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Things to know and understand about Russia. Now.

by US expat Ukraine Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 11:09:44 PM EST

(Crossposted at dkos)

We'll be covering a bit of territory here.  These are things for folks to think about and understand as matters escalate.  

And they will escalate.  Ukraine is already looking to block Russia's Black Sea Fleet from returning to their contentious "home" base in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine.  Russia has been attempting to reclaim Crimea, control Georgia, and thereby seize control of all hydrocarbon supplies to the West from the Russian direction.  Control of Ukraine and Georgia is either the main goal or a by-product, but a done deal either way, because neither will have access to sufficient energy to survive except under the Kremlin boot.  Thus, reestablishing the heart of the Soviet Union.  It is how Putin thinks, as a street urchin from St. Petersburg.  He cannot think a different way.

The current situation in Georgia began to develop just after a political unknown by the name of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin appeared from nowhere and was appointed Russian Prime Minister in early August 1999, nine years ago.  That appointment followed a quiet coup d'état in the Kremlin in the third week of July '99, where Cheka KGB FSB made Yeltsin an offer he couldn't refuse.  Their chief was V.V. Putin.

Within one month, apartment bombings in and around Moscow were underway.

Russian apartment bombings

The Russian apartment bombings were the largest series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Russia's history.  Five bombings took place in Moscow and two other Russian cities during ten days of September 1999, and several bombings were prevented. Altogether nearly 300 civilians were killed at night. The bombings, together with the Dagestan War, led the country into the Second Chechen War. Chechen militants were blamed but no Chechen field commander accepted responsibility for the bombings and Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov denied any involvement of his government.

The bombings ceased when a similar bomb was found and defused in an apartment block in the Russian city of Ryazan on September 23. Later in the evening Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the Ryazanians and ordered air attacks on Grozny, which marked the beginning of the Second Chechen War.  A few hours later, three Federal Security Service (FSB) agents who had planted the bomb were caught by the local police. This incident was declared to be a training exercise by the FSB director Nikolai Patrushev.

These suspicious events led to allegations that the bombings were in fact a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the FSB in order to legitimize the resumption of military activities in Chechnya and bring Vladimir Putin and the FSB to power, as described in books by David Satter, Yuri Felshtinsky and Vladimir Pribylovsky, and by Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya, who were both assassinated.

(Plenty of links and references.  Take your picks.)

Then, the Moscow theater hostage crisis in '02, wherein Cheka KGB FSB gassed everyone to get at the hostage-takers.  There was no concern whatsoever for saving any lives.  The point was to kill the "terrorists", period.  This whole thing played out live on Russia's independent NTV, after which NTV was muzzled by Putin.  Bodies of citizens were carried out of the theater and stacked in buses without any attempt at medical intervention to offset the effects of the gassing.

It is thought that the security services pumped an aerosol anaesthetic, later conjectured to be weaponized fentanyl, into the theatre through the air conditioning system.

The discovery caused panic in the auditorium. Hostage Anna Andrianova, a correspondent for Moskovskaya Pravda, called Echo of Moscow radio studio and told on-air in a live broadcast interview that the government forces had begun an operation by pumping gas into the hall:

"     It seems to us that the Russians have started something. Please, give us a chance. If you can do anything, please do! ... I don't know which gas it is. But I see [the hostage-takers'] reactions. They don't want our deaths, and our officials want none of us to leave alive! I don't know. We see it, we feel it, we are breathing through our clothes. ... It began from outside. That's what our government has decided - that no one should leave from here alive. ...."

"Conjectured", because Cheka KGB FSB refused to provide antidotes, or otherwise identify the gas in any way to treating physicians, because it was a state secret and might be needed again in the future to defend Russian citizens and the state.

Then came North Ossetia, Beslan.  

The Beslan school hostage crisis (also referred to as the Beslan school siege or Beslan massacre) began when a group of armed rebels, demanding an end to the Second Chechen War, took more than 1,100 people (including some 777 children) hostage on September 1, 2004, at School Number One (SNO) in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania, an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces stormed the building using tanks, thermobaric rockets and other heavy weapons.  A series of explosions shook the school, followed by a fire which engulfed the building and a chaotic gunbattle between the hostage-takers and Russian security forces. Ultimately, at least 334 hostages were killed, including 186 children.  Hundreds more were wounded or reported missing.

