The Immaculate Invasion
May 5, 2014 Leave a comment
Russia may achieve goals without Ukraine invasion: NATO commander
Gen. Philip Breedlove meeting Canadian political, military leaders this week
Thomson Reuters Posted: May 05, 2014 2:48 PM ET Last Updated: May 05, 2014 10:05 PM ET
NATO’s top military commander in Europe said on Monday he no longer thought regular Russian troops would enter eastern Ukraine, predicting Moscow could achieve its goals through the unconventional forces stirring up trouble there.
U.S. air force Gen. Philip Breedlove said it was a completely false Russian narrative that it was only Ukrainians rebelling in the east of their country, saying it was clear that special forces troops from Russia were operating there as they did in Crimea before its annexation.
Breedlove is embarking on two days of talks with Canadian political and military leaders just as heavy clashes erupt between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern region.
He met briefly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson.
“Exactly what we saw in Crimea is being mirrored in eastern Ukraine,” added Breedlove.
Russia setting stage for separatist movement
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on its border with eastern Ukraine, prompting fears that Moscow might send ground forces in to protect the rights of ethnic Russians.
Breedlove said that until a week ago, he thought the most likely military response from Russia would be to send in troops to southern Ukraine and secure a land bridge to the peninsula of Crimea — which voted in March to join Russia — before possibly pushing on toward the Black Sea port of Odesa and then farther west toward Moldova.
“Today I would tell you I don’t think that’s the most likely course of action … I think now that Putin may be able to accomplish his objectives in eastern Ukraine and never go across the border with his forces,” he said.
“Now I think probably the most likely course of action is that he will continue doing what he’s doing — discrediting the government, creating unrest, trying to set the stage for a separatist movement,” and that would make it easier to cement Moscow’s military and economic hold on eastern Ukraine, Breedlove added.
“In that case, I think it’s the most troublesome for NATO because if the forces do not come across the border, my guess is that many will want to try to quickly go back to business as usual, and I, for one, do not believe annexing Crimea is business as usual.”
Shortly before his public remarks, Breedlove discussed Ukraine and Russia in a meeting with Harper, who told reporters beforehand that Russia was mounting a “a slow-motion invasion” of Ukraine.
The Prime Minister’s Office had invited cameras into the meeting but said no questions from reporters would be allowed. [Note to non-Canadian readers: this is actually rather typical of the press non-conferences the PMO permits, regardless of the occasion. We seem to be getting used to it.]
The meetings are being held as Ukraine’s elite troops have been dispatched to quell unrest in the key southern port city of Odesa. [Coverage I have read elsewhere identifies these troops as National Guard, the irregular but presumably quite loyal forces recently raised by the Ukraine government.]
So far the Ukrainian Crisis game seems to be not exactly mirroring events, but permitting events analogous to real ones to take place in the game. So, Putin may win the game without ever declaring an invasion — but which Strategic Round are we in? It’s difficult to tell.