June 5, 2015
Poroshenko’s Two-Front War
One of the key if often unspoken assumptions animating much of the debate concerning Ukraine is this:
“Poroshenko is creature of the West who does whatever the West wants, and since the West wants to hurt Russia, it is using Ukraine as an inanimate tool to bash Russia.”
None of the components of this world view stands up to scrutiny. It’s clear that the West would prefer to de-escalate the conflict with Russia. However, it wants to do so in a face-saving way, which means the progress will be slow and will occur only when the leaders in question are certain events won’t make them look like idiots. Because if the West wanted to escalate things further, let’s not forget the excuse is already there, in the form of two Russian “not-soldiers” in a Kiev hospital protected by the thinnest possible veil of “plausible deniability.” Do you see them being paraded on US TV screens 24/7? No, you don’t, because the Powers That Be don’t have an interest in escalating the situation any further. At this point the brave Ukrainian air defense troops could shoot down MH18, MH18, AND MH20 with nary a peep from the West, simply because the West has seen that Russia can respond to any escalation in a very credible fashion.
As to Ukraine being used by the West as a tool, let’s not forget that the West takes better care of its tools than that. Because, if you look at things from Kiev’s perspective, “what has the West done for us?” And the answer is, “not a goddamn thing.” Are they being invited to join the EU? No. NATO? Nope. Visa-free travel? Non. Tens of billions of dollars of IMF credits? Nein “Lethal weapons”? Other than maybe pirated copies of some old Mel Gibson movies, Western “lethal weapons” are a figment of Ukrainian propaganda, nothing more.
This story here shows just how pathetic Kiev’s position is. The best it can do is an export license to buy, no, not weapons, but suppressors and spare parts, and to add to the indignity they have to spend ALMOST A MILLION DOLLARS of their own scarce hard currency to buy this junk of dubious military value. I suspect the main reason these documents are even public is because Kiev itself leaked them to say “look, see, NATO is helping us!” But that’s quite literally the extent of NATO’s material assistance. Heck, I suspect at this point even ISIS has more high-tech US equipment in its arsenals than Ukraine!
So why is the West doing this? Well, because the West is waging its own hybrid war on Ukraine, one aimed at economically colonizing Ukraine through economic and political pressure. Because, if you can imagine yourself in Poroshenko’s (probably rather expensive) shoes, which would be the more “clear and present danger”, the Russian Army marching on Kiev or a civil war brought about by a West-imposed default? Because right now it is the West that’s putting far more hurt on Ukraine than Russia.
Now, how did Poroshenko get himself in a position in which his benefactors are waging this little economic war on his country? Well, I suspect that’s Poroshenko’s own fault. He is a cunning operator endowed with only limited intelligence, which means he’s liable to overestimate his own political skills and get himself into trouble when dealing with more powerful (and smarter) adversaries. They include both Russia and the West. Because it’s not the West who recruited Poroshenko to launch the Maidan, but rather Poroshenko who conceived the Maidan and enlisted the West to provide him with political support–in return for certain yet-unknown concessions which almost certainly have to do with the privatization of key Ukrainian state assets. Except that, being very clever and all, Poroshenko thought he could get out of his “Faustian bargain” with the West by invoking the “Russian threat”. Well, no dice. After the initial Crimea-induced panic, once it became obvious that the Russian Army will not be marching on Kiev any time soon, the West has lost interest in further confrontation with Russia, and is now turning its attention to extracting from Poroshenko what he promised.
So how is Poroshenko’s two-front war going? In a word, badly. He’s losing on both fronts. The appointment of Saakashvili is most likely a sign he wants to get serious about deliveries the goodies he promised the West back when he was planning his Maidan. The very quiet recognition of the border with Crimea is, on the other hand, a signal he wants to ratchet things down with Moscow. Now the only question is which of these fronts will collapse first, bringing about a regime change in Kiev, because neither the privatization of key Ukrainian assets nor the giving up of Crimea is what Poroshenko’s most ardent supporters expected when they backed him on the Maidan.
Needless to say, from the Russian perspective this is not a wholly bad state of affairs, which goes a long way toward explaining Russian restraint on the Donbass and elsewhere. Because, given Poroshenko’s predicament, all the Kremlin needs to do to bring Ukraine back in the fold is to appear as the lesser of the two evils, from Poroshenko’s perspective, and that’s not really hard to do given the West’s plans for Ukraine.