It's All About The Ukraine

Ian has a post everyone should read. Also, as a reminder, give this show Ian and I did with noted Russia specialist Anatol Lieven, where we discuss at length Russia and the Ukraine and NATO a listen.

Everything which transpired over the last week has been about one issue, and one issue only: the Ukraine. Russia will never let the Ukraine join NATO. Not now, especially as they have the power and the means and quite clearly the will to thwart its accession.

Why is Ukraine important? Other than the key points Ian makes there is one other key point that must be made. Had Charles XII, or Napoleon or Hitler had a Western friendly country with borders less than a few hundred kilometers from Moscow their invasions would have ended in a drastically different fashion. It’s called ‘strategic depth’ and the Russians will never give up the Ukraine for that reason. If you think nations change, well they do, but not nearly as fast as you think. And for the Russians the Mongols, the Swedes, the French and the Germans are still very, very real in their collective memory.

We are at a very dangerous point right now. The US is over-extended and to some extent paralyzed by the election that is upcoming. The next 12 months are the perfect time frame, as Ian notes, for Russia to make it very clear that it will not tolerate a Ukraine in NATO.

It won’t happen, and if the West persists, Europe will have some damn cold winters ahead and maybe even a fighting war on its hands.

Stay out of the Ukraine. America has its red-lines; the Israelis have theirs, and so do the Russians. We’d be wise to remember that in all our flag waving jingoistic glory.

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Nota bene: I want to really urge you all to listen to the podcast Ian and did back in April 2007. Starting around minute 30 it is very, very worthwhile and goes to the heart of the issues we are dealing with in Georgia right now.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

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  • about 250 from Kiev? I’d take Kiev in a heartbeat, not too mention one could also invade out of southern Ukraine and cut Russia in half by making it to Astrakhan quite easily.

    “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • His response to one of the posters

    Putin’s a darker man than Bush in many ways. Bush is a grownup kid who likes doing to humans what he did to frogs. He also almost certainly has extensive drug/alcohol based brain damage. Putin is a sophisticated, intelligent man with an excellent education who actually understood what he learned and who plays politics like chess, not poker.

    I hope Obama knows how to play chess, on the world stage that is. Maybe he can calm the Russian bully.

    “While not a Playboy reader, she invites a male acquaintance in for a quiet discussion of Chagall, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” – not a Hugh Hefner quote

  • It’s 470 miles from Kiev to Moscow, so it’s a wash. Your main point is still valid, I’m just saying that the Ukraine wouldn’t have changed much for Napoleon – he still would have had to deal with a long slog throught the Russian Winter.

    I doubt a campaign against Astrakhan would have meant much to the tzars in 1812. That move would have isolated Napoleon even more than Moscow and left him like Charles XII.

  • the fact that it leads to all the industrial resources of the Volga basin. But I would submit, had Napoleon a moder mechanize army the outcome might have been different. But I’ll leave that kind of speculation to Harry Turtledove. 😉

    “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • Checkmate – Yes maybe. The only way for europe to topple Putin’s King is to turn off the oil & gas.

    Putin would take many years to sign up the Chinese as customers (long pipelines), and the Chinese may not become customers becuase of the strategic risk.

    Would the Europeans go for it? Probably not.

    Would Russia start a shooting war with Europe? Maybe, but Europe then would not be in any position to buy Russia’s oil & gas…

    Price of oil? You thought $140+ was expensive!

    On the plus side? Big incentive to go renewable. Quickly. Really difficult & painful change change.

    Wooly overcoat futures anyone?

  • The problem with Russia and China is that the Russians play chess but the Chinese play mah-jong.

    “The Playboy reader invites a female acquaintance in for a quiet discussion of Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” – Hugh Hefner

  • expressed interest in joining the KGB at age 16. Their advice to him was to study law and languages. He finally got his wish when he was 24. As Yeltsin’s stooge, Putin learnt that energy was wealth and power.

