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Fri Feb 25, 2022, 11:27 PM

The Russian Civil War

People who expect the Ukraine-Russia conflict to end quickly are likely not thinking about this from the perspective of the Russians. To Putin, Ukraine was a break-away republic, albeit one that broke away thirty-four years ago. More recently, they threw out the previous government, led by pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, considered a puppet of Putin's, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy taking over and forming a new pre-European government.

Putin sees this as civil war, with Ukraine the "Russian South". I wondered back in 2015 why Putin was so intent on destabilizing the United Kingdom (which he successfully did via Brexit) and the United States (which he nearly did and arguably is still doing via Trump) but in hindsight, reclamation of Ukraine no doubt was a big part of the picture. I suspect in his analysis, he realized that Biden was being more successful at stopping Russian-backed operations than he'd hoped, and realized that his window to reunify the former Soviet Union was closing quickly.

Ultimately, I think there may be a number of factors for why he moved now. One may be his own physical and mental health, which has been rumored to be inconsistent. He is also facing political pressures at home to relinquish power: he is popular among the conservative base, but he no longer has universal support and is finding it difficult to maintain control over the Far East, including the Kamchatka peninsula. He also may have recognized that his US and UK assets are being uncovered in recent Congressional investigations.

For all that, this is now shaping up to be a civil war, where Russian soldiers are expected to shoot at Ukraine soldiers who may be former friends or family members, and for most Russians and Ukranians alike, Ukraine was seen as independent. Ultimately, the danger here for Russia is that this could spread outside of the Ukraine and affect both Moskva and St. Petersberg, tearing the country even more apart than its been with the fall of the Soviets.

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Russian Civil War (Original post)
Metaphorical Feb 2022 OP
Irish_Dem Feb 2022 #1
Metaphorical Feb 2022 #5
JHB Feb 2022 #7
Irish_Dem Mar 2022 #8
regnaD kciN Feb 2022 #2
Metaphorical Feb 2022 #6
2naSalit Feb 2022 #3
Raine Feb 2022 #4

Response to Metaphorical (Original post)

Fri Feb 25, 2022, 11:45 PM

1. Very good summary, thank you!


1. In terms of the conflict spreading into Russia, how would that happen?

Ukraine chasing Russian troops back over the border? Or flying into Moscow and dropping bombs in a separate front?

Does Ukraine have that kind of military power?

Do you think Putin thought this would be a quick invasion?

2. You seem to stop short of saying that the US has been successfully destabilized by Trump and the GOP. Do you mean there is still some hope to save our democracy? Or is it looking grim?

3. Can you factor in Xi into your discussion of Putin's thought processes?

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Response to Irish_Dem (Reply #1)

Sat Feb 26, 2022, 11:20 PM

5. Follow-up

1. I see instability coming from the Far East - Magadon-Sokul and several other cities in Kumchatka and Pacific Siberia have been struggling with riots and separatist tensions for the last couple of years, and the more that the Russian army gets tied up in Ukraine and the West, the more likely that you'll see others begin to take advantage of the opportunities. With Nato forces now being activated, I suspect you'll also see other Western former Russian Republics (and places like Finland, which had been neutral) wanting to join. Finally, I could see China taking the opportunity to test their Northern perimeter boundaries, and the Japanese laying claim to some of the contested Russian islands in the Japanese Archipelago.

I don't see Ukraine by itself being able to push back - while it's one of the largest countries in Europe, it's long been a Russian colony, and has been kept fairly poor. I do see them being able to keep the Russians from consolidating power, especially if they are fed arms and intelligence. However, that's going to be balanced out by keeping said weapons out of the hands of the Russians.

As to the quick invasion - yes I thought he felt it would be done in a matter of weeks. Remember the US and Iraq. The invasion was going to be a blitz, and it was ... until everything fell apart there. Afghanistan was supposed to be quick, and it became the longest war that the US had ever been involved in. War is complicated especially when nobody is wearing uniforms, and a civil war is the worst kind of war.

