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The Perpetrators, the Victims, and the Bystanders: Putin’s War and War Crimes and Us


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The Czech-Jewish historian Yehuda Bauer, who escaped the Holocaust with his family the day that Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, which had been abandoned by England, France, Italy, and even indirectly the United States which was battling a pro-Nazi isolationist movement, made this commend that none of us should forget: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” 

The Perpetrators: Putin, his Enablers, and those Who Carry Out His War

Bauer’s words are so applicable today as Vladimir Putin and his willing accomplices in the Russian government and military, having miserably failed to overthrow the Ukraine in a fast military campaign have now resorted to using massive artillery barrages, dumb bombs, and long range missiles to directly attack and massacre Ukrainian civilians, including children.

In the long build up to his attack on Ukraine Putin, his advisors, his military planners, as well as the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko and his advisors easily could be charged under the same counts as were the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. The first is “CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.

The facts of this case are that beginning in 2014 Putin’s Russia invaded the eastern regions of the Ukraine and Crimea based on the deliberate lie that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russia speaking people in those areas. the fact is that there was no genocide or even any government organized systematic persecution of any Russian speaking people there or anywhere in Ukraine. this is back up by the testimony of Russian speaking Ukrainians who are now fighting for the Ukraine against Russia. Likewise, the fact that Russia had nearly eight years to bring evidence of the alleged genocide to the U.N. and the International Criminal Court demonstrates that the Russian allegations were lies. They repeated and doubled down on those lies when they began their invasion in February, not only invoking they were invading to prevent genocide, and to destroy “the Nazi regime that had taken over Ukraine.” One again this was a lie. there was no genocide, as Russian speaking Ukrainians call a lie as they fight for Ukraine against Russia, and Ukraine is not a Nazi state. It is a liberal democracy which has free and fair elections, which coincidentally has a Jewish President.

Putin, his advisors, and his military planners began their preparations and planning for this attack in 2021. They built up forces along their eastern and southern borders with Ukraine and in January began conducting joint exercises with Belarus which enabled them to put tens of thousands more troops on Ukraine’s northern border. This would not possible without the cooperation of Belorussian President Lukashenko.

The invasion was in clear violation of international agreements and treaties to which Russia is a signatory, and they all participated in a common plan and conspiracy to make this possible. Those who should be charged with this count include Presidents Putin and Lukashenko, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been masterminding the Russian diplomatic lies and propaganda, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Chief of the General Staff General Valery Garasimov, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Nikolay Bogdanovsky, the commanders of the Western and Central, and Southern Military districts, their subordinate commanders in Ukraine, and the Commander of the Russian Air Force, Lieutenant General Sergey Dronov, and the commanders of Air Force units that are conducting attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine, General of the Army Viktor Zolotov, Commander of the Russian National Guard which in addition to breaking up anti-war demonstrations in Russia are now deployed in Ukraine. The list could go on but many of these leaders are not readily findable on the internet. Regardless, they are known and their names should be placed before the International Criminal Court for investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Victims: The Ukrainians

Putin’s war has bogged down. The Ukrainians are fighting with a heroism, patriotism, and ferocity that nobody imagined. Despite being outnumbered, they are killing thousands of Russian soldiers and destroying hundreds of Russian tanks and armored vehicles, and shot down dozens of Russian aircraft and helicopters, and taken hundreds of Russian soldiers as prisoners of war, most of who had no idea that they had no idea why they were in Ukraine. Despite that Putin mpushes forward destroying more towns and and civilian targets while making up lie after lie.

Putin is desperate, isolated and has changed his tactics to target civilians, hospitals, homes and apartment buildings, cut off Ukrainian civilians from evacuation along agreed to evacuation corridors using direct fire from tanks and artillery to kill them and force them back into battered encircled cities with no electricity, water or power. That is not a new thing for the Russian and the Soviet militaries of the past century. When they are bogged down because of poor training, leadership, logistics, and intelligence they resort to brute force. They do not use precision weapons to target military units or facilities, but use artillery already in Ukraine and missiles fired from Russia and Belarus to devastate Ukrainian cities, towns and people.

The Russian military controls the former but still potentially deadly nuclear plant and Chernobyl, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest nuclear plant in Europe. The attack on Zaporizhzhia was premeditated and experts now believe that the attack brought the plant closer to disaster than before, had it melted down with would have been similar to the disaster at Fukushima. The Russians have now set up a headquarters and forward operating base manned by 500 soldiers at Zaporizhzhia.

The Ukrainian staff are being held captive to run the plants, even though Russians are now calling the shots, including cutting off the electrical power to Chernobyl and the reporting systems used to let the International Atomic Energy Commission to monitor what is happening at those facilities. It is well within the realm of probability that the Russians will either inadvertently or intentionally trigger a nuclear catastrophe at either of these plants, or the other three Ukrainian nuclear plants.

Wednesday the Russians accused Ukraine and the United States of operating secret chemical weapons facilities in Ukraine, the then convened a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations where they made the accusation, and were basically told that they could not use that forum to spread lies with absolutely no evidence. Their accusations are false but being fanned by Russian and Chinese media outlets as a pretext to attack Ukraine with chemical weapons.

The Russians have three chemical weapon research and production facilities which they have never allowed international inspectors to inspect. Likewise, the vast amounts of chemical weapons which the Russians had committed to destroying in the 1990s cannot be confirmed to be destroyed, and new production cannot be overseen. These facilities are illegal under international law and produce chemical and biological weapons, some of which have been used in Syria, Chechnya, and against individuals, especially dissidents in Russia and abroad. The Russians maintain missile, tactical rocket, artillery, and bombs which can be used to deliver chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainians. These weapons include Sarin, VX, Tabun, Soman, and Novichok nerve agents which even a singled drop on contact with skin can shut down the human nervous system Lewisite, and Mustard gas blister agents which when inhaled so scar the lungs that people die by drowning in their own bodily fluids, choking agents such as phosgene, and blood agents. Their biological agents include Anthrax and Ricin.

The United States ended its offensive chemical and biological weapons programs in 1969, and the programs in Ukraine ended with their independence from the Soviet Union. However, the Russians have played this game before in Syria, where after its weapons were removed, mostly by the United States, the Russians used them numerous times on civilian targets. The Russian accusations against the United States and Ukraine developing chemical weapons are a certain false flag operation to allow the Russians to claim that they are using chemical weapons in self defense, which is also in violation of international treaties and protocols that they have signed. The Russians have vast stockpiles of these weapons which they have continued to develop and use during and after the Cold War.

