April 28, 2014

How Euromaidan Saved NATO

The article is based on a presentation prepared for Lennart Meri Conference 2014.

What if Euromaidan had turned out differently? The Berkut brutalities of 30 Nov and 11 Dec only inflamed protests. But the introduction of the draconian law package No. 3879 on 17 Jan could have been followed by a more sustained and violent campaign against Euromaidan. Intimidation, personal targetting, terror in the streets and maximum use of Titushky, Berkut and the heavily Russian infiltrated SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) special forces could have broken the back of Euromaidan. What would have followed?

The article is based on a presentation prepared for Lennart Meri Conference 2014.

What if Euromaidan had turned out differently? The Berkut brutalities of 30 Nov and 11 Dec only inflamed protests. But the introduction of the draconian law package No. 3879 on 17 Jan could have been followed by a more sustained and violent campaign against Euromaidan. Intimidation, personal targetting, terror in the streets and maximum use of Titushky, Berkut and the heavily Russian infiltrated SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) special forces could have broken the back of Euromaidan. What would have followed?

Yanukovich is an honoured guest at the highly successful Winter Olympics. In Ukraine more repressive legislation and election fraud make the 2015 presidential elections irrelevant. Ukraine moves off centre screen and the world continues to be ignorant of the existence of a Crimea.

Meanwhile, after expressions of deep concern, the EU welcomes a peace dividend after Afghanistan. Defence spending continues to decline because there is no forseeable threat in Europe. The US pursues its pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region and questions the value of a NATO which can contribute next to nothing in this area of key strategic importance.

What of Russia? The dramatic increase in defence expenditure (eg 7 times increase from 2001/2011 decade on decade) helps to pay for Western help with Mistrals and lucrative high tech contracts such as the German battlegroup trainer. After all, after ISAF’s withdrawal, a volatile Caucasus and Central Asia, protecting the largest country on earth requires modern forces. In Europe war is unimaginable.

Despite the successful enlargenent of the Customs Union and the establishment in 2015 of the Eurasian union, Russia is slowly stagnating. Putin’s popularity is slowly but steadily falling and united Russia does badly in the Dec 2016 Duma elections. Presidential elections are due in spring 2018.

Russia continues to use its soft power with a hard edge against the Baltics portraying them as discriminatory against non-citizens and Russian speakers; determined to rewrite history and to resurrect fascism – countries that do not deserve to be defended. Poland and the Baltics continue to stress the risks but everyone is bored with their longstanding Russophobia.

Planning for Exercise Zapad 2017 in September are well underway when violence erupts for the first time at the annual, controversial, public meetings of 16 Mar and 9 May in Latvia and on 27 Jul in the Sinimae hills of eastern Estonia. Separatists appear in Narva, Rezekne and Daugavpils. Suddenly, during the August holiday season, a scenario familiar to us, thanks to Euromaidan, commences. The takeover of public buildings begins, Putin tourists and little green men appear. This is then the first use of what John Schindler has called Special War. Despite the activation of Article 4 (consultations) there is genuine surprise, confusion and incomprehension in the West.

Special forces, heliborne and naval infantry seize key infrastructure in all 3 Baltic States (as practiced in 2013). Ground forces follow. Within 36-72 hours a fait accompli is in place, though with active pockets of resistance. Anti-access / area denial methods link in with an understated threat of “nuclear deescalation” targetting Warsaw (as practiced in 2009). The Baltics are where Crimea is in 2014 – a lost cause. NATO is unable and/or unwilling to save itself. Article 5 is dead and with it the Alliance.

Why should Russia want to act in this way? Firstly, internal political drivers influence foreign policy – Putin must stay in power – few other tools remain. But, of more consequence for the West, the proven use of force can now be used to intimidate a militarily weak Central and Eastern Europe in order to extend strategic depth (much improved by the return of the Baltic States) and Russian influence to where it belongs. And most of all, Russia regains its rightful great power status.

A plausible scenario? If so, then the Baltic States owe their continuing freedom and NATO its collective security guarantee to the heroes of the Euromaidan. They have given us forewarning of what may come. Putin has launched his military gambit prematurely, before his defence reforms are complete. It is up to us now to make best use of this opportunity.

Putin warned us, in writing, as early as 27 February 2012:
“We are determined to ensure that Latvian and Estonian authorities follow the numerous recommendations of reputable international organizations on observing generally accepted rights of ethnic minorities. We cannot tolerate the shameful status of “non-citizen.” How can we accept that, due to their status as non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in thirteen Estonian residents are denied their fundamental political, electoral and socioeconomic rights and the ability to freely use Russian?”

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