There is fear in Russia that the U.S. is egging the Ukraine into a renewed active conflict with its renegade eastern Donbass region and thereby into a war with Russia.
In his latest RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP Patrick Armstrong recollects the most recent developments:
UKRAINE. 1 Nov: Russian buildup on Ukraine border shrieks controlled US media. 2 Nov: CIA Director Burns goes to Moscow; said to warn Moscow against military operations. 3 Nov: Dmytro Yarosh appointed adviser to the commander-in-chief of the Ukraine armed forces, Defence Minister resigns. 4 Nov: US official visits Kiev. 7 Nov: Kiev says no indication of Russian buildup on border.
What just happened? Moscow got its message across and Washington turned its puppet off? (If so, nobody told Blinken.) Hard to imagine anyone in Kiev thinks “a good little war” would improve the wretched situation. But Yarosh might. This time I think Moscow will use force – if they didn’t get the hint in the spring, there’s no point in more hints: time for facts. (Ossetia 2008; but faster.)
Earlier this year the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky closed TV and media that favored the opposition. Last week the 26 years old English language KyivPost outlet was shut down after its owner was threatened.
Zelensky has recently lost the majority in the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. The leader of Zelensky’s party ‘Servant of the People’ Dmytro Razumkov, was removed from his position as speaker of the Rada after some conflict with Zelensky. Razumkov has now founded a new party and 21 parliament members from the ‘Servant of the People’ joined him in a new faction. 226 seats are needed for a majority in the Rada. ‘Servant of the People’ had 244 seats but is now down to 224.
Ukraine is in an energy crisis. It did not use the summer months to fill its gas storage. It lacks thermal coal to generate electricity and to heat its cities. It will now import coal from Poland, the United States and South Africa. That is not only expensive but also likely too late to avoid blackouts:
Considering these factors, the [Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko] stressed the need to develop domestic coal mining.
“It is important that we look at the possibilities of rapidly increasing domestic production. And if there are such opportunities and there is an opportunity to invest in domestic coal, this is the key priority,” he stressed.
The Donbass region has large coal reserves and mines. Rapidly increasing domestic coal production by occupying it might be some peoples’ idea to avoid rolling blackouts.
This week the Foreign Minister of the Ukraine was in Washington DC for U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Dialogue talks. There was a lot of war mongering about a ‘Russian escalation’ that is not happening. Russia is not interested in one but had earlier said that it would protect the Russian people in the renegade Donbass provinces.
In July 2020 the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a Summary Assessment of Intentions of the Political Leadership of the Russian Federation. It concluded that Russia does not a war with NATO but would not back away from an immediate threat. It also says:
We assess that Moscow is increasingly concerned about U.S. military activity, especially in Europe, and that this increases the potential for unintended Russian escalation.
This month the U.S. Navy has send the guided missile destroyer Porter and the command ship Mount Whitney into the Black Sea. The later is of special interest:
“The region can already be viewed as a potential theater of war. The USS Mount Whitney command ship is known for its visits to trouble spots. It was seen near the coasts of Iraq and Libya, and visited the Black Sea in 2008, when a war broke out in South Ossetia. It sailed to our shores in 2014, too, after Crimea reunited with Russia,” [military expert Vladislav Shurygin] added.
At the same time the U.S. is intensifying its aerial reconnaissance activity around the Black Sea:
MOSCOW, November 10. /TASS/. NATO reconnaissance aircraft increased the number of flights near the Russian borders in the Black Sea region over the past 24 hours, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Wednesday.
“Over the past 24 hours, reconnaissance aircraft of NATO countries increased the intensity of flights near the borders of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea region,” the ministry said.
On November 9, the radars of the Russian Aerospace Force’s air defense troops tracked a US Air Force E-8C airborne ground surveillance, command and control aircraft over the Black Sea, it said.
“Also, Russian anti-aircraft missile troops tracked three reconnaissance aircraft of NATO member states over the Black Sea in the past 24 hours,” the statement says.
Meanwhile U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets as well as aerial tankers have been deployed to Bulgaria and Romania.
The fear in Moscow is not that the U.S. will attack Russia. But the high activity of U.S. forces in the area and the incitement Kiev gets from Washington might make the Ukrainian leadership believe that Washington has its back and will come to its help when it attacks the Donbass region and Russia hits back.
That believe would be false. Alastair Crooke notes a typical U.S. behavior towards Taiwan, Israel and the Ukraine. It incites them towards conflict but when the backlash will inevitably come is will be unable or unwilling to help them:
The West contrives to use Ukraine as the peg to threaten Russia with NATO action, even to the extent of NATO recently lowering the threshold for using its nuclear weapons – and yet … there is no way that Donbass can be seized back by Kiev. Moscow will never allow it, and NATO knows it cannot prevail over Russia in Ukraine, short of an unthinkable nuclear exchange.
Either way, the U.S. – apparently – courts failure: Either Ukraine remains territorially status quo, and disintegrates from the weight its own dysfunctionality, economic collapse and endemic corruption. Or, in a futile gesture, it goes for broke versus the Donbass forces and ends dismembered, as Russia – very reluctantly – is forced to intervene.
After the Afghanistan debacle the Biden administration needs a foreign policy victory:
In Ukraine, provoking even a limited Russian military intervention into eastern Ukraine would be hailed [in Washington] as a political achievement. Never mind the damage, the deaths; Europe would fall under full Washington control, and NATO would re-discover its raison d’être. But Europe and America would be weaker – and yet more of America’s traditional clients will assert themselves, through diversifying their relations, and projecting power through broader alliances. And the more they look eastward, the more deeply they engage with China.
Crooke compares this to the Clinton administration’s ..
.. desire to rack up a string of miscellaneous, shallow achievements that would be boasted as successes to the electorate, so that the latter would conclude that foreign policy was in reasonably good shape. Yet they would be in error: The quest for racking-up these hollow achievements “ignored the alarming void, in precisely the area of greatest importance: the question of whether policy was making it more or less likely that America would have to fight a major war in the near future”. The U.S. is addicted to ephemeral success, whilst ignoring its strategic erosion ..
I also see analogies to Hong Kong where the Trump administration incited a student revolt but did nothing when China finally intervened. That was seen as a success by Trump and Pompeo but the opposition in Hong Kong lost out and Hong Kong is no longer the U.S.’ easy entry point into China.
The Biden administrations war mongering towards Russia may be seem to be free of cost. But it takes only one miscalculation in Kiev or some unforeseen incident in the Black Sea region and the situation could seriously escalate.