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Russian war in the Ukraine

From here

LFHNflightstudent wrote:

Like when NATO invaded Crimea and effectively move into that buffer? Excuse the sarcasm @Mooney_Driver but I think Putin lost the privilege to claim that neutral border has been breached by his actions a LONG time ago…

To him, taking on countries along his borders into NATO was the same thing as his annexion of Crimea. When the USSR collapsed, Russia claim they were told NATO would not expand, only for it to do exactly that a short while later. Russia sees this as lack of respect and therefore feel entitled to retaliate or at the very least make sure Ukraine won’t join up. No matter how they achieve this.

As I said, that does not make it right or acceptable, but that is their view. And that is what all this is about. In this context, “Respect” has nothing to do with either agreement or condoning anything at all, all it has to do with is figuring out how they tick and, diplomatically, treat them as an equal. And for that, there is ample precedence.

In the historical context, wars are usually begun by people who are either afraid or whose pride has been hurt sufficiently that they will fight for it. Taking land from other countries is robbery at the largest scale. Yet, as any good policeman will tell you, in order to get the robbers or prevent robbery, understanding how they tick is one key, probably the most successful in both prevention and investigation.

Also, if you get someone to point a gun at you with a high probability that he will fire it if you move wrongly, at this point in time all you can do to de-escalate is to show the attacker predictability and figure out how to get him to lower the gun. If the guy with the gun thinks you are a threat to him, you need to convince him otherwise, if you have hurt his pride, show him respect and understanding until the immediate threat is gone. Then you can think of how to deal with him.

Russia, in its current states qualifies for both. They are really upset about the fact that, in their view, the West has broken their promises by letting Poland e.t.c. into NATO, they are “scared” or rather psychotic about the threat they feel comes from this. And their pride is hurt because they took what they thought was a guarantee at face value only to find it was not adhered to. Neither argument will fly with Europe in the long run, but nobody wants a shooting war either. But unless the Russians get at least the credible impression that their concerns are taken seriously, which does not mean the West agrees with them, that is what we may well end up getting.

With Putin one never really knows were one is at. While he has proven that he is willing to take what he thinks is his by force, he may well regard this whole thing as a game of highly sophisticated chess, where he is the grand master and wants to check-mate his opponent into either getting the concession he wants or failing that, walking off the rink as the perceived good guy by e.g. pulling back and then golating over the West how he scared the hell out of them. I could imagine him just looking at the ant’s heap he has put a stick into and once it is really busy, turn around and walk away, claming he had always said it was only a maneuver, but look how the evil West has panicked over the thunder of the Russian Army.

If he really is comitted to bring Ukraine “home to the Empire” as the saying goes, in which case Europe will be in a shooting war shortly. We don’t know that but we will in due time. Up to that point, trying to avert open conflict only has any chance of success if those doing the negotiating with them understands their motivation and background preferrably even better than they do.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 15 Feb 08:58
LSZH, Switzerland

Very well put, Mooney_Driver! In international politics, as in law enforcement, many people appear unable to see the difference between “understand” and “excuse” — particularly when it comes to prevention.

Certainly we can’t let Russia attack Ukraine without some kind of response, but to let our own (Western) pride stand in the way of finding a peaceful solution make us no better than the Kremlin. Not much anyway.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

When the USSR collapsed, Russia claim they were told NATO would not expand

Is there any evidence for this?

NATO’s public position has always been that any sovereign country can join up. The USSR did some deal with the Ukraine in exchange for it giving up the nukes stored on its soil, IIRC.

Whether NATO would hold together in case of a proper invasion remains to be seen. Few people think it would, which is why the UK and France have their own nukes. France is “sort of in NATO” but has some deal to enable it to do what it wants to do.

