Limited War Is Back

From – http://nationalinterest.org/feature/limited-war-back-11128

ME: This is a very interesting article! Recommended reading!

NATO’s current strategic framework might fail to deter further gains by Russia’s green men.

EUROPE NEEDS to rearm and defend itself to cope with a new military threat. The American security umbrella—in both its conventional and nuclear forms—is no longer adequate, particularly on NATO’s vulnerable eastern flanks. Indeed, the extended deterrent provided by the United States to its most exposed allies may not be well suited to inhibiting attacks similar to Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine, which displayed all the hallmarks of the newly popular limited conventional wars—brief and decisive, violent and yet very restrained. The purpose of such conflicts is to achieve a quick fait accompli in a geographically circumscribed area through limited force—in this case, paramilitary means followed by Russian regular forces. It is difficult to deter such a threat through the promise of retaliation, which by its very nature must occur after the facts on the ground have already been changed. A threat of retaliation is simply less credible when the enemy has achieved his objective through a low-intensity action. What are needed instead are strong local military capabilities—a preclusive defense—that increase the costs of that limited attack. Europe must start to defend its border rather than indulge in the belief that the traditional formula for deterrence, based on retaliation and the extended deterrent provided by the United States, will suffice. It won’t.

WHEREAS LIMITED warfare went out of fashion in the West after Vietnam, Russia regards it as a central part of its military doctrine. It has practiced it in Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and presumably rehearses it elsewhere. It is therefore imperative to study anew the challenges presented by such a form of sanguinary behavior. “Limited wars” have several distinctive features. First, they are characterized by self-imposed restraint in the political objective sought and the level of force used. The aggressor could escalate the confrontation, but chooses not to. The purpose of limiting the use of force is to avoid some reaction that would undermine the political objective sought in the conventional assault. In the case of today’s Russia, the purpose is to extend influence and control westward without eliciting a strong response from NATO and the United States. Moscow recognizes the clear military superiority of its main rivals and consequently desires to avoid a pitched confrontation that it would lose. Hence, its use of force is calibrated to be sufficient to conquer pieces of Ukraine but not so large and violent that it would prompt a unified political, economic and military reaction from the West.

Russia is as clear regarding what it wants to avoid as it is concerning what it wants to achieve. Moscow’s objectives are limited: a small and quick territorial grab rather than a massive invasion (at least for now). There is no drive to the capital (Kiev, in this instance) or attempt at full conquest but instead a speedy push inside the neighboring state followed by a sudden, self-imposed stop. It is a “jab and pause” style of war fighting meant to achieve a swift and limited fait accompli. A rapid conquest of Crimea or parts of eastern Ukraine is followed by a pause and apparent openness to seek a mutually acceptable negotiated settlement. But the limited objective has already been achieved, and the quick suspension of violence is a sign of the satisfaction of the original goal.

A limited war is also characterized by limited means. The aggressor state carefully tailors its methods to the goal it wants to achieve—and the reaction it wants to avoid. Minimal violence is employed. The potential for escalation is made clear but held in reserve. In the case of the Crimean invasion, the Russian operation started anonymously with unmarked troops (dubbed “little green men” by Ukrainians), an indication that Moscow was uncertain about how local Ukrainian forces would react. In the event of determined opposition, Russia maintained the option of either escalating with larger forces or, should Western powers come to Ukraine’s aid militarily, halting the operations of the unmarked troops.

The aggressor, in fact, constantly has to weigh the value of the limited objective against the risk of the rivals’ response. The higher the value of the objective, the more risk it is willing to accept. In Ukraine, it is plausible that Moscow’s desire to avoid a military clash with NATO members (including in the form of Western-armed and -trained Ukrainian forces) is greater than its desire to occupy Crimea. Russian military might is impressive when compared to that of its neighbors, but Moscow cannot sustain a prolonged conflict with Western-supported forces and certainly cannot do so against NATO member states. But the risk of a Western military response was and remains negligible, and Russia achieved its objective in Crimea with ease.

TWO MAIN challenges present themselves when crafting a response to a limited war waged by a rival. First, it is politically difficult to answer a restrained military attack. As the Crimea case illustrates, Western policy makers face significant hurdles when attempting to mobilize public opinion in support of a stiff diplomatic—much less military—response to low-scale aggression. Moreover, the tentative nature and high speed of the initial attack complicate the formation of a responding coalition, whose potential members are naturally divided as to the most appropriate answer to that limited push. The sign of a successful limited war is the absence of a strong concerted response, the reaction that the attack wanted to avoid in the first place. Russia’s self-imposed restraint in Crimea gave Moscow the advantage it sought.

The second difficulty is that when faced with a limited attack, the targeted country cannot trade space for time. The objective pursued by the attacking party is limited, most often geographically. The conquest of a small, carefully delimited piece of real estate is the goal of the aggressor, and if the defending country abandons that territory in the hope of buying time to develop a response, it ipso facto allows the enemy to achieve its objective. Consequently, defense in depth—the practice of initially yielding territory and then counterattacking—is useless in such a case. Russia does not appear interested in conducting a military conquest of Ukraine in its entirety, and seems for now to be satisfied with only Crimea and perhaps parts of eastern Ukraine, if it can hold them. In this scenario, defense in depth would simply give the aggressor what he wants, one bite at a time, as the Ukrainians quickly discovered. Whatever the reasoning behind Kiev’s initial decision not to defend its outer territories, this approach allowed Moscow to achieve its early objectives virtually cost-free—a hard lesson that prompted Kiev to switch tactics and transfer forces eastward.

These difficulties indicate that the sine qua non of a successful response to an offensive strategy based on limited war is the fielding of effective local forces capable of withstanding the initial attack. There is no alternative to local defense organized by the targeted country. Of course, it is unlikely that a country much weaker than the attacking power, as in the case of Ukraine or any other neighboring country to Russia, can defend itself alone. Local defenses only serve as a complement to—not a replacement for—extended deterrence. Without local defensive capabilities, extended deterrence is fragile, in particular in a limited offensive war; without an extended deterrent, local defense by small states facing more powerful neighbors is sacrificial.

Shifting the strategic emphasis to local defense achieves three things. First, it increases the costs of military aggression: the more difficult it is for the revisionist state to achieve the political objective sought by the limited-war format, the more force the aggressor will have to employ and the higher the risk of a stronger response by external forces. This defeats the very purpose of limited war—low-cost, low-risk revision—from the outset. The role of local defense is to force the aggressor to escalate the level of violence, which adds both military and political costs.

