This morning, NPR's Morning Edition did a report on the confrontation between Russian and "self-defense" forces on one side and Ukrainian loyalist troops on the other side in Crimea. The Russians and their allies are conducting siege warfare, where they are surrounding the Ukrainian troops in their barracks and not letting anyone in or out. The Ukrainian troops are refusing to join the other side, like Putin's troops are "suggesting." Similar to the Chinese Communists, Putin is saying that Russia is not responsible for the "self-defense" forces; Mao said the same thing about the "volunteers" who fought with the North Koreans against the US in the Korean War.
Putin's goal is to starve the Ukrainians out of their barracks. Therefore, he is perfectly fine with talking to the US and the EU, calling his troops back from the border, and saying that force will only be used as a last resort. But the problem is twofold. First, as Morning Edition reported, people are starting to feel sorry for the Ukrainians trapped inside, with crowds gathering to show support for them even when they don't have family members inside. Secondly, at some point somewhere (maybe 1-3 weeks from now), someone will reach the breaking point and start firing shots. That is when things could turn into a real war.
At his presser on Tuesday, Putin was clearly enraged, both at Yanukovich (whom he has no more use for) and the Americans, whom he sees as a bunch of conniving schemers. There is a real possibility that Putin could invade and occupy Ukraine similar to what we did with Iraq. But given the Euromaidan demonstrations, the Ukrainian people have already shown the willingness to fight for their freedoms. And $15 billion could go a long ways towards funding a guerrilla army that would stay in the field for as long as it takes to get rid of Putin's forces. And Putin is pissing away the good will of the people in East Ukraine, as evidenced by the crowds gathering in support of the Ukraine loyalists.
There are two possibilities for Putin. One is to work with the West to return to the February 21st agreement that Yanukovich signed before fleeing the country, in what Putin obviously sees as an act of cowardice. That is obviously what the oligarchs who hold the real power want him to do; they dumped the Ruble on Monday when tensions were high and then bought it back when Putin acted more conciliatory. The other is to make the mistake of his predecessor Brezhnev, who invaded and occupied Afghanistan -- to the disaster of the USSR. If Putin wants to give himself rope for his own hanging, I say let him. If Putin doesn't want to follow international law anymore just because we have been breaking it for years, then there is nothing we can do beyond whatever set of sanctions we can agree on with the EU. Given the fact that the Russian public and even his own advisors are divided about what to do about Ukraine and RT's Abby Martin is against the invasion of Crimea, my money is on option one, with a lot of bluster along the way.
There are not a whole lot of good actors in this conflict, but Martin's profile in courage was one of them. Here is what she said:
“I can’t say enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs,” she said at the end of the show called “Breaking the Set” which is posted on the official website.Even her RT bosses respected that stand enough to retweet her message. And RT noted in its slam of Wahl's on-air resignation:
“What Russia did is wrong,” she said, “military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologize or defend military aggression.”
“Furthermore the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation,” Martin said before saying goodbye and marching off the set.
Ms. Wahl's resignation comes on the heels of her colleague Abby Martin's recent comments in which she voiced her disagreement with certain policies of the Russian government and asserted her editorial independence. The difference is, Ms. Martin spoke in the context of her own talk show, to the viewers who have been tuning in for years to hear her opinions on current events – the opinions that most media did not care about until two days ago. For years, Ms. Martin has been speaking out against US military intervention, only to be ignored by the mainstream news outlets – but with that one comment, branded as an act of defiance, she became an overnight sensation. It is a tempting example to follow.Martin is against military intervention no matter who does it. We need more voices like her on American TV.