The second count is WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

There is absolutely no doubt that they will use them as they get more desperate to finish this war which they refuse to call a war and have made it illegal for Russian media or citizens to call it such. The Russians have already attacked over 20 civilian hospitals and many other purely civilian targets, including attacking refugees and relief convoys in prearranged humanitarian corridors. The have attacked nuclear facilities and will not hesitate to use chemical weapons as long as the United States and NATO do not call their hand and find a way to get the Ukrainians weapons that can effect tactical actions such as the Stingers and Javelins, and those include the MiG 29s offered by Poland and other heavy weapons systems that the Ukrainian military has experience using. Likewise, Russia needs to be warned that we will hunt down and take into custody any member of the Russian government or military who has take part in these war crimes, and hand them over to the International Criminal Court, from Putin down, diplomatic status notwithstanding.

Finally we come to CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The Russians are doing this impunity because not a single leader of any NATO, E.U., or the United Nations has authorized anything more than the shipment of tactical weapons, humanitarian supplies, and yes, massive Economic Sanctions. But Putin is a bully. He is willing to toss around threats of using nuclear or chemical weapons because he knows that we are afraid of crossing his red lines due to fear of World War III and mutually assured destruction in a nuclear war. He is counting on us to back down like Kruschev did in the Cuban Missile Crisis against President Kennedy who put our nuclear forces at THREATCON II, the next to highest and when the Soviet Union under Brezhnev threatened to attack Israel and send nuclear weapons to Egypt during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and President Nixon responded by both mobilizing troops and increasing our Nuclear Threat Condition (THREATCON) to THREATCON III. in both cass the Soviets, fearing the complete destruction of their country backed down. Likewise, when Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislov Petrov was alerted to a nuclear launch of five nuclear missiles realized that the new missile detection system had malfunctioned because such a strike did not match U.S.first strike doctrine, as a result Petrov refused to notify the High Command of the threat, which with only a minute or two to order the retaliatory full nuclear strike mandated by Soviet Doctrine would have certainly ordered. He was relieved of his duties and retired from the Soviet military, but he prevented a world wide nuclear war, which would destroy, him, his family, and his entire country. He later said:  “I had obviously never imagined that I would ever face that situation. It was the first and, as far as I know, also the last time that such a thing had happened, except for simulated practice scenarios.“ Petrov made the right decision, as will any officer order by Putin to launch a nuclear weapon, regardless of Russian doctrine. Putin cannot get around that, and if he ordered such an attack he would be eliminated by Russian military or security officers more committed to the survival of Russia and their loved ones than Putin.

The final count is that of conspiracy of Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.

Every single Russian leader involved in the invasion of Ukraine is guilty of this.

The Bystanders and their chance to intervene

From now on the United States and NATO need to look at history and realize that Putin’s words of nuclear escalation are a bluff that needs to be called without threatening Russia with a nuclear strike but by simply doing what we did in World War II before we were attacked by Japan. We passed the Lend Lease, giving the British, and the Free French, and the Soviets weapons to fight the Nazis and even use American ships and aircraft to escort convoys to Britain. Not only, that but American officers flew is British aircraft during the Battle of the Atlantic, one of them who spotted the German Battleship Bismarck, enabling it to be disabled and sunk by British Aircraft and battleships. Likewise, our involvement did not come without cost. The USS Kearny was damaged by a torpedo while coming to the aid of a convoy in October 1941 with the loss of 11 sailors, and the USS Reuben James was sunk with the loss of 100 of 144 crew members.

Other Americans fought to aide countries being attacked by Fascists, as did American members of the Lincoln Brigade who fought Franco’s Fascists, Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and Hitler’s Condor Legion in Spain, and the American pilots who flew with the Nationalist Chinese against Japan as the ”Flying Tigers” who valiantly fought the Japanese. Today, thousands of Americans, Europeans, and others are volunteering to serve in an international unit of the Ukrainian army. Many are professional soldiers and highly trained combat veterans.

Diplomacy sometimes has to edge towards brinksmanship. Lend Lease and the Cold War demonstrate this. Putin is a typical Soviet KGB hack who only remains in power through the fear of people who are afraid that he is a madman. He is not. We need to give him a way to save face and end his war with Ukraine while claiming that he ended Ukraine’s threat to Russia without destroying Russia, and with it his at least temporary power as its leader. It is the only way to return to what Putin’s Foreign Minster referred to the normal days of the Cold War.

Calling out Putin’s threats, providing the Ukrainians the weapons they need to defend themselves and escorting those weapons to them, daring Putin to do something about it. Despite his bluster and threat of using nuclear weapons or engaging American and NATO units in combat he will not. All of his threats have been political theater to conjure up the fear we have of nuclear war, World War III, and mutually assured destruction. But his is an empty threat, other Russian leaders in the Soviet era made similar threats and never pushed the button because they knew that it would involve the absolute destruction of ”Mother Russia”, the preservation of which is paramount to Putin, who has allied himself with the keepers of this sacred mission, the Russian Orthodox Church. This being the case he will be loathe to start a war that would destroy the holy land he is committed to preserve. For those unaware of the political power of the Orthodox Church in Russia have to rem that its leaders and theologians consider it the Third Rome, in terms of the authority of the Christian Church. It sees itself as the successor to Rome and Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church will not permit the destruction of ”Mother Russia” and Putin will not dare cross them. Since the fall of the Soviet Union he was baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church and has presented himself as its defender. To allow it to be destroyed would be tantamount to destroying the Church and Mother Russia. Putin would be damned by the Russian Orthodox Church and his people for letting that happen. Do not underestimate the power of that Church in Russia to deter Putin.

The only way that Putin has a chance to remain in power and salvage a bit of self respect in Russia by declaring his ”limited military operation” a success. If he doesn’t do this the mothers of all those Russian boys killed in Ukraine will rise up like those mothers of the Russian boys lost in Afghanistan. The wounded will come home and tell their stories of the lies they were told, and how honorably and valiantly the Ukrainians fought.