Second, in the event that the aggressor does attack, an effective local defense buys time for the target state, increasing the likelihood that external reinforcements will arrive before the offensive has succeeded. In a limited-war scenario, space cannot be traded for time, but time can be bought by local defensive actions. The longer it takes for the aggressor to achieve its limited territorial objectives, the greater the opportunity for external military aid to buttress the targeted country.

Third, local defensive forces permit the conflict to remain limited, an outcome that is in the interest of all parties. As William Kaufmann wrote in 1956, “To the extent, therefore, that a conflict starts with local forces clashing over local issues, to that extent will the chances of limiting it be improved.” This, paradoxically, increases the likelihood of external support for the targeted party. The security patron of a targeted small country has no interest in, and very little ability to generate domestic support for, a large-scale conflict in defense of a distant ally. If the extended deterrent is predicated on a massive military response, it is less credible in the event of a limited attack.

This is why Europeans—especially those on the eastern frontier facing a revisionist Russia—need to take their own defense seriously. The extended deterrence provided by the United States will not suffice to prevent a limited-war scenario, even in the case of a NATO member. It is plausible, in fact, to imagine a repeat of the Crimea grab in one of the Baltic states: a lighting strike with minuscule territorial objectives pursued with limited conventional means, followed by an abrupt stop to the offensive. The larger goal of such a strike, like in the Crimean case, would be to prove that the international arrangements underwriting the targeted country’s security are a house of cards. The political shadow of influence that would follow such a demonstration of power would be preferable to an outright conquest for many reasons.

The forward positioning of U.S. troops is useful for shoring up the effectiveness of American extended deterrence in the region and should be done immediately. But that step alone will not deter Russia. The deterrent aspect of this forward posture is that it puts U.S. assets and manpower in a vulnerable position—creating a so-called tripwire—thus showing commitment and creating the incentive to defend the allied country. The loss of American soldiers to an initial attack by the enemy would, so the argument goes, create powerful pressures for Washington to respond. As French general Ferdinand Foch reportedly said when asked before World War I how many British troops would be needed for the security of France, “Give me one, and I will make sure he gets killed on the first day of the war.” Or, as Thomas Schelling put it in more recent times, the purpose of placing thousands of American troops on our allies’ territory is so that “bluntly, they can die.” But what if they do not die? What if they’re never even involved because the attack is so limited—a “jab and pause” like that in Crimea—that it does not come near American forces? If the aggressor establishes a quick fait accompli, then the U.S. forces would have to be used not to defend an ally’s territory, but rather to attack an enemy that has already achieved its territorial goal and, in all likelihood, has ceased military operations. As Henry Kissinger put it, “Once the aggressor is in possession of his prize . . . the psychological burden shifts in his favor. The defender must now assume the risk of the first move. The aggressor can confine himself to outwaiting his opponent.”

THERE IS no substitute for local forces that possess the ability to protect their own borders, even if it means merely increasing the costs of aggression without hope of winning the conflict unaided. But this will require a change from NATO’s current approach to defense. As implied above, it will mean a conscious move away from the exclusive emphasis on extended deterrence that has dominated alliance strategy for decades. This approach made sense when the threat facing NATO was above the threshold of formal war, and in the immediate post–Cold War period, when the threat was negligible. But in today’s landscape, given the weak state of defenses along NATO’s eastern borders, overreliance on extended deterrence would confront NATO with the same problem now facing Ukraine, but on a wider scale. Without the ability to defend against a limited attack in its initial stages, NATO would be forced to rely on defense-in-depth techniques that would trade space for time. This is the concern that many Central and Eastern European states have—that they would have to absorb the loss of territory while awaiting relief forces that, for political or military reasons, might never come. In a best-case scenario, such an event would render an alliance in NATO’s divided political state a dead letter. In a worst-case scenario, it would turn frontline NATO members like Poland and the Baltic states into a war zone. And it also may simply let Russia achieve its limited territorial objectives, but with powerful political aftereffects. Russia does not want to march through the Fulda Gap; it simply wants to test and, if attainable at low risk, to tear down the U.S.-built and -supported European security system.

NATO needs a different defense strategy—one that retains the best features of American military protection against unlimited war but also places greater importance on ensuring the ability of frontline states to defend themselves during the critical, early phases of a Russian limited-war attack. Without abandoning extended deterrence based on retaliation, this strategy would shift the emphasis to deterrence based on preclusive defense. While similar in the sense that both seek to prevent war by changing the strategic calculation of aggression, retaliation and preclusion are different in important ways. Where the former discourages aggressive behavior by instilling fear of retaliation, the latter discourages it by removing or reducing the gain that the opponent would have achieved from aggression. Using the analogy of a schoolyard bully, deterrence is the fear of a teacher’s paddle; preclusion is equipping the weaker students with sets of brass knuckles. Preclusion works not because the opponent thinks it will lose a conflict outright—the Russians can still overcome individual frontline NATO states no matter how much they bulk up their forces—but instead because it will take more time and effort to win than the object is worth. Preclusion reinforces the effectiveness of American extended deterrence because it signals to the attacker that the target can survive long enough for the resources of its larger patron to be brought into play.

The point of the Russian “jab and pause” strategy is to make NATO’s members choose between the unsavory options of responding militarily to an already-achieved land grab (risking escalating the overall conflict) and inaction (and the resulting political self-nullification). Preclusive defense evens the odds by forcing Russia to choose between the defeat or stalling of its limited “jab,” and the adoption of a higher threshold of military violence that it is unlikely to be able to sustain. Either way, it redefines the contest in ways that allow NATO’s advantages to come into play and exposes Russian disadvantages. It prevents Russia from being able to achieve the all-important psychological advantage of the strategic-offense-cum-tactical-defense that it has used in Ukraine—the “draw[ing] of an opponent into an ‘unbalanced’ advance” that the military strategist Basil Liddell Hart identified as the most crucial determinant of success in warfare.

