Ukraine ends offensive operations against rebels, digs in to repel Russian invasion

posted at 10:41 am on September 2, 2014 by Noah Rothman

President Barack Obama will make a welcome trip to the Baltic nation of Estonia on Tuesday. The move is a long-desired one; it is meant to convey to Russia that the United States will not allow a process like the one which has dismembered Georgia and which is dismembering Ukraine to occur in a NATO member state.

The president will arrive in Eastern Europe amid a deluge of worsening news relating to the increasingly dangerous conflict in Ukraine. There, Russian forces have openly begun crossing the border, relieving the besieged pro-Russian rebels, and engaging soldiers loyal to Kiev.

On Monday, Ukraine revealed that it is changing its tactics, and will no longer engage in offensive operations aimed at dislodging pro-Russian rebels from the positions they occupy in Ukraine’s east. Warning of broader conflict with Russia on the horizon, Ukrainian troops are digging in.

“Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said Monday that the army would stop trying to remove separatists from the east, moving instead to a defensive strategy against what he called a ‘full-scale invasion’ of Russian regular troops,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

His announcement of a drastic change in tactics came as another round of talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk among Kiev, Moscow and the separatists ended without apparent results beyond agreeing to meet again Friday.

“A great war has arrived at our doorstep,” Heletey wrote in a Facebook post, “the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II.”

At this week’s NATO summit in Wales, Western leaders will approve the formation of a rapid-reaction force designed to address security threats in that region. The 4,000-strong force will be on permanent high alert status and can deploy to the area within 48 hours of a crisis.

The announcement of this new force is aimed at creating a military deterrent to ensure Russia knows any incursion into NATO-protected territory will be resisted with force by the alliance. The move prompted Moscow to announce that it, too, would respond by revising its approach to the Atlantic alliance.

“NATO’s planned action,” Mikhail Popov, Russia’s National Security Council deputy secretary, said, “is evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia” He declined to elaborate on what specific changes to Russian security policy would be made.

The West’s new preventative strategy for the defense of Eastern Europe is not enough for some of President Barack Obama’s critics who demand that the president craft a strategy aimed at rolling back Russia from its positions in Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) went out of his way to use a word the administration has been conspicuously avoiding – “invasion” – to describe what Russia is doing in Ukraine. He added that the White House should commit to providing lethal defensive aid to Kiev in order to prevent Russia from taking any more territory in Ukraine than they already have.

Despite the fact that the United States was signatory to a memorandum which guaranteed that it would oppose threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, do not expect Barack Obama to reveal any new commitments to Ukraine’s defense during his trip to Eastern Europe. Like the crises in Iraq and Syria (though most certainly not like the crisis in Libya), Obama seems intent on “internationalizing” the crisis in Europe – a strategy which has thus far yielded underwhelming results.


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Relax, Ukraine. Its merely an ongoing incursion.

BobMbx on September 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Voxplained by the juiceboxers, from May.

Obama’s strategy of letting Putin hang himself is working

aquaviva on September 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Obama seems intent on “internationalizing” the crisis in Europe – a strategy which has thus far yielded underwhelming results.

Recall when they called him the first “President of the World”?

Good times, good times…

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on September 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

President Barack Obama will make a welcome trip to the Baltic nation of Estonia on Tuesday.

What is he welcoming Estonia to?

Walter L. Newton on September 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

This will end when Obama installs missile defense in eastern Europe.

Tater Salad on September 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

This will end when Obama installs missile defense in eastern Europe.

Tater Salad on September 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Heh.

Bitter Clinger on September 2, 2014 at 10:55 AM

If the Ukrainians would stop reading that stupid social media, they wouldn’t be so worried and upset!

KMC1 on September 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Obama should resign in disgrace. Then, as soon as we get a new administration and real AG, Obama should be charged with treason, convicted and imprisoned for the rest of his life.

That’s what SHOULD happen.

Meople on September 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM

offensive operations against rebels

Stalin-approved message

faraway on September 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM

This will end when Obama installs missile defense in eastern Europe.

Tater Salad on September 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

At this point, it’s unlikely as Putin has gambled everything on eating up at least part of Ukraine. However, it probably won’t get any worse and start happening to Poland or other Eastern European states… probably.

I also don’t think Obama is actually going to restore missile defense, he just doesn’t care that much.

Doomberg on September 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Only military force or the credible show of such will stop Putin. Do it now in Ukraine or later in the Baltics where casualties will be greater.

Banshee Leader on September 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Any good golf courses in Estonia?

MistyLane on September 2, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Not to worry, the new Helmuth von Moltke a. k. a Barack Obama is on the case. Wait, did i mean von Moltke ? Yes, but i really mean Moltke the younger and mediocre.

Swedish Patriot on September 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Any good golf courses in Estonia?

MistyLane on September 2, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Try here. Obama probably will.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on September 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM

I’ll be honest I’d much rather the President spent his time at Congressional working his short game, than traveling to the red-hot Baltics tryna improve his foreign policy game.

