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I've been closely following the situation in Ukraine for some time.  In the one hundredth anniversary of the start of The Great War, I have to say I am horrified by the potential for a new great power conflict with the weaponry at the disposal of the powers today.  The world, of course, is a different place than it was in 1914, but the possibilities of great power conflict through a misunderstanding of interests or miscalculation by the leadership of the countries involved could easily lead us to another costly conflict.  

Is it probable?  As of this writing it is not.  Is it possible?  Yes.  And, given that we have to think of the possibilities (9/11 taught us that, if nothing else), what are the scenarios?  How should we--as the liberal/progressive base--react?  What happens if the situation spirals out of control?

This is the most important contest between the powers since the end of the Cold War.  How it plays out will impact the foreign policies of all the powers for many years to come.  

Follow me below the squiggle for more.

What does Russia want?  Putin has, since his coming to the presidency the first time back in 2000 desired to restore Russia's place in the world after the demise of the USSR and the mess created in its aftermath.  He saw Yeltsin as weak and ineffective, both in allowing the kleptocrats within Russia to gain so much influence and in Russia's standing abroad.  He was reasonably successful at reining in the business sector, famously imprisoningMikhail Khodorovsky, Russia's richest man via oil (now seen as a dissenter, but a very flawed one).  Putin did all of this while playing to the Russian nationalists.

Internationally, Putin has tried to reestablish Russia's position as a great power to be taken seriously.  Russian intervention in Georgia in 2008, the sending of Russian naval vessels to ports not seen since the USSRand an independent, if not intransigent, position in international affairs (Kosovo, Libya, Syria, etc.  Putin even said recently that Kosovo was part of Serbia).  Usually, these positions are contrary to the West (EU and US).  Putin has been compared to a modern Charles De Gaulle, and I think the comparison makes sense.

Putin's policies are not being made up in a vacuum, but following long-held Russian objectives that span the histories of the USSR and Tsarist Russia.  The goal has been to expand Russia's influence in those regions bordering it--especially the Black Sea, but also the Baltic, Eastern Europe, Central Europe and, to a lesser extent, the Pacific.   In the Black Sea region, Russia's old goal has been Constantinople/Istanbul.  Controlling the straits to the Mediterranean would provide Russia with easy access for its navy to the rest of the world.  Russian Orthodoxy has long seen itself as the true heirs to the religion of the East, with the Greek Orthodox Byztantine Empire being the heir of Rome.  With the fall of Constantinople in 1452, Moscow saw itself as the new heirs of Rome, hence the title of Tsar (Russian for Caesar).  

It is not a surprise that Turkey has had a role in the negotiations in Ukraine this week.

The Crimea has been an integral part of Russia's Black Sea policy since it acquired the region in the 18th century.  The names of Sevastopol and Balaclava should both ring in the ears of Westerners, as the Crimean War (1853-1856) was fought to hold back Russian expansion in the region (the Ottomans were then the country being assisted by the West, most notable France and Britain).  

Today, Tennyson's poetry reminds us of the past conflict in the region:

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
So, Putin is following a well-worn path.  However, as 1914 proved, local conflicts can become international conflicts very quickly.  Following Christopher Clark's recently published The Sleepwalkers (an outstanding book, btw), what was originally a local Balkan conflict between an intransigent Serbia and an Austria-Hungary seeking retribution after the assassination of its heir to the Hapsburg throne turned into a global conflict after Russia made the decision--based on internal nationalistic politics and a Slavophile public--to mobilize on behalf of the Serbs (who were clearly responsible for the assassination).  Russia was egged on by France, which was decidedly anti-German.  Germany supported Austria.  Upon Russian mobilization, Germany put the Schlieffen Plan into action, hoping to win a two-front war by defeating France (as they had in 1870) and then turning to Russia before full Russian mobilization had occurred.  The Result: 10 million plus dead and the world would never be the same.

While the circumstances are different, we once again face a Russia willing to use military force against a neighbor.  In this case Ukraine has guarantees of its territorial sovereignty from the West.  The potential for a broader conflict should Russia invade is greater than ever since the end of the Cold War.

The implications of a Russian intervention do not stop at Ukraine.  The Czech ambassador to Russia was withdrawn, stating that there should be no more Prague Springs.  The Baltic states have been the most vocal of the EU in calling for restraint by Russia.  

What happens if Russia invades?  I don't know. As Chuck Hagel said today:

The Pentagon chief declined to spell out any specific steps the U.S. might take as a result of Russian forces entering other parts of Ukraine, but he added, "This could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a very provocative way. We have many options, like any nations do. We're trying to deal with the diplomatic focus. That's the appropriate responsible approach and that's what we're going to continue."
I hope an international coalition would use diplomacy to force Putin to withdraw and face serious penalties.  However, a military response by the West is not out of the question.  The US has plenty of air and naval assets in the region (the US 6th Fleet in the Med, airbases in Turkey and Europe, naval forces in the Persian Gulf, and who knows how many subs throughout the region).  We, along with NATO, could make things very uncomfortable for the Russians.  

