What to make of it?August 10, 2014
Yesterday, 8th August, was the 6th anniversary of Kremlin actions in Georgia – 08.08.08 – which eventually resulted in the long standing disputed territories of South Ossetia and Azbakia.
Yesterday was also the day that saw a large column of Russian hardware head toward the eastern regions of Ukraine flying the Red Cross in a much telegraphed “humanitarian mission” by The Kremlin. That the convoy halted and did not enter Ukraine was due to a combination of The Red Cross not sanctioning the humanitarian mission under its banner – and thus removing any form of international cover via the Geneva Convention – together some hard nosed diplomacy and robust statements orating that any such “humanitarian mission” would be understood as an invasion of Ukraine in the absence of such Red Cross sanctioning of any intervention.
The Kremlin does prefer to work within even a flimsy and/or warped interpretation of international law rather than without any such legal ground to manipulate.
A close call, but one that had been telegraphed via the UNSC for a while – Kremlin requests for such a humanitarian mission being repeatedly denied. In short, any Kremlin humanitarian gestures employing Russian troops would not be a “humanitarian mission” but a limited invasion and frozen conflict creation in eastern Ukraine.
Russian military entering Ukraine would be considered both political in nature regarding desired outcomes/vested interests and also likely to make matters worse not better – two clearly defined considerations of any Responsibility to Protect (R2P) authorisation.
More interesting perhaps, are the statements and actions coming out of The Kremlin in the past few days.
Firstly a few days ago, deliberately deniable accounts surfaced that Sergei Ivanov and Sergei Shoigu were desperately trying to persuade those within The Kremlin that invading Ukraine would be a bad idea. Notably those deniable accounts were not denied by these two very powerful men who have access to President Putin.
Were they giving the discerning and enlightened “watchers” advanced warning of an imminent invasion? Were they distancing themselves, as best they could in the circumstances, from a decision made? An attempt to hold out a veiled olive branch as interlocutors of the future, if and when Mr Putin fell? If they have any interest in leaving their current “clans” and becoming the “arbiter-in-chief” that is the Russian presidential role with regard the “clans”, was this early maneuvering?
Next was the dismissal, on 6th August, of 18 top officials in The Kremlin security apparatus with no mention of the mass sackings other than the official decrees appearing on the presidential website. Those decrees here and here. No explanation given of such a Stalin-esque purge of the top officer corps. Rumour has it that these men also opposed the invasion of Ukraine – Perhaps so. It will take a little time rummaging around in the dark corners of the Kremlin to find out for sure.
Yesterday, prior to Russian conveys heading toward the Ukrainian border, this comment from Prime Minister Medvedev appeared – “Russia will do its best to remain a predictable partner for its citizens and foreign partners.”
As Mr Medvedev is “deputy arbiter-in-chief ” – and “clan-less” as is Mr Putin, though unable to make decisions without Mr Putin relating to the “clans” – almost all of the same questions raised for Messrs Ivanov and Shoigu arise as listed above.
Quite clearly invading Ukraine is not taboo for President Putin. Those who may think otherwise are deluded. Invading Ukraine may also not be taboo for those Kremlin personalities mentioned above either – it is perhaps more a question of timing than tactic for one reason or another. Perhaps there are alternatives that are preferred in some quarters – for alternatives there certainly are without giving up on Ukraine from a Kremlin perspective.
As such, seeing the above – if there is a linkage – as an indication of a splitting (more than usual) within the Kremlin ranks, may well be wishful thinking. premature, or completely erroneous thought. In any case, the situation for Ukraine today is as difficult as it was yesterday. What can be said is that today could have been much more difficult than yesterday. That doesn’t mean tomorrow, the situation cannot become a whole lot worse.