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Flashback: Russia’s Next Target Could Be Ukraine

Sarah Palin isn’t the only person who predicted Russians might invade Ukraine, just like they had invaded Georgia in the summer of 2008.

An op-ed from the September 10, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

Russia’s Next Target Could Be Ukraine

By Leon Aron | Sept. 10, 2008

Perhaps the most urgent question in the world affairs today is whether Russia’s invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia was a singular event. Or was it the onset of a distinct, and profoundly disturbing, national security and foreign policy agenda?

Much as one would like to cling to the former theory, the evidence favors the latter. A European delegation led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy did manage this week to get assurances that Russian troops would withdraw from Georgia (excepting Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence Moscow says is "irrevocable"). But ultimately, this short war is likely to be remembered as the beginning of a decisive shift in Russia’s national priorities. The most compelling of these new priorities today seems to be recovery of the assets lost in the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, which Vladimir Putin has called the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

How does Russia achieve this goal? By dominating the domestic politics and, more importantly, economic- and foreign-policy orientation, of the former Soviet republics. Anything considered antithetical to Russia’s interests, as interpreted by the current Kremlin leadership, must be discarded — be it democratization, oil and gas exports that bypass Russia, and, especially, the membership in the Western organizations such as the European Union and NATO. And if, in the process, Russia must sacrifice most or even all of the fruits of the post-Soviet rapprochement with the West — including membership in the G-8, entry to the World Trade Organization or ties to the EU — so be it.

But don’t worry. Russia won’t lose its G-8 or WTO status. (Even though we were told during the debate on admitting them that it would be a great way to make them behave.)

Russia’s "targets of opportunity" include simmering border disputes (and virtually all Russia’s borders with newly independent states could be disputed, since they are but the very badly demarcated internal borders of the Soviet Union), and the presence of the ethnic Russian or Russian-speaking minorities in neighboring countries.

And never mind that Josef Stalin imported Russians into these states  after WWII, for this very reason. That is, he wanted to be able to use the same excuse that his (former ally) Hitler had used to invade the Sudetenland, Austria and Czechoslovakia and Poland — to protect his native people from persecution.

And never mind that the Russians currently in Ukraine have never been persecuted, even during the years Putin cut off Ukraine’s oil and gas and froze and starved them.

Apart from Estonia and Latvia — where ethnic Russians constitute over a quarter of the population, but where NATO membership raises the risk for the Kremlin — by far the most likely target is Ukraine. Kiev has repeatedly defied and angered Russia by the domestic politics of democratization, a decidedly pro-Western orientation, and the eagerness of its leadership to join NATO. Nearly one in five Ukraine citizens are ethnically Russian (a total of almost eight million) and live mostly in the country’s northeast, adjacent to the Russian border.

Mr. Putin has made his contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty clear, most notably at the NATO summit in Bucharest last April when, according to numerous reports in the Russian and Ukrainian press, he told President Bush that the Ukraine is "not even a real state," that much of its territory was "given away" by Russia, and that it would "cease to exist as a state" if it dared join NATO. Clearly, Vice President Cheney’s trip to Ukraine this past weekend, where he expressed America’s "deep commitment" to this "democratic nation" and its "right" to join NATO, was intended as a message to Moscow.

What a cowboy that Dick Cheney is. Thankfully, Obama is above such things.

Still, there is no better place to cause a political crisis in Ukraine and force a change in the country’s leadership, already locked in a bitter internecine struggle, than the Crimean peninsula. It was wrestled by Catherine the Great from the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 18th century. Less than a quarter of the Crimeans are ethnic Ukrainians, while Russians make up over half the inhabitants (the pro-Ukrainian Crimean Tatars, one-fifth).

Again, this is no accident. Stalin deported the resident local Tatars and Greeks to Central Asia. In the course of which, about half of them died.

Ever since the 1997 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, a solid majority of the Russian parliament has opposed the recognition of the Crimea as Ukrainian territory.

Speaking of treaties, in 1994 Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for the US and the Russian Federation guaranteeing its territorial integrity. On January 14, 1994, Ukraine agreed to destroy all nuclear weapons on its territory, including strategic offensive weapons. Which meant the dismantling of Ukraine’s 176 Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) —130 SS-18s and 46 SS-24s—which carried about 1,800 nuclear warheads altogether.

In addition to the security assurances from the Presidents of the US and Russia, the UK, France and China also provided unilateral security assurances in the form of diplomatic notes. And we now see what good all those assurances are.

