tip off

Russia won’t invade Ukraine — as long as everyone does what Putin wants

Russia is still massing troops on Ukraine’s border. Most of the posturing is for effect — but if push comes to shove, Russia will be the one doing the shoving.

Russia’s political leaders appear to be taking a particular pleasure in the planned and co-ordinated dismemberment of Ukraine. As with any unprincipled thug, Russia’s only constraint is ensuring it remains internationally unaccountable while continuing to dismantle its vulnerable neighbour.

Russia is now breaking off pieces of the country at will and ignoring international protestations while feigning innocence. The eastern Ukraine town of Slaviansk is now firmly under the control of thinly disguised Russian troops and their local compatriots, with Ukraine reluctant to act for fear of provoking even greater Russian intervention.

That pro-Russian militia took military observers from Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe hostage only further highlights Russia’s intransigence towards a genuinely negotiated resolution of the crisis. The arrest of the observers, on the pretext they were spying, was a simple demonstration of Russia’s rejection of any external involvement in events in eastern Ukraine; the release of one on health grounds was an all-but-inconsequential gesture.

European and United States protestations at the events in eastern Ukraine are having no effect on Russia’s actions, nor are proposed economic sanctions by the G7 expected to be strong or co-ordinated enough to be meaningful. In any case, Russia has already factored sanctions into its game plan.

As with threats of US intervention following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria last year, Russia has fobbed off US concerns by agreeing to terms it had no intention of keeping. Russia was to urge moderation on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, retaining the fiction that they are not actual Russian soldiers.

While some of the heavily armed and uniformed militia in eastern Ukraine are, no doubt, locals who have volunteered or been recruited to the service of the militant separatist movement, others are clearly uniformed Russian soldiers without identifying insignia. These Russian soldiers are identical to those Russian troops without insignia who, with support of Russian-speaking locals, overthrew Ukraine control of Crimea in February.

Meanwhile, despite Russia’s earlier agreement to draw down troop numbers massed on Ukraine’s border, there are some 40,000 soldiers still in place, along with military “exercises” that look like preparations for invasion. This, too, however, is part of Russia’s “psychological warfare” game plan, whereby it has not technically invaded Ukraine, but the threat of doing so undermines Ukraine’s interim Parliament’s every thought and move.

While Russia is very unlikely to invade Ukraine, it is absolutely intent on seeing Ukraine rewrite the country’s constitution to create autonomous — Russian-aligned — regions. It also wants Ukraine to hold new elections, producing a parliament with an influential, dominant core of pro-Russian members, and an agreement to turn away from the European Union and embrace Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

In all of this, as with the US in some of its own ventures in Latin America, Russia sees Ukraine as clearly within its own sphere of influence. And there is no doubt that if events in Ukraine are handled badly, they could create a much bigger and more serious regional problem.

But the US, Europe and even Russia are all keen to avoid an uncontrolled escalation of the Ukraine crisis, especially in ways that could spill across borders. To that end, Russia is being a regional thug but, with no one prepared or, indeed, able to force a halt to its carefully calculated actions, it is likely to get the final outcome it wishes.

*Professor Damien Kingsbury is director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin University

11
  • 1
    Desmond Carroll
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    At last I understand; Russia’s the thug, while the US of A is the compassionate social worker.

  • 2
    danger_monkey
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    At last I understand; Russia’s the thug, while the US of A is the compassionate social worker.

    What the US of A is or isn’t doesn’t change what Russia is doing to the Ukraine.

    Russia is behaving like a thug.

  • 3
    Chris Nyland
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I was delighted to see that Crikey elected to offer commentary on the situation in Ukraine. However, I was most disappointed to see that Damien Kingsbury had nothing to offer more than what amounts to a rant that totally fails to address what is a very complex situation. Despite what the good professor has to say the Russians and more specifically Putin are not the only thug in this dispute. In short most disappointed that all I am given by Crikey is an old fashioned cold war rant.

    Profess Chris Nyland

  • 4
    John Smith
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m very much disappointed with this article. As Chris Nyland has stated it is very sensitive and complex issue and Damien you seem like you haven’t got a clue of what’s happening there and more importantly why.
    Please read english.pravda.ru and get some truth.

    Regards from Petersburg

  • 5
    Grumpy Old Sod
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    So the Obama administration, by creating a putsch within the Ukraine is now opposing a thug who dislike that action? By overthrowing the elected government (admittedly a corrupt one) using the services of Victoria Nuland, spouse of far right wing warrior Robert Kagan of the Project of the New American Century (PNAC) fame which sees the US as ‘exceptional’ and beyond international norms, the US now finds itself in the embarrassing situation of

    a) losing its strategic goal of taking the Black Sea port of Sebastapol from the Russians without having to fire a shot.

    b) being allied with people who are the direct political heirs of General Bandera, a Ukrainian who lead SS type brigades against the Soviets in World War 2 and whose continued push is to ‘de-Russianise’ eastern and southern Ukrain, thus causing considerable angst amongst the mostly Russian speaking population of Eastern and Southern Ukraine

    c) being only able to wave limp dick threats at the Russians about sanctions, an action which would cripple the EU if they were ever to be implemented and

    d) giving succour to the unelected, violent mob who now ‘control’ Kiev (and not much else besides) by egging them on to face off with Russia.

