What a shame that it has come to this! It wasn’t enough for the barbarians in the Kremlin to simply challenge the sovereignty of the peaceful state of Ukraine but now they have to contest the fundamental freedoms of every peace-loving nation on the planet. Yesterday it was Malaysian Airlines Flight 17; mercilessly shot out of the sky by Russian SAM missiles, yet who is to say tomorrow it won’t be another Asian or European airliner or perhaps a foreign sea vessel plying the waters of the Black Sea, suddenly doomed to destruction because of Kremlin paranoia or Red Army impulsiveness. With this one savage act of international defiance might we all assume that Russia, which occupies one-sixth of the world’s surface area, is once again closed to all public air travel as it was for more than fifty years in the heyday of Soviet communism?
Regardless of Vladimir Putin’s arrogant attempt to blame the Ukrainians for shooting down the Malaysian airliner, the preliminary evidence collected in just the first 24 hours since the incident occurred leaves absolutely no doubt that the Russian Armed Forces were the main perpetrators behind Flight 17’s untimely end. And if the Kremlin was really interested in uncovering all the evidence which could determine indisputable guilt for the callous violation of international law than why would they order their client, insurgent army to seal off the crime scene from all international air inspectors and investigators?
|Russian-made Buk SA-11 anti-aircraft missile system|
What we know today is that one and possibly two, Soviet-built SA-11 surface-to-air missiles hit the airliner over Eastern Ukrainian airspace at 33,000 ft. cruising altitude and that those missiles originated from Ukrainian territory controlled by the Russian-backed, anti-Ukrainian insurgent armies. The trajectory of the missile was ultimately confirmed by NATO spy satellites and an American AWACs surveillance aircraft flying over Poland’s border region with the Western Ukraine. Russian complicity in the incident was further corroborated by intercepted signals intelligence by Ukraine’s SBU security agency which divulged a communiqué between the separatist, ground commanders and high-level Russian military intelligence officials in Moscow. These Russian officials have been positively identified by the Ukrainians as agents of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence bureau.
For most of us somewhat attuned to the military situation in the Ukraine, the events over the last few days come as no surprise; shocking perhaps for its callousness and impudence but in no way surprising by deliberation. More to the point, this type of barbaric behavior is what the civilized world can routinely expect from a Putin-controlled Kremlin determined to resurrect its Soviet past. And for those of you out there not quite sure of the insurgency’s legitimacy or the insurgent’s resolve to conduct operations within the parameters of internationally accepted military conduct, one only has to look at the abominable behavior of Russia’s client armies as they resort to rob, ransack and desecrate the corpses of the unfortunate passengers now strewn across the Ukrainian steppe. Simply put, these Moscow-backed militias are a disgrace.
Of course, the Kremlin is perfectly fine backing combatants with the demeanor of Medieval Mongol hordes. Like their predecessors from over five hundred years of autocratic rule in Russia, the Kremlin has never been sensitive to the sufferings of their own people, let alone the people who would defy their imperial quests for conquest. Russia’s institutionalized deference to hardship, pain and suffering among the masses has always subjected its civilized progress to the perception of backwardness among the Western World. Sadly, hundreds of years later that perception is widely accepted by the Russian leadership themselves, who often use it to whip up the furor of their largely oblivious masses when the Kremlin embarks on another foreign policy fiasco. Inevitably this allows the Kremlin to foment an “us versus them” mentality to promulgate popular appeal and conformity to their wayward pursuits.
The modern world witnessed this firsthand after the Soviet Union’s glorious defeat of Nazi Germany occasioned the Kremlin to embark on a decades-long military buildup at the expense of its largely destitute population. So while the Soviet Armed Forces monopolized state expenditures to develop a global, high-tech, military fighting force of unparalleled quantity and quality, Russia’s long-tormented, working class was left devoid of many of the most fundamental consumer goods routinely available in the west. Soviet citizens were not accustomed to having radios or telephones in their homes until early in the 1970’s and most workers had to endure a six and seven year wait just to be placed on another waiting-list for the simple possession of a common automobile. Obviously when most motor vehicle production was concentrated strictly for military purposes, consumer manufacturing was left at the bottom of the totem pole in the Soviet system.
