Ukraine

Silvanus

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There have already been a fair few posts in other threads about the situation in Ukraine, but they've mostly been about coverage, rather than the situation itself. The "Woke"/"Anti-Woke" threads aren't really suited to this discussion, so let's make a thread.

So: somewhere between 90,000 and 150,000 Russian troops, with significant tank, aircraft and sea support, have been stationed along the Russian and Belarussian borders with Ukraine. Here's a visual guide on troop positions as they stand;


A large number were deployed in Spring last year, but recalled when Putin and Biden held a summit to de-escalate. They've since been redeployed over the past few weeks, and there's been a lot of speculation that an attack is imminent.

A large number of countries, including the UK, Germany, USA, and other European states, have been threatening that they will trigger significant economic sanctions on Russia if Russia invades. There has also been talk of pulling international consent for Nord Stream 2, the enormous Russian oil pipeline, which currently requires German regulators to sign off before it can become operational.

===

In December, Vladimir Putin issued a list of demands he said must be met by Western nations to satisfy Russia, in order to convince them to pull troops away. These include a commitment that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, and that all NATO troops and weaponry be withdrawn from former-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe.

In January, Anthony Blinken delivered a response, which supposedly contained several diplomatic concessions but did not budge on these main two points. His response is not publicly available, so we can't really know what those concessions were. Judging by the fact that we're still on the brink, we can assume they weren't considered enough to Russia.

The US has stated it believes an invasion is "imminent". Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the West's response to the troop movements is causing "panic", and that he does not consider the current situation any more dangerous than last Spring. Still, it's tempting to look to Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as precedent.

((It's also... uhrm, interesting that Vyacheslav Nikonov, one of Russia's chosen diplomats selling their line on this crisis, is the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov, who infamously agreed to annex and partition Poland with the Nazis)).
 
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CM156

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Russia has done an excellent job the past decade and a half showing why NATO is a good idea.

How soon until we can start putting sanctions on oligarchs and cronies? Many of them stash their wealth in EU countries.
 

meiam

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I think its hard not to see this as Putin being an ageing autocrat either trying to win back old days "glory" or distract the population from his increasingly poor handling of both the economy and covid or maybe both. Or maybe he's scared that as other former soviet state become closer to the US/europe and become richer in teh process Russian will start thinking that maybe they might be better served doing the same.

You can give a fig leaf excuse that it is pretty freaky for them to see more and more military build up in surrounding nation, its not like the US is well known for always having reasonable leader and never jumping into pointless war. I imagine if Russia started massing troops in Guatemala while Mexico was trying to become closer to Russia the US would also throw a hissy fit.

But NATO as a whole has being very consistent, iirc its only ever being triggered after 9/11 in a fairly justified move (although the aftermath of the afghan war is another story). Putin cannot be so stupid as to miss that him threatening military action and occasionally annexing territory wouldn't push more and more country to run into NATO arms. Maybe he think they went as far as they'll ever go after Crimea and he's free to do whatever he want while at the same time hoping he can use his gas leverage over europe to keep everyone quiet. That's a dangerous gamble for very little gain.
 

Agema

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How soon until we can start putting sanctions on oligarchs and cronies? Many of them stash their wealth in EU countries.
Sort of. Technically they launder most of their money through London, and the UK is no longer part of the EU. Cyprus has been another popular route. The current UK government would be very reluctant to act, because the Conservative Party enthusiastically accepts donations from Russians. Russian investors were, of course, also very interested in Donald Trump.

Arguably, the UK government could even have a strategic benefit from aiding Russia, on the grounds that weakening the EU weakens its power over the UK. Although on balance, the UK will just follow the USA.

* * *

I think the West has to respond with enough firmness, because if Putin has demonstrated anything, it's a willingness to employ the military to achieve his ends - but he won't invade as long as the West stands firm. Too much risk - if it went wrong the damage to his authority would be catastrophic. This might be a show of force for a domestic audience; it could be a probe to check out the state of Western reaction, the new German Chancellor and US President.
 
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Gergar12

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So Russia won't attack on Wednesday. Even if I read in the morning that Putin was going to invade by Wednesday.


