Beyond the Cusp

May 11, 2014

How Much of Eastern Europe Will Putin Swallow Up?

The fact that Russian President and former exemplary KGB Colonel Putin salivated over the Crimean Peninsula with its warm water port to the Black Sea and through the Bosporus on into the Mediterranean and from there the world, vacation paradise beaches, natural resources and manufacturing is unquestionably true. After all, how could he resist such a ripe plum just waiting to be plucked? Add to that the situation after the overthrow of his subjugated virtual puppet, former President of the Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych resulting in a weak, nascent governance still getting its house in order thus being unable to mount any serious opposition militarily. Of course Vlad the Invader took advantage of the situation and swallowed up the Crimean Peninsula, but that left poor Vlad with a serious problem; he now found that he required a land route into the Crimean Peninsula otherwise the warm water port was next to useless and all that manufacturing and natural resources would remain outside of Russian reach. The obvious remedy was for Vlad the Invader to also annex much of eastern Ukraine, but how to arrange such a move so immediate to his annexation of the Crimea that it would not alarm the world? It must have been such a delightful memory of hearing the message carried to him by former Russian President Medvedev telling of a promise for more flexibility from United States President Obama after his reelection. Between the promise and the record of timidity and “leading from behind”, of course Vlad the Invader could count of President Obama to jump up and down and shout threats to hold his breath until he turned blue but to respond with meaningless and unsubstantial responses such as minimal economic sanctions levied mostly against Russian oligarchs threatening to freeze any assets in banks where they held no funds. So, Vlad the Invader sent in his special forces trained to intimidate resident populations while making the lands seem to be crying for Russian protection from the evils which threatened their livelihoods as they were pro-Russian Ukrainians who had supported the ousted President Yanukovych and thus feared the new pro-European leadership in Kiev, or at least that was the tune played for the world to hear. Vlad had made plans to control all information or at least stifle any protestations against the pro-Russian instigators by native Ukrainians. Some morsels of complaints have seeped through the din of Russian partisan rabble-rousers who have a lock on the media outlets within the affected provinces but unfortunately appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

 

With the Europeans cowed due to threats of withholding gas by Vlad the Invader and with President Obama having problems of his own and never having developed even the slightest taste for foreign policies or especially foreign entanglements, Vlad the Invader realized he has an open season for further land grabs likely without any pain inflicted by the rest of the world. Still, Vlad the Invader is moving at a measured pace not showing any reason forcing him to act with any sense of urgency. Perhaps Vlad the Invader has learned from studying history and has realized that haste makes neighboring nations and leaders distant far more likely to fall into a panic and thus more likely to take steps to oppose the rapid spread of invaders. Despite the passivity exhibited by the Europeans and United States signals a green light for further exploits by Vlad the Invader, the Invader appears to have learned from history that haste makes trouble and calm and steady is more likely to permit him to achieve the desired annexation providing he continues to exhibit patience. That leads to the next question, providing that the world continues to be nonresponsive to the hue and cry for anybody to come and provide protection for the Ukrainians from Vlad the Invader, will Vlad be satisfied with eastern Ukraine or will he continue to annex and annex until he swallows the whole of the Ukraine, or even worse, continue beyond the Ukraine and if so, then where else will Vlad the Invader turn his appetites and if he has other designs, will the world finally respond?

 

Looking back at recent history and the series of disasters which finally led to World War II, perhaps we can learn what to look for today. The Munich Accord which gifted Nazi Germany the northern portions of Czechoslovakia including vital mountain pass defenses was signed on September 30, 1938. It was not until almost six months later before Nazi Germany made their move to take the remainder of Czechoslovakia on March 16, 1939. Vlad the Invader annexed the Crimean Peninsula around March 7, 2014. Counting the same amount of time as the Germans waited to finish their conquest of Czechoslovakia; Russia would make their next move on the Ukraine around middle to late August 2014. It would be doubtful that even Vlad the Invader would take the entirety of the rest of the Ukraine in one fell swoop as the Ukraine is about four times the size of Czechoslovakia and thus might just take more than one bite to fully ingest. Still, it appears the smart money is betting that Vlad the Invader fully intends to subsume all of the Ukraine back under Russian ownership and should that be his intentions, there is likely little the new Ukrainian government in Kiev would be able to do to prevent that result. And even worse, Europe, the United States and apparently every other nation are not about to take any measures to prevent such an outcome.

 

The question then will become what happens should Vlad the Invader decide to turn his hungry eyes on a NATO member state? That will be the final test for President Obama and the European nations. It would almost be understandable for the European nations to simply dissolve NATO should the United States refuse to come to the aid and protect a NATO member nation as their combined military capabilities may not even be equal to that of the United States alone and the heart of the European nations could simply announce that they are only willing to protect nations within the European Union and that they have dissolved NATO for lack of American support as the reason. That would open the doors for Vlad the Invader to absorb a fair number of former Warsaw Pact nations which have thus far not been admitted into the European Union. So, the world will be turning its eyes and ears towards Washington D.C. awaiting the response from President and Ditherer in Chief Obama should Vlad the Invader start the same insurrection as a cause for Russian intervention in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or other NATO nations. Also, as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and virtually every other NATO nation has also been incorporated into the European Union, there would be some very nervous leaders throughout the capitals of Europe should any European Union nation be invaded; and they would be very interested and concerned how Washington would react, especially if the nation belongs to both the European Union and NATO, a very likely scenario. The other question is what would the world do in response should Vlad the Invader start to swallow up Belarus as it is not a member of either NATO or the European Union. The curse of living in interesting, or at least uncertain, times continues to plague the world. One has to wonder when will mankind mature to the point where cooperation is preferred to conquest, aggression and antagonism; where peaceful discourse replaces tanks, planes and violent altercation. When will the age come described in Isaiah 2:4 where it reads, “They have beat their swords to ploughshares, and their spears to pruning-hooks, Nation doth not lift up sword unto nation, Nor do they learn war anymore.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 13, 2014

Putin Power Play Pressures Hapless Obama Response

The news is filled with stories about Russian threats to many southern and eastern Ukrainian provinces, in particular Lugansk, Donets’ka, Zaporiz’ka, Khersons’ka and Luhans’ka. Reports tell of repeated attacks on government buildings with varying degrees of success. These occupations are often reversed the next day and thus far the drama and tension caused by these confrontations has yet to cross the threshold of open revolution. Still, there have been calls by some of the most extreme of the instigators for Russian intervention to save the oppressed Russian speaking peoples of the regions. These confrontations when viewed with the knowledge that approximately forty-thousand Russian troops are sitting on the border with the Ukraine conducting training exercises opens the possibility for these troop movements to radically change direction and turn training exercises into actual military operations to occupy much if not all of the Ukraine. The temptations are real as the areas in eastern Ukraine contain a plethora of resources vital to the Russian military as well as raw natural resources desired by Russian industry. The existing iron ore deposits, oil and gas fields, vital stretches for two oil and gas pipelines, weapons manufacturing and other enticements provide Putin with potential rewards above and beyond securing an overland connection from Russian homelands into the recently annexed Crimean Peninsula. These resources would more than make up for any effects from the virtually invisible sanctions levied thus far by President Obama and America’s European allies.

 

Truth be told, Putin really has not been directly affected by the sanctions and has pretty much ignored all the protestations, threats and warnings coming from Washington. Putin is completely aware of the fecklessness of the Obama administration and is pushing Russian pressures beyond just the Ukrainian front causing even wider panic in many of the former Soviet held nations. The threats of Putin using force to retake areas with large or majority Russian speaking peoples has caused Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania to request NATO troops and other support from the United States and NATO. Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser is set to meet NATO Chief Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels on Monday where reported requests for “having NATO rotating land units in our region” will be the main topic of discussions. There are other reports that Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said a NATO presence in his country “could take various forms, from instructors to permanently deployed land, naval, special operation or air forces.” And in addition to Poland having called up their reserve troops, their opposition leader has insisting that only placing United States military bases within Polish borders would deter Moscow’s “expansionist ambitions.” Most of these scenarios were commented upon back on April 8, in our article titled, “Which Way Will Russia Turn?” The threat of a Russian invasion into additional Ukrainian territories would seriously increase should proof that the instigations and assaults on police and government buildings are being orchestrated and perpetrated by Russian agents be forthcoming.

