Monday, March 03, 2014

The Ukraine Folk Dance And What It Really Means

The Ukraine exploded this weekend, as Vladimir Putin got backing from the Russian Duma (parliament) to send the troops into Crimea. Russian forces seized the strategic peninsula over the weekend, surrounded a few small Ukrainian military outposts and demanded the Ukrainian troops inside surrender and disarm.

Meanwhile, the Crimea now has its own, pro-Russian government and the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, mobilized the Ukrainian military and said that that Kiev would request international intervention if the Russian military didn't withdraw.

"This is actually a declaration of war to my country. We urge Putin to pull back his troops from this country and honor bilateral agreements," he said. "If he wants to be the president who started the war between two neighboring and friendly countries, he has reached his target within a few inches."

Except Ukraine will have to do without its 10 ship navy in any hostilities. Just a day after he had been appointed head of the Ukraine's navy by interim president Oleksandr Turchynov, Admiral Denis Berezovsky let it be known he was switching sides to the pro-Russian authorities.

"I swear to execute the orders of the [pro-Russia] commander-in-chief of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," he said, speaking from the Crimean headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at the Crimean port of Sebastopol.

In any event, it's obvious that what passes for the Ukraine's army is no match for the Russians in any stand up fight if it comes to that. So Turchynov is pretty much limited to hoping for international intervention, especially since Putin is also likely to go after the Eastern Ukraine as well, which is also predominantly native Russian.

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the EU were apparently caught completely off guard by the events in Ukraine. Even the obvious Russian military buildup and the implications of the Russians saying openly that there was ' no basis for dialog' with the Ukraine rebels seems to have escaped them.  President Obama skipped out on a scheduled National Security meeting with his team to attend a film festival, but attempted to play catchup with a phone call  to Russian leader Vladimir Putin after the military incursion, while Secretary Kerry was reduced to threats of 'maybe throwing Russia out of the G-8'. As for the EU, Lady Ashton, its foreign policy chief commented, “This is an unwarranted escalation of tensions. I therefore call upon the Russian Federation not to dispatch such troops, but to promote its views through peaceful means.”

I swear, I could almost hear the Russians laughing at these people from here.No wonder the Kremlin spokesperson replied 'no comment at this time' to bold statements like that!

Oddly enough, there  was a certain former vice-presidential candidate who saw things clearly as far back as 2008:

Yes she was certainly mocked for that one,wasn't she? 'Ooh,I can see Russia from my howwwse' said SNL's Tina Fey, creating campaign fodder out of something Governor Palin never said but that was linked to her endlessly. Except the joke was on the country, because not only was Governor Palin the only person on either ticket with any executive experience, she was also the only one of the four with any experience actually negotiating anything with a foreign country. As usual, she was right about Russia as well as pretty much everything else, including President Obama and his behavior.

So where do we go from here?

Those of you whom read my earlier piece on  Russia and Ukraine will recall that there is a centuries old historical dynamic going on here, most of it bad. And the Ukrainian government is not exactly composed solely of democracy loving freedom fighters.There's a distinct fascist element among them that's a long tradition in the Ukraine, especially when it comes to Jews.  Russia's point of view is that they see themselves as protecting native Russian nationals as well as that important Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol. The Crimea, after all, is over 60% native Russian and was actually part of Russia for centuries until less than 60 years ago,when Nikita Khrushchev attached it administratively to Ukraine.

Putin's calculations here are absurdly simple. He sees the U.S. dismantling its military to historically low levels, and he knows that President Obama is weak and indecisive. He knows that the EU is not only militarily weak but dependent on Russia's gas lines during the European winter, and that the EU is also happy to launder money and do other business with the Russian elites.So he knows there's no real danger of either military intervention or real economic consequences by the West

In need of a political distraction on the home front anyway, he once again can be seen by many Russians as a leader standing up for Russia's national interests and defending the Russian people. By taking over Crimea, he salvages full control of Russia's vitally important warm water naval base at Sebastopol and essentially controls the sea traffic in the Black Sea area.And finally, he unloads a financial basket case in need of billions in aid on the EU and the U.S. and saves himself the remaining $12 billion in aid Russia had promised Ukraine...which will remain as a weak, rump nation on his borders in fear of being overrun at any time, just like Georgia.

As they say in those cute ads, it's a no-brainer.

