Secretary of State John Kerry with MPs: Klitschko, Poroshenko, Tyahnybok, Tigipko (March 2014)

Moon of Alabama’s ‘b’ wrote on April 30 that the Ukraine regime would not be able to defeat the insurgency in the east and that that reality would eventually force a negotiated settlement. The settlement would leave Ukraine neutral and/or balanced economically and militarily between Russia and the West. In other words, the inevitable outcome is the one favored by Russia and most of the protestors in Ukraine’s south and east.

Another outcome was also possible, Russian invasion and occupation and perhaps a major war. The bait was random shelling of civilians in Donetsk, Luhansk, and elsewhere, and the Odessa fire and massacre. See this May 4 comment by b:

The U.S. plan for Ukraine seems to be to bait Russia into an occupation. This would destroy EU-Russia relations, embolden NATO and help the U.S. to keep the EU as a secondary partner under its control. There would be lots of economic upsides for the U.S. in such a situation. Selling more arms and increasing energy market shares are only the starters.

But, as b predicted, Russia didn’t take the bait. Instead (the NY Times and I assume) it has quietly and unofficially assisted/facilitated the movement of arms and experienced military volunteers into Ukraine to aid the eastern rebellion. Far less aid and direction than that provided by the U.S. to the anti-regime Islamic rebellion in Syria, but you get the picture. This assistance flies mostly under the media radar, and can recede or increase depending on U.S. non-official and official aid to Ukraine’s military and National Guard. (Hip tat to scalawag for the links.)

As at least one Ukraine government sympathizer realizes, in Poroshenko’s Vietnam, the result is a festering, civilian-killing stalemate. An economy-crushing stalemate that can last forever or be put to an end tomorrow. The question is, does new Ukraine prime minister Petro Poroshenko have the freedom to choose to stop the bloodshed, or is he tied so closely to U.S. interests that he must carry on ‘killing his own people’ despite certain knowledge that carrying that on is counter to Ukraine’s interests? Here is some of the ‘Poroshenko’s Vietnam’ essay, by Boris Danik:

… Disengaging from Donbas [eastern Ukraine] will require political courage, but it seems the only way to stop the bleeding, deprive Mr. Putin of his pressure engine, and deal first with the European Union rather than checking with the Kremlin.

The status quo is degenerating into more destabilization and bloodletting. The quasi-military tactics employed by [the] Ukrainian side, with a sparse network of extremely vulnerable roadside checkpoints manned by a few dozen fighters, some of them with marginal training, are utterly inadequate if the separatists are to be “crushed”, as recently promised by some government officials.

Petro Poroshenko’[s] vow[] of revenge for the loss of lives in the downing of [a] Ukrainian helicopter on a transport mission near Donetsk shows the absence of a coherent plan for dealing with the messy trap in Donbas. It is because no sensible plan is feasible, except to extricate from this conundrum. …

Ukraine is in no position to pacify Donbas by force. It would require sending an army of occupation (call [a] spade a spade) [and] many thousands of troops to secure large cities and the countryside, even if Russia stayed out.

It is hard for a committed ethnic nationalist like Danik to ratchet back from the dream of an all-Ukrainian-speaking Ukraine, a no-more-Russians-here Ukraine. But the real world can have that kind of impact. Once again the questions: Will Poroshenko (assuming he is not a to-the-end ethnic Ukrainian nationalist) be allowed to do realpolitik, will he be allowed to enact reality-based policy? Or must he continue to conform to U.S. commands and neoconservative fantasy?

At the risk, well certainty, that this piece is becoming a b lovefest, I’ll quote his May 4 conclusion:

What is left to do then for Washington is to create more chaos in Ukraine and to hope that somehow out of total chaos some new chance may arise to stick it to Russia. For lack of real direction that strategy is also unlikely to succeed.

Let’s hope it fails sooner rather than later. Fewer dead civilians that way.

Photo by the U. S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine