Ukraine Update # 11
Paul Craig Roberts
The Kremlin intended Russia’s intervention in Ukraine to be limited to Donbass. The purpose was to drive out the Ukrainian and neo-Nazi military forces that were occupying parts of the two independent republics and shelling the residents. Had Russia intervened eight years previously, the intervention could have been limited and quickly concluded. But the Kremlin, afflicted with hesitancy and false hopes for the Minsk Agreement, waited until Washington had raised, armed and trained a Ukrainian army.
What the Kremlin needed was a quickly concluded operation that did not give the West time to get involved in the interest of a wider war in order to conduct more propaganda against Russia and in hope of draining Russia of manpower and military resources.
Widening of the war has occurred with NATO countries providing Ukraine with weapons, training, and now plans for a new one million man army equipped with the latest Western weapons to retake Donbass and Crimea.
The question before us is whether the Kremlin will again give way to hesitation, holding on to false hopes of negotiations, until Russia again creates a more difficult task for herself by waiting. Or has the Kremlin finally learned that hesitation does not pay?
We might find out in a few days when the Russian Federal Assembly convenes. If realism penetrates Russian false hopes of peace and mutual security, the prospect of knocking out Ukraine before Russia is confronted with a missile-launching-million-man-army will receive attention.
If Russia decides that the West has left her with no alternative to Ukraine’s conquest, the so far spared Ukrainian infrastructure, communication systems, and government offices will be destroyed. So will any NATO forces sent to intervene and possibly also the infrastructure and government offices of the intervening countries.
As I have stressed for years, it is Russia’s hesitancy in the face of provocations that has led to this dangerous situation. Washington interprets the Kremlin’s toleration of insults and provocations as fear of conflict and regards Russia’s red lines as bluster. The drawn-out conflict in Donbass has made the Russian military look to the West as much less effective than it is, which has encouraged the latest provocation of plans for a million man army and missiles capable of attacking Russian territory.
I do not see how the Kremlin can wait for this development before acting, but costly hesitancy so far has been the Kremlin’s practice.
As the Kremlin follows legalisms long abandoned in the West, little doubt Russia would declare war prior to attacking, thus further disadvantaging its military by giving up the element of surprise.
Putin has said that the longer the conflict persists before it is resolved on Russia’s terms, the more stringent Russia’s terms will be. I will add to this that the longer the conflict persists before Russia uses sufficient force to terminate it, the greater the required force will be. If Russia awaits a million man army with long range missiles, the more likely a direct transition to nuclear weapons will be the case.