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Escalation in Ukraine

11:01 AM, Apr 13, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, providing Russia with what it considers a case for intervention.  As James Marson and Lukas I. Alpert of the Wall Street Journal report this morning:

A Ukrainian special forces officer was killed and five others wounded Sunday in a gunbattle with heavily armed pro-Russian forces who had commandeered a police station in the eastern city of Slavyansk, Ukraine's top police official said.

The usual suspicions as to who exactly struck the spark and who then poured gas on the flame apply and:

Moscow says it reserves the right to send troops into eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians there from an alleged threat of violence against them from nationalists in the Ukrainian government. Russia has presented little concrete evidence of such a threat, and Russian officials Saturday reiterated that they have no plans to send troops.

Russia, of course, is to be feared beyond what it might intend – and actually do – in Ukraine.

In a disturbing conversation with Sohrab Ahmari, published yesterday, in the Wall Street Journal NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed what he calls Europe’s 'new security environment.” 

Things have changed, Rasmussen says, in the wake:

“… President Putin's strong desire to restore Russian greatness by re-establishing a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space.”

And the fact that:

military spending amounted to 4.5% of Russian gross domestic product in 2012 

Even as:

Western European states, by contrast, began cutting defense long before the recession and have kept doing so even as their economies have stabilized. France spent 1.9% of its GDP on defense in 2013; Denmark spent 1.4%; Germany, 1.3%; and Spain, 0.9%. "We in Europe have disarmed too much, for too long," Mr. Rasmussen says. "We can't continue to cut defense budgets deeply while Russia is increasing her defense budget. . . . It has created a growing gap across the Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe. Today the U.S. spends around 75% of the overall NATO defense investment. I'm concerned that in the long run it will weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance if this trend continues.”

"Smart Power,” it seems clear, may not be enough.  Not even in the 21st century.

And, finally, there is the matter of energy.

As Pavel Polityuk and Conor Humphries of Reuters report, Ukraine recently announced that:

… it was suspending payments to Russia for deliveries of gas, ratcheting up the tension in a standoff that has the potential to leave European Union states cut off from the Russian gas supplies on which they depend.

This is not strictly a local dispute since:

A large proportion of the natural gas which EU states buy from Russia is pumped via Ukrainian territory, so if Russia makes good on a threat to cut off Ukraine for non-payment of its bills, customers further west will have supplies disrupted.

It may be time, then, for Europe to get fracking.

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