Sacramento on September 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

At this point, it’s unlikely as Putin has gambled everything on eating up at least part of Ukraine. However, it probably won’t get any worse and start happening to Poland or other Eastern European states… probably.

I also don’t think Obama is actually going to restore missile defense, he just doesn’t care that much.

Doomberg on September 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

You’re right, Obama won’t do it. Putin only understands strength and Obama is nothing more than a pussy cat (delete the appropriate word).

Tater Salad on September 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Where’s the clown who keeps posting that rumors of a Russian invasion are just fascist western propaganda?

TarasBulbous on September 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Obama should resign in disgrace. Then, as soon as we get a new administration and real AG, Obama should be charged with treason, convicted and imprisoned for the rest of his life.
That’s what SHOULD happen.
Meople on September 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM
He won’t though he is a disgrace….he is also a narcisstic fool which is becoming a big liability….

sorrowen on September 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

yay we get to backstop nato some more.
the paper tiger showed how shredded it was when we started removing forces from europe. sucks those countries may have to actually go it on their own.
4k is useless as it will be a lot of admin/support staff, if they really wanted to protect themselves they would have backfilled bases we left with their forces.
they didn’t.
so let the hippies deal with it. see how long it is before they complain that our occupying forces are no longer there.

we don’t have the forces over there we had in the 80′s (which was considered a holding force only) now, there is nothing we can do to stop putin unless we start building for war again.
and we cannot afford that and he knows it. so we can end welfare and build war machines OR let putin do what ever he wants over there. there is no doing both.

dmacleo on September 2, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Put the troops back in Europe.
Fight off the Russians to the east and the Muslims to the south.

albill on September 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Put the troops back in Europe.
Fight off the Russians to the east and the Muslims to the south. – albill on September 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Uh, where are the Europeans, sitting on their collective hands?

SC.Charlie on September 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Uh, where are the Europeans, sitting on their collective hands?

SC.Charlie on September 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Enjoying their 30 hour work weeks, two months of vacation a year, free college tuition and universal healthcare. All because they haven’t had to actually budget for a military for two generations. Uncle Sam has been picking up that tab.

TarasBulbous on September 2, 2014 at 11:43 AM

The only thing at this point that O can ‘internationalize’ is his golf game. NO country trusts this empty suit to follow through with anything but his three wood.

vnvet on September 2, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Despite the fact that the United States was signatory to a memorandum which guaranteed that it would oppose threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, do not expect Barack Obama to reveal any new commitments to Ukraine’s defense during his trip to Eastern Europe. Like the crises in Iraq and Syria (though most certainly not like the crisis in Libya), Obama seems intent on “internationalizing” the crisis in Europe – a strategy which has thus far yielded underwhelming results.

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Ukraine

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Iraq and the kurds

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Japan

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Taiwan

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Georgia

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Afghanistan

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of Israel

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of
south korea

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the destruction of IS

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the security of LIbya

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee the destruction of Al-Qaeda

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee that the nuclear weapons of Pakistan are safe just in case the Taliban takes over.

Mr. President we must do something to guarantee freedom of navigation in the South China Sea

BUT Mr. President we can’t have boots on the ground

But Mr. President we can’t raise the national debt.

BUT Mr. President we can’t raise taxes to pay for any of those garauntees we want the US to make.

Yeah American foreign policy is schizophrenic because people who wants American power to solve all problems everywhere have ZERO concept of limitations of military power or seem to think that America is Omnipotent.

Pick your freaking battles America. You can’t fight everyone everywhere. Every Empire that has tried has failed.

coolrepublica on September 2, 2014 at 12:00 PM

With some foresight, this might have been preempted; as in more support for the Ukrainians in the form of arms and training. Intel and food are good. Intel and tanks are better. We’ve known for 6 months that this was a likely outcome. (ISIS analog is only one of many.)

Our fool in chief is going to get us into a major conflict.

ha_tspc on September 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

So how’s that repeal of the 22nd Amendment coming?

’cause if there’s one thing we need right now, it’s the assurance that we can count on a few more years of this magisterial foreign policy excellence. /sarc tag irrelevant

dissent555 on September 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

The Regime is vastly too inept to actually do more than give speeches and write strong letters about the situation…I am reminded of the Administrations motto..”when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles scream and shout”

That seems to be their plan about everything.

JIMV on September 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

I’ve seen this movie.

It’s stays static until they invent tanks and then the bad guys break through the Ardennes and we have to come over and bail everybody out.