Of course all of this requires the courage of American, NATO, and E.U. leaders to call Putin’s desperate bluffs. We should immediately agree with Poland’s idea to transfer their MiG 29s to Ukraine. The Russians will not do anything to stop them. Despite his threats he does not want war with NATO. He cannot defeat Ukraine unless he totally destroys it, and he is failing. He cannot risk war with NATO.

We should tell Russia directly that if they use chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine that we will find and destroy the Russian military units responsible for their use, declare and enforce a defensive no fly zones over humanitarian aid corridors, airfields, and rail lines, not to destroy Russian military forces. Likewise, we should demand the immediate access by the International Red Cross and other non-aligned humanitarian Non Governmental Organizations to precent a humanitarian catastrophe, that Putin alone would be responsible. Do not be be deceived, despite his false claims about coming to the rescue of of ethnic Russians against Putin and Lavarov’s fake claims of ”genocide” against them, one has to remember that the majority of the people he is killing in Ukraine are the ethnic Russians in Kharkiv, Marianopul, Khorsun, and other cities who have now take up arms against him.

The slaughter can be stopped. Nuclear war avoided, but it cannot be stopped unless we act from the position of moral, legal, economic, diplomatic, and military strength. Putin’s military cannot subdue Ukraine, much less than the full diplomatic, informational, military, and economic might of the United States. President Biden and the leaders of NATO need to call Putin’s bluff knowing that without destroying Mother Russia he doesn’t have the cards or chips to do anything but fold.

For far too many years Western leaders have allowed Putin to get his way by playing on our fears rather than facts. It is true that Russia has the weapons to destroy the world, but when one looks at history, culture, and the preservation of Mother Russia it is a calculated risk that we should take. Putin is not stupid. He is not crazy, he gambled that he could conquer Ukraine in days, that the Inited States, the E.U. and NATO would acquiesce to his seizure of Ukraine. But he was arrogant, made far too many faulty assumptions about how Ukraine, the United States, the E.U., NATO and the world would respond.

Now is the time to take the calculated risk and call his bluffs. If we do not he will continue to wreak havoc in Ukraine, and promote unwarranted fears in the West. The fact is that a militarily, diplomatically, economically and informationally superior NATO is more than a match for him. He is playing the part of a fear filled bully who when push comes to shove, he will back down, or if he continues down this path, members of the Russian military leadership, the FSB, the Oligarchs, and the Russian people will rise up against him. Putin might not face a War Crimes trial if these people kill him and hang him up by meathooks like Mussolini.

The truth is that Putin is playing a weak hand that gets weaker every day. The United States, NATO, and the E.U. need to stop encouraging his aggression by giving in to his threats that paly upon our fears. This is the only way to stop Putin.

The first and final count was the conspiracy charge, which could be used against anyone cooperating with the other charges. It is time for the United States, the E.U., NATO, and the ICC to hang this like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of Putin’s willing helpers. Believe me, none of them want to lose everything for a cause that benefits none of them.

Ukraine will not surrender. That is a given. Many of the Russian people, including senior officers of the FSB are against this invasion, and if the United States, the E.U. and NATO act to support Ukraine beyond supplying short range tactical weapons, fly the Polish MiGs into Ukraine and supply that nation long and medium range air defense missiles, coastal anti-ship missiles, as well as surplus Russian made tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles that Ukrainian military personnel are already trained to use. That is not an escalation as Russian will allege, but something we have always done to help nations being attacked by criminal nation states, just like we did Britain and the Soviet Union through Lend Lease before we were officially at war.

Economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the use of intelligence and information do not deter a state using illegal war built upon lies and disinformation, and threats that it will not Putin will not carry out because they will result in the destruction of the Holy Nation Putin has promised to preserve. Thus the theory of calculated risk. Miether Putin or Russias other leaders will risk the existence of their families and Mother Russia for a war that they cannot win. Standing up and doing these things will bring about peace, enable the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine while preserving the myth that they succeeded in their operation

Sanctions should be maintained until Putin and his willing henchmen turn themselves in to the International Criminal Court, or a new Russian government surrenders them. That being done the people of Russian, many who oppose Putin’s actions should be offered ever resource to rebuild their lives and bring Russia completely into the fold of freedom and democracy without further punishment or declaration of guilt of their nation. This was a terrible legacy of Treaties of Brest-Livstock and Versailles that led to the Soviet Revolution, the Nazis, and World War II.

The Ukrainians need to be free, and the territories seized by Russia in 2014 restored to them. Instead of Russians wealth being seized by the west, a fair amount needs to be given to Ukraine as reparations, but Russia will also need to be rebuilt and its citizens who lost sons and husbands in this war be compensated. The toxic seeds of blame and shame cannot be placed on all Russians, even as their leaders are tried for their conspiracy to commit illegal war, the conduct of that war, and the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by that regime. We have to separate the ordinary citizens, many who are risking their lives by protesting or fleeing the country because they do not want to be associated with Putin’s regime’s malevolent crimes.

There is justice and there is mercy, but the path to them is filled with danger. That danger includes taking calculated risks against a malevolent dictator attempting to use the fear of World War III to keep powers capable of preventing his war crimes and crimes against humanity from intervening more forcibly. This is where the principle of calculated risk helps us and Ukraine, and eventually the Russian people.

It will take time, and in that time tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives, but fewer lives will be lost if these actions are taken sooner than later. They are a calculated risk but necessary unless we want to see a complete disaster in Ukraine and and an emboldened Russia that will beging planing attacks on the Baltic States, Poland, and Romania. It will also deter China from making attacks against the Republic of China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. They want an empire but traditionally they are patient and will not take risks that will endanger their nation.

The United States, NATO, the EU, and the World cannot remain bystanders, we must do all we can based on facts, history, diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power cannot be paralyzed by fear by the threats of a bully whose only winning card results in the destruction of his nation. As I have described this is based on the principle of calculated risk. To assume that Putin will resort to a nuclear war that will destroy Mother Russian is to play into the fear that he wants to engender in us, like Hitler did to Britain and France in 1938 at Munich. Putin cannot be appeased. Meeting him with strength the combined weight of Western diplomacy, information, military power and economics might very allow his opponents at home to overthrow him.

