Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pawns Moving on Ukraine Chessboard

Russian-born Dimitri Simes, a graduate of Moscow State University who emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and promptly became one of the leading experts on Russia and the former Soviet republics, has made a chilling prediction.

Chilling because he has been eerily accurate in his forecasts..  He and co-author Graham Allison, who is somewhat more hawkish, write in the current issue of the bi-monthly Republican magazine,  The National Interest, that the odds are shortening on a war between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.

At almost the moment their article appeared in print, Canada committed to send 200 soldiers to western Ukraine to join 800 Americans and 75 British troops on a year-long mission to train the Ukrainian army for combat against Russia.

While the announcement of the training mission might have Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly laughing up his sleeve ( more on that in a moment), it has generally been interpreted as one more Washington blunder toward an armed encounter with Russia.

More than a year ago, Simes offered his insights on how Russia might respond to Washington affronts over Ukraine.  

We can inflict severe economic damage on Russia. We can do things which would help to isolate Russia internationally,” he said.But then we should not be surprised if Russia, to compensate for economic losses, and for the loss of prestige,  would supply Iran with S-300 or perhaps S-400 missiles.”

Exactly what happened the moment Iran agreed to a draft framework in the negotiations with the P5+1 nuclear talks in Switzerland.

You should not be surprised if Russia would introduce a new element of global instability by reaching  a security agreement with Beijing,” Simes also said last year.

Russia and China announced a security agreement in October.

Simes warned that “(Russia)  can reduce the production of natural gas.”  The Bear didn’t go quite that far, but it did announce plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey.  Despite being forewarned by the prescient Mr. Simes, the EU went predictably bonkers, pretended to be shocked, shocked, that Russia would use its gas supplies as a poker chip in the new Cold War.

Whether that war becomes a hot war remains to be seen, just as it remains to be seen how effective will be the efforts of the United States and its allies to train the Ukrainian army into an effective force for fighting the Russian-backed eastern secessionists.

Putin and his generals well know what happened when Washington invested $25 billion and hundreds of “advisors” to train the Iraqi army.  Here’s the Los Angeles Times’s award-winning reporter David Zucchino on “Why the Iraqi Army Can’t Fight” against ISIS:

“Hussein Shehab knew things were going badly when he spotted the Iraqi police pickup trucks. They were flying the black flag of Islamic State fighters, who were driving the vehicles straight toward him and his fellow Iraqi security force soldiers.

“It was June 9 in Mosul in northern Iraq. Shehab, a federal paramilitary police officer assigned to an army unit, realized that other officers had abandoned their vehicles and fled Islamic State fighters who were about to seize Iraq's second-largest city.

“By the end of the day, Shehab's entire division had collapsed. Two army divisions also disintegrated as thousands of soldiers and police officers shed their uniforms, dropped their weapons and ran for their lives. Shehab, told that his commanders had deserted, tossed his rifle and ran away too.

“‘We felt like cowards, but our commanders were afraid of Daesh. They were too afraid to lead us," said Shehab, 43, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“Shehab and others in his battalion describe Iraq's security forces as poorly led and sparsely equipped, with soldiers suspicious of commanders and uncertain they would get enough food, water and ammunition in the heat of battle. Discipline is ragged, men disappear or go on leave at will, and commanders list "ghost soldiers" while collecting their paychecks, they said.

“‘This army is not prepared to fight. Nobody trusts anyone, not even from their own sect’ said a 32-year-old federal police officer. The United States has now deployed 1,400 advisors to try to rebuild the shattered military into a force that can repel Islamic State.”

Will the Kiev training be any more successful that the effort in Iraq?

You couldn’t blame Putin for laughing.

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