin seems to want to take out of the hands of the Ukrainians themselves.

      • stevenjohnson
        Posted April 22, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

        Putin’s a lot of bad things, but he’s not a neofascist. The Svoboda party that shares power in Kiev is, as well as the Right Sector bloc that is still threatening the Rada and courts, and calling for the completion of the revolution.

        Also, since Putin has explicitly stated any intervention would be reaction to mass oppression by Kiev, i.e., by neofascists, you have announced that you think neofascist atrocities are a grand thing, to which “Ukrainians” apparently have a right which it would be criminal to deprive them of.

        You may claim Putin is lying but, barring an invasion, how can he deprive the “Ukrainians” of their right to neofascism? The problem with pretending Putin has secretly invaded is that the official government claims as presented in the pictures (helpfully linked to by weit,) prove otherwise. The only possible match I can see is an old guy, who was needed to do his dastardly deeds in two different cities.

        If Putin’s secret invasion is so puny it needs to shuttle a disheveled old man around from one hot spot to another, it isn’t making the people in the Donbass do anything. That’s not even enough to significantly aid them do what they want.

        Also, it is because the new Kiev regime is a neofascist regime that seized power by street fighting, culminating in the purge of the Rada, that it cannot muster the support in the old society and military to put down the handful of fifty, sixty year old men who’ve sneaked into the east. That’s why the regime has been trying to mobilize a new force under neofscist control.

        Fraankly, I hope their difficulties thus far show that the entire Ukrainian people reject neofascism. I hope that despite the political and diplomatic support extended to the Kiev neofascists by their friends abroad, the whole monstrous atavism collapses. Failing that, I hope that NATO actually finds a purpose and stands to defend the rest of Europe against neofascism.

        Viktor Orban in Hungary is friendly to the neofascist Jobbik party. Golden Dawn is rising in Greece. The National Front rises in France. The fascists never really went away in Spain or Itally. The last thing this world needs is for the US to defend neofascism.

        • gerard52
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          VP Joe Biden made an address to the Ukrainian rump parliament today, where the terrorist battle flag of the former Confederate States of America hangs as a proud statement of solidarity and shared ideology along side the neo-Nazi flag of Svoboda, Right Sector and the ultra- nationalist forces that dominate in western Ukraine. The fascist movement is represented at the highest levels of the putsch government in Kiev. Is the US/EU/NATO alliance ready to start a war with Russia over this nonelected neo- fascist cabal? I for one hope not.

      • W.Benson
        Posted April 22, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        Is there anything near Nazis in Western Ukraine? Here is a video called “Nazis Glorified in Ukraine: SS uniforms on display at reburial service for Ukrainian WWII veterans” posted by Ukrainian “Jewish News One” (https:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7Z0incwC2w). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church sponsored ceremony took place only last years. It was condemned by the World Jewish Congress (http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/13869/wjc_urges_ukrainian_orthodox_church_leader_to_act_against_glorification_of_nazi_soldiers).

        • stevenjohnson
          Posted April 22, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          I’m not convinced that everyone who doesn’t know hasn’t simply been maintaining plausible deniability. I think it’s exactly like the people who swore up and down they’d be mightily displeased if there really were no WMDs in Iraq like the NYT said.

          But maybe? A couple of symptoms? The Svoboda party, part of the Kiev junta, originally had the Wolfsangel as its logo. This is commonly regarded as neoNazi. I think it’s much more obvious than the quenelle.

          And one of the Svoboda deputies founded the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center, since renamed. But then, the entire Svoboda party was renamed. It was originally, and evocatively I think, the Social National Party of Ukraine. I suppose the NYT has explained that the name change signaled a fundamental change in nature, though.

          http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/18/yes_there_are_bad_guys_in_the_ukrainian_government

  11. peterr
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Suppose—which wouldn’t happen—but anyway, suppose that an unelected government in Ottawa, Canada, decided to withdraw from NATO. Instead, they were working publicly on getting alliances with Russia, China, North Korea, …, and even proposed to have them build a few military bases within Canada. As it happens, the French speaking population had become largest, and actually this unelected government had even passed a law removing English as an official Canadian language.

    But in southern Alberta, some rather USian-sounding fellows in masks had taken over government buildings opposing this. After all, the recently illegally deposed Prime Minister (who had been elected in a real election, more-or-less fair, though very badly tainted by ‘big-money’ and the sadly deficient educations of the ‘lower-classes’) was actually from Alberta. And those new unelected guys running Ottawa had grandparents who had wildly supported some really terrible communists in universally condemned actions 70 years earlier. It was however suspected that some of those masked fellows in Alberta were not all just Canadian, perhaps Mormons, but some were from secret agencies of the US military. In fact, a famous scientist from China, who wrote on the internet very sensible opinions concerning many topics, seemed to be saying that none were from Canada, all were these interlopers from US.

    Now what do you think the US government would be thinking and doing about all this, whether it were still reasonably democratic, or had somehow been taken over by a man rather similar to that hoodlum Putin from a few decades earlier and half-way round the world? Would everyone think, in the latter case, that the USian population was just being taken in by the latter-day hoodlum/dictator (though an elected one, however manipulated the election had been, and however much the hoodlum liked to use religious superstitions of the electorate to his advantage). At this point of course, an actual war between the biggies’ here could easily result in millions, perhaps billions, of human deaths.

