Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Take Putin’s Saber Rattling Seriously
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has again threatened Ukraine with dire consequences if it takes advantage of the global diversion created by the World Cup 2018 tournament in Russia and escalates its defensive military campaign against Russian invaders.
Putin’s latest words of war and the confluence of Russian activities and maneuvers certainly point to an ominous conclusion for Ukraine and the x-captive nations as Moscow seeks to restore its torn curtain. Moscow’s quest for domination is also visible in Syria as well as the United States and other democratic countries where it is undermining long-established national values.
A week before the soccer games were to begin, in reply to a Russian writer who advises Russian warriors in the Russian-occupied Donbas region of Ukraine, Putin commented about the possibility of Ukraine – not Russia – launching military action during the month-long tournament.
“I hope that there won’t be any provocations but, if it happens, I think it would have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood in general,” Putin warned.
In other words, Russia’s führer put Ukraine on notice that it could endure a massive military invasion and lose its independence if it escalates defending its country and people while Russians and others are playing soccer. These obnoxious words stated by a known criminal should be enough for the victim to raise its stakes against the lawbreaker, sever all diplomatic, political and commercial relations, and expel Russian soldiers and their mercenary-terrorist allies out of Ukraine.
So that Putin’s words would not be misconstrued, his Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov explained to journalists: “You know, President Putin is extremely clear about what he thinks and speaks his mind, so everything here has been said unequivocally. The question was, what would happen if Ukraine took advantage of the World Cup and decided to go on an offensive in Donbas, once again to unleash a war, bloody and fratricidal. President Putin answered very unequivocally.”
Peskov ironically absolved Russia of any culpability in unleashing a second or third front against Ukraine with or without Kyiv’s provocation.
Five years ago Putin also used the guise of an international event to caution Ukraine of dire consequences to its statehood if it continues to shed its Russian chains.
In the August 19, 2013, edition of The Torn Curtain 1991, I wrote that while attending the observance of the 1025th anniversary of Kiyvan-Rus Christianity in Kyiv, Putin raised his rhetoric about forcibly returning Ukraine to the Russian prison of nations.
At the time, as weeks remained for Ukraine’s accession to the EU Association Agreement and Kyiv’s intentions of doing so become clearer, Russia became more vocal with its threat to punish Kyiv for continuing to dissolve captive relations with Moscow.
Amid a host of religious, predominantly Orthodox spiritual leaders, Putin on Saturday, July 27, 2013, urged Ukraine to join forces with former fellow Soviet state Russia, its colonial overlord, saying Russians and Ukrainians were “one people.” Putin regularly reiterates this idiotic and inaccurate fraternal theme.
Moscow’s imperial intentions then were not lost on global news media sources. Headlines trumpeted Russia’s intentions: “Russia Worried as Ukraine Creeps Closer to EU,” “Russia Accused of Trade War against Ukraine,” “Russia Tightens Customs Rules to Force Ukraine into Union,” “Putin Grasps Ukraine Warmly by the Throat,” “Moscow Starts Realizing Plan to Prevent Ukraine from Signing Association Agreement with EU and Pull Country to Customs Union, Say Media Reports,” and others.
Putin’s words was not empty chest-beating meant to scare the x-caption nations into obedience. Then President Viktor Yanukovych did abandon plans to sign the EU Association Agreement and in response Ukrainian students took to the streets across Ukraine and toppled Lenin and Stalin monuments and ultimately him. Six months later, after the Revolution of Dignity and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia invaded Ukraine first via Crimea and then Donbas thus launching the latest bloody war in Europe.
History repeats itself today. With Russian forces unexpectedly mired in a more than four-year war against skilled and committed Ukrainian soldiers, Putin has resorted to terrorizing Ukraine into yielding to Russia’s will.
Reportedly, the Russian navy has been seen preparing for new operations as a sign of prowess. Russian Ministry of Defense sources said on June 14 that its naval forces in the Black Sea, near Crimea, had been put on heightened state of combat readiness to scare Ukraine from trying to disrupt the World Cup.
Ukrainian National Security Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov did not comment directly on the Russian deployments. Asked if Ukraine was planning provocations, Turchynov’s office said in a statement: “Regardless of the moaning of scared Russian mercenaries and the threats of the Russian president, the Ukrainian military will act in a way appropriate to the threats.”
Russia is also intensifying military activity on the ground. Press secretary of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Col. Oleksandr Motuzianyk reported that Russian occupation command has intensified the work on equipping fire positions along the contact line in Donbas. “According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the Russian occupation command intensified the work on equipping fire positions along the contact line. At the same time, the engineering units of the so-called 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian occupation troops are carrying out terrain mining with the use of Russian-made anti-personnel mines, which are prohibited by international law,” he said according to UNIAN. The official also said the enemy has expanded mined areas as a result of its chaotic mining on the orders of the advanced units’ commanders to prevent the desertion of subordinates by blowing them up.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the unauthorized movement on June 14 of military equipment and weapons of the Operational Group of Russian Forces, accompanied by unconstitutional militia structures, in the Transnistrian region of Moldova. That day, a huge column of Russian armored and transport vehicles was spotted on the Tiraspol-Rybnitsa highway, a few kilometers from the southern border with Ukraine.
