Ukraine hangs at a precarious moment, twisting in an uncertain wind. Russian troops are still massed along the eastern border, and President Vladimir Putin seems intent on keeping his options open: Will he choose invasion, destabilization, or negotiation? The most likely path forward seems to be a Russian attempt to destabilize Ukraine through a covert campaign. The United States and its NATO allies should lean in to help the Kiev regime prepare to conduct counterinsurgency operations, given what appears to be obvious Russian support to violent separatists.
Step one should be assessing the potential for an effective insurgency and understanding the historical and cultural pressures that create it. The good news about the Russian annexation of Crimea is that it effectively reduces the remaining Russian ethnic population in the rest of Ukraine. While exact numbers are hard to define precisely, most observers believe the remaining pro-Russian ethnic population is around 15 percent: hardly a critical mass, let alone an oppressed majority. The bad news about the annexation -- in addition to losing a significant chunk of territory and the Ukrainian Navy -- is that Crimea will become a base and staging area for insurgent operations throughout eastern Ukraine.
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