Chechen separatist warlord Shamil Basayev took responsibility for the hostage taking but blamed the outcome on the then Russian President Vladimir Putin. The tragedy led to security and political repercussions in Russia, most notably a series of government reforms consolidating power in the Kremlin and strengthening of the powers of President of Russia. As of 2008, there are many aspects of the crisis still in dispute, including how many militants were involved, their preparations, and whether some of them had escaped. Questions about the government's management of the crisis have also persisted, including disinformation and censorship in news media, repressions of journalists who rushed to Beslan, the nature and content of negotiations with the militants, the responsibility for the bloody outcome, and the government's use of possibly excessive force.

From the LA Times:

"We ask questions, and they don't answer," said Susanna Dudiyeva, chairwoman of the Beslan Mothers Committee, which is leading the campaign for a full account of the conflagration.

"They tell us the prosecutor is looking into all this, and they say an expert analysis of the situation is underway

Stanislav Kesaev, a member of the commission investigating the incident on behalf of the parliament of North Ossetia, said too many questions remained unanswered.

"What concerns me most is that I feel too many people, including in offices very high up, don't want to search for the truth," Kesaev said. "Because the truth is that they are not sufficiently professional, not sufficiently patriotic, not sufficiently civic-minded and, ultimately, not sufficiently decent."

The questions are hard to answer, in part because most hard evidence disappeared when bulldozers hauled away the rubble and scraped the gymnasium floor clean the day after the siege ended.

Two months later, Murat Katsanov, a local driver, was at a dump outside town when he stumbled upon a pile of refuse that caused his hair to stand on end: clumps of human tissue and identity documents belonging to a hostage at the gym. It was wreckage hauled out of the school, he knew immediately. Or what was left after the crows and foxes got to it.

"I saw it myself, when they brought these excavators in, all kinds of vehicles, trucks. They loaded all of this aboard and took it out to the dump. Even without knowing all the details, we were absolutely shocked," said Ruslan Tebiev, whose wife died while being held hostage. He had assumed the authorities were removing ordinary debris, not the possibly incriminating fragments of flamethrowers and tank shells. "If I'd have known they were carting away the evidence, I would have thrown myself under the wheels of the excavator myself."

A year after the tragedy, Russian officials are no closer to explaining what happened than they were in the beginning. Even among hostages who were sitting almost next to each other in the gym, accounts often differ wildly. A federal parliamentary commission investigating the episode has neither released its findings nor given any indication of when it intends to do so.

A source close to the commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a final report had been delayed, in part because of troubling unresolved questions about the use of flamethrowers and continuing doubts about the cause of the initial explosions in the gymnasium.

Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel, who is leading the investigation to determine whether law enforcement authorities were criminally negligent in their conduct of the operation, insisted that the evidence so far tended to rule out the possibility that the heavy weaponry wielded by government forces contributed to the death of any hostage.

"We've been questioning victims, witnesses, employees of the special services, specialists in mines and explosives

But Beslan residents began to have doubts about the objectivity of the inquiry when they handed over the flamethrower tubes to government investigators, not long after the siege, only to be told later that the tubes had been lost.

The government now acknowledges that it fired flamethrowers at the school but insists they were used only against any holed-up terrorists after all the hostages were dead. Whether hostages were still alive when the flamethrowers were fired, as some witnesses believe, and whether the flamethrowers caused the inferno are questions that lack answers.

For some Beslan residents, the idea that flamethrowers, and not the initial explosions, caused the blaze emerged when they approached the school after dark in the days after the siege and saw what they came to believe were hints of phosphorus, which is a telltale element of a napalm-type flamethrower.

"We saw it ourselves," said Elbrus Tetov, editor of the Zhizn Pravoberezha newspaper in Beslan, whose 10-year-old son burned to death only moments after pushing another child out the gym window. "You would look at the school, you would look, say, at a corner of the building, and sometimes there would be this dead light coming from the edges. It's like sometimes you see at sea

Federal authorities have acknowledged using a flamethrower carrying a thermobaric charge, a small, shoulder-fired version of the controversial fuel-air weapons wielded by the U.S. military against insurgents lodged in caves and bunkers in Afghanistan.

These weapons do not ordinarily cause fires, but they are described by Defensetech.org, a private information resource associated with the U.S. military, as "just about the most vicious weapon you can imagine - igniting the air, sucking the oxygen out of an enclosed area and creating a massive pressure wave crushing anything unfortunate enough to have lived through the conflagration."

