So there is some stuff going on in Eastern Europe these days, and I thought we could talk about it!What happened?
Back in November, the the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, unexpectedly cancelled a trade deal with the European Union. Right after that, Russian promised to loan Ukraine $15 billion and give it discounts on gas. Many people saw this as Russia trying to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence.
So then protests started in Kiev, the capital. In response, the government passed anti-protest laws, and things escalated from there, with some protesters dead. Not long after, Yanukovych fled the country for Russia, and a new Ukrainian government was formed.So everything is good, right?
No! Russia, which has a naval base in Ukraine, was not pleased with these events. In eastern Ukraine is an area called Crimea, which is made up of mostly ethnic Russians, who favor closer ties with Russia. Russian troops have entered Crimea, technically to "protect" the ethnic Russians there. In response, the EU and the US have imposed sanctions, and here we are!Is Ukraine Weak?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzLtF_PxbYw
"w-well we voted to invade and I said we totally were gonna b-b-but those aren't our troops in Crimea"
Meanwhile the Potemkin Village that is the Putin Economic Recovery starts to implode under the mere threat of sanctions.
When your only trump card is energy exports, it's hard as fuck to play it while also deriving more than half your public spending from energy revenues. Especially when the U.S. just became a gas exporter again, unshackling Western Europe from Gazprom.
Putin is actually pretty godawful at just about anything when he can't get his way by fiat of overwhelming power - see: the economy, foreign relations, social policy, electoral politics
What Russia wants is respect, but I would hazard that fear will do in a pinch. Most of the Western USSR and Warsaw Pact have integrated with the EU and/or NATO, lifting them away from Russia's sphere of influence. The two major outliers are Belarus and Ukraine. Belarus is quite firmly in Russia's corner, entering into that economic union Russia's trying to set up, but Ukraine is not.
I journey into speculation now, but the new Government's pro-EU stance left Putin nervous, because he thinks they might also join NATO, and having that much of Russia bordering NATO* is intolerable, because they see NATO as a US-led measure to limit Russian influence, which it kinda was back in the day.
My belief is that the ideal situation for Putin would probably have been Yanukovych or someone with a philosophical affinity with him steering Ukraine back into closer ties with Russia, and by his constant hammering of how "illegitimate" the current government is, I think their intent was to try and bully Ukraine into reversing the course. Seizing the Crimea on its own is not a really attractive prize because it is in considerable need of investment that Brussels could have picked up the tab, so there has also been a fair bit of propaganda in Southern and Eastern Ukraine, which while not as densely Ethnically Russian as Crimea still has a sizeable chunk. There is speculation he'd be willing to spark a civil war so East Ukraine either secedes from the west or joins Russia outright, although my gut would be the former: Russian and Soviet doctrine from the end of WW2 has been to have a lot of buffer states lying between it and the West, to take the hit while the motherland mobilizes. That was one of the main reasons for the Warsaw Pact.
Of course we can all agree that his stated reasons for intervention and the baffling denial that Russian troops aren't in the wider Crimea are blatant falsehoods, and this referendum which translates to "heads I win tails you lose" will not be recognised by anybody, but it misses something important: Putin doesn't care. He wants Russia to be strong. To drop a cheesy line however, I don't think having to actually deploy troops to get what you want is an act done from a position of strength.
*Latvia and Estonia are both EU and NATO members and border Russia, while Poland and Lithuania encircle the Kaliningrad Exclave. I think that sticks in his maw already.
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Republican senators tell Fifa Russia must be kicked out of 2014 World Cup
Calling a Glaswegian English is my go to explanation for how much of a faux pas that is.
This also jeopardizes Russia's and Ukraine's economically interdependent relationship. The new government isn't pro-Russian as was the previous government, but it's hard to believe they wouldn't have attempted to maintain cordial relations with Russia for practical reasons. Ukraine has always been dependent on Russia for several reasons, and that wouldn't have changed overnight regardless of what any Ukrainians might like. Assuming this blows over Ukraine might end up still trying to be cordial to Russia for practical reasons, but I imagine they're going to be looking for ways to cut the economic ties between the two countries.
How much would you say access to Sevastopol has to do with all this?
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Yeah I mean literally hanging up pictures of Hitler is certainly a step away from being a fascist.