Again.

formwiz on September 2, 2014 at 12:40 PM

The idea of a “Rapid- Reaction Force” is long overdue, but meaningless unless actually used and deployed to the threatened area. Weakness and lethargic responses encourage the agressor, but often even a small force deployed immediately can have the effect of confronting the aggressor and stopping the aggressor. If a united and fully armed 4,000 NATO troops and equipment (tanks, artillery, etc.), and actively supported by NATO were to arrive in the Eastern Ukraine with the approval of the Ukraine and with the stated purpose of helping to secure the Ukrainian border, Russia would not continue its invasion. Continued weakness will encourage Russia to grab ever more territory. It’s now or never.

leader4hru on September 2, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
1h

National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine says Russian army is now concentrating presence in forests and ravines of Ukraine – @NSDC_ua
End of alert
============

NSDC of Ukraine @NSDC_ua · 1h

#ATO HQ opens hotline to collect info about #Russian and terrorists forces in #Ukraine. http://atocrimea.ukrinform.ua/en/news/ato-hq-opens-hotline-to-collect-info-about-russian-and-terrorists-forces-in-ukraine-1

NSDC of Ukraine
@NSDC_ua

National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine
rnbo.gov.ua/en/

https://twitter.com/NSDC_ua

canopfor on September 2, 2014 at 12:53 PM

I am not sure why some here want to ally with Ukraine. Russia is the strong hand, and they do a pretty good job of managing the Mideast. Why, they even stopped the Neocons and Obama from helping ISIS in Syria.

Any answers of “dey evil”, “because Jesus says so”, or “Woverines!” are not acceptable.

antisense on September 2, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Putin isn’t threatening NATO. Russia has long ago accepted the existence of NATO. But Russia’s policy for the last three centuries–imperial, then soviet, then national–has been to prevent the establishment of an actual or potential enemy on its borders. This is the one common, overriding theme of Russian foreign policy through the years. When it has failed, Russia has been invaded (Sweden in the 18th Century, France in the 19th, Germany in the 20th).

We have a pack of fools running US foreign relations who do not understand this. Every action we take ratchets up the fear on the Russians’ part that Ukraine will join NATO and put a hostile power right on its frontiers.

The right thing to do is not to rattle sabers but to engage in real negotiation. Russia doesn’t want to annex the Donbass. If Ukraine is willing to make some concessions, some kind of autonomy to the region and an amnesty for example, and declare its neutrality, Russia will end all support for the rebels and the crisis will be over. Putin knows full well that NATO is not going to fight him for Eastern Ukraine and that Obama is a weak imbecile. Further confrontation just makes everything worse–for us and NATO. Putin is a hero in Russia for protecting “oppressed Russian brethren” and standing up to America and NATO.

spiritof61 on September 2, 2014 at 1:09 PM

I am not sure why some here want to ally with Ukraine. Russia is the strong hand, and they do a pretty good job of managing the Mideast. Why, they even stopped the Neocons and Obama from helping ISIS in Syria.

Any answers of “dey evil”, “because Jesus says so”, or “Woverines!” are not acceptable.

antisense on September 2, 2014 at 1:08 PM

I am not sure why some here want to ally with the Soviet Union. Nazi Germany is the strong hand, and they do a pretty good job of managing the Jewish Question. Why, they even settled that whole civil war thing in Spain.

TarasBulbous on September 2, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Can we at the very least give the Ukies some intel. Our satellites can probably ID every Russian unit’s location down to a rifle platoon. The Ukies are outmanned and outgunned but they can still hurt Putin’s forces if they have intel of where they are going.

xkaydet65 on September 2, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Despite the fact that the United States was signatory to a memorandum which guaranteed that it would oppose threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, do not expect Barack Obama to reveal any new commitments to Ukraine’s defense during his trip to Eastern Europe.

The treaty was rendered null and void by the ousting of the elected government earlier this year.

You might want to check out what the agreement actually says Noah.

lexhamfox on September 2, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Russia doesn’t want to annex the Donbass. If Ukraine is willing to make some concessions, some kind of autonomy to the region and an amnesty for example, and declare its neutrality, Russia will end all support for the rebels and the crisis will be over. Putin knows full well that NATO is not going to fight him for Eastern Ukraine and that Obama is a weak imbecile. Further confrontation just makes everything worse–for us and NATO. Putin is a hero in Russia for protecting “oppressed Russian brethren” and standing up to America and NATO.

spiritof61 on September 2, 2014 at 1:09 PM

I have no idea what you base these assumptions on other than wishful thinking. Russia took and kept much of Georgia even though it did not enter NATO. It took and kept control of much of Moldova even though it did not enter NATO. It took and kept Crimea even though Ukraine had not entered NATO. I think the argument is better supported that Putin will take whatever of the old Soviet Empire he can get relatively cheaply. If he can take all of Ukraine because no one aids them, he will. If he thinks he can grab part the Baltics by stirring ethinic minorities there, why would he not do so? He has already done it three times and paid no price. The eastern European nations have stated that they do not believe NATO guarantees are reliable so why would he not intimidate them and force them to be neutral and take pieces of their territory?

There are only two years left with this US administration that he can be sure of and the next president may be very different in his attention to world affairs. I would think Putin would accelerate his expansion as fast as he thinks he can do it without a major war.

KW64 on September 2, 2014 at 3:12 PM

it is meant to convey to Russia that the United States will not allow a process like the one which has dismembered Georgia and which is dismembering Ukraine to occur in a NATO member state.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Yeah, I’m sure Putin’s having second thoughts now that Marshal Obama is in town.

Oh, boy…”will not allow”…that’s rich.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 2, 2014 at 9:48 PM