54 years ago the 6 DAY WAR took place between the Israelis and Arabs. 35 years later the US unleashed Shock & Awe taking control of Bagdad in 6 days. 8 DAYS into Putin’s invasion of Ukraine this war looks different. On the CBC radio, 28 February, a Russian journalist from Moscow set the record straight:
Putin is calling this the ‘demilitarization of Ukraine’. Russian forces will either destroy or control all military assets in Ukraine. Putin is out to prove that he is right one just point: Ukraine is being swallowed up into the NATO orbit.
In Putin’s ramped up rhetoric naked aggression becomes the ‘de-Nazification’ of Ukraine by Russia. Russia, the nation with one of the most formidable, advanced and modern nuclear deterrence capabilities. Of course, chief among the modern weapons of war we count disinformation.
It is DAY 8 in a war that should have started mopping two days ago. Russia appears to have miscalculated—badly. And now the Ukraine, with the West firmly on-side, are facing the most terrifying outcome of all: the Russian Bear backed into a corner.
PHASE ONE OF RUSSIAN OCCUPATION
Phase One in ‘Putins War’ appears to have aimed to maximize captured territory while minimizing civilian casualties. By DAY 6 casualties remained in the low hundreds. That is a remarkably low toll in a war zone lending some credence to official pronouncements.
However, there is no stopping the destruction of community life brought on by this invasion, the fog of war, the damage to infrastructure, collateral damage, and outright targeting of both civic infrastructure and urban fabric. Supply lines are cut, access routes obliterated, and missiles drift off-course, or are shot down, landing on neighbourhoods, destroying buildings, and killing people. Civilians remaining behind wake up in the early hours by bomb blasts and the sound of sirens, then scurry off to shelters where they will remain for an indeterminate number of hours, maybe even days.
The ‘Blitz’ is not on, yet signals are sent everyday that both conventional and nuclear weapons are a real option. Given what can only be counted as the ‘limited success’ in the first week, the decisive and all important week, all bets are off as to Moscow’s next moves. As it stands, a nation brought up on chess has made a bad opening.
2. WESTERN SANCTIONS
The picture could not be more different on the side of Russia’s Cold War opponents. In the west, the combined strategy of rapidly imposed sanctions, massive delivery of weapons to the insurgency, and supports for the Ukrainian people, are paying dividends and winning small early victories.
With egg on their face western banks and major institutions are divesting themselves of Russian paper. Put on display is the double standard by which we govern ourselves: up front everything is rosy and bright. Behind the scenes even pension funds go to the ‘dirty places’ to make money.
On 28 February CBC reported the Russian ruble falling by 50%. That is modern warfare in action. 50,000 Russian rubles were valued at $800 US dollars on 23 February; they were worth $400 dollars five days later. Bank machines were reported empty in Moscow as the central bank doubled interest rates in an effort to preempt a rush on the currency.
The Germans cut ties with Russian oil supply by pipeline, both in the planning stages or already built. We cannot fight Cold War 2 while appeasing the other side. Moscow and Beijing must be sent a clear message: Communism will not be tolerated in the west. Time’s up: reform or be severed from the western economies.
The threat of economic sanctions is real but dangerous. Hyper-inflation was used as a weapon of war after WW1. The Versailles Treaty (1919) imposed conditions on Germany that led directly to the rise of Hitler in the beer halls of Munich. In Germany, war reparation payments triggered hyper-inflation by 1921. Sky-rocketing prices arrived hand in hand with massive unemployment, leading Germany to default on its foreign debt and war reparation payments. Out of the suffering, humiliation and despair, the German people elected to follow the rantings of the fascists triggering WW2.
3. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES FOR SUCCESS IN THE UKRAINIAN RESISTANCE?
Good, very good. Both Russian and American armies withdrew from Afghanistan opposed by local militias being armed by Cold War adversaries. It worked then; it can work now. Making all the difference are Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 64 staying behind to fight. And the Cold War adversaries—in this case NATO & the EU—providing arms in sufficient amounts to down planes, blow up convoys and sabotage supply lines.
Yet serious consequences loom on the event horizon. At the flip of a switch, Moscow can turn the Ukraine into a wasteland.
There is no minimizing the damage rained on Ukrainians. This war has been a major disruption of life in all sectors at all levels. Reconstruction will be long and arduous. The people of Ukraine must decide whether the effort is going to be aimed at returning the status quo or building a New Ukraine ready to embrace the international order.
If Ukraine manages to retain independent status, the signing of an application to join the EU—on the same day of the first talks were held with the invaders—points a new path to liberation for the other former Soviet nations still in Moscow’s orbit. Georgia comes to mind. The west must ensure that reform and transparency are the hallmarks for western integration.
Further shedding of territories, even one at a time, seems to signal an implosion of power in Moscow. Who knows, even Russia may join the EU one day.
4. WHAT ARE INTERNAL CONDITIONS LIKE IN RUSSIA?
Not good. As the Russian Army moves across the Ukraine, one question dominates: Is this the last swipe by an ageing and embattled dictator?
As DAY 8 unfolds, the answer is: Yes.
A successful action by the Ukrainian resistance would seem to hinge on regime change in Russia. Or is it the other way around?