If we respond militarily, how does Russia react?  This is where scary scenarios come into play.  Should Russians get killed in any US operations, will Russia try to go after US assets?  

Cyberstrikes might be one way.  Russia has a history of hacking into US systems.  Perhaps a Stuxnet-type attack against US infrastructure would be one way for Russia to reach the US without actual military assets being used.Russia argues that Stuxnet was used against one of it nuclear facilities last year.  This would just be retribution.

Russia still has an extensive submarine network worldwide.  Their use against American shipping could be another option.  They have advanced weaponry and could also be used against targets on land.

Finally, if Russians are being defeated by US/NATO forces, how long might it be before someone in the Russian government considers a nuclear option?  Do we really feel that Putin is such a rational actor that he would not consider it?  

So, what can we do?  I strongly believe that we have to rein in the hawks both within the administration and elsewhere in our political system.  The often sad Democratic efforts to show strength when the GOP complains about weakness must be resisted.

Already, the GOP warmongers are ratcheting up the rhetoric:

"Putin is playing chess and I think we're playing marbles," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking on Fox News Sunday. Rogers said the Russians have been "running circles around us" in negotiations on such items as Syria and missile defense.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on CNN's State of the Union, said "we have a weak and indecisive president," and that "invites aggression."

In the 2004 election, it came to light that John Kerry has extensively studied The Great War.  He understands the lessons and I have faith that he will do everything he can to avoid its mistakes.  However, we are in a very tense situation and anything can happen....



6:43 PM PT: UPDATE: John Kerry is on his way to Kiev.  Putin has agreed to allow for an OSCE fact finding mission after a discussion with Merkel.

Mon Mar 03, 2014 at  7:36 AM PT: From the BBC:  

15:15: Breaking News

Russia's Black Sea Fleet has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until 5:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Tuesday to surrender or face an all-out assault, according to Ukrainian defence ministry sources quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency. "If by 5am tomorrow morning they do not surrender a real assault will begin on units and sections of the Ukrainian armed forces all over Crimea," defence ministry officials are quoted as saying. So far there is no further confirmation of the ultimatum from other sources.

Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 9:20 AM PT: from the BBC:

The Russian defence ministry has apparently denied reports that Russian forces gave an ultimatum to the Ukrainian troops in Crimea (see 15:58 entry). "This is utter nonsense", a spokesman for the Russian defence ministry told Vedomosti, a Russian broadsheet.

Originally posted to dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 11:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Christopher, not Kenneth, Clark wrote (7+ / 0-)

    The Sleepwalkers.

    Although I strongly recommend the book, I don't think there's much of a parallel. As Dennis Ross writes, today, in The New Republic: "No one is going to war over the Crimea, including the Ukraine."

    The question remains, however, what the United States and Europe will do to stop Russian imperialism from gobbling up Ukraine itself. Russia's violating the sovereignty of Ukraine, in hypocritical breach of the principles it espouses, for example, in preventing the UN from acting effectively in Syria, has to have a cost, and staying away from a G8 planning meeting in Sochi doesn't begin to cut it. This is especially true in light of Russia's signature to the Budapest Memorandum, in which the Russian Federation, along with the United States and the United Kingdom:

    reaffirm[ed] their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine,
    and also
    reaffirm[ed] their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,
    as well as
    reaffirm[ing] their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.
    In addition to helping Ukrainian defend their right to national self-determination through free and fair elections, the United States and Europe need to draw appropriate conclusions from Russia's conduct and escalation of the current crisis.

    Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

    by another American on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 12:39:57 PM PST

    •  Thanks...fixed the name (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've made the same mistake elsewhere...I get the art historian of the Civilization series in my head that I saw as a kid on PBS when I think of the name.

      I would suggest that the Budapest Memorandum holds little weight for Putin--it was signed by Yeltsin when Russia was weak.  The question is, should Russia invade, how much importance will the US  give to it....

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 01:07:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Russia has invaded the Crimea, which is part of (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dizzydean, barbwires, TofG, duhban


        Obviously, as others have noted, Putin has acted because he can act. Nevertheless, it's important to recall that the country he rules--the Russian Federation--is the same country that signed the Budapest Memorandum; it's not even a successor state, as the Russian Federation is vis-a-vis the USSR.