    Putin taught Bush how to drive! Hopefully Obama can drive himself! lolz

  • Israel has sold some $500 million worth of military equipment to Georgia over the past few years, and top Israeli military experts have been involved in training Georgian armed forces.

    Israeli soldiers who participated in training Georgian forces as recently as four months ago told Ha’aretz that they were not surprised when hostilities broke out. “There was an atmosphere of war about to break out. …From my point of view, the battles of the past few days were to be expected,” said one soldier.

    As Russian forces invaded Georgia late last week and the two nations engaged in what is increasingly being called a full-scale war, Israel’s leadership expressed concerns that Moscow could retaliate for continued Israeli military support of Georgia by selling advanced arms to Iran and Syria. ” Israel Today

    The Israelis should be careful or they will acquire a reputation for dumping their allies unde pressure.

    Until now the US has held the record for consistency in that field of political action.

    Is it coincidence that the US and Israel both acted over the last few years to encourage Georgia in defiance of its giant neighbor?

    Israel has 80,000 immigrant Georgian Jews in its population. The defense minister of Georgia is reported to be a “former” Israeli citizen.

    it’s more complicated than it look at first glance, is what i’m thinking.

  • LONDON, August 14 (Reuters) – The cost of insuring Ukrainian government debt in the credit default swaps market sharply increased on Thursday, with investors increasingly worried about worsening relations with Russia.

    Ukrainian credit default swaps widened roughly 20 basis points to 437 on Thursday, compared to 401 last Friday.

    Investors are concerned both over ongoing domestic political worries and worsening relations with Russia over its conflict with Georgia.

    “It’s a perfect storm for Ukraine at the moment,” said Commerzbank debt strategist Luis Costa. “The government has made it clear that it is on a collision course with Russia and there are other issues as well.”

  • Reuters – Georgia`s parliament voted on Thursday to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a Russian-led grouping of ex-Soviet states, after accusing Moscow of starting a war over separatist South Ossetia, according to Reuters.

    The chamber voted unanimously in favour of the motion.

    As UNIAN reported earlier, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced on Tuesday that Georgia made decision to pull out of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) [a grouping ex-Soviet states] and calls on Ukraine to follow its example.

    According to Georgian and Russian media, “We are leaving the CIS for good… and call on Ukraine and other countries leave this body run by Russia,” Saakashvili told a big rally in his support outside Georgia`s parliament.

    Ukraine’s parliament to mull quitting CIS

    Ukrainian People’s Party Members of Parliament Yuri Kostenko and Yaroslav Dzhodzhyk have registered on Thursday in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine the draft Bill of Ukraine “On Denunciation of the Treaty on Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States” (the draft # 3056).

    UNIAN was informed about it at the press-service of the Ukrainian People’s Party.

    The draft bill proposes to denunciate the Treaty on creating the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed by Ukraine on December 8 of 1991, and ratified on December 10 of 1991. In line with the draft bill, the Cabinet of Ministers will be commissioned to inform other CIS member countries about Ukraine’s quitting this organization, and to propose CIS to dissolve itself because its further existence is inefficient and it does not justify the purpose of its creation.

    permanent URL of article:

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces to implement Yushchenko’s decree on Russian ships

    The Armed Forces of Ukraine will implement the orders of President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko concerning restrictions of movement of the Russian Federation Black Sea fleet in the Ukrainian territory.

    According to an UNIAN correspondent, Ukrainian General Staff head, army general Serhiy Kyrychenko claimed this today upon meeting with military attachés of foreign states accredited in Ukraine.

    “The Decrees of the Ukrainian President on the Black Sea Fleet, without any doubt, will be implemented in the Ukrainian territory. The Defense Ministry and the General Staff are the state structures that will shoulder this task”, S.Kyrychenko said.

    He also informed that today the Defense Ministry held a session to work out concrete tasks and make decisions on this issue.

    As UNIAN reported earlier, Ukraine`s president claimed Russian navy ships that were deployed to the Georgian coast will need authorization to return to the base Russia leases from Ukraine.