Thermobaric flamethrowers immediately combust the oxygen in a room and ignite a 1,470-degree flash that chars everything in its path and creates a vacuum-induced blast wave that ruptures lungs and eardrums, causes hemorrhages in livers and spleens and yanks out the eyes of anyone caught within a 2,800-square-foot range.


Implications Now

Georgia has been well-aware of the southward seepage of Kremlin's ambitions.  Now it's down to South Ossetia, which is in large part why Georgian President Saakashvili finally decided to cut to the chase and try to stop it.  The US side, and Europe, are and have been equally aware.  Beslan in North Ossetia left no room for doubt about Kremlin's ruthlessness, burning children alive, then trying to pin the blame elsewhere while stonewalling investigation.  Now Kremlin claims their main interest is in protecting their "citizens" in South Ossetia, and autonomous region in Georgia the same as autonomous republics inside Russia.  Keep an eye out for Transdneistria on the Moldova border of Ukraine's western front.  That's another infected splinter from Kremlin.

Kremlin is no stranger to unbridled liquidation of its own citizens.  Putin is ruthless, an evil bastard that makes BushCo look like rank amateurs.  BushCo does it to "those other people over there" actively, and to Americans passively.  Kremlin kills anyone, active measures with prejudice.  This is what it could mean for America and the West.

Now that Russia has humiliated Georgia with a punishing military offensive, it may shift its attention to reining in pro-Western Ukraine, another American ally in the former Soviet Union.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's first order of business likely will be to try to thwart Ukraine's bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"The Moscow authorities will use this opportunity to remind Ukraine of the damages of allying itself with NATO," said Geoffrey Smith at Renaissance Capital investment bank in Kiev.

The U.S. has long seen Georgia and Ukraine as counterweights to Russia's influence in the region. Opposition leaders in the two countries came to power after U.S.-backed popular protests in 2003 and 2004. Their ascension advanced an American strategy of expanding NATO to include both countries and securing energy routes from the Caspian Sea that bypass Russia. The BP Plc-led Baku- Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Turkey runs through Georgia.

Which is going to be a very significant problem, because


New York, 25 April 2000

May I recall that the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 - a legally binding instrument - provided to Ukraine the guarantees of its national security on the part of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation as well as did the unilateral statements by France and China. They were among the key factors that contributed to Ukraine's decision to accede to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty -- Ed.] and reflected the unique situation of Ukraine in terms of security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states.



Indeed, Ukraine has little by way of external security guarantees except for the Budapest Memorandum (15) that Kiev relied on during the 2003 conflict over Tuzla Island (16) and the 2006 "gas war" with Russia.

(15) Under this Memorandum, the United States, Britain, and Russia in 1994 gave Ukraine security guarantees in exchange for Kiev's renunciation of nuclear weapons.

(16) In late September 2003, Russia started building an earth bridge across the shallow 4 km gap between its Taman peninsula and Tuzla island, drawing furious protests from Ukrainian politicians, some of whom accuse Russia of planning an "occupation."

[www.bmlv.gv.at][PDF] page 60


Ukraine skillfully used the Trilateral Statement and its NPT accession to obtain assistance in eliminating its nuclear systems and infrastructure,to broaden reform assistance, and most importantly, to receive security assurances designed to bolster its sovereignty and ability to withstand potential Russian pressure. In conjunction with its accession to the NPT in 1994, Ukraine formally received security assurances from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia regarding its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the Budapest Memorandum. That document obliged the signatories from the threat or use of force and from acts of economic coercion that could undermine Ukraine's sovereignty. France and China subsequently extended Ukraine parallel assurances.


In the first years following the Soviet Union's breakup, Russian leaders took a tough approach to issues of sovereignty and political independence in negotiating with Ukraine. Moscow extended security assurances to Kyiv as part of the 1994 Trilateral Statement and Budapest Memorandum, primarily driven by Russia's desire to secure the transfer of nuclear weapons and Ukraine's accession to the NPT. The Russian authorities dragged their feet on signing an overall bilateral agreement recognizing Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Although the two countries agreed relatively quickly to a division of the ships belonging to the Black Sea Fleet, reaching agreement on basing part of the Russian fleet in Crimea proved much more difficult, as Russia sought rights not just to basing facilities in Sevastopol but to all of Sevastopol itself. The Ukrainians held to their positions and in spring 1997 achieved a bilateral agreement signed by Kuchma and Russian president Boris Yeltsin that explicitly recognized Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as a basing agreement that provided for the lease of facilities to the Russian navy for 20 years, on terms acceptable to Kyiv.