        As Dennis Ross notes, we're not going to war over the Crimea. But leaders around the world, including not least Putin himself, will draw lessons from how the United States and Europe respond to Putin's flagrant breach of international norms. This is simply a realistic truth. (In other words, it's beside the point to note that George W. Bush misled the U.S. into invading Iraq over a pretext. And even on its own terms, in the case of Iraq there was the background context of UN resolutions against Saddam Hussein and the tyrannical nature of his regime. I write this not to excuse Bush, who I opposed at the time, but to complicate attempts to divert attention from the current crisis.)

        Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

        by another American on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 01:14:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, rigt now we and the rest of the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DavidMS, TofG

          international community are acting as if the Russians have not yet crossed that line.  The reality may be different, but for diplomatic reasons, the charade is useful.

          For now, we're not going to war...but, as I tried to lay out in the diary, should Putin do something more overt, the situation changes...

          I see where kos has written about the lack of moral authority due to Iraq.  I am sympathetic to this, but would suggest that there are many differences.  

          To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

          by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 01:42:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The lessons foreign leaders took about U.S. (9+ / 0-)

          . . . came from the Iraq War. It has nothing to do with President Obama's "lack of resolve" or any cold feet about starting/jumping into regional wars. The real lesson that foreign leaders took was that Iraq revealed the U.S. as a paper tiger, a mighty military machine whose grasp far exceeded its reach. The fact is that Americans are exhausted by war, leery about jumping into other countries' & other sects' or ethnic groups' conflicts.

          And yes, launching a war of choice in Iraq has eroded away any moral high ground the U.S. could stand on in denouncing "violations of sovereignty" & "illegal aggression". We have no standing to declare that Russia must "follow the rules" when we insist that the rules don't even apply to us. Putin certainly had a more legitimate pretext to invade Georgia & again in the case of Ukraine than the U.S. did in Iraq.

          By the West having instigated the revolution/coup/regime-change in Kiev, just hours after the brokering of an end to the Maidan standoff, it's understandable that Putin would feel like he'd just been sucker-punched by the West. He sees an obvious threat to Russia's military assets & geostrategic position, & he has acted much as the U.S. would have if, say, China had instigated a coup in Panama & installed a regime unfriendly to U.S. interests.

          But where we are right now in Ukraine & Crimea has its antecedents. Ever since 1991, the practice by the U.S. was to mouth words about "partnership", "new beginnings", "cooperation" or whatever, but the real policy was to roll back Russian power & influence whenever & wherever possible - Kosovo/Serbia, NATO expansion, all those "color revolutions" in former Soviet republics. And now we're all perplexed & outraged that Russia, under Putin's leadership, has had the confidence & audacity to push back.

      •  The Budapest Memorandum really doesn't commit the (0+ / 0-)

        signatories to anything, except to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and to appeal to the UN if Ukraine is attacked.
          Neither the US nor the EU is in any shape for a military confrontation with Russia in the Black Sea.

    •  The West already violated Ukrainian (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FakeNews, Anna M, mkor7, cpresley

      sovereignty by inspiring a revolution by mob rule against the legally elected government.

      Russia does not recognize the revolutionary government, and in its eyes will be restored order in Ukraine (at the invitation, so far, of elected President Yanukovych and the local government of Crimea).

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 03:48:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The government was indeed legally elected (10+ / 0-)

        and then Yanukovich went on a corruption spree and became a billionaire. He also amassed significant power in his position, single-handedly rewriting the constitution and jailing his loudest critics. In the end, the masses had had enough. 300,000 dollars donated by Pierre Omidyar and $500,000 by George Soros, didn't put 2 million people on the street.

        That same legally elected government, the legislative branch, the parliament, decided to impeach the legally elected President, UNANIMOUSLY, including members of Yanukovich's own party, voted for and installed an interim government, and called for elections May 25. In the meantime, highly respected countries like Canada, have already recognized the legitimacy of that government.

        As for Crimea, it is part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine. Texas doesn't get to invite Mexico to send troops into Texas, and neither should Crimea. In the end, there probably should be a referendum in Crimea allowing Crimeans the right to self-determination. But, it shouldn't be decided by one person, a quasi-dictator who doesn't even respect human rights in his own country, Vladimir Putin, as his country did in Moldova and he continues to do in Moldova, a country that doesn't even share a border with Russia, and he is currently doing in Georgia.

        KOS: "Mocking partisans focusing on elections? Even less reason to be on Daily Kos."

        by fcvaguy on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:08:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Why do people consider it "progressive" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LordMike, liz, Mikey, Mindful Nature

        to stand for murderous dictators throughout the world? I honestly don't understand. Did those protesters in Kiev all shoot themselves in the head? I really hope you're fine with drone strikes if you consider that ok.

        I get it. Russia took Snowden in so Putin is a hero to you for the rights of the downtrodden throughout the world (unless you're LGBT, a reporter, a dissident, or a minority in Russia).

