Saturday, 26 July 2014

Pro-Russian Terrorists in Ukraine are Retreating, But Putin will not Back Down

Shortly before writing this post, I read an article in The Globe and Mail called The rebels' final days?  Mark MacKinnon, the author of the article, raises the prospect of an end to the Russian-backed terrorist insurgency in eastern Ukraine as Ukrainian forces have recently gained the upper hand, steadily advancing into the terrorist-controlled cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.  It would seem that the complete liberation of eastern Ukraine from Russian President Vladimir Putin's thugs is nigh - except for the fact that like most megalomaniac dictators, Putin is not one to give up on a conquest so easily.  In fact, MacKinnon quotes the editor of a Russian-based foreign policy journal as saying that if the terrorists are defeated, they are likely to turn to guerrilla warfare to continue their fight.  But I believe that something even worse could happen.

Prospect of a Full-Scale Russian Invasion of Ukraine is Very Real

Putin is bent on restoring the sphere of influence that Russia once had in the times of the Soviet Union.  His first step to realizing this goal is to control all of the territory in which Russians and Russian-speakers are the predominant population, which is why Putin took control of Crimea and why he is looking to take control of eastern Ukraine as well.  But as we have seen, his plan to control eastern Ukraine has not been going as smoothly as he had wanted.  At first, it appeared that Putin would take eastern Ukraine just as easily as he took Crimea, but this wasn't to be.  Why?  Because this time, Ukraine decided to fight back, which is why Ukrainian forces have now driven the Russian-backed terrorists into their core strongholds and are on the cusp of liberating their territory from Putin's grip.  I don't see Putin letting this happen, however, because precedent has shown that he allows his enemies to sense victory before he goes for the jugular.

What precedent am I referring to?  Think back to 2008 when Russian-backed South Ossetian rebels attacked Georgian troops, breaching a ceasefire and compelling the Georgian government to respond by sending troops into South Ossetia.  The Georgians may have been on the verge of defeating the South Ossetian rebels, but Putin didn't let this happen.  He sent his own forces in and not only drove the Georgians out of South Ossetia, but also invaded Georgia proper.  The 2008 war between Russia and Georgia ended with Russia controlling both South Ossetia and Abkazia, another part of Georgia seeking independence.  Both of these regions are now puppet states of Putin's Russia.  My feeling is that this same scenario will play out in eastern Ukraine.  As I said, the Ukrainians are now sensing victory just as the Georgians did in 2008, so I believe that Putin will act as he did in Georgia six years ago and send his own forces into eastern Ukraine to retake the territory that the pro-Russian terrorists have recently lost to Ukrainian troops.  Indeed, Russia is already suspected of sending troops and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine to help shore up the terrorists' forces and reportedly has another 15,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border (see: Russia Massing 15,000 Troops on Ukraine Border, Says NATO).

How Can the West Prevent a Repeat of Georgia in 2008?

In order to save eastern Ukraine from falling into Putin's hands, the West must act now!  But how?  More sanctions?  Sorry, that won't help.  The West has already begun imposing more sanctions on Russia, but I suspect that they will be just as ineffective at changing Putin's mind as the sanctions placed on Russia after the occupation of Crimea have been.  And clearly shaming Putin's Russia hasn't helped.  Indeed, despite the public relations disaster over the recent shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight M17 over eastern Ukraine, which most in the international community believe was done by pro-Russian terrorists using a missile supplied by Russia, Putin remains steadfast in his quest to bring Ukraine's east under his control.  As I have said in previous blog posts, the only way to stop Putin is the same way you stop any other dictator - with force.

NATO must capitalize on the recent victories of Ukrainian forces by putting its troops in the territory formerly controlled by the pro-Russian terrorists so that if Putin wants to take that territory back, he will have to face the full might of the western military alliance.  And as bold as Putin is, he is not yet ready to directly challenge the West militarily.  Unfortunately, however, I don't see this happening.  No one in the West or NATO seems to have the courage to stand up to Putin, so as painful as it is for me to say this, I'm afraid that Ukraine will be left to fend for itself against the Russian dictator's growing tyranny.  


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