Is Russia About to Roll Into Ukraine?

14 Jan 2022

BUCK: Here’s the headline on Daily Mail right now: “Putin Will Stage False Flag Attack on His Own Troops as an Excuse to Invade Ukraine, U.S. Intelligence Warns — Russia’s sabotage plan revealed as Moscow sends more troops to the border and Kiev,” or “Keeve,” as some say it, “is hit with a massive cyber attack.” So we have over a hundred thousand troops built up already on the border, Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

It does seem as though there’s a very real possibility here, an imminent one, of a Russian incursion, and this will obviously create a whole lot of — well, first — national security challenges for the Ukrainians because they’re gonna have to fight against a very capable and very serious Russian military. But beyond that, the Biden regime — which is already bellyflopping, it seems, every day in the pool, so to speak — is gonna be in a position where they’re supposed to lead some kind of international diplomatic consortium to hold back Putin.

There’s so much here that I think is fascinating. I mean, Clay, for one thing, you know when Russians took a big chunk off of Crimea — or rather, of Ukraine in Crimea by seizing it, essentially — through what people view as a phony referendum or a fraudulent one. You know how they seized eastern Ukraine? It was when Obama was president.

CLAY: Oh, yeah. This, to me, is the most interesting part about the Russian collusion disaster on many different levels, but Russia actually feared doing things while Donald Trump was president in a way that they have not when Barack Obama or Joe Biden have been in my office, and so you’re the international affairs expert here. So how do you play this out if this is going to happen, if Ukraine is going to be invaded by Russia?

Let’s presume that they do it, the United States — ’cause this is what they’re doing in Russia right now, right? They are game planning, strategizing, game theorizing what the United States response and what the larger international community response is going to be. So if Ukraine is invaded, Joe Biden’s first response is what, and what ultimately is he able to do to stop this or in any way significantly censure this in any way?

BUCK: There’s very little that they’ll be able to do to either prevent it at this point if the Kremlin, if Putin — Putin and the Kremlin are one and the same, right? He’s running that country as an actual dictator and authoritarian. You know, you heard this for four years under Trump. Yeah, Trump was such a dictator that anytime some judge from the Ninth Circuit would be like, “You can’t do that,” he was like, “All right, I’ll see you in court.”

That’s not how dictators work. We all know that, right? But Putin is a dictator, and so he’ll do whatever he wants. If he views it in Russia’s interests, national security interests to do this, then there’s very little that the U.S. — and quite honestly, there’s very little any U.S. president — can do right now. If you’re really close to that decision point, it’s unlikely there’d be much that would be done to sway them because nobody — and this is important to say from the outset.

Nobody believes that the U.S. should put troops in Ukraine to fight on behalf of this country, and if you’re wondering how clear that is, the Russian incursion that we’re preparing for here would be an escalation, really, Clay of a war that’s already been going on for about, what, five, six years now? Maybe even longer than that. This goes all the way back to the Obama years when the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine was essentially a pseudo-separatist region.

It was really Russian paramilitaries out of uniform who were saying, “We are now forming the independent Republic of Donbass” or whatever it was, and so this has been going on for a while. You have had Ukrainian soldiers in actual trench warfare on the eastern part of the country where Donbass is squaring off against these Russian-backed — or in many cases, actually just Russian –separatists who have come across the border.

So this is gonna be a very serious escalation of that conflict. But that’s been going on already for years, and to your point about or the question about what will the Biden administration do? Putin knows what the latte drinkers in Brussels and the rest of the E.U. will do in response to this — or The Hague, really. That’s very, very little. They’ll have conversations about it. There will be sanctions.

But Russia’s really too big to sanction in a meaningful way. The guys in charge there are so rich, how are you going to sanction them? As long as they’re selling oil and gas and natural gas to countries like Germany on a huge scale, sanctions aren’t going to cripple this country. So I think you’re gonna see a lot of ineffective talk. You’re gonna see some countries on the Russian periphery.

Notably the actual NATO countries that we have, right — Ukraine is not a NATO country — you’ll see saying, “Hey, you better put more troops here.” Yeah, “and so we need more resources. We want U.S. presence, or we want additional help for our military there.” But this is gonna be a conflict I think could get really ugly very fast. I know that true of any war, but —

CLAY: That’s the general American, I would say, response right now. We got out of Afghanistan after the 20-year basically disaster, and we left in as dispirited and pathetic of a way as was possible. So if Russia invades Ukraine and we issue some sort of diplomatic response injunction other western democracies, what’s the worst-case scenario here for the United States if you’re projecting out how things could go awry in a way that becomes a major negative? ‘Cause, frankly, most people in the United States don’t know anything about Ukraine. We need to get your buddy on who was so good from Ukraine.

BUCK: Oh, Nolan? Yeah, he’s been living there.

CLAY: So good.

BUCK: We have him back for short. He’s in Ukraine still. He’s been covering this on the front lines.

CLAY: He was fantastic in trying to contextualize why it matters but from your perspective what’s the worst-case scenario here?

BUCK: Worst-case scenario would be there there’s some consensus that forms in the national security and international relations circles of our — of the current — the Biden regime government that maybe we do need to put some U.S. troops. The worst-case scenario is you have Americans shooting at Russians in any capacity in Ukraine. At least… This is, you know, my opinion, my estimation. That’s the worst case. I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I think that’s, you know, less than a 5% chance of actually occurring — very, very, very remote — but there is going to be ’cause for all the focus on Ukraine. There are other places where there could be this playbook run again. This happened in South Ossetia in Georgia and Abkhazia, these breakaway regions that the Russians backed so what they do is they go and find areas of Russian speakers on the Russian periphery and they foment some kind of unrest.

And the Russians deploy military force and say, “We’re protecting our own. This is a humanitarian or even peacekeeping mission,” and they call this Maskirovka — which is Russian warfare by deception — and they’re very good at cyber. They’re very good at picking people off and doing this, and they’re trying to expand — the Russians are trying to expand — their defensible perimeter against the threat of NATO which they still view very much, Clay, as a threat.

We just say, “Oh, NATO’s a thing.” They say, “NATO was a huge military alliance made to stop us and we don’t want them on our border.” At least this is Putin’s vision and version of events. So I think it’s very likely that you will see a major incursion there, and now you’re talking about two developed countries with advanced economies and technology going toe-to-toe.

The Ukrainians wouldn’t be able to put up much of a battlefield tank-for-tank fight, if you will, but if there’s some kind of enduring insurgency that could actually happy that’s where I think you could see things getting really ugly. And if you want an approximation of this, you think go and see what it was like back in Chechnya in the nineties when people were like, “Oh, my gosh.” Chechnya was turned into a hellhole because of the fighting that was going on there.

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