Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where  Professor Paul Dibb is speaking on "Why did Putin invade Ukraine?" (podcast available). The room is packed, with an atmosphere similar to that of the "Preliminary analysis of Japan Earthquake" in March 2011. On that occasion experts were discussing a natural disaster. Professor Dibb started by modesty saying he was no longer an expert on day to day Russian events. He argued that it was necessary to understand the Russian point of view and that of its leaders, without necessarily agreeing with them. He emphasised that Russia is not an island nation and have a history of having been invaded across its land boarders (Sweden 1700s, France 1800s and Germany 1900s).

Professor Dibb believes that President Putin thinks Russia was deceived by the West, with an understanding that NATO would not expand to Russia's boarders. NATO aircraft in Estonia are only about 100km from Russia. Russia suspects the USA wants to encircle Russia with its allies. Crimea provides Russia with one of its few warm water ports. President Putin suspects involvement by Poland in Ukraine.

Professor Dibb commented that Putin is a former KGB officer of the hard type who had to been confronted in Canberra. He pointed out that Russia and the USA still have sufficient nuclear weapons to devastate each others countries (even if the command and control of the Russian systems are questionable).

Professor Dibb  said there was no prospect of a new cold war, as there is no ideological divide. However, he said that Russia is not going to become a democratic country in the Western style, but an autocratic regime (dependent on energy exports). Professor Dibb said Russia would attempt to destabilise and occupy Ukraine, with no prospect of NATO intervention. Russian military doctrine depends on early use of nuclear weapons, due to weakened conventional forces. NATO may conduct some exercises in Poland.

 Professor Dibb said that Australian defence policy needs to look beyond terrorism, climate change and the Internet and focus on "good old fashioned force majeure". He drew parallels between Russia and China as autocratic regimes which are challenging the borders in their region. He said that if China decided to use limited military force to assert claims in the south china sea he doubted that Asian would agree to act. He expressed concern over China's aid to Timor-Leste and prospects for future Chinese military presence there.

Professor Dibb said that USA's development of coal seam gas might counter Russia's energy dominance in Europe.

Professor Diibs were interesting when taken alongside Tuesday's "Causes of World War One Repeated in Asia Today?". In my view nations should look to their own defence, as well as supporting alliances and international bodies. Australia should order more P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, an off the shelf replacement for the Collins Class submarine and F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft to equip  HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.

Why did Putin invade Ukraine?

Public Lecture: School of International, Political & Strategic Studies, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb
Date: Thursday, 20 March, 2014 - 12:30 to 13:30
Abstract: This talk examines why Putin decided to intervene in Ukraine. What were the major deciding factors from his point of view?
Getting inside Putin's mind requires understanding Russia’s perspectives on the geopolitics of Ukraine's potential membership of the EU and NATO; the military importance of the naval base in Crimea; the deep history of Russia's relationship with Ukraine--both ancient and modern; and how Putin is playing the Ukraine/Crimea issue in domestic politics.
None of this is to ignore a very different and legitimate perspective coming out of Kiev. But we need to understand what is driving Putin and how much further is he likely to go militarily.
Professor Dibb also addresses the issue of the use of force by Moscow and the reactions of the West. Have we returned to a previous era where military strength is supreme and spheres of influence prevail? And will the Russian experience be replicated in our part of the world by an increasingly powerful and assertive China?


Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of strategic studies in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU. He was head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1991 to 2004. Before that he held the positions of deputy secretary for Defence, director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation and head of the National Assessments Staff.
He studied the former Soviet Union for over 20 years both as a senior intelligence officer and academic. He advised ASIO on certain Soviet activities. His book The Soviet Union--the Incomplete Superpower was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London in 1986, reprinted 1987 and second edition 1988.
Light lunch will be provided after the lecture

No comments: