How Do You Say “Gobbledygook” in Ukrainian? Defense Industry

The trade in defense products from Ukrainian factories to the Russian military is an old trade. Ukrainian factories do billions in business with Russia. 23 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and experts estimate that 70% of Ukraine’s defense exports flow through Russia.

How can you work with your enemy? This is gobbledygook,” said a senior Ukrainian security official, speaking anonymously about a sensitive topic.

Understandably, Ukrainian government officials are less than happy that Ukrainian factories continue to manufacture goods which supply the Russian military. From gears to targeting systems, engines to missiles, Ukraine has been a core Russian supplier. Despite Russian declarations and “crash plans” to wean itself off Ukrainian supplies Ukraine remains the world’s eighth-largest arms exporter. In the former Soviet Union, Ukraine is second only to Russia.

With the conflict in eastern Ukraine teetering toward war, Ukraine is in a bind. Although in June Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued an order to stop such exports to Russia, as the Washington Post reports, little has changed on the ground. Factories remain open and no one has been told to halt shipments.

The stalling is unsurprising. The same unnamed Ukrainian official calling working with the enemy “gobbledygook” also said,

“This decision will mean the death of factories and enterprises.”

It is not shocking that the belief that economic integration lessens the possibility of full-scale armed conflict persists. Money is a powerful motivator and economic stability a trump card. Certainly, there is some truth to the thought that neighbors deeply invested in each other’s economic well-being won’t ruin it all for a war. But the situation between Russia and Ukraine is not so simple.

Ukraine needs those factories open, and the revenue they generate, far more than Russia needs gears for its machines of war.

Go read about Ukraine’s factories and arms industry:


Murphy’s Law and Occam’s Razor in Ukraine

Wednesday, the National Interest ran a piece by Gary Hart which begins with a dreary comment on the perpetual chaotic state of international affairs.

Crossing Murphy’s Law with the law of unintended consequences produces this: If the worst possible thing can happen it will, and it will probably happen to you.

He goes on to outline that “dabbling in destabilization” is, in general, a terrible idea. Though I take issue with Hart’s subsequent simplified version of American assistance to Afghans fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s (he perpetuates the “US armed the Taliban” myth) the larger premise remains intact. Even with a more nuanced view of US involvement in the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the conclusion that getting involved in other states’ conflicts can get messy stands. Just as concrete is the idea that the long-term consequences of political and military actions, regardless of intent,  cannot be reliably predicted at the outset.

Hart is hopeful that Russia has lost its gamble on the Ukrainian separatists. I am not so convinced. It’s too early to tell when Russia will reap Murphy’s inevitable fruits. As of yet, Russian behavior has not changed significantly and reports indicate that Russia’s involvement in Ukraine has done anything but abate. It is not clear how much control Russia has over the separatists.

US intelligence officials made relatively clear Tuesday the fact that they do not believe Russia had any “direct involvement” in the shooting down of the airliner. The unnamed officials claimed to not know if any Russians were present at the launch and would not comment on whether the crew was trained in Russia. Their statements are as much an American face-saving gesture as they are an indication of Russia’s level of involvement.

All major powers trade arms. And no one buys weapons to build plows with. The French are under extreme scrutiny for their long-in-the-works sale of two Mistral-class assault ships to Russia. One has been built, paid for, and is fully expected to be delivered in October. The French President, Francois Hollande, has threatened to cancel the second ship–but no one really believes him. In another deal illustrating that foreign policy can be awkward, the US recently closed on an $11 billion sale of Patriot missiles to Qatar, which has relatively good relations with Hamas.

The US intelligence officials did note that the most likely explanation for MH17’s downing was that it was a mistake.

Not only does this line of theory absolve Russia of direct culpability, it makes the fewest assumptions–something Ockham would admire. Occam’s Razor, a principle named after 14th century Franciscan friar William of Ockham, states that when choosing among competing hypotheses the one which requires the fewest assumptions should be selected. The concept does not imply that all solutions are simple, but that it is wisest to not make assumptions about complex systems. In the absence of certainty, simple dominates.

In other words, keep your theories simple, your considerations complex, and your use of historical analogies to a minimum.

Donetsk: 2 Million Paper Ballots

The preliminary results are in on the Donetsk referendum:

Roman Lyagin, election chief of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, said around 75 percent of the Donetsk region’s 3 million or so eligible voters cast ballots, and the vast majority backed self-rule.

With no international election monitors in place, it was all but impossible to verify the insurgents’ claims. The preliminary vote count was announced just two hours after the polls closed in an election conducted via paper ballots.

75 percent of 3 million people comes out to be more than 2.2 million votes cast  in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk. Continue reading

China Capitalizes on Ukraine

According to news agency reports, China’s minister of public security, Guo Shengkun, said that states in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization must take steps to “counteract interference in internal affairs from abroad.” His comments at a meeting of the SCO  in Tajikistan this week are an attempt to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine by furthering the Chinese position on both internet governance and foreign interference.

Continue reading