2. At one point during the pandemic under Trump, there was a very real possibility that the West Coast and the Northeast were about ready to say screw this, we are creating our own compacts and ignoring everything coming out of DC. There was a concerted effort on the part of (Russian backed) partisans to nullify an election in which the losing candidate clearly failed to meet even the minimum thresholds of being elected, we had daily rioting all across the country even as ICE was becoming Trump's personal Gestapo, and there were weekly white-racist based shootings and an attempt to kidnap a sitting governor. All this culminated with Jan 6. Have you noticed how quickly these incidents have de-escalated?

I have no doubt that had Trump successfully achieved re-election, this country would be engaged in the messiest form of civil war right now, one in which the legitimacy of the government outside of Trump himself was up for grabs. I think we're past the worst of this, and ironically, the one thing that Putin is now achieving is that he is uniting the United States in a way that it hasn't been in the last two decades. So, I'm more hopeful. I still think that there are tensions that NEED to be resolved or we still may be facing some kind of breakup, but I'm now of the opinion that it will likely not happen until the 2050s or later.

3. Xi is a consummate Chinese politician who has managed to turn parts of China into a capitalist state while not completely relinquishing power outside of the communist party. To understand how this is possible, it's necessary to remember that China is the world's oldest bureaucracy, going back at least 3,000 years. Many lower-level positions are actually democratically elected, but they are elected from different contenders in the Communist party, and senior-level positions then rise from these lower-level ranks, often selected by committees of more senior-level appointees.

Xi sees Putin as an uncivilized thug, one playing a longer game than the Americans and the Europeans (who refresh their senior ranks more often) but that nonetheless involves dominating the Eurasian continent. Xi is also trying to keep a balance going between the very conservative, sparsely populated regions in the mountainous West and North, and the very progressive populations of Beijing and the Yellow River estuary as well as the Southeast Asian archipelago and Hong Kong. They could conceivably take the lands north of Mongolia into Siberia, but it would be a lot like trying to claim the Northwest Territories of Canada - probably not worth the effort.

Xi Jinping studied in the United States and has a fairly deep grasp of American culture and geopolitical strategy. His interests are basically local - he's not as heavily focused on the reclamation of Taiwan as previous Secretaries General, and he much prefers conquest that's economic rather than militaristic in nature - and he has been far more successful in that respect. Putin was both a member of the Red Army and later head of the KGB, and his world view has been shaped by that, but he's used his position primarily to enrich himself and insulate him from oversight. He has to keep Xi pacified, however, because the Chinese Army outnumbers the Russians by about four to one, and have a considerable technological advantage, and could, if they were so inclined, make life very miserable for him and for Russian. However, it is naive to think that they are allies - only that they have certain interests in common (and then only tangentially).

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Response to Metaphorical (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 27, 2022, 01:03 AM

7. OK, this is a tangent, but part of your post jogged a thought...

Specifically, "Many lower-level positions are actually democratically elected, but they are elected from different contenders in the Communist party,...."

This jogged a thought from my many arguments with conservatives about their retorts of "we're not a democracy, we're a republic." To whit, what is a republic that isn't a democratic republic? Answer: One wherein candidates are voted in to office, but by a controlled and constrained electorate.

My original context was sparring with arguments that corporations were guided "democratically" because their boards were elected, which is bullshit because the electorate is shareholders in proportion to shares owned, or the executives collecting votes by proxy. It also applies to Jim Crow states that eliminated significant chunks of the populace from the electorate.

I suppose I'm contending the the use of "democratically" in the wording of "lower-level positions are actually democratically elected", but this post is mostly a "thoughts going through my head" dump, not actual contention.

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Response to Metaphorical (Reply #5)

Tue Mar 1, 2022, 04:11 PM

8. Thank you Meta for your thoughtful and very informative reply.

I do think Xi and Putin are odd bedfellows right now. But Xi is certainly the more dangerous and formidable player. I also think China will emerge as a 21st century superpower and they most likely will get Taiwan. Or they would have if Putin had not screwed up Ukraine so badly.