The Orange Revolution triggered considerable concern that such a popular revolution might be possible in Russia and generated intense Russian interest in Ukrainian political developments. The extraordinary Russian interference in Ukrainian politics during the presidential campaign of 2004 has not been replicated in subsequent elections. While one would be naïve to conclude that there is no Russian influence in Ukrainian politics, the active involvement of Russian political "technologists", reports of Russian financing of anti-Orange candidates, and active direct involvement in Ukrainian media were not repeated in Ukraine's 2006 and 2007 parliamentary elections, despite the considerable stakes for Russia in Ukraine's leadership orientation. Other than Ukraine's achievement of formal sovereignty, the country's practical achievement of political sovereignty is among its most important accomplishments.

[www.csis.org] [PDF] pages 9, 13.

(Note that this document's release date by CSIS is February 2008.)

So here we are.  The US is obligated to protect Ukraine, NATO or not.  That was the deal made in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.  It is abundantly clear what Russia is willing to do to people, its own citizens or not, without a second thought.  If the US is still capable of honoring international treaties -- a big enough 'if' that Moscow could easily incline to test it and find out --  we are obligated to step in and defend Ukraine.

For those tempted to think that Russian media might be providing accurate information about anything, consider this list:

Sergey Novikov
Iskandar Khatloni
Sergey Ivanov
Adam Tepsurgayev

Eduard Markevich

Natalya Skryl
Valery Ivanov
Roddy Scott

Aleksei Sidorov
Yuri Shchekochikhin

Adlan Khasanov
Paul Klebnikov

Pavel Makeev
Magomedzagid Varisov

Vagif Kochetkov
Anna Politkovskaya
Maksim Maksimov

Ivan Safronov

Compiled from http://www.cpj.org

That is a list of journalists killed in Russia since Cheka KGB FSB/Putin took over.


... more qualified people weigh in on other matters, but I was under the impression w.r.t. Ukraine that

  1. Ukraine never had any nuclear weapons. The USSR had nuclear weapons. Ukraine's claim to those is unclear at best. Russia's claim to them is also unclear, but rather a lot stronger since the USSR was in many important ways merely the Russian Empire v. 2.0

  2. In the treaties governing the dissolution of the USSR, Russia recognised the sovereignty of Ukraine, and Ukraine in exchange specifically guaranteed that they would not bring NATO or any other hostile empire to Russia's borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 12:38:29 AM EST
For those tempted to think that Russian media might be providing accurate information about anything,

I can do it even shorter. Consider their coverage of Chechnya. But of course, that might bring up some - ah - interesting parallels to US press coverage of Gaza and Iraq...

The US press is full of shit. The Russian press is full of shit. The Danish and British press are full of shit (mostly because they plagiarise the US press with a vengeance - they can't read French or German (nevermind Russian, Chinese or Indian) so their options w.r.t. plagiarisation are limited). What else is new?

The French and German agencies seem to have people on the ground and appear to be willing to actually use their input. Some of the time.

As an aside, if it wasn't such a serious matter, I would find it amusing that you quote approvingly an analysis that argues that the US need counterweights "in the region" of Ukraine and Georgia. Take a look at a map and then try to justify Chinese and Russian "counterweights" in Mexico, Hawaii and Canada...

It's one thing to pretend to believe the "democracy promotion" justification for the US/NATO presence right on Russia's border, it's quite another to baldly assert that it's bad old Grand Chessboard strategy and then defend it on that premise.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 01:11:24 AM EST
do we "step in and defend Ukraine"?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 01:27:14 AM EST
Missile shield.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 03:04:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe it's called thermo-nuclear war.  

