A Tough Week For Rough Men

“People Sleep Peacefully in Their Beds at Night Only Because Rough Men Stand Ready to Do Violence on Their Behalf.”

Whether you’re a member of the camp that holds that misquoted Orwellian sentiment as a simple reality, or more likely to group with the rest of Kipling’s  “Humanitarians,” most people could agree that this is a tense time to be a Ukrainian, and no doubt an even scarier time to be a soldier in the Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny, (ZSU), (phonetic spelling) or Armed Forces of the Ukraine.

As an Infantryman who was once part of an Army that spent a decade facing the Russian (then, Soviet) Bear across the Fulda Gap, training for the dreaded day when some idiot let slip a luftballon, I feel and fear for our Ukrainian brothers in arms. With overwhelming force to their front, and a government behind them that neither invested heavily in military spending nor adopted any reality-based, asymmetric resistance doctrine, nor secured themselves with the NATO membership or other alliances that could have served to deter invaders, those Ukrainian soldiers are facing a grim future–especially if ordered to present some kind of fatally symbolic, conventional defense.

Eight years after Russia pulled brazen geo-political trickery to foment then support “separatist action” in Georgia and two years after they were given a by from the current administration’s Leader, who’s on record as proclaiming the Russians “no longer a geopolitical threat,” those dang Russkis are at it again…and using virtually the exact same playbook as in 2008, this time to grab the strategically important Crimea.

And they’ll probably get away with it. It will be immoral, and it will cause local chaos, and it could very well become much more expensive to the Russians than Putin is forecasting, especially if our State Department shows (and carries through with) uncharacteristic punitive resolve in support of our Ukrainian “friends.”

But a little bit of PR bolstered by the fourth and fifth estates’ highlighting the most sympathetic face of Ukrainian politics, Yulia Tymoshenko does not a strong deterrent make.

Ultimately, regardless of pre-election positioning, our current ruling administration is a pragmatic one. In Washington these days, pragmatism is a euphemism for “in the interests of the economy, Wall Street, and other influences Obama’s base doesn’t really follow very closely because they’re happier believing he doesn’t, either.” And when it comes to events in the Ukraine, a small horde of uppity Cossacks trampling an isolated peninsula is just not going to matter much to the Money Men.

On March 3rd, 2014, the sages at Credit Suisse issued this telling statement: “Russia is only 2.9% of global GDP, with the Ukrainian economy accounting for a further 0.4% of global GDP. Russian imports from the US and Euro area are $11bn and €87bn, respectively (or 0.7% and 4.6% of total exports, accounting for less than 0.1% and 0.9% of GDP). So in itself, it is hard to see the Ukrainian crisis having a significant impact on global growth.” The report added that in spite of those pesky Russians (okay, those are my words), “Our US earnings model points to 8.5% EPS growth for the S&P 500 this year (slightly below consensus at 9.1%), and we continue to believe that US margins will not peak until 2016.” (“Macro and market implications of the Ukrainian crisis,” Credit Suisse, 3 Mar 2014).

In other words, “Hey Western World Leaders, don’t sweat it, don’t fret it, we’re still tracking so don’t rock the boat!” There’s certainly calm, rational thought to support this.

But it doesn’t stop us from feeling sorry for Ukrainian Soldat Kovalenko, who may wake tomorrow or Wednesday morning looking down the imposing 125mm bore of a Russian T-90.

In the Infantry, we’d articulate our empathy for Soldat Kovalenko’s plight with the phrase, “Там, але для благодаті Божої, перейдіть І.” Sometimes it stinks to be a geoplitical pawn. All you can do is lean forward in your foxhole, pop some Ranger candy, keep your weapon clean and your bayonet sharp, and mutter “Hooah” with steely eyed determination. Boys, it’s gonna be The Suck this Spring and unless the markets really get concerned, you’re probably on your own.