Internal conditions in Russia, are not ideal. While Putin gives every sign of being in control, the unravelling of the invasion strategy is the best indication that things may not be what they seem.
Should the Ukrainian resistance manage to stop the Russian advance, then Putin and his cronies will stripped of all credibility. Indeed, the most dangerous part of Ukraine successfully withstanding the invasion is ‘what happens next?’
After decades of rule by thugs and oligarchs, what is the likelihood that the Russian army will fail carry out its mission? And what will be the reaction at home if it fails?
5. SHOCK AND AWE
Shock and Awe, the military tactic of rapid dominance, aims to paralyze the enemy and defeat their will to fight through an overwhelming display of military fire power.
It was first used by Russia in the Chechen war of 1995. Then, it was picked up by the US in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It is nowhere in sight in the Ukraine today. Right, its a ‘police’ action, not a fumbled invasion.
But what are we to make of the “column of military hardware more than 40 miles long” headed to Kiev airport, reported on 1 March (DAY 6) by CNN.
Shock and Awe has gripped the west as we witnessed ‘The Invasion That Could Not Be Delivered in Six Days.’
Of course, Shock and Awe is not the only measure of capacity for the Russian military. Modern warfare is fought at night using night-vision technology to extract an advantage from the adversary. Yet, in the first week of the Russian invasion, night campaigns have not been forefront. Indeed they do not seem pivotal in the low level gains made by the Russian army after seven days.
6. FIRST SHOE TO DROP IN THE LIBERATION OF THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE?
The initial impact of the economic sanctions, along with the unified response and the rapidity with which concerted actions were taken, support the view that the Russian economy has been outmatched.
Whatever wealth is created in Russia, is quickly syphoned off by cronies and oligarchs into their (now frozen) external accounts.
The speed at which the economic sanctions cripple the Russian Bear will portend how quickly regime change will come to Russia, rather than Ukraine.
Putin has laid it all on the line with the Ukrainian invasion.
He should have contented himself with the Crimea. If he does not succeed, what shape the struggle for power in Moscow will take is unpredictable.
7. EYES ON TAIWAN
Taiwan and the South China Sea are never far from mind as westerners worry about the fate of the Ukrainian people. In the opening salvos of Cold War 2, the west has ceded Crimea to Moscow and Hong Kong to Beijing. The long shadow of history shows appeasing tyrants as ill advised.
The Ukraine has been compared to the Canadian prairies. Canada has the world’s second-largest Ukrainian population behind Russia. Slightly more than 110,000 Ukrainian Canadians report Ukrainian as their mother tongue, and more than half live in the Prairie provinces. Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is of Ukrainian descent. Like Canada, the country is vast, and sparsely populated. Its wealth was tied to agriculture until the nuclear industry was seeded by the USSR. Famously, Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, near the border with Belarus. On DAY 8 the attack on the city of Enerhodar and its Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, revealed the Ukraine to be the host for the largest nuclear electric generating facility in Europe.
In contrast, Taiwan has no assets it shares with China. It is a leader in technology and telecommunications in its own right. ‘White China’ became the repository of the free-thinking traditions in Chinese culture after the Communist revolution. Meanwhile, the west has been selling modern weapons systems to Taiwan in an effort to strengthen the nation and thwart any Beijing plans for invasion. An alliance between Australia, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. is in forming. With UK-Australia relations remaining strong, NATO and British Empire allies are implicated.
As a major trading partner with NATO and the EU, any aggression from Beijing should receive the same measured economic response now being directed against Moscow. The same lines drawn between Russia and the democratic west over the invasion of Ukraine should come into play if Xi decides to try his luck against Taiwan.
Communist China must view with concern the rapidity with which the imposition of sanctions on Russia was organized, including shutting down the German-Russian oil pipeline; closing Russia’s participation in SWIFT (The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, founded in 1973, the systems link for 11,000 member financial institutions) and the eye brow raising participation by Swiss banks. The consequence of becoming an international pariah in a matter of days should give hawks in Beijing pause.
The outbreak of COVID in late 2019 has badly tarnished the Panda. Whether willful or accidental—the release of the scourge on the global family of nations will impact relations with China for years and decades to come. China’s rise to power forged on the back of a favourable imbalance of trade with the west is now imperilled. In fact, the west should take a page from the Taiwan playbook and initiate import-substitution programs at home to free itself from dependence on China. Just like the Canadian government did with procurement of face masks in the first year of COVID.
Thus, perhaps the first positive outcome won from the rapid economic response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a message to Communist China: keep all aggressive military ambitions in check. Any effort to expand borders beyond Hong Kong would immediately throw Beijing into an economic confrontation with the west, the best buyer for its manufacturing.
WRAP: THE KIEVE SPRING
With the arrival of spring the Ukrainian people will be able to hold out longer. The Russian Bear has not played out all of its stratagems and attacks. More carnage and destruction is on its way. The Ukraine must brace for that while resolving to carry out a rebuilding campaign firmly rooted in principles for ridding government of corruption.
As the Ukrainian people, joined by the rest of the free world, await deficits to pile up on the Russian side, we can look forward together to the end of a military aggression first aimed at recapturing the Ukraine, then—at the start of the second week—pivoting to either capture or pulverize Russian assets built on its soil.