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Where to stop? Restraint verses action – Ukraine

April 8, 2014

Yesterday’s incidents in Luhansk, Kharkiv and Donetsk, where very small numbers of pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings with no real attempt by police to prevent it – in fact in some cases it appeared clear there was collusion by some police commanders with the protesters – raises the question of when restraint becomes the worse option to action.

The thus far familiar pattern of seizure and subsequent vacation on Sundays has been broken.  Today government building remain seized in all three Oblasts.  How permanent these seizures will be, who knows?  The Kremlin will continue to poke and prod at what it finds a soft.  Each time it does, events will go that little bit further in an effort to discover just how far things can be pushed before certain responses are triggered.

Naturally Ukraine is doing everything possible to prevent bloodshed.  The Ukrainian view is that The Kremlin needs to be deprived the excuse of sending troops across the border to “protect” Russian citizens.  You could reasonably suspect that some Russian armour is already marked with the insignia for “peacekeeping” on Ukrainian soil under the guise of a perverse R2P interpretation.

Thus it is understandable that the Ukrainian authorities currently seek to prevent providing such an invitation, despite its sovereign right to forcibly deal with such domestic incidents as yesterday.

But –

The decision to take no robust action allows The Kremlin to continue taking such initiatives through its separatist/pro-Russia/plausibly deniable vassals.  Thus the question then becomes, just how long before restraint becomes nothing more than allowing the creation of Kremlin instigated de facto Russian protectorates within the territory of Ukraine?

How far geographically and psychologically can that be allowed to go?  How few people numerically, will be allowed to create such de facto protectorates by seizing government buildings unhindered, through want of avoiding bloodshed?  In which Oblasts will such action be tolerated, and how many simultaneously?

Thus far, the Ukrainian authorities have succeeded in not presenting The Kremlin with an excuse for a far more overt military incursion into Ukraine.  Though they have probably failed to prevent a large number of FSB agents/separatists/paid vassals entering and/or becoming active within Ukraine, so far this is without any permanent loss of ground of infrastructure.

Sooner or later there may be a Kremlin induced tipping point, whereby the current fairly successful Ukrainian tactics will become a liability, with continued restraint resulting in regions becoming de facto Kremlin protectorates.

As Sundays have become the traditional day for lawful rallies and such unlawful seizures to occur alike, we have to expect a very long month of May that also includes public holidays on 1st and 9th May – notwithstanding the presidential elections of 25th – all of which are likely to result in increased Kremlin-friendly action.

Where is the Ukrainian red line to avoid subjugation by stealth?

A difficult question when you know The Kremlin response should you answer it – or if you don’t.

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