Photo by Chaiwat Hanpitakpong on Unsplash
Analysis by Joe Lindsley, editor, Lviv Now
As with warnings about new corona variants, we regularly hear warnings about new threats from Russia, which has already been occupying portions of Ukraine, including the Crimea peninsula, since 2014. But there’s something strange about these warnings: The experts who voice them have throughout the past twelve months routinely seemed confident invasion was imminent, and when nothing happens, they say: oh, but it will, soon, citing always vague intelligence reports.
The Washington Post reported Saturday 4 December that American intelligence officials had uncovered detailed plans for a January 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Weeks later, the Biden administration told CNN, as reported in the Daily Mail 21 December, that «there is a ‘four week window’ to deter Russia from invading.» That was nearly four weeks ago.
Meanwhile, David T. Pyne, a former U.S. Army official and now a national security expert, predicted in a 1 January 2022 story at the Washington-based publication The National Interest with some measure of confidence when Russia might invade Ukraine:
«Russia is most likely planning to invade Ukraine by February, but no later than April, in conjunction with a near-simultaneous Chinese invasion of Taiwan and, quite possibly, a North Korean invasion of South Korea,» Pyne writes.
«February … but no later than April»: How does Pyne know this? «Most likely»: What does that mean? What are the sources? Suddenly we are drowning in suppositions, and suddenly Putin seems to be in a position of strength:
«To seize the opportunity to avert a third world war with Russia and China,» Pyne writes, «Biden should negotiate a comprehensive security agreement with Russia by building upon what Putin has outlined, while also taking decisive action to shore up America’s defenses against existential attack by U.S. adversaries,» writes Pyne.
Taken together with the headline, «Negotiate Peace with Russia to Prevent War Over Ukraine,» this could even sound like Russian propaganda.
The National Interest has done this before, showering Ukraine with negative suppositions. At the outset of the pandemic, two writers there predicted that Ukraine would collapse:
«The writing is on the wall,» Melinda Haring and Doug Klein wrote in the U.S. publication the National Interest 31 March 2020, just as the pandemic began. «Ukraine is headed for major catastrophe.»
Europe’s «poorest country» with a «showman president» they continued, is so beleaguered that the Coronavirus will destroy the nation’s economy. Nothing like this has happened; in fact, Ukraine, with less serious lockdowns has not fared so bad and the economy continues to move along. Ukraine has stayed open and even in the pandemic has become a destination for Saudi tourists, visitors from the USA, and more. But the National Interest has offered no follow-up.
«By every indication,» Pyne wote in the 1 January 2022 story, «Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has already been made. No threats to use military force or to deploy additional U.S. military forces to NATO’s frontline states, let alone threats to enact stronger U.S. economic sanctions, are likely to stop him from doing so.,» writes PYne
But is there not also this option: Could it be, at the least, that Putin has been bluffing, making it seem he can further invade Ukraine in order to get what he wants?
And look: Has he not shifted the discourse to his terms? After the talks between Washington and Moscow in Geneva this week, Putin’s Russia, according to the headlines, seems stronger than ever. As a CNN headline said 13 January, «US warns Russia is sounding ‘drumbeats of war’ against Ukraine as crisis talks end with no breakthrough.»
Meanwhile, instead of taking these things at face value, the best we can do is keep asking questions: the very thing most media do not do well. Otherwise, we are just left in the middle, waiting, wondering, while others high up are maneuvering–suddenly a nation that was weak is able to get what it wants and push around Ukraine.
Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.