Saturday, February 21, 2015

Take Your Pick: a)A Better Chess Player; b)Face-Saving Bullshit

"Of course, losing is never nice, of course, it's always tough on the loser, especially when you're losing to erstwhile miners or tractor drivers. But life is life, it will definitely go on. I wouldn't get hung up about it."
"Our common goal is to save the lives of people who found themselves encircled. Then we can carry out the full plan agreed in Minsk. I am sure that can be done."
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"[Putin's goal at Debaltseve was the humiliation of Ukraine, a forced surrender and political disgrace] to cause a political reaction in Ukraine: anger and subsequent destabilization. Moscow is dreaming of a Kyiv coup d'etat."
Pavel Felgengauer, Russian military expert
"There was no encirclement, and our troops left the area in a planned and organized manner with all the heavy weaponry: tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery and vehicles."
"We were asserting and proved: Debaltseve was under our control."
"I would like to say that Russia, which  yesterday required the Ukrainian warriors to lay down arms, raise the white flag and surrender, was put to shame by the given actions."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Servicemen ride on a tank as they leave Debaltseve.
Servicemen ride on a tank as they leave Debaltseve. Photograph: Reuters
The truth goes something like this: Vladimir Putin planned stealthily and well, infiltrating Ukraine with Russian servicemen, their identifying badges removed, so they were merely volunteers on vacation from the military; ardent supporters of the rebel cause doing their bit to rectify the oppression by Kyiv of Russian-speakers who happen to live in Ukraine as underdogs, loyal to Moscow.

As loyalists they would deliver to Moscow Ukraine's crown jewels of the Crimea, Mariupol, and the Dombass region, including the country's industrial heartland -- and three million citizens, for good measure.

Thus far, all has gone according to plan. All the right moves made, from supplying up-to-date technical hardware, large and small, militia training to make of those miners and tractor drivers formidable Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers of Novorossiya, proud pioneers of a brave new land melded with the Russian federation under the pretense of aiming for protection of the Russian language, and political autonomy as the threshold to the moveable home.

Contrary to Mr. Poroshenko's desperate attempt at face-saving the stark reality was reported by Anastasia Stanko, from Kyiv's Hromadske TV that Ukrainian forces were walking calmly along otherwise clear roads, or riding departing military vehicles in an organized  retreat. They were exhausted, demoralized, hungry and thirsty, relieved to be able to depart a situation they were convinced would destroy them.

The retreat honourable and heavy-hearted, some of their equipment left behind, destroyed by the relentless rebel assault.

The surrender of Debaltseve to Moscow's proxy militias was a triumph for the rebels. The Ukrainians timed their retreat to the shelling their columns were treated to by the separatists. The retreating military was not pursued, it was simply given a shelling of a send-off. The issue was Debaltseve itself, leaving Ukraine "holding the new defence lines", consonant with the rebel understanding of the ceasefire agreement.

So is Vladimir Putin with his debased version of honour and veracity suffering greatly in any manner by his obvious actions leading to Ukraine's defeat on the field of conflict but its victory in the area of international relations? Debatable, that most certainly is. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is happy with a major nuclear power plant expansion courtesy of Russian know-how. And Cypriot President Nicos Anasiades, is set to visit friendly Moscow.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accepted an invitation to visit Mr. Putin in Moscow following Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias earlier visit. Egypt is reconciled with Moscow and buying arms there once again along with four nuclear reactors and natural gas. Israel is supplying Russia with drones. Trade with China has picked up substantially, and India has 20 agreements signed with Russia valued at $100-billion for nuclear reactor sales along with oil and gas shipments.

Moreover, India has an Indo-Crimean Partnership fostering trade with Crimea, a Republic now in the Russian Federation. Egypt, Israel and India have plans to join the Moscow-promoted Eurasian Economic Union. If Russia is suffering overmuch from the sanctions imposed on it by Europe and North America and the excruciating financial blow of collapsed oil prices, it's hard to see. Russian counter-sanctions have cost Germany an estimated 8 billion euros last year.

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