All kinds of threatening gestures, but Russia will not invade Ukraine

I must admit that I googled the plot of the 1997 film ‘Wag the Dog’ before starting to write this. It’s a dark comedy about a US president facing a sex scandal whose staff invent a completely fictional war in the Balkans to draw the media’s attention elsewhere. But sex scandals are not the Biden administration’s style.

Yet there is certainly something weird going on. In only two weeks a full-scale panic about Russia invading Ukraine has been sold to the Western media, and normally sensible journalists and analysts are talking about war – with Russia, of all places.

All right, if you read the small print they are really saying that the Russians are going to invade Ukraine and that the United States and its Nato allies WON’T fight to stop them. Ukraine is not part of Nato and they’ll sadly have to watch it go under. But they’ll be very, very cross, and they’ll sanction the hell out of Russia. So there!

This story about Russian forces massing on Ukraine’s borders for an invasion first emerged from US intelligence circles in mid-November. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky realised that it could mean more American arms for Ukraine, and soon he and his people were singing from the same song-sheet.

Satellite images of Russian tank parks and barracks were distributed. Reports of Russian military units moving from Siberia to western Russia were whispered in the ears of favoured correspondents. Few Western journalists remembered how partial and distorted this sort of ‘information’ was during the Cold War, so most of them uncritically repeated it.

The 92,000 Russian troops that are allegedly now near the Ukrainian border is really not a very impressive a number, given that the Ukrainian army is 255,000 strong, but the same US intelligence sources say the Russians plan to raise the number on Ukraine’s border to 175,000 troops in January and go for broke. How do they know that? Sorry, it’s a secret.

Stop focusing on the troop numbers. If an invasion were really scheduled for January, the forces could be anywhere in Russia’s vast expanse right now and still show up in time for the party next month. Any extra Russian troops ‘near’ Ukraine now are there as a symbolic gesture, not as part of a military plan.

Symbolism and historical stereotypes are what this is all about, and the dominant stereotype in Putin’s mind is the fact that practically everybody on the ‘A’ list of would-be world conquerors has invaded Russia, from the Golden Horde (Mongols) to Napoleon to Hitler. That sort of thing is bound to leave a mark.

Putin, like any educated Russian, therefore feels uneasy about the way that Nato has crept closer and closer to Russia. The military frontier with Nato was a ‘safe’ 1,500 km. west of Moscow during the Cold War, but afterwards it moved.

When some of the former Soviet ‘satellites’ in eastern Europe joined Nato in 1999, that brought Nato forces to within 800 km. of Russia’s western frontier. Then the western-backed non-violent overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president for a second time in 2014 created the possibility that Ukraine itself might also join Nato.

Moscow is only a six-hour drive up highway E101 from Ukraine’s northern border (although tanks would take a little longer). Nato has been alert enough to Russian sensitivity on this topic not to invite Ukraine to join, but the prospect does weigh heavily on Putin’s mind.

So Putin wants a written promise that Ukraine will never join the Western alliance. Nato countries would never allow it anyway, precisely because there is some risk that it could drag them into a war with Russia, but Biden is unwilling to put it in writing.

Why not? Because he spent the first half of his life in the Cold War, and his attitudes are still shaped by the propaganda of that time. Biden sees Russia as an ‘expansionist’ power that must be ‘contained’. It must never be ‘appeased’, because that was what let Hitler get started. Bad historical analogies are dangerous things.

Both men are of an age where a fundamental change of mind is unlikely. On the other hand, as veterans of the Cold War they both understand that Russia and the United States must never do anything that risks bringing them into a direct military conflict.

That is the best possible guarantee that this nonsense  will not end badly. If you want another, it is that the Western sanctions which would follow really would cripple the Russian economy. They might even undermine Putin’s still significant popularity in Russia itself. There may be all kinds of threatening gestures, but Russia will not invade Ukraine.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘The Shortest History of War’.

10 comments

  1. “There may be all kinds of threatening gestures, but Russia will not invade Ukraine.”