Putin could poison Kyiv's Water, and seize a large city in Eastern Ukraine. That sounds like supervillain shit right there. The US for its part has no choice but to offshore balance Russia because of their attention towards China, and Asia. There will be no US forces in Ukraine that will shoot Russians since if the US wins Russia could throw a radioactive hissy fit and use tactical nuclear weapons, and then the US does tit-for-tat, and at one point we all die. That and it takes a while for the US to send large forces across the Atlantic, the ones in Europe are too small to repel the Russians who have heavy armor, artillery, and airpower on their side.

Hey, Germany I hope spending less than 2% GDP on the military was worth it.
 

Silvanus

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[...] the ones in Europe are too small to repel the Russians who have heavy armor, artillery, and airpower on their side.

Hey, Germany I hope spending less than 2% GDP on the military was worth it.
That's really not true. European countries could quite handily repel an actual Russian invasion, were one to occur, even without US support.

It's quite unlikely they would mobilise en masse to defend a non-NATO and non-EU member, however.
 
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tstorm823

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There was a time when Russia invading Ukraine was a strategic economic move, but that doesn't really make sense to me at a time when the world was focused on China and the EU was ready to buy Russian oil in large quantities. On the surface level, the timing of this feels really backwards. Many conservative talking heads speak of this as though Putin is trying to take advantage of a weak moment for the US, but even setting aside the bias on the US part of that analysis, Russia just doesn't have the capability to actually occupy Ukraine, even if the won the war.

Putin says it's about Ukraine joining NATO, and I think that might really be the issue. I'm beginning to think Putin isn't trying to recreate the USSR, but rather is trying to create his own North Korea, where he can isolate his people through saber rattling, negotiate a demilitarized zone in the west, and then lean on China to bankroll his dictatorship. The ties between Russia and Ukraine threaten that, especially if Ukraine joins NATO, so he needs to forge a geographic barrier on that border.
 

Seanchaidh

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How soon until we can start putting sanctions on oligarchs and cronies? Many of them stash their wealth in EU countries.
That would be a disturbing precedent for our own oligarchs, surely.
 
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Gergar12

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That's really not true. European countries could quite handily repel an actual Russian invasion, were one to occur, even without US support.

It's quite unlikely they would mobilise en masse to defend a non-NATO and non-EU member, however.
I don't know if it improved but this is my impression of the German military.


Also, I didn't say Europe couldn't defend against Russia, I said that

1. Current US Forces in Europe are too small to do anything

2. That Germany spends too little on its military.

France, and Germany as well as the UK are the pillars of Europe whether they like it or not, and while France and the UK actually spend a good amount, Germany has been living in another world. And yes I do know Germany had troops in Afghanistan, and that was generally a good thing. But with regards to Germany's poor military spending, readiness, and general dislike of its military, that has created an opening for Putin along with Turkey pulling towards Russia, Brexit, and so fore.

The US military can't be everywhere, the US used to be able to fight 2 threats at once, but only in a World War 2 scenario. China has 1.2 billion people if not more. The US has 330 million. We would be outnumbered 4 to 1, 3 to 1, and 5 to 1 in many cases in a real total conventional hot war which could happen, and it could happen where the nuclear powers all agree to not target their countries, but to duke it out in a battlefield. Also, China build more ships than the US navy just last year, is modernizing its air force, and improving its ground forces.

That's why the US military is retrenching and pulling back. The bulk of the navy and airforce in the US is focused on the Indo-Pacific, and I would argue even US ground forces can't be spared for Europe since they will be needed to man ground-based anti-air, anti-ground, anti-ship missile installations.
 

Agema

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Russia just doesn't have the capability to actually occupy Ukraine, even if the won the war.
It wouldn't occupy Ukraine: it would just create a Belarus mk II.

Pile in, topple the Kiev government, install a new one backed up by the Russian-friendly east (it already has a militia in the form of the Donbass separatists) and get out. Then the puppet president can use the Ukrainian state to repress everyone into line: Russia only needs to supply bits of additional assistance to the regime.

