War under a nuclear umbrella

Guest post by Aleksi Roinila. 9 December2014.

Aleksi RoinilaFor European security the failure of nuclear deterrence to deter conventional war may not be any better than the deterrence that has so far prevented the EU and NATO from giving direct lethal aid to Ukraine in its war against an unmarked Russian expeditionary force. It is therefore imperative that further Russian aggression is deterred primarily with other means, whether political, economic or conventional military force. Failing to do so may have disastrous consequences for everyone involved, writes Aleksi Roinila.

Aleksi is a Master of Social Sciences from the University of Tampere and has studied Strategy and Defence at the Finnish National Defence University, International Relations at Aberystwyth University, and served as an analyst with the Finnish Defence Forces in the ISAF and KFOR operations for nearly three years.

During the past weekend Russia reportedly flew several sorties with its nuclear-capable Tu-95 ”Bear” strategic bombers over the Baltic sea, alerting the countries in the region. It was but one signal on a months-long continuum of Russian saber-rattling incidents along NATO’s borders following the revolution and war in Ukraine. But is Russia truly a threat to NATO or the European Union?

Last week the Finnish parliament was presented with a report that sought to analyze Russia’s future attitudes towards its neighbors. The report entirely omitted the possibility of Russia using military force against any of its neighbors, stating that any attack against Finland (or supposedly any other EU member) would “in practice mean the start of a third world war”.

Tupolev Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber. Source: Wikipedia.

It’s unlikely that military planners anywhere in Europe would believe such a ridiculous proposition, but politicians, pundits, and scholars sometimes do. Therefore it is important to make two things absolutely clear to shake away the false comfort:

  1. Russia using military force against Finland, Sweden, the Baltics or even the European Union and NATO at large does not automatically mean the start of a Third World War;
  2. A major war, even a World War, is by no means impossible even today – but it does not necessarily mean the start of an all-out nuclear war.

Our understandable desire to close our eyes from the possibility of war in Europe is not merely harmless naivety. It is also dangerous. If we refuse to accept the possibility and fail to prepare ourselves both to fight it and to prevent it, we will have inadvertently increased its likelihood with our own willful denial: It’s hard to get serious about prevention if the danger itself is not taken seriously.

Examples of such good-willed negligence are plentiful across Western Europe, from Sweden’s decision to effectively scrub its national defence to Finland’s ambivalence towards sanctioning Russia for the war in Ukraine. Even in NATO many countries persist in the hubris of the 1990s, thinking that major wars in Europe are a thing of the past, not of the future: Even before the highly controversial decision to sell Russia two modern Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, France was happy to supply Russian tanks with advanced thermal optics which it was incapable of producing itself – a decision which robbed NATO of a major tactical and operational battlefield advantage in any future conflict. Others, like the Netherlands, have simply sold of much of their heavy weaponry – much of which has fortunately ended in the arsenals of a number of Eastern European countries, including Poland, Finland and Estonia.

But even though the war in Ukraine has clearly and at long last put an end to the fantasy that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a reliable partner for the European Union and NATO and never again a threat to European peace and security, the idea still persists that the renewed confrontation between Russia and the West cannot escalate to the use of deadly military force because of the nuclear deterrent that both Russia and NATO possesses.

The myth of nuclear weapons preventing major wars between nuclear powers

The conventional wisdom regarding nuclear deterrence is that states possessing nuclear weapons will avoid fighting each other directly, even in limited conflicts, out of fear of uncontrolled escalation that could lead to a nuclear exchange and mutually assured destruction (MAD). Indeed so far they have: To date no two nuclear powers have ever fought each other directly. While this rule has remained true from Korea to Ukraine, nuclear powers have at the same time fought several wars by proxy, most famously in Vietnam and Afghanistan, and they have also come dangerously close to breaking the rule during the Cold War crises over Berlin and Cuba. We can be cautiously optimistic that nuclear deterrence will continue to make cooler heads prevail in the future as well – if for no other reason than for all sides’ desire for self-preservation – but there is no ironclad guarantee that it will.

Even if a major war against another nuclear power or alliance is something that no nuclear power is willing to risk, it still does not preclude them from using limited, conventional military force. Russia in particular has demonstrated that it has many tried-and-tested ways to apply military force against its neighbors that carry a virtual certainty of not triggering a major mar. Think, for instance, about the Baltic Sea region and consider which of these actions would reliably trigger a major war: A Crimea-like occupation of islands in the Finnish GulfGulf of Finland or the Baltic Sea? Blocking the vessels of other Baltic Sea navies in their ports like was done to the Ukrainian Navy in Crimea? Covertly or accidentally sinking merchant vessels in the Baltic Sea similarly to the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine? Covert sabotage against ports, airports or energy infrastructure?

