Putin’s Ukraine Strategy Is A Blackbox, & Yet A Trump-Influenced Endgame May Exist

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m not an expert on any of this, but I’m pretty good at strategic thinking. I have the Ukraine — Russia situation on the brain, so here I am writing yet again about it despite my lack of anything to base my opinion on beyond the chatter of my Twitter feed. But having said all that, let’s take a hard look at where things stand.

Putin’s Ukraine strategy is a blackbox for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being, we really don’t know what his endgame would be should he decide on a general war against Ukraine. He knows on a basic level that he simply doesn’t have the resources to take and keep a big chunk of Ukraine long-term. So, really, unless there’s something going on we don’t know about, he’s probably just going to continue to fake us out on the topic. He’s probably going to continue to screw with the Ukraine government’s mind with no intention of actually doing anything big.

And, yet, there’s one specific datapoint that sticks out: Donald J. Trump.

If Putin had any dream of actually gobbling up a big chunk of Ukraine, he must know that it’s pretty much now or never. It’s like Trump is going to do anything if Putin attacks Ukraine in a big way and, what’s more, Putin could actually help Trump in a big way should he attack Ukraine. Think about it, first and foremost, the first month of any such war would suck out all the air of any other news story and it would be the perfect cover for Trump to fire Bob Mueller and pardon everyone he needs to pardon. Meanwhile, Trump simply doesn’t address what’s going on in Ukraine and NATO is left to send support to the now rump state of Ukraine.

But that still doesn’t give us any sense of the endgame. That just gives us the beginning of the story. But what would be the end? What would be the point, from Putin’s point of views in starting a general war with Ukraine. I honestly don’t know. So, maybe he doesn’t start a general war, but simply attacks Kiev, overthrows the government and backs off? He had his chance to do that a few years ago…and he didn’t.

So, I don’t know. Honestly, the only datapoint that points to any conflict at this point is Trump. Trump being a Russian toady might be the historical fact that leads to a war, even though I struggle to figure out what the endgame would be.

The Conditions Exist For A General War Between Russia And Ukraine

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Now, let me be clear — the conditions for a general war between Russia and Ukraine have existed for years. It’s just that in the last few days things have grown significantly worse, so much so that pretty much it’s just up to Putin at this point if anything happens. Let me explain.

1. Putin is corning Ukraine
It appears as though Putin is putting the squeeze on the Ukrainians in such a way that they might feel the only course of action they have is to attack the Russians in a big way, which would, of course, give Russia the cover it needs to start a general war with Ukraine. By “general war,” I mean one in which the endgame is to take Kiev and establish a rump state in the portion of Ukraine that could stretch from Odessa in the west all the way around Crimea then all the way around some more to Kiev.

2. Trump is historically weak
Trump is a historically weak president on a number of fronts, most especially Russia. Does anyone really expect Trump to do anything, anything at all if Putin starts a major war against Ukraine? There will be a major reaction by the Pols and the rest of NATO when it comes to sending arms and advisers to what’s left of Free Ukraine, but the United States under Trump is unlikely to say anything at all.

3. Trump’s in trouble.
It seems pretty clear to me that given the two things stated above, that Putin might try to help Trump by starting a major war against Ukraine, one big enough that it would distract people in the States to such an extent that Trump would feel comfortable firing Bob Mueller, pardoning half a dozen people and then hunker down for the House to officially flip in January.

Now, there are some major reasons why Putin wouldn’t do anything at all.

The biggest reason off the top of my head is while Putin’s forces could take Kiev in “two weeks,” it’s highly unlikely that they could keep it long term. It’s very possible that Putin has long ago done the geopolitical calculation in his head and he just doesn’t see a general war against Ukraine as worth it, ever. Even with a historically friendly Trump Administration in office, it just doesn’t make any sense for Putin to risk the existential threat associated with a war with Ukraine that he knows long-term could very well cause his downfall.

So, there’s a better than even chance that this is all nothing. This is just the usual geopolitical scuffling that goes on between the Ukrainians and the Russians and it’s all a big false alarm. We’re likely to know one way or another in a few days.

The Existential Threat Of Trump’s Silence On Ukraine — Russia, Or, ‘The Birth Of Novorossiya?’

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m merely an armchair observer on all of this, so if you want any scholarly insight into what’s going on, please look elsewhere. But having said that, it seems as though the conditions are there, at least, for a Russia to make a major land grab in Ukraine. I say this because Trump has been completely silent on what’s going on between Russia and Ukraine.

