The second Ukraine post, a follow-up to the brilliantly prescient Ukraine: Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation wherein I said:
Miriam says Yes: she thinks “Russian armed forces, on Ukrainian soil, within two weeks” (she declined to say “tanks over the border”, though I think that’s the only way they can do it, if they want to). I say No. perhaps more in hope than in judgement, but my reasoning would be: this is all unexpected. No-one is in place to react quickly. Invading… is very risky, and could go terribly wrong for Putin. Whereas doing nothing except fomenting a bit of bother, and hoping it all goes horribly wrong, is not very risky (he looks a bit stupid and somewhat dissed, but its far from fatal)
There are no tanks over the border, and being Jesuitical I could perhaps press for the idea that the Russians didn’t technically “invade” because most if not all of the troops involved (that Putin is still, ludicrously, pretending weren’t there) came from Russian bases already in Crimea. Anyway. The current situation (which I’ll write down because looking back it may be hard to remember) is that the Russkies have nicked the Crimea, by a mixture of direct force, intimidation, propaganda and (it has to be said) support on the ground from a fair segment of the population. With indecent haste they’ve declared Crimea to be part of Russia; no-one else accepts this (I have little doubt that, had they simply waited 6 months for things to settle down, and then held a fair referendum, they’d have won a majority for secession anyway [Update: or, possibly not. See the beeb report quoted here]. And could then, with suitable decorum, have joined Russia in a year or two. However, whose interests would that have served? No-one would have looked macho).
Returning to my prior title, there is some promise. The current lot in the Ukraine seem to be fairly sensible, at least when viewed from a distance; and Ukraine has faded from the headlines for the moment, which is good; indeed, that’s the best sign. They’ve abandoned the silly stuff about not having Russian as a language. They managed not to fire at the Russians in Crimea. The trick now, as the Economist said, is to work towards building their country and avoid tying themselves into knots over the Crimea. In a way that the Georgians have failed to. they will suffer a variety of problems – like the Russkies, oddly enough, no longer selling them cheap gas cheaply – but in the greater scheme of things not subsidising fossil fuels is good anyway. Another reason for hope is that Putin’s poll ratings are high. The bozo Russian public is actually viewing this as a success. Which is stupid of them, but at the same time takes the pressure off him to, say, invade eastern Ukraine.
My current title comes from my next “prediction”, or perhaps I’d rather say “scenario”, which is that this is going to turn into economics, in much the way it happens in one of the stories in Asimov’s Foundation series (and one from F, not F+E, I think, but never mind, it makes a better title). The one where they are being invaded by superior military (Korell), and Mallow does nothing but retreat, and after a while the invasion collapses because the invading force is too tied up economically with the products of the Foundation. So in this version Russia is the invading Evil Empire and they’re going to find that what they’ve done so far is quite enough; more would be disastrous. You can see that a bit already; as Timmy says in Russia is finding out something interesting. Or, you can read some slightly wild words here. And I think its now fairly clear that The West would react harder to further incursion into Ukraine; and even harder to incursions into other countries. Russia can survive the current level of capital flight, and raising of interest rates, and loss of finance; but I very much doubt it wants to push any harder. In Asimov’s story, part of the invasion collapsing is due to the entourage of the Korellian dictator pulling the plug because they don’t get atomic powered refrigerators. In today’s story, there must be a lot of oligarchs wondering if they really want to get boxed into an isolated Russia dominated by an ever more dictatorial Putin. If I were one of them, I’d be discretely moving money and children out now. Or at least, constructing an option to do so. And I’ve have no interest at all in whose flag flew over eastern Ukraine.
In the long term, the decadal scale, in this scenario, Ukraine wins by moving Westwards, figuratively: more open, less corrupt, richer. Russia, under Putin, fails all that. Living in Russia becomes ever less attractive; living in Ukraine, more so. But this is only a scenario: I refuse to be held to it as a prediction. Many things could go wrong.
* The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
* A total of two decent articles on the military situation in the Ukraine says Brian.
* Battle of Kiev by CIP.
* McDonald’s quits Crimea as fears of trade clash grow including the interesting “The closures follow Geneva-based Universal Postal Deutsche Post’s announcement that it was no longer accepting letters bound for Crimea as delivery to the region was no longer guaranteed.”
* The home front: The Kremlin’s belligerence in Ukraine will ultimately weaken Russia
* Better get fracking, eh? from Timmy
* Russian Fiction the Sequel: 10 More False Claims About Ukraine
* Ukrainian Hopes, Russian Failings is good.