I contend that Vladimir Putin has all along seen the Crimea not as a prospective fruit of conquest or consolation for loss of the Ukraine but as a bargaining chip for ensuring the interests of the substantial populations of Russian nationals and Russian speakers in East Ukraine, the Crimea and the Odessa region are formally taken into account by the constitutional arrangements of the country. Read on….
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Vladimir Putin, Clausewitz and Sun Tzu: Grammar lessons for today
by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.
Today’s issue of the British daily The Guardian carries the feature article “Ukraine crisis: US-Europe rifts surfacing as Putin tightens Crimea grip” which I heartily recommend to anyone dispirited from the morning Euronews and in need of a lift. To be sure, the article shows how the USA is unlikely to win European support for draconian sanctions that would truly raise the international atmosphere to hysterical levels. But the lift comes elsewhere, from the following fatuous observation regarding the military situation in Crimea. It demonstrates just how clueless our mass media have become, how editors, if they exist, do not perform logic checks.
“On the ground in Crimea, Russian forces continued to tighten their stranglehold, intimidating and surrounding Ukrainian marines in an attempt to force them to surrender without shots being fired.”
To an alien visitor from Mars, or to the author of a Persian letter, if we may draw from the literary history of this Continent, the phenomenon being described with pejorative intent, is a splendid display of psychological warfare which follows the playbook of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. The journalist team at The Guardian seems oblivious to the fact that Vladimir Putin is a black belt judo master. And I wonder if any of them has ever considered comparing this Russian ‘invasion’ and occupation of the Crimea without a shot being fired, without a soul losing his or her life to the ‘shock and awe’ approach of the USA in Bagdad, for example? That comparison leaves you wondering who is civilized and who is the barbarian?
Now that President Putin has sent the 150,000 troops he had on military maneuvers near the Ukrainian borders back to their home bases, now that peaceful pro-Russian demonstrators in Donetsk, Kharkiv and other East Crimean cities have taken back government buildings from the carpetbaggers from Maidan who invested them in the past week or two, one may reasonably ask whether Putin has all along seen the Crimea not as a prospective fruit of conquest or consolation for loss of the Ukraine but just as a bargaining chip for ensuring the interests of the substantial populations of Russian nationals and Russian speakers in East Ukraine, the Crimea and the Odessa region are formally taken into account by the constitutional arrangements of the country and that the future of Ukraine is decided by three-way talks between the EU, the representatives of a legitimate government of national unity from Ukraine and the Russian Federation, all of whom are stakeholders in the country’s future.
In a follow-on report on the plight of the 300,000 ‘non-citizens’ of Latvia today, mostly Russian speakers, who were left to their bitter fate by the European Union in the hurried accession proceedings a decade ago, I will show why the Russian Federation has decided this time to step up to bat, cost what it may.
Of course, one never knows how a military intervention will end. Provocations, miscalculations are always possible and it is not clear if the Ukrainian military units will remain in their barracks in East Ukraine, go over to the side of the local population as happened in Crimea or use violence against the pro-Russian demonstrators.
But barring any real military clashes, Mr. Putin is setting the stage for a reasonable political solution to the Ukrainian problem that takes into account the interests of all sides, not just the US-backed puppet regime in Kiev – a solution based on the facts on the ground, not tales of the benevolent fairy coming from Brussels and Washington.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2014
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G. Doctorow is an occasional guest lecturer at St. Petersburg State University and Research Fellow of the American University in Moscow. His latest book, Stepping Out of Line: Collected (Nonconformist) Essays on Russian-American Relations, 2008-12, is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites worldwide. Also on sale in Sterling and Waterstone’s booksellers, Brussels.