As you read this, things have really begun to heat up in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is on high alert, begging for help from the West, whilst Putin’s troops occupy Crimea and surround several Ukrainian army and air force basis stationed in Crimea. With 6,000 Russian troops already on the ground in Crimea, and approval from his senate to send in a lot more, Lili-Putin is sitting happy in the Kremlin, sipping his tea and quietly congratulating himself on having orchestrated yet another destabilising manoeuvre that has caught the West off-guard. But what annoys me is that everyone should have seen this coming. I know I did. Let me explain it for you step-by-step.
Firstly you need to understand Putin and what he stands for. Aside from his little PR stunt of freeing a bunch of prisoners prior to the Winter Olympics, his main aim has always been about command and control, a psychotic need to retain power and an extreme hatred for what the West stands for. He’s felt threatened by any ex-Soviet state looking at NATO membership – Georgia (suffered an embarrassing defeat after a 5-day war in 2008), Armenia and Ukraine, to name but three. And values of an open and transparent judicial and political systems in combinations with an open and free press that EU membership would afford, scares him as it relinquishes the command and control style he requires to maintain power. Since the Winter Olympics, he has returned to the offensive at home and arrested several protesters both in Moscow and Sochi, and put Navalny under house arrest again. So he’s returned to his old ways.
His anti-American stance has remained unchanged ever since his appearance at the staged rally for his candidacy at the Luzhniki stadium, for which tens of thousands came (with many reportedly having been coerced), Putin kept referring to an ongoing “battle for Russia” against external enemies. “We won’t allow anybody to meddle in our domestic affairs. We won’t allow anybody to deny our will!” he shouted to screaming supporters. “The battle for Russia continues and we will win!”
When he was re-elected as President for the 3rd time, his inauguration speech was again peppered with language that should have had the West worrying. He threw down a gauntlet to the West, defiantly challenging what he believes to be Western meddling in a hemisphere that has traditionally been Russia’s back yard and whom no-one, save for the Russian president, should have a say.
These coming years will be crucial for shaping Russia’s future in the decades to come. We must all understand that the life of our future generations and our prospects as a country and nation depend on us today and on our real achievements in building a new economy and developing modern living standards, on our efforts to look after our people and support our families, on our determination in developing our vast expanses from the Baltic to the Pacific, and on our ability to become a leader and centre of gravity for the whole of Eurasia. – Putin’s Inaugural Speech, Kremlin 2012
Ukraine is a Foreign Policy disaster for Putin. Yanukovych was, for a time, his own man. It’s no secret that Yanukovych has stolen and pillaged Ukraine and her resources for himself, lining his own pockets, building exquisite mansions and all the trappings typically found in the home of an Oligarch. But for a time, he did not always do Putin’s bidding and on a few occasions even told Putin where to go. However, on that faithful November weekend last year, a few weeks before the planned signing of the EU association agreement, he was paid a visit by Lili-Putin. Accounts of Putin opening up a file and laying down threats and an ultimatum to Yanukovych abound. Granted they are hearsay, but it’s not by coincidence that the agreement was never signed. Which sounded the death knell for Yanukovych. But why force Ukraine towards Russia?
There are a few reasons. Firstly, Putin can no longer reliably depend on a rising standard of living in Russia to secure his people’s affection. Moreover, in the long term the emergence of the United States as a natural gas exporter likely spells the end of Gazprom’s role as the guarantor of Russia’s internal stability. As the standard of living among Russia’s middle-class withers, resentment of the Kremlin elites’ corruption, wealth and autocracy will inevitably boil. Putin’s sudden turn to matters of national identity, the Russian soul and the Russian family suggests that he is effectively adopting a compensatory ideology that can sustain his rule. Ultra Nationalism in Russia is now rife. And Lili-Putin has always identified with and admired Stalin. By recreating a quasi nouveau-Soviet Union, in a way appeals to Putin’s ego.
Secondly, Ukraine, as a foreign policy in and of itself, has never been a stable one. To begin with, you have a nation that is, and always has been, slightly dis-jointed. There are two languages, there are ideological divisions, even as recently as World War II. Eastern Ukrainians rallied against the Nazi’s, Western Ukrainians fought with the Nazi’s in the hope they could oust Stalin. The Tatar’s in Crimea – a Muslim minority who were deported and scattered across the Soviet Union by Stalin – revile Russia and want nothing to do with her.