For preclusive defense to work, Europeans will have to get serious about defending themselves. In particular, the frontline states of Central and Eastern Europe will have to develop a capacity—and mind-set—for self-defense that they currently do not possess. One recent study by the Center for European Policy Analysis found that Russian military power outstrips the defenses of Central and Eastern European states in all dimensions by a wide margin—in land power by a factor of three to one, in airpower by four to one and in overall defense spending by ten to one. One positive side effect of the Ukraine crisis has been to increase the willingness of these states to invest in their own defense. As the recent behavior of America’s East Asian allies has shown, the return of traditional geopolitical competition has a way of awakening strategic seriousness—and reducing free riding on the United States—among vulnerable states. There are already some signs of this trend in NATO, as European defense establishments appear to be shifting emphasis to territorial defense. Poland and Estonia are already relatively big military spenders; in the period since the invasion of Ukraine, neighboring states Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Romania have all implemented or promised significant increases, and other regional allies are considering similar options.

As the behavior of some U.S. allies during the Cold War (and in Central Europe today) has shown, it is not a foregone conclusion that all frontline states’ free riding will decrease or that local defense will become a priority on its own—even within the context of a growing threat of limited war on or near their territory. These changes are particularly unlikely if Russia maintains its low-intensity approach to the Ukraine conflict, staggers the pace of territorial acquisition in other parts of the post-Soviet space, and continues its subversive campaign inside Central and Eastern European political systems.

IF EUROPEAN states are to respond to Russia’s reintroduction of limited war by embracing the concept of local defense individually, much less adopting a preclusive-defense strategy as an alliance, they will need strong encouragement from the United States. While Washington cannot force NATO to respond to the new environment, there are things it can do to make this adaptation more likely.

To begin with, America should provide a clearer statement of its own strategy that places its requests for its allies to do more in local defense within the context of U.S. intentions and resources. At present, the widespread perception is that America is simply making it up as it goes along, trying to hold together the U.S.-led global system on an ad hoc basis with the same tools that it used in the past, except with occasional adjustments in geographic emphasis. The flat-footedness of the U.S. response to the invasion of Crimea, after years of asserting the strategic imperative of shifting attention to Asia, only deepened this impression. In such a context, and amid cuts into the muscle tissue of America’s own capabilities, requesting allies to spend more looks dangerously close to outsourcing responsibility for problems we ourselves cannot afford (and do not wish) to confront. Such an approach creates the opposite of incentives for local defense—it fuels a suspicion that “America is leaving” and that, rather than risking a hopeless defense on their own, vulnerable states would be better off avoiding actions that might antagonize the nearby aggressor (Russia). The perception of American disengagement, and thus of a weaker extended deterrent, will not stimulate exposed allies to engage in more serious efforts at local defense.

These impressions and tendencies can ultimately only be countered by having and implementing a workable strategy. NATO’s Strategic Concept has ceased to carry the credibility for playing such a role. Washington can begin to address this problem by producing an umbrella concept that outlines the seriousness of new threats like limited war, states its resolve for countering them, and explains how U.S. and allied capabilities could plausibly be employed in tandem to ensure continued stability. Allies need to understand, in unambiguous terms, that while we may be cutting back, we also have a strategy for reshaping the U.S. military at a doctrinal and technological level that sustains stability in their region. It needs to be clear to them that the success of this strategy requires local defense on their part. An implicit bargain would include U.S. investments in upper-tier capabilities like naval, air and nuclear assets paired with local investments in conventional land power sufficiently robust to create local “no-go” zones until U.S. forces arrive. Such a bargain would need to be buttressed by the physical presence of American assets and manpower—small garrisons at the frontier to show U.S. commitment and make the use of its more mobile and lethal power credible.

Most importantly, the United States needs to figure out how to create the right incentives for allies to invest in local defense. It is one thing to tell states to do more for their own defense, as recent U.S. secretaries of defense have done again and again, and another to give them real incentives to create robust indigenous militaries and avoid free riding. It’s not enough for states to be exposed to a threat, as advocates of “offshore balancing” have long argued; they must also know that they have a reasonable chance of success in pursuing the option of resistance. If NATO is going to persist in its current split into two tiers of the serious and the unserious, we might as well stack the incentives to make the former behavior profitable—and be explicit about it. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty should remain the life insurance of a NATO country’s security relationship with the United States—a safety net in the event of a catastrophic, full-scale assault on a member of the alliance. But, as we observed, Article 5, and the American extended deterrent that underpins it, is less credible and effective when dealing with a quick and limited incursion. Hence, the United States should devise a “matching” strategy—a kind of geopolitical 401(k): for those allies that spend a certain amount on local defense, we will “match” their efforts in the form of commitments or agreements over and above our commitment to extended deterrence under Article 5. This could be broadened at an alliance level, if member politics allow, to create a new clause in which the alliance’s four largest economies agree to match the defense contributions of its four most geopolitically exposed members (e.g., Poland and the Baltic states) on some basis, whether through defense subsidies, technology sharing, access to sensitive weapons or troop contributions.

The “matching” approach increases the risk for those states that decide not to shore up their defenses. But, unlike a U.S. retrenchment that abandons allies to a more dangerous scenario, it also establishes clear rewards for those who decide to contribute in a meaningful way to their own security. An increased risk alone may tilt some frontier states toward the revisionist neighbor, Russia; the possibility of a reward restores the balance and gives a clear alternative to the local leaders. Further steps could include the offer of rebated surplus U.S. military equipment (artillery, tanks and fighters) to eastern NATO members, the creation of light frontier forces to give the Baltic states time to mobilize in the event of a crisis, and—over time—the creation of Swiss-style self-defense doctrines among exposed allies that would deter Russian aggression by driving up the costs of conflict at the local level.

Ultimately, the war in Ukraine demonstrates that NATO must find an effective way to deal with the revived threat of limited war. The West faces similar tactics from China in the South China Sea. Whatever form it takes, the key is to shift the focus from extended deterrence as a solution to all the alliance’s security needs to a preclusive-defense mind-set that raises the costs of limited war, mainly by incentivizing increased investments in local defense. Such an approach would prioritize the strategic resilience and survivability of NATO’s frontline states as the ultimate determinant of the alliance’s survival. It would explicitly seek to alleviate these states’ reemerging security dilemmas by both their own and other members’ contributions in the full spirit of the North Atlantic Treaty while shifting intra-NATO requirements to match a profoundly altered threat landscape. Doing so would help to support the creation of a new defense posture that, while difficult to imagine in its details now, is indispensable for ensuring the relevance and survival of NATO in a new and in many ways more dangerous era.

