A few days ago an artillery shell landed across the Russian border with Ukraine in a small village and killed a Russian citizen. Russia responded with vehement threats and accusations, saying the action would have real consequences. A couple days later, a Ukrainian military transport aircraft, carrying food and water to soldiers, was shot out of the sky by an anti-aircraft missile. The plane was flying at high altitude, according the Ukrainian government; the pro-Russian separatists do not have such sophisticated weapons that could have shot down the plane. Therefore, the Ukrainians say, the missile must have come from Russia. Today, an unknown aircraft attacked a village and killed civilians inside Ukraine. Again, Kiev blames the Russian military. It is very hard to discern the truth amongst all of the propaganda that is spewing out from both sides. However, one thing is for sure, we are very close to a shooting war between the two largest, former Soviet republics.
What consequences this will have for the rest of the world is unknown. I believe many of the consequences that stem from this conflict will be unintended as multiple geopolitical issues are on the table here. For instance, will NATO survive in its current form and with its current mission to contain and deter Russian imperial designs? Russia is currently actively courting Germany to move closer to the Russian way of looking at the world. The spying scandal with the Merkel government has seriously set back relations with a key allie in NATO and in global affairs. Russia would like nothing better than for Germany to join the Eurasian economic union and move away from the United State’s orbit. Many do not know that Merkel grew up in Germany behind the Iron Curtain and is the one Western leader that has a good relationship with Russian President Putin. She speaks fluent Russian. Germany moving away from NATO would spell the end of the transAtlantic alliance and would destabilize the world even further. The absence of American global leadership is hastening this outcome.
Two global wars have started in Europe. World War I began in Serbia with an assassination of a European member of royalty. Russian aggression after the killing put large, tectonic geopolitical forces in play. Russian aggression could have the same effect in today’s Ukrainian crisis. Ukraine and Russia were also front-and-center in the beginnings of World War II. My point is this area of the world has a very violent past and today’s conflict is once again lighting the proverbial fuse.
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Recently, Russian propaganda leaked that it was considering targeted, surgical strikes against Ukrainian military targets. The world has been wondering what Russian President Putin’s reaction would be to Kiev’s success in pushing the pro-Russian separatists out of Slavansk and literally starting a siege around their final stronghold in Donetsk. I think Putin has answered this uncertainty by moving another twelve-thousand troops back to the Ukrainian border.
The shooting war is about to start.
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