Monday, August 04, 2014

A Bear in the Corner of a Dark Room

At first flush, I was and still am quite happy and encouraged to see the developments in eastern Ukraine;
Fighting raged Sunday on the western outskirts of Donetsk as the advancing Ukrainian army tried to seize control of the rebel stronghold. In danger of being encircled, the separatists renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid.
Fighting also has been heavy around Luhansk, the second-largest city still held by the rebels. City officials said Sunday in a statement that three civilians had been killed during the past day.
Delicate, and a strange kind of very modern civil conflict, there is this one thing to give all pause;
If he is unable to win such a compromise and the Ukrainian army continues to take back rebel-held cities and towns, Putin may come under increased pressure to intervene militarily.

Many Donetsk residents have counted on help from Russia.

"What is Putin waiting for? He inspired us to fight," said Ilya Sumyatin, a 38-year-old separatist fighter. "We had hoped for help from Russia, but we have been abandoned. Our strength is nearing an end and the Ukrainian army is advancing."
There's the rub.

Over at RealClearPolitics, Cathy Young does a very good job outlining where Putin has found himself - mostly from his own doing;
Instead of a thunderous Novorossiya blitzkrieg greeted by the jubilation of women, he got the quagmire of a long, bloody fratricidal war—one, moreover, that looks more and more obviously lost. Add to that the albatross of three hundred foreign dead bodies around his neck.

Right now, Putin has several choices:

(1) Ditch the insurgents, seek compromise, and risk losing face in front of the Russian public whose nationalist fervor he has whipped up: from world-defying Protector of Russians Everywhere to craven sellout on bended knee before the West. (What’s more, the betrayed insurgents could come back to foment nationalist unrest within Russia.)

(2) Openly invade Eastern Ukraine on a “peacekeeping” mission—a scenario rife with obvious potential for disaster.

(3) Continue unofficially aiding the “Donetsk Republic” with manpower, firepower and other support, creating a long-term “frozen conflict” in Eastern Ukraine. While this would not be as disastrous as open war, it would still risk even stronger international backlash, including more sanctions that could severely hurt not only Russia’s economy but the personal fortunes of Putin and his crony capitalists. It could also become a non-option if the Ukrainian army manages to rout the insurgency.
There are your three Courses of Action (COA).

Though it is close between #3 and #1, I think Red Most Likely is COA-3. I don't think that by nature or desire, Putin can take COA-1. He simply would not survive it well. Most Dangerous is COA-2.

None of the three are any good for Putin or Russia. I think that Putin really thought he could get this on the cheap and is waiting for luck to turn his way.

Well, you can't count on luck all the time.

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