Russian Troops Were Paid $7,000 to Fight in Eastern Ukraine

From – http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/506008.html

Russian troops serving in Dagestan may have been paid 250,000 rubles ($7,000) each to participate in military operations in eastern Ukraine, a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council said in an interview with Dozhd on Wednesday.

Council member Ella Polyakova said in the same interview that about 100 injured Russian soldiers had been flown to a St. Petersburg hospital from an unspecified location.

The comments came amid widespread speculation about the deaths of several Russian paratroopers from Pskov who some suspect may have died in a secret operation in Ukraine.

Reports of Russian soldiers in Dagestan being recruited to go to eastern Ukraine originated from Lyudmila Bogatenkova, chairwoman of the Soldier’s Mothers Committee in Stavropol, Polyakova said Wednesday.

“I don’t have documentary evidence for now, just the witness Lyudmila Vasilyevna Bogatenkova,” Polyakova told Dozhd.

The sum of 250,000 rubles was likely a one-time payment, not a monthly salary, Polyakova said, noting that high unemployment in Dagestan may have been a factor in motivating troops to sign such contracts.

“Not a single one of them can prove that he in fact took part in any military actions. Russia is not waging war. There are no [state] military actions,” Polyakova said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has repeatedly denied having sent any troops to Ukraine.

Obama: No Military Aid For Ukraine

From – http://dailycaller.com/2014/08/28/obama-no-military-aid-for-ukraine/

President Barack Obama said he would not supply military aid to Ukraine, which is now being invaded by Russia.

Instead, he promised more diplomatic and economic aid to the beleaguered country.

“It is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between the United States and Russia in this region,” he said in a Thursday afternoon press conference in the White House.

“A military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming,” he said, before claiming that Russia is losing the confrontation because its economy is being crippled by sanctions.

He blamed Russia for the invasion, but he declined to use the term when asked by the reporter if it is an invasion.

“The violence is encouraged by Russia, the separatists are supported by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia,” he said.

“Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty of Ukraine… and the new images of Russian forces in the Ukraine make that clear,” he said.

Russian combat units are making bite-sized advances into the eastern provinces of Ukraine, which are largely populated by ethnic Russians.

The open advance by Russian tanks and artillery is reversing a successful Ukrainian army offensive against ethnic Russian rebels.

Earlier, Putin supplied the rebels with weapons and military advisers, but not combat units.

The Ukraine crisis comes amid several other foreign policy crises.

These crises include the Syrian civil war, a troubled election in Afghanistan, the advance of jihadi forces in northern Iraq, the outbreak of a civil war in Libya, growing Chinese efforts to win control over the seas between Vietnam and the Philippines.

The good news for Obama is the latest war by Arab Muslims against Israel came to a temporary ceasefire Aug. 27, despite bungled White House diplomacy.

The West must make Mr. Putin pay for his aggression

From – http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-west-must-make-mr-putin-pay-for-his-aggression/2014/08/28/0eaa39a0-2eea-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html

IF ANY international norm can still be called uncontroversial, it is the stricture against cross-border aggression by one sovereign state against another. Certainly any failure to enforce it in one place invites violations elsewhere. That is why Vladi­mir Putin’s decision to send Russian forces openly into Ukraine in the past 48 hours is a watershed, not a mere “continuation of what’s been taking place for months,” as President Obama understated the case Thursday. If Mr. Putin does not pay a high price for this naked, if still cynically denied, attack on his neighbors, the precedent could sow instability far and wide — from the Baltic Sea, ringed by small, free states with large Russian minorities, to the South China Sea, dotted with islands that China covets but other countries claim.

The reasons for Mr. Putin’s escalation, after months of destabilizing Ukraine through more covert means, may be only guessed. Ukraine’s military has made gains against Russian-instigated “separatists” in two key cities, Luhansk and Donetsk, and Mr. Putin may have felt that he could not abandon them without incurring political risk in Moscow. The Russian army’s move on Novoazovsk, well to the south of these contested areas, relieved the pressure on them — and perhaps foreshadows seizing a land corridor to Crimea, which Mr. Putin absorbed through force and chicanery six months ago but has struggled to resupply by air and sea since. Mr. Putin’s strategic goal could be even grander: the takeover of southeastern Ukraine, which he calls “New Russia,” and its incorporation into his ballyhooed Eurasian Union.

What is evident is that Mr. Putin cares little for diplomatic “off-ramps,” as the West calls the various face-saving solutions it has dangled since Mr. Putin first began his squeeze on Crimea, and to which Mr. Obama alluded yet again Thursday. To the contrary: Sending his own regulars to seize Ukrainian territory suggests that he would rather risk further conflict with the West than see his minions go down to defeat in Donetsk, Luhansk and elsewhere.

There may be some in Washington who conclude from this that Mr. Putin’s interest in Ukraine will always be greater than that of the United States, so pressure or sanctions can’t work — and might even be counterproductive, given the need for Russian cooperation on other matters such as Iran’s nuclear program. If the issue were only Russia’s neighborhood, we would still disagree, vehemently, but we would understand the logic.

But given the global repercussions of this struggle, the United States and its allies cannot afford to let Mr. Putin break the rules. It is time to hit Russia with the full brunt of financial sanctions, to supply Ukraine with the arms and intelligence it needs to defend its territorial integrity (which Russia itself once pledged to respect), to halt all military sales to Russia by Western nations — and to bolster the neglected North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Mr. Obama made little effort Thursday to explain or defend the “broader principle” that he said is at stake in Europe. Nations around the world that rely on U.S. leadership and its commitment to the rule of law can only hope that he brings more passion to the cause at what deserves to be a historic NATO summit in Wales next week.

Russia loses its remaining shreds of decency

From – http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/dmitry-tymchuks-military-blog-russia-loses-its-remaining-shreds-of-decency-362167.html

Here’s the Summary for August 26, 2014

The bad news:

1. Russia has lost its remaining shreds of decency. The lying, conniving and treachery of the Kremlin leadership goes beyond any limits imaginable. The undeclared war against Ukraine is becoming more and more obvious, even to the most naive of outsider observers.

Yesterday, units of the Russian army were fighting their way into the Donbas by breaking through into Ukrainian territory in two directions at once. The Ukrainian army punched them in the teeth. Russian paratroopers were taken prisoner. The Russian Ministry of Defense declared that the Russian soldiers ended up on the Ukrainian territory “by accident.”

