It is coming to be increasingly likely as of late that Ukraine will be invaded by Russia, and it seems as though the West is ill prepared to stop it. As evidenced by Russia’s military build up, Putin’s disregard for international law, and the indication from Western powers that not much will be done to stop it, Ukraine may be on the verge of facing a massive Russian invasion.
According to conservative American military estimates, Russia has some 30,000 troops massed along Ukraine’s Eastern border. Other figures have pegged the headcount closer to 100,000 service men. These numbers does not even take into account the sheer volume of military equipment including tanks, artillery, surface-based missiles, APCs, and Russia’s incredibly large air-based resources.
In fact, as a result of the placement of military hardware and manpower, some analysts and sources seem to suggest that the recent build up is just the beginning. Putin is likely to put more troops along the border as the days go by, and this is no coincidence.
These resources are not placed haphazardly across the border line with Ukraine. It appears as though Russian forces are deliberately placed to take three vital Eastern Ukrainian cities. As Ukraine recently cut Crimea off the grid, it stands to reason that Russia stands ready to reconnect their newest puppet region with the Motherland.
Furthermore, according to some of NATO’s highest officials, Russia seems poised and is very ready to be called to violent conflict in Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove gave warning that Putin could very easily be planning do just that in the very near future. Some analysts have judged a prospective invasion date to come as soon as this week.
As well, Putin routinely demonstrates that he does not give a hoot about what international law has to say about his conduct. In invading and annexing Crimea despite worldwide outcry, Putin has shown that he simply does not care, and he will take what he considers rightfully his regardless of backlash.
This flag-planting mentality is not just a recent 2014 attitude that Putin holds. Many will remember his military invasion of Georgia in 2008 as evidence that he is inclined to continue to stretch out his reach.
And, with the almost predictable foreign policy flop that the Obama administration is infamous for, the United States continues to take the backseat in dealing with world issues. Although the US has put sanctions and diplomatic pressures in place over the course of the crisis, it appears as though the US is reluctant to lead in dealing with Russia and Ukraine.
For instance, the first Western leader to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was not President Obama. Instead, it was Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper who took the lead to engage with and support Ukraine. America’s laziness in this regard demonstrates that it is not willing to be a real player (or at least, a fast player) to respond to Russian aggression, and this bodes very well for Putin.
As well, NATO officials do not seem to acknowledge any sort of direct military option in Ukraine as of now, and although that is for the best for now, NATO’s inaction seems to lead to just another reason for Russia to do its thing. Rather than placing forces in the region to buy diplomacy more time, the West has been more than willing to take the back seat. This sort of lack luster response only puts the ball in Putin’s court, and given his history, that appears to be a very bad move.
With the seemingly evident scenario that Russia is bent on Ukraine’s invasion, whether in part or full, some analysts have been quick to point out that Putin is not likely to stop there. If Ukraine is invaded, who will be next?
Many point to the region of Transnistria, which shares a border with Western Ukraine. Due to its high Russian population and the attitudes of many citizens in the region, some suggest that it is a natural move for Putin. Furthermore, this area of Moldova had been embroiled in a civil war in 1992 with separatists attempting to do just that. The separatist movement that yearns to become closer with Russia is still a prominent concern today.
With the possibility of a Soviet Reunion in Europe, some NATO nations are even requesting further support. Poland, even since the beginning of the infringement of Ukraine’s sovereignty, has been very concerned that Russia will return to its World War II and Cold War antics by continuing to invade Western and Central European nations.
And media reports in Canada seem concerned that Putin will lay claim to the arctic, a territory which Russia had been denied by the UN and a territory in which Canada has applied for sovereignty over. It is not at all out of the question, given what we know about Putin, for an arctic land grab to occur, and doing so could be seen as an infringement on a fellow NATO member’s sovereignty.
Following the logic that Putin is unpredictable and power-hungry, it seems likely that he will do whatever he sees fit to expand his own power. If he can justify taking Crimea because it is rightfully Russia’s, could he justify taking Alaska because it was at one point Russia’s? As absurd and unlikely as it is, Putin’s actions in Ukraine might lead one to wonder what his actual thoughts and intentions are, and where he plans to stop is perhaps the biggest, most concerning unknown variable.
Although the above scenarios are unlikely, Western military leaders have undoubtedly had the worst-case files open as of late. Ukraine certainly does as its military stands on high alert and with the implementation of a new, seemingly hawkish defense minister, it appears as though Ukraine is preparing to dig in its heels against a vastly superior Russian army.
So will Ukraine be invaded by Russia? It is impossible to say for sure. In any case, any engagement is likely going to start with a similar sort of momentum as Crimea in so far as it will not be a full-scale, World War II style invasion. However, as it becomes more and more likely that Putin will be working to plant the Russian flag wherever he can, the rest of the world is left wondering where he will stop, and how can he be stopped?
Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane