Putin can deny but no longer conceal he has invaded Ukraine

A soldier of the Russian annexation force flashes a victory sign while marching near a Ukrainian army base in Perevalne, Crimea. March 2014

A soldier of the Russian annexation force flashes a victory sign while marching near a Ukrainian army base in Perevalne, Crimea. March 2014 

2014/08/28 • Analysis & Opinion

Vladimir Putin can continue to lie and deny that Russian forces have invaded Ukraine, but he can no longer conceal that from Russians, Ukrainians or the West, a reality that means there is no way out except admitting defeat or acknowledging that he has invaded, neither of which Putin will do, or continuing on in the hopes he’ll get away with it.

According to Aleksey Gorbachev, the political observer of “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” “by his actions, the Kremlin has driven itself into the position of a ‘Zugswang,’” a term used in chess to refer to a situation a player faces “when any further step will only complicate [his] situation” further.

“It is obvious that without massive military support from Russia, the militants cannot oppose for long the Ukrainian forces,” the commentator says, and consequently Moscow must provide it because “the defeat of the militants will be viewed as a defeat for the Kremlin.” But doing so will alienate Russians who don’t want to invade Ukraine and the West as well.

Polls show few Russians want to send the Russian army into Ukraine, and fewer still are going to want to as casualties from the invasion so mount among draftees and cannot be concealed from the population. And the West too, despite its reluctance to describe Putin’s actions as an invasion and thus his statements about it as lies, will also soon have little choice.

As the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” writer puts it, Putin may be able to win time by continuing to say things that are demonstrably false as he did in Minsk, but for him and for others, time is running out because what can no longer be concealed will ultimately have to be acknowledged if not by its authors than by others.

Moreover, he points out, Ukrainians know what is going on, and they are using the Internet to reach out to Russians to tell them what is happening and equally important what this means. In the words of Ukrainian poet Anastasiya Dmitruk, as a result of what has happened, “we will never be brothers neither by motherland nor by mothers.”

Western leaders have been less willing than Ukrainians or ordinary Russians to describe what Putin is doing accurately because if they do, they would have to acknowledge that the situation has changed and thus face demands that they respond. Putin probably hopes he can continue to intimidate them even as he is losing ground at home.

But as the world watches the Putin-directed Russian military invasion of Ukraine, these same leaders would do well to remember the words of Russian activist Aleksandr Genis earlier this month who pointed out that anyone who doesn’t condemn what Putin is doing shares responsibility with him.

Now that the Kremlin leader has openly invaded Ukraine, that has become more true than ever before.

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  • Brent

    Russian citizens have to stop being as blind and feckless as the U.S., EU and NATO. All are complicit in the murder of innocent Ukrianians. Plausible deniability is no longer an option and the world must put an end to this invasion immediately.

  • http://www.myspace.com/TheeUnicorns christopher witt diamant

    Being a nuclear powered bully has worked well for Putin so far: in Europe. Bit it plays less well with the other emerging powers….and Syria is really just a hollow shell Putin is propping up….very expensively, I might add;……and Crimea is proving to be a costly black hole as well. Putin can go his merry way….but as the body bags fill up, the mothers of Russia will begin, slowly at first, but then in ever-increasing numbers: to cry that Ukraine should be “left alone”….and that we “don’t NEED the Ukraine”, they will say…marching onward to the Gremlin in the Kremlin…”…we need our sons…to care for us in our old age….” Putin is deaf….but he’s not tone deaf..not yet……and his world is about to end: dramatically….play time is over……NATO has had enough…Lithuania is sending troops, and Poland as well…so: World War III…begins, on the “down low” …..and that is the “low down”……indeed…

  • Dirk Smith

    Today is the beginning of the end of this shallow megalomaniac.

  • Murf

    I think someways this is good.
    No more pussy footing around.
    No more “let’s not escalate the violence.”
    It’s all in or all out.
    Merkel is going to have to decide if dismembering nations is to be tolerated.
    Obama is going to have to commit him self to his lofty words or be shown to be a wind bag.
    And UA is going to have to decide if they want victory or do just what it takes to get by.
    UA is going to have to totally mobilize for war. The slackers, dead weight and people of questionable loyalty MUST be weeded out in a Stalinesque purge.
    Every industry and government agency is going to have to work towards this goal.
    Because Putin has been consistent in one thing; he is prepared to go as far as it takes to win.
    There is no line he will not cross. No act to abhorrent.
    He is thinking of the unthinkable.

    And if you want to go toe to toe with him you had better be willing to do the same.