by Stephen Bryen
You don’t need to see the end of the movie to know that the Ukrainian government, faced with an imminent loss of the Eastern Ukraine with the valuable Donetsk region of the country, will soon collapse. Neither all the king’s horses, nor all the kings men, can put the Ukraine back together again. In fact there are no king’s horses or men. The Ukrainian Army is a hollow shell, disorganized, with virtually no logistical support, and with decrepit and inferior equipment. Russian forces, or proxy forces, will run right over them.
Today Putin has all the options, the Ukraine government has almost none.
For all the hot air blasted around by our failed Secretary of State John Kerry, and his boss, President Obama, there is no allied or NATO interest in assisting or stabilizing Ukraine. In fact, the preponderance of view among our allies is simply to tolerate Putin’s moves. Europe, on the whole, does not support sanctions, partly because they are inconvenient and potentially dangerous (Putin could cut off natural gas deliveries to Europe), but mostly because sanctions are irrelevant.
The United States did not propose any form of military action, even minimal action, to protect Ukraine. So Kerry and Obama are seen as vacuous pundits who want to sound tough but don’t want to do anything. Why should Europe risk anything for an empty policy like that?
Indeed, U.S. policy in the Middle East, Persian Gulf, South America, and Asia is a disaster. Ask the King of Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister of Israel, the interim President of Egypt, the Japanese Prime Minister. All of them understand that being a friend of the United States is dangerous and costly these days.
If the U.S. had been serious about Ukraine it could have (1) shipped armaments to the Ukrainians; (2) provided military and logistical support; (3) mobilized NATO by demanding action by NATO; (4) demanded action by the UN Security Council, (5) threatened Russian assets like Cuba. None of these things have been done largely because this is an administration of crocodile tears, not one with anything resembling a security outlook. While Ukraine is boiling, Iraq and Afghanistan are crumbling, and the President is off in Asia assuring our current-day partners there we are on their side. They should be running for cover.
(Obviously Russia has veto power in the UN Security Council. The point is demanding a session and making clear the violations of sovereignty perpetrated by the Russians would clearly cause grave discomfort to Putin. Don’t worry, has not happened and if it does not it is probably too late.)
Is Ukraine in the national security interest of the United States. For sure we have no treaty relationships that require the U.S. to protect Ukraine. If Russia conquerors and digests all of Ukraine, from the perspective of any obligations on Ukraine, we are not obliged to help them.
We are obliged, however, to be concerned, very concerned, about NATO and our responsibilities in that context. Right now we are faced with a test by the Russians who are expanding once again. Letting it happen without a response is like inviting Hitler to have another cup of tea. There is too much risk, even for the Russians, who will get caught up in the kind of euphoria that propelled the Nazis to trample on all of Europe, murdering millions. A Russia gone berserk is very much not in anyone’s interest. Thus it follows that Russia must be challenged now, because the future consequences in the nuclear age are too high risk.
The Obama administration has had more than enough time to figure out what to do. By now the administration could have laid before the President a host of options that could have presented the Russians with real consequences. No such steps have been taken.
So we will soon see the collapse of the Ukrainian government. It will be replaced by a pro-Russian leader. Eastern Ukraine will be made autonomous, and its control will be 100% in the hands of the Russians. All of this is an interim step. In a short while the Ukraine will “vote” to re-federate with Russia. It will cease to exist as an independent country. That is the end of the movie.