It definitely seems to me, at least, that Putin could see that silence as tacit acknowledgement from Trump that Putin can do whatever he likes in Ukraine without any threat of the United States doing anything. Hence, it definitely seems the ball is in Putin’s court. Putin could start a general war in a wide swath of Ukraine stretching for Odessa in the west to the border between Ukraine and Russia in the east and do some serious damage to the existing order in Europe.

Putin, as I recall, has repeatedly bragged that his military could take Kiev in two weeks, should the mood strike him. Of course, the reason why he hasn’t attempted that is he knows that while he could take Kiev, he probably wouldn’t be able to keep it. It would be Afghanistan all over again, only on a much larger scale and with much higher stakes. Putin knows Soviet involvement in Afghanistan contributed to that empire’s downfall and he’s smart enough not to repeat the mistake.

Hence, that’s why Putin’s been very, very cautious in what he’s done with Ukraine. He’s used “little green men” to do is bidding and what makes the recent navel scuffle in the Black Sea so out of character is how brazen it is. Under any normal American administration, the president would make a strong speech condemning the action and that would be enough for Russia and they would back off.

But, oddly enough, Trump has been completely silent on what’s going on between Russia and Ukraine and, as I mentioned, that might be enough for Putin to push things a little bit farther than he might otherwise. And, yet, Russia remains a weak regional power outside of its many, many nuclear weapons and as such its economy probably couldn’t handle a general war between Ukraine and itself. Putin is wily enough that he probably is content — hopefully — with the point he’s made and now he’ll just wait for his buttboy Trump to be his lap down at the G20 meeting.

That seems to be what is going to happen. But given how weak Trump is in regards to Russia, on a geopolitical level, Putin might see the Trump Administration as a historic opportunity to get as much as he can from Ukraine while he can. Or not. Who knows. Putin works in murky blackbox ways and anything is possible.

We’ll see.

The convention wisdom was, at least at one point in the last few years, that should the Russians start a general war with Ukraine that the first phase of the war would see a quick victory on the part of the Russians once they took Kiev. They would then hunker down on a huge chunk of Ukraine and attempt to organize the puppet state of Novorossiya. Then the rump state of Ukraine would organize a counter attack with a flood of arms from Poland and other interested states. But all of that worked on the assumption that the United States would take a lead role in all of this.

It’s very possible in today’s weird political climate that the Russians might — just might — feel they could risk a general war with Ukraine because the United States is pretty much a Vichy state at this point. But, again, I just don’t know. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen.

I think nothing is going to happen. Putin’s made his point and he’s just going to wait until just the right moment to come out of his spider hole to do a little mischief. But that could be years in the future.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is currently working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Armchair Observations About The State Of Play Between Ukraine, Russia…And Trump?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I am no expert on relations between Ukraine and Russia, but I do have an interest in it and a little bit of time on my hands, so here we are. Take it for what it is. Just me rambling in general terms about what’s going on.

The key thing, for me, is the dynamic between Putin and Trump. It would make a huge amount of sense for Putin to do what he’s long been interested in, taking a huge chunk of Ukraine (even bigger than he already has), and do it in a way that would benefit his best bud Trump. Right now, a lot rests with the Ukrainian response. If they simply declare martial law and, well, that’s it, then things will get and stay tense for a while but gradually fade back to where they were before today’s incident.

But if you really wanted to be paranoid, you’d say that Putin will see the declaration of martial law as a provocation in itself and respond accordingly. So, while Putin has historically show a huge amount of caution about any direct attacks against Ukraine, he might see the writing on the wall for Trump and decide he would rather strike now while he has Vichy Trump in power. What’s more, by attacking Ukraine in a big way now, he would likely give Trump the cover he needs to fire Mueller, pardon half a dozen people and tweet up a storm that “now is on the time to worry about witch hunts” as Ukraine and Russia have at it in a big way.

This nightmare scenario works on the pretty big — and potentially erroneous — assumption: that Putin is actually interested in risking his long-term survival in a costly, needless war with Ukraine. It also assumes that Putin’s weighed the global order and sees a huge upside in attacking Ukraine and, say, taking Kiev and attempting to form a puppet state out of a huge chunk of seized Ukrainian territory. The thing is — Putin has shown zero indication that he actually is interested in doing that. He just wants to keep Ukraine off balance and unnerved enough to prevent it from fully uniting with the West. Or, at least, that’s my personal interpretation of things.

