Wednesday, 16 July 2014 10:40

Ukraine's Civil War Has "Irreversible Consequences"

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After months of supplying pro-Russian militants waging civil war in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, Moscow is now warning Kiev of the “irreversible consequences” of a single shell that was allegedly fired from within Ukraine and landed on Russian territory.

According to Moscow, one Russian was killed in the incident. Ukrainian analysts believe that, following the accidental shelling, the Russian military is directly responsible for shooting down a Ukrainian transport aircraft which was flying at an elevation of over 21,000 feet — a distance far outside the range of weapons in the possession of pro-Russian militants. And Reuters reports that Ukrainian officials are claiming that Russian officers may be overtly fighting side by side with anti-Kiev forces:

Accusing Russia of embarking on a course of escalation in Ukraine's eastern regions, National and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists: "In the past 24 hours, deployment of [Russian] units and military equipment across the border from the Sumy and Luhansk border points was noticed. The Russian Federation continues to build up troops on the border."

NATO said Russia had increased its forces along the border and now has 10,000-12,000 troops in the area.

Moscow’s seemingly disproportionate response to the single shell that landed on Russian soil may mark a movement on the part of Vladimir Putin to establish a casus belli. For perspective, at least 110 Ukrainians were killed between January 22 and February 20 of this year during the Euromaidan protests in Kiev that ultimately caused the pro-Moscow kleptocratic president, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee to Russia. (The Ukrainian parliament then followed the constitutional procedure for selection of a new president.) A March 30 article for the online site The Daily Beast offered seemingly irrefutable proof that the Russian-trained "Alfa Team" of the Ukraine’s state security service — under Yanukovych’s control — systematically murdered protesters, killing 53 individuals on February 20 alone. 

Since the beginning of the Russian-backed civil war in Donetsk and Luhansk, at least 550 people have been killed. Given the ferocity of the fighting that has transpired within Ukraine near the Russian border, Moscow’s official reaction to a single shell landing across the border is extreme — especially since a steady stream of men and materiel has been flowing from Russia into Ukraine’s eastern oblasts. Thus far, Ukraine has demonstrated restraint in striking at the flow of "volunteers" and military hardware — at least as long as they remained in Russian territory — because Ukraine is endeavoring to avoid war with Russia, while some of the leading voices within Russia have been demanding a war against Ukraine for months.

Opposition sources within Russia have noted that the Putin regime has expended vast amounts of money to prepare the nation’s military for a new war. According to Boris Nemtsov, since 2011, “military spending has risen 80 percent, and spending on the special services [intelligence] and police has gone up 50 percent.” As Paul Noble recently wrote concerning Nemtsov’s data, this shift in budgetary priorities has caused profound hardship throughout Russia:

The central Russian budget has also cut financing, with inflation taken into account, to the regions by 40 percent over the past four years. Given that the Kremlin has imposed a wide range of unfunded liabilities, it is no surprise that many regional governments are in debt and have had to freeze development projects, pay and benefits.

Putin is endeavoring to establish a Eurasian Union as a geopolitical force capable of overcoming the influence of the United States on the global stage. But the Eurasian Union requires the involvement of Ukraine if the union is to advance Putin’s goals.

In the immediate aftermath of the Euromaidan protests, Timothy Snyder reported for the New York Review of Books that even during the protests, Moscow feared that Yanukovych’s loss of control could endanger prospects of incorporating Ukraine in the new Eurasian Union:

The course of the protest has very much been influenced by the presence of a rival project, based in Moscow, called the Eurasian Union. This is an international commercial and political union that does not yet exist but that is to come into being in January 2015. The Eurasian Union, unlike the European Union, is not based on the principles of the equality and democracy of member states, the rule of law, or human rights.

On the contrary, it is a hierarchical organization, which by its nature seems unlikely to admit any members that are democracies with the rule of law and human rights. Any democracy within the Eurasian Union would pose a threat to Putin’s rule in Russia. Putin wants Ukraine in his Eurasian Union, which means that Ukraine must be authoritarian, which means that the Maidan must be crushed.

Having failed to crush the Ukrainians in the Euromaidan protests, Putin’s proxies in Luhansk and Donetsk endeavor to add their territories to those that were already illegally seized by Russia in Crimea. In short, the "desirable" portions of Ukraine may be severed from the nation in a piecemeal fashion.

In 2005, Putin declared that the "collapse" of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” and his promotion of the Eurasianist ideology from the fringes of Russian society to the center of his geopolitical strategy lends support to the formation of Evraziia, the Eurasian Movement, and gives a public platform to the ideologists of Eurasianism.

Aleksandr Dugin, Russia’s chief ideologist of the doctrine of Eurasianism, caused widespread outrage when he purportedly called for the murder of Ukrainians, declaring in a May 6 interview with Anna-News that it was time to “kill, kill, kill. There should be no more talking. As a professor, this is how I think.” The international outrage that resulted from his comments led to Dugin being suspended from the faculty of Moscow State University, though the suspension has had no measurable effect on his public activities in Russia and abroad.

Beginning in Kiev, and now in the battle for eastern Ukraine, Putin appears to be finding it hard to build a Eurasian Union out of the states of the old Soviet Union. But there are many Russians — especially among the young — who pine for the "glory days" of the U.S.S.R., and the architects of the Eurasian Union may prove as bloodthirsty in the pursuit of their goals as the Bolsheviks were in their own day.

Photo of Ukrainian protestor: AP Images

3 comments

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:12 posted by Old Mullet

    To Mr. T. M., I would assert that every nation in this world has citizens that could be quoted as you have. It could be that nation's stance or simply one of an individual or a group (large or small) within a nation. In our own country there are factions from moderate to extreme who would destroy other nations (and even our own) because of color, religion, or simply a last name they didn't like. That is no reason to label an entire nation by their rants. However, do we really know the reasons behind the civil war or who is in fact supporting the "other" side? We're down to the old saying such as "...walk a mile in my moccasins.." when judging from afar. We already know 90% of our news media follows the U.S. version of Pravda (i.e. government owned). Do we really need the war?

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:02 posted by Old Mullet

    As a thought... We, as a free (so far) nation, have worked very hard over the past 20+ years to see Russia and (E. Berlin) Germany remain free of Communist domination. This period has also grown our trade and political as well as communication connections with both. Now, our President and his supporters wish to destroy this over actions that our nation would go to war over if we experienced the same struggle ourselves. Hmm. reminding one of the War of North Aggression (against the South). An act both illegal and superficially bolstered by slavery as an issue, when in fact it was over excess taxation placed by the federal government on the states in the South. Yet, even today our nation is being separated by our leaders twisting the knife in us all over something none of us could control, but both races suffer when we should be aligned as Americans to save our own country. Do we really need a World War III with Russia? Who could possible win except the other nations that pick up the pieces. There is something to ponder on; is that the ultimate goal of our leadership?

  • Comment Link Ted Makogon Thursday, 17 July 2014 08:31 posted by Ted Makogon

    It is important to note, that, according to Ukrainian TV, the accidental shell which landed in the Russian territory was a result of Ukrainian efforts to eliminate a block post seized by the separatists on the Ukrainian side of the border.

    As for "kill, kill, kill" there is nothing new in this for Russians. During Second World War, one of the officially endorsed Soviet poet, Konstantin Simonov, wrote a widely known poem "Kill him!" which basically contains an idea, that until the last German is killed, a Soviet man should not sleep, love, or do anything else... So I do not think there is outrage among the majority of Russians, on the opposite, many of them will totally agree with the idea.

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