Another advantage for Putin and Russia is one that was handed to him on a platter by President Obama. The entire relationship between Russia and our president has been one of weakness and flexibility, including the ridiculous START treaty, giving Russia access to our most secret technology and President Obama's conduct towards Poland and the Czech Republic. Our allies noticed this and as a consequence, none of them really trust the president and that especially applies to countries that were former members of the old Soviet Evil Empire. Putin ignoring the EU and the president just underlines that message, and what Putin is telling them by his actions in no uncertain terms is that the Americans are retreating, the Western Europeans never cared that much about you anyway and you had better mend fences with Russia and make a deal while you still can.

That, really is the sole national security importance of the Ukraine to America.

Of course, the Ukraine is not a country vital to our national security like's not even Muslim, and there are few Islamists for President Obama to protect there, so using our military is pretty much a non-starter (sarcasm off). But sending a clear message to our Eastern European allies that we're abandoning them is a very huge deal.

Rather than diplomatic threats that mean nothing, a different president than the one we have might make significant progress in thwarting this by taking steps to reassure our remaining allies in Eastern Europe that we actually mean to keep the commitments we made to their freedom after the Soviet Union fell. Placing missile defense bases in some of these countries and even token boots on the ground would go a long way towards that, although none of them are likely to agree to take the risk as long as Barack Hussein Obama is president and commander-in-chief.One can hardly blame them. At any rate, unlike Ukraine, the rest of the old Soviet Empire with the exception of Belarus, Romania and Moldova are all members of NATO and could invoke that treaty if Putin decided to move further west, which I doubt.

There are also certain economic steps the president could take. The key one, since the world's banking system still flows through New York would be to ban banks doing business with Russian banks from doing business with American banks. President Bush used that quite effectively to dry up funding for al-Qaeda after 9/11, one of the few things he did that was actually effective. Taking this step would be a major hit for Russia since oil trades are still delineated in US dollars, but since President Obama lacked the stones to do this to Iran, he will almost certainly not pull the trigger on this one when it comes to Russia.

Putin will almost certainly succeed in partitioning Ukraine to his liking, and the current 'crisis' will remain as just one more example of President Obama and his team's serial ineptness when it comes to foreign policy. Oh, wait, he got bin-Laden! Yes, he sure did.


Unknown said...

Outstanding commentary, analysis and summation of the geo-political dynamics. The only aspect left out is the long term repercussions this will have with China. The West has just given them a green light to ratchet up the tension in the far east. They will not fail to read 'the tea leaves'.

B.Poster said...

I think China has already read the "tea leaves." Essentially the "tea leaves" read as follows. China is an up and coming power. The Us is a declining power. The US depends upon China for much its manufactured goods. Essentially the US can't do anything to seriously challenge China even if it wanted to. The so called "pivot" to the far east, essentially China's back yard is mass insanity on the part of Us leaders and anyone supporting it.

China has already announced it is in substantial agreement with Russia. I would expect the other BRICS to soon follow. Any support the US might have for a "get tough" approach with regards to Ukraine cannot be expected last very long. The EU nations depend on Russia for much of their gas supplies. Also, while EU sympathies may lie with Ukraine rebels, the EU nations view the US as a strategic competitor and will relish any opportunity to harm it. As such, any ties between the US and Western Europe are not very broad or deep. In contrast, BRICS alliances involve deep and strong commitments.

As for the world banking system flowing through NY, while this may still be currently true, this is very easily changed. Any attempt to "get tough" with Russia here would only hasten this change and would speed the dollar's demise as world reserve currency. Given America's current economic, political, and military situation, the end of the dollar as world reserve currency is inevitable. It's not a matter of "if" but "when." Competent American leadership would be preparing for this in order to ensure the disruption to America's interests is as minimal as possible. Unfortunately they are probably going to get caught flat footed on this much like they did the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of course America's enemies could decide to destroy the country before they remove the dollar as world reserve currency.

As for NATO, it's a complete joke and sick one at that. More on that time permitting.

Rob said...

As for the world banking system flowing through NY, while this may still be currently true, this is very easily changed.

Not until (a) the U.S. is no longer a prime target and market for imports as well as a prime exporter of a number of things, like oil (b) oil trades are no longer delineated in dollars.

Theoretically those things could happen,but easily, and without a severe financial dislocation for the countries involved? Not remotely likely.

Russia and China certainly could not afford that right now, and neither could the Arabs or the EU.

Can you imagine what would happen to China's economy without exports to America? Or how much the EU's unemployment would rise from its already double digit rates? As for Russia, their economy is already extremely shaky, to the point where they had to raise their bench lending rate in an attempt to try and stabilize the ruble.

Look Poster, I know your usual line by now...America is helpless, Russia and China and Iran are all powerful, our only chance is to concentrate on Fortress America and hide under our beds hoping we survive...

You're entitled, but IMO facts don't bear you out. For instance, when was the last time you heard about a country with a functioning nuclear weapons program being 'destroyed'?


