Military cooperation

Hrytsenko: a third world war has already begun

In Ukraine, Civil Position leader and ex-defence minister Anatoly Hrytsenko writes that Putin’s current foreign policy aims include much more than an annexation of Crimea and East Ukraine. Putin wants the whole of Ukraine, and much more besides. Gritsenko says that the Russian president has decided to demonstrate to the world by his aggression that international law no longer has any validity and that money and power are the only factors that have meaning in the modern world.

Hrytsenko considers that the fears of Western nations that by confronting Putin they will provoke a third world war lag a long way behind the reality of what has actually happened: Putin has already begun such a war, and the West will need to take swift and decisive action to stop it.

Pointing to recent threatening statements from Moscow about the rights of Russian-speakers in the Baltic States, to the movement of heavy artillery and missile launchers to Russia’s borders with Moldova and Transnistria, to the direction of  strategic bombers down the Baltic and North Sea, to the redeployment of fighter and long-range aviation including Su-27s, MiG-29s and Tu-22M3s to the Crimean peninsula, to the distribution of airborne assault teams, sabotage units and  covert agents throughout Ukraine, and probably also into neighbouring countries, Hrytsenko says that Putin has made no secret of his plans: they are already in operation, without any restrictions.

The West’s attempts to slow the aggression by means of negotiations, diplomacy and economic sanctions have not been effective, Hrytsenko warns. To deter further aggression, the West will need to  form an anti-Putin coalition and focus all  available means and capabilities on taking practical military steps. These should in the first instance be the relocation and deployment around the territory of Ukraine (Poland, Slovakia , Hungary, Romania , Bulgaria, Northern Turkey) of a powerful NATO aviation group (80-100 F-16s and F-15s), a carrier strike group in the Mediterranean (70+ carrier-based aircraft) plus 7-8 warships in the Black Sea (destroyers and cruisers with powerful air defence) and several airborne brigades – to establish reliable control over Ukraine’s air and sea space in order to prevent  Russia from building up additional forces and halt the invasion that is now in progress.

Armed in Error

In the belief that Russia could be drawn into greater military cooperation by “engagement” (an unclear term that can be interpreted several ways), Western countries, particularly Germany, directly supported and trained the Russian military – and this even continued until recently, when Russia began its attacks on Ukraine. An article by Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast states that in 2011, for example,

the German defense contractor Rheinmetall signed a $140 million contract to build a combat simulation training center in Mulino, in southwest Russia, that would train 30,000 Russian combat troops per year. While the facility wasn’t officially scheduled to be completed until later this year, U.S. officials believe that Germany has been training Russian forces for years.

Rheinmetall defended the project even after the invasion of Crimea, up until the German government finally shut it down late last month. But many tracking the issue within the U.S. government were not happy with Germany’s handling of the Russian contract, and worry that some of the training may have gone to the kind of special operations forces now operating in and around Ukraine.

Moreover, it also appears that the German help was going not only to Russia’s traditional armed forces but also in a high degree to the sophisticated GRU Spetsnaz units that are now being deployed in the new Russian strategy of intervening “on behalf” of Russian-speakers abroad whenever the latter claim discrimination. While it looks as though now the era of military cooperation with Russia is at an end, some observers are wondering whether the realization of what was really happening may have come too late.