Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Putin Does Not Need To Invade Ukraine. He Just Needs To Sabotage It

Image from The Guardian

Putin Isn’t Invading Ukraine—He’s Sabotaging It -- Steve LeVine, Quartz

With Crimea in hand, Russia appears to be using powerful tools—from natural gas price hikes to a threat of the further loss of territory—to secure influence in the rest of Ukraine in advance of May 25 presidential elections.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s strategy seems to be not to actually invade Ukraine, as the West fears, but to assert dominance through levers already on the ground, as he did with Crimea. Putin’s apparent preference is for Ukraine to split into federated states with independent foreign policies prior to the presidential election—allowing the leaders of some of them to form subservient relationships with Russia.

If so, he is following the playbook he used to annex Crimea last month. There, he didn’t so much invade following the Feb. 22 ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, as lay an ambush. First, he put thousands of Russian troops on maneuver just over the border in Russia proper. With outside eyes focused on them, Russian troops already based in Crimea as part of the Black Sea fleet donned uniforms without insignia, and took over the peninsula. On March 16, Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

Read more ....

My Comment: Russia is (of course) denying reports that it is trying to destabilize Ukraine .... but the reality on the ground is different. Russia knows that Ukraine is crippled economically .... and is using that lever very effectively now. The fact that the West has not rushed in with tens of billions of dollars to bail out the Ukraine government has also undermined Kiev's influence, and enhanced Russia's position in Ukraine .... especially in the Russian dominated east. The danger is that if the economic conditions become dire there is a strong possibility of open rebellion breaking out in eastern Ukraine .... in that event anything and everything is possible. And if it does become very bloody I predict that Russia's "sabotage strategy" will quickly change to an invasion and occupation strategy .... and the irony is that they will be openly invited to come in by eastern Ukrainians who prefer the "stability" of Russia over the chaos of Ukraine.

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