        But can you take a moment to think about the actual people in Ukraine that were doing terrible under a thieving autocratic president?

        Or do you think corporatism, keptocratic politicians and police brutality are ok in America too.

        When we stop putting leaders from the past up on pedestals and ignoring their flaws, we can start seeing our present leaders for what they really are.

        by PhillyJeff on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:41:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Corruption in the Ukraine runs top to bottom. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A number of years ago a Ukrainian engineer I know went back for  visit during the Christmas season.  He was held in the Kiev airport for two hours as security guards and inspectors went through his baggage looking for stuff to steal.  They found cash on him and took it all.  However, they returned a portion to him as it was Christmas.

          One of thee worst arm dealers a number of years ago got his weapons to sell into the third world from the Ukrainian military.  

          I would not in any way assume that the good guys are in charge now or that they won't themselves profit from the unfortunate corruption.  From what I see, the press is giving favorable press to the anti-government forces because they are our guys.  But be careful...

          My impression is the Ukraine is now the result of major powers playing games and not about the welfare of the Ukrainian people.

        •  democracy for me, but not for thee (0+ / 0-)

          that's the progressive's doctrine of foreign policy

      •  That's a pretty biased point of view (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mindful Nature

        Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

        by Anne Elk on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:20:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  "by inspiring"? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cream Puff

        what, having civil liberties in the west is now a bad thing?  This reading of the Ukranian uprising sounds like it came straight from the Kremlin.  Didn't you want to say something too about how the protestors were gays inspired by the sexual permissiveness of the west or something?

        FUnny how easy it is to be an "elected" government when you harras and imprison your political opponents.

  •  Obama and Putin talked for 90 minutes (4+ / 0-)

    Okay, the conversation was touchy, but they must have been talking about something. This gives me hope.

  •  Lots of problems with this post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fcvaguy, Liberal Thinking

    I will cite only one relatively minor one. Constantinople fell in 1453 not 1452.  

    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 02:32:38 PM PST

  •  One major difference (12+ / 0-)

    In 1914, as I understand it (not the era I know best), there were webs of alliances and treaties requiring military responses -- So what happened in Serbia could not stay in Serbia.

    Since Ukraine is not part of either the EU or NATO, although many of its citizens and many in the EU would like it to be, there are no treaty obligations to get involved. The US and the UK will make stern statements, maybe move a couple of aircraft carriers around, etc. But I doubt very much they will do more than that, at least overtly, in Russia's backyard.

    And frankly if you put things to a vote in the Crimea, in all likelihood they would vote to rejoin Russia. National boundaries are pretty arbitrary, and I'm not sure I'd want to spend much to defend that one in the face of both popular sentiment and the Russian armed forces.

    If the Russians move forces into other parts of the Ukraine, where they do not have treaty rights to have their armies, that becomes a more complicated situation. But I still do not see any of the NATO/EU powers intervening militarily to make sure that Kharkiv or Donetz remain under the control of the right-wing anti-Russian thugs rather than the other right-wing pro-Russian thugs.

    •  But there are international agreements (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lysias, DavidMS, TofG, nachtwulf, Boris49

      of which the US is a signatory, guaranteeing Ukrainian territorial sovereignty.  The Budapest Memorandum (1994), and The Treaty of Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1997) where Russia and Ukraine agreed to the issues for the Russian naval base are violated here.  Yes, there is no entente or axis, but there are treaties on the books which the US and other nations agreed to guarantee.   Perhaps these are more like the treaty Britain signed to guarantee Polish independence that Hitler violated in 1939, but still, there they are.

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 03:37:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the point is that the boundaries (0+ / 0-)

        of the Ukraine territory are vaguely defined.  We may have obligations to guarantee Ukrainian sovereignty but realistically what parts of the area are actually the Ukraine?  I think there is a great deal of wiggle room in the definition.  Putin's a snake but in any revolution, there is retaliation against minorities and I've heard from very independent sources that there is great unease in the Russian speaking citizens of the region.  

        My guess is the end result of all of this will be some split of the Russian and non-Russian parts.  Putin and his backers will profit and gain prestige and Obama will be smart enough to make public statements that keep us neutral and appease some of the war mongers.  

        •  I would disagree about the boundaries. They (0+ / 0-)

          were set some time ago in the Soviet era--like them or not.  There's no fuzziness there.  Now, while there are ethnic divides, that alone does not create border confusion.  Unease also does not equate to actual anti-minority bias.    

          To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

          by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:55:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Teaching History (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, mkor7, artmartin

    Few history classes are more important than "the causes of World War I," but sadly few are more boring.  The students want to get the ACTION of World War I, not realizing that it was a static war.  But if you will indulge me, let me point out some facts about 1914 and you can see the difference one hundred years later.

