Monday, July 07, 2014

Stemming the Tide

Ukraine's slowly growing military power in the east is collecting the gains of the turning point rather than creating it.

This is good news:

Ukrainian security officials said on Sunday they were in full control of the former rebel stronghold of Slaviansk after re-taking it in a victory which President Petro Poroshenko said could mark a turning point in the fight against the separatists.

Yes, it is a battlefield victory that may signify an accelerated Ukrainian offensive against the pro-Russian secessionists.

But the real turning point was the May 25 election that demonstrated the Ukrainian government had legitimacy and which seemed to prompt a Russian pull back from direct intervention to capture the eastern portions of Ukraine where the secessionists are active.

Russia is still supporting these separatists. Russia has even sent anti-aircraft missiles and heavy armor, in addition to trained men and special forces.

But Russia seems to have concluded that they'd have to invade rather than count on the subliminal invasion of special forces, outside volunteers and mercenaries, and a minority of locals to simulate a widespread revolt. And the Russians probably realize their military isn't as good as they cay it is, and that they can't hold at an acceptable price what they could no doubt take.

Yet while Russia has decided not to win, the separatists have held a lot of the ground. So the Ukrainians must win. Their capture of Slaviansk is a step on the road to defeating the separatists.

Let's also not forget that Russia may have given up for now on taking eastern Ukraine, but they've mostly gotten away with taking Crimea from Ukraine. We'll see if there is a price to pay for that or whether we go back to business as usual.