It is a risk we must take, sooner rather than later for the sake of the valiant Ukrainians, led by their incredibly brave and insightful President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

That is all for tonight. Glory to Ukraine.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crimes against humanity, Foreign Policy, History, Military, national security, nuclear weapons, Political Commentary, ukraine, war crimes

Welcome to the Old New World of the ”Hot” Cold War

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I do apologize for not writing in so long, it has been to long and my loyal readers deserve better. Truthfully, much has been going on at work, on the book, and at home. So much that every time I thought I might write something, I either procrastinated waiting for more information, or got a brain cramp and writers block. But tonight after 10 days of an illegal, immoral, and criminal war of aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine, I am going to speak some hard and bery personal experiences and truth.

This is a long, but necessary post because it deals with a reality that many people have either forgotten or have never experienced. Please understand it in that manner and please feel free to share.

In the 1980s I served as a platoon leader, Company XO, and Company commander in Central Germany at the climax of the Cold War. Our mission was to help,reconstitute the 11th ACR after they were decimated on the Fulda Gap. We were expected to take 70-90% casualties in the process. I was a Medical Service Corps officer with specialized training as a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare officer.

So much of that experience is seared into my brain. I can recite how chemical weapons including choking agents, blood agents, and nerve agents cause death. I know far too much about how biological agents do the same. If you are unfamiliar, depending on your ability to handle horror do some research, if you cannot because of your life experience, don’t traumatize yourself.

But most of all I remember the effects of nuclear weapons, the blast effects of air and surface bursts of various size and types of weapon, and what would happen to people, equipment, and structures from those blasts depending how far one was from the explosion. I understand the firestorms they would ignite, and the effects of radiation on the human body. I know from memory how many RADS one can live with without getting immediate radiation sickness, how long one could remain in an irradiated area, and how much radiation would give a person serious radiation poisoning and bring about death. I understand how the process of how people die from radiation poisoning not just from the immediate effects of the blast, and burn injuries.

I understand how to plot fallout patterns, and had to do so on 1:50,000 maps that had my house on them. I remember receiving and decoding FLASH messages in training exercises, saying where the nukes were going off and plotting the fallout patterns on those maps. If you want to see how frightening that is just watch the film “Crimson Tide.”

I predicted what Putin was going to do in Ukraine and even when he would do it as far back as last fall as he began to build up his forces and issue threats. you can check my Facebook and Twitter feeds to verify that information.

I knew that the Russian Army would struggle in this war because it is poorly trained, most of its soldiers are poorly motivated and trained, and its senior officers and commanders are inexperienced at the operational level of war. as a result they resort to destroying everything in front of them, even as whole Russian units surrender in mass as they suffer massive casualties.

The Russian Army has a nightmarish history of poor logistics, and its soldiers, mostly conscripts are ill-trained, and badly treated. This is nothing new, the Russian Army, including the victorious Red Army of the Second World War has had the same problems, neither is it prepared for a massive insurgency after it takes control of major cities, the Ukrainians will never give up. They will kill so many Russian soldiers in an insurgency that when the bodies come home and the Russian mothers demand justice, when the wounded return and tell their families and friends what they experienced. These accounts will end Putin’s nefarious regime, just as the Red Army’s defeat in Afghanistan sealed the fate of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union, and brought about the rule of a disillusioned KGB Agent named Vladimir Putin, who is determined to “Make Russia Great Again”, and damn the cost to his country and people. Despite Putin’s suppression of his opponents, the free press, and trying to cut off Russians from foreign news outlets, these stories will rock Russia, and bring about his fall.

But unlike some, I hate being right in my predictions. I don’t make any money from them, and you don’t see me as a talking head on cable news. Sadly, I am probably a better military historian, theorist, strategist, and subject matter expert than I am a Priest.

Personally, I am not sleeping well. I am having flashbacks, including from when we had to take action to protect us, our families, and even pets when the fallout from Chernobyl passed over us. Judy and I talk about this often. She remembers that time all too well.

Putin’s threats of nuclear war and his forces attack on the largest nuclear reactor, and seizure of the Chernobyl site, and the possibility of the Russians doing something with those places as the mother of all dirty bombs, make what is happening in Ukraine an existential crisis. Putin is now far more reckless than any of his predecessors in raising the nuclear weapons rhetoric.

Thus it is important that the United States, NATO, and the E.U., need to thread the needle of this historic crisis, because it is different than any of the major crises of the Cold War, by giving every means of assistance to Ukraine and punishing Russia without a direct confrontation with Russian military forces. Such a confrontation would give Putin the opportunity to use it as an excuse to launch a few nuclear weapons to test our response. Putin has crossed a line that no Soviet leader other than Krushev did when he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, and the brinksmanship he engaged in with John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In order to help the Ukraine without a provoking a direct confrontation that would likely lead to nuclear war, we will have to do things that will cause us pain, like cutting off all Russian oil and LNG trade to West, including us. This will result in higher oil prices with a ripple effect that all of us will feel in our pocketbooks in a myriad of different ways, but we and Europe have the means to compensate. But that is a small price to pay to help cut off Putin’s ability to make war by using economic means and hopefully stir the Russian people to rise up against Putin, and maybe even inspire someone or a faction in the FSB and military to remove Putin from power. But, in the mean time we cannot trust a word that Putin says and be wary as he grows more desperate in the military situation and the massive sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy and those to follow.

These weapons include more anti-tank and and anti-aircraft missiles like the Javelin and Stinger, as well as the former Soviet Su-27s and MiG-29s that are part of Air Forces Eastern European NATO nations that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact. We can also provide former Soviet artillery from those nations. We need to help Turkey provide more of their very effective and inexpensive drones to Ukraine. Speed is of the essence, while some would like to equip the Ukrainians with Patriot missiles, M-1A Abrams tanks, and F-16 fighters, the pipeline to provide them and train the Ukrainians on them is too long to help at the moment.

We also need to cross the line and provide Ukraine the best real time intelligence to allow their air and ground forces every advantage. Some say this crosses the line into deeper involvement, and possibility of conflict with Russia, but we will not be taking direct military action, simply providing information. This is a moral obligation.

Likewise, we need to let the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies use experienced contractors with Special Forces backgrounds to help arm, train and advise Ukrainian insurgents as we did the Afghans in the 1980s. The use of contractors and mercenaries to do this provides the cover of plausible deniability, and does not involve U.S. or NATO troops taking direct action against the Russias just like we did in Afghanistan.