The above are all actions that Russia could realistically use to pressure Finland, Sweden, or the Baltics and which would not, even in the wildest of imaginations, automatically trigger a major war between NATO and Russia.
This logic is what the 1980s satirical British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister parodied as “salami tactics”: Unlike a sudden large-scale invasion, a “slice-by-slice” escalation will at no point trigger an all-out response that would risk nuclear war, as the other side likely hopes to avoid further escalation every step of the way – and is, in any case, motivated by its own survival to avoid escalating a minor conflict into nuclear war.

Even if limited military force is employed against a NATO country such as Estonia, it does not automatically lead to a major war, let alone a nuclear one. That applies even if NATO would decide to invoke the Article 5 of its Charter, mandating collective defense: Neither the NATO Charter nor the EU Lisbon Treaty obligations require members to declare war or to even respond with military force if a member invokes the collective defence articles of either organization. Both NATO and EU countries could respond to Russia’s limited military force in kind with only limited force, or even just by boosting their military readiness and presence. Russia’s nuclear deterrence practically guarantees that its limited military incursions will not be met with the full force at NATO’s disposal, but instead by a measured response of gradual escalation that permits negotiations and other attempts to contain the conflict.

Russia knows this. Its leaders also know that even though Russia is not alone with its nuclear deterrence, the leaders of the West will never respond to a limited use of conventional force with nuclear weapons. As long as Russia’s nuclear deterrence is intact, no Western leader will willfully sacrifice London, Paris or Washington, D.C. to defend Kiev, Narva or Åland. It is precisely for that reason that Putin can confidently play high-stakes poker against the West with his conventional forces.

This tendency has only been exacerbated by the West’s reluctance to oppose Russia’s invasions in Georgia and Ukraine in any meaningful fashion, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Putin. Every time the West has shown restraint or willingness to reconcile or appease Russia during or after its aggressions, Putin has become even more confident and daring in both his rhetoric and actions. This success may encourage Putin, much like Hitler before him, to take even greater risks – perhaps eventually making an overconfident miscalculation that none of us can afford.

The madness of cold logic: Controlling escalation with nuclear weapons

Putin’s miscalculations carry a much greater risk that any miscalculation by any Western leaders not only because he is more reckless (that is not to say he would be irrational or crazy – he isn’t), but because Russia’s military strategy, like so many things in Russia these days, has in recent years turned back to the Cold War era mindset of the Soviet Union: Prioritizing outcomes with callous indifference towards the number of lives it takes to achieve them. The doctrine of de-escalation serves as a prime example.

The doctrine is problematic because the ”de-escalation” it seeks is supposed to be achieved by the means of a nuclear first-strike against the adversary’s major military or civilian target, such as a capital city. Yes, you read that right.

To someone who is not familiar with the logic of nuclear deterrence, the idea may sound barking mad. However, behind it is a frighteningly rational logic: As long as Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are intact and ready to retaliate in case of any attack against Russia itself, no other nuclear weapons state will respond to Russia’s limited first-strike against a non-nuclear state with their own nukes.

In the event of a Russian “de-escalation” attack on a EU or NATO member, the Western nuclear weapon states would have to re-assess the value and likely cost of defending their allies. There is a strong likelihood, as Russian military planners have estimated, that the Western nuclear weapons states would not only not launch a nuclear attack on Russia, but would also reconsider the risk of using conventional force to defend their allies against a ‘mad’, nuke-wielding Russia; Would Estonia or Latvia truly be worth risking a nuclear war with Russia?

After all, the leaders of Western democracies have their voters to consider, and their always demonstration-prone populations are not likely to want to perish in a nuclear Armageddon just to save Eastern Europe from being drawn back into Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia’s authoritarian rulers, exerting tight control of the media and always ready to crush civil unrest with deadly force, on the other hand have no reason to care what their subjects think of their nuclear gambles.

Unless Russia’s calculations prove to be in error, Russia’s limited nuclear first-strike would achieve a ”de-escalation” that is highly favorable to Russia. If the strike would target a NATO or an EU country, it would also have a substantial likelihood of achieving another one of Putin’s objectives: To break apart NATO and the EU. It is, after all, hard to see how either organization could retain any credibility in a world where they did not protect their members from a Russian nuclear attack or retaliate in full. In a post-de-escalation world the nuclear deterrence of nuclear weapon states would not reach beyond their own borders, and the non-nuclear-weapon-states of Europe would likely accommodate Russia’s “reasonable” interest before risk becoming a target for another nuclear strike. In such a world Russia could redraw the borders of Eastern Europe as it sees fit – just as it did after the Second World War.

