Why the war in Ukraine is not a Cold War

Andrey Korchagin. A Russian Mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile RT-2PM Topol.

Andrey Korchagin. A Russian Mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile RT-2PM Topol. 

Military analysis

Article by: Nicole Gallina

The western world will soon witness a further escalation of Russia’s crusade with the western world. The Ukrainian military and some NATO and US military experts have tried to warn the West and urged political and economic responses, such as freezing Russian assets (in line with the argument that there is “no military solution”).

And responses are coming. But quite the other way round: Ukraine has to produce its own anti-tank missiles, as all it can get from the US-president are armored vehicles. The EU keeps silent on the “conflict” and on how to contain Russia, opening up the way for Greece that tries to embrace Russia in various forms, and leading German SPD-politicians (together with some of their Swiss counterparts), who are calling for a “normalization” of the relationship with Russia.

It looks like Ukraine reminds them of the situation in Prague 1968 and the “normalization” of the situation after Russian-backed troops crushed down the democratic movement in a Czechoslovakia that was occupied by Russia after the end of the Second World War, which, apparently, somehow justified the action.

There are three  important differences between Russian interventions in eastern European countries during the Cold War and today’s situation.

1. Ukraine reached its independence from Russia in 1991, and since then had the right to decide freely on its political and economic fate.

But Russia many times tried to provoke the breakdown of Ukraine as a sovereign and democratic state after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. It liquidated democratic political leaders who had a chance to become the country’s new leaders, such as Ukraine’s “Václav Havel” Vyacheslav Chornovil in 1999, and also tried to assassinate Viktor Yushchenko who was to become the country’s president in 2004. It used political parties such as the Communist Party, and later the “Party of Regions” for its interests, infiltrated Ukrainian security forces, supported corrupted politicians, certain oligarchs and media with pro-Russian views, and also backed organized crime in the country – predominantly in the Donbas. At times, energy (gas) or military (the Russian Black See Fleet in Crimea) blackmail was very useful. Those measures are called hybrid-war methods and include infiltration, disinformation, discreditation, obstruction, intimidation.

Those are probably the only things what Russia’s elites are really productive at. On the contrary, concepts which are based on other premises such as international law and state sovereignty, Russia finds difficult to consider when states other than itself are concerned.

This is all not new. However, what is new and differs from the situation during the Cold War and also from the situation before March 2014 is that Russia has occupied vast territories of an independent European country.

It has used conventional warfare – in a scale only comparable to warfare during the Second World War – in order to occupy large parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. It forced over a million of Ukrainian citizens to flee.Russia leveled at least a dozen of Ukrainian villages and cities in the Donbas, foremost Vuhlehirsk and Debaltseve in the Donetsk Oblast in February 2015, caring little about human losses which might go up to 5000 for the Vuhlehirsk/Debaltseve battles, consisting mostly of Russian soldiers and volunteers, but also more than 500 civilians.

There was no case of large-scale conventional warfare between Russia and a sovereign European country during the Cold War.

2. Putin has a fan club in the West

A second important point that is contrary to the Cold War, we have what Ilarionov calls a Putin-international [find in this speech his arguments why this is not a Cold War].

During the Cold War it was clear that the enemy was the Soviet Union, and it had little friends in the western world. Today’s western friends of the Russian president are many more, including western mass media, most “intellectuals,” and mainstream political parties in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and others.

Disinformation and keywords – initially spread by the Russian side – have been eagerly adopted up by mainstream western politicians and media (also a difference to the Cold War) in order to avoid action. The word “conflict” will probably even survive in the case of a Russian occupation of the Baltic states.

The result is a “omertà,” a code of silence, in western European societies:

  • not to mention the fact that Russia is using conventional warfare against Ukraine;
  • is preparing Russian society for a large-scale war and exercising its troops on a permanent basis,
  • has turned Kaliningrad, the Donbas and Crimea to Russian military fortresses.

