August 26, 2016


“Observers have greatly feared that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would start a small regional war this August. …

“The parallels with the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war are striking. That conflict started with the Olympic games in Beijing. The United States president was a lame duck amid the presidential election campaign. Russia was pursuing a large-scale military exercise called Caucasus 2008 in the Northern Caucasus. The Kremlin blamed Georgia for an implausible attack.

“A war in August has seemed quite likely for domestic reasons, but where? In the last week, it has become clear that Ukraine will be the target. Major Russian troop movements with hundreds of tanks and heavy artillery to the Donbas and Crimea were reported during the weekend. They were part of a big Russian military exercise named Caucasus 2016.

“…on August 10, the FSB and Putin made dramatic statements. The FSB, the KGB’s successor, published a statement on its website claiming that it had averted terrorist attacks prepared by Ukraine’s special forces against critical infrastructure in Crimea. The alleged aim of the action was to ‘destabilize the social and political situation during the federal and regional elections.’ …

“…National Security and Defense Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov called the statement ‘hysterical and mendacious’ and added that ‘this provocative FSB nonsense is party of the hybrid war that Russia pursues against our country.’

“Scariest was Putin’s uncompromising statement that ‘Ukraine is choosing terror’ and that Kyiv was trying to provoke a conflict with Moscow. …

“Putin appears to have chosen the time and place. He has done the necessary diplomatic footwork. His military has marched up. He has fabricated a casus belli that resembles the Gleiwitz incident in 1939 that preceded Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland. Given where the Russian troops are located, the Kremlin might want to seize the long-discussed land bridge from Mariupol to Crimea after it has failed to build a bridge over the Kerch Strait.”

– Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Anders Aslund writing on August 10 in the New Atlanticist blog in a commentary titled “Is Putin Preparing a New Attack on Ukraine?”