And Ukrainians have a way of being Russia’s proverbial fly in the ointment when it comes to usurping ones plans of total hemispherical political dominance because of the fact that Ukrainians are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. Unlike their Russian counterparts whose Anti-Putin protests fizzled out after Putin enacted harsh draconian laws to lock them up or shut them up, Ukrainians on the other-hand stayed in Maidan Square all throughout the harsh Winter and actually achieved one of their objectives – to remove Yanukovych from office. All Ukrainians want peace, economic stability and an end to corruption. Which is exactly what the average Russian wanted and demonstrated for, but instead lost the drive and commitment to stay true to course. So Putin has seen this Ukrainian revolt as a thorn in his side and something which he needed to stamp out in case it fanned the flames of revolt in Russia.
His original plan to use Yanukovych and force him not to sign the agreement with the EU would have seen Ukraine move closer to Russia. We’ve all seen what the results of that have become. So his next plan of action was a stroke of Machiavellian genius. You see, the Russian constitution includes an article which states that Russia reserves the right to use force to protect her citizens in the event that they threatened, harmed or killed. The language, in the way it’s constructed, means that in theory, Russian could invade “Little Odessa” in New York if they felt that Russian passport holders there felt threatened. And here’s the genius part…..by giving everyone in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine a Russian passport, he can now use these newly minted “Russians” as justification to invade. The fact that they have their Black Sea fleet stationed in Sevastopol just means any plan to annex Crimea is met with extra expediency.
This invasion of Crimea will only serve to further destabilise the current and fragile Ukrainian interim government. Which will mean that the likelihood of any of these political players getting re-elected diminishes every passing day that this crisis continues. And once an invasion occurs, it could very well further destabilise the country so much that an all out civil war kicks-off. Once the dust has settled, it will mean that Putin can place his new (as yet unknown) puppet as President of Ukraine, eventually getting what he wants.
Additional benefits include a consolidation of his power and approval ratings at home, which will help transfer the spotlight from a slowing Russian economy, and increase the fervent pro-Russian nationalism that is on the rise. Any global instability resulting from Russia’s invasion of Crimea will also cause oil prices to increase, directly benefitting the Russian exchequer. It’s a given that threat of war means a hike in oil prices.
In addition, annexing Crimea to Russia means that the economic stranglehold on Ukraine vis-a-vis gas imports remains, as the new gas fields found off the coast of Crimea, which could have weaned Ukraine off Russian gas supplies, are now annexed and stolen by Russia. And finally, it becomes yet another foreign policy win over the West, who are railing after the more recent Russian win regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons and Russia’s ability to avoid a Western incursion and aerial strikes.
Putin’s near silence up until this weekend should have served notice to the West that he was up to something. The shear fact that low-level MP’s from Russia’s Duma were sent to meet with the locals meant that his intent on invasion was already a done deal. And the total and utter bullshit emanating from his mouthpiece “Russia Today” further compounds the Kremlin’s stance. To call “Russia Today” journalism is an affront to proper real journalism which takes place every day across the world. Their reports that the current Ukrainian government is nothing more than a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s and that Russia has a right to invade a foreign country, a declaration of war anywhere else.
My biggest fear is for our family in Ukraine. Herself has her Mum and brother still there. The first sign of anything happening they will be on the first train, plane or car out of there. But sadly that will not be the case for many others.
It’s high time that the West stops sitting on the fence, puts down their coffee cups and their constant “strategic” meetings and does something, something meaningful.
For starters, ban all Russian’s from travelling. Put the screws on them economically and play fire with fire. The “up and coming” affluent Russian is the only thing keeping Putin in power. And they like to live the high life, spending their money in Europe and the US. Ban them from travelling here, piss them off to create a discontented Russian middle class.
Stop importing oil and gas from Russia. I don’t mind if it gets more expensive here. We can invest in alternative energy, take the train to work, eat local and seasonal foods. Freeze every asset of Russian’s abroad. I don’t care if they are ordinary Russian’s or oligarch Russian MP’s. Freezing their assets and blocking them from travelling to the EU and US will go a long way to putting the screws on them. And then maybe as a final solution, treat Putin like the terrorist he truly is…..Find him, Fix him, and Finish him.