Tuesday, March 25, 2014

is valodya putting europe on the brink of WW-III?


20Committee |  The Parisian daily Le Figaro has run an interesting interview about the situation in Ukraine with retired General Ihor Smeshko, who is well positioned to understand the realities at play. Once a Soviet Army officer, Smeshko served as Ukraine’s military attache in the United States in the 1990s, was promoted to general, then was head of military intelligence (HUR) from 1997 to 2000. He subsequently served as chief of the Security Service (SBU), Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency, from 2003 to 2005. While Smeshko is a somewhat controversial character, he remains active in politics and his insights on the current crisis merit consideration. The interview follows in toto, with my comments after.

Q: Moscow has annexed Crimea, and Ukrainian troops are to leave the peninsula. How do you feel?

A: I feel enormous humiliation. I have been an officer, first in the Soviet Army, then in Ukraine’s. Never could I have imagined what’s going on. Vladimir Putin is making a terrible mistake. In the long term, the aggression that Russia has committed will catch up with it, and will perhaps lead to its disintegration. What is more, I do not want to come out against Russia in general, nor do I want to lump the great Russian people — Tolstoy, Pushkin, and the others — together with Putin. Putin has opened  Pandora’s Box by breaching the bilateral treaty that recognized Ukraine’s frontiers in exchange for our giving up nuclear weapons in 1994. What will Russia do if China decides to protect the millions of Chinese already living in Siberia by annexing that territory? As I see it, Moscow is very afraid of a European-style democracy in Ukraine, which would put ideas into the Russian people’s heads.

Q: Putin is asserting that Ukraine is a geographical concept, not a nation.

A: Putin understands nothing about Ukraine. When he dared to claim that Russia won World War II without the Ukrainians, it was a terrible slap in the face. What about the seven million Ukrainians who gave their lives? Putin knows nothing about it and surrounds himself with servile advisers. He is unaware that the Ukrainians are old Russians, but bred on the freedom of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, who never submitted to serfdom. He cannot conquer us, but he has wounded us and has thus fallen afoul of the nation that gave the Tsarist empire its best troops. I know something about that: We have been soldiers, father and son, for five generations on my mother’s side. Instead of acting with the European Union to help the young Ukrainian state become democratic and prosperous – to build a bridge between Europe and Russia and make de Gaulle’s fantastic dream of a Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals come true – Russia’s leadership has conducted military aggression against the territory of a sovereign state. It is placing Europe on the verge of a Third World War.

Q: Could the Ukrainian Army hold out in the event Russian troops enter eastern Ukraine?

A: Russia stands no chance of winning a war against Ukraine. To be sure, Ukraine is weakened by the twenty years it has spent laying the foundations of its state and by the total corruption of the machinery of that state. That is why part of the population has risen up against [ex-President] Viktor Yanukovych’s regime. Of course, we lack well-equipped divisions for the time being, but Russian ground forces are not in great shape. Russia has mobilized 150,000 men on our borders, but it’s not in a position to wage an offensive war against Ukraine or to occupy our territory. When the USSR fell apart, there was a highly trained military force of one million men here. Ukraine, for its part, has 700,000 reservists it can mobilize. Mobilization is under way. My twenty-one-year old son, who is a reserve lieutenant, has dropped out of university to sign up. If it persists in its adventure, Russia will stand no chance against a defense force of partisans.

Q: You say Crimea will remain Ukrainian, but former Georgian President Saakashvili said the same about South Ossetia.

A: We are not Georgia. For instance, part of the Russian nuclear shield is currently undergoing technical checks in a Ukrainian factory, Yuzhmash. We have not said to date that we are going to cease all cooperation, but that might change. Given our scientific expertise, we could even decide to resume building nuclear weapons.