Internationally it has been clear since early on that Russia has been central in both destabilising eastern Ukraine and in supplying troops, armour and support to separatists probably always lead by Russians.
Moscow orchestrated a campaign of disinformation before the Georgia war of 2008. The conflict with Ukraine is an information war and however lame Putin’s pretences seem to us, the key is that there has been enough support garnered for things to reach this point at least. His operatives have been shouting slogans through megaphones in Ukraine for months now and at home he has a stifling grip on political dissidence.
In the wake of the shooting down of MH17 I think a lot of us thought Putin had tied himself up. The Ukrainian military was making real ground having taken Slovyansk and was threatening to capture back Luhansk (a key position between the 60 mile separatist-controlled border region and Donetsk).
At a peak of international tension, surely Putin would have to step back. His campaign had fooled no one on the international stage and he had been caught red handed. But this is a man who has fired 18 generals and Colonels in recent months. As separatists were violating an international crime scene, and despite the steady flow of Russian military personnel and support, Russia were at risk of losing their own war. It’s a shame the Ukrainian side of the border couldn’t have been secured. NATO troops could have helped to trap the separatists and force Russia’s hand. But in the end it didn’t need forcing.
Like in Georgia, Putin’s plan must have always been to engineer the ‘justification’ to invade, but that has unquestionably failed. Alarmingly it seems Putin’s response is to move now. In the last few days the Ukrainian army has been engaged on many new fronts and Russian soldiers have been captured in Ukraine. Russia are attacking Ukraine outright and nothing is uncertain now.
A lot of questions do remain though. How will NATO respond? They have talked openly of the Russian artillery and armour moving into Ukraine and have said they will establish bases in eastern Europe. Russia are moving fast now though. Will we fight them here? Or will we consolidate after they capture eastern Ukraine, which sadly seems imminent. Is there a course of action from here that isn’t inflammatory? It appears those moves can only come from Russia.
In one sense Putin is fighting an information war that fits the modern era. Creating influence has been his goal. But, as with the chronic ineptitude of western politicians to understand the tech age, he has shown himself to be glaringly out of touch. As it was put at the emergency UN meeting called today, ‘the evidence is overwhelming’ showing Russia’s direct involvement. We have all seen irrefutable video evidence of so much that might have been occluded by political rhetoric in a previous generation. And one question that remains for Putin is how much support does he really have at home?
Can he really stop the truth from spreading? Given the likelihood that his elections have been rigged I think the figures released on public support should be discarded. I wonder if people would really fight for him if it came to it. Or how far would it go? It’s come this far and it will go further still, but already I read translated Russian reports of skepticism. The families of dead Russian soldiers are outraged. Their children, it seems, have been covertly buried in the Pskov region. There is even a video of Russian journalists visiting a graveyard being attacked by two thuggish men in tracksuits. This whole affair has been full of such coincidences.
The west learns nothing new from this, but how will the Russian people square Putin’s propaganda with internal evidence of his lies? Are we seeing his pride out of control before his fall? Or what will transpire before then? The idea of Russia and China allying in aggression is scary but can a populous be lied to enough to die for their state in an age of increasing skepticism and unregulated communication? I hope not but I worry we will soon find out exactly where the line is drawn.
For anyone who wants to see an end to unnecessary suffering, a maturity towards our shared future and doesn’t subscribe to the hollow claims of those who make personal gain from our faith, for those people, eventually you will have to spend a lot of time watching humans fuck things up. No time to look at the sinking ship of planetary sustainability right now, there’s a feverish punch up breaking out on deck. No one’s even talking about bilge pumps or lowering life boats, this is a time to kill for someone who isn’t even present. It’s been too long.