As the Ukraine crisis evolves, it’s instructive to step back and look at some of the claims, and counter-claims, that are driving the conflict. They include:
Claim: The U.S. says Russia is deliberately destabilizing the interim Ukraine government
Counter-Claim: Russia says an illegal coup brought the interim Ukraine government to power. Russia considers the current government illegitimate
Reported Facts: Ukraine elections are set to elect a new government on May 25th
Claim: Russia maintains that NATO expansionism destabilizes eastern Europe and that Ukraine is a victim of Western overreaching
Counter-Claim: The U.S. believes that NATO counters Russian intimidation of Europe and that Ukraine benefits from closer EU relationships
Reported Facts: Both countries seek outcomes in the Ukraine that strengthen their respective positions
Claim: The U.S. maintains that Russia is illegally annexing Crimea in an unprecedented land-grab with nefarious intent
Counter-Claim: Russia claims humanitarian intentions, and says its actions in Crimea only follow the Kosovo precedent previously set by the US and NATO
Reported Facts: NATO cited humanitarian reasons for intervening in Kosovo
Claim: The U.S. believes that Russian special forces are stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine
Counter Claim: Russian says civil war will erupt if Ukraine uses force to quell eastern Ukraine unrest
Reported Facts: Ukraine has deployed some forces to eastern cities in an attempt to retake government buildings held by the pro-russian groups.
Things are moving fast as the situation in Ukraine becomes increasingly less stable. Here’s the big picture to help make sense of what’s happening:
– In Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv – all Russian-speaking cities in eastern Ukraine – Russian-loyalist protesters have taken over government buildings, demanding Russian intervention and aid. All three cities lie in a path that could connect Crimea and Russia if Russian troops move across the Ukraine border.
– Poland, already the beneficiary of a fresh U.S. squadron of F16’s, seeks more NATO help as they worry about Russian forces near Ukraine. Polands Prime Minister has said he would be satisfied with two heavy combat brigades (about 4,000 troops with tanks and artillery).
– NATO announced plans to deliver a “reassurance package” for eastern European members worried about Russia’s nearby forces. General Breedlove, NATO Supreme Commander, is scheduled to deliver the plan on April 15.
– Russian troops remain massed in a high state of readiness at the Ukraine border, Troop strength is estimated to be between 40,000 (U.S. estimates) and 88,000 (Ukraine estimates). The troops are remarkably disciplined and well-equipped with modern equipment.
– U.S. military intelligence is facing withering criticism for failures to predict, measure and track Russian troop movements.
Ukraine, meanwhile, would be hard pressed to mount an effective defense against far superior Russian forces. NATO’s top commander General Breedlove estimates that Russia could achieve its objectives in 3 to 5 days.
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Image courtesy Wikipedia (Russian t90 Tank) modifications by Curiousmatic
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Image courtesy of See-ming Lee via Flickr. Modified by Curiousmatic.
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