If Putin is going to act, it seems logical that he would act almost immediately. Like, tonight. But as best I can tell, he’s not going to do anything and, as I mentioned, it seems like tomorrow will be pretty perfunctory. Ukraine declares martial law, there’s some saber rattling and…nothing happens. And, really, the only reason why I am a little nervous is the connection between Putin and Trump. Like I said, logic would say that Putin will attack now not only because he’s wanted to attack Ukraine in a big way and Trump is likely to look the other way, but a really big war in Ukraine would be just the excuse, the cover, that Trump needs to not only wrap up the Mueller investigation, but have people “rally round the flag.”

At least, that would be the miscalculation that might lead us all down a major war between Ukraine and Russia. Or not. I won’t even go so far as to say “things are in flux.” Given the existential threat to Putin’s regime a long-term occupation of a huge chunk of Ukraine would be, it’s very possible simply nothing will happen. Everything will be on paper and generally we’ll forget about the incident quite quickly.

But who knows. As of this moment, it definitely seems as though there is an outside chance it could go either way.

Watch Me Be Paranoid: Is Putin Stirring Up Trouble With Ukraine To Help Trump?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This is really paranoid, but it would make a lot of sense if Putin knowing Mueller is maybe on the cusp of dropping some major indictments in the next few days stirred up a major foreign crisis with Ukraine which would give Trump the cover he needs to fire Mueller and pardon everyone he needs to pardon as we wait for the House to officially flip in January.

Like I said, I’m being really paranoid.

This isn’t possible, is it?

Trumplandia & The Fate Of Ukraine

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It is difficult not to see the ultimate end-game of Donald Trump’s Russophila eventually being a strategic sell out of Ukraine. It just seems as though soon enough Putin will use whatever leverage he has on Trump to get what he really wants — land.

Of course, it will be dressed up any number of different ways. Trump will say he’s making America great again through strong bi-lateral ties with Russia after a face-to-face meet and greet. But the cold hard reality will be that Putin will be given a free hand to attack Ukraine in an unprecedented manner.

Given that even if collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia is proven the Vichy Republicans won’t blink and eye, it makes total sense that they would also lie down should Trump shake Putin’s hand and nod that it’s ok for the Russians to eat a third of Ukraine.

I don’t know the exact way this would go down, of course. It might be that Trump would incite a war with the DPRK and in the subsequent confusion the Russians would attack Ukraine and then we would have something marketed by the American press as World War 3. That’s how serious all of this is.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue of NATO. What would happen if any of the Baltic states were attacked by Russia and yet Trump sat on his hands if they invoked Article 5 which requires all NATO members to defend each other if one is attacked? That is some pretty momentous stuff That is the kind of stuff that kind of boggles the mind.

We’re in the midst of pretty astonishing events on a geo-political level. There now is an enormous power vacuum on the world stage and different nations are jostling to figure out who gets additional power. It goes without saying that such confusion and uncertainty is how wars start.

All of this is even more staggering for me, a child of the Cold War when it was the Republicans who accused the Democrats of being soft on Russia. The idea that Republicans would be so callow, so absolute in their desire to obtain and retain power that they would, in effect, become Vichy Republicans is tragic, to say the least.

What’s worse is there doesn’t seem to be any easy way out. The Republican Party is now at a rhetorical dead end. There doesn’t seem to be any way for them to get out now that they have decided to follow Trump anywhere he leads them. The power of the Trumplandia base over the Vichy Republicans is seemingly so absolute as to be surreal.

Hence, I don’t have much hope when it comes to the fate of Ukraine. Things are kind of calm right now in eastern Ukraine, but that could change at any moment. And, really, the only thing that makes me reluctant to think the Russians won’t strike against Ukraine in a general war is how small the Russian economy is. It is, as I understand it, smaller than Italy. So, it would be difficult for Putin to use hard power on Ukraine in a way whereby he could not only obtain a big chunk of Ukraine, but keep it long-term.

The reason why I say this is, much like what happened in the 1980s with Afghanistan, if Ukraine was invaded by the Russian army in a big way, the country would be flooded with arms from all over the globe, even if, sadly, they did not come from the United States.

Of course, if Trump was to hide in his Fortress of Solitude and not use America’s traditional moral leadership to inspire the Ukrainians, everything would be significantly more complicated. Really, our only hope at this point is to flip Congress in 2018. That is by no means assured, so we’ll just have to wait and see. I would be lying to you if I didn’t see this, from a geopolitical standpoint, as pretty scary stuff.

But hopefully everything will work out in the long run. There are no assurances it will, but you have to have hope.

Shelton Bumgarner is the Editor and Publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.