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Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally accomplished what has been telegraphed for a few weeks, the annexation of four Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Before a crowd of what passes for dignitaries in Russia, Putin announced that Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson were a part of Russia in perpetuity and not subject to negotiation.
Two of the oblasts, Luhansk and Donetsk, have been under partial Russian occupation since 2014 and were recognized as independent states by Putin in February (see Putin Gives a Bonkers Speech on Ukraine, Drops the Last Puzzle Piece in Place for War). Zaporizhzhia and Kherson were overrun during the Russian invasion that started on February 24. Putin recognized their independence yesterday.
The annexation was preceded by a pro forma “referendum” that produced a 95+% vote for joining Russia (see Russia’s Friends and Allies Join NATO in Rejecting Russia’s Imminent Annexation of Four Ukrainian Provinces.
Outside there was a rally that did not look anything like Nuremberg in the late 1930s, no siree bob, nothing at all.
Modern day fascism…
— Mattia Nelles (@mattia_n) September 30, 2022
Putin joined the rally later. He also looked nothing at all like a character from a Leni Riefenstahl movie.
NOW – Crowd chants “Russia, Russia, Russia” in Moscow’s Red Square as Putin makes an appearance. pic.twitter.com/kOajlHOsDV
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 30, 2022
In retrospect, this will be one of the defining points of the war. It marks a point where a negotiated peace is no longer possible unless another Russian stooge becomes president of Ukraine or Putin is removed from office.
Like Russia’s annexation of Crimea, this action will be rejected by anyone who matters. A short while ago, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution condemning Russia’s criminal act. The vote was 10 in favor, four abstaining (China/Gabon/India/Brazil), and Russia’s veto. The UN Secretary-General best summarized the legal status of the annexation.
Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned.
It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework.
It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for.
It flouts the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.
It is a dangerous escalation.
It has no place in the modern world.
It must not be accepted.
The position of the United Nations is unequivocal: we are fully committed to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.
I want to underscore that the so-called “referenda” in the occupied regions were conducted during active armed conflict, in areas under Russian occupation, and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework.
They cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will.
While no nation (at this writing) has recognized Russia’s annexation
The importance of the annexation will hinge less on what the civilized world says than on what Russia can do.
In the near term, Putin has opened a new manpower reserve. As the theater of operations is now, at least in Russian “law,” within Russia, the conscripts who were blocked from taking part in the “Special Military Operation” are now available for service in Ukraine. The men of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are subject to mobilization, and the Russians sent that message today by killing a large number of civilians attempting to flee from Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia to Ukraine in a clearly designated humanitarian convoy.
As today’s action puts Ukraine, from the point of view of anyone who isn’t laughing at the clownish spectacle in Moscow, in the position of “attacking” Russia, it remains to be seen how Putin will react to the continued ass-kicking the Russian army is taking. Putin has threatened to nuke someone a couple of times a week since he started this war. Because you always have to evaluate enemy actions based on capabilities and not your perception of their intentions, we have to assume that he could use a nuclear weapon. Some have hypothesized that this would likely be a tactical nuclear weapon aimed at a mostly military target. Regardless, that would draw a response from NATO. Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges gives an idea of what that response would look like in this article. NATO is capable of a range of conventional military and cyber operations that would be punishing and not require a nuclear exchange.
I don’t think Putin will use nukes because he knows that Russia has the GDP of New York. He can have no illusion that even China will defend him using nuclear weapons or lift a finger to help him during what will follow. This is why I think he’s been framing the Ukraine war as not one of his crap army getting thrashed by the Ukrainians but rather as one of Russia standing alone against the might of NATO. If things go really bad — and I think they will go extremely bad this winter as new Ukrainian units, trained to exacting standards by the British Army, begin to arrive and face a Russian military composed of men involuntarily “mobilized,” untrained, and ill-equipped — this might give Putin the climb-down that he will need.
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