 

Thus far the reports have only suspected such interference though there is definitely such a possibility. Many a commentary foresees a Russian invasion and annexing the remainder of the Ukraine as inevitable and simply a matter of time. Whether such a move would be executed all at once or in multiple maneuvers spread over time is still a debated point. What would increase the threat of further Russian land grabs would be the positioning of Russian troops on the borders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as these territories would present less resistance than would the western parts of the Ukraine. One of the telling events of the Ukrainian demonstrations which Russia claims predicated the standoff and their annexing of Crimea was the toppling of the Lenin Statue in Kiev’s Bessarabska Square largely by young adults. This reinforced by interviews of younger demonstrators protesting former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich stating that their reasons for opposing the move towards Russia negating a proposed move to closer ties with the European Union was simply the instigating event. They also commented on the horrors of the history of Russian persecution of the Ukrainian people in particular referencing the 1932-1933 famine induced by the policies of Joseph Stalin. The fervor and emotion one could sense from these testimonies makes the possibility of a ferocious resistance from the people in the western Ukraine to any attempted Russian usurpation of their lands where fighting to the last individual just might be the outcome of such a war.

 

On another front, Putin is negotiating a deal against the expressed wishes of President Obama with Iran where Russia would trade with Iran for their oil. Reuters reported recently that Iran and Russia were negotiating a barter deal that could be worth as much as twenty-billion dollars under which Iranian oil would be purchased with Russian equipment and goods in place of the standard of purchasing oil using American dollars. This has brought forth warnings and threats of increasing sanctions against Russia by the United States. President Obama has claimed that such an arrangement with Iran would place Russia in violation of the current sanctions which remain in place against Iran. There have been no signs that Russia will back away from these negotiations nor will they heed the protestations of the United States. This is yet another example of the disregard Russian President Putin holds towards United States President Obama. In all the recent actions by President Putin the common thread running through the whole cloth has been his total lack of regard for anything threatened by the United States. It appears that Putin is taking advantage of the greater flexibility which was promised by President Obama in an overheard open mike discussion between Obama and then Russian President Medvedev. This was simply another fully expected result from the lack of serious regard for any threat coming from Washington DC.

 

Grasping all of this, the one predictable result is that thanks to President Obama’s timorousness complete lack of a foreign policy coupled with a determined President Putin focused on returning Russia to her previous preeminent position including reapplying Russian total influence in Eastern Europe, the world has returned to a bipolar influence with Russia and the United States facing off with similar feel of the Cold War. This situation and its permanence will be directly determined by the 2016 Presidential elections in the United States. Once more the main consideration for the American voting public should be foreign policy but predictably it will revolve around the extraneous debates sold the public by a media which has, for all intent and purposes, become fixated with the minutest concerns completely ignoring the most vitally important events. The media is laser focused on domestic topics such as the presumed War of Women, Minimum Wages, Pay Gap Between Men and Women, Amnesty for Illegal Aliens and other such topics almost completely ignoring the pressing foreign policy threats and considerations to such an extent as to pose a serious threat to the wellbeing of the Western World. The election in 2016 and the person chosen to presumably be the leader of the free world, if such still exists by then, will very possibly determine what the political future of the world will be and whether freedom as it has existed will continue or will the world fall to leaders who will curtail freedom and liberty. The coming weeks, possibly days, will foretell much of what the distant future holds in store for our children and their children and possibly even further on into a bleak future with no prospects for freedoms we enjoy today.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 1, 2014