Get with the program, man.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 03:07:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well it's about effing time.  I came to this planet in the early '50s following the nuclear bombs/tests of the '40s, and I haven't seen any lit nukes in my lifetime.  BOOOO!  Let's see some action!  Pansies!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 02:52:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
d'rated for being unconstructive in any way.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 07:47:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since when does EVERYTHING that I type have to be constructive?  My paltry attempts at humor are just that.  When I find myself on the Editorial Board of an ET Think Tank, I'll watch every syllable I type.  Till then, NAH!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:34:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"we are obligated to step in and defend Ukraine":


As an aside: Was the picture deliberately altered to make Putin's eyes red?

by det on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 02:18:58 AM EST
I thought that was a particularly nice touch.  How about a joint photo of Putin and Bush, Putin with red eyes and Bush with green,(envy)?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 02:07:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was the picture deliberately altered to make Putin's eyes red?

Multiple choice:

  1.  No: He really is the Devil and the Devil looks just like in the story books.  And so does God.

  2.  No: Russia lacks the technology to erase red-eye from photos.  In Soviet Union camera owns you!

  3.  Yes: When in doubt, fill in the holes in your argument with scary pictures.  

  4.  Yes:  Its just fun to post silly pictures of Putin.  You should try it sometime. ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 02:35:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your conspiracy theories may be good as much as my about 9/11. I agree about one point: they are all gangsters. But who else can deal with USA gangsters?
I agree with Jake on every word. What makes Russia "right" in all this is that this is all happening on their door step. USA has a habit of occupying countries on the other side of the world (remember million dead Vietnamese so that USA make a point).Look at Iraq...and much more where they are not directly involved...
Ukraine has a bad luck that it is positioned close to Russia. Looks like that area is going to be a theatre for two superpowers to fight and people there will suffer in any case.
It was the best for Ukraine and Georgia to declare neutrality and (try to) stay away from both sides.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 03:08:04 AM EST
The ethnic composition of the Crimean is overwhelmingly Russian, and support for that "Orange Revolution" there was, according to you, how great?

Ditto the city of Sevastopol.

I find it odd you now headline, as if it is a good thing, what are, if true, essentially Ukrainian military acts of aggression on Russia in an overwhelmingly Russian autonomous part of the Ukraine (a part, to be sure, which is an historical fiction; the ASSR only having been transfered by Stalin, of whom I imagine you are not a fan, in 1954). And you do this on what basis?

Certainly not on the basis of the right to self-determintation, on the basis of which Ukraine would likely have to kiss both the Crimean peninsula and Sevastopol goodbye.

I'd also comment on your odd inconsistency in deriding some source while accepting US propoganda as truth, but others have already covered this..

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 04:51:38 AM EST
Hmmm... I thought the Ukrainians would come to their senses once the conflict is over, since they only stated that they would block Russian vessels from returning as long as Russia is at war with Georgia. However, the President seems to have raised the stakes:

Financial Times: Ukraine snubs Moscow on port

Victor Yushchenko, on Wednesday announced restrictions on use of the Crimean port of Sevastopol by Russia's Black Sea Fleet, a move that follows a challenge by Kiev this week to Moscow's naval operations off Georgia's coast.

The surprise decree by Ukraine's pro-western president requires Russian naval vessels to request permission 10 days in advance before returning to the strategically important port, which Russia leases from Ukraine. Russia's defence ministry quickly denounced it as "not serious".

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 05:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I guess the Russians should do what the US would do if Cuba decided to deny it the use of that base they lease there.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 05:25:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I find it odd you now headline, as if it is a good thing, what are, if true, essentially Ukrainian military acts of aggression on Russia in an overwhelmingly Russian autonomous part of the Ukraine (a part, to be sure, which is an historical fiction; the ASSR only having been transfered by Stalin, of whom I imagine you are not a fan, in 1954).

Actually, it was Khrushev. 1954 was 300th anniversary of Pereyaslavskaya Rada. Khrushev was a Ukrainian - as was Brezhnev who headed his very own Dnepropetrovsk clan, BTW. Luckily enough, Brezhnev didn't continue the Stalin's and Khrushev's nice tradition of granting extra territories (in addition to top jobs) to their own peoples.
by Sargon on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:44:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I stand humbly corrected.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 10:29:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is all good and well, but if one considers NATO a Cold War relic (and I see very few reasons not to consider it as such) with seemingly few other purposes than sticking it to the Russians, it is entirely predictable that attempts to expand that organisation on to Russia's borders would not go over particularly well. No need to ascribe it to dreams of Empire or the re-emergence of the Soviet Union. Deliberately attempting to provoke and isolate Russia is probably not the optimal way to transform Russia into a "responsible member of the world community".
I'd be the last person to argue that everything is coming up roses in Russia, but reducing it "Putin is evil" isn't particularly helpful, nor does it really tell us any of the "things to know and understand about Russia". But hey, if anyone is keeping score, maybe it would be an interesting exercise to count up how many persons have died as a result of Putin's actions, then do the same for Bush, and see who comes out on top.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 06:35:30 AM EST
Most of Crimea's population consider themselves to be Russians and are strongly pro-Moscow.