    Well Professor, thankfully I will never be your student because your repertoire is mighty thin. To call the Russians thugs could be quite correct but as I understand it the only way to stand up to a bully is to truly stand up to the bastard and that is exactly what Putin is doing to the US. You are ignoring the USA’s less than stellar performances right now with the Chinese and the Venezuelans which, when placed into the perspective of PNAC makes the US actions logical and totally frightening.

    Let me tell you my take on this. The US is losing in Syria so much so that their loyal ally Bandar ‘Bush’ has lost his position in Saudi Arabia (he of the Sarin gas false flag fame in Syria) and there is a fundamental realigning of forces in the Saudi peninsula (Obama came away with basically nothing in his latest foray into Riyadh). Iran is now in consultation with Saudi Arabia for example, something unheard of in recent history. The gas pipeline from Iran through northern Iraq and Syria to Europe looks as if it could be implemented, especially given the potential Saudi realignment and that Erdogan of Turkey is also in consultation with Putin, thus making this an even stronger possibility. This of course will stymy the Israeli pipeline from their offshore wells thus displeasing both them and their wealthy American/Jewish backers of the US Congress.

    With Iran, Syria, China, Brazil and India just to name 5 of the major players aligned with Russia (there are more than 20 countries in all), it’s hard to see how the limp dicked sanctions that the US is fulminating over can have any effect at all. In addition, given that the US solemnly promised Russia in 1990 that it would never include any of the Eastern European countries into NATO but which it promptly did and then placed missiles facing Russia ostensibly to negate the Iranian threat (I have a bridge to sell if you believe that) then I at least can see why the Russians are a tad interested in these events and dislike the thought of an unfriendly force sitting on their doorstep.

    Which leads to the next point.

    Why, given that NATO was for the protection of Europe from the Soviet behemoth is it still in existence given that the USSR collapsed so spectacularly as once it collapsed surely the need for NATO evaporated? Or is it more than likely that NATO, being a child of the US/UK, are mightily worried about losing their preeminent position on the planet to a Eurasian grouping stretching from China to Russia and through Russia to Europe? Given that plans are known to exist between the US and the UK that stretch back over 60 years to stop this grouping coming into existence then my guess is that the events in the Ukraine are directly attributable to this fear. That the US/UK are losing is undoubted, my real concern that some people are such poor losers that they act in totally irrational ways once their position becomes untenable. I fear that the US could initiate World War 3 over this which, as Einstein said, would make World War 4 one that could only be fought with knives. And we, being such a staunch ally of the thieves known as the US of A are a ready target what with Pine Gap, Canberra and environs and Learmonth being such prime communication hubs for the US war machine.

    As Malcolm Fraser said, it’s time to rethink our alliances.

  • 6
    Reechard
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful/appalling demonstration of Newspeak. My bellyfeel is it could be blackwhite, or if not that, duckspeak.

    No mention of the overthrow of a democratically elected, albeit corrupt, government by vile, violent means?

    No mention of the neonazis supported and as Nuland proudly boasted ‘on-air’, funded to the tune of $5 billion? I see no mention of Svoboda.. Gosh… Why?

    No talk of the Maidan snipers, now reliably reported to have been from the side of the putsch, to sow fear and confusion?

    Instead, this faux scholar presents a wicked, deliberate conflation with Syria and a known US/NATO/Israeli/Saudi/Qatar false flag gas attack, intended to excuse US bombing terrorism.
    For good measure (??) he throws in an attempt to draw a comparison with the millions of people atrociously killed by the US and it’s agencies in Central and Southern America (and anywhere else) with the restrained, measured Russian responses, protecting it’s own people and people who have voted to stay Russian (Or are we expected to forget Crimea? Push it down the old memory hole, Ministry of Truth and all that..)
    We are told that ‘Europe’ (that craven, bureaucratic monster) just wants to help. Yeah, help itself to the wealth of the region, via direct theft and ‘economic structural reform’ aka Asset stripping.

    Orwell was out by 30 years.
    God help any Deakin student studying under this clown.
    Although on reflection, he fits with the demographic.

  • 7
    AR
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Nhy izvestia ih Pravda, nhy pravda ih Izvestia.

  • 8
    Jillian Curr
    Posted Monday, 28 April 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Nothing scintillating in this article. Only stating the obvious.

  • 9
    j.oneill
    Posted Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the tenor of most of the above comments. This is yet another half-baked article which shows not only a pathetic ignorance of what is really going on, but an unabashed Cold War mentality. Cricket should get a commentator on international affairs who actually has some insight. Kingsbury’s articles read as nothing more than job applications for his next US study grant.

  • 10
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Jo’N - I’m sure that he’d Fullilove such an offer. Very attractive at certain times, is Langley.

  • 11
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Prof Damien K: you’re yet another stenographer for the US & NATO right?

    What a load of dross you’ve written on this matter…the US & its allies including Australia have directly & indirectly slaughtered millions of Iraqis & Afghanis, stolen the former’s national oil assets & used the latter as a Shock Doctrine exercise, and you call Putin a thug.

    I’ll bet you your tenure that both these decimated countries would take a Putin over a Bush/Obama/Blair/Rodent any day.

    Very poor analysis indeed…..

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