The Russian people can thank Boris Yeltsin for initiating the state’s first attempt to liberate its masses from the debilitating constraints of backwardness. Vladimir Putin continued that pursuit just long enough to secure his own reign among Russia’s dwindling political power brokers. But in the information age things are much different. Putin has to control the message much more carefully, thus it wasn’t a surprise to hear that the first words out of his mouth after the Flight17 disaster was a carefully worded accusation blaming the Ukrainian armed forces for the shoot-down. Only, this was said not to alleviate the concerns of the international community rather it was mentioned solely for domestic consumption; to ramp up the furor of those millions of Russian civilians who have already locked onto Kiev as the main culprit in the months-long fight in the Eastern Ukraine.
It’s sort of a game that these autocratic states need to play from time to time in order to keep their domestic populations firmly behind them when they seek to undermine their neighbors or to engage in imperial pursuits. An autocratic regime will always go to extreme lengths to vilify their foes and to accelerate the reassurance of their domestic masses to the inviolability of the supreme leader’s cause. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were all eager purveyors of this kind of propaganda. It served them immense dividends by fueling their popularity on the home front during times when their international reputation was at its lowest. It’s an integral part of the ‘leader worship’ complex that the Putin regime has been trying to uphold and facilitate. And so far it is working, at least in Russia.
Yet Putin’s little game could have been far more persuasive in swaying the standpoint of the international community if only his anti-Ukrainian insurgents were genuine, patriotic minorities rebelling against persecution and tyrannical repression. But this is clearly not the case. Not when the whole rebel leadership consists of carefully transplanted Russian intelligence officers from the GRU with little to no allegiance to the Ukrainian community or its political institutions. And the Ukrainian regime in Kiev can hardly be construed as being repressive or unfailingly dishonest toward their Russian minorities. The Russian minorities in Eastern Ukraine only rose up against the leadership in Kiev when its former Russian puppet leader was overthrown by Ukrainian patriots after years of corruption and political indiscretions toward the Ukrainian majority. Thus the Russian minority only resorted to an insurgency because the Kremlin saw its political hold over their former Soviet partners slipping away and not because of newly incited fears that they were in imminent danger of being persecuted or suppressed.
|The Russian-made SA-6 (GAINFUL) SAM missile battery|
The insurgency in Eastern Ukraine was immediately marked by the anti-Ukrainian rebel’s sudden possession of some of the most lethal, high-tech weaponry in modern warfare. These weren’t ordinary, patriotic freedom-fighters resigned to a long drawn-out guerrilla war with crude assault rifles, grenades and an occasional heavy machine-gun. On the contrary, these rebels came heavily armed with almost all the requisite resources to engage in an all-out, conventional war against an equally equipped, modern army. The only thing missing for the insurgents is the presence of a modern air force to contest the skies against the small but potent Ukrainian Air Force yet they are sufficiently equipped to confront all enemy aircraft from the ground with their possession of the SA-11 and SA-17, Soviet-made, Buk anti-aircraft missile system; one of the most lethal SAM missile batteries in the world. I’d say that’s quite an impressive weapons inventory for a rebel force that didn’t even exist more than a year ago.
The only question that needs to be asked now is whether the rebel firing of the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight-17 was a simple mistake by an inadequately trained or trigger-happy SAM technician or was it a deliberate case of covert political posturing by a higher military elite or rogue regime determined to send a message to all would-be interlopers that the fight in the Eastern Ukraine is decidedly off-limits to the rest of the world. Unfortunately we will never get a definitive answer from the Kremlin, even though all collected evidence decisively points to its participation in the heinous, international war crime. Moscow has been in an advanced state of damage control to cover-up the political damage since the incident occurred and all attempts by the international community to investigate the crime scene will continuously be stalled, impeded and obstructed by a Russian military establishment stained with duplicity in some of the most reviled acts of international war crimes in history. The Soviet cover-up of the Katyn Massacre of Polish military officers immediately comes to mind when alluding to the lengths the Kremlin will go to in proclaiming their innocence in some of history’s greatest transgressions.
