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Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To “Defend Compatriots”, EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa Ban | Zero Hedge

Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To “Defend Compatriots”, EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa Ban | Zero Hedge.

While Russia has been massively piling up troops next to Ukraine’s eastern border, one thing that was missing to allow the crossing of the border was a provocation, aka the proverbial spark to give Moscow the green light to “defend” Russian citizens in the East. It may have just gotten that last night, when as previously reported, clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian civilians turned lethal, killing at least one person and dozens injured. A clip of the clashes can be seen below:

 

Needless to say, this escalation was just the green light Russia needed. As Reuters reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry, responding to the death of at least one protester in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, repeated President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of the right to invade to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots”.

“Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection,” it said. Curiously, organizers of the anti-Moscow demonstration said the dead man was from their group. That, however, is irrelevant, and in the fog of war, when tank batalions enter a country to “defend” select citizens, mistake are made.

In the meantime, and as we have been reporting since day one, Russian troops continue to gather:

A Reuters reporting team watched a Russian warship unload trucks, troops and at least one armored personnel carrier at Kazachaya bay near Sevastopol on Friday morning. Trucks drove off a ramp from the Yamal 156, a large landing ship that can carry more than 300 troops and up to a dozen APCs.

As also reported before, the key event in the coming days is the Crimean referendum whether to join Russia. Which is why a doomed last ditch diplomatic scramble has seen John Kerry rush to London where he later today he will meet Russian foreign minister Lavrov in a final attempt to diffuse the situation. The attempt will fail.

Summarizing it best, or perhaps just waking from a month-long nap, was the Estonian defense minister, Urmas Reinsalum who suddenly appears agitated to quite agitated:

  • PUTIN IS PREPARING TO INVADE EASTERN UKRAINE: ESTONIAN DEF MIN
  • UKRAINE EVENTS CLEARLY SHOW RUSSIA ONLY ACCEPTS FORCE: ESTONIAN DEF MIN

Hardly anyone is surprised there…

But perhaps the biggest news so far this morning is that the EU is considering visa bans to 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders, which according to Germany’s Bild, include the headest hocnho of all: Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller. From Reuters:

Visa bans threatened by the European Union and United States should Crimea vote to join Russia in a referendum would target at least 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders including Vladimir Putin’s close aides, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.

The visa ban list includes Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, the secretary of the National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, as well as several of Putin’s advisors, Bild said in an advance copy of a report to be published on Saturday. The report cited diplomatic sources in Brussels and Washington.

Visa bans could also be slapped on the chief executive of Russian energy firm Gazprom Alexei Miller, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s top crude oil producer Rosneft .

Remember, it is all about the gas. And if Europe “forces” Russia’s hand by denying Gazprom free access, then Gazprom will have no choice but to retaliate. At that point all bets are off.

Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To "Defend Compatriots", EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa Ban | Zero Hedge

Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To “Defend Compatriots”, EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa Ban | Zero Hedge.

While Russia has been massively piling up troops next to Ukraine’s eastern border, one thing that was missing to allow the crossing of the border was a provocation, aka the proverbial spark to give Moscow the green light to “defend” Russian citizens in the East. It may have just gotten that last night, when as previously reported, clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian civilians turned lethal, killing at least one person and dozens injured. A clip of the clashes can be seen below:

 

Needless to say, this escalation was just the green light Russia needed. As Reuters reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry, responding to the death of at least one protester in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, repeated President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of the right to invade to protect Russian citizens and “compatriots”.

“Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection,” it said. Curiously, organizers of the anti-Moscow demonstration said the dead man was from their group. That, however, is irrelevant, and in the fog of war, when tank batalions enter a country to “defend” select citizens, mistake are made.

In the meantime, and as we have been reporting since day one, Russian troops continue to gather:

A Reuters reporting team watched a Russian warship unload trucks, troops and at least one armored personnel carrier at Kazachaya bay near Sevastopol on Friday morning. Trucks drove off a ramp from the Yamal 156, a large landing ship that can carry more than 300 troops and up to a dozen APCs.

As also reported before, the key event in the coming days is the Crimean referendum whether to join Russia. Which is why a doomed last ditch diplomatic scramble has seen John Kerry rush to London where he later today he will meet Russian foreign minister Lavrov in a final attempt to diffuse the situation. The attempt will fail.

