[While everyone is concentrating on the referendum in Crimea, let’s not lose sight of what’s happening in the rest of (formerly independent) Ukraine. As we already know, the government in Kiev is dead broke; the aid that is forthcoming from the US is barely enough to cover its debt to Russia’s Gazprom, for natural gas. Ukraine’s bond yield has spiked to 50% while $15 billion of these bonds mature andhave to be rolled over this year.
A lot has been made of the Russian and Belarussian troops massing all around Ukraine and in Crimea, but so far little has been heard of the state of the military within Ukraine itself. But now it appears that Ukraine’s military (which has never been involved in any armed conflict anywhere and is poorly trained and poorly armed) is mostly on the Russian side already, and, in any case, not willing to follow orders from Kiev. It also appears that the National Guard goon squadsbeing hastily organized by the government in Kiev may be effective at intimidating civilians, but that they won’t be much of a military force.
This information comes from a well-positioned source. There is a Spanish-speaking air traffic controller working at the Borispol International Airport in Kiev, who has been tweetting in Spanish and giving a blow-by-blow account of the goings on in the air and on the ground, along with some useful commentary. What follows is a summary of some of the recent tweets. Many thanks to Francisco for putting it together.
Here is what I see as the best case scenario for Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian militaries fraternize and merge without a single shot fired, followed by a joint mop-up operation against the nationalist thugs.Once the nationalists’ ability to intimidate the populace is neutralized, the country can be reorganized, ideally as a federative structure that supports local languages, dialects and cultures.]
The Ukrainian military are by and large refusing to follow orders from he government. Many if not the majority of them are incredibly angry. Some generals have openly declared that they will not follow orders from some foreign-imposed government. The chief of the Air Force is a major problem for the government: so far he has flatlyrefused to fly any missions at all, and has grounded all the planes. He says that he will not follow orders except from a freely elected governent. Until such a time, he will follow only his own orders.
In this ATC’s opinion, this attitude within the military is a good thing, because there would already be lots of casualties had they had followed their orders. It looks like at least half, and probably more, of the military feels much more affinity toward their Russian colleages than towards the Ukrainian Nationalists who are nominally in power. The government is frantically trying to recruit and organizea National Guard, with whatever western help they can get. There is no equipment or money in the country.
The problem with this National Guard is that it’s being recruited based on an ideology of nationalistic bigotry and hatred rather than any useful aptitude. The people in Kiev are much more afraid of the nationalists and the National Guard being created than of the military. It appears that the sentiment towards the Russians is in general very friendly, that most Ukrainians consider Russians to be their brothers. The exception is the ultra-nationalistic faction, whichsuperficially seems to be gaining a lot of power through intimidation.