The only sure thing we can deduce from this latest episode of Kremlin criminality is that Vladimir Putin is now utterly transfixed on channeling his nation’s revitalized military establishment onto a dangerous course of international aggression and confrontation. He, like many of his bellicose Kremlin forebears is determined to underscore the Russian state’s centuries-long quest for international prominence and prestige by projecting military might on a dangerously alarming scale through military aggression, political hostility and cultural antipathy to the welfare of the indigenous people on the Russian periphery. He has now taken absolute hold over an uncompromisingly rogue regime which threatens the nearly seventy years of peace and prosperity that the end of WWII had brought to Europe. And the calculating former Soviet spy-master is quite aware of the extent that the Western World will go to in sustaining that peace against all overt acts of aggression that threaten the serene balance of power. Thus he is quite intent on ‘pushing the envelope’ both politically and militarily to confer his national prerogatives. And so far the west has accommodated his overt aggression with pusillanimous ignorance.
Plainly the Western World must know by now that economic sanctions will have little effect in curtailing the belligerent course that the Kremlin has embarked upon. It must also be well aware that Moscow’s client armies in Eastern Ukraine have no intention of seeking a political settlement to the current crisis. Therefore it is time that the west dismounts its high horses and starts walking the walk of military mobilization. This is the only surefire way which might divert the Kremlin from its current, aggressive course. Moscow has historically been averse to benign diplomacy to solve its most pressing territorial issues and there is little doubt now that the Kremlin has strayed far from that stance. The Kremlin only understands military might as the acute panacea for all its national ills. It only respects an opponent’s will to resort to military might as the prime arbitrator which might inhibit the Kremlin’s thirst for national aggrandizement through military force. But it will first attempt to enrich itself simply by the threat of military confrontation; a posture it surely is utilizing now in its quest to annex the Eastern Ukraine.
Make no bones about it; the Kremlin’s sole interest is to annex the Eastern Ukraine but more precisely, the Donets Basin, which provides much of the raw resources such as coal, iron and other precious metals that maintain Russia’s military might. The Donets Basin was always a predominantly Ukrainian territory until the Soviet military-industrial complex started inundating the area with more reliable Russian communist technocrats, after Germany’s retreat from the area in 1943. The Soviet system encouraged Russian migration into the area throughout the postwar years to counterbalance the prevalence of Ukrainian workers in the strategically important iron ore and coal fields. Following the initial Russian migrations came generations of stalwart, communist technocrats to oversee the industrial buildup of the basin, which ensured a politically reliable core infrastructure to maintain the Soviet military’s interests in the area. Even after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 the Kremlin has maintained an active and not always overt interest in the area to ensure the continued flow of raw resources to Russian industry. Many of these Russian civilians are the ones taking up arms against the Ukrainian government today by their illegal declaration of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic.
Naturally the stakes are high in any potential military crisis with Russia because of its possession of the largest nuclear weapons arsenal on the planet but this is exactly what Putin is depending on to curtail the West’s possible drift toward military confrontation. It is exactly this threat which engendered the Cold War policy of nuclear deterrence to thwart either side from gaining an edge through the aggressive use of their conventional forces. But Moscow is hedging that those somewhat obsolete and provocative policies are no longer relevant in today’s world. So it’s probably a good time the West and especially the USA, make a firm pledge to invoke those same peacekeeping policies of the Cold War era since Moscow has decidedly detoured away from its post-Soviet path of cooperation with the Western World. Simply put, Europe cannot afford to have another inherently aggressive, rogue regime dictating political policy to its less prosperous neighboring states.
If Moscow’s intention is to provide the Ukrainian rebels with all the implements of war it needs to attain a military solution to the current crisis then the West must resolve to undertake a comprehensive arms trade package with Kiev to ensure that Ukraine has the means to defend its sovereignty against its domestic enemies. Conversely, the NATO alliance should immediately resolve to strengthen its military defenses in those countries situated on the borderlands of Russia. Intelligence and reconnaissance assets in those countries should be enhanced to prewar deterrence and early-warning levels. But most importantly, the rest of Europe should begin implementing trade policies that divests their fragile economies from their dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, in order to mitigate the inevitable effects of Russian economic blackmail. You can count on that last scenario being the next weapon the Kremlin will hurl against Europe to counter the effects of the newest round of economic sanctions the West will employ to punish the Kremlin for murdering the 295 passengers aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.