Far fetched? Unfortunately the doctrine is not just an exercise in the mad logic of nuclear strategy. Russia has already practiced the execution of the doctrine against NATO-member Poland’s capital, Warsaw. Sending Tu-95s to exercise over the Baltic Sea may be in preparation for just such an eventuality.

Paradoxically, the more rational and more dependent on their electorate the Russian leadership thinks the Western leaders are, the more likely it is to assess that it’s doctrine of a limited first-strike will work. Even if Russia would never seriously consider executing such an attack, its mere confidence in “de-escalation” as a viable option makes the risks associated with conventional military operations seem smaller and far more controllable. That lowers the bar for the use of military force and increases the likelihood of war – both conventional and nuclear.

A successful deterrent may be a failed deterrent

Fortunately, while Russia appears to have mastered the logic of ”salami tactics” in Ukraine, they can also be made to work against its de-escalation doctrine: Russia won’t resort to its nuclear option if its use of conventional military force is met with gradually escalating conventional force that at no point threatens Russia with such a defeat that the risks of “de-escalation” would start to seem smaller than the risks of not executing it.

If both sides escalate their conventional operations gradually, they may end up in a situation where they are fighting a limited, but comparatively large-scale conventional war somewhere in Europe under the umbrella of a mutual nuclear deterrent. The nuclear deterrent of mutually assured destruction would then succeed only in deterring the use of nuclear weapons themselves, but not much else. It would not be without precedent, as it is exactly what happened to chemical weapons during the Second World War; although all sides of the war had significant stockpiles of deadly chemical weapons, the weapons ended up only deterring their own use – despite the fact that the war was more total and unlimited than any war fought before or since.

For European security the failure of nuclear deterrence to deter conventional war may not be any better than the deterrence that has so far prevented the EU and NATO from giving direct lethal aid to Ukraine in its war against an unmarked Russian expeditionary force. It is therefore imperative that further Russian aggression is deterred primarily with other means, whether political, economic or conventional military force. Failing to do so may have disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

On Ukraine, Russia, and untimely ceasefires

Guest post by Aleksi Roinila. 29 July 2014.

Aleksi RoinilaPutin will not back down unless the West makes the price of further aggression so high that not even his closest supporters are willing to risk paying it, writes Aleksi Roinila, a political science graduate student at the University of Tampere. Aleksi has studied Strategy and Defence at the Finnish National Defence University, International Relations at Aberystwyth University, and served as an analyst with the Finnish Defence Forces in the ISAF and KFOR operations for nearly three years.

"Game changer?"
”Game changer?”

When Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, some hastily predicted that it would be the beginning of the end for both the Russian separatist forces in Ukraine and Putin’s aggressive and adventurous foreign policy against his neighbors. An article on Foreign Policy released a day after the crash predicted that “Putin will almost certainly have to back away from the insurgency”. In the days that followed, however, that development started to seem less and less likely. Instead, the macabre reality is that the murder of 298 civilians over Ukrainian airspace is turning into an unqualified victory for the very people who committed the atrocity.

Like any schoolyard bully, Putin will not stop as long as he keeps getting what he wants

The initial response to the downing of MH17 from both the United States and the European Union was so docile that Russia only proceeded to escalate the conflict by increasing its support to its proxy-soldiers in Eastern Ukraine. This escalation has already reached a point where Russian artillery has started firing across the border on Ukrainian positions. Instead of an immediate show of strong support to Ukraine and demanding Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, the West responded by making tepid suggestions about a ceasefire and demanding an “impartial international investigation”, both of which Russia enthusiastically agreed with. In fact, Russia has been the greatest proponent of both an immediate ceasefire as well as an “investigation” of the MH17 “crash”.

While both demands sound entirely reasonable to any peace-loving and rational human being on the face of it, Russia has a sinister motive for supporting them; They only serve to further Russia’s political and military aims in Ukraine.

Why a ceasefire now would be a bad idea

A ceasefire before the surrender or defeat of the Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine would allow Russia to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and to solidify its de facto control of Eastern Ukraine, permanently dividing Ukraine’s territory. Meanwhile the demands for “a thorough investigation” into the downing of MH17 only lend credibility to Russia’s outrageous propaganda that seeks to muddy the waters around otherwise already well-established facts. While investigating all of the details of the incident is certainly necessary and worthwhile, we should not allow our need for closure to be used as an excuse for stopping Ukraine from restoring its territorial sovereignty or to deflect blame from Russia.