Additionally we need to keep building up forces in Eastern Europe because there is no doubt that Putin harbors desires on Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Romania, and has pledged to punish Germany. That will mean deploying more U.S. Army, Marine, and Air Force units to those countries, and provide massive military and humanitarian aide to Ukraine and to the countries providing for the million or so Ukrainian refugees. We probably need to sent another three to five Brigade Combat Teams, and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

As for the United States, we need to reverse the historic mistake of President George W. Bush and every President after him and fulfill our commitment to joining the International Criminal Court. We helped establish international criminal at Nuremberg. Our refusal to join the ICC is a black mark on our moral and legal history. As Justice Robert Jackson said when the International Military Tribunal to prosecute the major Nazi War Criminals: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

For those born after the Cold War or those born at the tail end of it this is a foreign world, but to us who grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and served looking at the Soviets face to face in the Cold War, it is nothing new, and our President understands it far better than most. Whether you like him or not, he is handling this as good or better than any of our Cold War Presidents did the threats from their time, as this is similar to those but very much different.

Welcome to the old new world of the “hot” Cold War, war crimes, crimes against humanity, mutually assured destruction, and few good answers.

So, until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crimes against humanity, Foreign Policy, History, Military, News and current events, nuclear weapons, Political Commentary, PTSD, russia, ukraine, war crimes

Welcome 2022: A Year of Hope and Dread


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Something Cheerful, Izzy, Sunny, Pierre and Maddy Lyn Wish You a Happy New Year

Well friends, the new year is here and with it comes hope for a better future because we all want it to be better than 2019 or 2020. But for me those hopes are tempered by my knowledge of history and my knowledge that despite our occasional moments of doing magnificent things, behaving courageously and even in the best interests of others and humanity, but our worst times occur when they don’t, which is more often than not. Barbara Tuchman wrote: “Human beings of any age need to approve of themselves; the bad times in history come when they cannot.” Unfortunately, I believe that one of those bad times is not yet done, and the worst may be yet to come like in 1861, 1914, 1919, and 1939, or any combination combined with weapons of mass destruction, artificial intelligent weapons systems, and world wide pandemic that try as we might to contain it, is not going any time soon.

If that were all it would be enough to make the world a far more dangerous place in 2022 than it was in 2021. There is the massive ramping up of tensions between Russia, versus the Ukraine, NATO and the European Union. Then there is the increasingly bellicose incantations of the Chinese Communist/ Han Chinese Nationalist actions towards the Republic of China, a Democracy which China never had a historic, cultural, or religious claim upon before Chang Kai Shek and his Nationalist forces were defeated by the Communists in 1948 and established a nation on the island of Formosa, which we now call Taiwan. However, President and Chairman Xi continues to claim that it is a ”renegade” province despite it being its own nation with a budding democratic tradition. Xi and his allies also threaten the United States for its support of the ROC. That would be enough, but over the past year the Chinese Communists have defied their treaty obligations to Hong Kong and crushed its majority pro-democracy movement, even removing monuments to the martyrs of Tianamin Square. We can then add their enslavement and genocide of the Muslim Uyghur population of Xinjiang province, and ,its continued threats to the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, and their development of hypersonic missiles and torpedos. But they have problems, especially economic with a very threatening real estate bubble that could crash their economy and send shockwaves throughout the world economy.


Then we come to Russian military threats to the Ukraine. Russian President Putin, having already seized the Crimea and the Donbass from Ukraine in 2014 has massed over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. Demands by President Biden, the European Union, and NATO for the Russians to stand down have been met with even greater threats. Russia’s position is not logical, but it is deeply emotional and seemingly personal to Putin. Though he appears in good health, he is not young and may be compelled by a medical condition to complete a conquest that would cement his role in Russian history, very much the reason that Hitler launched the Second World War.

Of course there is the constant threat of war with Iran which grows more as Iran attempts to undermine the governments of Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States even as it rattles sabers with the United States, Europe, and most importantly Israel.

Any or all of these issues could blow up at any time in 2022, all it takes is any combination of unfortunate events to set any one, or all into motion, with potentially cataclysmic results. I keep telling people that I feel that I am watching a modern replay of Tuchman’s The Guns of August or William Shirer’s The Nightmare Years.

none of that even mentions the political divide in the United States which overcame a Coup attempt on January 6th 2001, and potentially faces a reprise of racist and fascist terrorism backed by a core of cultists determined to return Donald Trump to power by any means. The are backed by a multitude of partisan and conspiratorial ”News Networks” and authoritarian radio and television pundits, who routinely spout Nazi like anti-semitism and racism; removing voting rights, civil rights, and religious rights from non-White Conservative Christians, even using violence to achieve those goals.

This isn’t fantasy, it is the reality in which we live. I will do what I can to influence events. Hopefully, ,y book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil Era and Beyond will give me a chance to be heard at the national and international level. However, it will increase the personal danger to me since I have had real and verifiable death threats on this blog, social media, and when engaging Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists attacking leaders of civil and religious rights groups.

Sadly, many of these people claim to be Christians, and their words and threats are the most chilling of all, because they not only threaten my physical life, but also damn my soul to their version of eternal punishment. I truly believe that such people are dangerous, not just to the lives of people, but will so completely destroy the message of Jesus the Christ and that of the Christian Church that it will take decades if not centuries to see it reclaimed by people with no political or cultural prize at stake. But, for practical purposes, maybe for what passes as Christianity in the United States and any country infected with its sickness to death.

That may not sound like an uplifting or optimistic message, but they are realities that we must face. However, as trying and excruciating as the past two years have been, things can get worse, as Tuchman wrote:

“An event of great agony is bearable only in the belief that it will bring about a better world. When it does not, as in the aftermath of another vast calamity in 1914-18, disillusion is deep and moves on to self-doubt and self-disgust.” 

Until tomorrow or Monday I wish you the best.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Miscellaneous Thoughts on a Friday

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Friends, I am tired. It has been a busy week and I am going to try to rest some over the weekend as well as spend some quality time with my wife Judy.

Part of the issue with my tiredness is that I haven’t been the same since my experience over the last month or so dealing with the military mental health system. I won’t bore you with details since I have already written a lot on it, including the fact that I got some resolution, but frankly I didn’t realize just how fragile that I was still was. I had no idea that trying to get help would be so emotionally punishing. Truthfully, I have not had a good night sleep since the initial conflict with the physician and the system. The nightmares, terrors and restlessness are all back. Hopefully in a few weeks or months things will settle out again.

