Tag Archives: Ukraine

The Intersection of Three Crises

By Reva Bhalla

Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.

The Ghost Convoy


At 2:28 PM Aug. 14 according to the time-stamp on the embedded tweet in the Guardian article cited below, Shaun Walker tweeted:

So and I just saw a column of APCs and vehicles with official Russian military plates cross border into Ukraine.

Walker and Roland Oliphant of the Telegraph are credited with first reporting an incursion of Russian military vehicles into the Ukraine. The Guardian then reported on Aug. 15, Aid convoy stops short of border as Russian military vehicles enter Ukraine:

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.

After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border.

Geopolitical Flashpoints

There are three regions of geopolitical instability in the world, the Middle East, the European / Russian theater and the China / Pacific-Southeast Asia theater. All are metastable but have the potential to erupt into war that may not remain localized since the US maintains interests including defense treaties in all of them. This post will maintain an active list of links to articles and events that we feel illuminate the current stress in these regions.

Our position is that geopolitical is a natural, complex adaptive system (CAS) that exhibits the behavior of such. Look at such systems as plate tectonics and forests whose energy/stress releasing events – earthquakes and forest fires have been shown to obey the power laws of CASs. In the case of geopolitics, war is the energy/stress releasing event. The other property of a CAS is while we can measure the energy buildup, we can never predict when an energy reducing event will occur, especially the “big one”. In geopolitics, that will be WW III.

The Other Side of the Ship

We confess to finding ourselves in a contrarian position so often that we are becoming weary. Almost by reflexive action now, when everyone heads to one side of the ship, we run to the other. The justification for this is that we find the deepest, richest, discussion, analysis, and insight on this side whereas the other side is bereft of analysis but rich in crowd mentality. The opportunities are great and easily recognized: just look for issues where the media, popular opinion and political posturing have coalesced into a single secular doctrine.

The popular doctrine of “climate change” or “anthropogenic global warming” we have written extensively on. The new one is the geopolitical issue of the Ukraine situation. We presented background positioning and extensive links to current thinking on the other side of the Russian imperialist aggression meme in the essay: The Ukraine: What a Country’s Boundaries Really Mean.

A sophomoric oped piece in the Ottawa Sun titled Passport to war? with opening comments like the direction in which Russian aggression is heading and … Moscow uses in its expansionist strategy, motivated us to examine so-called Russian aggression and imperial expansion in particular.

Today we were pointed to an excellent article, Ethnic Russians in Ukraine are Centuries-Old, Not Decades-Deep… (ht: Zero Hedge) by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev writing in the True Economics blog. At the same time, Dr. George Friedman published the piece Borderlands: The New Strategic Landscape, which we have republished by permission. Both help frame our new examination of the situation of the Ukraine.

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 – 02:59 Print Text Size


By George Friedman

Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and “the long war.” Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete.

Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 – 03:01


By George Friedman

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone’s head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.

During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation.

Palestine: What a Country’s Boundaries Really Mean


We wrote The Ukraine: What a Country’s Boundaries Really Mean as an attempt to counter the colossal ignorance of the West concerning the historical and current significance of the country now called Ukraine. Its current borders and in fact its very existence in any form do not extend back even a century. This is particularly true of the Crimea. Yet we blather and bluster about the Ukraine as if it has existed for a thousand years or more. The same can be said for the notion of a Palestinian state which is even more ephemeral than Ukraine. Yet a large amount of the current anti-Israeli rhetoric falsely proceeds as if it were a country with aboriginal claim and history.

We asked our friend Dr. Paul Merkley if he could put together a timeline on the historical referents and claims to a Palestinian state. His contribution follows with emphasis added by us where we wished to make a point.

The Ukraine: What a Country’s Boundaries Really Mean

To understand how little a county’s boundaries mean, play this animated map of Europe and West Asia that shows the change in makeup of the area over the last thousand years. The Ukraine is a very late addition to the world map. (Click in the lower right corner to open as full screen.)


Our friend Paul Merkley sent us a link to other map resources. What is now the Ukraine and Crimea was part of Islamic Civilizations 632-1350AD. This page has thumbnails of 54 individual maps. Left-click on any thumbnail to open a larger view. One can scroll through the map series one map at a time by left-clicking on the current expanded image. Most images can be expanded further by right-clicking on the current image. Select the “View Image” option from the menu that pops up. Use the browser back arrow to close this image and return to the thumbnail page.

Another series of 18 maps shows The Ottoman Empire which encompassed the territory of the present Ukraine and Crimea. The Ukraine in particular has come and (mostly) gone and reappeared while its boundaries constantly changed.

Now in case you are thinking that the 1400 year span of these maps is not sufficient to capture an early Ukraine, try this animated map over 5000 years.


Protests of Russia’s current actions by countries like Canada are made from colossal ignorance on the part of  the populace, the media and the government. It’s also a cheap way to buy the Ukrainian vote in Canada.

The European Union Reacts to the Crisis in Ukraine


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to journalists in Switzerland on March 4 after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The European Union is unlikely to approve substantial sanctions against Russia because it would go against the economic interests of most of its members. There will be a period of cold relations between EU members and Russia, but eventually EU members will return to their previous strategies of seeking a pragmatic relationship with Moscow.

The crisis in Ukraine is having political repercussions for most members of the European Union. In the west, countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom are trying to strike a balance between criticizing Russia’s actions in Crimea and ensuring that their economic links with Moscow are unaffected. The crisis is reminding countries in Central and Eastern Europe such as Poland and Lithuania that their alliances with the European Union and NATO have clear limitations, since both organizations have few options to contain Russia. Finally, countries that recently sought closer ties with Moscow, including Hungary and the Czech Republic, are struggling to define their position in the conflict.

Ukraine: On the Edge of Empires

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Editor’s Note: The following Geopolitical Weekly originally ran in November 2010 as part of our Geopolitical Journey series. We repost it today as Ukraine’s position between Europe and Russia puts it in the spotlight.

By George Friedman

The name “Ukraine” literally translates as “on the edge.” It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was divided between Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it was divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. And in the 20th century, save for a short period of independence after World War I, it became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been on the edge of empires for centuries.

My father was born in Ukraine in 1912, in a town in the Carpathians now called Uzhgorod. It was part of Austria-Hungary when he was born, and by the time he was 10 the border had moved a few miles east, so his family moved a few miles west. My father claimed to speak seven languages (Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish). As a child, I was deeply impressed by his learning. It was only later that I discovered that his linguistic skills extended only to such phrases as “What do you want for that scrawny chicken?” and “Please don’t shoot.”

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