Forcing Ukraine to agree to a cease-fire with the separatists now would condemn East Ukraine to the same fate as Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia before it – to a perpetual limbo of frozen conflict and Russian occupation, with no resolution to the conflict in sight. It would also effectively reward the Russian separatist proxies of Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russia itself, for the murder of nearly 300 civilians aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17; Instead of becoming the disaster for the rebels that some pundits predicted in the immediate aftermath of the downing, it would turn the incident into a decisive victory that saves the rebels from an otherwise inevitable defeat at the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces, all the while saving Putin’s aggressive foreign policy from a humiliating defeat at home.

Hitting Russian state-owned banks does not stop Russian tanks from crossing into Ukraine

A ceasefire would reaffirm any doubters within Putin’s inner circle that Putin’s high-stakes gamble has been a stroke of genius rather than a disaster-in-waiting – just as the Münich treaty of 1938 silenced the doubters of Adolf Hitler after he successfully gambled that neither France nor the UK dare go to war with him over Czechoslovakia. But despite the bloody lessons of the last century, an untimely ceasefire is exactly what Washington and the European powers may yet end up forcing upon Ukraine.

While the new sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union today have finally revealed a West more willing to act in the face of Putin’s aggression, the West still remains as hesitant as ever to directly confront it in any concrete terms; The sanctions don’t lift a finger to Russia’s gas economy and France is still set to deliver a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to the Russian Navy. While slowly awakening from its slumber, the West is still paralyzed by the very reasonable fear of further escalation. But while wishing to avoid unnecessary conflict and bloodshed is certainly a highly desirable characteristic in any individual, the leaders of the West have become blind to the cold Machiavellian calculus that Putin is betting all his chips on (although this hasn’t escaped from the European press); He knows he cannot afford, let alone win, a wider war, nor is his military likely to agree to him openly risking one. But as long as the West is more concerned about their short-term economic interest than about long-term stability in Europe, Putin knows he can bluff the West into an agreement on his terms.

A political maskirovka

This may indeed be what Russia has planned all along. It likely isn’t interested in annexing Eastern Ukraine or even seeing the region officially seceding from Ukraine. Rather, it may have instigated the trouble in Ukraine’s East solely to move attention away from its annexation of Crimea, its primary prize, and to subsequently use its ability to “mediate” a cease-fire with the rebels in the East to make Kiev agree to a “compromise” over Crimea. This strategy has already proven wildly successful: No longer is the discussion in Washington or Brussels about returning Crimea to Ukraine and ending the Russian occupation there. No longer are Europe’s leaders arguing that Russia should avoid new sanctions only if it returns Crimea to Ukraine. Instead, with the unrest that Russia has stirred up in eastern Ukraine, Russian control of the Crimean peninsula has become a fait accompli that few in the West dare even question – all of this mere months after Russian forces invaded the peninsula.

Of course, the idea of Europe or the U.S. allowing Russia to act as a “mediator” in a conflict it has itself instigated would be an absurd proposition – but only if it hadn’t already happened before. In Syria, Russia armed Assad’s regime and protected it in the UN Security Council before mediating an ad-hoc disarmament deal between Assad and the United States, all to avoid U.S. military action against Assad’s regime in the wake of his use of chemical weapons against his own people. There, too, Russia achieved everything it wanted: Assad remained in power and could continue his massacre of Syrian civilians unabated, ultimately without even giving up all of his chemical weapons as promised. The only thing the United States got in return for handing Russia its greatest diplomatic victory since the post-Georgian-War “reset” was a less-than-graceful exit from a conflict it really didn’t want to get involved with.

No amount of appeasement will convince Putin to stop

Now, less than a year later, Russia is applying the lessons of Syria in Ukraine, confident that the West will back away from any real confrontation for another empty “peace in our time” proclamation. And while the West will undoubtedly celebrate its Chamberlain moment, having forced a ceasefire on Ukraine, Putin will celebrate victory and plan his next conquest. For it is not only Ukraine that he is interested in – he intends to upend and redefine the political landscape of Europe, all the while waging an all-out ideological war on Western culture, civilization and the paradigm of universal human rights and political freedoms they stand for. Every dictatorship needs enemies. For Putin, it seems, the chosen archenemies are sexual minorities and Western liberalism.