On the positive side I was provided new hearing aids which are quite remarkable in their capabilities and are already helping me to understand speech better. For those that don’t know I hear noise just great. I have almost no loss of that ability. However, since Iraq I suffer unending tinnitus and my speech discrimination, a neurological function is in the third percentile, meaning that 97% of people understand speech better than me. So I am grateful for the hearing aids, as Judy, who was becoming ever more frustrated with me not understanding her or others. The ironic thing is that she has been severely hard of hearing her whole life and has a 77% hearing loss, but she usually understands speech better than me. a funny thing did happen yesterday. I was asked by a Charismatic Christian about praying from my hearing. While I appreciate that and I am touched by such sincere desires to help, it would be a shame if the government wasted over 5,000 on the hearing aids that are working so well.

Likewise, it looks like I have been invited to speak at the Military Officers Association of America conference in Washington DC in September on the topic of being a care giver to those suffering from PTSD while suffering from it myself. That should be interesting. In a way it is something that I hope to do on a regular basis once I retire from the military.

I have been writing a lot about Gettysburg and each thing that I write helps bring me a better understanding of the battle, but also the people, as well as the culture and philosophic ideas that had such an influence on those times. So you can expect that as I write new material and revise old material that I will share them with you here.

Finally as to current events. I am troubled by the events in Ferguson Missouri, especially many of the surprisingly racist reactions by “white America.” Since I wrote about that recently as well, I won’t go back into it.

The situation in Iraq with the rise of ISIS and its “Caliphate” has me greatly concerned. This is not a normal terrorist organization, it is Al Qaeda on steroids. The Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hegel, sounded a clear warning in the wake of the public execution of  American photo journalist James Foley and threats to bring their war to the United States and the west. I do not think that Secretary Hegel, a very circumspect man would make such an announcement if there was no real threat. The problem is that back in 2003 the Bush Administration sewed the wind in Iraq and left a very fragile and unstable state, whose leaders failed their people, and now we are reaping the whirlwind. We want peace, I know I think I speak for everyone, but the rise of ISIS with its apocalyptic vision, vast financial resources, international reach and success on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq is drawing radicalized Moslems to it’s black banner around the world. Because of this I expect that we are in for a long hard fight, and that our new opponent will cause us grave damage.

That being said, I fear for civil liberties in the wake of any attack, and I especially fear that, if something bad happens in the United States, that we will react not just against the culprits; but innocent, loyal and patriotic Americans of Moslem or Arab descent or because they look like the bad guys, or because they share the Islamic religion. Since I know a good number of such people I worry. We can be quite a xenophobic people when aroused, and our quite often “yellow journalism” and jingoistic politicians and preachers stir the cauldron of hatred to the point of paranoid insanity. Our history is colored by such xenophobia.

Finally, the news that the Russians may be attacking in the Ukraine is seriously bad news, which we all, Americans and Europeans need to wake up to.

So I close this Friday sharing my sense of foreboding even while I hope and pray for peace and justice.

Peace and have a wonderful weekend.

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Putin’s Crimean “Anschluss”

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Vladimir Putin has successfully annexed the Crimea and reincorporated it into Mother Russia. It was masterfully done but it was not the first time that something like it has been accomplished. The last time was in March 1938 when Hitler with the assistance of Austrian Nazis and Pan-Germanists brought Austria into the Third Reich over the objections of its democratically elected leaders.

The pretext was the same. Ethnic Germans in Austria who wanted to be part of Germany ere being persecuted, just as was claimed about ethnic Russians in Crimea and the eastern Ukraine. The larger power, backed by military force moved to support the their allegedly persecuted brothers and sisters.

Like in the Crimea, the Nazi conquest of Austria was aided by Austrians. Austrians who with the assistance of the SS ensured that Jews, Socialists and others had their votes suppressed. According to official Russian news sources over 95% of Crimeans voted to become part of Russia. That number is lower than the 99.7% of Austrians who “voted” for incorporation in the German Reich, but numbers such as this are suspect.

The elections in both places were aided by the presence of a large military contingent from each major power. The Germans of course were more overt, their forces openly crossed the border with Hitler accompanying them. The German SS supported the moves of their Austrian counterparts as well as the Austrian SA in bludgeoning all opposition.

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The Russians acting under the same pretext in 2014 denied that their troops had entered the Crimea, despite massive evidence to the contrary. In less than two weeks an “election” was held backed by Russian military forces and local police forces and political groups. Ethnic Ukrainians and Tartars who make up close to 40% of the population of Crimea were kept from the polls.

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The parallels are startling. I expect that by tomorrow the Russian Duma will recognize the results of the Crimean election, and that with days Russian forces will move to annex other potions of the eastern Ukraine. These areas are gripped by Russian nationalist forces that are agitating against the Ukrainian government. The situation is so bad that many ethnic Russians in the region are objecting to the methods and propaganda.

But that will not stop Putin. For whatever reason he has decided that now is the time to begin to restore Russian dominance in the areas nearest to Mother Russia. It is a dangerous move.

Putin is moving more military forces into Crimea. There are credible reports that Russian military units, including the elite Spetsnaz commandos have entered the Ukraine and are attempting to create “false flag” incidents in order to justify Russian military intervention in the Ukraine.

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This is dangerous. The Ukraine is not Austria of 1938, nor is it Czechoslovakia of the same year where a similar drama was playing out in the Sudetenland where Hitler again taking advantage of the supposed oppression of ethnic Germans was used as pretext to threaten war. Then it forced the west to back down, and a Munich the leaders of Britain, France and Italy forced the Czechs to surrender that territory. But now, with the exception of Russia, the world is condemning the Russian aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine.  The UN Security Council voted 13-1 with one abstention to condemn the Russian adventure in Crimea.

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The next week promises to be eventful. A military “truce” has been agreed to by the Ukraine and Russia. That truce is set to expire Friday the 21st of March. Meanwhile the rhetoric in Ukraine and Russia is becoming more elevated even as military forces of Russia, the Ukraine and NATO move into positions around the region. The military situation could easily escalate beyond the best efforts of diplomats and a real disaster could ensue.