Russian Buildup in Crimea Portends Further Encroachments

Virtually every article covering the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula after occupying it after the change in Ukrainian governance in Kiev quotes Russian sources claiming that there will be no further land grabs by Russia. What would you expect Russian sources to say, we want to conquer all of Europe and after that we will consider if there are any other areas which would gain from Russian leadership? Of course the Russians are going to attempt to calm the concerns of the rest of the world, particularly the remainder of the Ukraine and the Eastern European nations which are all too familiar with Russian military diplomacy from their years of being crushed under the iron fist of the former Soviet Union. The suspicions that the Russians may not be finished reclaiming lands which were previously included within the Soviet Union are being driven by the massive buildup of Russian military within the Crimean Peninsula since it was annexed by Moscow. The questioning of why Russia would require over fifty-thousand troops to enforce their annexation which was initially established using merely six-thousand troops is a valid and interesting question. Additionally, large exponents of the newly inserted troops are armored units complete including tanks, armored fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers and assault vehicles. These are the exact forces one would need to launch a fast ground-covering assault to blitz any defending units rapidly breaking the heart of any attempted resistance. There is also the presence just beyond the border of Russian air units which could support such an attack. Despite what has been reported by eye witnesses and journalists covering the situation from embedded positions, the Russians are claiming that their buildup consist of anything but of an offensive potential, they are simply there to facilitate a smooth transition to Russian rule.

 

There is other evidence that the story being sold by the Russians is not being universally accepted as Poland has called up their reservists and begun training and preparing them for any potential need that might arise. There is only one single threatening set of events anywhere near the Polish borders, and that is the Russian flexing their military might under the pretense of protecting Russian interests and people from potential threats from their own government. This was the pretext of the Russian invasion of the Crimean Peninsula under claims that the Ukraine had become a threat to its own citizens who were of Russian ancestry. Poland knows, as does the remainder of the Ukraine and other former Soviet States, that there are citizens within their borders who it could be claimed have Russian ancestry thus providing Russia with the same precedent for invasion and annexation of parts of these lands. This is the same excuse which has been the initial excuse of numerous wars through the ages, the protection of an ethnic minority within a neighboring state which requested protection from the more militant neighboring state. For a deeper understanding simply research Czechoslovakian history, or other histories of regional wars at their initial outset when the first initial steps were taken and excuses were required to calm nervous leaders of neighboring nations in order to prevent their preparations for what inevitable was to come.

 

Another piece of interesting information is the first political figure from Russia to visit the Crimea is Prime Minister Medvedev who is offering wreathes of peace in the form of establishing a special economic zone to ameliorate relations and minimizing any economic strains that might result from the Russian annexation. This may prove to force Russia to solidify their annexation and develop the Crimean economy before taking any further steps that appear to be inevitable simply by inspecting any map of the Ukraine including Russia and the Crimean Peninsula and the problem becomes obvious very readily. If Russia plans on retaining their control over the Crimean Peninsula and enjoin the Crimean economy into the Russian economy, then there is going to be one physical impediment, the lack of any overland connection between Mother Russia and her little sister, the Crimean Peninsula. At some point in the near future Russia will very likely desire annexing sufficient areas from eastern Ukraine in order to have an overland connection between the two areas. Russian economic development is very likely dependent upon having overland access unencumbered by having to gain the accommodations of the Ukrainian government, especially the current revolutionary government and possibly less so once the new government is elected hopefully in May. Still, should there come to the fore that another area within the Ukraine which is considering holding a referendum on whether or not they wish to secede and rejoin under Russian rule because that will be the first event of further Russian encroachment. The fear is that such a future is inevitable and there may be far more to the Russian intentions to reestablish Russian hegemony starting with Eurasian nations spreading to Eastern Europe and ending where will be the big question. One need to remember that thanks to United States President Obama alienating much of the Arab Middle East and North Africa that close relations with Russia has already spread to Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia along with the Russian relations already in existence with Iran and Syria and through these, influence over Iraq. One can expect that as Afghanistan becomes closer to Iran that they will end up with closer relations with Russia than they will with the Western powers. An expansive Russia spreading its control is a definite threat in the future while the United States remains in eclipse receding from the world’s stage.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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