Saturday, February 07, 2015

Putin Will Talk Until His Forces Win

Given that Putin is already flouting the UN charter, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, and even a more recent ceasefire plan, by invading Ukraine, in what alternate world do we think we must test Russia's commitment to a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine War?

This is just amazing:

The leaders of France and Germany flew out of Moscow in the dead of night after five hours of talks with Vladimir Putin on Friday, with little to announce to end fighting in Ukraine beyond a promise to keep talking. ...

Afterwards, Moscow and Berlin both described a commitment to work on a "possible joint document" on restoring a collapsed peace deal signed last September in Minsk, Belarus. The document would include ideas proposed by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, who would all speak in a conference call on Sunday.

From Russia's point of view, this is perfect. Their offensive continues and Putin can continue talking until his forces take the ground he wants:

Pro-Russian separatists have intensified shelling of government forces on all front lines and appear to be amassing forces for new offensives on the key railway town of Debaltseve and the coastal city of Mariupol, Ukraine's military said on Saturday.

Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 26 wounded in fighting in the past 24 hours, spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy told a briefing.

Separatist gains against Kiev government forces in eastern Ukraine, particularly a rebel advance on Debaltseve to the northeast of the regional center of Donetsk, have given impetus to a Franco-German initiative to try and strike an 11th hour deal with Russia to end the Ukrainian crisis.

Come on, people! A diplomatic deal isn't required to end the offensive--the end of a victorious offensive is required to get a deal that ratifies Ukraine's defeat and Russia's victory.

Yet Western leaders continue with their delusion that this time Lucy won't snatch the football away Putin will settle the dispute short of battlefield victory and "restore" the September Minsk ceasefire!

Why not restore the Budapest Memorandum, by which the Russians pledged to defend Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty in exchange for Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons?

Why not restore the UN charter that prohibits war of aggression?

Yet despite Russia's continuing aggression, we still refrain from helping Ukraine defend itself:

The top NATO commander warned Thursday that any move to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons must take into account any possible angry reaction from Russia.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said that any action the U.S. or other Western nations take "could trigger a more strident reaction from Russia."

Russia could get more strident? What are we worried about? That they'll invade a country?

Look, I wouldn't go to war over Ukraine. They aren't a member of NATO or a formal ally. We should not--as a general rule--grant the benefits of alliance with us without requiring the membership dues, eh?

But we can and should provide Ukraine with the means to fight for their sovereignty and territorial integrity as we promised in 1994.

Yet forget the nonsense that military assistance is pointless:

"The problem is that I can't envision any situation in which a better-equipped Ukraine military would convince President Putin that he could lose militarily," Merkel added.

The problem is that Putin is able to carry out aggression at a price he is willing to pay. If we increase Ukraine's ability to fight, we may increase the price Putin must pay to win the war beyond the ceiling he is able to pay.

That is the logic of Western sanctions, after all. Not that we can crush Russia's economy but that we can increase the level of pain enough to stop him. The same goes for the actual war.

I grant that we must be careful not to escalate this into a NATO-Russia war. But at some point, given that Russia is the aggressor, shouldn't they be the ones who worry about triggering a more strident reaction from us?

Shouldn't Breedlove have said:

Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Putin is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Putin is going to do.

We're the side trying to uphold international law and denuclearization here, after all. Why should we be the more cautious side?

Putin's interest in diplomacy is narrowly focused on achieving and confirming his conquests. Why do we play that game?

UPDATE: Russian troops are dying and being captured inside Ukraine:

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko Saturday brandished in front of world leaders several passports taken from Russian soldiers in what he said was proof of Moscow's "presence" in his country.

Yet this isn't called an invasion? Shouldn't we be forcing Russia to repeatedly veto UN Security Council resolutions branding them as the aggressor?

And for those searching for rational actor models of Russian actions, check out what passes for rational to Russians:

Westerners in Russia, especially those who speak and read Russian, report that state controlled Russian media has seemingly reverted to stories and attitudes right out of the Cold War. It is, in short, unreal but actually happening. Russian media is full of stories of NATO aggression against Russia and anything that is going wrong in Russia is blamed on a NATO conspiracy to destroy Russia. The Russian aggression in Ukraine is described as largely a fable created by a NATO conspiracy to take over the Ukrainian government and institute a terror campaign against the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine. There, the Russian media described ethnic Russians leading a rebellion against this NATO puppet government running Ukraine and NATO soldiers pretending to be Ukrainians doing most of the fighting. No captured NATO agents are presented which Russian media describes as proof of how clever and dangerous this NATO aggression is.

Our information warfare really needs to highlight the Russian troops dying in Ukraine so Russians will have to confront the widening gap between what their government tells them and what is happening.