January 03, 2022

Meanwhile: North of the Black Sea

I don't think people are fully appreciating how serious this Ukraine mess is getting.

On the other side of the equation, The U.S.A.,  France, Germany, and the U.K. have re-affirmed their support for the Ukraines independence and territorial integrity. This is a long-standing agreement going back to the  Budapest Accords of the early 90s that convinced Ukraine to give up it's nuclear weapons, which it had inherited from the breakup of the U.S.S.R. 

Russia is on balance, obviously in the wrong here, but Ukraine, while it has done nothing to warrant the egregious violations of its sovereignty that it has endured, IS a corrupt country that literally has NAZIs sitting in it's parliament.  

This is a mess and I don't think anybody is fully appreciating the resolve of the other. 

Ukraine is the heartland of Russian civilization and culture, which began with the Russ of Kiev. Russians, especially nationalists like Putin have an intense attachment to Ukraine. On the Ukrainian side, that bridge was burnt, with prejudice, by the Holodomor.  So terrible were the Russian depredations of the Ukrainians that the Ukrainians in WW2 welcomed the fricking NAZIs in as liberators...it was so bad in the Ukraine that the NAZIs were a step up. This is why there are still NAZIs in Ukrainian politics.

The Russians have a huge amount to gain by an adventure in the Ukraine. Oil, a strategic buffer zone, the richest soil in the world and prestige foreign and domestic as well as the strong psychological need  to reintegrate what they see as their prodigal brethren. They have taken the measure of the U.S. in the aftermath of the Afghanistan debacle and seem to have decided that there is no better time to do this, as they will NEVER have such diffident leadership in the US again. 

Furthermore, Putin's position may not be as secure as is generally supposed. He is an autocrat who is ultimately answerable to the Russian Oligarchs and his position is dependent on appearing strong, both to them and the Russian people.

For its part, the U.S. in particular, after the Afganistan fiasco, feels it cannot back down again. Democrat talk a good game of being anti-war when not in office, but the only Democratic presidents that are not considered mediocre or outright failures are those that waged wars. They have a history of using the immense powers conferred on the government by war to consolidate their power by rounding up their political opposition and the only time this backfired on them meaningfully was in the aftermath of World War One. Plagued by multiple calamities, most of which are the products of their own ineptitude, the current administration needs a foreign policy victory, or, perhaps a short, victorious war. They see Russia as a broke corrupt nation that is a husk of its former self with a military that NATO even in its current military state could take in a conventional war. That assessment is not, strictly speaking, wrong, but the Russians most likely have some nasty surprises in store nevertheless.  In any event the Russians, who have a vast tactical nuclear arsenal have made it clear that any intervention by western powers past the eastern border of Poland will be met with nuclear fires. 

The U.S. and other Western powers seem to have dismissed tactical nukes as a real thing since about 1992. While Strategic forces of the U.S. and Russia, are basically at parity, The Russians have a vast advantage in low yield, short range weapons intended for battlefield use. All those points about Russia being a declining power mean that the  equalizing effect of tactical nukes is very tempting, and indeed the Russians have made no secret of their willingness to use weapons in a battlefield situation to "calm things down". 

The current administration, so heavy with theoreticians and academics likely can't really get their heads around this as a real thing. If the Russians pop a nuke and evaporate a number of NATO troops the reaction is not likely to be measured. Even if President Biden is removed by the 25th amendment, the Vice President is a quite incompetent courtesan who exhibits all the most toxic girl-boss behaviors of a particularly entitled upper middle-class debutante. 

In any event, there are few things more dangerous than scared, insecure leaders who are backed into a corner, and whose political future depends on appearing tough.  

Also: The Budapest Accords are a linchpin of nuclear nonproliferation. Ukraine gave up its nukes with the guarantee that it did not need them anymore. It has come to rue that decision. Other countries with nuclear capability, but no nuclear weapons are watching this situation closely. The EU and other NATO members, particularly France, (which, despite their reputation post WW2 are a world power that takes international norms VERY seriously) may well see the Budapest Accords as THE line in the sand, for if that commitment is abandoned, then Western (not just US) promises and guarantees will carry NO weight and for many countries in 'dangerous neighborhoods', not having high energy weapons will seem foolish. 

The point is that the Russians can quite possibly push too far, underestimating what the west sees as being the true states, and the west is likely to not recognize the seriousness of the Russian resolve and willingness to 'go to the next level'.