    Viktor Yushchenko`s decree Wednesday requires Russia`s Black Sea Fleet to submit a request to return to its base in the Crimea 10 working days before its planned return.

    The Russian navy squadron was deployed to Georgia`s coast as part of Russia`s onslaught on Georgia beginning last week.

    Earlier on Thursday, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy head of the Russian General Staff, told a news conference in Moscow that the instructions of the Ukrainian authorities, which commissioned the Russian Black Sea Fleet to submit a request to return to its base in the Crimea, are not legitimate for the Russian Naval Forces. The news conference was broadcast live by Vesti24 television.

    “We have only one Commander-in-Chief, the Russian Federation President, and all statements from abroad are not legitimate for us”, Nogovitsyn claimed.

    permanent URL of article:

  • and pointed out that the ukraine and russia have been playing games over this port for years now. and that the ukraine is in a position to shut down the flow of russian gas/oil, and have done so several times in the past. the ukraine is not geogia in a lot of way. there are other more potentially dangerous conflict points, right now, goes that analysis.

  • Understood that the Russian army is an order of magnitude larger than the Georgian army, but given US and Israeli training and equipment, you would think they would have had a more spirited defense. The Georgian army was around the same size as the initial Russian forces. Perhaps there are greater Russian losses than the news is reporting? Or perhaps the Georgians didn’t intend to fight, and the whole thing was a risky gambit for international attention?

  • Would Russia start a shooting war with Europe? Maybe, but Europe then would not be in any position to buy Russia’s oil & gas..

    The oil wars continue.

  • The Achilles heel of the Ukraine is its large Russian minority.

    Kiev, incidentally, was the first Russian city (its 1500th anniversary was celebrated in 1982) – Moscow was founded around the 12th century. The Vikings came to Kiev in the 9th century just as they did to Normandy, Sicily, England and Ireland first as marauders (terrorists) and then as traders and conquerors. They were called Varangians in the East and created the land of Rus (still used as the name of Russia by the other Germanic languages – Rusland, Rußland or Ryssland).

    Ukrainian diverged from Russian with the conquest in the 14th century of Kiev and the territory further west by Lithuania, which united later with Poland.

    Imagine if Edinburgh had been the first English city and you will get an inkling of Kiev’s importance.


  • Which is almost exclusively Russian, gets grants from Moscow regularly and has turned down EBRD grants because of the pro-West stance. The municipal government is largely Communist.

    One might as well panic about Russia invading Belarus.

    Now, I suppose there would be trouble should Ukrainian forces attack Sevastopol, but that’s not very likely, considering that ethnic Russians tend to be the Ukraine’s captains of industry.

  • Ukraine to join in US-led missile shield in Europe

    Published: Saturday 16 August 2008 12:20 UTC
    Last updated: Saturday 16 August 2008 12:23 UTC
    Radio Netherlands

    Ukraine has agreed to take part in a missile defence system designed by the United States to protect Western countries. The government in Kiev defended its decision for military co-operation with the West, saying Russia cancelled a bilateral treaty with Ukraine earlier this year.

    A few days ago, Poland and the United States reached agreement on the siting of missiles on Polish territory. These, together with radar installations in the Czech republic, make up the missile shield. Russia is fiercely opposed to the defence system and has threatened retaliatory measures.

    The Ukrainian offer to co-operate with the US on the shield comes as the situation surrounding Russia’s military operations in Georgia is increasingly tense. Ukraine’s pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko has strongly criticised Russia and is threatening to impose restrictions on Russian navy vessels’ use of the port of Sebastopol in Ukraine.

  • If these are the radar installations at Mukachevno, the Russians abandoned them last year. The Ukraine offered them for US use in 2005 when the Russians made their plans known. Apparently, they’re going to take a bit of work to get operational.


    Space Daily article.

    I imagine it goes without saying that Russia’s offer of a radar installation in Azerbaijan is off the table, however.

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