This is no idle observation that has no relevance in the supposedly pragmatist and realist realm of foreign policy. The expansionist, ultranationalist propaganda that Putin has unleashed to control his own people, and to legitimize his war in Ukraine, has severe consequences for his freedom of movement when it comes to negotiating with the West: He can no longer back down in Ukraine without at least a manufactured victory over the West, and he will not back down unless the West makes the price of further aggression so high that not even his closest supporters are willing to risk paying it.

What to expect

So far the threat of economic sanctions has done nothing to force Putin to back down. If anything, West’s initial passivity and half-hearted threats after the MH17 incident only encouraged him to double down on Ukraine while he still held the initiative. He interpreted the impotent threats of European and American heads-of-state not as a sign of their resolve to resist Russian expansionism, but as a sign of their collective weakness – and quite rightly so. Today’s new sanctions, while for the first time something that Putin cannot simply laugh off, are not enough to change his perception. Hitting Russian state-owned banks does not stop Russian tanks from crossing into Ukraine, and Putin has plenty of time to finish his campaign in Ukraine before the Russian economy starts to feel the hurt of the sanctions. Viewed from the Kremlin, the West still hasn’t committed to anything that could actually stop Russia from realizing its goals in Ukraine and elsewhere. And, like any schoolyard bully, Putin will not stop as long as he keeps getting what he wants.

With the use of military force making such a dramatic return to the European continent after a long hiatus, everyone is understandably wary of needlessly escalating the conflict. And with the centennial of the start of the Great War upon us, this year may make it tempting to draw poetic and fearful parallels between the war in Ukraine and the summer of 1914. No one wants a rerun of the guns of August. But we should also bear in mind that only two decades after the faithful events of 1914 it was endless appeasement of another aggressive dictator — not a firm resolve to resist him — that brought about even greater suffering and death.

What we are witnessing in Ukraine is not a re-enactment of the events that led to the Great War a hundred years ago. If the appeasement continues, however, this year may well prove to be the replay of a much more faithful year in European history – that of 1938. Though Putin’s position at Russia’s helm may already seem strong, his very survival as the New Czar may depend on which path the West chooses to take in Ukraine. Putin’s path is already set, but whether his ambitions are ultimately emboldened or thwarted, Ukraine is for him what the Münich Agreement and the Anschluss were for his ideological predecessor. No amount of appeasement will convince Putin to stop.

//Aleksi Roinila

You can follow Aleksi (@aleroi) on Twitter.

Top 3!

Blogin koko elinajan kolme suosituinta blogimerkintää on kaikki kirjoitettu heinäkuussa 2014, kaksi niistä viimeisen kahden päivän kuluessa. Samalla blogin kävijämäärä rikkoi kuin varkain 100 000 kävijän rajan. Kertaan tässä top 3 -merkinnät lyhyen ingressin kera. Suosittelen kaikkia lämpimästi, erityisesti Aleksi Roinilan vieraskynää! Antoisia lukuhetkiä!

Tänään blogin ulkoasu muuttuu hieman. Syynä tähän on tarve mahdollistaa sosiaalisen median ja internetin muun sisällön esille nostaminen blogimerkintöjen yhteydessä. Vanha teema ei sallinut sivupalkkia muualla kuin aloitussivulla. Uusi teema pitää sivupalkin esillä oikessa reunassa koko ajan, jolloin syötteet Twitteristä, linkit muihin blogeihin ja resursseihin ovat helpommin saatavilla. Menee hetki ennen kuin blogi on vimpan päälle kohdillaan. Olkaa kärsivällisiä ja kertokaa jos jokin ei toimi!

Ukrainasta, Venäjästä ja tulitauoista

Putin ei tule perääntymään Ukrainassa; konflikti tulee eskaloitumaan niin kauan, että Putin joko saavuttaa tavoitteensa tai länsi nostaa aggression hinnan niin korkeaksi, ettei edes Putinin oma lähipiiri ja Venäjän asevoimat sitä suostu maksamaan, kirjoittaa Aleksi Roinila, valtio-opin maisteriopiskelija Tampereen yliopistolla. Roinila on opiskellut strategiaa Maanpuolustuskorkeakoululla, kansainvälistä politiikkaa Aberystwyth Universityssä ja palvellut lähes kolme vuotta tutkijana ISAF- ja KFOR-operaatioissa.