I don’t really think Putin will invade the Ukraine; instead this is a ploy to extract some concession from the West or NATO. Might be an under the table one… But if he did invade, nothing would happen. Some half baked economic sanctions, with the European buyers of Russian gas doing nothing Just like Czechoslovakia, 1968, whose “ownership by the USSR” was agreed at Yalta but in any case nobody would press the button over that one. Remember the tanks well

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

When the USSR collapsed, Russia claim they were told NATO would not expand

Is there any evidence for this?

None. There were some agreements that NATO will not place the offensive strategic weapons in those countries, not the expansion.

NATO’s public position has always been that any sovereign country can join up. The USSR did some deal with the Ukraine in exchange for it giving up the nukes stored on its soil, IIRC.

Whether NATO would hold together in case of a proper invasion remains to be seen. Few people think it would, which is why the UK and France have their own nukes. France is “sort of in NATO” but has some deal to enable it to do what it wants to do.

I don’t really think Putin will invade the Ukraine;

I wouldn’t be THAT sure about this…

instead this is a ploy to extract some concession from the West or NATO. Might be an under the table one… But if he did invade, nothing would happen. Some half baked economic sanctions, with the European buyers of Russian gas doing nothing Just like Czechoslovakia, 1968, whose “ownership by the USSR” was agreed at Yalta but in any case nobody would press the button over that one. Remember the tanks well

EGTR

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Russia, in its current states qualifies for both. They are really upset about the fact that, in their view, the West has broken their promises by letting Poland e.t.c. into NATO, they are “scared” or rather psychotic about the threat they feel comes from this. And their pride is hurt because they took what they thought was a guarantee at face value only to find it was not adhered to. Neither argument will fly with Europe in the long run, but nobody wants a shooting war either. But unless the Russians get at least the credible impression that their concerns are taken seriously, which does not mean the West agrees with them, that is what we may well end up getting.

Did NATO ever promise not to admit former Warsaw Pact members? I’m not convinced it did. In any case, here are two arguments against appeasing these Russian ‘concerns’.

1. They are sovereign nations and are free to choose which military alliances to join or not join. They don’t owe allegiance to Russia.
2. Certain nations have relatively recent and extremely unpleasant experience of being subjugated by Russia and are understandably not keen to repeat it. The NATO pact of mutual defence is extremely attractive to them.

Mooney_Driver wrote:

With Putin one never really knows were one is at. While he has proven that he is willing to take what he thinks is his by force, he may well regard this whole thing as a game of highly sophisticated chess, where he is the grand master and wants to check-mate his opponent into either getting the concession he wants or failing that, walking off the rink as the perceived good guy by e.g. pulling back and then golating over the West how he scared the hell out of them. I could imagine him just looking at the ant’s heap he has put a stick into and once it is really busy, turn around and walk away, claming he had always said it was only a maneuver, but look how the evil West has panicked over the thunder of the Russian Army.

The two truths with Putin are that:

1. He must remain in power to remain alive, and;
2. He longs for the Soviet glory days and wants to make Russia an influential power in Europe again – he sees this as the best route to remaining popular in Russia.

He is a de facto dictator and Russia is not a democracy, but things have changed slightly since the mid-20th century. A dictator does need popular support and cannot rule by fear alone these days – one needs a veneer of respectability and illusion of democracy. Putin views the strongman act as essential to retaining public support, and he can do this with relative ease by bullying his smaller neighbours – appealing to populist/expansionist sentiment – and sabre-rattling towards the west. He knows NATO will never do anything unless he actually attacks a member, and he doesn’t want Ukraine joining because then he’d have no-one left to bully.

If NATO give him what he wants – a guarantee Ukraine will never join – then it is hard to see how it isn’t straightforward appeasement and that will be a difficult sell, politically, in the west. There is a bit of a problem now with differing agendas in the west – the EU is more inclined towards appeasement because of an overriding desire to avoid war and also energy dependency on Russia, yet it’s NATO that calls the shots rather than the EU. The two most influential NATO members are not EU members, take a more global and long-term view of things, and are more inclined to stand up to the bully.

EGLM & EGTN

Peter wrote:

Few people think it would, which is why the UK and France have their own nukes.

