This morning the BBC sent out an alert notifying the world that NATO has been observing columns of Russia tanks and infantry entering Eastern Ukraine less than two weeks after Ukraine and Russia inked a deal stating that Russia will sell natural gas to Ukraine this Winter.
My first thought was, of course they are.
The primary difficulty the West has had in dealing with Russia’s aggressive tendencies in Ukraine, where it’s very obviously supporting ethnic Russian rebels in the east against ethnic Ukrainians in the west of the county, is that Russia sells Europe all their natural gas and without it Europe would have a very real problem staying warm in the Winter.
Back during the Spring and Summer, Europe and the U.S. talked pretty tough about Russia discontinuing support for eastern Ukrainian rebels but now that Old Man Winter is about to arrive the tables are turning. During the Spring and Summer, the West was perfectly willing to institute some financial and trade sanctions against Russia and Russia, pointlessly, did the same to the West which resulted in a lot of empty shelves in Moscow supermarkets. But now that Russia is being super aggressive and brazen by slowly invading Ukraine, does the West plan additional sanctions or, well, anything?
No, absolutely not.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday her government was “not satisfied” with the progress in implementing the Minsk agreement, but added that there were no plans at present for further economic sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine.
“Further economic sanctions are not planned at the moment, we are focusing on the winter and the humanitarian situation there and how to get a real ceasefire,” she said.
Winter has long been Russia’s ally, the siege of Leningrad for just one example, but using the modern economics of Winter as an offensive strategy strikes me as both new and absolutely old school. It’s rare these days to see industrially advanced nations allow the elements and seasons to determine military strategies (as opposed to tactics). In fact, the only other group that comes to mind at all is the Taliban who fight during the warm months and lay off during the cold ones.
Doing this now is also very calculated and smart on the part of Russia. Since Europe depends on Russian gas there’s literally nothing the Europeans can do to dissuade the Russian leadership from driving every tank they want straight into Donetsk for later deployment and the U.S. knows that action on their part could lead to action by Russia against Europe.
It’s Machiavellian, and while I don’t approve of it (free nations should be free) I’m absolutely impressed by it. Here’s some amateur video.