Ukraine, Russia and the West

Ukraine is a post Soviet-Empire time-bomb on which the sticky finger marks of the EU and the US are visible. We are where we are (and as a normal citizen, I bottle up my irritation).

Looking around the net, it’s clear that a portion of Russia intelligence have come out spreading the received opinion of Putin’s narrative through online commenting of ‘high-brow’ papers. Some comments are embarrassingly pro-Russian. I suppose there is an irony here in that one of the affected papers, the Guardian, is running the campaign dealing with the activities of the NSA.

As far as the West is concerned, the background to this has two aspects: Ukrainian and Russian.

The Ukrainian perspective is likely to be influenced by events, still in living memory, of collectivisation, famine, the Great Terror, nationalist deviationist purges, post WWII ‘special deportee’ ethnic cleansing, and other (brotherly) accidents of Soviet history.

Ethnic Ukraine circa 1900

Ethnic Ukraine circa 1900*

Putin is managing Russian debt exposure to the Ukraine. The gamble is immense; a partition / division of Ukraine along language is a non-starter; where do you begin with Russians, Ukrainians, Russian speaking Ukrainians and Surzhyk (merged dialect), not to mention Tartars and other, smaller language groups.

Map showing level of  Surzhyk  use in Ukraine

Map showing level of Surzhyk use in Ukraine*

To wade in would trigger problems that would ruin the economic base of Ukraine. Why would he want a basket-case trading partner? What he’s doing is playing at hard-ball posturing. “Are you watching me Mr. West? Look at my stirring pictures of hand-picked and obviously armed men. I de-mothballed it last week.”
What does he get from this? Armed intervention is expensive. Posturing is cheap. These men are are already employed and the actions are a shoo-in. Posturing is popular even with the Russian poor
“Your president wastes your money on irrelevant wars; our president uses our money wisely by cocking-a-snook at your president.”

Territorial Evolution of Ukraine in twentieth century

Territorial Evolution of Ukraine in twentieth century*

The West
In today’s New York Times, Pressure rising as Obama works to rein in Russia paints a fairly balanced assessment of the Crimea crisis, and Putin’s involvement in it. It’s worthwhile taking a look at this article.

1) “It’s the most important, most difficult foreign-policy test of his presidency,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who became under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. “The stakes are very high for the president because he is the NATO leader. There’s no one in Europe who can approach him in power. He’s going to have to lead.”

The White House take on the EU, although uncomplimentary, is one I’d agree with. The EU are a talking shop. If Russia decided to act, that’s all they’d do. But for peacekeeping purposes, the EU is about as functional as a chocolate fireguard. Unfortunately, on this issue, Washington aren’t that far away from Brussels. If they’ve gamed this, they’ve gamed the wrong things. (Maybe it’s time for better discipline in the keyboard warriors of Washington.)

2) Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,”

3) Germany, however, publicly expressed opposition to expulsion, (from the G8) an ominous sign for Mr. Obama since any meaningful pressure would need support from Berlin.

What kind of power is she (and Germany) projecting? This is the EU’s greatest economic nation and her position is essentially toothless. Is Germany in the real world?

Back to the real world.
As we know, truth is the first casualty of those intelligence bunkers. Doubtless there are some who actually do want to rejoin Mother Bear; even though it’s tempting to speculate on how easy it is for the nearby bases to help spontaneous pro-Russian demonstrations. It wouldn’t be the first use of unmarked servicemen. Putin-bots aside, has Putin a clue about nation building? The signs are that he’s bought into his own personality cult; this isn’t promising.

Ukraine will tie Russia down long after Putin’s gone.

*based on Wikipedia image

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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