Archives For: Ukraine

by Dish Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin Visits Samara

Jeffrey A. Stacey and John Herbst argue that the international community needs to do more to combat Putin’s aggressive behavior:

The time has come for the West to make a decisive move to counter Putin’s irregular war against Ukraine. The Russian president has introduced a perilous new norm into the international system, namely that it is legitimate to violate the borders of other countries in order to “protect” not just ethnic Russians, but “Russian speakers” — with military means if necessary. Putin has notoriously threatened to annex Transnistria, the Russian-speaking territory of Moldova, inter alia. The Putin Doctrine represents a serious transgression of the status quo that has guaranteed the continent’s security since the end of World War II; moreover, it violates the most essential tenet of the post-1945 international order.

They recommend a comprehensive approach to increase the cost of Putin’s meddling in Ukraine, including “even tougher economic sanctions; military armaments to Ukraine; and an updated NATO strategy.” But Eugene Rumer thinks the situation may be hopeless:

With force off the table, the West’s response to Putin’s actions in Ukraine has been sanctions and more sanctions. They have failed to dissuade and deter Russian support for the separatists. Yet, the West is threatening more sanctions if Russia attacks. Albert Einstein supposedly described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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by Dish Staff

The Russian aid convoy Ukraine believes to be a Trojan horse might just be a decoy. Journalists who had a chance to look inside some of the trucks said they did contain humanitarian supplies like buckwheat and sleeping bags, but suspiciously, some of them were almost completely empty. Meanwhile, a column of Russian armored vehicles was spotted crossing into Ukraine yesterday:

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine. After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border. Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine. Kiev has lost control of its side of the border in this area.

The trucks are unlikely to represent a full-scale official Russian invasion, and it was unclear how far they planned to travel inside Ukrainian territory and how long they would stay. But it was incontrovertible evidence of what Ukraine has long claimed – that Russian troops are active inside its borders.

What’s more, Ukraine claims to have attacked and destroyed most of the Russian APCs:

Ukraine said its artillery partly destroyed a Russian armoured column that entered its territory overnight and said its forces came under shellfire from Russia on Friday in what appeared to be a major military escalation between the ex-Soviet states. Russia’s government denied its forces had crossed into Ukraine and accused Kiev of trying to sabotage deliveries of aid. NATO said there had been a Russian incursion into Ukraine, while avoiding the term invasion, and European capitals accused the Kremlin of escalating the fighting.

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by Dish Staff

Jeremy Bender scrutinizes the Russian aid convoy en route to eastern Ukraine:

The trucks of supplies have been joined by helicopters, surface-to-air missile systems, and possible anti-aircraft weapons systems. According to The Interpreter, this weapon [in the tweet above] is possibly a 9K22 Tunguska battery, which had been mounted onto a Kamaz truck. Tunguskas are anti-aircraft weapons that can fire both missiles and 30mm guns. They are capable of shooting down low-altitude aircraft, although the gun can also be used against ground troops. … The Russian convoy has raised a number of red flags, even aside from this heavy contingent of guns and armor. The convoy has failed to abide by conditions put in place by both Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — the convoy is traveling under the ICRC flag, yet the organization has not been able to verify the contents of the trucks.

If it really is just a humanitarian convoy and not a Trojan Horse as the Ukrainian government believes, Linda Kinstler considers what Russia stands to gain by sending aid to Ukraine:

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Vladimir Putin, Locavore, Ctd

Aug 13 2014 @ 7:45pm
by Dish Staff

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Jason Karaian looks at how Putin’s counter-sanctions on EU produce imports stand to affect European farmers and consumers:

While it’s never a good time for farmers to lose a big market like Russia, now is particularly inopportune. Bumper crops have pushed down prices in recent months, which is bad for producers as well as policymakers—the euro zone has been flirting with deflation this year, and a glut of produce once destined for Russia but dumped closer to home could push prices down even further[.]

“We can only hope that European consumers eat more pears,” a Belgian fruit farmer told the Wall Street Journal (paywall). … To add insult to injury, the upcoming apple harvest in Europe will be one for the record books, according to an industry forecast published yesterday. “The same day it’s announced we have a big crop our largest customer, Russia, stops buying, so it’s like a Black Thursday,” the commercial manager of a French apple concern told FreshPlaza. “The producers will be hit,” an Athens fruit seller told Euronews.

And Alec Luhn measures the impact, as well as the politics, of the ban in Russia:

State-controlled television has been downplaying any effects of the ban. “Consumers will barely be able to notice any price increase…. Even if people have to travel abroad for some dishes, it will lead to greater profits for Russian tourist firms,” reporters on Rossiya 24 exclaimed during a newscast on Friday, Aug. 8. But analysts predict an overall rise in food prices that will further exacerbate inflation, which has already risen beyond the Central Bank’s predictions to 7.5 percent.

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by Dish Staff

As Ukrainian forces surround Donetsk and prepare for what they say is a final advance on the separatist stronghold, NATO has reiterated its warning that a Russian invasion is likely:

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no sign Russia had withdrawn the troops it had massed at the Ukrainian frontier. Asked in a Reuters interview how he rated the chances of Russian military intervention, Rasmussen said: “There is a high probability.”