That was pretty much what it was looking at under Yanukovych ~2013/2014: it's just the security apparatus of the Ukrainian government back then wasn't sufficiently prepared and willing.
 
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The Rogue Wolf

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...but that doesn't really make sense to me at a time when the world was focused on China....
The thing is that, to egotistical autocrats like Putin, this is a fate worse than death. He needs the world focused on him, worried about him, talking about him. Then he can play that up to his citizenry as Russia being strong and important on the world stage, but in the end, in his mind, it's far more about him than them. And as meiam says:

I think its hard not to see this as Putin being an ageing autocrat either trying to win back old days "glory" or distract the population from his increasingly poor handling of both the economy and covid or maybe both. Or maybe he's scared that as other former soviet state become closer to the US/europe and become richer in teh process Russian will start thinking that maybe they might be better served doing the same.
^ Also this.

I'm beginning to think Putin isn't trying to recreate the USSR, but rather is trying to create his own North Korea, where he can isolate his people through saber rattling, negotiate a demilitarized zone in the west, and then lean on China to bankroll his dictatorship.
I doubt it would pan out that way, if for no other reason than even if China can overcome racist sentiments to want to support foreigners, they wouldn't see any sort of return on the likely vast amounts of money that would require. It's also my belief that the primary reason China still supports North Korea is because they don't want it collapsing and sending fifteen million barely-educated, thoroughly-indoctrinated North Koreans swarming across its border.
 

Agema

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Turkey pulling towards Russia,
I don't think it is, really.

My take is that Turkey is looking to set itself up as a regional power in the Middle East. Thus it is realigning away from Europe to a more neutral position, but it's no friend of Russia. Its assistance to Azerbaijan in the recent conflict with Armenia suggests Turkey is willing to undermine Russia's influence in the Caucasus, which not so long ago it would never have dared.
 
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Gergar12

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Lykosia

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Sanctions won't do anything. Russia is one of the few countries that can have almost full self sufficiency. Only thing sanctions have done is made their domestic economy stronger because they now have manufacture stuff they bought earlier.

Ukraine has realised that no one is coming to help them, so they have promised to Russia that they won't apply to Nato. Only smart thing they could do.
 

meiam

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I don't think it is, really.

My take is that Turkey is looking to set itself up as a regional power in the Middle East. Thus it is realigning away from Europe to a more neutral position, but it's no friend of Russia. Its assistance to Azerbaijan in the recent conflict with Armenia suggests Turkey is willing to undermine Russia's influence in the Caucasus, which not so long ago it would never have dared.
Turkey has very few friend left and Russia is in a similar position, so the two cooperate because they have no one else to turn to but that's pretty much where their friendship ends. Putin probably like a NATO member undermining the alliance.

Once Erdogan is gone for one reason or another I doubt the two will keep cooperating, unless whoever come after Erdogan is also going to go the authoritarian route.
 

Generals

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Economy down. How do we fix? Another war!

Too predictable.
I am confused, is this about Russia or the US? Because I really don't see which war the US is going to wage as it sure as hell isn't going to fight the Russian army, heck it even pulled out its 160 military instructors in Ukraine.
 

Dirty Hipsters

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I am confused, is this about Russia or the US? Because I really don't see which war the US is going to wage as it sure as hell isn't going to fight the Russian army, heck it even pulled out its 160 military instructors in Ukraine.
The US doesn't have to fight Russia in order to make money off of war. And for as much as the US isn't going to fight Russia it seems like every media outlet is really into the idea of "we gotta do something about them Ruskies"
 
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Generals

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The US doesn't have to fight Russia in order to make money off of war. And for as much as the US isn't going to fight Russia it seems like every media outlet is really into the idea of "we gotta do something about them Ruskies"
The arms industry might make a buck or two by selling some weapons to Ukraine and some baltic states but in the grand scheme of things that wouldn't change a lot to their bottom line. Unless Russia actually decides to invade which may cause an even higher demand in weaponry across some eastern European nations. But that would be entirely up to Russia.
And "gotta do something" usually means economic sanctions. These would probably benefit some and cost some. Heck the tensions in Ukraine are already harming the stock market.
 
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