Saturday, July 19, 2014

The End of Russia’s Fairy Tale

2014 aggression

1930's aggression
Following up on the last post, the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 has hopefully exposed the lie of Russia's fairy tale that it is ethnic Russians in Ukraine who are driving the separatist effort in the eastern portion of the country.  Without Russia's active support, training and supply of weaponry, the movement would not exist.  And the chess master behind it is Vladimir Putin (I loved the description of him as "rat faced" in the Times column).  A column in the Washington Post continues to focus on the lies and dangerous agenda of Putin and his efforts to sow hate and discord which cost 298 individuals their lives, including 100 some top AIDS researchers and humanitarians..  Here are highlights:
Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane. 

From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov — the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars — and Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government in 1991.

With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices and other symbols of political authority to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide. 

In recent days, the separatist forces were openly using man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) and boasting of having taken down large Ukrainian transport planes, clearly with Russian specialist assistance. Indeed, Strelkov on Thursday afternoon reportedly boasted online of having taken down another military plane before realizing that the plane in question was MH17. The blog post was removed.

This is the context within which a surface-to-air missile was aimed at a passenger plane: a lawless environment; irregular soldiers who might not be so good at reading radar; a nihilistic disregard for human life; scorn for international norms, rules or standards. Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine because the separatists were not flying airplanes.

Until now, these unorthodox methods have worked well for the Russians. They unnerved and distracted the Ukrainian government while allowing foreign governments, and European governments in particular, to turn a blind eye. Because the war was not a “real” war, it could be described as “local,” as “containable,” it could remain a low priority for European foreign policy or indeed for anybody’s foreign policy.

If it has done nothing else, the crash of Flight 17 has just put an end to the “it’s not a real war” fairy tale, both for the Russians and for the West. Tragically, this unconventional non-war war just killed 298 people, mostly Europeans. We can’t pretend it isn’t happening any longer or that it doesn’t affect anyone outside of Donetsk. The Russians can’t pretend either.

Without the fairy-tale pretense, some things are about to become clear. For one, we are about to learn whether the West in 2014 is as united and as determined to stop terrorism as it was 26 years ago.

It is insufficient to state, as President Obama now has , that there must be a “cease-fire” in Ukraine. What is needed is a withdrawal of Russian mercenaries, weapons and support. The West — and the world — must push for Ukrainian state sovereignty to be re-established in eastern Ukraine, not for the perpetuation of another frozen conflict.

The echoes of Hitler's tactics in the 1930's must be opposed and stopped.  Appeasement and willful denial will only lead to more tragedies and needless deaths.   Putin needs to become an international pariah and Russians need to understand that the wisest thing they can do is overthrow his corrupt and brutal regime.

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