“We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation under the guise of a humanitarian operation, and we see a military build-up that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine,” he said.

Jeremy Bender observes that if Russia decides to invade, it is prepared to do so on multiple fronts:

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Vladimir Putin, Locavore

Aug 7 2014 @ 2:21pm

In retaliation for US and EU sanctions, Putin issued an executive order yesterday banning or restricting food imports from countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. Bershidsky predicts that the counter-sanctions will hurt the Russian economy more than the countries they target:

In all, Europe’s biggest economies plus Poland, Norway, the U.S., Canada and Australia stand to lose some $6 billion in the next year from the Russian food sanctions. That is far from deadly for them. The Russian Micex stock index has lost a third of that amount in capitalization since the food sanctions were announced, because they are expected to hurt retailers such as the discounter Magnit, which has called itself the biggest food importer to Russia. More upscale retailers will need to reconsider their entire sales matrices, shifting to Asian and Latin American imports. That cannot but have an effect on their bottom lines.

Putin appears to care little about the effect of the sanctions. His focus is, as ever, domestic. He is showing his voters in the most tangible way possible that Russia doesn’t need the West to survive. The Kremlin’s propaganda is already playing up this message. “I can survive perfectly well in a world without polish apples, Dutch tomatoes, Latvian sprats, American cola, Australian beef and English tea,” Yegor Kholmogorov wrote on Izvestia.ru before it became clear that tea or cola would not be sanctioned. “Especially if this results in a substituting expansion of Russian agribusiness and food industry.”

Julia Ioffe speculates that the move might backfire:

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With thousands of troops amassed on the border and talk of a “humanitarian intervention”, NATO warns that it might be:

“We’re not going to guess what’s on Russia’s mind, but we can see what Russia is doing on the ground – and that is of great concern. Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s eastern border,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in an emailed statement. NATO was concerned that Moscow could use “the pretext of a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission as an excuse to send troops into Eastern Ukraine“, she said.

Ian Bremmer doubts this is a bluff, although it’s not really what Putin wants:

Sustained intervention is Putin’s current and preferred approach, where he can foment enough instability through the separatists that a unified Ukraine cannot pull away from Russia. The “long game” is more Russian arms provisions and economic pressure until Kiev is forced to accept a deeply Russia-influenced federal system. Direct invasion would come with a much more staggering price tag. First and foremost, the Russian people are opposed. …

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Putin’s Strategery

Aug 6 2014 @ 8:30am

Michael McFaul views the Russian president as a failed statesman:

Putin’s failed proxy war in eastern Ukraine also has produced a lot of collateral damage to his other foreign policy objectives. If the debate about NATO expansion had drifted to a second-order concern before Putin’s move into Ukraine, it is front and center again now. Likewise, the strengthening of NATO’s capacity to defend its Eastern European members has returned as a priority for the first time in many years. Russian leaders always feared U.S. soldiers stationed in Poland or Estonia, yet that might just happen now. In addition, Putin’s actions in Ukraine have ensured that missile defense in Europe will not only proceed but could expand. And after a decade of discussion without action, Putin has now shocked Europe into developing a serious energy policy to reduce dependence on Russian gas and oil supplies. As a result of Putin’s actions in Ukraine, the United States is now likely to become an energy exporter, competing with Russia for market share. Some call Putin’s policies pragmatic and smart. I disagree.

Approaching the Ukraine conflict from a strategic studies perspective, Joshua Rovner outlines what scholars in that field can learn from it:

Ukraine raises at least two issues that may inspire new thinking on strategic theory. One is the problem of recognizing success when it involves something less than victory.

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In an interview with The Economist published over the weekend, Obama got in this little dig at Russia:

Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.

But as Mark Adomanis points out, none of these statements is factually accurate. So why, then, did the president make them? Zenon Evans wonders:

It’s bizarre that Obama criticized Russia on these fronts when there’s plenty of legitimate issues – like Moscow’s crackdown on civil rights, the pro-Western political opposition, and independent media – that he could have addressed instead. These, of course, don’t have much bearing on the war Russia is waging against Ukrainian sovereignty or the mass killing of civilians on a Malaysian plane, but whether it’s due to a lazy team of fact-checkers or deliberate rah-rah nationalism to boost the U.S. by comparison, dubious talking points don’t help the Obama administration resolve the current crises.

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Are Russian Troops In Ukraine?

Aug 4 2014 @ 12:22pm

Last week, Buzzfeed reported that Russian soldier Alexander Sotkin (seen above) posted Instagram photos taken within Ukraine:

Instagram’s geolocating tool … is highly accurate. The only plausible way it could have misplaced Sotkin’s photos on the map is if he had used a trick called GPS ghosting to make his iPad think he was elsewhere.

throws cold water on the story:

Sotkin uploaded the first photograph ostensibly showing his location in Ukraine on June 30, after he posted two others complaining about boredom and lack of power for his tablet. The last photo was the one positioned in Ukraine. He tagged all three with #учения2014 which shows that he was on exercises when he snapped those selfies.

Most likely, the varying accuracy of cell tower triangulation meant that his device geotagged his photos with wildly different location coordinates based on whatever tower it could communicate with. At the least, the evidence is nowhere close to being reliable enough to say Sotkin was fighting in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, James Miller fears Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine:

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