Russian nationalists have been especially adamant about the city of Sevastopol, the base for Russia’s Black Sea fleet and the site of some of the most spectacular feats of Russian military valor and sacrifice in World War II and the Crimean War of 1854-55.

Nationalist politicians, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, have repeatedly traveled to Crimea to show the flag and support the Russian irredentists — many of them retired Russian military officers who periodically mount raucous demonstrations.

And the rest are former Russian bureaucrats. And they have all been sent there to colonize the Ukraine. And to provide the excuse for an invasion.

In 2006, their protests forced the cancellation of the joint Ukraine-NATO Sea Breeze military exercises. Sevastopol was and should again be a Russian city," Mr. Luzhkov declared this past May, and the Moscow City Hall has appropriated $34 million for "the support of compatriots abroad" over the next three years. On Sept. 5, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko accused the Russian consulate in the Crimean capital of Simferopol of distributing Russian passports to the inhabitants of the peninsula.

With almost three-quarters of Sevastopol’s 340,000 residents ethnically Russian, and 14,000 Russian Navy personnel already "on the inside" (they’ve been known to don civilian clothes and participate in demonstrations by Russian Crimean irredentists), an early morning operation in which the Ukrainian mayor and officials are deposed and arrested and the Russian flag hoisted over the city should not be especially hard to accomplish. Once established, Russian sovereignty over Sevastopol would be impossible to reverse without a large-scale war, which Ukraine will be most reluctant to initiate and its Western supporters would strongly discourage.

A potentially bolder (and likely bloodier) scenario might involve a provocation by the Moscow-funded, and perhaps armed, Russian nationalists (or the Russian special forces, spetznaz, posing as irredentists). They could declare Russian sovereignty over a smaller city (Alushta, Evpatoria, Anapa) or a stretch of inland territory. In response, Ukrainian armed forces based in the Crimea outside Sevastopol would likely counterattack. The ensuing bloodshed would provide Moscow with the interventionist excuse of protecting its compatriots — this time, unlike in South Ossetia, ethnic Russians.

Whatever the operational specifics, the Russian political barometer seems to augur storms ahead.

Mr. Aron, director of Russian studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006" (AEI Press, 2007).

But Mr. Aron’s warnings were unheeded, of course. Mr. Obama knew better.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, March 3rd, 2014. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “Flashback: Russia’s Next Target Could Be Ukraine”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    I can hardly wait for Bill Maher’s snark or MSNBC’s re-cutting the video so Palin refutes herself ..

  2. Petronius says:

    Comparisons to Neville Chamberlain are inappropriate and wholly unfair to Mr. Chamberlain.

    Britain had demobilized after WW1 while during the 1930s Hitler busily rearmed Germany. The chiefs of staff advised Chamberlain that the Royal Army could not support the Czechs. When Chamberlain went to Munich he therefore went in a position of weakness. Hitler held the upper hand, and Chamberlain needed to bargain for time –– time for Britain to rearm its military and rebuild its industry.

    The US, on the other hand, started from a position of great strength. The US held a tremendous military and economic advantage –– or at least it did at the outset of Nerobama’s reign.

    Moreover, the US was aware (or should have been aware) of the global threats and challenges, yet deliberately chose to ignore them while it systematically dismantled its military and its industrial base. Moreover, the US has no intention of rearming or rebuilding, but instead grows progressively weaker with each passing day that Nerobama remains in power.

    At best the US will not even begin to rebuild until 2017, and it may take decades to repair the damage.

  3. wirenut says:

    To the sound of the William Tell Overture, I hear our President Pantomime say,,, What? Perhaps a former Sec. of State could wander up to a mic. and say, What difference does it make. We’ve got a long row to hoe, till this administration is history. Much to repair, zero fear or respect from the world. I think the “O” voted for Putin.

  4. canary says:

    Fascinating so much of this is being reported as if it’s new news to include the number of Russian troops in Ukraine etc. Russia has a huge war ship there too.

    Anyways, I was wondering what happened to the moving of WMD from Syria that was reported to have come from Saddam Hussein before the US attacked him. Bush waiting for Congress and
    the Senate to include Obama to vote in agreement there were WMD in Iraq and attack gave Saddam Hussein time to move them.

    During the Sochi Winter Olympics was when Russia was to move them from Syria, only the US was more focused on gay rights.

    I was kind of wondering why the Russians moving the WMD was reported on, but figured Russia was doing it in secret because they could not trust the US as in Obama to have kept it secret when they can’t even keep the Health Care site secure and the US spying on US citizens and hacking into Yahoo never figured out.

