The guns of spring

World politics has themes.  Some are associated with certain leaders.  Some cling to geographical locations.  Yet some, like flora, come and go with a season.  Another Russian invasion of Ukraine is one such theme.  For many years, every spring we start to hear about an impending escalation.  Every spring, President Putin shows either a fist or a middle finger toward the Western neighbor, and some military units get moved closer to the border.  A White House administration issues a noncommittal warning, and then, in a few months, everyone forgets about Ukraine unless the U.S. president makes a phone call.  Yet this spring it is different.

The number and the quality of the troops Russia has amassed at the border with Ukraine, their locations and posture — all point toward hostile intentions toward its western neighbor.  The U.S. administration, in its habitual form, issued some vaguely formulated warnings.  Germany and France sufficed with the same approach. 

The vast majority of analysis focuses on how a hypothetical war with Ukraine may fit into the grand Russian strategy.  This approach in itself is mistaken.  Russia under Putin does not have a grand strategy (the only country that does have one nowadays is China).  To understand Russia, one needs to understand how organized criminal elements in Russia operate.  Russia's tactics masquerading as a strategy is based on a crime of opportunity.  It constantly scans the near and the far for items left unsupervised.  Currently, it senses the weakness exposed by the U.S.  Ukraine, as far as Putin is concerned, is a lost wallet, one that previously belonged to Russia, now, in turn, dropped by the U.S.  It does not have much cash inside, but it is not completely empty, either.  And the latest owner does not care much about the lost possession, either.

A war is an unpredictable affair.  However, as far the world reaction to the potential invasion is concerned, the most Russia may expect is for its former citizens changing their Facebook user pick by attaching Ukrainian flag in place of the one of Belarus.  That one has been dragging for too long. 

Image: Metal Chris.

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