    1.  Europe had seen 99 years of The Great Peace.  No one had seen mass slaughter of war, and young men who didn't know better, and old men who should have known better thought the military solution was the first answer to every problem.  (Think how war-weary the USA is today.)

    2.  The failure of diplomacy to contain a small Balkan war.  (Our diplomacy is much more advanced nowadays.)

    3.  The highly developed desire for revenge in the French press regarding the loss of Alscace & Lorraine.  (Here is a similarity to the right-wing media in the USA today.  But serious governmental leaders won't be stampeded.)

    4.  Colonial rivalry was at a high level.  (Admittedly, the USA behaves like a colonial power regarding oil producing countries, but there is no real rivalry from another great power.)

    5.  Other nationalistic rivalries fed a psychology of fear and hate in various countries.  This overlaps with several items above contributing public opinion in support of war.

    6.  Militarism, the arms race, and near equal military power between several alliances made war seem like a practical solution.  This point connects to 1 & 2 above.

    While history is not a road map to predict the future, it does allow us to see the mistakes of the past.  And as long as we do not have historically ignorant leaders like Napoleon III or George Bush the younger, lessons can be learned.

    I'm from Johnson City.

    by Al Fondy on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 03:09:38 PM PST

    •  As a response, point by point (6+ / 0-)

      1.  The 99 year of peace is a misnomer.  There had been wars between the Great Powers previously in the 19th century--the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, the wars between Austria and Prussia--all without leading to a global war.  So, yes, war was known and recent--in fact Churchill himself had seen the Boer War firsthand.

      2.  Our diplomacy is not "much more advanced".  Sure, we have better ways of communicating than in 1914, but we also have better ways of obscuring our thoughts.

      3.  The press's role in France in 1914 is certainly important. But, should we discount the importance of the Russian press today, with RT having a global presence?

      4. Colonial rivalries were important and different than today, however, we also see the US, Russia, China and the EU compete for global markets in much the same way.  See what is happening in the Congo and the global interference there...

      5.  Nationalism is not what it was in the US or Europe (except in some areas).  The same cannot be said for Russia or China.  Do not impose a Western version of what nationalism is today on other cultures.

      6.  Instead of an equality of power, you have powers seeking to reinforce or reestablish their positions.  Much more dangerous.

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 03:29:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for recommending The Sleepwalkers (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PrahaPartizan, barbwires, dizzydean

        It is indeed an excellent book.

        One of the parallels the author had in mind (he mentions 9/11) was that it was about as justifiable (or unjustifiable) for the U.S. to respond to 9/11 with its War on Terror as it was for Austria and her German ally to respond to the assassination in Sarajevo by attacking Serbia.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 03:54:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Two points (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        1.  The 99 year peace was because of a lack of a general European War.  Prior to Napoleon, Europe had regularly suffered though wars with names like the 7-Years war and the 30-Years War.  

        2.  We have international institutions that make ware less likely.  The UN for all its faults does provide a place for diplomats to meet informally and somewhat discreetly.  

        I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

        by DavidMS on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 04:53:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This isn't Austro-Hungary v. Serbia in 1914 (4+ / 0-)

    with a lot of Great Powers tied by treaty.

    In 1854, Britain, France and Sardinia could intervene in the Crimea because Nicholas I's ramshackle empire wasn't up to much (see Russian army performance, despite the Charge of the Light Brigade).

    Putin might be a disturbing little twerp, but the Russian state has the means for business.

    No one is going to war over the Crimea.

    Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as shall never be put out.

    by Bollox Ref on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 04:01:37 PM PST

  •  pretty much think beyond a sternly-worded letter (4+ / 0-)

    this will fizzle out in a few weeks just like the Georgia War did.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 04:30:05 PM PST

  •  On Putin (8+ / 0-)

    I'm no specialist in Russian history or events, but I think he's a quite rational actor (and I think it's a disingenuous slam to question whether he is). As the author pointed out, Putin's been following some fairly traditional Russian objectives. He's been increasingly ruthless, starting in 2008, on the international stage. I'm sure an autocrat like him can look at the political vicissitudes of the US and consider us a far less rational, and generally weak, actor than he and other strongmen are.

    Were the US and other NATO states to be drawn into military action in and around Ukraine (a really terrible development), and were we to drive Russia from the area, I don't think Putin or his military men would result to general nuclear attack.  If we moved on Moscow, I think he absolutely would.  But while the territorial integrity of present-day Russia isn't violated, I don't think he'd pull the plug on society.

    •  I had in mind Wilson's Ghost and (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lysias, Subterranean, Mogolori, novapsyche

      The Fog of War documentary by Errol Morris, both involving Robert S. McNamara's views of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  One of his main points was that while we may have believed that Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro were rational actors, they acted in ways that were irrational.  Castro, according to McNamara from a later meeting with him, was willing to let Cuba be destroyed.  One of McNamara's lessons from the Fog of War is that rationality will not save us.  I think he is right.