How many pro-Moscow Ukrainians?

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 08:50:21 AM EST
Compiled from http://www.cpj.org.  That is a list of journalists killed in Russia since Cheka KGB FSB/Putin took over.

You must be a very brave person, writing this diary.

And now, I burst out in a rendition of, "I can't give you anything but links, baby.  That's the only things I've plenty of, baby..."

An Audit of the Committee to Protect Journalists Claims

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 11:21:15 AM EST
So here we are.  The US is obligated to protect Ukraine, NATO or not.  [...]  If the US is still capable of honoring international treaties -- a big enough 'if' that Moscow could easily incline to test it and find out --  we are obligated to step in and defend Ukraine.

As this maybe the crosspost of your dkos diary, this maybe right, but for continental Europe, 'NATO or not' has big consequences. Because 'we' are have no obligation to defend Ukraine. By the way, there were as well treaties, which guarantied, that the balitc states would not become NATO members. Treaties made in that time seem not to have any binding power today any more.

I'm not talking about moral, but purely economic and security national issues: For continental Europe to allow Ukraine becoming a member of NATO has huge costs while zilch benefit.
Europeans are not willing to sent their full army to defend Georgia or Ukraine. If European energy security is build on these countries, then the EU is dependent on US military support. The US willingness to do so, is extremely expensive (loyality issues come to mind, see recent history) and can change every 4 years, when a new president is elected.  
If there is a partnership with Russia, huge investments into infrastructure are done by Russia. This guarantees a long term commitment. As Jerome has pointed out often enough, such investment is so large, that every side has a strong interest that delivery and payments go on. When Russia stopped gas delivery to Ukraine, the main issue was, that Ukraine is not paying the world market prices. The EU has an interest, that competitors like the Ukraine don't work with cheaper gas than our companies. The reasonable move therefore is the baltic sea pipeline to circumvent Ukraine, not to rely even stronger on the Ukrainian-Russian relationship - and backing Ukraine.
Even full dictatorships can be cooperative, see the gulf countries, when it comes to delivery of their energy.
Good Russian-EU relationships are the much more important than the protection of unnecessary provocative half-democratically elected eastern European govs.

And for moral issues alone, we could as good invade Zimbabwe. And so far I haven't seen any really good reason, why Georgian politicians think a South Ossetian independence is unacceptable, while I have seen lots of claims, that it is.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 01:04:54 PM EST
From det's comment above:

Re: Things to know and understand about Russia. No (4.00 / 2)
"we are obligated to step in and defend Ukraine":


As an aside: Was the picture deliberately altered to make Putin's eyes red?

Let's do the counterpoint part, shall we?  Yes, we shall.  It is link which I will not repeat.  The first sentence is a link straight over to a FireDogLake piece, which contains this:

If I were the Kremlin, I'd hit Ukraine hard, in force, not just the Crimea. And if it turns out their military is a paper tiger and it collapses, well, maybe I'd decide, in Putin and Medvedev's shoes, that being known as the men who put the Russian empire back together is pretty sweet. Sure, it'd take 10 years to pacify them, but whatever. Russia has the patience. Kill 10% of the population. If that doesn't work kill another 10%. Rinse, wash, repeat till they get a clue.

Respondents to det's comment picked up only on the red-eyes, not on the call for mass murder.

I have nothing else to say for now, except that I am well aware of the Crimea problem, know it intimately inside out, went easy on that point for reasons, and based on the above, those reasons were well-founded and will remain quite private.  I cannot possibly agree with calls for mass murder, here or anywhere linked from here.

By comparison, the remaining comments are not worth mentioning or answering.

Thanks for the recs.


The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
W. Churchill

by US expat Ukraine on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 08:22:56 PM EST
The red eyes you posted yourself.  

Det's link is to comments of strategy--specifically, defense in depth--and why Russia can not reasonably allow hostile military operations (including nuclear missiles) to be massed on its border.  