It gets worse. Russian MI-24 helicopters fired unguided missiles at Ukrainian border guards stationed on Ukrainian territory. Four of our border guards were killed, three more wounded.

To say that Moscow’s cynicism is astounding–is to say nothing. For months on end, Russians have been “accidentally” killing Ukrainians on Ukrainian soil and “accidentally” supplying arms to terrorists; they also “accidentally” downed a Malaysian Boeing [MH-17] (while trying to “accidentally” shoot down a Ukrainian AN-26). I think it would only be logical if during Putin’s next visit to any civilized country, he would be accidentally arrested, accidentally tried and accidentally hanged (true, most civilized countries eschew the death penalty … but accidents happen).

In reality, Putin did not invent any “hybrid war” (African countries fought in this war format for half of the 20th century). His accomplishment is that he invented a “war for cowards.” Its essence lies in the fact that, before Putin, even the most cunning and treacherous dictator would somehow be responsible for the aggression he started. Putin is the first to come up with a way to use overwhelming lies and disingenuity to drown the neighboring country in blood, while bearing no responsibility for the slaughter. There is neither intelligence nor strategic brilliance here–only ingrained villainy.

2. Moscow is going to push another “humanitarian convoy” into Ukraine.

With his little eyes gleaming like a seasoned kleptomaniac, Sergey Lavrov, head of the Russian MFA and a professional propagandist declared, “Yesterday, we sent an official note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, informing [them] of our intention to prepare the next convoy of humanitarian aid.”

So, these bastards no longer bother to get permission to bring cargo into a foreign country. They simply “inform” of it. Then again, after the first “humanitarian aid” illegally entered into the Donbas, it would have been hard to expect otherwise.

3. Ukrainian media spread some sad news–at the current “Customs Union–Ukraine–European Union” meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Putin dedicated “less than 3% of his speech” to the armed conflict in Ukraine.

I’m a bit confused–what is so strange about that? Do you often see a maniac and a murderer flaunting his deeds in public? Like any criminal, VVP [Putin] will savor the details of his self-made Donbas massacre later, in a close circle of henchmen, with his sidekick [Sergey] Shoygu pouring prison chifir, the slag [Dmitry] Kiselyov huddling by the marble Kremlin toilet, and the merry jokester [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky beating on a guitar and singing The Folsom Prison Blues.

In public, Putin cannot afford such luxury.

The good news:

1. The situation in the ATO area, unfortunately, gives no cause to launch celebratory fireworks, but neither is there reason to panic and shout ‘all is lost.’

According to our information, adequate measures are being used in the Ilovaisk area–we cannot give out the details (and hope it isn’t a false start). Troubling messages arrive from the south, but we found no confirmation to the reports of some wide-scale “advance” of Russian troops on Novoazovsk (our data shows that clashes are happening in this area, but those involve enemy forces that broke through earlier that have not been destroyed yet–we are currently confirming this information).

At the same time, the ATO forces are carrying out raids, and simultaneously regrouping in several areas of the operation. We hope to see these actions followed by more optimistic reports.

2. President Poroshenko, in the meeting with the heads of the Eurasian troika and EU representatives in Minsk, suggested that all parties in the conflict in Ukraine exit from it “while saving face.”

How the current negotiations in Minsk will end, and what result they will give today, if any–that we don’t know. At least, for now. But it is clear that Putin has two options–to leave the situation now, with his hands bloody to the elbows, or to drown in that blood entirely. Hopefully, he understands that in the history of the world, such blood baths have ended well for no one.

3. Today, at an urgent meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, it was decided that–security forces will buyout all military equipment produced by Ukroboronprom [Ukrainian Defense Industry] State Enterprise and immediately ship it off to the combat action area. Repair of military equipment from now on will be carried out without delays, and armaments promptly issued from the MOD warehouses on requisition of the ATO forces.

I think that if such a decision had taken place two months ago, the ATO would have gone much better thus far. However, military officials still have a chance to sabotage this useful initiative even now. Let’s hope that will not be the case.

No Thaw Yet in Ukraine

From – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/opinion/no-thaw-yet-in-ukraine.html?smid=tw-share

The presidents of Ukraine and Russia, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin, finally met on Tuesday in Minsk, but neither their words nor developments in eastern Ukraine gave much evidence that either side was ready for a cease-fire.

On the eve of the meeting, a Russian armored column was reported on the move in southeastern Ukraine, while the Kiev government produced Russian soldiers captured on Ukrainian territory. And in their opening statements, both leaders restated old positions.

The problem is that Ukraine has little interest in a cease-fire now, and Russia is pretending that it is not in the fray. Ukraine is steadily gaining ground against the Russian-backed rebels, and knows they would use a pause in fighting to rearm and consolidate control over their zones unless the border with Russia is first sealed off.

Russia blithely denies it is involved in the fighting at all, despite incontrovertible evidence that it is, and seems prepared to stoke the fires until Kiev accepts a political arrangement that would give the eastern regions a veto over any moves toward the West.

Mr. Poroshenko is right to avoid an unconditional cease-fire at this time. While he has declared that he is prepared to negotiate a looser federal structure, he cannot grant the eastern provinces a level of autonomy that would tie the central government’s hands.

Nor can he renege on the association agreement creating a framework for cooperation with the European Union, which is critical for Ukraine’s future.

The challenge for him and the West, then, is how to persuade Mr. Putin that Russia cannot impose its will on Ukraine through economic and military pressures, and to allow Mr. Putin a face-saving way of backing down.

One incentive would be to assure Mr. Putin that the Ukraine-European Union agreement will not harm Russia economically and that the eastern provinces will gain a degree of autonomy. And beyond that, he would want a commitment that all sanctions, other than those imposed over the annexation of Crimea, would be lifted in the context of an overall political settlement.

At the same time, the United States and Europe should be aware that Mr. Putin sees that this is a critical struggle, and has the backing of his nation. The West must make clear that it is equally committed to the support of Ukraine, and that it is prepared to continue ratcheting up sanctions against Russian businesses and financial institutions, and to support Kiev through financial aid and energy supplies.

None of that means that a face-to-face meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Poroshenko was useless.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who has led the Western mediation efforts, was right when she said on Sunday that there will not be a military solution, and that even if a negotiated breakthrough is not imminent, political talks are “absolutely necessary.”