The plan was for Xi and Putin to change the world order. Putin would control the West, Xi the East.

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Response to Metaphorical (Original post)

Sat Feb 26, 2022, 12:51 AM

2. A couple of points...

1) The pro-Russian government of Ukraine was ousted in 2014, and was succeeded by a pro-Western government headed by the pro-European Poroshenko. The latter lost in his re-election bid in 2019 to Zelenskyy. Iím guessing Russia was quite happy to see Poroshenko ousted, and assumed the non-politician Zelenskyy would be easy to manipulate back into Russiaís orbit, only to find it wasnít going to be the case.

2) I think one is missing the big picture in assuming that Putinís machinations with the U.K. and U.S. had much to do with Ukraine, except as an interim step. The whole point of enabling Brexit (and encouraging similar movements elsewhere in Europe) and Trump was to undermine, respectively, the European Union and NATO. Iím sure he hoped that Trump would remain in office and eventually dismantle NATO; with that gone and the E.U. splintered by nationalist dissensions, he certainly would be able to easily take back Ukraine, but he would also be able to do so to the Baltic republics and the rest of the Iron Curtain countries. And maybe more. But he certainly would have broken up the notion of a united, democratic Europe, and be in a position to dictate the course of everywhere up to the Atlantic Ė a Russian Empire greater than the Tsars had ever known.

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Response to regnaD kciN (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 27, 2022, 12:23 AM

6. Thanks, and yes, you are correct

1) I'd forgotten Poroshenko.

2) Putin's big picture has always been Russian Hegemony. Ukraine has simply been an irritant, though I suspect that it may be more thorny than Putin expected. Putin wants control over the Arctic - its oil, its fish, the ability tod ship through it without dealing with the checkpoints of the Suez or Panama canals. He wants the return of the Russian Rodina, and, yes, he wants to remembered as the greatest premiere since Stalin. I also suspect that he may be sicker than he has let people believe, and that mortality is weighing heavily on his legacy.

As to the UK and US - seeing them fall no doubt is a goal of his as well, if only because they have usually ended up checking Russia, and played a big role (albeit not as big as history paints it) in the fall of the Soviet Union. The given history (at least in the US) is that the US defeated the Soviet Union in the Arms Race. The reality was more prosaic - Saudi Arabia was able to control OPEC in driving down prices, and the discovery of North Sea Oil Reserves drove them even farther. This deprived Chernenko, and later Gorbachev, the ability to continue to project power in the Warsaw Pact countries, leading ultimately to a chain of uprisings that eventually led to Gorbachev fleeing to the West and Putin ascending to power (the infamous tank ride) as the champion of the new Russian Federation.

Now, I think that it's unlikely he will be able to reunite the Soviet Republics. The 'stans to the South (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan) have only become more Islamic and aligned with Afghanistan and Pakistan since the SU collapsed, the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have aligned with the Finns and Norwegians, and the Far West of Siberia (Kumchatka and the lands East of the Yabonovyy Range) have also been making noises about secession from the FR.

There's another interesting question that no one is asking. If Putin dies, will the Federation die with him? Much of Siberia East of the Ural mountains sees itself as being Asian almost by definition, and its inhabitants see themselves as being more Mongol than Rus. Certainly the Chinese would be overjoyed to help their newly independent (and ethnically similar) neighbors to the North integrate into the modern world (and use that as a pretext to better control Mongolia as well).

So, it could very well be this one act of overreach, far from reuniting the Soviet Union, might very well split it into a country about half its current size.

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Response to Metaphorical (Original post)

Sat Feb 26, 2022, 01:49 AM

3. I think that another factor...

From your viewpoint and this other thing, he seems to be hitting a trifecta.

The other thing is that Russia is the chair/?/head of the UN Security Council right now too.

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Response to Metaphorical (Original post)

Sat Feb 26, 2022, 05:40 AM

4. VERY interesting ... Thanks for posting this. 👍 nt

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