      The trick is to understand that in the human continuum of decision making, what may seem rational at the time will be viewed as irrational later.  The world that Putin works in is not the same one Obama does.  The possibility of misunderstanding the other is great.  The ramifications of that misunderstanding are great as well....

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:22:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's very unlikely (6+ / 0-)

    However, there is a real danger: economically.

     The market are surprisingly unconcerned by the political events. In fact, they don't even expect Ukraine to default. Which is crazy.

      Economic contagion is the real threat right now.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:13:48 PM PST

  •  Someone should ask the fundies... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, TofG, nachtwulf

    ...what they think of their hero Pootie-Poo now.

  •  Actually a well coordinated cyber attack (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    could cause more fatalities than a Hiroshima sized nuke would.  Just hack into the computers that control the water supply in several major cities (say, the 15 largest ones) and have them dump lethal amounts of fluoride into the water, so much than even drinking a single cup would reach the LD50 for a 200 pound adult which would probably result in around 10 million dead.  Or for something slightly less massive, hack into the automated landing systems and cause all the aircraft that are landing at the time to crash in a way to cause maximum damage at the 20 largest airports in the country.

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:37:18 PM PST

    •  Everybody so happy now with Snowden in Russia? (0+ / 0-)

      You can bet he'd have to help Putin cyber attacks all the way, like it or not.

      •  I doubt it, it's not like Snowden is a super (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        hacker or anything so he wouldn't be able to help any more than any other skilled programmer would be able to and they already have tons of those.  The only reason Snowden managed to get that far is because internal security at the NSA and their contractors was a joke, just like it is in most companies.  

        The Russian cybercriminals with their fancy extortionware are far more sophisticated and would be much more useful to Putin in that regard.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:31:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Flouride in the drinking water... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mikey, Mindful Nature

       photo 28abec79-d7f7-4ada-95f6-5ebef8268239_zps1de765fe.jpg

      "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

      by Subterranean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:28:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Huh? "Controlling the straits to the Med. would.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, Mogolori

    provide Russia with easy access for its navy to the rest of the world."   Russia and the Soviet Union have had full access to use the Straits for its military and civilian shipping since a treaty between the USSR and Turkey in the 1920s.  That treaty is sacrosanct, and neither party has any intention of changing it.  Russia has a naval base in Syria that it supplies through the Straits.   Implying that Russia doesn't have access is inaccurate.

    To write a Republican Party talking point on a policy issue, any policy issue, all you need is: a noun, a verb, and 'Obamacare'.

    by MARTinNJ on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:45:38 PM PST

  •  So many differences, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, nachtwulf

    but I, too, have been thinking much of 1914, the strange alliances and entanglements of nations and the seemingly endless thirst of some for the blood of brave youngsters not their own.

    It is to be hoped that some remember the history they've learned, and just how foolish "great" leaders can be.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 07:04:41 PM PST

  •  I was wondering when Merkel would finally wake up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and do something. Theoretically, a Ukraine partition, with western Ukraine independent and a part of NATO and the EU would be geopolitically a win for the West, Putin would probably prefer a supine Ulraine (with the Crimea amputated---interesting unintended consequence of Khruschev giving it to Ukraine in the 1950s

    Are Rumania, Bulgaria, Poland all part of NATO, or just the EU?

  •  Thanks everyone for the rescue and the recs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike Kahlow, Subterranean

    at a minimum, I hope my ramblings in this post were worth thinking about....

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:02:29 PM PST

  •  I think Putin is just megalomaniacal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, LordMike

    enough to take this all the way.

    He has an image of himself that one usually only finds in a James Bond villain, utterly obsessed about his masculinity and would LOVE the opportunity to rain nuclear phalluses down on his enemies to prove he is the alpha male.

    Ultimately, the question is: Are our leaders as testosterone intoxicated as he is? I don't think Obama is, but I do think the American people are.

    The Republicans want war, they always want war. Wall Street wants war because it will allow them to consolidate their control of our government and it will be VERY profitable. The Fundies want war, because that means Jesus will come and kill all the people they don't like, then throw a big party in Heaven were they can amuse themselves listening to the wails of liberals burning in Hell. There are people on this site, and other liberal venues, screaming for war.

    People wanting peace are in the extreme minority.

    •  I dunno...I think Putin tries to shape his public (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      image to gather together the various factions inside Russia.  The manly-man shtick was more a sop to the Russian nationalists.  Remember, the clown Zhirinovsky is still in the Russian parliament.  His types love the Putin-as-bare-chested-hunter thing.

      On the other hand, I think he actually deserves credit for bringing the oligarchy to heel to a degree....the last years of Yeltsin were looking like a failed state and Putin seemed to halt this.  