Summarizing it best, or perhaps just waking from a month-long nap, was the Estonian defense minister, Urmas Reinsalum who suddenly appears agitated to quite agitated:

  • PUTIN IS PREPARING TO INVADE EASTERN UKRAINE: ESTONIAN DEF MIN
  • UKRAINE EVENTS CLEARLY SHOW RUSSIA ONLY ACCEPTS FORCE: ESTONIAN DEF MIN

Hardly anyone is surprised there…

But perhaps the biggest news so far this morning is that the EU is considering visa bans to 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders, which according to Germany’s Bild, include the headest hocnho of all: Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller. From Reuters:

Visa bans threatened by the European Union and United States should Crimea vote to join Russia in a referendum would target at least 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders including Vladimir Putin’s close aides, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.

The visa ban list includes Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, the secretary of the National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, as well as several of Putin’s advisors, Bild said in an advance copy of a report to be published on Saturday. The report cited diplomatic sources in Brussels and Washington.

Visa bans could also be slapped on the chief executive of Russian energy firm Gazprom Alexei Miller, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s top crude oil producer Rosneft .

Remember, it is all about the gas. And if Europe “forces” Russia’s hand by denying Gazprom free access, then Gazprom will have no choice but to retaliate. At that point all bets are off.

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart.

Jackson Doughart

Posted: 03/05/2014 5:16 pm

The West, and especially the English-speaking West, has wrongly taken sides in the present conflict in Ukraine. On the one hand, our leaders have mimicked the line of the news media, which simplistically represent the revolutionary ouster of President Yanukovych as an occasion of desperate democratic action against a corrupt leader. On the other hand, various pundits have elevated Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the status of enemy, whose actions must be “contained” as an apparent foreign-policy sine qua non.

For instance, the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama “sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West, and block Russian neo-imperialism.”

In response to the Administration’s claim that democracy “must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own,” Krauthammer writes: “Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.”

But this “authentic Ukrainian polity” is wrought with ethnic divisions, particularly concerning the Crimean peninsula, which is populated in a majority by ethnic Russians. The pro-Europe posture of the protesters is a reflection less of a considered moral preference than of a country torn in politics and identity between East and West. Krauthammer also fails to mention that the “Russian pressure” involved here is not a mere exercise in imperial Realpolitik. What’s really involved is the fear of Ukrainians that they may be unduly influenced by Russia, or worse, that they may lose territory. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Russians fear that a more nationalist government will leave them with less clout and fewer political rights, such as the regional language recognition that the new parliament has just taken away from them.

Putin isn’t going to leave the Russian residents of the Ukraine, and especially those in Crimea, proverbially out to dry. It’s a matter of legitimate interest for Russia, whose ethnic brethren was stranded from the homeland when Ukraine declared independence, to use its geopolitical might to protect them. (One remembers that it was only in 1954 that Crimea was tacked onto the Ukrainian SSR — a fact of little importance when the entire country was run by the Kremlin, but of great importance now.) But so too it is legitimate for the new Ukrainian government to fight any specter of partition in Crimea. It will want to preserve the territorial integrity of its state and ensure that the substantial Ukrainian minority in that region remains within its sovereign borders.

Where does this leave Western countries and their national interests? As a rule, these kind of ethno-territorial conflicts involve deep-seated animosities that are scarcely appreciable to those unfamiliar with their histories. They also invariably involve the atrocious use of force by both sides, contrary to the tendency of news organizations and other media to portray such conflicts as one of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Evidently, not all human conflicts can be boiled down to matters of good versus evil.

A salient example is that of the Kosovo conflict of some 15 years ago. After having foolishly maintained an arms embargo that favoured the Serb forces over the Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian War, and subsequently intervening in pursuit of a peace agreement in 1995, the West came down like a ton of bricks on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, which employed force to put down secessionist uprisings in the south. The Muslim Kosovar-Albanians formed a majority in the region and wished to break away from Serbia, either to form an independent state or to join Albania. The Christian Serbs, who formed a minority in Kosovo but a majority in the country, understandably wanted to keep Kosovo as part of their territory.

In hindsight, it remains remarkably unclear why the West was so decisively on the side of the Kosovar-Albanians. Perhaps we thought that extending a helping hand to the Kosovo Liberation Army would earn us sympathies in the Muslim world. Another idea, which is persuasive to me, is that the Western media collectively decided that Slobodon Milosevic was evil, which meant that any action his country took, however legitimate, was also evil. Today, Vladimir Putin has been deemed evil by our opinion-makers, meaning that any enemy of his is supposedly a friend of ours.