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Venäjän yleisesikunnan maanataina (21.7) pitämä tiedotustilaisuus, jossa tuotiin esille ”todisteet” Malaysia Airlinesin lennon MH17 alasampumisesta, oli vähintäänkin ala-arvoinen. Sotilaana tunsin vain suurta myötähäpeää. Venäjän yleisesikunnalla tuntuu olevan hyvin rajoittunut tuntemus digitaalisista ja sosiaalisista medioista venäläisen kieli- ja kulttuurisfäärin ulkopuolelta. Tilaisuudessa esiteltiin avoimien lähteiden todistelua YouTube-videoista tehtyjen kuvakaappausten muodossa. Vaikuttaa kuitenkin siltä että kukaan ei ollut vaivautunut katsomaan videoita läpikohtaisin. Yksiselitteisesti ala-arvoista tiedustelutyötä, joka jo pari tuntia tiedotustilaisuuden jälkeen revittiin poikki, pinoon ja paloiksi Twitterissä.

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Avoin kirje varusmiesjohtajille

Hyvät johtajat! Kirjoitan etupäässä Teille, jotka aloitatte johtajakautenne puolustusvoimissa heinäkuun 7. päivänä palvelukseen astuvan saapumiserän 2/14 kanssa. Muodostatte suuren osan puolustusvoimien päällystöstä ja ylivoimaisesti suurimman henkilöstöryhmän.

Minä annan teille uuden käskyn: älkää loukatko!

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Ukrainasta, Venäjästä ja tulitauoista

Vieraskynä 26.7.2014, Aleksi Roinila.

Aleksi RoinilaPutin ei tule perääntymään Ukrainassa; konflikti tulee eskaloitumaan niin kauan, että Putin joko saavuttaa tavoitteensa tai länsi nostaa aggression hinnan niin korkeaksi, ettei edes Putinin oma lähipiiri ja Venäjän asevoimat sitä suostu maksamaan, kirjoittaa Aleksi Roinila, valtio-opin maisteriopiskelija Tampereen yliopistolla. Roinila on opiskellut strategiaa Maanpuolustuskorkeakoululla, kansainvälistä politiikkaa Aberystwyth Universityssä ja palvellut lähes kolme vuotta tutkijana ISAF- ja KFOR-operaatioissa.

"Game changer?"
”Game changer?”

Ukrainan ja Venäjän välinen sota sai uuden käänteen, kun Venäjän aseistamat, varustamat ja johtamat venäläisseparatistit Itä-Ukrainassa ampuivat alas Malaysia Airlinesin matkustajakoneen, ilmeisesti luullen konetta Ukrainan armeijan Antonov-rahtikoneeksi. Kun viitteet separatistien ja Venäjän syyllisyydestä tekoon alkoivat vahvistua, ehdittiin joukkosurmasta povata lopun alkua sekä Itä-Ukrainan separatisteille että Venäjän voimapolitiikalle alueella. Viikko tapahtuneen jälkeen tilanne näyttää kuitenkin täysin päinvastaiselta.

Euroopan ja Yhdysvaltojen vastareaktio tapahtuneeseen on jäänyt niin laimeaksi, että Venäjä on perääntymisen sijaan vain lisännyt suoraa sotilaallista tukeaan johtamilleen separatisteille. Lännen uhkaukset kovista pakotteista Venäjää vastaan eivät ole toteutuneet, vaan rimaa tuntuvien pakotteiden asettamiselle on kerta toisensa jälkeen nostettu. Ukrainan pyynnöt suorasta sotilaallisesta avusta eivät liioin ole saaneet vastakaikua sen Nato-naapuri Puolaa lukuun ottamatta.

Toistaiseksi Putin pelaa Ukrainassa pokeria vielä tyhjällä kädellä

Konkreettisten vastatoimien sijaan niin Washingtonista kuin Euroopankin pääkaupungeista, Helsinki mukaan lukien, on esitetty laimeita vaatimuksia tulitauosta ja ”lentoturman puolueettomasta tutkinnasta”. Sinänsä järkeviltä kuulostavat ja siviilien suojelemisella perustellut vaatimukset uppoavat amerikkalaisiin ja eurooppalaisiin äänestäjiin, jotka on Venäjän massiivisen informaatiosodankäynnin avulla saatu epäilemään Venäjän osallisuutta koko sotaan. Samalla ne antavat lausujilleen helpon tavan esittää kovalta kuulostavia vaatimuksia ilman, että ne lisäisivät painetta millekään todellisille toimenpiteille Venäjän aggression hillitsemiseksi. Tosiasiassa ne kuitenkin palvelevat ainoastaan Venäjän sotilaallisten ja poliittisten tavoitteiden saavuttamista Ukrainassa.

