Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is anyone really in control in Ukraine?

[Monday update:

More tweets from our deep throat at Kiev Airport:

The military and the border police continue to confiscate equipment that is being sent for the failed National Guard.

All cargo planes are inspected by the army. From what I can tell, they are of the same opinion as the Air Force.

The military command of Ukraine will make a decision in the next few days and communicate it to Russia, and their government, in that order.

70% percent of soldiers in Crimea have already communicated officially that they are transferring to the Russian army.

The EU, the USA and their blasted mother don't recognize the referendum, yet in Kiev most people accept it and care little or nothing about it.

It's incredible that [the referendum] is more accepted here than in the rest of the world. Why don't they leave these people alone, may I ask?

Military neighbors, friends, colleagues, consider [the referendum] legit and understand it and accept it. The world that gives opinions about these people, doesn't. Strange.]

[While everyone is concentrating on the referendum in Crimea, let's not lose sight of what's happening in the rest of (formerly independent) Ukraine. As we already know, the government in Kiev is dead broke; the aid that is forthcoming from the US is barely enough to cover its debt to Russia's Gazprom, for natural gas. Ukraine's bond yield has spiked to 50% while $15 billion of these bonds mature and have to be rolled over this year.

A lot has been made of the Russian and Belarussian troops massing all around Ukraine and in Crimea, but so far little has been heard of the state of the military within Ukraine itself. But now it appears that Ukraine's military (which has never been involved in any armed conflict anywhere and is poorly trained and poorly armed) is mostly on the Russian side already, and, in any case, not willing to follow orders from Kiev. It also appears that the National Guard goon squads being hastily organized by the government in Kiev may be effective at intimidating civilians, but that they won't be much of a military force.

This information comes from a well-positioned source. There is a Spanish-speaking air traffic controller working at the Borispol International Airport in Kiev, who has been tweetting in Spanish and giving a blow-by-blow account of the goings on in the air and on the ground, along with some useful commentary. What follows is a summary of some of the recent tweets. Many thanks to Francisco for putting it together.
Here is what I see as the best case scenario for Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian militaries fraternize and merge without a single shot fired, followed by a joint mop-up operation against the nationalist thugs. Once the nationalists' ability to intimidate the populace is neutralized, the country can be reorganized, ideally as a federative structure that supports local languages, dialects and cultures.]

The Ukrainian military are by and large refusing to follow orders from he government. Many if not the majority of them are incredibly angry. Some generals have openly declared that they will not follow orders from some foreign-imposed government. The chief of the Air Force is a major problem for the government: so far he has flatly refused to fly any missions at all, and has grounded all the planes. He says that he will not follow orders except from a freely elected governent. Until such a time, he will follow only his own orders.

In this ATC's opinion, this attitude within the military is a good thing, because there would already be lots of casualties had they had followed their orders. It looks like at least half, and probably more, of the military feels much more affinity toward their Russian colleages than towards the Ukrainian Nationalists who are nominally in power. The government is frantically trying to recruit and organize a National Guard, with whatever western help they can get. There is no equipment or money in the country.

The problem with this National Guard is that it's being recruited based on an ideology of nationalistic bigotry and hatred rather than any useful aptitude. The people in Kiev are much more afraid of the nationalists and the National Guard being created than of the military. It appears that the sentiment towards the Russians is in general very friendly, that most Ukrainians consider Russians to be their brothers. The exception is the ultra-nationalistic faction, which superficially seems to be gaining a lot of power through intimidation.


Unknown said...

according to RT the military units sent by Kiev to the border are being blocked by citizens and are turning back without much argument. Lavrov and Kerry seem to be talking and maybe things are going in the right direction of a constitution in Ukraine balancing things out. The only ethnic cleansing that will be happening in the Ukraine is of the racists, who will all land in jail. At best the corrupt politicians would go to jail to but since corruption seems to be universal nowadays this would be too idealistic a point.

Lisa V said...

People in east Ukraine prevent the tanks from Kiev to go to Crimea

Peaceful citizens of small town made the military to turn back, then chanted “Russia”

Unknown said...

Does the Holodomor have any bearing on recent events? I never hear any mention of it. What do today's Ukrainian and Russian peoples think of that time? Is there resentment? Has it been written off as Soviet crimes?

Noah Linden said...

Well, none of this really surprises me. Ukrainians have never struck me as a bigoted, nationalist people, although I do understand they don't like Jews. And they certainly don't want to start a war against Russia for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Russia could crush Ukraine effortlessly. The current western-imposed government of Kiev is patently insane for attempting to start a war against Russia. Were they really expecting NATO to help them out, even though all of Western Europe depends on Russia for gas? Even more to the point, what was NATO thinking by initiating this conflict? Nothing has been accomplished except the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Jim Kemeny said...

Very interesting. The military inability of Ukraine is an aspect I had never thought of. I am sure you are right.

Esn said...

@Mark Sebela, Saker has written a pretty good overview of the various views of the Holodomor, here (including the conflicts that preceded it and followed it):
(for your purposes, ignore the long section about religious terminology at the bottom)

I don't know exactly how close to the mark it is, but a lot of things began to make sense after I read it.

AWB said...

Dimitri, thank you for continuing to follow and post about the unfolding developments in the Ukraine.

I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment the people of the Ukraine will be best served by a government which supports their individual and collective cultures.

The super powers on both sides will have to be restrained to allow this restructuring to occur. Each of the regions should elect a delegation to effect this change as quickly as possible and without external interference, while recognizing the value of their region to both Russia and Europe.

The issues causing conflict in the Ukrainian are the same as those in Iran, control over the transport of energy resources. This can and should work to the advantage of the Ukrainian people for self determination.