The Kosovo War had a further implication. When the United States and its allies directed NATO to perform air strikes on Serbia, it did so without the permission of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent and veto-wielding member. Perhaps more importantly, that case established the ability of a powerful state to choose one side in an ethnic conflict and commit military force in its support, seemingly without any overarching geopolitical reason.

Ironically, this plays directly into the hands of the loathed Mister Putin, who has called Obama’s bluff by first moving his troops to the Ukrainian border, and then into Crimea itself. Given the brazenness of our intervention in Kosovo, with its ignorance of international law as well as the wishes of other powerful states, on what remaining leg will we stand if Putin decides to forcibly remove Crimea from Ukraine? Such action, after all, would be ostensibly in support of a beleaguered minority seeking refuge from a nationalist government.

This is a very irresponsible way to even think about, and let alone conduct, foreign affairs. One doesn’t have to be an isolationist to see that some conflicts are not of paramount importance to the national interest, and hence to the calculation of sacrificing blood and treasure overseas. To the contrary, many such situations are, to use Krauthammer’s scornful words, “merely a crisis to be managed.”

Instead of making empty promises or threats, our message should be clear and decisive: “What is happening in Ukraine is a matter that its population has to sort out for itself. But, if asked, we will work with all interested parties to mediate a speedy and peaceful resolution.” No more, no less.

~
This piece also appears in the Prince Arthur Herald.

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart

The West Should Butt Out of Ukrainian Politics | Jackson Doughart.

Jackson Doughart

Posted: 03/05/2014 5:16 pm

The West, and especially the English-speaking West, has wrongly taken sides in the present conflict in Ukraine. On the one hand, our leaders have mimicked the line of the news media, which simplistically represent the revolutionary ouster of President Yanukovych as an occasion of desperate democratic action against a corrupt leader. On the other hand, various pundits have elevated Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the status of enemy, whose actions must be “contained” as an apparent foreign-policy sine qua non.

For instance, the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama “sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West, and block Russian neo-imperialism.”

In response to the Administration’s claim that democracy “must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own,” Krauthammer writes: “Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.”

But this “authentic Ukrainian polity” is wrought with ethnic divisions, particularly concerning the Crimean peninsula, which is populated in a majority by ethnic Russians. The pro-Europe posture of the protesters is a reflection less of a considered moral preference than of a country torn in politics and identity between East and West. Krauthammer also fails to mention that the “Russian pressure” involved here is not a mere exercise in imperial Realpolitik. What’s really involved is the fear of Ukrainians that they may be unduly influenced by Russia, or worse, that they may lose territory. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Russians fear that a more nationalist government will leave them with less clout and fewer political rights, such as the regional language recognition that the new parliament has just taken away from them.

Putin isn’t going to leave the Russian residents of the Ukraine, and especially those in Crimea, proverbially out to dry. It’s a matter of legitimate interest for Russia, whose ethnic brethren was stranded from the homeland when Ukraine declared independence, to use its geopolitical might to protect them. (One remembers that it was only in 1954 that Crimea was tacked onto the Ukrainian SSR — a fact of little importance when the entire country was run by the Kremlin, but of great importance now.) But so too it is legitimate for the new Ukrainian government to fight any specter of partition in Crimea. It will want to preserve the territorial integrity of its state and ensure that the substantial Ukrainian minority in that region remains within its sovereign borders.

Where does this leave Western countries and their national interests? As a rule, these kind of ethno-territorial conflicts involve deep-seated animosities that are scarcely appreciable to those unfamiliar with their histories. They also invariably involve the atrocious use of force by both sides, contrary to the tendency of news organizations and other media to portray such conflicts as one of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Evidently, not all human conflicts can be boiled down to matters of good versus evil.

A salient example is that of the Kosovo conflict of some 15 years ago. After having foolishly maintained an arms embargo that favoured the Serb forces over the Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian War, and subsequently intervening in pursuit of a peace agreement in 1995, the West came down like a ton of bricks on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, which employed force to put down secessionist uprisings in the south. The Muslim Kosovar-Albanians formed a majority in the region and wished to break away from Serbia, either to form an independent state or to join Albania. The Christian Serbs, who formed a minority in Kosovo but a majority in the country, understandably wanted to keep Kosovo as part of their territory.