I have a degree in History, but foreign policy is outside my bailiwick. 
Thus, I have some questions going forward:

How binding ARE the Budapest Accords? 

What is the press coverage and public attitude towards this mess REALLY like in Russia. I don't speak Russian, Ukrainian, or Belarusian nor do I read Cyrillic so I'm taking the word of western news outlets, which is rarely a path to wisdom. 

How many "advisors" does the U.S. and other NATO countries have in the Ukraine? 

It seems consequential that the FINNISH politicians of all people are talking about joining NATO. How serious IS this talk, is it just smack talk or are the Finns seriously contemplating abandoning their position of neutrality that has existed since 1945?

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 1094 words, total size 9 kb.

1 Yeah. The Ukraine situation is even worse of a mess than our host has laid out. First our host has made the case quite well for why I support Ukraine remaining independent of Russia.
Unfortunately NATO, and the US, don't have clean hands int his either: 1. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, reassurances were given to Russia that NATO would not expand eastward. Those promises weren't worth the breath they were spoken with. Continued NATO expansion has become a red line not just for Russian oligarchs, but for the Russian people. 2. A certain former Democrat candidate for President in 2016 and who was then the Sec State had her arms up past her shoulders in the Ukrainian coup of 2014. The Russians took this about as well as the US would have taken a Chinese backed coup of either Mexico or Canada and sees it as about the same level of threat. 3. The involvment of the current holder of the Office of the President and his family in Ukrainian politics is in no way reassuring to the Russians about US intentions. 4. The jerking around of Russia in regards to Nordstream 2 has seriously irked all involved int he Russian side. They could have taken No early on, but the games that have been played are going to make anybody pissed (see France's reaction to the Australian nuclear sub deal as an example, and repeat that several times). 5. Putian is an autocrat, but he is also a genuine populist to the Russian people. Among a very large portion (majority?) of the population, he enjoys Trump-levels of adoration.
NATO really isn't in position to do much. The only ones who have a military worth speaking about are US, UK, France, and Germany. Only the first two have expeditionary capabilities that would allow them to deploy in any force, while France has some limited expeditionary capability. Germany doesn't really have any expeditionary capability and won't be a real factor in anything that goes down.
All of that said, I don't think Putin is ready to pull the level on tactical nuclear war, or even seriously risk it. While Putin has made moves to start recapitalizing and restoring Russian nuclear capability, a lot of it has sat rotting since the 90s. I don't think he's had time or resources enough to completely reestablish it's viability.  I see a lot of the 'technical revolutions' putin has let leak to be something of a puffer fish.  one of the few true successes of Reagans's SDI was to push the Soviets to overload their economy in trying to respond.  Putin would love to do the same back to us.
As for US, I don't see any national support for combat int he Ukraine. If Biden does try to have a short, victorious war (historical TM), we're libel to find out how low his floor of support really can get.  UK government is currently a bit insane about trying to reestablish their standing in world politics, so I could see them pushing a deployment and/or fight in the Ukraine.  France is always willing to start a fight, particularly if they can get somebody else to do the dieing and foot the bill.

Posted by: StargazerA5 at Mon Jan 3 18:07:47 2022 (YcvYE)

2 ATH had someone link to the slashdot profile of someone who allegedly is a Russian/Soviet expat in the UK.

He has a bunch of interesting allegations that may relate to mindset.

One, he is pretty sure that a lot of Bulgarian, etc., language forums are heavily filled with paid trolls working in those languages, and the trolls are basically split between 'clearly paid for by Russians' and 'clearly paid for by US/NATO aligned'.  Or so he says.

I basically have no clue what is going on.

Posted by: PatBuckman at Mon Jan 3 18:54:39 2022 (r9O5h)

3 In a highly ironic coincidence, I was talking to someone about this topic on the same day when Brickmuppet penned the post above. I asked, "Did you notice how the imminent Russo-Ukrainan war suddenly and completely disappeared from the news? Isn't it strange? It was the greatest danger of WWIII since Cuban Crisis and poof, gone." And my interlocutor answered, "It disappeared because it was invented by the U.S. Government entirely, and they decided not to peddle it anymore. If you listen to what Putin actually threatens as counter-measures to NATO expansion into Ukraine, he never promises to attack Ukraine. He threatened to install missiles in Nicaragua."

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Tue Jan 4 12:29:28 2022 (LZ7Bg)

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