South-Eastern Ukraine: the “Baked Alaska Conflict”

I never knew it could also come flambé; that makes the parallel even more apt

I never knew it could also come flambé; that makes the parallel even more apt

What can we call the miserable, simmering-occasionally-boiling-over war in south-eastern Ukraine? While writing something for a Serious Publication, I came up with the analogy of the baked alaska. For those of you who don’t know this delightful dessert, it’s ice cream on a cake base, covered with meringue which is then quickly cooked. Now, there is nothing delightful about the Donbass war, but the baked alaska does give us a useful simile even if one which, for wholly understandable reasons, the Serious Publication thought seems a little too light-hearted for such a bloody and miserable conflict.

I can’t see Minsk-2 or any other initiatives leading to a meaningful political settlement and the region’s reintegration into Ukraine for some time yet. But nor do I see a plausible “Crimean variant” with the Donbass incorporated into Russia. So, at heart, the conflict is already frozen.

At the same time, though, Moscow and its local proxies/puppets/allies (at different times, they have different roles, and we ought not to forget that they have a worrying degree of agency themselves) have adopted and will probably maintain a strategy of tension. At the borders of the region they control, we see constant small- and medium-scale attacks intended both to put pressure on Kiev and also as a form of political “reconnaissance by fire”. While a major offensive of the sort that would lead in all probability to an increase in the sanctions regime may be unlikely, if they see an opportunity for smaller-scale, local advances, they they can gladly exploit it. Again, I don’t see this changing.

Frozen at heart, decidedly hot at the edges: I give you the “baked alaska conflict.”

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3 Comments

  1. But the problem with frozen conflicts is that, if Russia is ever bogged down elsewhere, say against IS in Central Asia, she will find herself surrounded by revanchist states who may want to redress the balance. Perhaps the reason why nobody else does this?

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  2. Thanks for the analogy, though I’m not sure I agree that the current mess in SE Ukraine “is already frozen” and could not spread further. War has its own absurd logic and history suggests that it often sparks all sorts of nasty, unintended consequences. More importantly, the current Kremlin strategy of stoking Russian nationalism and denial of any aggression almost guarantees a wider conflict. My tea leaves tell me that the situation surrounding Transnistria has the potential to reignite in the not-too distant future.

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  1. MILNEWS.ca #UKR Update – 262130UTC June 2015 | MILNEWS.ca Blog

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