Nothing about American bloggers recommending genociding the Ukraine.  

So the text you quote is from whom?  And relevant how?  

PS  The correct protocol if you do not wish to promote a source by providing a hotlink is to instead post an address.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 09:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't or won't tolerate?

Applied all around that principle is absurd - what about the Ukrainian feelings about RUssia, or those of the Baltics and Poland? Sure the Russians don't like it, but there's a repeated implication among commenters that this is somehow justified in a way the reverse isn't, and that one should understand the Russian feelings coupled with expressions of annoyance when Russia's ex colonies behave and speak in the same way.

by MarekNYC on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 10:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is simple strategy, and immutable.  

Immutable means in no possible scenerio can the Russians allow a lethal strike force run by a hostile power (the US) on its border.  This would be to accept defeat in advance.  

It does not mean Russia must invade or occupy the Ukraine or anything of the sort.  

It does mean that the Ukraine must not join NATO--a US-run military alliance--nor allow US missile bases in their country.  

If they can avoid those two things, life can be good.  

If they can't, strategy dictates they will take damage.  What damage?  I do not know, but we will indeed find out, IF they foolishly go down that route.  

It does not matter whether you think it moral or immoral:  It is what will happen.  

This is not really about Russian feelings, although they have feelings.  Perhaps it is very much about the feelings of non-Russians:  If they were not eager to use the US as an instrument to avenge their sufferings during the Soviet period, they would think twice about summoning up that which, in Lovecraft's phrase, "they cannot put down."  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 at 11:23:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is no more immutable than the idea that the Ukrainians can't allow a Russia which feels that way on their borders. The Russians can accept, so can the Ukrainians.

You, and I'm using the term in the plural here, seem to think that there is only blowback if you do things that piss Russia off. Unfortunately, as long as the ex-colonies feel the same way about Russia that the Russians feel about NATO, it doesn't work that way. Fortunately for everyone, the Ukrainians don't actually particularly want to be in NATO - or rather a majority of them don't, though a large minority does.

In general, wanting NATO and the US isn't about revenge, or at least no more than not wanting it is for the Russians. They are weaker than the Russians, they'd love it if they didn't have Russia nearby, as long as it is, however, they'll seek protection in the form of a close alliance with its powerful rival. Expecting them to do otherwise is about as sensible as expecting the Russians to disarm.

And this, by the way, is one very good reason why a European who genuinely understands the geopolitics of their own continent would have to be insane to want to destroy NATO. You'd be taking a tense but tolerable situation, smashing it to escape the US embrace, and rolling the dice on whether the blowback pushes you right back into it only on less favorable terms and a full blown new Cold War.

by MarekNYC on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 02:03:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strategy IS immutable:  You disobey its rules, you die--simple as that.  

But what I said is that Russia cannot allow a lethal US stike force to be massed on its borders.  If the Ukrainians "feel" they want it, then Russia should allow it?  

Why would the Ukrainians want such a thing?  This is not security, this is insecurity.  

But even if they do want it, Russia cannot allow it, and this is, indeed, immutable.  

By the way, there are other, better ways for a small country to pursue security.  A small country should never, ever allow its territory to be used as a jumping off place for strategic operations--unless it has submitted itself to a cause or a power it believes will dominate.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:00:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you zoom in on one paragraph of outrageous hyperbole, from an article that was linked to from the article presented as counterpoint to your point, and use this single paragraph as an excuse for not answering the substantial points raised against your "analysis."

Is that the quality standard of critique at DailyKos?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 01:24:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
quality standard of critique at DailyKos?  


Unfair, Jake!  Unfair!  

(because we know it is.)  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 05:02:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How exactly do you propose we defend Ukraine?

Military means? An economic blockade of Russia? We stop buying their oil & gas? We prevent Russian oligarchs and their girlfriends from coming to Paris, London or Nice?

What eactly would you have us do?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 07:20:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, we should bar Russians from buying nice houses on the Riviera and from skiing in Courchevel

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 03:31:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well they can go to Courchevel (wouldn't want to stay there myself - too self-conscioiusly ritzy, and I prefer staying in Meribel where I have good access to all the valleys) but we wouldn't them hurting themselves on the couloirs on Saulire do not fall or on the wall off Chanrossa or taking up valuable space and getting in the way there.
by MarekNYC on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 03:41:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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