Venäjälle konfliktin ’jäädyttäminen’ tulitauolla olisi voitto. Se pelastaisi separatistit vääjäämättömältä tappiolta ilman Venäjän asevoimien suoraa hyökkäystä Ukrainan alueelle, vakiinnuttaisi Venäjän miehitysvallan Itä-Ukrainassa samoin kuin aiemmin Georgian Etelä-Ossetiassa ja Moldovan Transnistriassa, ja antaisi Venäjälle neuvotteluvaltin, jolla se saa sekä länsimaat että Ukrainan hyväksymään Krimin niemimaan liittämisen Venäjään. Vastineeksi sen ei tarvitse luopua mistään. Lisäksi vaatimukset Venäjän tuesta ”puolueettomalle tutkinnalle” validoivat Venäjän propagandan, jolla se on pyrkinyt hämärtämään muuten jo täysin selväksi käyneen osallisuutensa Amsterdamista lentäneen MH17:n alasampumiseen.

Venäjä tietää, että länsimaat – ja aivan erityisesti Eurooppa – ovat ajatukselle myötämielisiä; ovathan ne noudattaneet konfliktien jäädyttämistä YK:n kylmän sodan aikaisen rauhanturvaamisdoktriinin mukaisesti jo vuosikymmeniä. Näin siitä huolimatta, että tuo sama vuosikymmenien kokemus on osoittanut konfliktien jäädyttämisen useimmiten johtaneen vain konfliktien pitkittymiseen eikä suinkaan niiden ratkeamiseen. Lisäksi Venäjä tietää, etteivät länsimaat todellisuudessa halua ryhtyä mihinkään sellaisiin Venäjän vastaisiin toimiin, jotka voisivat vaarantaa niiden lyhyen aikavälin taloudelliset intressit.

Länsi voi hyvinkin suostua ”kompromissiin”, jossa Venäjä suostuu ”taivuttelemaan” Itä-Ukrainassa taistelevat asejoukkonsa tulitaukoon sekä mahdollisesti antamaan tulitaukosopimuksen valvonnan jollekin sopivan lihaksettomalle Etyjin rauhanturva- tai tarkkailuoperaatiolle. Näin länsi pääsee huokaamaan helpotuksesta ja juhlimaan omaa ”peace in our time” -hetkeään tajuamatta lainkaan, että syntynyt ”kompromissi” on todellisuudessa ainoastaan Venäjän voitto – aivan niin kuin Tšekkoslovakian jakaminen Münchenin sopimuksella vuonna 1938 oli voitto Natsi-Saksalle eikä suinkaan silloisille länsivalloille saati puolustuskyvyttömäksi rampautetulle Tšekkoslovakialle.

Venäjälle konfliktin ’jäädyttäminen’ tulitauolla olisi voitto

Tulitauko olisi Ukrainan laillisen hallinnon kannalta ehkä pahin mahdollinen skenaario ja palvelisi todellisuudessa vain Venäjän etuja. Alakynteen jääneet separatistit saavat tulitauosta hengähdystauon, jonka myötä he voivat vakiinnuttaa oman asemansa Itä-Ukrainan hallitsijoina. Venäjän puolestaan onnistuu tehdä Itä-Ukrainasta uusi Transnistria, Abhasia tai Etelä-Ossetia – Venäjän miehittämä vasallialue konfliktissa, jonka miehitykselle ei konfliktin jäädyttämisen jälkeen näy enää loppua. Ukraina jäisi Georgian ja Moldovan tavoin pysyvästi jaetuksi ja osin miehitetyksi maaksi. EU ja Yhdysvallat saisivat vastalahjaksi ainoastaan helpon ulospääsyn konfliktista ilman, että ne joutuisivat todellisuudessa tekemään mitään Venäjän voimapolitiikan suitsimiseksi. Samalla ne tulisivat käytännössä palkinneeksi separatistit ja Venäjän Malaysia Airlinesin lennon alasampumisesta ja lähes 300 siviilin surmaamisesta.

