Dangerous Escalation in the Ukraine

It is not far from my mind how WW I began, 100 years ago: Austria marched its troops into Serbia in retaliation, the King said, for Serbia’s role in supporting the suicide-terrorists who had assassinated the soon-to-be king, Archduke Franz Joseph. With the “Teutons” marching on the “Slavs,” Russian felt obliged to mobilize; with the “Slavs” [“this unorganized Asiatic mass”] in motion the Germans, with militarism the guiding light of the Kaiser and his general Moltke, were happy to oblige — and marched into Russia, and of course France who was vowed to help the Russians.

Now again, troops are crossing borders.  After weeks of threats, bluffs and massing on the border, it seems that Russia has sent two columns into the Ukraine — against the express wishes of that government.

The Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and is using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday.

The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military.

The Russian move represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the fighting there and comes as a convoy of Russian trucks with humanitarian provisions has crossed into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission.

Artillery into the Ukraine

And neither NATO nor the Europeans seem to have an idea how to respond.  Putin sees an advantage and not yet, enough downside to cease and desist.  What, short of armed resistance, will upend the equation to signal Russian/Putin loss instead of gain?

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel [Global Post] is to arrive in Kiev on Saturday, perhaps more persuaded than last time she was there, that serious economic measures have to be taken against Russia.

“We are in the process of a fundamental change in how we see Russia,” [Stefan Meister of the German Council on Foreign Relations.] said in a telephone interview. “You have to understand the policy of the last 20-25 years has failed.”

That policy, marked by regular personal interactions between Merkel and Putin, was intended to nudge and cajole the former communist state to adopt democratic reforms through ever-greater economic ties.

But as the Ukraine crisis has escalated, especially after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Merkel has steadily taken an ever-stronger stance and now appears to have won support for broad economic sanctions from the once-reluctant German business community.

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