Monday, March 3, 2014

A few additional comments

Is it not extraordinary how many people who would not be able to tell the difference between Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv, let alone place them on the map, have now become experts on Ukrainian matters? It takes all my time just to avoid having discussions with them as these can lead nowhere.

Rumours about what is going on in Crimea abound with the Kremlin insisting the troops moved in to protect Russian civilians though no evidence of any attacks has been offered. Plus there was this:
Russia's military has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until dawn on Tuesday to surrender or face an assault, Ukrainian defence sources have said.

The head of Russia's Black Sea Fleet Aleksander Vitko set the deadline and also threatened two warships, Ukrainian officials said.

However, Interfax news agency later quoted a fleet spokesman who denied that any ultimatum had been issued.
Whom to believe? I suppose we shall know by tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, here are a few links worthy following up. An interesting analysis by Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian history and security. Having written before that he did not think Putin would take the Crimea because that would not be in his interests, he is now wondering whether the man has actually gone too far to draw back.
What, one might ask, is Moscow’s endgame? What does it want, and how likely is it to get it. The more it radicalises Kyiv, the less likely it is to get some wider political settlement. Instead, it might be forced to take Crimea if for no other reason than that it has to be seen to accomplish something, even if this is a pyrrhic victory, one which will only hurt Russia.

Here, after all, is the perverse and twisted irony of the situation. Strictly from a coldly logical position (and I am not advocating this, I should add), in many ways it is in Kyiv’s interests for Moscow to steal Crimea, and turn it into some pseudo-state or new part of the Russian Federation. Ukraine loses a sunny peninsula, but also a distinct drain on the state’s coffers (the Crimean economy is not great, and the region receives net subsidies from the centre). It sheds the most troublesome and Russophile of its regions, one which has been a turbulent locus of trouble for Kyiv for most of post-Soviet Ukraine’s history. It also gets concrete proof of the threat it faces from Russian bullying and probably accelerated and solicitous assistance from the US, EU, NATO, etc. It also validates every Ukrainian fear about Russia.
The question "what is Moscow's endgame" has been asked with increasing bewilderment by many people who actually do know where all those Ukrainian cities are.

Vladimir Kara-Murza's piece is a few days old but is still worth reading though I suspect there is a certain amount of wishful thinking there. Also a reminder by Timothy Snyder, who has been writing the best informed articles on the subject, that rearranging borders, hardly an unknown event in history, is fraught with difficulties, not least because other people might get the same idea. In this case, China might decide something not dissimilar in Siberia.

So what else is happening? The UN Security Council is meeting as we speak and NATO intends to have another meeting tomorrow. The EU is sending various threats though the UK for one has announced that it has no intention of breaking business relations with Russia and, presumably, of denying various visas to people who had voted to give the President the right to send troops into Ukraine.

The market has reacted though, as Russia is not the Soviet Union and is not outside world economy and the market forces. The rouble has hit a new low and the value of stocks and shares on the Moscow stock exchange has plummeted. Again.

As it happens, there is another player on the scene, one with historic connection to Crimea and that is Turkey. Various members of the Turkish government have been calling for the continued existence of a united Ukraine and for a restoration of stability. According to the Foreign Ministry, Turkey will do everything possible to ensure that Crimea remains in Ukraine. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has visited Kyiv, and has held meetings with the acting President, various other politicians and Former Chairman of The Crimean Tatars National Assembly and Ukrainian Deputy Mustafa Abdulcemil Kirimoglu. Apparently, it was a closed meeting so anything could have been decided. Will Turkey suddenly emerge as the protector of the Crimean Tatars?


  1. Very timely insights. I have read and listened to so much future prediction over the last few day, that I fully expected to see the Red Army of old come goose stepping down my street this morning here on the east coast of America. I appreciate your perspective as well as the links you are providing.

  2. I saw Hugh Edwards on the the 10 o'clock news on the BBC last night solemnly telling us that Ukraine wishes to join the EU. He did add a few caveats, but nonetheless the British public will now be left with the distinct impression that is what the whole crisis is about.

  3. A tad late, Helen - and off topic.

    May I say what a pleasure it is to have you back among us.

    You have been much missed.