Ukraine Potpourri: Intensifying Violence leads to Putin Withrdrawal of Troops From Ukrainian Border

If you’ve been paying any mind to the international media, the situation in Ukraine is continuing to snowball and remains a fluid situation with constant updates. In the past few weeks, violence as been erupting all over the Former Soviet Republic  (FSR), pitting pro-Russian separatists against pro- Ukrainian nationalists. Body counts are continuing to rise in the eastern part of the country, while the new government in Kiev struggles to maintain order and authority.  This new interim government in place in Kiev as you may already know, comes after the consequential parliamentary ousting of former President Viktor Yanukovych, struggles not only to convey its power and authority over the people of Ukraine, but also over its own military and security forces as well.  While there seems to be some good news making the media rounds today as the New York Times and others are reporting that Vladimir Putin has begun to withdraw troops from the border and called for the Russian separatist backed referendum on sovereignty scheduled for Sunday, in an  effort to halt the escalating violence in the region, the end game of this situation is still an unknown, with the worst case scenario, still being an all out Civil War pitting the Russians and their supporters in Ukraine, and the Western Powers and the Ukrainian government against one another.


While recent good news in Ukraine is a positive sign, the recent violent upheavals in the country cannot go unnoticed. One of the best sources out there for constant coverage of the crisis in the region  is The Interpreter, an online magazine that’s a project of the Institute  of Modern Russia. Not only does the website include in depth analysis of whats happening on the ground, it also includes a live blog of unfolding events in Ukraine which seemingly is updated around the clock. Thus, this blog as become one of my golden sources for all things pertaining to Ukraine, and Putin’s Russia.   Long story short, Ukraine is snowballing into anarchy as the central government in Kiev is very weak an is continually embarrassed and humiliated by the Russian separatists; from The Interpreter:

Ukrainian military helicopters are being shot out of the sky. The army is continually humiliated and what units they are able to muster are forced to surrender their weapons and fed by locals. The police forces either join pro-Russia separatists—like in Donetsk and Kharkiv–or acquiesce and quietly retreat–like in Odessa, where Pro-Ukraine mobs were allowed to exert their revenge on pro-Russia supporters who fired first. These are just some of the examples of the breakdown of government authority in Ukraine, where the adherence to the rule of law is based upon political ideology.


The pro-Russian Separatists view the new government in Kiev as one that’s a puppet for the western powers that has no interest in considering their views, thus are hell bent establishing power of them. This view has lead to those separatists to take up arms, and begin these violent skirmishes with the authority in Ukraine- with it seems, backing of the Russian government. As a result of the spread of these violence by the separatists, there has been an uptick of pro Ukrainian crowds or militias, taking up arms and fighting whom they view as, terrorists hell bent on destroying whats left of an independent Ukraine, that seems helpless in the fight.  Again, from The Interpreter:

These competing narratives have opened up a power vacuum, one that is encouraged and propagated in large part by Russia. As NYU Professor Mark Galeotti notes: “Although there can be little doubt that there are Russian operators, agents and commandos on the ground, the majority of the combatants are local thugs, defectors from the Ukrainian security forces, and even adventurers, mercenaries and nationalists from Russia, there with Moscow’s blessing and probably its guns, too. This has allowed Russia to claim, however disingenuously, not to be involved and also created a political quandary for the Ukrainian government as it struggles with knowing how to treat the paramilitaries.”


I have previously written about Putin’s “big lie” which was the basis for his invasion Ukraine in the first place. This lie, that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are in grave danger and threatened, thus the motherland must come in and protect its people, seems to be coming to fruition as the central government in Kiev continues to exude its weakness. While Putin has publicly announced that he his moving troops away from the border, and backs postponing a referendum on sovereignty, his forces, government, and supportrs are still orchestrating and/or in the VERY least, playing a role in said chaos. Why?  Its in Putin’s favor to not just antagonize the West, but also to keep his big lie afloat. If there is continued chaos on the ground in Ukraine, then Putin has the authority, granted by the Duma, to maintain an active role in Ukraine. Moreover, Putin’s strong arming of the West, plays into the Russian political psyche as well, thus the leader his solid approval ratings amidst a military conflict. This is a quite typical form of modern day politics and warfare, where the goals are not achieved by the fighting of uniformed armies achieving a body but from the manipulation and transformation of chaos on the battlefield. A type of warfare reliant on propaganda, and blurred lines of loyalty, power, and rule of engagement. Again, from The Interpreter:

This new conception of war has embraced the use of gangsters, local elites and warlords who act in suzerainty of whoever is willing to pay the most and offers the better opportunities for power and plunder. These new “power brokers” emerge at the breakdown of institutional authority and thrive in the anarchy that follows as interests vie for position. They are the ones who can change the course of war and favor, operating without the tanks or airplanes of nations. “But the longer that Kiev and Moscow practice what amounts to a military stalemate, the more opportunity local armed actors have to change the actual power balance on the ground,” notes Columbia Professor Kimberly Marten. “They can ensure that either the Russian or the Ukrainian state that eventually triumphs will have to bargain with them in the future.”


So, given all of this, what can the West do at this juncture? Right now in the short term, the answer really is nothing that isn’t already being done. The US has imposed sanction after sanction against some of Russia’s (and Putin’s most central) oligarchs but all have failed at halting Putin and Russia’s aggression.  Thus, as of right now, Putin can really do whatever his heart desires along his borders. But here’s there thing, in the long term the Western allies have the real power- if they choose to activate it.  As one Daily Beast writer put it: “if only Western Nations would unite strategically and take the decisions that could reverse the tide over time.”

No sane nor intelligent person is calling for President Obama to go to all out war with Russia over Ukraine. No one.  Not even the biggest of war hawks like John McCain, even though many dissenters, including I, have criticized President Obama’s foreign policy. We are all waiting  for the Obama administration to take a stand against Russian aggression against its NATO leaning neighbors before Putin’s manifest destiny extends to other Former Soviet Republics At this point ,Washington must pass legislation that sets up conditions for Western military and non military aid to Ukraine to defend their democracy from foreign invasion. Even the acting Ukrainian President, Oleksandr Turchynov that Ukrainian forces are helpless in restoring order to the violence ridden east, nor in neutralizing the well armed pro Russian militias that are causing so much havoc.

The Ukrainian government also does not expect the US to go war to protect its nation. It does howver expect America to protect the western part of Ukraine from falling. If we are going to both military and non-lethal aid to the country, there must be a clear Ukrainian plan to ensure a corruption free, transparent, and effective government that includes pro-Russians.  The future of this situation all hinders on whether the central Kiev government can not only, regain legitimacy with its own people, but also maintain order and authority. If these leaders can’t get their act together, any type of American and/or western aid, will be useless, and wasted as the situation will continue to snowball with Ukrainian leaders, unable to find their way out of a wet paper bag with a map and a flashlight.

As always, thanks for reading.





One comment

  1. millie999 · ·

    this is what I posted:Millie HerreraMAY 7, 2014 – 11:19 PMYour comment is awaiting moderation.Mr. Krishnaiyer, I thought TSF has a policy of “not allowing personal vitriol on this site”. Why do you allow this trash to be posted? It is disgusting.I respectfully request that you please remove this post and block the author from posting further unfounded nasty attacks. Or is it ok because you endorsed her opponent?


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