B.Poster said...

(a.) as long as the Us lacks the manufacturing facilities, has a severe shortage of personnel who know how to build, operate, and maintain such facilities as well as an onerous regulatory environment that makes significant manufacturing in the US cost prohibitive it would seem the US has no choice but to remain a prime import market for at least the mid term or at least as long it would take to significantly address this problem.

Also, last I checked the US is not a net exporter of oil. It is a net importer. Due to technologies like fracking this could change but it will take time and it will involve getting the government out of the way to a large degree.

(b.)Many of the major powers are already working toward getting oil trades out of US dollars. Much of the world wants to do this. At this point, it seems only to be exactly how to implement it. Take a "get tough" approach toward Russia over the Crimea or Ukraine and the process very likely gets hastened.

According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor about year ago I believe the authors had predicted the US dollar would be seriously threatened by 2016. Given that the US economy is now more precarious than it was then as well as its debt situation worsened, it seems the authors may have been overly optimistic.

Perhaps to suggest it would "easy" may have oversimplified things. You're correct about financial dislocation. The problem is it hurts America far worse than it would hurt China, Russia, or the Arabs. If I know this, I'd assume they do. As for US officials, given their lousy track record on just about every thing, I'd expect them to get caught flat footed on this as well.

While China is likely hurt somewhat by the loss of exports to the US, America is hurt worse by the lack of these imports. As for Russia acting to try and stabilize their currency, this is probably prudent. The US should take note, watch, and learn.

Maybe you don't understand my "usual line." I never said or wrote such things. In fact, the policies I have advocated would make our economy stronger giving us things we can trade, make us more secure, and more respected around the world. This is far from "hiding under the bed."

As for "fortress America", prudence would seem to suggest striving to take measures to keep ones homeland safe and secure. We might study the Canadians and the Austrailians here. They are more secure, have a better economic situation, robust trade relations, and their military posture is nothing like America's.

As for the nuclear arsenal, while we've allowed ours and the systems to deliver these weapons to degrade considerably, adversaries and potential adversaries are busily upgrading theirs. Also, we are weak in the area of cyber security. In contrast, our adversaries are among the best in the world at this. In summary, our nuclear weapons and facilities are of questionable reliability because of lack of testing, maintenance, or upgrades and they are vunerable to cyber attacks by people who are highly skilled at this sort of thing. Additionally, to many nations are under America's so called "nuclear umbrella" meaning the system is spread to thin. This part of the problem could be remedied by those nations developing their own nuclear deterrents.

While I don't think you've properly understood my "usual line", I think we can agree that continuing to pursue the current policies as the government is currently pursuing cannot end well. We need changes and we need them soon. I've tried to suggest constructive ways they can be changed. If the appropriate changes are made, good outcomes are still possible.

Rob said...

I don't want to get into a flame war with you, but you seem to discount a lot of things. The US outsourced a lot of its manufacturing to China and elsewhere, but you were talking about changing the way the banking system flows through NYC. That isn't going to happen without major financial dislocations for anyone that tries it, at least at this point in time.

The letters of credit issue alone is enough to send a shudder through the EU and China.Also what the US does manufacture is high tech, software and advanced systems, and US productivity per worker is more than double that of China.(productivity is the value of the goods per worker, not the volume)

Cut off China's exports to America if they opt out of our banking system means that a lot of the Chinese become unemployed and don't eat, and get increasingly disgruntled with the current regime. You also have to remember that we owe China a huge amount of money, and the last thing they want is to piss off their best customer and lose that money.Why would they do that? Would you?

As for Russia, their efforts to stabilize the ruble aren't working.The interest rates are attractive, but would you invest your money in a country where it might be confiscated by government diktat? Russia has already done that a few times, which is why their elites put their money in the West, in Switzerland, other EU countries and America.

Yes, we might confiscate foreign investor's dollars too, but the point is, we haven't yet. People from Russia and China are willing to actually invest at negative or near negative rates in America and Switzerland because of the safety factor.

No one is going to get oil trades delineated in anything but US dollars for some time, if ever. The Saudis and the GCC countries will see to that, because they need us to protect them with Iran on the loose. The Chinese won't go for it either, because they would give to much clout to Russia and affect their trade relationship with us.

And yes, the US is one of the top five exporters of oil, especially now that fracking is increasing our output. We sell the oil overseas, at higher prices than are available domestically and then import cheaper oil here for our own consumers. You are confusing 'volume' with 'net'.