When in doubt, remember that Russia will always do anything to get a warm water port.
access to Sevastopol is literally the only reason for any of this
I guarantee you Putin gives exactly zero percent of a shit about the Russians in the Crimea
[Disclaimer: I am no Eastern European expert, just someone who's been following the situation with interest, so don't be surprised if I get it wrong]
I think the strategic implications was definitely a factor, albeit not an all-consuming one. In previous centuries Russia has had difficulty obtaining a "Warm Water" Port - a port whose waters remain unfrozen all year round - that allows access to the global trade routes. Even Sevastopol is not flawless, as WW1 showed that it is at the mercy of whoever controls the Bosphorus straights (i.e. Turkey). I think its importance lessened a little when Königsberg was given to the USSR and renamed Kaliningrad after WW2, but rather than move from one port to the other, they made heavy use of both, and why not?
There are other ports on the Black Sea, but none that are currently capable of housing the fleet Russia has stationed there, and it's more centrally located, allowing for more flexible deployment options. I don't know if Russia got nervous that Ukraine would unilaterally chuck the agreement over Sevastopol. My instincts still point to the wider political goals taking precedent over direct strategic concerns.
To coin a Bushian argument, there is also speculation of another motive for it: That Crimea joining Russia would give Russia the rights to the oil and gas fields in the Black Sea that are currently in Ukrainian territorial waters. I dunno how much credence I give this compared to the wider goal, but it would lessen the pain of having to dump money into the region.
While I agree with your last point, that Ethnic Russians are mainly a tool to be used to further his aims, no matter how Sudetenisch* this makes him look, I still assign more importance on preserving and expanding Russian political influence than the port itself.
*This is a comparison I can make without the spectre of Godwin: Putin's stated reason for intervention bears a striking resemblance to the Sudetenland Crisis, that Ethnic Origin and identity take precedence over National Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity. I'm not the only one to notice:
The fact remains that one of the three major political parties behind the protests is openly neo-nazi, that the first act of a bunch of protestors after Yanokovich was ousted was to hang a number of white supremacist flags (including, interestingly, Confederate flags) in government buildings. This is not simply a case of big old Russia stomping some protests. Those nationalist protestors, many of them, are asserting their national identity not just against Putin's Russia, but also against the fact that Russia was the country that defeated Nazi Germany in WWII. Naziism is seen by many in the new government as the way to assert their independent identity.
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Moreover, if the West fails to help and the Crimea splits off, then all it will do is cement the Neo-Nazis' power and popularity as the party of revanchism and national pride. If we help, we stand a better chance of influencing the government in favor of the ones we actually like.
Fifa ha ha ha ha
Really you would better asking Putin for cookies than a favour from Fifa
The thing I find really scary is Ukraine's army is really fence sitting
Ukraine's Army is doing the smartest thing they can by refusing to open fire on the Russians. If they shoot, Putin will immediately declare an intervention to stop the massacre of "local self-defense militias," whereas if they abandon their positions the Russians won't need to intervene at all.
By just sitting in their bases and daring the Russians to shoot them they're getting the best of all possible worlds.
Afaik the Ukranian Army itself is relatively loyal (they refused to come down on the protestors, which makes them de facto an ally of Kiev and not Yanukovych), it's the Navy which has been defecting.
Also this is a kind of interesting episode between the surrounded Ukranian troops and the not-Russians, where the Ukranians marched out unarmed carrying their regimental flags and dared the Russians to shoot them down.
At 1:00 the Ukranian soldier demands "Will you shoot at the Soviet flag?", which is a hell of an interesting appeal to their common history.
They are a legitimate concern, as are any far right party, but in a representational electoral system (Ukraine uses mixed party), the fringes will be represented more often than in First Past the Post systems like the UK or US. Unfortunately their mere existence has been fuel for the Russian Media, who even before the revolution were painting the entire protests as facists and Neo-Nazis. As DG said however, I think Russia really made their views much less significant by this unilateral action.
Are they fence sitting? From what I've seen apart from that one Admiral apparently defecting - and I'm still not sure that was not at implied gunpoint - Ukraine's armed forces have responded to Kiev's requests. What they haven't done is launch an offensive, which right now is the best move: Georgia made the first move in South Ossetia, and this was enough for Russia to justify a response. Ukraine's military have so far not given Russia any pretense to attack the mainland.
I'm surprised Republicans acknowledge not-'mericuh football as a thing that exists.
And the EU as well, which for a European Far Right party is practically unique.
No silly, you've got it all wrong. They're hanging them as reminders of what NOT to do...
They know they're powerless because no-one on the planet takes them seriously at all, but they want to look like they're doing something against Putin to their constituents. It also draws a tenuous link between the "commie soviet Ruskies" and "fairy pretend football for wusses and queers" that will put a smile on said constituents collective dials. "Gat-danged reds should just play a real mans sport and there wouldn't be any of this aggression because they'd get it all out on the field."