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The Battle for Ukraine
The Smell of Fear

Do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of European knees knocking against each other in fear of Russia’s response to the revolution in Ukraine:

EU officials said they were becoming increasingly concerned about how Russia would react and were dialing back on some of their more aggressive diplomatic and financial efforts.

The European Commission, for example, said on Monday that it would await a “legitimate government” to be produced after May’s elections before reviving talks over its integration treaty with Kiev.

As WRM noted on Saturday,

Putin at this point does not seem to have much respect for his counterparts in either Washington or Brussels. He believes he is up against dithering wimps who profess high ideals but are deeply risk averse.

If Putin was having any doubts on that count, they’re surely dispelled by now.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I think the Ukrainian Military which refused to fire on Ukrainian civilians, wouldn’t have any problem fighting an invading Russian army. In fact the Ukrainian military has seen the Russian military as their most likely opponent since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is likely that the Russian high command (Stavka) already knows and has told Putin that the Russian military isn’t up to the challenge of fighting the Ukraine. The Europeans are afraid of their own shadows, if they really are worried about a Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

    • Tom

      Ukraine’s military, from my understanding, is like a smaller version of Russia’s forces–Cold War-era equipment and poor overall troop quality, with some elite units.
      With EU backing, the Ukrainians would probably win, but it would be a fight.

      • f1b0nacc1

        The Ukrainian military is, if this is possible, a bigger mess than the Russian one. Their hardware is grossly obsolete, ill-maintained, and inferior to begin with. Their soldiers are largely unmotivated conscripts with very poor training, and (as is mentioned below) their officer corps (aside from being corrupt and ineffective) is largely pro-Russian. If the Russians want to seize the southeast Ukraine (likely as part of supporting a separatist movement, similar to what they did to Georgia a while back), they won’t have much trouble doing it.
        As for the EU, their combined militaries (non-nuclear) might provide an entertaining weekend’s training exercise, but little more. Remember that the EU would have to get their troops to the Ukraine, and that Other than some truly impressive special forces, none of these countries could win a stand up fight with much of our national guard, much less regulars. The EU militaries are jobs programs with some extra ammo supplies, and as bad as the Russian military is, they are certainly more capable than what the EU could field.

        • Tom

          The Poles are rather effective, from what I understand, and the Balts are no slouches either.
          I’m not sure if I disagree with you about most of the rest, though.
          However, the Russian military, by all accounts, has managed to combine the worst of the Tsarist and Communist eras without the virtues.
          I’m not entirely sure about their capabilities.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The Poles have some excellent special forces, and in a few years when they have finished upgrading their hardware and processed some decent recruits through their new(er) training programs, they should be acceptable. The Balts are effective at crowd control, and they might make an invader think twice, but the Russians have little to fear from them and they (the Russians) know it.
            The Russian military is awful, and I am not suggesting that they represent much more than a moderately well-armed mob. With that said, they are right there (i.e. their troops are based where they need to be), they have no logistics issues supporting an invasion, and if you presume that they concentrate their reliable troops all in one place, they would pretty easily roll over the Ukrainians.

    • Scott Locklin

      I’m pretty sure the Ukrainian officer corps is a lot more pro-Russia than Yanukovych was.

  • lord acton

    This seems appropriate. “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

    -Winston Churchill.

    • Thirdsyphon

      A wise and even prescient observation, at the time it was made. . . but it’s not always 1938, and not every foreign controversy is a replay of Munich.
      And it is equally possible (see, e.g., the Vietnam War) for leaders to choose war over national dishonor, only to needlessly end up afflicting their nation with both.

      • Fat_Man

        Go back and learn what really happened in Vietnam.

        • Thirdsyphon

          “What really happened” is that 58,286 Americans were killed in action; 153,303 Americans were wounded in action; and 1,643 Americans are missing in action to this day. Among our allies, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam lost upwards of 175,000 soldiers; South Korea lost 5,099; Australia lost 426; and Thailand lost 351.

          By most estimates, somewhere north of 500,000 combatants in the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong were killed in the war.
          We lost.
          Both during and after the war, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians lost their lives as well, a result of both the conflict and the subsequent atrocities committed by the victors in its wake.
          Is there some aspect of this unmitigated disaster and stain on our national honor that I’m missing?

        • f1b0nacc1

          Don’t bother trying to teach this one…he has made up his mind and isn’t interested in discovering more

      • lord acton

        True enough. But nor is every conflict Vietnam redux. Nor Iraq. Pundits no less than generals always see every conflict through the lens of the most recent wars. The situation in the Ukraine is perhaps more similar to the English Civil Wars than it is to Vietnam: country divided by religion, a popular movement trying to win their freedom from a corrupt oligarchy, major outside powers lurking over the horizon.

        Weakness often invites the war that it is trying desperately to avoid. Just saying.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    The Russian tanks will roll soon. Why wouldn’t they? Putin knows he has nothing to fear from Obama or the EU.

    Ever since the war in Vietnam liberals have believed that the main problem in the world is American belligerence. At last they have a president who agrees with them. This is what the world looks like (Syria, The China Sea, Ukraine) without American leadership. And to make sure no future president tries to reverse this decline Obama is also busy dismantling our armed forces.

  • Thirdsyphon

    Putin isn’t “up against” the EU or the US in Kiev. He’s facing a mass protest movement of such utter fearlesness that they make the Arab Spring protects look like tea parties.
    With regard to his actual adversaries in Maidan Square, descriptions like “[D]ithering wimps who profess high ideals but are deeply risk averse” are seldom if ever accurately applied to groups of people that *construct working trebuchets*, fling Molotov cocktails at tanks, and respond to live rifle fire by *charging into it unarmed, protected only by metal riot shields confiscated from the police*. (Oh, and by coming back the following day strapped with the rifles that had formerly belonged to the cops who were shooting at them).
    This isn’t Occupy Wall Street; these protesters are people who are willing to force the authorities to either murder them or step out of their way. . . and to respond in kind if the authorities opt for the first path.
    To those commenters who have dismissed the likelihood of “peasant uprisings” being successful, I would simply suggest that there are uprisings and then there are uprisings. . . and the kind of uprising we’re seeing in Kiev is the kind that tends to be successful.

  • qet

    “. . .dithering wimps who profess high ideals but are deeply risk averse.”

    Isn’t this an exact description of the same US electorate who twice elected this Administration? Can we really expect our leaders to act differently? As for Ukraine–the Maidan may have won the battle but they have yet to win the war. If the various elements that combined into the recent Popular Front fall out with each other now that Yanukovych has fled and are unable to form a stable government, Putin may yet have his opportunity. Is it obvious at the moment with whom the West ought to be cutting deals in the new order?

  • crocodilechuck
  • Kavanna

    It’s funny, because the EU’s boldness last week sent Putin scurrying. The Europeans still don’t get it, apparently, even when the evidence is right in front of them.

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