As far as your 'usual line', sorry, but it does seem to me that your comments have a recurring theme. Writing as you did on a different thread about Iran using 'dirty bombs' on America they don't have, about the 'Brics invading America' and your remarks about our enemies casually invading the US after lunch and a few drinks and destroying the country...well, what can I say?

BTW, the idea of the BRICS having 'alliances involve deep and strong commitments' discounts a great deal of reality. India and China,for instance have a polite but arms length relationship because of China's relationship with Pakistan and an ongoing border dispute between the two countries, Brazil is not a significant military power and also depends heavily on exports to America, and China and Russia also view each other with suspicion because of their past history. Ditto on Russia and India because of disputes over oil trade.

While China might decline to say much about Russia's invasion of the Crimea ( sensibly, they've decided it doesn't really concern them) that doesn't exactly make them bosom allies!!

B.Poster said...

Who said any thing about a "flame war." I actually find discussing these things with you informative. Respectfully I think it is you who discount allot of things.

Much of this high tech stuff you mention operates off of computer chips made in China. Also, much of the raw materials such as the plastics that go into this are made in China as well. While it would not be a good situation all the around, it hurts us worse than it hurts China if the import/export relationship gets cut off.

We do owe them a huge amount of money. They've probably figured out that getting paid back without us completely destroying the dollar by cranking up the printing press so high that the currency is deflated to the point of worthlessness is problematic. The other way for them to get paid back is through the confiscation of America's natural resources. One wonders whose dumber. Is it the borrower or is it the lender in this case? I'd say in this case a slight nod goes to the borrower as the dumber side here.

The plan regarding imports and exports works as longs as someone is willing to import to make up for the net loss of production. In order to get them to do this, we are sacrificing a great deal. Correcting this would do more to positively affect our economy and our national security than pretty much any thing we are currently doing.

As for the other thread, I was trying to illustrate the greatest security threats to America which I think to still be as valid then as they are now. If I implied it would somehow be easy, you misunderstood. Such an invasion would require careful planning and according to some reports the planning has already begun. Also, this invasion scenario was listed as number 3. In the near term, I'd actually consider it remote. The other two are more likely.

I'm not convinced Iran does not have dirty bombs. Some reports indicate they likely do. Respectfully any military option against Iran assuming we actually have one should assume Iran has such weapons in its possession and has very likely moved at least some of them to major American metropolitan areas.

As for the GCC needing us because Iran is "on the loose", if you were them would you trust this government to protect them assuming it actually could which is problematic? I'd think not!! I think I've pointed out on other threads the approach that is most likely to work here and why. Now assuming we can trust them which seems questionable at best we might help them build up their own military capabilities. Doing so might actually help achieve a long term positive relationship with these people. This assumes we can actually trust them and they us.

As for China declining to say much about Russia's invasion of the Crimea, this is actually quite smart on their part. It really does not concern them. It shouldn't concern us either. At least its not worth a confrontation with Russia over it.

B.Poster said...

I reread your post. I think we can agree that the US has not confiscated the investments of foreigners "yet" whereas the other countries such as Russia have. This is likely extremely helpful to us in attracting foreign investment.

With that said "yet" is the key word. With the actions of the current US leadership, if I were a foreigner seeking to invest, I'd be extremely concerned about the developments here. With the centerpiece of domestic economic policy being correcting something called "inequality" this may mean that the leadership is about to confiscate the assets of one group to give to another. From where I come from, such things are called theft. I'm sure they can read the "tea leaves" on this. Hopefully we will get better leadership soon. So far the current leadership has not done any thing that cannot be fixed. The key words being "so far."

Rob said...

You have proof Iran has dirty bombs? Show me.

You also didn't address my point about the BRICS not having 'alliances involve deep and strong commitments'. Or the unlikelihood of your fear they are going to invade the US.Show me those 'reports' you claim to have seen that this is in process of being planned.

Your also not quite correct about the chips. Companies like Intel have plants here, in Puerto Rico, in Israel and in Ireland, to name just a few. Most of China's chips end up in Chinese goods.

And why exactly would you want to create more Muslim armies or give the Saudis and GCC countries the freedom to stop trading oil in dollars? I assure you, aside from selling them a few weapons, we don't intend to.Nor do they, because they lack the manpower to compete with the Shi'ites and prefer the arrangement they have now.That's why they're so pissed off at Obama.

Also, countries export for profit because they need to. Outside its eastern coastal area, China is still a 3rd world country with severe demographic problems. They can't afford to not export or to write off the huge sum they have invested here.To assume they would do so willingly is to defy logic and common sense. Why would they? They still have a country to build and a lot of elderly people to support due to the one child policy. And when has China ever fought a war that wasn't on it's borders? The answer is never.