Ukraine: The War Nobody Wants, the Salvation Everyone Needs

From – http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ukraine-the-war-nobody-wants-the-salvation-everyone-needs

As sobering news emerges of escalating military casualties, civilian deaths and residents of eastern Ukraine on the run, Ukrainians are drawing close to faith and trying to maintain equanimity.

But 20 years of distrust in the central government undermines confidence in Kiev. Skepticism is especially high among the ethnic minorities in southwest Ukraine, including Hungarian Catholics.

Meanwhile, rhetorical clashes between Christian leaders on the Ukrainian and Russian sides demonstrate a simmering collision of worldviews that risks to escalate misunderstanding.

Russian Patriarch Kirill wrote an international appeal on Aug. 18 that insulted the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In turn, this was answered by Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Major Archbishop Sviatoslov four days later.

Thankfully, Ukraine’s churches are alive with activity: Morning to midnight, people are visiting churches, writing prayer requests, lighting candles, attending Mass and collecting clothes for the poor — or just quietly chatting in pews, as if they’re in a coffee shop with low light and horizontal seating.

State of the Crisis

Ukrainian troops have steadily advanced against pro-Russian combatants in the east, steadily taking back important towns from separatists in the Donbas region, bordering Russia, since early July.

On July 5, the military regained the key town of Slavyansk, kick-starting Ukraine’s military momentum. Fleeing separatists left behind evidence of Russian provisions and a local population increasingly ambivalent about what the rebels offer, reported the Christian Science Monitor. Two large cities, Luhansk and Donetsk, are still controlled by rebels, but the Ukrainian side is rapidly closing in.

But nowhere in Ukraine do you find triumphalism: Military casualties are at least 620, as of Aug. 20. The civilian death toll exceeds 2,150. There are reports of approximately 410,000 refugees and widespread fear that much needed economic, judicial and administrative reforms are going nowhere, as long as government action focuses on insurrection in the east.

The shocking attack on July 20 of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 by combatants exemplified “how close this conflict is to being out of control,” one Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest explained. “Most of us still avoid calling it a war.” Instead, most Ukrainians in the western part of the country refer to “terrorists” fomenting insurgency in the east.

Remarkably, there are very few signs of war in the west — no evidence of convoys or displaced people, not even anti-Russian graffiti. Only a few examples of the conflict could be discerned in a week spent traveling across the west: a handful of volunteers collecting donations to provide soldiers with better equipment and several demonstrations, in ethnic minority communities, against calling up reservists as part of a mid-July mobilization.
What was strongly evident were Christian communities, disturbed by the potential impact of long-term conflict, focused on praying problems to an end.

Working for Peace

Lviv, a charming, cosmopolitan city about 40 miles from Poland, is calm, even bubbling with street musicians and more young children than your typical European center.
One of the most joyful stories of the post-communist period is the renaissance of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and other Byzantine-rite Catholic denominations in the region.

Out of virtual extinction, the UGCC has risen to build new faith communities, reclaim and restore old Church properties and train a talented generation of clergy.

Father Oleh Kindiy, 36, a priest at the Church of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha in Lviv, serves a working-class congregation of 30,000 parishioners. It’s one of the biggest parishes in the city, built from the ground up in the last 23 years.

Father Oleh is a theology professor at Ukrainian Catholic University, as well as a husband and father of three (Greek-Catholic priests can marry before they are ordained).

Discussing national politics with the Register, he suddenly stopped himself: “It is really hard to talk in these terms after Maidan. The spirit of Maidan — collaboration, problem-solving, creating a better society — is still very strong, and there is growing opposition to [President Petro] Poroshenko making deals with oligarchs instead of making real reform.”

According to the priest, improvements can’t be seen in economic life or judicial reform — two major goals of the winter uprising.

He also explained that one of the achievements of the last 10 years, a pro-family policy that awarded benefits for each child born ($1,530 for the first, $3,125 for the second and $6,250 for the third and subsequent children were the rates set in 2008) — and contributed to a dramatic decrease in abortions — is being rolled back as a cost-cutting measure.
About the Ukrainian-Russian crisis, Father Oleh says the conflict is impacting his parishioners.

“I’m hearing a lot of confessions, seeing a lot of anxiety. For older people who went through World War II, all the memories come back, causing a lot of emotion. A woman came to me. She has a 3-month-old baby, and her husband is fighting in the east. What can you do? I listen,” he said with a sigh. “The Church is the kidney of the body, absorbing negativity and trying to offer spiritual, psychological and intellectual ways to comprehend this.”
The priest said the church recently added a volunteer psychologist, “an active believer,” who is helping counsel people in need.

“I’ve been resisting the idea that we are at war, but a colleague, a priest, just said, ‘We’re in it now, and it could get out of control,’” said Father Oleh. “What I hope is that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin walks away from it. He can say, ‘Russia will back off, because we don’t want the killing to continue.’ He could be noble. He has that choice.”

And what is the Church’s role? “The Church’s job must be to work for peace,” he said succinctly.

Ukrainian Catholic University

One of the UGCC’s most impressive accomplishments — with extensive support from the Ukrainian-American community — is the establishment of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in 2002, the only Catholic university on territory that comprised the former Soviet Union.

In less than 15 years, the university is already considered one of the nation’s best institutions of higher learning, especially in philosophy and theology, history, religious studies, various catechetical programs, and it has a unique partnership with the Lviv Business School, in which UCU teaches required ethics courses.

UCU professors and students were early participants in the Maidan Square demonstrations from late last November through late February, when protests culminated in the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. Announcing, “The dictator has been deposed!” UCU leadership issued a hopeful public statement on the nation’s future that ends, “We will be the carriers of the values from which a new Ukraine will arise!”

But in August, a few professors showing the near-empty campus to a visitor were grim about what’s happening in the east. “We are just not sure enough about what is happening to comment,” said one, who preferred not to be named.

“Most of us are startled at how fast the goal of ousting Yanukovych turned into war,” explained another. “I think most of Lviv is in denial.”

Distrust

What emerges quickly in conversations with regular people — around churches, on buses and in parks — is distrust of the government. Although a new president was elected on May 24, people continue to assume the system is largely unaccountable on most levels.

