Missile attack

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Friday, July 25, 2014


IN 1959, the Americans got themselves involved in the Vietnam War that later ended with them being shamed by the barefooted and low-key Vietcongs that occupied Saigon in 1975 to create the present-day Vietnam. The Russians, meanwhile, tasted its own defeat in Afghanistan in 1989 after ten years of fighting there.

The two superpowers have since learned from their bitter experiences. They are no longer directly engaging their soldiers unless their citizens and interests are threatened.

While US troops are stationed in the combat zones of Afghanistan (32,800 personnel) and Iraq (750), they are doing so in conjunction with other forces, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato). Russia maintains soldiers outside of its territory, including Tajikistan (5,500), Abkhazia (3,500) and South Ossetia (4,000), the latter two being part of occupied Georgia.

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The crisis in Ukraine has not become as ugly as Russia’s engagement in Afghanistan or Georgia, and the developments seems to be well-calculated by President Vladimir Putin, who has learned lessons from the past.

Russia has no intention of waging a long-term war, preferring blitzkrieg operations that impact strongly yet with minimal losses. That was how Russia grabbed from Georgia part of the latter’s territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia and most Western countries consider the two states as territories occupied by Russia. But nobody punished Russia for this act.

Putin and his advisers advanced further its imperialistic designs through delegated warfare. Instead of sending its troops to occupy enemy territories, it simply arms locals who are sympathetic with Russia.

The separatists in Crimea and those along Ukraine’s border with Russia could not have pursued their adventures without the support of the latter.

Surely, assistance could have come in terms of arms, ammunition and advice. There have been accusations of Russian soldiers involved in military operations; but these could not be proven.

The missile attack on Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in the separatist-occupied Eastern Ukraine has resulted in the death of 298 people on board. While Russia washed its hands of any responsibility, the Western media pointed to Putin as partly to blame.

The missile was supplied by Russia to the separatists who, in some accounts, have admitted their mistake.

While Putin has almost lost all of the goodwill he earned for the successful staging of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the citizens of Russia continue to support their president.

But for how long? The Russian economy is faltering while the US and its allies are carefully putting Russia in a lonely corner. Certainly, these are dangerous times for Putin and for Russia.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 26, 2014.

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