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It is a dangerous and potentially volatile situation. Much blame can be laid at leaders of various Ukrainian political factions, the European Union, Russia and the United States for allowing the situation to get to this point. However, that being said the overwhelming responsibility for the increasing rise in tensions and potential for violence has to be laid at the feet of Russian President Putin. It is Putin who has not taken the path of conciliation and negotiation regarding what is happening in Ukraine. He has instead opted for confrontation. That course is is dangerous and is not in the interest of anyone, especially the citizens of the Ukraine.

Let it be clear that I am not a fan of some of the Ukrainian nationalists involved, who are neo-Nazis and fascists. That being said if cooler heads prevail, that negotiations taken in good faith followed by elections that are free, fair and not held under the threat of military intervention take place that the situation might resolve itself. However, if that does not happen I hate to see what happens.

I would hope that some kind of solution, maybe of the order of of a non-aligned Ukraine such as Cold War Finland would be negotiated. Such a course has been recommended by no less than Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately I do not think that will happen. The politicians, pundits and preachers, the Trinity of Evil in Russia, the Ukraine and the West are stoking the fires of passion with results that at best will make the world a less stable and more dangerous place, and at worst could lead to a disastrous war.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Nothing is as Clear and Certain as it Appears to Be: The Ukraine Crisis

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“in the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight” Barbara Tuchman The Guns of August

There is nothing more uncertain than how leaders and people will react in crisis. We would like to think that we can be certain in our predilections, but we cannot because the reality is that human nature is always at play, and human beings have a penchant for doing things that are not expected.

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It did not take long after the showcase of the Sochi Olympic Games for Vladimir Putin to move against the Ukraine and for all practical purposes annex the Crimea. But now after a few weeks it seems that the West is beginning to galvanize in its opposition to the Russian action. Germany is leading the charge from the side of the European Union, with Chancellor Merkel taking the lead. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been taking a hard diplomatic line while military forces gather.

It appears that targeted economic sanctions are in the offing while the European Union prepares to help supply the Ukraine’s energy needs.

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The Russians have blockaded the small Ukrainian Navy in its Crimean ports, it has an estimated 30,000 soldiers in the Crimea and other forces are conducting “exercises” near the Ukrainian border. The Provisional Government of the Ukraine has called up its reserve forces, the United States is deploying naval and air force units to the Black Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean as well as Poland and the Baltic States.

But at the same time this is not the Cold War where two ideological blocks wrestled for domination. Instead the motivations, geopolitical and economic factors that connect the West and Russia make this much more complicated. Money is a big factor and it is of interest to note that a good amount of the resupply of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan is conducted over what is called the Northern Route, which goes through Russia and the Ukraine.

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The situation in the Crimea and the Ukraine is potentially volatile. Any situation that costs the lives of Ukrainians of either Ukrainian or Russian background could spiral out of control. Passions on both sides are running high. We in the West also need to remember that many Russians and men like Putin still feel the humiliation of the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and end of the Soviet Union. Many Russians who even now are not fans of the Soviet system long for the days of empire and Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe.

In 1914 France was motivated by the humiliation that she suffered in 1871 at the hands of Prussia and the loss of Alsace Lorraine. The Russians have a similar attachment to areas where sizable ethnic Russian populations live, including the Eastern Ukraine and the Baltic. One has to remember the words of Otto Von Bismarck who said: “A generation that has taken a beating is always followed by a generation that deals one.”

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When looking at why this is happening we have to remember history.  Likewise we have to also remember the historic Russian paranoia when it comes to the influence of Europe and the West on areas that they believe are still part of Greater Russia. Their memory is long and past wounds are still fresh. Thus the blundering of the EU during the Fall of 2013 in its dealings with Ukraine, dealings which looked to the Russians like an attempt to draw Ukraine further away from them helped cause this situation. Likewise the Eastward expansion of NATO in the 1990s and early 2000s following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact is considered both an insult and threat. The same is true of the presence of the American Anti-Ballistic Missile system in Poland, which is considered by many Russians to be directed at them, not Iran.

The situation is complex and influenced by many factors, and unlike some American politicians and pundits say, it has nothing to do with Benghazi or even what they claim is the “weakness” of President Obama. The roots of this crisis are long standing and diverse and have almost everything to do Russia’s relationship with Europe and very little to do with the United States. Thus for American politicians and pundits to demonstrate their woeful ignorance of history by blaming this all on President Obama is so self serving and transparent that it is embarrassing. But then American politics is almost always a demonstration of ignorance and arrogance.

The problem for the United States is that we have little credibility when it comes criticizing nations like Russia when they do the same as we do. Our actions to invade Iraq in 2003, actions which under the criteria that we laid down at Nuremberg violated international law make it hard for any American leader to criticize another power. This is true even when Putin’s actions, also illegal under international law are no worse and certainly by the historic ties of Crimea to Russia are more justifiable than what we did in Iraq.

Thus the outright hypocrisy of the architects of that invasion like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld shamelessly attack President Obama for his “weak” response to Putin’s actions are in large part to blame for them. They squandered our international standing and credibility, broke the military and bankrupted the country. They then lay the blame on Obama. By the decisions that they made and the subsequent consequences they tied Obama’s hands.

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Sometimes these crisis blow over. Sometimes they stabilize but cause problems that continue for some time after the initial crisis. But there are some times that they take on a life of their own and that the people who think they are directing events end up being caught up in them, often with tragic results. While I do not think this will end in war, the possibility of such cannot be dismissed.

Tuchman in her book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam wrote:

“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Policies Contrary to Their Own Interests: Putin’s New Cold War

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“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by government of policies contrary to their own interests.” Barbara Tuchman

Today Russian forces continued their occupation of Crimea in spite of international outrage. Not only did they continue to build up their forces in Ukraine to the point that they operationally control the peninsula, they upped the ante demanding that Ukrainian army and navy units to surrender by Wednesday or face a “military storm.”

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It is something that Europe has not seen since the Cold War when the Soviet Union used military force and violence to put down revolts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

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However, I think in political terms it is much closer to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 after Britain France and Italy stripped that country of its power by forcing the Czechs to surrender the Sudetenland to Hitler in October of 1938. Up to that moment the European powers bet on the appeasement of the Hitler regime. In a sense over the past decade the West has given Putin free reign to exercise his power over former territories, coercing them and occasionally using economic and even military power to bring them into line.

