The Ukrainian government made progress today in its efforts to reassert authority in the East. This provoked an angry response from Russia, including a massive show of force on the Ukrainian border. Now, Russia is on the verge of a monumental historic blunder as UN Ambassador Churkin has threatened to invoke Section 51 relating to self-defense.
The Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has announced that Russia has the international legal grounds for introducing peace-keepers into Ukraine in the event of necessity. Churkin told Interfax:Nobody in Ukraine is seriously contemplating bombing Russia or invading Russian territory. Therefore, Churkin's own statement implicates Russian special operations forces in East Ukraine despite denials from the Russian government.
'There are relevant norms in the UN Charter, Art. 51 of the Charter, which speaks of self-defense, and which we, by the way, activated during the conflict in the Caucasus in 2008," he said on the air in the program 'Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyev.'
'So we have international legal grounds. There is the relevant decision of the Federation Council,' noted Churkin.
Ukraine's Security Service has released a video implicating two Russian Special Operations figures in the chaos in East Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has released a YouTube video it says implicates high-ranking Russian Military Intelligence officers in the April 17 abduction and subsequent killing of Horlivka City Councilman Volodymyr Rybak.
The first part of the video allegedly shows a recording of Russian Military Intelligence Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezlier ordering a subordinate to abduct Rybak, tie his hands and blindfold him while driving him away to a remote place so that he could rendezvous with the captors.So now, based on new news reports, a more complete picture of Russia's operations have emerged. At the top are Russian operatives like Bezlier and Strelkov. Underneath are foreign adventurers, irregulars, nationalists, and Cossacks like Duck Dynasty and friends. Below them are grassroots supporters, rank and file people who support either federalization, independence, or union with Russia.
In the second part of the recording, Russian Military Intelligence Colonel Igor Strelkov – who the SBU says is coordinating the Kremlin-backed separatist movement in eastern Ukraine – calls Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed mayor of Sloviansk, “to come and pick up (Rybak’s) body because it is starting to stink.”
In response, Ponomaryov complies, and says he will come to take and “bury the punk.”
You can read John Kerry's response here. But what we want to say is that Russia is on the verge committing a blunder of monumental historic proportions. The US had no business either facilitating the coup in Ukraine or trying to push Ukraine to become a member of NATO. The Ukrainian government made a blunder of their own when they tried to remove Russian as an official language on taking power. While it was rightly vetoed, it sent a clear message to the East that they were not welcome in the new government. Any revolutionary movement must include all the people if it is to be successful. If we had not included the South in our effort to overthrow King George, we would not have succeeded.
But these missteps would pale in comparison to the kind of mistake that Russia is now on the verge of making. Crimea likely would have voted to reunite with Russia even if that election had been free and fair. Russia made the same kind of mistake back in 1979, when they invaded Afghanistan and bled their own economy dry in a futile effort to subdue the Afghan people. We made the same kind of mistake in Iraq and Vietnam when we tried to prop up governments whose armies were not willing to fight and bled trillions of dollars in the process.
Should Russia make the same mistake, it would be worse than any of these three misadventures. The capital flight would accelerate to the point where Russia would run out of foreign currency reserves within a year or two. The economy would tank into a depression. Western sanctions would hit even harder and would isolate Russia even further. Even China would not vote with Russia in the UN Security Council Resolution against them. Even Belarus is distancing itself from Putin over his threats to invade the East. And on top of that, there would be a worldwide boycott of Russian goods and services.
On top of that, relations with the West would deteriorate to the lowest point in recent memory. Should Putin continue to meddle in the same of "self-defense," then the risk of the worst-case scenario, nuclear confrontation, would be greatly increased. This is the elephant in the room which people are not talking about. Yet it would result in the deaths of tens of millions, if not billions of people around the world.
Putin has a clear choice before him -- war or peace. There is no middle ground here. Peace means doing his part to deescalate the confrontation in the East by using Russia's influence with the protestors there. War means invading East Ukraine and calling it "self-defense." We are familiar with this sort of rhetoric. It is the same sort of rhetoric that we used to justify an invasion of Iraq in 2003 in a war of aggression of our own. It is astonishing that Putin has not learned the lessons of this debacle.
Putin may very well overrun all of Ukraine in 3-5 days. Yet his problems would have just begun. The chaos that is already taking place in Crimea would be multiplied many times over. While the Ukrainian Army may be in disarray, the Ukrainian people would take to the hills and woods and fight for as long as it takes. They have ample experience in guerrilla combat. That is why the West will not send weapons or arms there -- because there is no need to. If Putin underestimates the resolve of the Ukrainian people, who have already shown a willingness to die for their beliefs, then he will have bled his country dry in a war much more disastrous to him than Iraq or Vietnam was for us.
But if Putin chooses peace, and reigns his militants in, and allows Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty as a nation, then there is no reason, as Putin himself said, that relations with the West can't be restored to good standing. We have plenty of problems with the new Ukrainian government. Yet exercising its Section 51 right to defend itself as a sovereign nation is not one of them. It is no different than Russia exercising its own right to defend itself against the Caucasus separatists.
We do not buy the argument of some who would insist that Putin is somehow a lunatic. We can't play armchair psychologists any more than Dr. Bill Frist could when he tried to diagnose Terri Schavio from a distance. Putin can and does act rational, such as when he facilitated the deal that is allowing Syria to destroy its chemical weapons and when he helped facilitate the deal with Iran to halt their nuclear program. But if he listens to those who do not have the best interests of anyone at heart, but who are simply trying to exploit the Ukrainian people for profit like they are the Russian people, it will destroy any good that he has done. It will destroy his place in world history, his legacy, and how he will be remembered by his own people. Many of us in the West would share Putin's vision of a harmonious economic community stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific with Ukraine serving as the gateway. But all that would be destroyed if he were to embark on a reckless path that would destroy his own country.
For those who wonder why we are singling out Russia, we are simply calling it both ways. I blogged for years against the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the war crimes that were committed by the Bush administration. But as someone who is an experienced observer of these sorts of conflicts, we see the same sort of rhetoric being used by Russia. The US has facilitated dozens of coup attempts since 1953, and we are still experiencing the blowback of these actions today. But none of this would justify what Russia is actively contemplating, given the fact that they have dropped their rhetoric about having "no plans" to invade Ukraine. Our position is very similar to RT's own Abby Martin, who is a lifelong enemy of any form of imperialism, whether it be American or Russian.
And for those who wonder why we give Russia the benefit of the doubt, there is no other way to peace. War always starts with propagandizing and dehumanizing the other side and refusing to listen to what the other side has to say. That is one thing I will refuse to do, regardless of what choice Putin makes. We are always taught in school to be good listeners. So why all of a sudden do we refuse to be good listeners when it is much more important to listen than it is to lecture?