Russia: At the End Position

March 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Consider this: Russia has invaded Ukraine, illegally annexed Crimea and currently prosecute a non-declared quasi-proxy war in eastern Ukraine. This is indisputable, although Russia and its defendants claim that a bona-fide rebellion is taking place in Donbass as response to a supposedly US-led coup, a “rebellion” that Russia has no hand in. Yeah, right.

The opposing camps fight over interpretation and right of way, well dug in along a clearly defined semantic frontline. We need not tarry here, other than to determine that the divide exists and that nations, people and media cannot remain noncommittal but must perforce elect to dodge the factual bayonet to either side of the blade lest they be speared by it. Russia’s war against Ukraine forces us to make a stand, and to decide where we belong: with democracy and rule of law, or with autocracy and lawlessness.

But I digress. Russia has invaded and is invading Ukraine. Russia is bent on a systematic strategy of destabilization, supposedly aimed at rupturing the European Union and the Transatlantic bond, wherein Ukraine is but one of many subsequent battlefields. Interpretation of Russia’s strategy differ: some say that this is merely Kremlin using external enemies to consolidate and defend its domestic interests. Others point to a wider strategy that challenges the established world order. Most agree that Russia is attempting to recreate a Soviet style Cold War buffer zone of puppet states and cowed neighbours, as if that would justify Russia’s ambition and aggression. It patently does not.

What tools, what buttons and levers are at Kremlin’s disposal to accomplish said strategy, whichever it might be?

  • Invasion, check.
  • Sabotage and subversion, check.
  • Diplomatic and economic pressure, check.
  • Infiltration of media, government, institutions and non-governmental organizations, check.
  • Nuclear threats, check.
  • Overwhelming military demonstration, check.
  • Propaganda, yeah, that’s a given.

This is where it gets interesting. Russia has employed the entire toolbox in its bid to destabilize and disrupt Ukraine and the West. To what effect? Ukraine is more united than ever before in its history and is gradually, through combat experience and international aid, becoming more resilient to overt pressure. Sweden and Finland has nudged closer to NATO than ever before, and have, belatedly, awoken to the painful fact that you must have an army of your own lest you have someone else’s as ”protection”. Germany is slowly re-discovering that NATO is in fact a good thing, and Poland and the Baltic States are arming themselves as quickly as they possibly can. The formerly soft neighbours are growing a hard shell. Concurrently, Russia is haemorrhaging and losing precious time in and over Ukraine.

Russian economic pressure – its use of the gas weapon and denial of Russia as a Western marketplace – is being offset by alternate vendors and alternate sources: Europe is working hard to wean itself from Russian gas. In trade terms Russia never was much of a marketplace for anything but European luxury goods (and limited staple products): the loss is bearable and profit can be recouped elsewhere. Africa is but one continent that may pick up the slack left by the Russian embargo.

Russian propaganda is crude and ineffective: verily, it is primarily turned inwards to justify self-inflicted domestic hardship. The Western population is more interested in the latest Euroschlager or soccer game than strange noise about Jewish neonazi conspiration and the Bilderberg group. However overtly impotent, Russian propaganda is more effective in the low frequency band: through the use of long-conditioned journalists and editors, through publications and campaigns emanating from ”think tanks” and curiously subsidized NGO’s, through advocates and spokesmen for a subtly pro-Russian agenda. This long-term propaganda effort is very much harder to spot and combat, as any revelation of it is actively countered by appeasers, pro-Russian representatives and infiltrators of the Western media collective.

Nuclear threats, subtle and direct, is the last resort. Whenever Russia starts jangling its nuclear pocket you can be certain of one thing: all its other measures have failed.

Russia is at the end of its tether. It has come to a natural end point where its traditional means of power and destabilization is without (immediate) effect. More damningly, its ambassadors and representatives are being publicly ridiculed and laughed out of court in contexts where previously the world might listen and cringe. Russia’s most overt means hardly even merit mention in media where previously they would garner fat black war headlines. This is disturbing, because it is witness to how few options Russia has left.

In my view there is but one item left in the armory, and that is actual use of nuclear arms. I my two previous posts I opine that Russia is hard pressed to conclude its Ukrainian venture and wholly incapable of prosecuting war in more than one direction other than Ukraine. To go further Russia must drop the pretense of deniability and non-involvement and become fully committed to war, at an accompanying risk of being shut out from SWIFT as well as directly opposed by NATO. The alternative is to remain mired in the murky deniability zone and accept a slow, wasteful and largely unproductive process wherein Ukraine grows stronger and Russia weaker.

Thus, to escape the time-wasting swamp and hasten toward its strategic objective, Russia must employ yet more powerful means. It may well attempt extreme frightfulness – though this has proven counterproductive already, such as seen by the MH17 disaster – and yet more intimidation, though this too has proven largely unproductive: viz the recent ”snap inspection” and half-hearted attempts at starting up ”People’s Republics” in the Baltic States. These measures are brushed aside or, by the great majority, ignored.

Does this imply that Russia is likely to unleash nuclear war? No. However, when push comes to shove I would not be overly surprised if Russia, herself or via proxy, were to lob a nuclear artillery shell at, say, Krasnoarmiis’k, or let loose a dirty bomb in Kyiv. This would stun and cow as nothing else, and ratchet up the game to a very, very frightening level. Let us hope that Russia is not quite that crazy.

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