In hindsight, it remains remarkably unclear why the West was so decisively on the side of the Kosovar-Albanians. Perhaps we thought that extending a helping hand to the Kosovo Liberation Army would earn us sympathies in the Muslim world. Another idea, which is persuasive to me, is that the Western media collectively decided that Slobodon Milosevic was evil, which meant that any action his country took, however legitimate, was also evil. Today, Vladimir Putin has been deemed evil by our opinion-makers, meaning that any enemy of his is supposedly a friend of ours.

The Kosovo War had a further implication. When the United States and its allies directed NATO to perform air strikes on Serbia, it did so without the permission of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent and veto-wielding member. Perhaps more importantly, that case established the ability of a powerful state to choose one side in an ethnic conflict and commit military force in its support, seemingly without any overarching geopolitical reason.

Ironically, this plays directly into the hands of the loathed Mister Putin, who has called Obama’s bluff by first moving his troops to the Ukrainian border, and then into Crimea itself. Given the brazenness of our intervention in Kosovo, with its ignorance of international law as well as the wishes of other powerful states, on what remaining leg will we stand if Putin decides to forcibly remove Crimea from Ukraine? Such action, after all, would be ostensibly in support of a beleaguered minority seeking refuge from a nationalist government.

This is a very irresponsible way to even think about, and let alone conduct, foreign affairs. One doesn’t have to be an isolationist to see that some conflicts are not of paramount importance to the national interest, and hence to the calculation of sacrificing blood and treasure overseas. To the contrary, many such situations are, to use Krauthammer’s scornful words, “merely a crisis to be managed.”

Instead of making empty promises or threats, our message should be clear and decisive: “What is happening in Ukraine is a matter that its population has to sort out for itself. But, if asked, we will work with all interested parties to mediate a speedy and peaceful resolution.” No more, no less.

~
This piece also appears in the Prince Arthur Herald.

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion, Considers State Of Emergency After Masked Gunmen Occupy Two Crimean Airports | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion, Considers State Of Emergency After Masked Gunmen Occupy Two Crimean Airports | Zero Hedge.

The bizarre events in the Crimea continued overnight, after unidentified masked men but dressed like those who took over the parliament in Simferopol yesterday, took over two airports by blockading one near the Russian naval base in Sevastopol and another in the capital of Simferopol. This prompted the Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov, to accuse Moscow’s military of blockading the airports, and in a Facebook post, he called the seizure of the Belbek international airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a “military invasion and occupation.” He added: “It is a breach of all international agreements and norms.” As NBC reports, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian military sources as saying the incident at Belbek airport was intended to stop “fighters” flying in. However, Interfax later quoted a Russian official as saying that no units had approached the airport or blockaded it. In a nutshell, Russia continues to push with escalation ever further, and is testing just how far it can and will go without Ukraine responding.

2-3 dozen militiamen at Simferopol #Crimea airport quickly piled into a truck – with no plates – and are leaving. pic.twitter.com/wgcIjvE8jV

— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) February 28, 2014

Kyivpost has a more detailed account:

Two Crimean airports were taken over by Russian military troops, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook this morning. He said the situation in the autonomous republic has now escalated to “a military intervention” and called on the National Security Council to take urgent steps towards its regulation.

 

“My assessment of what’s going on is that it’s a military intervention and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” he said in his statement. “This is a direct provocation of bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state.”

 

Avakov said that Sevastopol’s military airport Bilbek at night was blocked off by the military units of the Russian navy, which is based in Sevastopol. He said the airport is surrounded by camouflaged military troops with no identification and carrying guns. He said they do not hide their Russian affiliation.

 

Inside the airport there is a group of Ukrainian soldiers and border guards, and Ukrainian police troops have surrounded the outer perimeter of the airport. “There have been no armed clashes so far,” he said.

 

The navy base is Sevastopol is key for the Russian army. Under agreements signed between two countries in 2010, the Russian military can continue to use Sevastopol until 2042, with an option of extending the lease to 2047.

 

Some 70 kilometers away from the coast, in Crimean capital Simferopol, another airport was taken over by a group of about 100 plain-clothed men, who went inside the airport and onto the runway.

 

“The interior troops and police pushed these people first into the airport building, and then out of the territory. No weapons were used,” Avakov said.

