Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Putin's Laughable Game Of Chicken

 Perhaps it's my own Russian heritage coupled with my specialization in International Relations, but as the entire world deludes itself that we are on the cusp of WWIII and makes diverse but equally unfounded outcome predictions - all I can do as I look at the 'escalating' situation in Ukraine is laugh hysterically.

What kind of superpower "invades" a neighboring country with troops wearing unmarked uniforms? This seems scary because it's so bizarre, but give it 30 seconds of thought and the most obvious answer materializes as 'a fake one'. Both the use of covert warfare and crony guerillas is nothing new - the USA and the USSR did this perpetually throughout the Cold War and it remains common in the modern age. But the whole point of such operations is secrecy because whoever ordered them is either scared to attack openly or realizes this will cause domestic political disaster. Further, such deployments tend to be limited and operate on intimidation rather than actual use of force - so as to avoid exposition.

Now let's examine Putin's strategy from this perspective. His pet domestic media sounds on par with Alex Jones as it flat out lies that the unmarked military are "Ukrainian defense militia" and that they're taking over Ukrainian military bases in the Crimea. He clearly hopes to provoke violence against this force and perhaps against the plurality of pro-Russian citizens in Crimea, so he will have an excuse to march them further into Ukraine pretending they're domestic militia with seized weapons and perhaps reinforce them with marked military. However, the entire world realizes those unmarked soldiers are Russian military; even including Putin's own citizens as 60 protesters were arrested today for a "stay out of the Crimea" demonstration. Russia is not the US and people don't protest for fun - this is a significant indicator of just how unpopular Putin's antics are in his own country. For this same reason, the mysterious armed force hasn't fired a single shot. If they did, they would be violating the Geneva Convention and despite Putin's insistence of equivalent force, NATO would be in control of Moscow within a few days. Going further, the pro-Ukraine minority in Crimea realizes this and is not intimidated, with military personnel refusing to leave their bases or fire the first shot. They're basically exchanging glances w/ the unmarked Russian invaders that say "yeah, our bosses are idiots, this is SO stupid". If Putin really had the muscle to take Ukraine by force, he would have done so already by invading it with marked, truly intimidating military. What he is opting for instead is a desperate and pathetically transparent bluff that is highly unlikely to yield him a desirable outcome.

While I don't have a specific prediction for how this situation will end, I can say with absolute certainty that it will NOT end well for Putin; and that it is likely to result in him being deposed or even dead at the hands of his own citizens. If we refuse to read into Putin's theatrical stunts and examine his capabilities objectively, he is not much more than a desperate tyrant on the verge of expiration trying to deceive the world that he's powerful; much like Ghadhafi or Mubarak in their final weeks.

And that brings me to every so-called conservative now beholden to Romney and McCain apologism trying to pull "I told you so" on Americans that ridiculed those candidates for Cold War thinking. I was one of those Americans, and unlike fickle Obama groupies some of whom are now having second thoughts; I stand adamantly by that ridicule. Blowing trillions on defense against a pretend superpower on the verge of collapse would not only be wasteful and stupid, it would actually enable that superpower as Putin's pet media could blame "escalating US aggression" and gain some credibility for him in Russia. As things stand now, a critical mass of his own people see him as a tired and incompetent dictator and are likely to dispose of him - making the world a safer and better place. That's what non-intervention does, and you Romney supporters are just as wrong on foreign policy as you were in 2012.


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