Vladimir Putin Ramps Up His Postmodern Non-Invasion Invasion of Ukraine

How It Works
Aug. 28 2014 3:09 PM

Vladimir Putin Ramps Up His Postmodern Non-Invasion Invasion of Ukraine

Par7952512
This is not a tank.

Photo by DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian government and the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine used to deny that they were cooperating. All that advanced weaponry, including tanks and anti-aircraft systems, were simply captured from Ukrainian government forces, the explanations went. The Russians fighting with the rebels were simply private citizens and the Russian government had no control over them.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

In the last few days, however, we’ve seen an escalation in both Russia’s military involvement in Eastern Ukraine and the creativity of the explanations for this involvement. You see, the thousands of current Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine aren’t an invading army—they’re just on vacation. Here’s the New York Times:

[T]he leader of the main separatist group in southeastern Ukraine said that up to 4,000 Russians, including active-duty soldiers currently on leave, had been fighting against Ukrainian government forces, Russian television reported.
“There are active soldiers fighting among us who preferred to spend their vacation not on the beach, but with us, among their brothers, who are fighting for their freedom,” Aleksandr Zakharchenko, a rebel commander and the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said in an interview on Russian state-run television.
Advertisement

You can see satellite imagery of what NATO says are Russian military convoys here, as well as video here. The Russian government continues to deny that Russian forces are crossing the border or that the government is arming the rebels. One can only imagine what creative explanations they’ll come up with next.

Just a few weeks ago, in the wake of the MH17 crash, the conflict seemed on the verge of being snuffed out with Ukrainian forces rapidly regaining rebel-held territory. Now, even as Ukrainian forces close in on the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhanks, Russian troops appear to have opened a new front of the battle along the southeastern portion of the border.

Incredibly, this has been done in such a way that President Vladimir Putin can continue denying that Russia is playing a direct military role in the conflict while holding talks this week with Ukrainian President Poro Petroshenko.

For now, my prediction made in the wake of the MH17 crash still holds. Russia’s government will continue to supply the rebels with enough help to keep the conflict going, prevent Ukraine’s new government from asserting control over the country’s territory, deny that it’s doing anything of the sort, and—at least publicly—continue to push for a negotiated solution to the conflict as if it’s not doing anything to prolong it.

This strange postmodern war, in which the two sides are operating not only from different points of view but from entirely different versions of reality, isn’t ending any time soon.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?