Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Voices and Visions:Russian Power Politics in Eastern Europe

A former US ambassador to NATO,Kurt Volker,has been analysing the Ukraine crisis.In a March 12 editorial for Time.com,Mr.Volker wrote the following:"Putin is smart enough to create a veneer of legality(a referendum),a story-line designed to blur morality(fascists in Kiev,defending Russian citizens),and a threat of retaliation against European economies to deter would-be defenders of Ukraine.But the fact remains that this is a raw exercise of power to seize territory of a type not seen in Europe since World War II-except,of course,for Putin's invasion of Georgia in 2008."*
Mr.Volcker also appeared on CNN Wednesday,noting that,in 2008,the Russians were continually poking and probing in order to provoke a response so they could invade Georgia militarily.I think what NATO is doing about Ukraine is on the right track in reassuring the allies.The second thing is the ability to make Russia think twice.Russia is very well-positioned to use military force.What is incumbent upon NATO is to provide training,tactics and equipment to Ukraine,and make Russia wonder what kind of reaction they might get from Europe if they invade Eastern Ukraine.
If we did not take the steps we're taking now in sending troops to Poland and the Baltic states,Putin might think invading a NATO member is an option.He'll only stop when he feels pushback.Russia is gonna be probing constantly,Mr.Volker warned.*
In his March 12 editorial in Time.com,the former ambassador to NATO concluded by saying:"But a contributing factor to the situation in Ukraine today was a relatively complacent attitude in Europe and the US.By failing to continue to press forward with the development of a Europe whole,free and at peace,we helped create a vacuum filled by the worst elements of Ukrainian politics,and now by Russia."
Kurt Volker is currently executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.*
Congressman Mike Rogers(R-Michigan),Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,feels about Vladimir Putin that we're not dealing with somebody who has the same rational thought process that he had two years ago.*
Tom Donilon, a former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama,said Mr.Putin saw a piece of his sphere of influence threatened.They'd rather see a destabilised Ukraine than a stable Ukraine aligned with the West.I believe we'll get to more severe sanctions because I don't believe the Russians will back down,Mr.Donilon predicted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ukraine and the West:Decision and Danger

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that there will be more planes in the air;more ships in the water;and more readiness on the land in response to Russia's recent moves in the Ukrainian crisis.Just how dangerous is the current situation in Eastern Europe?I think it's pretty explosive,said General Richard Myers,US Air Force retired,former Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff.Russia is doing several things that are dangerous:1.The overflight of the destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea by a Russian fighter aircraft;2.Massing so many troops on the border with Ukraiine;3.Taking over at least 10 towns in Eastern Ukraine.World War I started as an incident that got out of hand.This is very dangerous stuff that Russia is playing with.
If shots are fired and people are killed,this could escalate.I'm sure there are lots of options being presented to President Obama,such as providing weapons to Ukraine or providing weapons to them along with US advisors.They'll go thorugh them in the Situation Room.I don't think there are good military options.As for Russia attacking a NATO country,you would think not and you would hope not,but I don't know.*
Major General Mark Kimmitt,US Army retired,who was Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs under President George W. Bush,said Russia's moves are part of the great chess game.You can almost hear the echoes of Czechoslovakia 75 years ago.
These are Russian provocateurs in Eastern Ukraine.The term "Ukraine" means "border."President Putin wants to restore that buffer zone with NATO.There's no reason that a reasonable deployment of US and European troops in Ukraine woudn't stop Putin with a show of strength,General Kimmitt believes.*
Overnight Wednesday,Ukrainian soldiers reportedly fired shots in the air when armed pro-Russian forces attempted to storm a military base in Eastern Ukraine.
Update:During this incident,three Russian militants were reportedly killed and 19 wounded.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ukraine Unrest;MH-370 Search;The Masters

Pro-Russian demonstrators have 48 hours to reach a negotiated settlement and vacate two government buildings they seized in Eastern Ukraine,or be forcefully removed,the Ukrainian government says.Unrest has erupted in the eastern cities of Luhansk,Donetsk and Kharkiv,which are near the border with Russia.Secretary of State John Kerry says it is being instigated by paid Russian agents.*
At the same time,the NATO alliance commander,US Air Force General Philip Breedlove,has been tasked with developing new options for reinforcing the alliance's military presence in the region and reporting back to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.NATO is gravely concerned about the persistence of some 40,000 Russian troops along the Russian border with Ukraine,which Russia insists are only on military exercises.*
Fourteen planes and thirteen ships are out searching for the lost flight MH-370 today,Thursday.The search area has been whittled down to a site smaller than the state of West Virginia.The plane's wreckage is believed to be deeper under the ocean than the Titanic.The searchers will not deploy the Blue Fin autonomous underwater vehicle with its sonar as long as there is a prospect of hearing more pings from the aircraft's black boxes,in order to further reduce the search area for the slow-moving AUV.*
It's very difficult to reach the top,but it is also difficult to stay there.
-Arnold Palmer,Hall of Fame golfer
An international field of the world's best golfers will hit the tough course at Augusta National in Georgia today for the opening round of The Masters tournament,one of the world's most prestigious and traditional sporting events.Adam Scott of Australia is the defending champion.World Number One golfer Tiger Woods is sidelined by a back injury.*