Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hold the Swagger

In 2014 I did not assume Ukraine was doomed in a conflict with Russia. The conventional wisdom did assume that.


Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is now entering its fourth year, but there was a time when few expected it to last even four weeks.

The virtually bloodless seizure of Crimea, which fell to Russian troops in early 2014 without a fight, led most observers to conclude that Ukraine was effectively defenseless and at Moscow’s mercy.

This was the consensus view in Moscow, where many of the bolder voices began speaking of celebrating the traditional May holidays in Kiev itself. Such swagger seemed perfectly reasonable; Ukraine was still reeling from months of anti-government protests that had spread chaos across the country before culminating in the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his entire administration.

Before the war, I assumed Ukraine could resist--and had counter-offensive options if their military wasn't shot (yet it was from years of neglect and corruption and the immediate confusion of the change in government)--and that Russia would face problems in taking much Ukraine. I assumed Russian operations would be limited to taking a chunk of the east and Crimea.

And I called the Russian on their failure to quickly move into the Donbas region as they did in Crimea which gave Ukraine time to scrape together defenses in the east.

Even in mid-March I thought that Ukraine could resist in Crimea.

Also, in bonus territory, before the invasion I called any Russian operation to grab Crimea an opening to expand their role in the eastern Mediterranean region:

Pushing Russia away from the Black Sea--should Russia lose their bases in Crimea if Ukraine doesn't want them there any more--in the long run makes Russian operations in the Mediterranean much more difficult. That would make their help for Syria a bit more difficult and deprive Russia of some leverage in Egypt.

Russia is now directly fighting in Syria, updating their air and naval bases there; making plays for influence in Libya, Turkey, and Egypt; and sent their carrier on a photo op mission to Syrian waters.

I write this post not to claim prescience--I've certainly gotten things wrong.

But I do want to remind readers that I give you my analysis of events rather than just running with the herd.

I'm not willing to call this a Russian "quagmire," as the article says--absolving the West of doing anything--unless the West helps Ukraine send body bags back to Russia in larger numbers and gets the fight going inside Russian-occupied Ukraine rather than on the line of contact that only seems to work against Ukraine.

And about that hybrid war hype ...