Skip to comments.On varieties of invasion (Russia and Ukraine)
Posted on 04/09/2014 10:58:07 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
TANKS rolling across borders, territory seized, defending troops put to flight. That, for most people, is what the term invasion suggests. And something like that sequence of events seems to be in the minds of American and European leaders when they warn Vladimir Putin not to invade eastern Ukraine, nor to annex chunks of it, as Russia has annexed Crimea. This, I submit, is a dangerously narrow way to think about invasion, if also a temporarily convenient one.
To begin with, many invasions in history have not been motivated by the permanent acquisition of territory. Some have aimed to depose or punish a foreign countrys ruler, appropriate its assets or sway its politics: witness, most recently, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And if motives have always varied, so have invaders tactics. For example, American and other special forces have sometimes moved into targeted countries covertly, in advance of larger deployments; sometimes their presence has been officially denied. So the Kremlins techniques in Ukraine have precedents. All the same, they represent a departure in the technology of intervention.
The Russian troops menacingly encamped near Ukraines eastern border have not crossed it en masse. But Russia has infiltrated and undermined eastern Ukraine in more sophisticatedand just as effectiveways. This is not only a question of propaganda, pervasive and influential though that is: the scaremongering about a fascist takeover, invented tales of the persecution of Russian-speakers, and so on. There are credible reports of Russian security agents helping to foment the half-baked secessionist uprisings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lugansk. Russian Russians, as opposed to Russian Ukrainians, have been prominent in some of the troublemaking, which has involved the occupation of government buildings, the taking of hostages and wielding of weapons. (That supposedly local protesters in Kharkiv mistook the opera house for City Hall was kind of a giveaway.) Russian money seems also to have played a big part, along with funds allegedly derived from people close to Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraines deposed and disgraced president, who has fled to Russia.
Has Russia invaded eastern Ukraine? It is useful for almost everyone to behave as if it hasnt: the Russians themselves, obviously, but also the United States and the European Union. John Kerry robustly denounced what he described as Russias illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilise a sovereign state, shenanigans which, he said, might presage a military incursionas if these were starkly defined categories. An old-fashioned, tanks and troops invasion would require the West to respond much more vigorously, and at much greater cost and risk to itself, than it has done so far, not least because its leaders have promised as much.
This is a diplomatic red line that (like most red lines) no one wants to admit Russia has crossed, unless boots and uniforms on the ground oblige them to. So long as those ominous troops remain on the Russian side of the border, the West probably wont have to do that. But perhaps those Russian divisions should properly be thought of as a lavish decoy manoeuvre, usefully distracting attention and fear from the main event. Russian actions are already crippling Ukraines weak, fledgling government; large parts of the countrys territory are scarcely in that administrations control; the Kremlin is set fair to disrupt, or perhaps prevent, the Ukrainian presidential election that is scheduled for next month. That is a level of influenceand by Mr Putins lights, successthat many old-fashioned invaders would have envied.