Okay, Ukraine and this invasion business. From what I can tell, it’s a result of three things: 1) Putin’s ego, 2) fear of democracy, and 3) water. I know a little bit about the region and its history, but I’m not by any stretch of the imagination even remotely expert on the affairs of Russia and Ukraine.
That said, I’ve been mostly skeptical about the notion of Russia invading Ukraine–not because I think Putin/Russia (and at this point in time, those two are basically conjoined twins) respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. I’ve been skeptical because I couldn’t figure out what Russia would get out of an invasion that would be worth the price.
Putin’s not stupid. Sure, he’s got a massive ego, and he may long for the days when Russia was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics–when Russia was feared as a super power. But I can’t see him trying to reconquer all the former Soviet Republics just to recreate those days. I sorta kinda figured threatening an invasion would get him the global attention he thinks Russia deserves. I thought Putin would feel the threat would be enough to show the world that Russia is still a major player on the stage of world affairs. I thought a few weeks of saber-rattling would do the trick.
Apparently not. So back to the original question: what’s in it for Russia? I suspect Putin, like all tyrants, has a genuine fear of representational democracy. That’s one reason Russia helped Comrade Trump in the 2016 election. I mean, yeah, having an ignorant, egocentric, mendacious, greed-head president like Trump would be a boon to Russia, but the horrible genius of their election interference was that just making him a viable candidate was enough to weaken the entire electoral process. Helping Trump was the equivalent of injecting poison into a healthy body. It didn’t kill us (yet), but it’s compromised our immune system.
For Putin, having former Soviet Republics like Ukraine thrive under democracy is a threat. Don’t forget, Putin earlier tried to gank Ukraine’s democracy through political interference. Back in 2004 Russia supported Viktor Yanukovych when he ran for president of Ukraine. Like Trump, Yanukovish won. However, the election interference was so blatant that the Ukraine Supreme Court ordered a run-off election, which Yanukovych lost. But they tried again in 2010, when Yanukovich ran against Yulia Tymoshenko. That time, Yanukovich won.
How did he win? He hired an American political operative as his campaign manager. Paul Manafort. In 2018, as part of a plea agreement (on charges of eight counts of tax and bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and witness tampering) Manafort admitted he’d conducted a media campaign against Tymoshenko, accusing her of anti-Semitism and corruption in order to undermine her support. Tymoshenko was eventually imprisoned. (This is where I note that Manafort was originally Comrade Trump’s campaign manager, and the Trump campaign is probably best remembered for this slogan related to Hilary Clinton: Lock her up. This is also where I note that Trump, after he lost the 2020 election, gave Manafort a full pardon for his crimes–which also dismissed the criminal forfeiture proceedings involving Manafort’s 10-bedroom, 6-bath US$11 million home at Bridgehampton, Long Island, his apartment in New York’s Chinatown, and his townhouse in Brooklyn. Who says crime doesn’t pay?)
After his election, Yanukovich implemented a number of Russia-friendly policies that were so unpopular the Ukrainian people rose up against him. Yanukovich fled to Russia, where he now lives. Ukraine now has a fairly and democratically elected president. And that has to both piss off and terrify Putin. So yeah, good reason to invade, right there.
But there’s also the water issue. Until a couple of days ago, I was unaware that Crimea (a part of Ukraine which Russia invaded and seized in 2014) was dependent on the North Crimean canal for irrigation and feedstock water. (Hell, I wasn’t even aware that the North Crimean canal even existed.) Not long after Russia seized Crimea, the government of Ukraine began to reduce and limit the flow of water to Crimea. Between that and a long period of drought, crops on which Russia relies have begun to fail.
So this is what we’ve got. Russia needs water, Ukraine has control of that water. Russia fears democracy, Ukraine is pro-democracy. Putin is an egomaniac wanting to restore the legacy of Mother Russia, Ukraine was part of that legacy. So yeah, an invasion isn’t all that surprising.
But here’s the problem: what do we do about it?
I have no idea. Sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs, obviously. Really harsh sanctions. Military and intelligence support for Ukraine, also obviously. Troops? I’d hate to see us in a shooting war with Russia; their military is second rate at best, but if you’re killed by a second rate military, you’re still dead.
I’m just glad we have President Uncle Joe running this show. If Comrade Trump were in charge, there’d be massive gobs of extra shit in this shitshow.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, NATO. I wasn’t ignoring the whole NATO thing. I just think Putin’s issue with NATO is a subset of his fear of democracy.