I rather think it is to keep an illusion of the influence and grandeur from the old days when the UK ruled an empire and France at least ruled lots of colonies and both nominally won WWII. (Although we all know that it was the USA and the Soviet Union who won WWII.)

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Answer to Graham

Graham wrote:

Did NATO ever promise not to admit former Warsaw Pact members? I’m not convinced it did.

That is a very good question indeed which commentators are discussing lively in the media right now.

I personally am not sure of either because I think it is quite ambiguous what happened. I strongly doubt that NATO per se ever did do this in the form of a contract as that would not have been NATO’s mandate in any case. I am also not aware that Russia claimed NATO did, but rather the US, in other words a President of the US. Which, at the time would have been G.W.H.Bush and his Sec State James Baker. I do recall that during the transition time so to speak and the re-unification of Germany there were talks between Gorbatchev and the US where the question arose whether the Eastern part of Germany would become part of NATO, which was quite obvious. It was then and in this context that the US answered Gorbatchev’s concerns that they did not think that NATO would not seek expansion beyond the East German border, however this was never put in a contract or anything. I guess, this is what Putin refers to. Baker and Bush however based these assurances on the then still existing USSR and Warsaw Pact, not independent states like they arose later.

However, with the break up into the CIS, pretext for this changed as it was the newly independent states like Poland and foremost the Baltics who actively seeked out NATO membership. And while Yeltsin did not object to the first expansion which included Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Putin did object to the inclusion of the Baltic states, something he has always done since. Russia even joined the partnership for peace if I am not mistaken.

So from where I am sitting, Putins claims are based on rather informal talks held concerning the re-unification of Germany. So both the pretext was different, it was addressed to a different nation (USSR, not the Russian Federation) and it was never seen as a commitment by the West, while the Russians obviously see this differently.

It has to be remembered however that the times then were ruled by the major concern that during the break up of the Soviet Union, nuclear arsenals might end up in former satellite states uncontrolled and, prior to that, Gorbatchev’s pro Western course was highly dangerous, as the coup attempt against him showed. I see any kind of remarks or informal expression of intent or opinion by Baker or Bush in that context. They had to give Gorbatchov something he could appease his falcons at home with. So quite possibly, the mindset that there were guarantees started from there.

Graham wrote:

1. They are sovereign nations and are free to choose which military alliances to join or not join. They don’t owe allegiance to Russia.
2. Certain nations have relatively recent and extremely unpleasant experience of being subjugated by Russia and are understandably not keen to repeat it. The NATO pact of mutual defence is extremely attractive to them.

This is all correct. The way I understand it however is that Russia mainly is concerned about countries with which they have borders with. So that would be the Baltic states and Ukraine. Ukraine currently does not even fulfill the requirements to become a NATO member, as it is currently in an armed conflict and yes, also “civil wars” count there which is a probable reason Putin has never made an effort to stop that war (or rather supports the rebels).

Graham wrote:

The two truths with Putin are that:

1. He must remain in power to remain alive, and;
2. He longs for the Soviet glory days and wants to make Russia an influential power in Europe again – he sees this as the best route to remaining popular in Russia.

I think he uses the pretext of “2” to assure “1” but that is exactly what I meant with him yearning to be “respected” on the world stage. Respect in that sense that he wants to be back in the position his predecessors in the USSR were, taken at eye level and being a force to be reckoned with. Annex of the Crimea was meant to illustrate that, apart from the fact that Crimea is a port and harbour the Russian Navy can’t afford to loose, it was a comparatively risk free show of force, which was received very well at home.

Graham wrote:

Putin views the strongman act as essential to retaining public support, and he can do this with relative ease by bullying his smaller neighbours – appealing to populist/expansionist sentiment – and sabre-rattling towards the west. He knows NATO will never do anything unless he actually attacks a member, and he doesn’t want Ukraine joining because then he’d have no-one left to bully.