“Something makes no sense about what’s happening in Donbas,” mused Sergiy Bystrov, a young hotel clerk in Lviv. “I know from my service that the military is competent. So why can’t they cut off [separatist] supply lines? Are local officials taking bribes? Kiev needs to figure that out.”

President Poroshenko is not beloved; he’s a billionaire “oligarch” (the oft-heard term for some 100 people who control approximately 80%-85% of the country’s wealth) who supported the three-month Maidan protests in Kiev.

People say he’ll have to prove himself — his independence and capacity for reform — to a country on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of rampant corruption. It is common to hear people ponder what “business interests” are benefiting from the current conflict.

Hungarians in Berehove

Although the Hungarian community, with more than 200,000 people, is not the biggest ethnic minority in Ukraine, it’s probably the best organized.
You can easily function in Berehove without speaking Ukrainian. The community maintains excellent Hungarian-language schools, including one college managed by an active cultural foundation.

This part of Ukraine, known as Transcarpathia, was part of the kingdom of Hungary for about 1,000 years, until 1919, when it was assigned to the newly formed Czechoslovakia as punishment for Hungary’s role in World War I. The Soviet Union annexed it in 1945 and gave it to the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic.
Hungarians in Berehove are either Roman Catholics or members of the Reformed Church, a Calvinist denomination. The two churches work together well, according to townspeople.

A Reformed Church theology student studying in Hungary, aspiring pastor Judit Saemere, 21, who has Ukrainian and Hungarian citizenship, said, “Honestly, I don’t understand who Ukraine is fighting. In the east, most people speak Russian. Half the country speaks Russian. It’s been like that for a long time. All of a sudden, we have a war between Ukrainian speakers and Russian speakers? It makes no sense,” she said.

“We Hungarians are willing to live in Ukraine. We’re willing to work here, but fight their [Ukrainian] wars? No,” she said, shaking her head. Judit’s half-brother, Istvan, is a Catholic priest in Esztergom, Hungary.

Laszlo Brenzovics, an elected local official and Hungarian community leader, spoke to the Register on his way to a demonstration where locals were protesting new conscription orders of all men under age 50 with prior military service.

“Ukraine has a kind of hybrid war, not a real war, against Russia. It is occurring on a small local territory, not across the whole country. People here think this local conflict should be solved by officials, by professional soldiers,” said Brenzovics.

He said another problem is that the Ukrainian military was “degraded” over the last 20 years, so it does not have the tools it needs — which makes people skeptical that the army can properly absorb the reserves.

“This situation could just be solved … with peace,” the official said.

Christian Leadership

Christian leaders appear to be seeking balance between assigning blame for violence and defusing the situation.
On Aug. 17, UGCC Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk asked for special prayers for the Church in Donetsk and Luhansk, which, he said, “is experiencing a martyrdom,” clearly describing Ukrainian Christians as victims.

The Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Ukraine issued a public statement on Aug. 11 describing the “emergency conditions” facing the country that require “special prayer,” including “encroachments on the part of neighbors, internal strife and military operations in the country.” (Despite these serious problems, the statement hopes for “quick stabilization” — much like many others in Ukraine do.)

Nine leaders of the evangelical Protestant churches of Ukraine issued an appeal on July 8 for help from the international community to end religious persecution in Donetsk and Luhansk: “Targeted attacks by armed militants on evangelicals involve kidnapping, beating, torture, threats of death, assaults at the places of prayer assemblies, prayer houses, rehabilitation centers and other places.”

In early June, an evangelical pastor and his two adult sons, together with two other ministers from the Church of the Transfiguration in Sloviansk, were kidnapped and murdered.

Yet the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in Moscow has a very different perspective on what the conflict at the Ukrainian-Russian border represents.
Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to the United Nations, Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe regarding the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), whose faithful are certainly suffering as a result of armed combat, which kills believers and destroys churches. It is the largest Christian church in Ukraine.

But what outraged Ukrainian Greek Catholics was a phrase in the letter singling out “attempts of the uniates and schismatics to do harm” to the UOC. The terms the patriarch used are pejorative references to the Greek Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The UGCC’s major archbishop replied, “Russian Orthodox leaders spread libelous information about Greek Catholics and other confessions, thereby putting them in danger from the separatist militants who identify themselves as warriors for Russian Orthodoxy.”

Meanwhile, a new leader for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was sworn in on Aug. 17. Metropolitan Onufry Berezovsky comes from a community on Ukraine’s border with Romania that has been protesting the war in the east. This summer, before his selection, he publicly made the point that most Orthodox Ukrainians living in the east want to live in a united, independent Ukraine.

In addition, a synod of Ukraine’s Orthodox leadership in late June concluded, “Our Church unites people of different languages and cultures. Members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church live in the east, west, north and south of Ukraine. We do not divide our flock on political, national or social grounds. We are one in Christ.’
So even within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church a more tempered approach is evident.

Mercy

At 10pm on a Friday night in Lviv, people are still flowing in and out of Sts. Peter and Paul Garrison Church, listening to classical music, writing prayer requests and kneeling before dramatic icons.
It’s a beautifully sacred space built by Jesuits in 1630, closed for 65 years, abused as a communist book depository and then reopened by the UGCC in 2011.
Since the church is dedicated to Ukraine’s armed forces and chaplains, its priests have decided to keep it open late. Although dilapidated — chunks of the plaster balcony have collapsed, and “danger” signs should be posted in some side altars — the “Jesuit Church,” as it is called, overflows with holiness.
As I left the church with a Ukrainian seminarian, he whispered, “You want to know what they’re praying [for]? ‘Deliver us, dear Lord, from this war.’ We’re all begging for God’s mercy. Or we should be.”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ukraine-the-war-nobody-wants-the-salvation-everyone-needs#ixzz3BkQCivQt

The European Union Isn’t Going To Bail Out Ukraine

The European Union has had a pretty rough run over the past seven years. Economically, things are simply catastrophic. The Eurozone is not only experiencing an output slump that is even worse than the great depression, it is also teetering dangerously close to outright deflation. Unemployment remains persistently high everywhere except Germany: it is still above 25% in both Greece and Spain, and above 10% in Portugal, Italy, and France. The forecasts are hardly encouraging, with expectations of little or no growth in 2014 and an exceedingly modest rebound predicted for 2015. The situation is so desperate and hopeless that respected economists like Tyler Cowen have started to compare the performance of the more sclerotic European economies with the de-industrialization of 19th century India.

