The Widdershins

Activist Monday: “New Russia?”

Posted on: April 21, 2014

Good morning all. The bronchitis that felled me last Monday has subsided into an occasional snurfle, and I feel ready to tackle the complexities of the Russian/Ukraine situation. (Well, I’ll do my best anyway….no pics or videos today, I’m posting from the plane!)

So as you’re all most likely aware, the scope of the sanctions against Russia is still being decided. As expected, these economic efforts have not been effective so far, but should the banking and/or petrochemical industries be included, they may grow some teeth. While the spinal infusion of Western nations remains in doubt, however, Pooty-Poot has been conducting a not-so-secret takeover of Eastern Ukraine by Russian military forces for the past two weeks. Despite the inevitable and somewhat contradictory denials of the Kremlin, it seems clear that Russia is behind the wave of well-coordinated, highly-skilled attacks.

“It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, wrote in a blog post on the alliance’s website.“It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized, and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”


More direct evidence of a Russian hand in eastern Ukraine is contained in a dossier of photographs provided by Ukraine to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Vienna-based organization now monitoring the situation in Donetsk and other parts of the country. It features pictures taken in eastern Ukraine of unidentified gunmen and an earlier photograph of what looks like the same men appearing in a group shot of a Russian military unit in Russia.

Lest any of us remain skeptical about Putin’s eventual goals in the region, the Russian leader has been throwing around an old, new term lately: “New Russia.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, appearing cool and confident on national television during a four-hour question-and-answer show on Thursday, referred repeatedly to southeastern Ukraine as “New Russia,” a historical term for the area north of the Black Sea that the Russian empire conquered in the 1700s. “God knows” why the region became part of Ukraine in the 1920s, he said in response to a questioner, a strong signal that he would gladly correct that error.

Mr. Putin’s use of the term “Novorossiya,” which he had not emphasized previously, suggested that he was replicating, with regard to eastern Ukraine, Russia’s assertions of historical ties to Crimea before it occupied and annexed the peninsula.

There are echo’s of Orwell’s 1984 in the way Putin is trying to claim “we have always been in control of West Asia.”  And just as in 1984, whether anyone buys the propaganda he is catapulting, is not really the point. The point is, he is signaling his plan to take over Ukraine. (Not just Eastern Ukraine – that is only the first step. Western Ukraine will not be able to stand up to Russia once the East is subsumed.) And after Ukraine, what next? More of what was happening in the 1700s? Let’s see: tsars becoming emperors, continual wars to conquer more and more territory, the supremacy of the Russian Orthodox Church…doesn’t sound so hot to me.

I have to say that once again, I feel that President Treebeard is too slow and too indecisive to make the hard decisions that would have to be made to take Putin out of the picture, and that red phone has been ringing unanswered for far too long. Put some bite into those sanctions, d*mmit – I know Europe will suffer, but won’t they suffer more if Putin becomes the next Emperor?

Sadly, what is Obama doing right now? He’s running away to Asia, where China may be considering an aggressive land grab as well. I’m sure the citizens of Japan and South Korea are very comforted by his declaration of “increased focus” in the region.

Widdershins, we live in interesting times. Let’s hope the leaders of the free world can stop Putin before his greed and ambition force us into World War III.

This is an open thread.



10 Responses to "Activist Monday: “New Russia?”"

The parallels to both 1984 and Brave New World abound. Hail Ford!

Indeed Chat. I truly feel Putin may not be in his right mind and is on a quest to glorify himself, d*mn the cost.

MB, the sanctions and other situations with Russia’s economy are taking some tolls.

In an address to the lower house of parliament, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said $63 billion had been converted from rubles to hard currencies and taken out of the country in the first quarter of this year.

The Russian stock market dropped 10% last month, wiping out further billions in capital. The ruble has lost 9% of its value since the start of the year, boosting prices for the imported food and manufactured goods on which the Russian consumer market is heavily dependent.

Also, I had seen something about this earlier in regard to Russia’s defense spending.

Russia increased arms spending by 4.8% in real terms last year to almost $88bn (£52bn), devoting a bigger share of its GDP to the military than the US for the first time since 2003…

With their economy smaller that that of the U.S., if Putin stays with his decision to keep increasing defense spending, that’s going to cut into what can be spent on “domestic” items. I’m not an economist but if the economy is tanking due to the Ukraine situation and the limited sanctions placed on Russia, their economy could really be squeezed.

Of course, then Putin will have to take to the airwaves with something like this:

(madamab, I hope you were flying on business *in business class* and thus had a human-tolerable flight!)

Putin strikes me as a soulless machine, but he doesn’t strike me as stupid. Grandiose plans of regional domination would overextend Russia and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t know that. He’s shown himself to be an excellent strategist. Without Crimea and the industrial regions in the East, Ukraine will be an unthreatening agricultural backwater. That looks like Putin’s goal, not his grandiloquent allusions to inspire his base, nor the Western and US media and their wild-eyed dreams of world domination.

I even get a sense of pathetic eagerness, a sense of *hope* that the Russians really do turn back into something worth fearing. It’s a lot easier to hate Putin than global warming or high frequency trading.

MB, I forgot to add that glad you’re feeling better. 🙂

A threat to the Baltic countries ( Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ) concerns me the most. All are part of NATO ( unlike Ukraine ) but each has a significant ethnic Russian population. Putin could claim they are under attack just as he has claimed in Ukraine and therefore need his Russian “protection”.

Some population numbers to consider:

Estonia: The population is 25% ethnic Russian. Tallinn, the capital city, is 37% ethnic Russian. Ida-Viru county, the center of Estonia’s oil shale, is 73% ethnic Russian.

Latvia: The population is 27% ethnic Russian. Riga. the capital city, is 40% ethnic Russian. Daugavpils, the country’s second-largest city, is 54% ethnic Russian.

Lithuania: Only 6% of the population is ethnic Russian. But in Visaginas, ethnic Russians comprise 52%. Visaginas is the home of one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants. It ceased operation in 2009 because of safety problems but a new plant is going to be built in the near future.

I’m not saying that I think Putin will try to take the Baltic countries. But who knows at this point? What is his ultimate goal and what does he think he can get away with? Does he believe we and our allies are really prepared to go to war to save Estonia? Lativa? Lithuania? Are we? And start WWIII?

Beata@6: I saw this (at a different site) and my jaw almost dropped. He would be asking for trouble with this:

@7: Scary stuff. I hadn’t seen that but it’s what I fear may be Putin’s plan. He can use protecting ethnic Russians in the Baltics as a justification. It would be the greatest challenge NATO has yet faced.

@7: As I recall, there was a lot of concern about accepting Estonia, Lativa, and Lithuania into NATO in the first place. No doubt because of fear of Russian aggression into the Baltics. Not that Russia would make its move right after NATO acceptance but eventually when the time was right. The history is there.

MB, thank you for this very informative & scary post! I think he’s a madman.

Glad you are feeling better. Bronchitis in April? Hope you’re back to your old self very soon.

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