My earlier blog post suggesting that the Kiev government has met devastating military setbacks has been confirmed by a post in the NY Review of Books. Tim Judah:
The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week has to be seen to be believed. It amounts to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history.
A week ago a major rebel offensive began. On September 3 on a sixteen-mile stretch of road from the village of Novokaterinivka to the town of Ilovaysk, I counted the remains of sixty-eight military vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, pick-ups, buses, and trucks in which a large but as yet unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers died as they tried to flee the area between August 28 and September 1. They had been ambushed by rebel forces and, according to survivors, soldiers from the army of the Russian Federation.
These destroyed vehicles were of course only the ones I could see—those that were not destroyed are now in the hands of rebels.
The fortunes of war have changed dramatically in the past two weeks. In spring, anti-Kiev rebels, taking the new and revolutionary Ukrainian government by surprise, seized towns and cities across the two predominantly industrial and mining regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At first, Ukrainian forces either fell apart, were captured, or defected to the rebel side. By summer, however, the Ukrainians were better organized and went on the offensive driving the rebels back.
…The Ukrainians said that regular Russian troops were crossing the border, a contention supported by western intelligence reports. More and more stories are being written in the Russian press too about soldiers killed in action in Ukraine, though the Russian government flatly denies that any regular soldiers—as opposed to volunteers who have come on their own—have crossed the frontier. However not only is there mounting evidence of the presence of regular Russian soldiers but the fact that the military situation has changed so rapidly also suggests the rebels have acquired new strength.
From Neil MacFarquar at the NYT:
Timothy Ash, a market analyst at Standard Bank in London who closely monitors developments in Ukraine and Russia, said the agreement signed in Minsk on Friday meant the conflict would probably be frozen in a political stalemate similar to those in other Russian-dominated, quasi-independent “gray zones” like Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia in Georgia.
“Russian regular and irregular forces are not going to withdraw unless Poroshenko delivers on Putin’s agenda for a federal solution for Ukraine, which is really a nonstarter for any Ukrainian politician and political suicide, in effect,” Mr. Ash wrote on Friday in a note to clients.
Without a cease-fire now, Mr. Ash wrote, Mr. Poroshenko risked losing Mariupol, which remained under heavy attack by pro-Russian forces on Friday. “Any delay would probably have seen the loss of Mariupol, and then a land corridor secured by Russia to Crimea,” he wrote, which would have been “likely terminal” for Ukraine’s already struggling economy.
Judah was there. He saw troops he believes are Russian, though not in large numbers. Cameron’s call to assemble a rapid-reaction force and the plan to have NATO troops train in western Ukraine therefore puts us on the brink of a full-fledged hot war between the US and Russia. Certainly there are forces in Ukraine that would be happy to light the match.
This blog has been warning about this for a very long time. For example. And for example. (And half a dozen more).
One does not need to support the Russians–I don’t–to realize that Ukraine is a vital interest for them and not for us. So, they are quite willing to go to war over it, and we aren’t. So, we should shut up and try to accomplish change through more constructive means than overthrowing the government, sending their soldiers off on a fool’s mission, and then using our own troops in as a tripwire on an active battlefield.
Also, we should stop trying to silence the people who know what the f–k they’re talking about. As an aside, I called the attempt to silence those of us urging caution as a kind of neo-McCarthyism on July 22, several weeks before Stephen Cohen said the same thing.
And, as a final interesting aside, you may notice we have heard nothing new about the Malaysian airliner? There has been an agreement between the western powers who are conducting the investigation not to talk about it:
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean there seems to be an agreement between the major countries?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, in addition to the insurance company for the airplane, which technically has legal responsibility, the major countries that are doing it, Britain has the black boxes, the Netherlands are involved. There was a report the other day that these parties, these states, have agreed that they would not divulge individually what they have discovered. Now, they’ve had plenty of time to interpret the black boxes. There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down. They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not?
So… maybe somebody other than the Russians or the pro-Russian rebels shot down the airliner?