Venäjä ei todellisuudessa välttämättä edes tavoittele Itä-Ukrainan todellista irtautumista Ukrainasta saati sen liittämistä Krimin tavoin Venäjään. Koko Itä-Ukrainan epävakauttamisen taustalla voi hyvin olla pyrkimys ainoastaan saada Ukraina, EU ja Yhdysvallat taipumaan Krimin Venäjään liittämisen tunnustamiseen ”vastakauppana” siitä, että Venäjä toimii ”välittäjänä” Itä-Ukrainan konfliktin jäädyttämiseksi. Strategia on ollut erinomaisen onnistunut jo nyt, sillä Itä-Ukrainan tapahtumat ovat saaneet länsimaiden johtajat käytännössä unohtamaan vain muutama kuukausi sitten tapahtuneen Krimin miehityksen; Kukaan Euroopan ja Yhdysvaltojen mahtimiehistä ja -naisista ei enää puhu niemimaan palauttamisesta Ukrainalle, saati pidä sitä ehtona uusista Venäjän vastaisista pakotteista luopumiselle. Mikäli Venäjä hyväksytään välittäjäksi Itä-Ukrainaan loihdittavalle tulitaukosopimukselle, on Krimin liittäminen Venäjään käytännössä sinetöity.

Baltian maat, Puola ja Moldova ovat jo nyt varpaillaan

Ajatus Venäjän toimimisesta välittäjänä konfliktissa, johon se on itse osallinen, olisi tietysti täysin absurdi, ellei niin olisi käynyt jo aiemmin. Venäjä toimi tismalleen samalla strategialla jo Syyriassa, jossa se Assadin hallintoa aseistettuaan ja YK:n turvallisuusneuvostolta suojeltuaan ryhtyi esiintymään konfliktin välittäjänä, kun Yhdysvallat pohti ilmaiskujen aloittamista Assadin hallinnon kukistamiseksi sen käytettyä kemiallisia aseita omia kansalaisiaan vastaan. Tällöin Venäjä tarjosi kompromissiksi Syyrian luopumista kemiallisista aseistaan, mihin Yhdysvallat tunnetusti suostui. Palkinnoksi tästä ”kompromissista” Venäjä varmisti Assadin pysymisen vallassa ja sodan jatkumisen, eli saavutti kaikki tärkeimmät sotilaspoliittiset tavoitteensa. Lännelle jäi merkityksettömäksi osoittautunut diplomaattinen voitto, jolla se käytännössä osti Venäjältä ulospääsyn konfliktista, johon se ei todellisuudessa halunnut sekaantua. Nyt sama uhkaa toistua Ukrainassa.

Mikäli Ukraina pakotetaan tulitaukoon ennen kuin Venäjän separatistit on riisuttu aseista tai ajettu maasta, voimme vain jäädä odottamaan, missä Venäjä seuraavaksi soveltaa toimivaksi osoittautunutta voimapolitiikkaansa. Baltian maat, Puola ja Moldova ovat jo nyt varpaillaan. Venäjän pyrkimykset eivät nimittäin rajoitu pelkästään Ukrainaan, vaan Putinin käy oman asemansa turvaamiseksi ideologista sotaa koko läntistä poliittista järjestystä ja arvomaailmaa vastaan. Jokainen diktatuuri tarvitsee elääkseen vihollisia, ja Putinin tapauksessa niiksi ovat valikoituneet – seksuaalivähemmistöjen lisäksi – eurooppalaisten yleismaailmallisiksi mielellään mieltämät arvot ihmisoikeuksista, demokratiasta, suvaitsevaisuudesta ja tasa-arvosta. Kremlin propagandakoneisto on luonut näistä arvoista hirviön, joka uhkaa koko Venäjän kansan olemassaoloa, ja joka siksi täytyy nujertaa – joko mielikuvin tai asein.

Putinin kotimaan yleisöönsä kohdistama sotapropaganda on jo saavuttanut pisteen, jossa siitä on neuvostopropagandan tavoin tullut itseään ruokkiva ilmiö: valheita peitetään toisilla valheilla, eikä valtiojohto voi mistään hinnasta paljastaa kansalaisilleen olleensa väärässä, saati että sen koko huolella rakennettu fasistinen valtionideologia perustuisi systemaattiselle valheelle. Tästä syystä Putin ei myöskään tule perääntymään Ukrainassa; konflikti tulee eskaloitumaan niin kauan, että Putin joko saavuttaa tavoitteensa tai länsi nostaa aggression hinnan niin korkeaksi, ettei edes Putinin oma lähipiiri ja Venäjän asevoimat sitä suostu maksamaan. Venäjän ja Putinin asema ei ole niin vahva kuin se ulospäin näyttää, mutta jokainen Putinin lännestä saama arvovaltavoitto vahvistaa hänen sisäpoliittista selkänojaansa. Toistaiseksi Putin pelaa Ukrainassa pokeria vielä tyhjällä kädellä, mutta niin kauan kuin bluffi toimii, pysyvät kaikki pelimerkit Putinin käsissä.

//Aleksi Roinila

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