Tensions rise in Ukraine as Putin weighs his options

(26 April 2014)  The Ukraine Crisis remained front and center last week as Russian troops massed on its eastern border while NATO beefed up its military presence in nearby Poland.  Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be ignoring diplomatic efforts and Western economic sanctions aimed at defusing the situation as the world is entering a new and dangerous Cold War 2.0.  Putin seems unwilling to accept the new pro-Western government in Kiev and is giving aid to pro-Russian factions in Eastern Ukraine.  If Russia sends its army into Ukraine, it would mark a new phase in the crisis which will send shock waves throughout the world. 

As I have written previously, the current Mars retrograde cycle is one possible culprit for this geopolitical impatience and brinksmanship.  Mars turned retrograde back on March 1st and will culminate its backwards journey through the sky on May 20th.  Mars retrograde may be less about the implications of the backward direction of the red, warrior planet than its velocity.  When a planet is retrograde, it is moving more slowly than normal.  As a rule, slower moving planets have more energy and become more prominent in their effects.  It is not too surprising that this slow moving Mars is correlating to a greater sense of conflict and an inability to compromise. 

This is even more the case, perhaps, because we see that Mars is moving through the sign of sidereal Virgo which is key in the horoscope of Vladimir Putin. Putin was born with four planets in Virgo including the Sun, the planetary seat of the ego.  As Mars is due to remain in the sign of Virgo until June, it seems less likely that Putin will be in favour of compromise.  Remember, too, that Putin's Sun is closely conjunct Saturn, the planet of control.  Putin's Sun (20 Virgo) has been highlighted by the Grand Cross alignment at 19 degrees so it is perhaps not too surprising that he is under a lot of stress at the moment.   With his Sun exactly opposite transiting Uranus and exactly square Pluto, he is more prone to sudden actions, unconventional behaviour, and intense coercive situations.   While he may appear to be playing the strongman to Obama's more cautious reactive approach, this planetary pattern does not seem favourable to him.  Putin's Mars-Sun aspect encourages vitality and the expression of energy but the Uranus influence may push him towards unpredictable actions.  In more peaceable individuals, the Mars aspect could manifest as initiative directed towards constructive change.  In more stubborn Sun-Saturn individuals like Putin, however, Mars may be activating his need to make decisions on his own to protect his narrow interests. 

We can consult the horoscope of Ukraine for further clues about whether Russia will invade. As I have noted previously, Ukraine's revolution in February occurred just as transiting Saturn formed a near-exact square alignment with the Moon.  As the crisis has unfolded over the past two months, Mars has moved back through Virgo and has thereby aspected the North Node, Rahu, through its square aspect.  This is a very apt aspect for an ongoing situation that is marked with instability and violence.  During the course of the Mars retrograde cycle, Ukraine has seen its province of Crimea taken over by Russia as well as ongoing unrest in eastern cities like Donetsk.  The other key affliction here is that Ketu, the South Node, is in tight trine aspect with the stellium in early Leo, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and the Sun.  Ketu is a tricky influence at the best of times but it is in Aries here, which is ruled by Mars and Mars, of course, is too strong by virtue of its retrograde motion and destabilized by its opposition with Uranus.  That is a fairly problematic chain of significations for Ketu and hence its aspect to those four Leo planets is one big reason why the crisis is not abating. 

I am expecting the crisis to reach its peak tension in mid-May just before Mars returns to direct motion.  Mars is due to station direct at 15 Virgo on 19-20 May.  This will form an exact square aspect to the Ascendant (15 Sagittarius) as well as Uranus (16 Sagittarius).  Mars will be at its maximum intensity at this time so we should expect for an increase in the conflict and a probable rise in violence.  This is another piece of evidence that argues for the crisis to get worse before it gets better.  I would think an invasion by Russia becomes more likely given this very exact Mars-to-Ascendant aspect. 

Financial Markets Update

Despite the saber-rattling in Russia, markets were mostly flat last week as positive earnings reports kept buyers interested.  The Dow edged lower closing at 16,361 while the Indian Sensex moved slightly higher to 22,688.  The midweek Grand Cross alignment did not live up to its hype as markets did not move much.  While I thought this pattern could be significant, I was not convinced that we were going to see any big developments.  This skeptical view turned out to be correct as we only saw weakness come into the stock market in the late week. 

Interestingly, we are now on the leeward side of the Jupiter aspects to Uranus and Pluto as the Grand Cross begins to separate.  While these planetary alignments may not be reliable enough to set your watch to, they are useful barometers for general trends in sentiment.  When Jupiter forms a close angle with one or more of the outer planets, then markets tend to rise.  When it moves past the angle, markets become more tentative.  We are now entering into a post-Jupiter aspect phase now so there may be less bullish optimism available for investors to tap into. 

Aside from the possible diminishing influence of Jupiter, this week looks a bit mixed.  Venus enters Pisces on Sunday and Mercury aligns with Jupiter early in the week so we could see some upside.  However, we should note that Mars aligns with the Sun also during the week so that could coincide with more uncertainty and some downside.  It will be an informative test of the residual strength of post-Jupiter alignment this week.