World View: As Russia’s Economy Worsens, Withdrawal from Ukraine May be Necessary

Vladimir Putin
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Russia using mobile crematoriums to continue pretense about Ukraine
  • Russia’s economic crisis may force withdrawal from Ukraine
  • US-China military tensions get rapidly inflamed over South China Sea Sea

Russia using mobile crematoriums to continue pretense about Ukraine

A group of Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian authorities in August, 2014 (Reuters)
A group of Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian authorities in August, 2014 (Reuters)

It’s an irony. On the one hand, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is supporting the anti-government militias in East Ukraine with Russian weapons and thousands of Russian troops in order to stoke nationalism in Russia and burnish his popularity with the Russian people. But on the other hand, he can’t admit that there are Russian troops in Ukraine because Russia’s economy is so bad.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Russian leaders to hide the fact that Russian soldiers are dying in eastern Ukraine in large numbers, but a number of sources are indicating that a way has been found.

Russia is using mobile crematoriums — crematoriums on wheels — to burn the bodies of Russian soldiers who die in east Ukraine.

According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry:

The Russians are trying to hide their casualties by taking mobile crematoriums with them. They are trying to hide not only from the world but from the Russian people their involvement.

The mounting evidence of dead Russian soldiers is causing a domestic backlash for Putin. But burning the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in battle, instead of treating them as dead heroes, is causing a backlash in the army, and making it harder than ever to justify the military action in Ukraine. Bloomberg and Business Insider

Russia’s economic crisis may force withdrawal from Ukraine

The Russian government’s original 2015 budget was based on the assumption that the price of oil would be $100 per barrel, that Russia’s GDP would grow by 2%, and that inflation would not exceed 5%. None of those assumptions has proven true. Oil has fallen to around $50 per barrel, and Russia’s GDP has contracted 4% instead of growing. The inflation rate has exceed 15%.

Even worse, Russia’s military spending is far higher than expected. It was budgeted at an already very high level of 4.5% of GDP, but during the first three months of this year it exceeded 9% of GDP — twice more than planned. Most European countries are not spending more than 2% of GDP on defense; the US spends 3.5%, and only nine countries in the entire world are now spending more than 4%.

Russia’s high rate of military spending is forcing it to dip into its reserve fund. If that level of funding continues, Russia’s reserve fund will be exhausted before the end of the year.

The strategic aims of Russia’s war against Ukraine are extremely unclear, and it is increasingly difficult to justify the Russian military intervention. Even the annexation of Crimea has turning into an economic calamity.

Russia is soon going to have to make some difficult decisions, and only bad options are available. Window on Eurasia and Jamestown

US-China military tensions get rapidly inflamed over South China Sea

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said on Wednesday:

There should be no mistake about this: The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world. […]

We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features.

However, China is openly doing all of those things, and is building a series of military bases in the South China Sea in international waters and in waters that have historically belonged to Vietnam and the Philippines.

As we reported earlier this week, China says war with US in South China Sea is inevitable. Since then, China has issued an extremely aggressive Military Strategy document indicating the intention “to seize the strategic initiative in military struggle, proactively plan for military struggle in all directions and domains, and grasp the opportunities to accelerate military building, reform and development.”

Chinese media responded to Ashton Carter’s remarks with:

The dangerous provocation of the US, driven by their illusion of the worst-case scenario, is unwise and reckless. It is pressing Beijing to act in compliance with Washington’s desire. However, China won’t dance to the rhythm of the US.

All of these are signs that nationalism is increasing significantly on both sides, and that a major military confrontation is building. And in this generational Crisis era, such a military confrontation will lead to full-scale war. I’ve been writing for ten years that China is planning preemptive war on the United States, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that the time is getting close. Washington Times and Global Times (Beijing) and Full Text: China’s Military Strategy

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, Mac Thornberry, China, Ashton Carter, South China Sea, Vietnam, Philippines
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