 

He said that after the armed men left, a new group of camouflaged men arrived around 1:30 in the morning. They carried automatic weapons and had no markings. Avakov said they entered the building and stayed int he restaurant.

 

“They are not hiding their affiliation with the army of the Russian Federation,” Avakov said. “Told by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry workers that they are military men and have no right to be there, they answer curtly that they have no instructions to negotiate with you.”

 

Avakov said that so far there have been no clashes, but tension is growing as Ukrainian police troops continue to arrive. “The law enforcement organs cannot oppose the army,” Avakov concluded.

In the meantine, Ukraine is starting to realize that it may have bitten more than it can chew, and as Interfax reported:

  • UKRAINE WEIGHS STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CRIMEA: INTERFAX
  • RUSSIA BLACK SEA FLEET, HELICOPTERS BREAK UKRAINE ACCORDS: IFX

And the immediate re-escalation:

  • RUSSIAN BLACK SEA FLEET SETS UP BALACLAVA BLOCKADE: INTERFAX

Visually:

Coastguard and frigate at entrance to Balaclava bay pic.twitter.com/Yvb69jPtHM

— Christian Fraser (@ForeignCorresp) February 28, 2014

Yet none of this compares to today’s main event when a t 5pm local time, in the Rostov-on-Don Technical University, deposed Ukraine president Yanukovich who is currently in Russia, is expected to hold a press conference. Missing since the beginning of the week, the ousted ukrainian president had fled the country to Russia in the latest days, either by car through the Donetsk region, either escorted by military planes, according to different reports.

We doubt anything he says will difuse the situation.

Do more to prevent war | www.timesrecord.com | The Times Record

Do more to prevent war | www.timesrecord.com | The Times Record.

BY DAVID SWANSON
GUEST COLUMN


David Swanson

David Swanson

Polls showed a large percentage of us in this country supporting the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and even — though somewhat reduced — the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But not long after, and ever since, a majority of us have said those were mistakes.

We’ve opposed attacking Iran whenever that idea has entered the news. We opposed bombing Libya in 2011 and were ignored, as was Congress. And, by the way, advocates of that happy little war are rather quiet about the chaos it created.

But last September, the word on our televisions was that missiles must be sent to strike Syria. President Barack Obama and the leaders of both big political parties said they favored it. Wall Street believed it would happen, judging by Raytheon’s stock. When U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make the president’s case, he released a “government” assessment without them.

Remarkably, we didn’t accept that choice. A majority of us favored humanitarian aid, but no missiles, and no arming of one side in the war. We had the benefit of many people within the government and the military agreeing with us. And when Congress was pressured to demand approval power, Obama granted it.

It helped more that members of Congress were in their districts with people getting in their faces. It was with Congress indicating its refusal to support a war that Obama and Kerry accepted the pre-existing Russian offer to negotiate. In fact, the day before they made that decision, the State Department had stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never ever give up his chemical weapons, and Kerry’s remarks on that solution had been “rhetorical.”

The war in Syria goes on. Washington sent guns, but refrained from air strikes. Major humanitarian aid would cost far less than missiles and guns, but hasn’t materialized. The children we were supposed to care about enough to bomb their country are still suffering, and most of us still care.

But a U.S. war was prevented.

We’re seeing the same thing play out in Washington right now on the question of whether to impose yet more sanctions on Iran, shred a negotiated agreement with Iran, and commit the United States to joining in any war between Israel and Iran.

In January, a bill to do all of that looked likely to pass through the Senate. Public pressure has been one factor in, thus far, slowing it down.

Are we moving away from war?

The ongoing war in Afghanistan, and White House efforts to extend it beyond this year, might suggest otherwise. The military budget that still eats up, across various departments, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, and which is roughly the size of all other countries’ military spending combined, might suggest otherwise. The failure to repeal the authorizations for war from 2001 and 2003, and the establishment of permanent practices of surveillance and detention and secrecy justified by a permanent state of war, might suggest otherwise. As might the ongoing missile strikes from drones over a number of nations.

But you’ll notice that they don’t ask us before launching drone strikes, and that their assurances that no innocent people are harmed have proven highly misleading.

War may be becoming acceptable only as what its advocates have long claimed it was: a last resort. Of course if we can really make that true, we’ll never have a war again.

DAVID SWANSON will be speaking at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.

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