February 22, 2022 may well go down in history as the date marking the start of WWIII. The events leading to this situation are reminiscent of the activities brilliantly described by Barbara Tuchman in her classic history of WWI, “The Guns of August”. Today, Vladimir Putin ordered additional Russian troops to enter the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, the creation of Ukraine as independent country was the greatest loss to Russia. Ukraine is a large, rich country of 44 million people, many are Russian speaking. Bringing Ukraine back under Russian control would be a major victory not
only foe Vladimir Putin, strengthening him politically, but would mark a triumph of autocracies over democracies, as set forth in the manifesto published by Putin and Xi Jan Ping at the Winter Olympic Games that concluded last Sunday.
The massive buildup of Russian military forces along the Ukraine border now totals over 190,000 troops with state-of the-art artillery, air and naval support has been developed over the past six months. Presumably, many Russian senior officers would like to demonstrate their military prowess, similar to the US in the first Gulf War, where the Iraqi forces were demolished in three days. Cyberattacks have already begun.
The replacement of the present elected government of Ukraine with a Russian-selected official will require the military occupation of Kiev, but not the rest of the country. The massive Russian forces are now in position around almost the entire perimeter of the country, these forces need only to disperse the smaller Ukrainian military leading to a quick thrust to occupy Kyiv.
Russian secret agencies have spent years infiltrating the Ukrainian government and key private sector agencies. Once Kyiv has been occupied, Russian agents are assigned to quickly replace the Ukraine government with a Russian-selected official. This process involves installing a strong and vicious security apparatus and eliminating democratic leaders. These actions replicate the plans taken from the Dictators Playbook used successfully in Cuba, Iran, and more
recently in Venezuela and Hong Kong.
Once in control of the Central Government, Putin’s initial goal will have been achieved. It is extremely difficult to dislodge a totalitarian government once in place. The history of Venezuela under the dictatorship of Maduro.
The countries of the Free World cannot let that happen!
Two other factors are major incentives for Putin to take over Ukraine:
- Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the US and has said it would not participate
directly, only send weapons. Germany and other European countries are heavily
dependent upon Russian natural gas, especially in wintertime. This strategic advance
diminishes with warmer weather. NATO member countries have conflicting
- Putin has developed a close relationship with China, and Xi Jan Ping is delighted to see his Western adversaries humbled and will provide support for Putin’s plan.
In response to the situation, President Biden has convened his senior advisors, but they have
not yet announced any actions that are likely to have any effect.
The only deterrent that has been agreed upon by the Western allies is to inflict massive
economic sanctions against Russia, including closing access to the SWIFT financial settlement
system which is key to closing many international transactions. However, Russia has built up
about $630 billion in cash reserves and their currency is strong their financial experts scoff that
any new sanctions will have any meaningful impact. Besides Ukraine, the countries most affected by the action are those that previously were under Russian rule, including the three Baltic nations, (Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania) Poland, Austria the Czech Republic, and others. Because of the US unseemly departure from
Afghanistan, many of our NATO allies understandably are reluctant to make decisions based on
What can be done? This problem is now being addressed by the highest levels of the Biden
Administration. Our thoughts:
Once Russia has established control over a foreign government, they are extremely difficult to
dislodge. Case studies: Iran, Cuba &, Venezuela, Tibet; Therefore, it is imperative to prevent
the takeover in the first place. Some potential actions that could be implemented quickly:
- Rapidly build up Ukrainian military defense equipment. Stinger hand-held missiles that
proved deadly to Russian helicopters in Afghanistan are a good example.
- Hire mercenaries. Since many countries do not want to get involved in directly fighting
Russians, hire mercenaries to work with or separate from Ukrainian troops.
- Set up a Lend-Lease program to enable these countries to purchase weapons and training programs from US and NATO members. They can send brigades and specialists to strengthen Ukrainian military.
- Say a prayer for the Ukrainian people and their supporters.
Byron Kahrs Varme