The recently opened Kerch Strait Bridge on the Sea of Azov can be used not only for commercial traffic but also to allow Russia to drastically improve military logistics into the occupied Crimea, according to Andriy Klimenko, head of the supervisory board at the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation, expert on Crimea, and editor-in-chief at BlackSeaNews. Klimenko pointed out that previously, tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, trailers and personnel would have to be transported to Crimea by ferry, which involved loading on Russia’s Taman Peninsula, crossing the Kerch Strait only in favorable navigation periods, then unloading in Kerch, with further deployment across the territory of the annexed peninsula.
“Now all these loading and unloading operations of military equipment and personnel are no longer needed. They can quickly deploy in Crimea everything necessary and further build up their [military] grouping in Crimea,” Klimenko explained.
He noted that during the Crimea occupation in 2014, women and children were put in front of Russian troops as the latter started blocking Ukrainian Navy and Army bases in Crimea.
“In this case, it won’t be about creating a corridor to Crimea through Mariupol and Berdyansk – in this case it will be about [invading] part of Ukraine along the Dnipro’s left bank, that is, the seizure of entire Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk regions and parts of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, to say the least. It was no coincidence that Putin talked about grave consequences for the Ukrainian statehood as such. That is, he threatens entire Ukraine with aggression,” Klimenko emphasized.
Nearby Poland is also subject to escalated Russian threats. Stars and Stripes reported on June 18 that the Russian military has renovated an underground bunker 50 miles from Poland that could be an active nuclear weapons storage site, a nuclear watchdog group said.
A series of satellite images analyzed by the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists show one of three underground bunkers in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad being excavated, renovated and then covered, the group said in a report.
“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” wrote Hans M. Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at FAS.
The United Nations has taken note of Russia’s military escalation by expressing grave concern over the recent deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine and its “severe impact” on civilians. The United Nations Security Council condemned “continuous violations of the ceasefire regime, especially the use of heavy weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements, responsible for tragic deaths, including among civilians.” It called for implementation of disengagement commitments and the “immediate withdrawal” of heavy weapons in accordance with relevant provisions of the Minsk agreements.
Noting the bloodiest month in the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18, the US again urged Russia to withdraw from eastern Ukraine, a day after Putin threated Kyiv with “dire consequences.”
“May was the bloodiest month this year for Ukrainian soldiers defending their country against Russian aggression: ten killed and 91 wounded,” Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the Department of State, tweeted. “The United States stands with Ukraine and calls on Russia to withdraw its forces from Donbas,” she added, using the hashtag #Peace4Ukraine.
Where will Russia’s escalation lead?
Volodymyr Gorbulin, who served as national security and defense secretary a member of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk to resolve the conflict in Donbas, predicts the war could turn Ukraine into a Ukrainian Chechnya. Indeed, Russia could freeze the war and turn the country into a target range with daily drive-by shootings and bombings.
The Russian government is raising its political stakes in Ukraine and is planning a “year of terror” in Ukraine, Gorbulin said. Russia’s strategy consists of more political assassinations, deaths and social chaos in order to make the idea of capitulation more attractive when selecting candidates in next year’s presidential (March) and parliamentary (October) elections in Ukraine.
“And there will always be ‘constructive politicians’ at hand who will propose ‘reconciliation’ and ‘ending this senseless war’,” wrote Gorbulin, the director of the National Institute of Strategic Research of Ukraine. “Everything will be initiated for their sake. For the sake of the fears of Ukrainian citizens and their indecisiveness. To show that Russia can do anything on this territory that it wants. And that it can’t be defeated.”
Finally, Radio Poland quoted Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, an outspoken critic of Putin, as saying that the threat of Russia invading Lithuania remains high, but will be countered if her country shows that it can and is ready to defend itself, the Unian news agency reported on June 20, citing an interview the Lithuanian leader gave to a German magazine.
“The likelihood (of Russian invasion) is high if we don’t constantly defend ourselves,” Grybauskaite said in the interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel. “If we demonstrate that we are able and willing to defend ourselves, no one will attack us.” Grybauskaite said Lithuania should be “politically and technologically” prepared for a possible Russian attack.
Grybauskaite told Der Spiegel that “Russian troops on the border with the Baltics and Poland are ten times stronger than those of NATO.” She said, as quoted by Unian, Western states are naive in their assessment of Russia and will “wake up” only “when they have been attacked” and “notice that Russia interferes in their interests, spies on them or manipulates their elections.”
Grybauskaite has warned that Russia’s threat goes beyond Lithuania, Ukraine and the other x-captive nations. We’ve seen Russia doing that in the United States since the elections of 2016 but Washington doesn’t get it that it’s not one or another political party but rather against the United States of America.
The Russian gauntlet lays before Ukraine, the x-captive nations and the free world. Hitler’s warning in “Mein Kampf” presaged World War II, and Putin’s threats have resulted in the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18. Is the free world listening to his saber rattling?