Video: Ukraine digging in on the Russian border

“This region has seen both Soviet and Nazi occupations,” the AFP narrator notes about the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, “and has no desire to see history repeated.” With Russian forces massing on their eastern frontier, Ukraine’s military has dug in on their side of the border in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from seizing more Ukrainian territory. In an all-out fight they probably wouldn’t stand a chance, but they want to at least give Putin second thoughts about another easy occupation and annexation:

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk hit out at Russia for carrying out “an armed robbery” and said the country would respond if it tried to annex the eastern regions, home to many Russian speakers as well as industries on which Moscow relies.

“I want to officially warn Russia: we will respond firmly, including through military means, against any attempt to seize Ukraine, to cross borders, or annex eastern or other regions by Russian troops,” Yatsenyuk said.

Moscow has brushed off concerns about the massive military drills it is carrying out near the Ukrainian border. Reports it had withdrawn a battalion of about 500 soldiers have done little to ease what the European Union said Friday was a “very dangerous” situation. …
Ukrainian officials are guarded on the size of the border deployment of an army that experts say is ill-equipped to stave off a Russian invasion after years of underinvestment.

At some point, that underinvestment will likely become a bigger story, too. The new government in Kyiv has demanded that the West take at least some steps to enforce the Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons (Soviet leftovers that they probably couldn’t effectively use anyway) in exchange for security guarantees from Russia and the West. While pro-Russian governments ruled in Kyiv, it made sense for Ukraine’s capital to go elsewhere other than defense, but that situation must have suited Moscow’s purposes, and does even more now. Don’t be surprised if Ukrainians begin looking into defense decisions made by Viktor Yanukovich and accusing him of deliberately leaving the country relatively defenseless against Russia.

They’re not happy with the Western response either, and Japan may be getting a little nervous, too. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to Japan this week, and tried to reassure Pacific Rim allies through his comments to the media traveling with him:

Hagel’s reassurances are that the US remains highly engaged with China and is committed to keeping the status quo in place in the Pacific Rim. Other than geography, what about that is different than the US assurances about Russia before the seizure and annexation of Crimea? Japan is not Ukraine, obviously, but the Philippines might not feel quite as sanguine about American reassurances regarding the ability to contain aggressive and acquisitive empires.

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