He does not want NATO at his borders, period. That is why he considers the Baltic states as well as Finland and Swesen a threat and that is why he objects to Ukraine so massively. Poland is not a threat to him, because he has got Belarus as a buffer zone (even though technically he does have borders with Poland at the Kaliningrad enclave) and Ukraine is the buffer zone towards the rest of the new NATO states. Remember, the WAPA war strategy was ALWAYS to keep a conflict with NATO outside the USSR even then and Russia right now! The WAPA states, primarily Poland, Checkoslovakia and East Germany were to be the battlegrounds for a ground battle with NATO, not Russia. That is something which goes back to the Nevski saga via Napoleon and most recently WW2.

Graham wrote:

If NATO give him what he wants – a guarantee Ukraine will never join – then it is hard to see how it isn’t straightforward appeasement and that will be a difficult sell, politically, in the west.

“Thankfully” (sarcasm intended) the problem does not arise at this stage as Ukraine does not fulfill the conditions to be taken into NATO. Which is why the civil war in Donbass may hold the key to NATO being able to tell the Russians, it can’t be done anyway, what are you talking about. For now. He however can take that home and claim he stopped the threat of Ukraine becoming a NATO member. Which is what he appears to be doing. Along with, if he retreats now and finishes his “exercises” as scheduled, he will gloat over the Western lies of an impending attack. That is for the consumption of his own folks but aimed straight at your argument “1”

Frankly when Putin gave way to Medvedev at the time I really thought that Russia was on a good way. It was when he came back and then changed the law to get himself appointed for life when things changed. Still, he is not a dictator in the true sense, but pretty close, yet he still is dependent on quite a lot of people he has to keep happy, as you say. He is as shrewed and intelligent an operator as Russia has ever had. That has to be taken into account when dealing with him.

LSZH, Switzerland

Peter wrote:

Is there any evidence for this?

See my post to @Graham

I am almost certain that this goes back to the Bush (sr) administration and James Bakers negotiations regarding the status of Easter Germany after the re-unification.

Airborne_Again wrote:

I rather think it is to keep an illusion of the influence and grandeur from the old days when the UK ruled an empire and France at least ruled lots of colonies and both nominally won WWII. (Although we all know that it was the USA and the Soviet Union who won WWII.)

It is a vital part of keeping NATO together, certainly when it comes to the US having thoughts of getting out or stopping to be the guarantee of peace in Europe. Neither the “Force the Frappe” nor the UK or the two combined (which would be a cliché) could face off Russia alone conventionally, but the fact alone that they do have nukes de facto trips the balance of power in (geographical) Europe’s favour a tad.

It was also interesting to see how much weight France threw around in the negotiations with Putin in recent days as opposed to others.

Then again, it should not be forgotten that Putin himself came up in Eastern Germany, incidentally like Angela Merkel did. He knows the language fluently and knows the (Eastern) German mentality. I would think that this experience has given him an “edge” over other Russian leaders of the past, as he knows very well how the Germans tick. And he gets his updates from none less than a former German Chancellor in person.

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Also, if you get someone to point a gun at you with a high probability that he will fire it if you move wrongly, at this point in time all you can do to de-escalate is to show the attacker predictability and figure out how to get him to lower the gun. If the guy with the gun thinks you are a threat to him, you need to convince him otherwise, if you have hurt his pride, show him respect and understanding until the immediate threat is gone. Then you can think of how to deal with him.

well… either that or you show him very clearly the level of pain he can expect if he does make that move…

LFHN - Bellegarde - Vouvray France

Airborne_Again wrote:

Very well put, Mooney_Driver! In international politics, as in law enforcement, many people appear unable to see the difference between “understand” and “excuse” — particularly when it comes to prevention.

Certainly we can’t let Russia attack Ukraine without some kind of response, but to let our own (Western) pride stand in the way of finding a peaceful solution make us no better than the Kremlin. Not much anyway.

yes. hard to disagree with this.

LFHN - Bellegarde - Vouvray France
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