Late last week pro-Kremlin separatist militias -- aided and very likely led by "green men"-- defeated the last band of Ukrainian "Cyborgs" defending Donetsk's airport. Two years ago the airport was touted as one of Eastern Europe's most modern air hubs. Today it is, like many neighborhoods in the Donetsk region and villages along the Russia-Ukraine border, a miserable ruin.
For Ukrainians, Donetsk's airport had become a national symbol. Media compared its stubborn Ukrainian defense to the legendary World War II Battle of Stalingrad, which pitted Red Army defenders against invading Nazis. In Ukraine's narrative, the Ukrainians were defending Soviet forces, the Kremlin's "green men" and their proxy militias the invaders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, is an adept propagandist. In Putin's insistent rendition, the Kremlin's militias are Stalingrad's glorious Russian soldiers reborn. Ukrainian defenders he scorns as "fascists."
While many nicknames are arbitrary, the best reflect genuine personal characteristics or history. Minnesota Fats and Amarillo Slim connect extravagant gambling personalities to geographic homes and physical traits. The timeless military unit nicknames and classiest individual soldier nicknames connect to the battlefield. The U.S. 3rd Infantry Division is the Rock of the Marne (World War 1). Andrew Jackson earned his nickname Old Hickory battling British soldiers and slaughtering American Indians. George Patton's "Ol' Blood and Guts" had battlefield connectivity.
The 1987 American science-fiction film "RoboCop" featured a near-dead police officer whose consciousness was inserted into a super robot. The result: a cyborg combining human and robot. At a glance, soldiers wearing heavy body armor, combat gloves, helmets and flash glasses ("full battle rattle") have a definite robot-like appearance. In Iraq I heard the term RoboSoldier. The Donetsk airport defenders earned their nickname. Sure, they wore body armor and helmets, but their battlefield demonstration of the will to resist against superior forces exhibited super human relentlessness
Their will was pure steel. For 242 days they resisted attacks, attacks by separatists, attacks often supported by artillery, sometimes by tanks. Video of Russian T-80s, allegedly operating in Ukraine, appears on the Internet. However, obtaining absolute, courtroom proof is difficult, and Putin leverages any doubt.
But let's focus on the time span. Two hundred forty-two days -- eight months of war. The Cyborgs holed up in the airport's control tower. The tower gave them observation of virtually the entire area. As long as they could man the control tower they could direct fire support from Ukrainian forces in range.
The Russians smashed the tower and assaulted. Cyborg resistance collapsed.
"The green men": They wear green uniforms, without insignia, and masks. They pack sophisticated weaponry and gear. I associate their media nickname with, obviously, alien invaders, and invaders they are. They led the Russian invasion of Crimea; they appear, furtively, in Eastern Ukraine. They are Russian Army special operations troops. They advise the separatists. They seize key terrain. Credible sources have them participating in tactical combat.
The 1994 Budapest Accord leaves no doubt they are invaders. Putin wants the 1994 Budapest Accord to disappear down the global memory hole. Ukraine signed the Accord and gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for territorial security assurances by Russia. The U.S. (Clinton Administration) and Great Britain guaranteed the deal. If the U.S. had not guaranteed the Accord, I doubt Kiev would have signed it. In late February 2014 Putin shredded the Accord and invaded Crimea. Denuclearized, Ukraine's resistance was futile.
But here's the mistake Washington and London would like you to ignore: The U.S. (Obama administration) and Great Britain failed to support Ukraine.
As I write this column, U.S. media report the Obama administration may send Ukraine weapons. Good idea. Unfortunately, this "could be" weapons shipment is already 340 days late.