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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Slow Rolling Crimea Crisis—A Good Path

For John, BLUFIt is a crisis far from home and V. Putin is setting the pace.  Let us hope he isn't stupid.

Today's Poll Question at The [Lowell] Sun is "Should the US use military force in the Ukraine?  The good news is that it is running 9 to 1 against.  The accompanying Editorial says:
A crisis?  In no ncertain terms.
But no reason to usher in another Cold War.
And, one would presume, a hot one.

Over at the web magazine, War on the Rocks is a piece by Mr Mark Safranski, "Let's Slow Roll Any Moves Toward Crimean War II."

One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States.  It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet.  We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.

Far from being entitled to do a victory lap, Putin’s mishandling of Ukraine has dealt Moscow a strategic defeat.  With artful bullying and a $15 billion bribe, Putin had pulled off a diplomatic coup by getting President Victor Yanukovych to reverse Ukraine’s nearly finalized deal with the European Union and align itself vaguely with Russia and Putin’s shabby League of Eurasian Dictators.  This would have been a tremendous strategic win for Russia to have Ukraine with its rich resources and key geographic location not only well-disposed to Moscow, but as a compliant satellite.  Much like Belarus, Ukraine would have been isolated from the West and dependent upon Russia.

Had Putin and Yanukovych left well enough alone the deal might have stuck, but instead they hastily tried to lock in their gains by creating a neo-siloviki regime around the uncharismatic Yanukovych through the passage of “the dictatorship laws”.  Unfortunately for Putin, as protests in Kiev exploded into mass demonstrations, Yanukovych proved spectacularly inept even as a puppet dictator, managing to be brutally murderous, hesitant, incompetent and cowardly enough to alienate foreign opinion, the Ukrainian military leadership, and even his own political base.  With Yanukovych having fled and now reduced to giving press conferences at Russian shopping malls, Putin decided to grab Crimea as a sort of a face-saving geopolitical consolation prize.

We do need to draw a line and we need to decide, along with our friends and allies, where that line should be.  Others are looking, including China.  Already, I suspect, Iran and North Korea have taken the lesson that you never give up nuclear weapons, as Ukraine did, in exchange for pledges of its independence and integrity being protected.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Current convention is "Ukraine", not "the Ukraine".  Who knew?

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