      Be that as it may, the window to make an invasion a fait accompli is shrinking by the hour.

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:27:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We may have no choice... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Russia has essentially declared war on us.  In their parliamant, all the talk was about the US, not Ukraine.  Ukraine is simply a proxy.  We're involved whether we like it or not.

      Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

      by LordMike on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:52:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do not see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        any Russian troops on U.S. soil, or NATO soil for that matter.

        This is exactly what I was talking about. Folks here are willing to go to war over this, regardless of the consequence.

        This is why we have been at war for 13 years now.

        •  I do not want to go to war over this... (0+ / 0-)

          ....but, Putin cannot also be allowed to roam freely through the independent states of Europe doing whatever he wants.  That's what Hitler did in WWII, and we got sucked in eventually anyways.  The only way to NOT get involved in a world war is to nip it in the bud now.  As one commenter put it, if you are so worried about war, you do nothing, you eventually get the war you didn't want anyways and in a situation that's even worse than what you started with.

          Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

          by LordMike on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:14:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "I do not want to go to war over this...but" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dizzydean, lysias

            You're saying, in essence, "I am willing to be in a war to stop a war."

            That will not end well.

            The only way to NOT get involved in a world war is to nip it in the bud now.
            "Nipping it in the bud" will mean going to war, as I cannot think of anything we can do that will cause Russia to back down.
            As one commenter put it, if you are so worried about war, you do nothing, you eventually get the war you didn't want anyways and in a situation that's even worse than what you started with.
            There are literally dozens of wars going on right now that we are not involved in and will not get involved in. Why is this one different?

            Please tell me what the U.S. should do with its military right now that does not risk escalating into an open shooting war with the Russians.

            Please understand, I do not like what Russia is doing. But then I didn't like what we did in 2002 and I predicted that it would lead to a long, bloody and costly war. No one listened to me then, probably no one will listen now.

      •  We of course have a choice (0+ / 0-)

        Let Putin invade whoever we wants to, while we go back to American Idol reruns.

        It's really not our problem, right?

    •  I very much doubt (0+ / 0-)

      there is significant support for military action against Russia in the US.  I've looked for polls, but can't find any.

  •  America has been kicking the bear 20 yrs. now (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KJG52, LEP, lysias

    Something like this was bound to happen.  Bush promised Gorbachev that there would be no expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe.  And of course NATO which was created to explicitly combat the Soviet Union has expanded into Eastern Europe.

     Putting missiles in Poland? after a nuclear agreement was reached?  And the vehement anti-Russian rhetoric of American lawmakers and candidates of the highest office are what now?  Remember during the first presidential debates the candidates were asked if Russia was evil.

    From what I have read, Russian hardliners were not pleased with Putin's acquiescence to the invasion of Iraq, the backing away from selling Iran defensive missiles, and non action in Afghanistan.   Or America threatening to attack Syria which is a close ally of the Russians.

    The neocons along with people like Biden have been playing an anti-Russian position for a long time now.  When Georgia attacked Russian troops there were banshie cries to renew the Cold War in earnest (the Georgians were apparently egged on by American neocons).  And from what I can tell, that mindset seems to be foundational in ways Americans think about the situation.

    Russia has always been paranoid about the West.  Stalin made Eastern Europe vassal states not because of ideology but because he wanted a buffer between the imperialist West (Hitler, Napoleon) and Russia.  And the West has just made made that paranoia worse since the fall of the Soviet Union including getting involved with the overthrow of Ukraine's elected leadership.

    The neocons will get their wish--renewal of a Cold War they helped instigate with the help of a Democratic party run administration.  Start buying up defense stocks would be my advice.

    •  The actions this weekend.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG why NATO expansion was needed.  These people want nothing to do with Russia.  They deserve the right to be free and have self determination.  Had the Ukraine been a NATO member, none of this would have happened.

      This "poking the bear" thing is ridiculous.  Eastern European NATO members asked, begged to join nato for their own protection.  We weren't "pushing it".  

      Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

      by LordMike on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:50:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Typical neocon circular thinking. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KJG52, LEP, lysias

        Take the case of Iran.  The West threatens them with bombing, regime change, and actually supported a brutal dictator who started a war with them, and used unprecedented amounts of chemical weapons.  They say fuck it, we will start looking at nukes to protect ourselves, and then they are accused by neocons and other war mongers of being belligerent, warlike, and of course evil people.

    •  you make it sound like this is something new (0+ / 0-)

      Russia has been invading and harassing its neighbors for 20 years also.  This is just another new chapter of Russian mischief making in the region.  Frankly, it has absolutely nothing to do with the actions of the US.

      This dynamic has been going on for a long time.  It's just that it's only now that Americans are paying a little attention.

