Will Russia now invade Ukraine?

“Strictly speaking, today there is no one to talk to there.  The legitimacy of a whole host of government bodies is raising huge doubts… (Western support) is an aberration of perception when something that is essentially the result of a mutiny is called legitimate.” – Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev.

The above is taken from the Toronto Star’s article “Ukraine government dismissed as ‘mutiny’ by Russia” (1) appearing today, and illustrates the very grave situation now existing between the West and Russia over the expulsion of Moscow’s man in Kiev, and the continued collapse of Russia’s post-Soviet “sphere of influence”.

Back in my days with the Edmund Burke Society,  I remember being told by a Lithuanian escapee from Communism that the Russians are committed imperialists, who have historically tried to dominate all those around them.  “Czar, Commissar, same damn Russians” is basically what he had to say.

It has always been Russian policy to move its citizens into surrounding countries to the greatest extent possible, and Ukraine has been no exception.  Close to 20% of Ukraine’s population is ethnically Russian, concentrated in the easten part of the country.

Unlike the hapless Byelorussians, the ethnic Ukrainians in the western part of the country have effectively broken away from Russia, thus inviting a military invasion along the lines of the brutal Soviet put-downs of the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian revolutions.

There is little doubt that the Americans and others had a great deal to do with the fomenting of rioting and resistance in Kiev, and that fact, together with the existence of a large, ethnically-Russian population within Ukraine, provides the necessary excuse.

“Proof” of American involvement could easily be produced, and the ethnic Russians in the east could request the presence of Russian troops to “protect” them from Ukrainian “attacks”.

Whether Putin will act firmly in this matter remains to be seen.  He is an ex-KGB Lieutenant-Colonel, and may well regard President Obama as not having the courage to stand up to him.

But in any event, he might not have much choice but to take decisive action, because Ukraine is far too close to home for him to ignore.  And he may feel emboldened by Russia’s massive economic clout in Ukraine and Europe stemming from its massive natural gas resources.

Then again, as suggested in a Washington Post article appearing yesterday, “A Ukraine in continuing turmoil would make a difficult and unpredictable Russian intervention almost inevitable and make it even less likely that the country could ever pay off its huge Russian gas bills.” (2)

A Soviet-style crushing of anti-Russian dissent in the Ukraine will create world-wide revulsion and outrage, and could plunge us back into a “Cold War”, this time against the Putin version of Russian imperialism.

If Russia does invade Ukraine, one potential side-effect might be the “de facto” removal of America’s sole-power status, as an emboldened Russia rattles its sabre and stands firmly against what it sees as unacceptable encroachments on its turf.

And in the meantime, China quietly and determinedly buys power, influence, and businesses, together with land and natural resources in foreign countries, while simultaneously engaging in a massive modernization of its armed forces.

The next few days will be critical, and I can’t see any good coming out of this.

Jeff Goodall.

(1) – Read “Ukraine government dismissed as ‘mutiny’ by Russia” here.

(2) – Read “Putin takes losses on Ukraine, but Russia still has leverage and the will to use it” here.

Updates:

March 1st – Putin asks Russian Parliament for approval to send troops to Crimea.  See “Putin proposes use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine” here.

Additional thoughts…

Russia may well want to “take back” Crimea in order to protect its strategic naval interests at Sevastopol.  And, money is going to be a big issue; Ukraine owes Russia a substantial amount of money, in the billions, for natural gas supplies, and can’t pay.  Ukrainian stability will require vast cash transfusions from the West, and Ukraine may well become a bottomless pit of financial grief for us.  Russia would like that…

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