Ukrainian miscalculations

So, the Crimean peninsula is gone. Write that one off. Move on.

To secure wider positions, you sometimes have to make a sacrifice, particularly when the blood/treasure equation is stark or problematic. So, farewell Crimea.

Allowing the annexation of Crimea does then open up a better playing field to deal with the larger problem of the rest of Ukraine. And from a Russian perspective, they probably think that Khrushchev was silly for giving it away (even under the assumption of USSR forever).

The Russians have ‘a’ point when they moan about the west’s evocation of democracy. They are – afterall – hosting the elected President in nice surrounds in Moscow. And making a claim – as both Hague and Obama did – of let the Ukrainian people speak is fine, but will only produce (in truth) a cacophony of differing positions. There’s no clear path through, no unifying opposition. So, the Russians can – with ‘some’ justification say they’re securing the democratic mandate. However problematic that is.

It is interesting (although that’s probably the wrong word) that Russia feels the need for a Cold War style buffer zone, but it clearly does. And it plays to popular sentiment at home (particularly if you listen to the World Service coverage of Russian radio yesterday). And meeting or addressing their unmet needs on this is also key to a resolution.

So, miscalculations here abound:

To me, Putin clearly thinks that Obama and allies don’t have the mettle* for this fight. He’s known to be a whites of the eyes man. And I’m guessing he thinks they’re without gumption. But if they surprise him, that’s going to be messy.

There are multiple miscalculations to be made around respective military strengths – just read the commentary around it.

Energy blackmail – for Europe (bar the UK) this is a real problem. And a solution will need to give Russia its cheap way back in again, and let’s not discuss the bilateral agreements it has with European states.

Democracy – there is no clear democratic option here. Containment is key, and democracy might need to take a back seat in the short-term.

British miscalculations regarding defence spending and the strength of the armed forces – many commentators correctly pointed out that we were no longer properly equipped for strategic shocks. Hopefully the size of this shock is relatively small, because collectively European defence and security forces are under-equipped and under-resourced. This is also bound to feature in Russian thinking, despite their own state of preparedness.

The counterintelligence problematic of a war with Russia – nothing particularly sophisticated here, merely that those countries that span the old Iron Curtain divide are better integrated than we’d like to admit.

Syria.. no, not a miscalculation… but no-one is talking about it. A huge fog of convenience has just descended for the Syrian government to play in(?).

The path of good intentions is paved with massive and fragile egos, making miscalculations…

(*many thanks to the commentator below for pointing out my typo)



7 thoughts on “Ukrainian miscalculations

  1. Tom Karnofsky says:

    Thanks for the excellent concise discussion. I believe mettle is the word you were looking for, not metal.

  2. Jeremy Kotkin says:

    For the larger good, Crimea always was negotiable should push come to shove. And the West just got shoved. So we need to start thinking diplomatically and with our big-boy, long term vital interest glasses on. I know that’s exceedingly difficult for a 21st century America but we can try.

  3. William Burns says:

    I don’t think its got much to do with Obama’s mettle. W didn’t do anything, other than rhetorically, about Georgia. These are just not major American interests.

  4. Glen Tomkins says:

    What happens when what’s left of the Ukraine wants to join NATO?

    Putin can’t take just a bit of Ukraine, he has to take all of it or none of it, because what he leaves will tip NATO, and he can’t let that happen.

    The miscalculation has already occurred.

    • LZ says:

      Russian miscalculations:
      1. How will Turkey respond to the Black Sea build-up ?
      2. China has many “nationals” in towns and villages on the border with Russia. Perhaps a defence force and referendum is necessary for them too.

  5. Martin K says:

    I wonder how much this is part of a main battleplan. Its time to have a serious look at the North Flank again. How many US fleets are in the North Atlantic as we speak? Also, in case of a real conflict, are there contigencyplans for handling the cessation of russian gas in place? Has anyone even concretely visualized a 1939 type conflict in todays interdependent economic system?

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