  •  So, do we let Putin roam free... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...and conquer eastern europe at will?  At some point, you're going to have to stop him.  The man only respects force.  What do you do?

    Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

    by LordMike on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:53:06 PM PST

  •  What does Russia want? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You ask a good question, "What does Russia want?"

    I don't think it is mistaken to see Putin as wanting to rehabilitate Stalin. To be the strong man, but also to be a sainted figure. Russian Orthodoxy fits into this, at least the official, state-supported, church. That's why Pussy Riot hit a nerve.

    This will sound absurd, but keep an eye out for signs that Putin is looking to establish his bonafides for sainthood. Stalin moved his birthday to have it fall on the winter solstice, and in Putin's Russia, he has begun to achieve his ultimate aim: Saint Iosif

    As for Crimea, I think it likely Putin wants it to become an independent state. I'm not sure this can fly, but it might well be the price he has in mind for Russia's recognition of the legitimacy of the Ukrainian parliament's impeachment of their president.

    If I were Kerry, I'd be thinking of ways to tie this to concessions in Syria. Putin is a big stumbling block there. Would you trade an independent Crimea for an end to the Assad regime?

  •  Why did Russia issue this ultimatum? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't see why there is any need to attack such Ukrainian forces as remain in Crimea.  Couldn't the Russian forces just starve them out?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:07:58 AM PST

    •  Maybe, but then, they might see them as (0+ / 0-)

      a public showing of resistance that is best taken care of ASAP.  

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:09:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I now wonder whether the ultimatum is just (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a propaganda fabrication of the revolutionary government in Kiev.  Only source I see cited is the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:25:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The BBC confirmed it with the Ukrainian (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Ministry of Defense, but the Russian MOD is neither confirming or denying.  The Ukrainian ambassador to the EU warns that he has info that Russia plans a provocation in the coming hours.  

          You might be right that the Ukrainians are trying to create a sense of urgency among the EU and US, but also, I can see the Russians doing this.

          To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

          by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:34:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Guardian: Russia says no ultimatum. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dizzydean, Mindful Nature

            Ukraine Crisis Live:

            No ultimatum, says the Russian defence ministry, via Vedemosti.

            A snap partial translation:


            Russia’s defence ministry has denied information that they have given Ukrainian forces in Crimea an ultimatum.

                An official defence ministry called the original agency statement about the ultimatum “complete nonsense”, and said no such ultimatum had been given to the Ukrainian military in Crimea.

            The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

            by lysias on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:34:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yep--I put that in an update (0+ / 0-)

              now, who do we believe--the Ukrainians who say they have one or the Russians who are denying it?

              To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

              by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:41:22 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  What's the point of an ultimatum if the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                party that made it denies he has made it?

                The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

                by lysias on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:06:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It matters to the party he made it to (0+ / 0-)

                  whom will know for sure if it was made or not.  Public statements denying it provide cover until the ultimatum comes into effect.  Russia is not looking for international approval at this stage...

                  To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

                  by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:16:11 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But, if you want to achieve whatever the (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    ultimatum is meant to achieve, how does denying it help you to achieve that end?  Seems to me it would defeat the whole purpose of the ultimatum.  Especially if, as you say, Russia doesn't care about international approval.

                    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

                    by lysias on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:22:02 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well, the goal of the ultimatum is to force (0+ / 0-)

                      the Ukrainian military still in the Crimea to switch sides or surrender.  If the WaPo article is right, then each ship and base has been told directly what is going to happen.  Russia is hoping they will do so, but will publicly deny any such ultimatum exists until they are ready to follow up on it--probably by lying about Ukrainian aggression.  It's a deep game, but there you go.  

                      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

                      by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:28:28 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

  •  Funny that you left out 1941 from your list (0+ / 0-)

    of what happens when Russia starts invading neighbors.

  •  Russia is just improving its bargaining position. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mindful Nature, TofG

    The ultimate game plan may be to split the Ukraine into western and eastern States. That may be similar to the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:19:10 AM PST

    •  Although (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      if Russia can maintain control over Western Ukraine based on the presence of Russians in the east, so much the better for Russia, no?

      •  Yes and no (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Russia doesn't want any festering sores. It has enough already. The ideal outcome for Russia is to assert its dominance over regions it sees as ethnically Russian and to re-establish a working relationship with western Europe and the USA. In that context, chopping off the western part of Ukraine as a sop to the west would probably be acceptable to Russia. Whether or not that would be acceptable to the Kiev government or to the west is another story.

        Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

        by Anne Elk on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:01:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Churchill, Manitoba Is a Better Option - - (0+ / 0-)
    18. The government of Manitoba encourage the private sector to investigate the economic and environmental conditions necessary to move oil and natural gas through the Port of Churchill.

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