This code of silence and the fact that no one wants to get involved has the result that there is no public discussion on the fact that Russia’s objectives are much broader than Ukraine. Russia wants to split Europe from the United States, and to crash NATO. The non-existing discussion makes it almost impossible to get permanent NATO bases into the Baltic states or Poland. On a national EU scale, there are also few proposals and outcomes on how to counter Russia’s destructive efforts: Lithuania has returned to military conscription and banned a Russian TV channel, Poland is putting up several watchtowers in order to observe its border with Kaliningrad (while there is no visible action vis-à-vis Russia’s ally Belarus), some steps are made for a EU energy union.

International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others who could push a discussion on Russia’s evil deeds care little about Ukrainain civilian losses, and even much less about the death of fighters on the Russian side (the latter would open the Pandora’s box of Russian army involvement). The OSCEUN, and other international bodies are helpless at best, and often used by Russia in order to push its interests.

3. The incapability or lack of desire to face the truth also prevents to tackle Europe’s military weakness seriously

During the Cold War, the US army (and their European counterparts) had their material and troops ready in the case of an attack from the Soviet Union. Today this is not the case. Europe and the US aren’t ready to counter a conventional military attack from the Russian side. In the last months, Russia has been free to push the borders for its military exercises in terms of European territory violated and amount of troops exercised. Russia even has turned to nuclear blackmail. Few know that this has been a taboo-issue since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis which almost led to a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.

The US and the EU have not responded to Russia’s nuclear blackmail. At the same time, they claim deterrence functions.

However, deterrence means: if you are threatened with nuclear warheads, you also have to threaten with them. And threaten in such a way for the enemy to believe you.

This essentially is the problem. Russia does not believe the US and Europe are going to use their warheads. US and European leaders seem to know that. Therefore they even do not threaten with them.

Since you’re here – we have a favor to ask. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is ongoing, but major news agencies have gone away. But we’re here to stay, and will keep on providing quality, independent, open-access information on Ukrainian reforms, Russia’s hybrid war, human rights violations, political prisoners, Ukrainian history, and more. We are a non-profit, don’t have any political sponsors, and never will. If you like what you see, please help keep us online with a donation!

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  • Rods

    With Putins aggressive invasions into sovereign bordering countries and his empire building from previously annexed territories are a blatant breaking of International Law and the Helsinki Final Act, which has been the backbone for Western security, civilization, global trading and our way of life.

    The Western politicians response to these threats have at best been weak appeasement, not only in Europe, but also the Middle East and at a worse a dereliction of their elected duty to protect Western values that their country and citizens so depend on. Western Society and globalization with global communications and trading cease to exist without the rule of International law and a global order built on mutually agreed rules, respect and understanding. This has been particularly shameful for the UK and US, as guarantors to Ukraine’s territorial and economic integrity with the Budapest Memorandum in exchange for them giving up nuclear weapons.

    Western politicians are on a constant retreat, which further empowers the aggressors, be that Putin, Assad, Iran or ISIS. Minsk I, Minsk II, an agreement to allow Iran to make nuclear bombs, but just a bit more slowly, have made our weak politicians, give more and more away under a false pretence, for a false peace at any price. All of these aggressors bank the concessions they have been given and then after a short pause, press on in the firm knowledge that more concessions will be made in the next round. The unthinkable, the red line in the sand, then becomes the next in a line of concessions carelessly given away where these unprincipled, unknowing (their history) and uncaring Western politicians want a quiet easy life, domestic popularity, where there are no votes in tough foreign policy decisions. They will therefore do these shameful trades for peace at any price as long as that price is somebody elses to pay. In Ukraine and the Middle East this has been a very high price with mass maiming, death, misery and destruction.

    While Russia is increasing its military spending on modernization and increasing the size and effectiveness of their armed forces, virtually all Western countries are still doing the reverse as if the cold war is still over as again there are few votes in defence spending.

    This is all going to end in floods of tears and WWIII.

    • puttypants

      Rod we all know this. we’ve talked to our politicians in washington, we’ve demonstrated, we’ve sent money and other goods to Ukraine. What else can we do? That’s the question???What else can we do???

      • Czech Friend

        Do not stop! And try harder each time!

        Thank you.

        • puttypants

          Yes we will continue! Thank you for reminding. I’ve been confused winder with all the infighting whether it would make it.

    • Michel Cloarec

      Rods I agree with you 100%. I am an european since long time, always believed that EU was the answers to have peace in the world . EU exchanges with russia are the proof that EU only had good intentions with relations whatever about with Russia. After the suffering in Europe under the boots of nazism . What Europe wants is PEACE . This wish in a democratic world did not work very well ! An agressiv politic from kremlin with intimidation is to force EU to accept the actual plans and the unknown plans from Kremlin to be accepted. Hitler did that, Stalin did that ! 1989 and 1991 events gave the impressions that all was on the good ways. Never in my life I had any thoughts that the russian people were that much different than any others in Europe, that the russians wanted peace and prosperities. Unfortunatly I was naive and the obstruction from kremlin makes me believe that I have to take weapons again to defend Europe and the future. Is it so simple ? knowing what will come of it. I am still convinced that nobody wants wars , even the russian people ! But for that to put the question to the russians would mean that they were free to answer ! That´s the question !
      UKRAINE wants to be free and in peace, therefore I stand with UKRAINE

  • In Amber Clad

    This episode of “Yes, PM” is perfect for this article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX_d_vMKswE

  • Terence Patrick Mac Dougall

    The Budapest Memorandum Мій Бог. We have broken our bonds of fellowship and betrayed our brothers. Alliances now mean nothing.Бог допоможе нам усім

  • klausbubblehammer

    I’m beginning to despair of East Europeans. It seems they’re incapable of having more than one idea in their heads at a time – ‘hate and fear of the Big Other’, followed by ‘acquire more weapons from the US and Israel’, then, ‘make the US love us more’. The end result can only be a collection of flag waving militarized nations at the heart of Europe, packed with American military bases and bristling with nuclear warheads. Call it ‘security’ if you like, then go back to sleep and replay your nationalist nightmares.

    This article is an unacceptable piece of fear-mongering and warmongering propaganda, so flimsy that a (Western) child could see through it at a glance. For instance, the suggestion that Putin has fans among Western elites is laughable – major Western propaganda organs, (much more sophisticated than what’s on offer in this article), never tire of the attempt to portray Putin as the Devil incarnate. A month or so ago a leading non-tabloid British newspaper, (the supposedly liberal ‘Guardian’), ran an editorial seriously promoting the idea of launching a nuclear attack on Russia in the near future. In the US the idea of regime change by means of incremental military provocations is an open agenda. Such is Putin’s fan-base in the West.

    Thankfully, most Western Europeans instinctively recoil from the notion of another major war in Europe, this time involving nuclear weapons. Few have heard of the Baltic States, or have much of an idea of the difference between Ukraine and Russia, assuming them to be identical. The tiny minority that pay attention to events beyond their own borders is aware that the Russian economy is a creaking corrupt heap, and almost entirely dependent on raw materials extraction; these find it difficult to fathom why an insolvent nation like Russia should desire to go to the vast expense and risk of acquiring an empire consisting of similarly run-down economies, most with few raw materials to speak of.

    Again thankfully, the nationalism of most Western Europeans rarely extends beyond the football field.This is a symptom of emerging civilization. Certainly no British government in it’s right mind would so much as whisper the words ‘military conscription’. It is simply not thinkable. Even in supposedly fanatically patriotic Ukraine the attempt at military conscription has resulted in droves of young people seeking refuge elsewhere, mostly in Russia. In the currently fear-ridden Baltic States the attempt to conscript will hopefully produce similar results.

    Europeans! Berserk Nationalism has the potential to kill us all! One more effort if we want to be a civilization!

    • Michel Cloarec

      Your bubble will burst ! NO COMMENT ! only a few pictures !