It’s an interesting morning.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has talked Obama into holding off on sending defensive weapons to the Ukrainian army fighting the Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine. I characterize it this way as opposed to the way the media talks about this struggle because they are all liars. This is not a civil war or even close, the soldiers taking territory in Ukraine are Russian regulars.
According to Putin there are Russian regular soldiers there, just not under his command. He actually speculated; “They are there on vacation…” but of course this is more of his preposterous lying. Russian regulars cannot fight in a foreign country, cross borders, take weaponry with them or fight in or for any force except ones commanded by Russians. These rules are Russian soldier rules created by Putin. Did he say, after announcing that vacation lie he would be court martially those returning “Vacationers”? No, no he didn’t.
This is what happened, Putin invaded Crimea to get a warm water port and now he’s wants the rest of Ukraine back. Very few people know why but I can actually tell you. For Putin, it’s not about square miles (Russia is huge), but hegemony. Putin wants Russia large enough economically, population wise and militarily to sit at the hegemony table with the U.S., Germany, Japan and China.
How? Well to do that (for starters) he needed more people, (Ukraine has 45 million, which even if he completely captured would still leave him over 100 million behind the U.S., making his current population numbers at less than half the U.S – completely unacceptable to Putin. He sees himself as the father of a Russian nation reborn and like our early founders and their manifest destiny ideas; Putin believes Russia’s manifest destiny is to be the strongest European power.
He also needed an improved military and economy focused on energy exports. Interestingly enough, Putin has almost exclusively focused on these 3 objectives his entire time in power. Enough about Putin.
Merkel believes diplomacy should be given this one last shot. Most world leaders do not agree with her, but I do — and even though I have no illusions about who Putin is or what he’s capable of, I want to explain why I agree with her.
Putin is in a corner. His many misjudgments and fundamental misunderstanding of this crisis have created a much bigger crisis. A war over Ukraine actually doesn’t have to be a world war. But, the sanctions Merkel and Obama put against Russia hit hard, much harder than expected, and combined with a tidal wave of other bad economic news for Russia like the collapse of oil prices. Putin’s in a corner and Merkel’s scared of that.
She knows Putin used to chase rats and kill them with a stick in the dirty, dark, cold halls of the tiny walk up tenement he shared with his dirt-poor family in communist Russia. She knows a man like this when cornered, will bite, attack, fight, anything but bend or capitulate. She knows his pride is dangerously fierce, so much so, many Russians could die for it without his even considering that. Merkel wants to give him a way out that gives Russia a chance to recover economically from this adventure and here’s the most unusual part, (typically I’m a hawk) I totally agree with her on this. This isn’t about Putin or his insanity, its about Russian, Ukrainian and European lives and many, many of those will be lost if this goes just one small step step further.
She knows how Putin will react to arming the Ukrainians; he’ll send more weapons and vacationing Russian regulars. The length of the shared border concerns her. How to secure such a border? Impossible really, without Putin’s genuine cooperation. The only question left is, does Putin know this is his last chance before he starts a war in Europe, which will devastate his country? This is where I actually find the split between Obama and Merkel useful. It’s good cop, bad cop and if they do it right, it should work. Why? Because even Putin is unsure about his prospects in a war with Germany and the U.S. leading a combined NATO.
And devastate his country such a war will. The belief among military experts about Russian military strengths is a myth under offensive conditions. If Russian regulars enter the battlefield and encounter NATO troops led by American and German commanders with our best equipment, Russia will not only lose, she will be devastated.
Most people don’t see this that way either but there is a big difference between weapons counts and ability to fight. The Russians on their own soil I think would be very difficult to beat. On the other hand, a Russian army attempting expansion into Europe would face utter annihilation. Air power imbalances and the lack of an economic, population and industrial base to feed such a war — are all problems Putin not only has, he knows he has these problems.
If Merkel takes his foot off his neck right now, allows him to tap out with Crimea still under his belt, but no more, he might turn back. She spent a lot of political capital, time, energy, and money unwinding a lot of joint Russian and German projects just to get Putin to this point — Obama should give here a small window to see if all that work on her part was worth it.
The second Putin blinks however, or if Russian troops take another inch of Ukraine or if they don’t agree to fall back to the Minsk agreement line, we should listen to Senator John McCain and send over the trouble. All of it we can. We’re going need it there in a few months anyway if Merkel fails. Don’t kid yourself folks, read article 5 of the NATO charter, if Putin gets this past Ukraine, we here in the U.S. be at war with Russia.