Cross-posted from Smirking Chimp
"This deployment of strategic bombers provides an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and improve interoperability with our allies and partners."
-- Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, US Strategic Command on the deployment of B-2 stealth bombers to Europe.
"Against stupidity, no amount of planning will prevail."
-- Carl von Clausewitz
Less than 24 hours after Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko announced his determination to retake Crimea from Russia, US Admiral Cecil Haney confirmed that the US Air Force had deployed two B-2 stealth bombers to Europe to conduct military exercises. The addition of the multipurpose B-2, which is capable of delivering nuclear weapons, is intended to send a message to Moscow that the United States is prepared to provide backup for Ukraine's fledgling government and to protect its interests in Central Asia. News of the deployment was reported in the Russian media, but was excluded by all the western news outlets.
The B-2 announcement was preceded by an inflammatory speech by Poroshenko at the presidential "swearing in" ceremony in Kiev. In what some analysts have called a "declaration of war," Poroshenko promised to wrest control of Crimea from Russia which annexed the region just months earlier following a public referendum that showed 90 percent support for the measure. Here's part of what Poroshenko said:
"The issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is not subject to discussion...I have just sworn 'with all my deeds to protect the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,' and I will always be faithful to this sacred promise...
"Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil...Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure..." (New York Times)
On Thursday, the day before Poroshenko was sworn in, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron set a deadline for Russia to comply with its demands or face harsher economic sanctions that would be imposed by members of the G-7. Once again, the threat of new sanctions was largely ignored by the western media but was reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Here's an excerpt from the article:
"To avoid even harsher sanctions...Putin must meet three conditions: Recognize Petro Poroshenko's election as the new leader in Kiev; stop arms from crossing the border; and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.
"If these things don't happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow...
"Obama said the G-7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Cameron outlined." (Haaretz)
The United States is ratcheting up the pressure in order to widen the conflict and force Russian president Vladimir Putin to meet their demands. It's clear that the threat of sanctions, Poroshenko's belligerent rhetoric, and the steady buildup of military assets and troops in the region, that Obama and Co. still think they can draw Putin into the conflict and make him look like a dangerous aggressor who can't be trusted by his EU partners.
Fortunately, Putin has not fallen into the trap. He's resisted the temptation to send in the tanks to put an end to the violence in Donetsk, Lugansk and Slavyansk. This has undermined Washington's plan to deploy NATO to Russia's western border, assert control over the "bridgehead" between Europe and Asia, and stop the further economic integration between Russia and the EU. So far, Putin has out-witted his adversaries at every turn, but there are still big challenges ahead, particularly the new threats from Poroshenko.
If Poroshenko is determined to take Crimea back from Moscow, then there's going to be a war. But there are indications that he is more pragmatic than his speeches would suggest. In a private meeting with Putin at the D-Day ceremonies in France, the Ukrainian president said he had a plan to "immediately stop the bloodshed."
Here's how Putin summarized his meeting with Poroshenko:
"Poroshenko has a plan in this respect; it is up to him to say what kind of plan it is... I cannot say for sure how these plans will be implemented, but I liked the general attitude, it seemed right to me, so, if it happens this way, there will be conditions to develop our relations, in other areas, including economy.