Turn on your TV. We’re about to find out what an “intervention line” is and how you cross it.
Does this qualify?
Russian aircraft carrying nearly 2,000 suspected troops have landed at a military air base near the regional capital of the restive Crimean peninsula, a top Ukrainian official said Friday, accusing Moscow of an “armed invasion”.
“Thirteen Russian aircraft landed at the airport of Gvardeyskoye (near Simferopol) with 150 people in each one,” Sergiy Kunitsyn, the Ukrainian president’s special representive in Crimea, told the local ATR television channel, adding the air space had been closed.
Ukraine’s ambassador told the UN this afternoon that 11 Russian military helicopters plus some unknown number of military transport planes landed in Ukraine today. Stand by for updates. While we wait, why not take a stroll down memory lane?
Update: Is this how Putin stays on the right side of the “intervention line”?
A creeping Kremlin takeover of Crimea by ostensibly local ethnic Russian forces is more likely than a military assault on all or parts of Ukraine, U.S. and European intelligence officials and analysts said…
“Moscow knows an army invasion would cause too many problems, so they’re operating just below the waterline to make it look like a bottom-up movement led by ethnic Russians,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview. “They’re avoiding the impression of an open military intervention, but that’s what it is.”…
“It would be a last resort if there are Russian casualties in Crimea,” Forbrig said. “There could also be provocations aimed at trigging a Russian intervention. Something might happen at an office, a government building, to the infrastructure or even an attack on a military memorial to create a pretext for the Kremlin to move in.”
In other words, to give the west a way to save face in acquiescing in a Russian takeover, Putin’s willing to halfheartedly stage this as some sort of domestic Crimean uprising rather than an invasion by Moscow. (The troops who took over the airports in Crimea are reportedly Russian mercenaries, not regular troops, presumably to sustain this pretense.) Then the EU and Obama can spin it as some sort of ethnic-Russian counterpart in the south to what’s been happening with the Euromaidan protesters in Kiev. Problem is, no one seriously believes it, especially with Ukrainian officials claiming that thousands of Russian troops are being flown in. O may want to play along with Putin’s charade but I don’t think he can get away with it.
Note the bit in the excerpt too about provocations. Joshua Foust made the same point:
Right. If/when some of Russia’s mercenaries are attacked by Tatars, then regular troops can enter to “protect” the ethnic Russian majority there.
Update: It’s not really an invasion until there’s a “We are all __________ians” statement from McCain. Done and done.
Update: A new sternly worded statement:
UN Ambassador Samantha Power says U.S. is ‘gravely disturbed’ by reports of Russian military movements into Crimea region
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 28, 2014
Update: I guess we’re not playing along with Putin’s “domestic uprising” pageant:
US is confirming reports coming from all over #Crimea today: Russian troops are deploying into region.
— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) February 28, 2014
Update: Obama’s late, as usual, so here’s another page from the scrapbook:
Update: He’s “deeply concerned” and sees unspecified “costs” to come for Russia if they violate Ukraine’s sovereignty but the situation is “fluid,” which is his way of giving Putin some room to de-escalate. The one thing that did catch my attention was when he congratulated Ukraine for showing “restraint.” That’s an allusion to Foust’s point about Russia watching and waiting for a pretext to order a wider invasion. If their comparatively small force in Crimea comes under attack, a bigger force is waiting.