I really feel this exchange has gotten fairly pointless, to be honest.

B.Poster said...

There have been a number of reports on world net daily regarding the possibility of Iran having dirty bombs. Also, had written about some of this as well a while back. You could be correct and I hope you are. The point is if/when we engage in military action against Iran it would behoove us and the military planners to assume Iran does have these weapons and that are already on our soil or they have the means to get them here.

As far as the BRICS invading, there was a reason listed it as the third most likely threat. The other two which you remember what they are much more likely. J R Nyqusit has done some reporting on the nature of the relations with Chin and Russia. Also, has done some reporting on the close working relationship currently enjoyed by the countries.

As far as China not fighting wars away from their borders, this has largely been true, however, a report at recently revealed that they may be itching to test themselves. Actually it's pretty smart on their part to limit themselves militarily to only things that concern them. We should probably watch and learn.

As for the chips, you may be correct. I do remember a report from world net daily awhile back that had stated that some Chinese made chips are finding their way into American military systems. Also, a report recently had stated that in order to meet time constraints in the F-35 project some Chinese made chips were being used. Don't remember where I read that. If interested, I'd suggest googleing it.

As for creating more Muslim armies, I think we are largely agreement there. As far as the "manpower" goes we hardly have it either. They'd be in a far better position there than we would be. Now if they are truly pissed at BHO, I'd suggest they do something about it. They've had little trouble manipulating US policy to their liking in the past.

I do hope you're right about the Chinese trade and debt situation. It just seems to me we need the imports more than they need to export to us.

As for this being "pointless", respectfully I think you as well policy makers are making a mistake of overestimating our capabilities and underestimating the capabilities of adversaries and potential adversaries. To be sure though America does still wield enormous influence and so far nothing has been done that cannot be fixed. The key words being "so far."

Finally, we don't really seem to be in any position to "give" the Saudis or other GCC nation the freedom to do anything. If they feel it suits them at present to trade oil in dollars, they will do so. Any attempt use coercion with them at this point on this issue would likely only backfire and hasten changes unfavorable to us.

Rob said...

If you're using World Net Daily and Nyquist as sources, it explains a lot.

There's a great deal I could tell you, especially about WND but I'd just as soon not waste the electrons. Suffice to say that you have never seen either of these people used as a source on this site,nor will you.

As I said, I largely consider this exchange to be fairly pointless, to be as polite about it as possible.


B.Poster said...

I have noticed you have not referenced those sources. While admittedly they do cut deep into conspiracy theories on occasion which would generally require much proof that does not always seem to be presented, the articles are generally well researched and well written. It would seem imprudent to dismiss them out of hand.

If we choose to ignore largely thoughtful and honorable people simply because they don't fit with our preferred world view, this would seem unwise. I'm NOT suggesting they are infallible. No one but G_d alone could ever be such a thing as infallible.

Could you be considering this a waste of time because you're being forced to admit the information I present may have some validity and to accept that it may could affect cherished ideologies in a way that is uncomfortable? You will need to decide this.

Bottom line: any military planning involving Iran will need to assume the Iranians have dirty bombs and that at least some of them have been moved to American soil. Given the lousy track record of US intelligence services, it would be unwise to trust them if they were to issue an "all clear" on Iranian dirty bombs. The nuclear arsenal will need to be upgraded and properly maintained, if it is to be a viable deterant, and strategic errors are being made when our own strengths are overestimated and those of adversaries or potential adversaries is underestimated. With that said I think we can agree that the current strategies being employed by US leadership are unworkable and cannot end well. Changes must be made. Thankfully it would seem that nothing has been done at this point that cannot be fixed.

Rob said...

Well, no one can say I haven't been both reasonably polite and patient.

The sources you mention like WND are not 'thoughtful and honorable' - they're conspiracy nut central.They've been proven wrong so often it's pathetic, and they survive because like 'Confidential' back in the 1950's and MSNBC in our own day, they've realized that some people will read an dbelieve anything.

In this thread alone, I brought up a number of statements you've made and asked for proof. You haven't been able to supply it, because it doesn't exist.I also brought up a number of arguments in terms of economics, demographics and simple common sense re: a number of the more outre' 'points' you made that you seem to have simply ignored. That's your privilege, but it does sort of detract from taking most of what you write seriously.

This exchange is a waste of time not because of whatever beliefs you find convenient - your entitled- but because it wastes my time trying to correct what amounts to egregious disinformation on your part, and the only reason I even ran these comments of yours is because you've been on the site for some time and I felt you at least deserved a hearing.

Since you wouldn't take the hint, (twice) I unfortunately have to be more direct, apparently.