    Yet another author that won’t admit Russia has already invaded Ukraine. Repeating a Kremlin lie, does not entitle you to be classed as an author or journalist, you’re just another useful idiot, in a very long line of useful idiots, used by Putler.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It is never wise to downplay a genuine threat, unless you are actually working for the aggressor, which is quite possible in this case.
      I was curious to see that this was published in the Cyprus Mail. I actually love Cyprus. The weather is brilliant, the people are friendly and anywhere that has fish and chip shops, Marks & Spencer’s, Debenhams and Holland & Barrett is part of civilisation. However, there are now so many putinazi crooks there that all restaurants have a Russian menu.
      However, it gives me an idea. Some parts of Cyprus in fact never left Britain. The collective name is The Sovereign Base Areas of Akotiri and Dhekelia. The street names are British and you are on British land, which includes British military bases and installations, as well as other land. The area covers 98 sq miles. Cyprus is thus very well protected.
      It is true that Britain did not intervene in 1974 when Greece tried to take over Cyprus and Turkey invaded the north. But the circumstances were remarkable. Greece at that time had a fascist dictatorship that wanted to annex Cyprus. A process known as enosis. The Greeks deposed Archbishop Makarios and put in their puppet, so Turkey took the north.
      Britain could hardly take the side of a then fascist regime against a then democratic govt; both of whom were long standing Nato members, so the circumstances were unique.
      But as it stands now, South Cyprus will be defended from external attack by Britain and the north by Turkey. There is peace. Eventually there will be a political settlement: Cyprus will reunify, all the Turks who were installed since 1974 will return to Turkey. All the Turks who were already there will remain.
      So, Ukraine could offer some land for Britain. It’s a huge country with lots of space. Problem solved!
      Or: make eg Kherson Oblast a US state! Problem solved!

      Liked by 3 people

    • So, you’re not actually the author of this? You’re reposting it? I’d appreciate understanding more clearly, who wrote it before reading. I’m also glad for independent, freely speaking sources of opinions and news like this channel. I feel it allows me an unbiased perspective on the homeland of a certain lady of whom I’m courting while she’s living in Kiev. She’s a lawyer there, working in a supporting role for a local firm.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It seems that this author is a complete moron or a Ruskie mouthpiece. I say he’s both.
    The evidence is glaring at anyone’s face who doesn’t squeeze his or her eyes shut. Mafia land already has taken parts of Moldova, Georgia, Chechnya and two parts of Ukraine. This is no “wag the dog” crap. The danger of a full-scale attack is real. People like this should be banned from writing articles or opinions. They are obvious Ruskie propagandists. The source “Cyprus Mail” says it all. The island is flooded with Ruskie money, stolen from the Ruskie people.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think there’s three possible scenarios this might have going on.
    Perhaps putin believes that he will be able to use his country’s military to pressure Ukraine into giving up some concessions of territory or other “peace offerings,” in exchange for avoiding the threat of open war. As in the example of Palestine pressuring Israel into giving them occupation of the West Bank. That example should also illustrate how, if putin were angling for some kind of prize from Ukraine, then this would only be an incentive for putin to increase pressure. Perhaps putin isn’t thinking about Zelensky calling his bluff and waiting it out. If this is a stupid bluff, then waiting it out will help Zelensky and Ukraine, while hurting putin’s reputation and Russia. Or maybe putin believes that some hidden ace up his sleeve will allow him to cheat out a victory. In which case, it seems that l Europe and the United States really would go to war against Russia. But only if Russia attacks or invades first. Or perhaps thirdly, putin hopes to provoke some frightened “first punch” from the Ukrainian side, in which case invasion is claimed as “self-defense.” I think my pathetic excuse for an American president is trying a “wait and see” approach, even if this ultimately means unjustified war.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great points Mac. I’ve been impressed how Ukrainians have handled the pressure. We have to be right EVERY time or lose support. We can only return fire. We have to follow the law and Minsk and the whole time, the Putinazis don’t. They even kicked the OSCE out of the Donbas. We have been buying time for almost 8 years and I think that’s been a very wise policy that’s already covered 2 administrations.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think Putin is waiting for concessions from Ukraine, not the West. This makes a war almost unavoidable. Either the West will give Ukraine military protection or Putin will either force Ukraine to surrender Crimea or he will take all of Ukraine. Therefore the article is mostly incorrect and garbage.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It seems to me that Putin acts half bully and half poker player. His sheep in the military are basically criminals and thieves used to beating their wives torturing, kidnapping, lying and other atrocities. WTF are they fighting their “brothers” for? I agree with you bro and I don’t think Putin realizes Ukraine is getting some concessions too, though not much from the Leader of the Free World.

      Liked by 2 people

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