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Monday, August 18, 2008

Will Russians Advance On The Crimea Next?


The response from the West to Putin's occupation of Georgian territory is to engage in ineffective diplomacy. Medvedev agreed to withdraw Russia's forces, but they are still in Georgia with no military force capable of rejecting them in sight. Russian forces took particular trouble to take Poti the main Georgian sea port on the Black Sea, which they still hold.

The Western media is convinced that somehow their cameras and interviewers and news-readers are going to persuade Vladimir Putin to stop his advance into the territory of other countries, and that the supranational game, at some moment yet to be arrived at, will embroil the Russians, and bring them to the negotiating table.

But there is another possibility. Putin's main effort and concerns have to be directed where he can see the most strategic advantage. The Americans are completely bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the EU-obsessed Europeans are congenitally incapable of coherent action of any kind at all. Putin in weighing up the situation, must see that he can achieve a lot more territory yet for what will probably be very cheap moves militarily.

The West believes that Putin will pay a price politically for being involved in brutal warfare, but as Chechnya showed, such is his speciality. The Russian people understand that warfare has to be brutal, while those in Western Europe imagine that war can still be done nicely, once all the war criminals are captured and put on trial at The Hague. The political equation for Putin could well be the opposite to that imagined by Western politicians trying to portray him as a 'brute'. For Russians, recapturing lost territory and prestige might prove to be immensely popular.

Putin, in these circumstances, is looking at the military and political equivalent of an open goal. It will surely be too much to resist.

Taking a map would indicate to anyone that the key strategic point for Putin to try to get hold of next, in the near proximity to Georgia is The Crimea. The Crimea once Russian, became part of the Ukraine in 1954. This was no real problem for Russia until the Orange Revolution took place in 2004 and Russians who owned many prized pieces of land there have since been worried about political expropriation. In strategic terms that is as nothing compared to the potential loss of the Port Of Sevastopol, the base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, under an agreement which ends in 2017. If the Ukraine become part of NATO, the loss of Sebastopol would become inevitable.

If Putin were to wait until the Ukraine became part of NATO, he would face military consequences if he seized Sebastopol, with NATO countries committed to fighting him. But as the Ukraine is only talking to NATO at this stage with nothing definite arranged, Putin could seize Sebastopol and make it effectively Russian territory once more, and probably face only token Ukrainian resistance.

The Ukraine depends totally on Russia for its energy needs, and Putin has already demonstrated that he is willing to cut off the gas. Within The Crimea the pro-Russian party is still popular, and resistance locally might also be muted.

Putin could progress to The Crimea by land, which is not an easy route requiring passage through narrow gorges, but an approach by sea would also be possible from Russian Black Sea coastal ports. By seizing Poti, and destroying the Georgian navy, potential resistance from that quarter has already been neutralised.

Whether Putin does keep his army marching west or not is unknowable, but the thought must be in his mind. If he has any strategic notion, it will be The Crimea that is in his mind's eye and the potential future loss of the Port Of Sebastopol that would motivate him to take further risks. He could tidy up Georgia's oil pipeline later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is interesting, but strictly British point of view.

Georgia is part of British strategy: they will paint Russia as a bully and a dangerous state to mobilize other spineless countries (like France for example) for their cause. While US doesn't have the wisdom nor intelligence to achieve that, British have it all: very good intelligence, high influence on mainstream media with proxies virtually all over the world, and they have the wisdom. What they lack is the flesh/brute force, and US are supposed to deliver that.

The big fear from Russian expansion is created artificially and is masterminded in Britain (US side of the Axis is yet to become ideoligized once again).

Georgian crisis is equivalent to Cuban crisis and that is all - Imagine Russian military bases in Ireland... I wonder what would Britain do?

As for the Ukraine, I doubt Putin will push for the confrontation - he is not in the position and he doesn't need it. But he also can not let NATO take over Ukraine. The stupidity of Ukraine's leaders is endless.

However, I bet Germany will play a constructive role as a voice of common sense and either block admition of Ukraine into NATO, or advice Ukraine to not pursue that any more; they will probably broker a deal where Ukraine would get a piece of the oil cake in exchange for giving up NATO. This will not be an easy task, but it is not impossible.

Germany desperately needs stable energy sources that are not in the hands of The Axis and Russia seems to be a logical choice; destabilizing her would only benefit The Axis but not European nations. German investment in Russia is huge; plus, they know very well what was their mistake in their last attempt at world dominance.

And it would make a lot of sense: Russians don't care about expanding teritory, they don't have enough people to populate what they already have; they do, however care to keep NATO away from their border (who can object to that?)

If, however, The Axis manages to push Ukraine into madness, Putin's response will not be direct military confrontation but what I would expect is that Russians living in Ukraine (a very significant number) raise their voice. Ukraine stands no chance of surviving if Russians living in Ukraine decide it is not what they wanted.

It makes no sense for Ukraine to fight with Russia, the whole thingy is purely the game of The Axis in their charge at world dominance.


To finish my monologue with a question to the blog creators: I understand people behind this blog are British and they are also EU skeptics… what are you really worried about? Do you really believe Britons are sincere in their intentions with the EU? EU is merely a tool and will be thrown away when not needed any more. Worry not.