    There are weaknesses in this analogy of course. But maybe it will reinforce a few earlier comments here.

  12. Adam M.
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    The Cold War will only restart if the US decides to start a conflict over this. Otherwise it’ll just be Russia annexing some portion of Ukraine.

  13. crf
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Russia is paranoid about its security, like most other nations. So it will always think the worst of its rivals’ actions, and act accordingly. The US is no different, but can afford to more often initiate action itself because it has the unparalled security of all nations (with Mexico and Canada and three oceans between itself and any rival, and access in Canada to all the resources, land, water, and extra human capital it could ever need.)

    The US can base missiles in Ukraine that will destroy Moscow in minutes. It’s a bit like a reverse Cuban Missile crisis, except there is no way to out. The US had previously been disguising its intensions rather well. Moscow was suspicious, but it’s alarm has been continually growing over the past decade.

    As it stands now, the actions of the US in surrounding Russia will either lead to Nuclear war or Russian capitulation, so Putin wanted to reunite the Russian parts of the ex-Soviet Union outside its borders it feels are sacred. For religious reasons tied up in history. And he has accomplished that in Crimea: there are few other such sacred sites. Uniting other Russian speaking regions may be important, but not critical. As Putin stated, he couldn’t imagine NATO ships in Sevastopol: that would symbolically mean that Russia lost the second world war, which would have lasted from 1939 to 2014, and was only won when a German dominated Europe allied itself with the US to push Russia back across its borders, stealing one of its cities, and consigning Russia to a fate of having its resources sucked dry to satiate the west.

    The ties between Russia and Western Europe are going to be severely altered. Russia will try to tie its fate to China and perhaps India. China and Russia have sufficient land, scientific expertise, and population to survive against a US western hegemony. Apart those countries do not. So those countries may understand that if they do not ally, the US will eventually pick off one or the other country, and form NATO-type military alliances with the minor countries surrounding them, neutering them. The US will then have accomplished its goal of dominating the entire world. Only if China and Russia are militarilly united can a multi-polar world survive.

    Another casualty of this crisis is the weaponization of space. Russia and China are now both going to weaponize space. This is their only hope of countering a US first strike.

    All this was forseeable, I think. So the actions of the US during the maidan crisis in Ukraine, which led to the coup, which eventually is going to precipitate an enormous realignment of world power, are going to be much discussed.

  14. Dave
    Posted April 22, 2014 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    “The US will then have accomplished its goal of dominating the entire world.”

    I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see supposedly intelligent, articulate people writing stuff like this. You cannot actually believe this…can you??

    I despair when I see that there are really are people who think that ALL the world’s ills are the fault of the West, specifically the USA. No-one else has any agency: Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Al Qaida, Boko Haram – they’re all just misunderstood pacifists, driven to do what they do by the bad old US of A. Presumably if the USA were to disappear tomorrow, universal peace would spring up across the globe, the lion would lie down with the lamb, and chocolate bars would rain from the skies.

    • crf
      Posted April 22, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      I don’t the world’s ills are the fault of the west. Russia bears most of the blame for the Ukraine crisis by keeping that country weak and ripe for revolution.

      I don’t think Russia, Syria, NK, Al Qaida, etc are pacifists.

      I don’t think that if the USA disappeared tomorrow, it would be peaceful.

      But I do think the US wishes to militarily dominate the world. It wants to do this to ensure its survival, and to do that it has to ensure that no other military bloc ever emerges to challenge it. I think it will do bad things to help accomplish keeping all potential rival alliances weak and constrained.

      This is a finite world.

  15. Posted April 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m holding my breath waiting for the propaganda to start tying atheists to Russia. I suspect my lung capacity doesn’t need to be that great.

  16. Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Sheer US mendacious propaganda. The NYT is simply printing what they have been told to print. This US propaganda can be termed “How DARE Russia have its borders right next to our military bases!”

    • Dominic
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

      “The NYT is simply printing what they have been told to print” ??????

      • Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        Sounds like some big time projection going on there. I wonder how the Times being “told what to print” comports with mutually exclusive editorials that the paper always publishes, as well as the criticism every President and many public figures receive on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the people who are “really running things” telling them to do that to throw us off the trail. Probably something with the Freemasons or Yale’s Secret Society, or the Matrix…

        • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Freemasons or Yale’s Secret Society, or the Matrix

          Methinks someone is watching far too many Alex Jones videos and reading far too many David Icke books… Are you sure it isn’t Reptilians? LOL!

      • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Yep.

        • W.Benson
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          I second that.

  17. stevenjohnson
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Looking at the evidence is a good thing. I found the pictures given by the NYT to be very low quality. Here is a higher resolution version. http://www.wsws.org/asset/c7c41134-8f52-4e12-9927-8ae14968de4I/ukraine-Georgia-Kramatorsk.jpg

  18. W.Benson
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Kiev sent their army, but forgot to buy food! Funny.(https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=V09SNfNdSE4&app=desktop)


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