But now it is Ukraine. a complex region where Asiatic Russia meets Europe. The Ukraine is not Georgia or Chechnya. It is a region that has been a battlefield between Russia, the indigenous peoples as well as Germany, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Turkey. It is the dividing line between western Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. In the 1850s even England and France found themselves intervening in the Crimea.

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I believe that Putin under the flimsiest of pretensions has elected to use military force to attempt to coerce the Ukraine back under the thumb of a Russian Hegemon and to frighten the West into not intervening. It is a mistake. Just as in 1938 when Hitler believed that he could continue to steamroll the through Europe without war. In betting on the weakness of the West, Putin is playing the same game. Contrary to the speculation that Putin is doing this as a show of strength it is actually a display of Putin’s domestic insecurity.

Russia is not nearly as economically or militarily strong as Putin acts. There are serious ethnic and social divisions in the country and despite its assertions the Russian economy is much more dependent on the good graces of other nations as it is not. Already following Putin’s move into the Crimea the Russian currency and stock markets are tanking. I suspect that the West will soon impose sanctions that hit Russian economic and banking oligarchs where it hurts which will undercut support for Putin where he needs it most. Likewise I expect that Russia will be expelled from the G-8 and possibly cut off from other international banking and economic organizations.Likewise both the U.S. and the United Kingdom are bound by treaty to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukraine.

140302073009-03-ukraine-0203-horizontal-galleryPutin has had a run of success until now. However his crackdown against dissidents, campaigns against homosexuals and the state supported Russian Orthodox Church assault against other Christian denominations have already undermined his credibility as a world leader.

The invasion of the Ukraine will solidify opposition to Russia abroad, and increase anti-Putin sentiment in Russia. Should the Russian military attempt to invade other parts of Ukraine as they are threatening, Putin will find that he has bit off more than he can chew. His forces are certainly more than a match for the Ukrainian military, but he will not be able to hold or occupy the vast areas of the Ukraine in the face of opposition that will rapidly move toward a protracted insurgency. This insurgency will be supported by nations such as Chechnya which will take the war to the heart of Russia. It will turn out worse for Russia than the invasion of Afghanistan for the Soviet Union.

A new Cold War has already begun, Putin has made sure of that. The world that existed just three weeks ago when athletes from around the world gathered in Sochi for the Winter Olympics no longer exists. The only thing that we can hope is that the new Cold War does not become a hot war.

I am reminded of Barbara Tuchman’s words in The Guns of August: “The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” 

The world that we knew is now changed.

Let us pray for peace.

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Putin’s Mistake: Creating an Afghanistan in the Ukraine

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It appears that  it is 1980 all over again. From  all accounts Vladimir Putin will succeed in chopping off the heavily Russian region of Crimea from the Ukraine. His troops accomplished the task in short order. The weak and isolated Ukrainian border guard and military units stood no chance against an invasion which had obviously been planned for month. This was not a knee-jerk response by Putin. Though events moved rapidly,  the alacrity with which the Russian troops moved in, aided by ethnic Russians, and the rubber stamp action of the upper house of the Russian legislature to approve it demonstrates that it was not simply a move to “protect Russian citizens.”

The response of the new provisional government in Ukraine is that the invasion, and it is an invasion no-matter what Putin and his allies claim, is an act of war. The Ukrainian President has mobilized all reserves, however conventional Ukrainian military force is insignificant compared to what Russia can deploy against it. That being said if Putin elects to continue his aggressive and short sighted overreach by moving troops into other parts of the Ukraine it will trigger a massive insurgency against his forces and it may cause other now independent regions of the old Soviet empire to offer support to Ukraine. The President of Chechnya has already made the offer and its hardy and brutal soldiers are quite good at conducting insurgency and terrorist campaigns.

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The West’s response is limited by geography. Any U.N. response against it will be vetoed in the Security Council by Russia. The United States, the European Union and NATO will protest. They will probably enact sanctions on Russia’s financial oligarchs on which Putin’s power rests and will possibly move troops to the western areas of the Ukraine and maybe limited naval forces into the Black Sea.

For those like Representative Mike Rogers of the House Intelligence Committee and others who said the Obama “missed the opportunity to deploy military forces to Ukraine,” I have to ask what forces and for what purpose?  U.S. military options are quite limited after 13 years of fighting costly wars, including the preemptive invasion of Iraq. Those wars, fought on borrowed money because the Bush administration refused to raise any taxes of any kind to support them harmed the country. Our forces, both the troops and equipment are worn out by war. The ability of the nation to rebuild and sustain them has been compromised by the economic costs of the 2008 banking and real estate crisis.  Likewise the Republican actions to force sequestration and other cuts on the military in order to get President Obama to cave to their domestic agenda has been detrimental to our overall national security.

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Those efforts themselves will not immediately accomplish much. However, when combined with an insurgency that has the ability to strike Moscow and St. Petersburg, the costs of maintain an occupying army in hostile territory are factored in they become more important. Likewise the ambivalence of the Russian people, who despite the imperialistic Russian media blitz has not risen to support war will eventually bring Putin problems at home.

The invasion of Crimea is not good for anyone. Ukraine needs time to sort out what it will become and a war is not in the interests of anyone.

The situation is intense and fraught with danger. Passions in many parts of the Ukraine are riding high and Putin’s move is more risky than he may realize. This is not the Republic of Georgia which Putin successfully invaded in 2008, abetted by the incompetence of that country’s leaders. If Putin continues down this course he will open the door to a real life Pandora’s Box, one that may take him and his government down just as Afghanistan helped end the Soviet empire.

Of course it is too early to say what will happen. The geopolitics, and economic realities, the internal politics of Russia, the Ukraine and the West will all influence what happens. In the past Putin has conducted a skillful game of realpolitik, however this time he may have overplayed what was a strong diplomatic, economic and political hand by launching this invasion. Those that think that simply because the EU depends on Russia for much of its natural gas and oil forget that Russia cannot cut off the supply without financial repercussions that directly affect Putin’s allies in the Russian financial oligarchy.

So now we watch as all the actors make their moves. It is a dangerous game that Putin has embarked upon.

We can only pray that it does not turn into disaster for all concerned.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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