Politically, things aren’t a whole lot better. The most recent elections to the European Parliament in late May saw Euroskeptics and radicals of various stripes storm to unprecedented victories. Even The Economist, which has been relentless in its promotion of the EU, sounded the alarm, admitting that the previous “bastion of European federalism” was set to become a “beachhead for all sorts of anti-Europeans.” There’s also the small matter that Viktor Orban, Hungary’s president, has all but declared war on “liberal democracy.” This is just a little bit awkward because Hungary is a member of an organization explicitly founded on liberal democratic concepts. The EU is now in the unprecedented position of needing to confront an avowedly “illiberal” regime within its own ranks.

As I hope the above makes clear, the EU is barely holding itself together. Even in a relatively optimistic scenario, it will have experienced a “lost decade” of economic growth, and tens of millions of Europeans will have had their professional lives deeply and negatively impacted by the European elite’s inability to effectively respond to the crisis. Political radicalism has already been strengthened to a frightening degree, and its anyone’s guess where the process will lead. In such a situation the EU is pretty obviously not in a position to bail anyone else out. Economically the EU doesn’t have the money and, politically, there is no will for further “expansion.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who is well known for his extensive use of social media and for his support of Ukraine’s integration into European institutions, hasn’t gotten the message though. The other day he tweeted the following:

Important that Germany Chancellor Merkel now raises the issue of EU help in rebuilding of Donbass region. Will be needed. And expensive.

To the extent that Bildt convinces anyone in Ukraine that the EU will ride to the rescue he is being cruel. There is no other word for it. The EU is not going t help rebuild the Donbass. Full stop. Even if the EU (read: Germany) had sufficient funds at its disposal for this sort of effort, which is increasingly doubtful, the recent election made clear that popular enthusiasm for the EU project is evaporating almost in real time. There is precious little enthusiasm among the German public for bailout of other Eurozone members. The idea that Germany will consent to spending tens of billions of dollars rebuilding Eastern Ukraine is completely and totally divorced from political reality. Can anyone seriously imagine Angela Merkel, whose country recently had its 2014 growth estimate downgraded to a mere 1.5%, going in front of the German public to demand a substantial outlay for Ukrainian infrastructure? It would be political suicide, and Merkel is clearly a clever enough politician to understand this.

Ukraine and its political leadership needs to understand that, regardless of Bildt’s musings, the country’s “European choice” is not going to be underwritten by anyone else. Basic political reality in Germany and the EU, particularly the rapid growth of Euroskepticism, means that no help will be forthcoming. Kiev will have to chart its own course, and will need to find a way to pay for the (enormous!) expenditures of repairing its Eastern industrial heartland.

Russian ‘realism’ is winning now, but will fail in the end

From – http://blogs.reuters.com/john-lloyd/2014/08/28/russian-realism-is-winning-now-but-will-fail-in-the-end/

The world is no longer divided by communism vs. capitalism. But it’s still divided by ideologies that have their clearest expression in the policies of Russia and the United States. That division contrasts liberal and realist views of the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s realist stance has won ground. No country will help Ukraine get Crimea back, which Russia annexed in March. There’s no invitation pending for Ukraine to join the European Union – the more so since the new president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has ruled out any applications for membership for at least five years. And NATO will not rush to admit a nation that it would be pledged to defend from armed incursion.

Yet Putin’s future problems are likely to be more of a headache than Ukraine’s gradual drift toward the West. The downside of the realist position is that it pays little or no mind to the autonomy of citizens.

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that liberals now dominate foreign policy in the West. They believe that “the end of the Cold War had fundamentally transformed international politics and that a new, post-national order had replaced the realist logic that used to govern Europe.” In this vision, “geopolitics no longer mattered and … an all-inclusive liberal order could maintain peace.”

Mearsheimer, a realist among idealists, says Russia takes a more sensible – realist — position: All great states have large interests, he writes, and international politics is, as always, about projecting power in seeking to accommodate these interests when they conflict.

There’s no doubt that the liberal view of the world has many problems. In fact, we are witnessing one right now: the fallout from over-estimating the liberating possibilities of the Arab Spring. Western leaders were caught up in what sociologist Daniel Ritter called “the iron cage of liberalism.” President Barack Obama exemplified the point in his comments on the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. “The people of Egypt have rights that are universal,” he proclaimed. “That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny.”

But Obama was doing more than just restating liberal freedoms. He was also ditching a long-term U.S. ally, the autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who had long abided by a treaty with Israel and whose military the United States helped to fund and whom the demonstrations were instrumental in removing.

Now almost everywhere, the promises of liberation born in the Arab Spring have reinvigorated authoritarianism – in Egypt, where the military reasserted control, but also in the region’s real and simmering civil wars where proxies for radical Islamists and authoritarians do battle. It’s perfectly reasonable for a realist to contend that the liberals’ embrace of the upsurge of populist anger in the Middle East and its call for Western freedoms was the result of a naïve misreading of the real forces at play in Arab societies.

But the realists have their own iron cage — and its bars are thicker. The realists’ realist is Putin. Earlier this week, he met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine. He presented his now familiar enigmatic visage to the world even as videos of captured Russian soldiers and reports that Russia had inserted troops into at least one insurgent-controlled area, undercut his undying claim that Russia has nothing to do with the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

It is a moment of apparent strength, but will not help him in the longer term

It is one thing to sneer at the West’s naivety in the Middle East, but it’s quite another to be blind to popular forces that, in Ukraine, increasingly look west to Europe and increasingly see in Russia a threat.

Putin viewed the demonstrations in Kiev that swept a corrupt president from power as wholly caused by Western money and plotting. For him, citizens’ uprisings are always due to “outside influences.” His underestimation of what citizens united can do will rebound on him. More and more are citizens conscious of rights that should be theirs; more and more are they linked to global flows of information, and more and more are they aware of the costs of corrupt authoritarian rule. Putin squared off against protest demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 and neutralized them by discrediting and imprisoning their leaders.

But that was then. The Russian economy isn’t growing, the hypernationalist propaganda will pale and the fact that Russian actions have “lost” Ukraine because they have alienated most of its people will hit home. Russia will confront a new reality: of citizens who want rights guaranteed by the state and truth from their media. It’s not naïve to believe this will happen: it’s realist.