Ukraine 2/19/22

Political Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Author’s note: this article erroneously states that the Ukraine is a NATO member. This is a mistake. The Ukraine is NOT a member of NATO. This mistake does not change the author’s opinion as stated.

So here is the opportunity for me to eat crow.  I’m going to go far out on a limb and predict that Russia will not be invading Ukraine.  Oh, there may be a few minor clashes, and maybe cyber attacks and the like, but I believe their build-up is just a political game.  What’s more, I believe our government is blowing the crisis out of proportion as well.  Having said that, Putin could very well prove me wrong, and I acknowledge that, but let me explain my thinking, beginning with the reality, and we’ll get to possible motives for the game in a moment.

There are a few things to consider, including history.  Russia has done this before, although I can’t really recall when or where.  To be fair, there have been times that the build-up resulted in invasion, but there are also times it was just saber rattling.  The military reality is the Ukraine is part of NATO, and as such, the US and other NATO nations are obligated to respond should Russia invade.  If that response is military, then we are talking about two nations with frighteningly large nuclear capabilities exchanging fire.  The action might not involve nuclear responses at the beginning, but as one side or the other begins to lose, the possibility of nuclear response becomes frighteningly real.  I don’t believe either the US or Russia wants that, as nuclear response is has global repercussions.  Even a single nuclear detonation above ground results in nuclear fallout world-wide, quite literally.  Scientists used to measure these radioactive clouds when above-ground testing was still being done, so dropping a bomb on another nation results in radioactive fallout on the invading nation. 

Another piece to recall is that, as Russia rattles its saber, the US has activated troops in preparation to defend the Ukraine.  These troops are dug in in Ukraine even now and are continuing to fortify their response.  That means Ukraine and the US are defending, and historically, it’s the invading army that takes the greatest damage as resource usage and fatigue occur as they travel over more open ground to the ready defending army.  Modern military does not change that reality.  No doubt, Putin knows if he invades, his army, even if they “win”, will take enormous losses, which leads us to potential motives for this play.

I think it’s easier to think about the US motives in their response.  First, let’s be honest; as a member of NATO, we are obligated to help defend the Ukraine, so it is good military strategy to dig in defenders just in case Putin really is crazy enough to invade.  But at the same time, President Biden’s approval rating is very poor and slipping.  According to a Pew survey from January, 56% of respondents disapprove of his job.  This crisis gives him the opportunity to respond strongly to Russia, thereby demonstrating his courage in the face of Russian aggression. 

What’s more, with gas prices going higher, inflation making a fierce showing in the grocery stores, and Republicans calling for truckers to “clog the streets” in the US in support of the Canadian trucking crisis, this is also a way to divert attention away from domestic problems.  I find it intriguing that the Ukraine crisis hasn’t taken root more strongly in the hearts of Americans.  Perhaps it’s because of the lack of Republican response.  While in office, President Trump made no secret of his awe of Russia and moved the Republican party more in the direction of a pro-Russia stance.  Now they find themselves with a decision of defending Russia’s anti-NATO build-up or backing down into a more historical US stance on Russia.  Neither choice is good, taking a stand that would anger many Americans from both parties or look like they are waffling, so I believe they are simply choosing to remain quiet, or perhaps even to emphasize other domestic problems. 

As far as Russia’s motivation, I’m not sure.  I do not know of the internal problems in Russia today, so it’s hard to tell from what Putin might be wanting to draw attention.  I do believe it is a ploy to do so, however, both here in the US as well as Russia.  It’s also possible that he is testing Biden’s resolve, or planning to use it to help support Trump in his re-election bid hoping people will think “well the never would have happened if…” 

In the end, all I’m saying is that with this build-up of tension, I expect it will simply fade in time.  I might be wrong, but I do know that I would like to see the situation resolve itself without bloodshed.  I guess time will tell.

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