    So, I was thinking with the trucks Russia was using how they’d get the chemicals on any ship.
    And wondered if they’d go through Turkey and put in on Russia’s big ship then take it to the US ship that was to destroy them. Or if that big US ship would go to Turkey and pick them up from the ship.

    So, I googled how many US Troops are in Turkey, as we already have US military and war planes and drones on the Turkey Syria border to keep Turkey safe even though Turkey can’t be trusted especially lately. And now this in the news.

    I don’t think Russia is going to be kicked out quite yet since they have all those chemicals and perhaps they should not wait for the Summit which of course this Administration would turn it into a an environmental issue since as Obama and Kerry repeatedly say, the country that goes green will be the country that leads the global world, blah blah.

    26,000 more US Troops to go to Turkey

    DailyMail: Mar 3 2014 Turkey to approve US troops

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-168222/Turkey-approve-US-troops.html#ixzz2uso3nz6v
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  5. Mithrandir says:

    1. Obama, the agent of great suffering, will not get involved in Ukraine, unless he can generate even more suffering.

    2. We have welfare government (U.N.) welfare cities (Detroit) welfare states (Indian reservations) welfare continents (Africa) and basically a welfare planet dependent upon the endless flow of mother’s milk from the United States.

    The teat has finally started to run dry, it’s time to turn inward and focus on our own self-destruction.

    All Chinese/Japanese conflicts
    African territorial disputes
    India/ Bangladesh

    ….and the latest, Russia/Ukraine,

    eventually, no matter what future stake we have in these disputes, economic or otherwise, we simply have to let Darwinism take place. Things will eventually reach equilibrium until one sector will spread itself out too thin and be conquered (or go bankrupt) by an opposing force. This is what people get when they don’t invest in their own security, or trust scraps of paper from political liars. -Nuclear missiles provide better security than promises!

    *If the U.S. can’t muster enough outrage to overthrow a backwards regime like North Korea, stuck in 1953, then no other country should expect any help from us. Low-hanging fruit first, or nothing.

  6. canary says:

    Mithrandir/ *If the U.S. can’t muster enough outrage to overthrow a backwards regime like North Korea, stuck in 1953, then no other country should expect any help from us. Low-hanging fruit first, or nothing.

    Your post looks more and more like WWIII, but no one will admit it.

    China is going after Taiwan, and Taiwan leaders have rewritten their history that the US lied there was a civil war between the South and North, and the US came to slaughter all of Vietnam and take over it.

    Chinese people are brainwashed with fear that the US wants to kill everyone in China.

    You ended on what I think may be the biggest threat. North Korea’s leader Kim Un Jr. is more insane than his father. N. Korea is the new Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein only he has a robotic army that will kill to the death or face death at his hands.

    Supposedly one batch of WMD in Syria are going on a dinosaur dinky ship of the Netherlands at a Syria port rather than be moved through Ukraine.

    Iran has the military troops and war arsenal weapons and aircraft pouring into Syria. They may actually use those little flying boats they presented.

    Russia has mega submarines.

    The US Air force and Navy have focusing on military tanks and planes that are solar generated and don’t harm the environment.

    John Kerry is being stupid and now saying that Russia has no strength, which isn’t the time to insult egg them on aside the worthless threats of cutting them off. They can get oil easy, as well as weapons of mass destruction as they are experts with poison.

    Today Obama plans are to sign power with his pen to the EPA with his pen to beat the Supreme Court decisions that will decided as to the authority of the EPA.

    Obama decided the flavor of the week is regulate decreasing sulfur, raising fuel costs and bankrupting coal and making new rules for auto makers.

    It’s job creation for the automakers “union”.

    All these changes give manufactures and repair service more work to charge American people.

    Obama continues his focus that the country that leads in going green is the country that leads the world.

    Might be time for mass destruction on earth.

    For the Obama administration it will come as a thief in the night.

    Right now, US leaders are plundering the people in this country, it’s just they do it in a subtle way.

    Connecticut now has the authority to enter American citizens homes, and confiscate their guns and magazines. Many did not make the deadline to register these weapons, and one can guess they will even enter homes of those that did register.

    Instead of Pennsylvania protesting the threat of coal-miners jobs, they are out with signs protesting Russia.

    Russia news is informing people that Obama is not following the constitution and they are reporting that Snow is going to teach them cyber warfare.

    Sorry for such a long post. But, while the world is in chaos, Obama is pushing move forward for Michelle so she can be remembered for succeeding in her pet project. 5 and half years and she has not been successful, so she may resort to boot camp and follow NY in banning one thing after another.

    I don’t think Obama and his appointed have ever read the bible so they are blind.

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