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The Cold War Revives, Heats-Up
February 28, 2014 2:53 PM   Subscribe


 
And what is 'The Budapest Memorandum?'

I'm going to guess a Robert Ludlum Novel.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:05 PM on February 28 [42 favorites]


No, it's the after-action report on Hawkeye and Black Widow's trip to Hungary.
posted by axiom at 3:06 PM on February 28 [9 favorites]


Does anyone in the world now actually believe that Obama's warnings are backed by anything other than bluster?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:15 PM on February 28 [7 favorites]


A very good selection of articles, Sevastopol's naval base is truly important for Russia with the access to warm water it provides. Viktor Yanukovitch had agreed to let the Russians use the base until 2042, will the new government cancel the agreement? One thing is sure, it won't let Russia stay beyond 2042 and it will get closer to NATO forces.
posted by lite at 3:18 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Quietly occupying an airport and encouraging it to continue operating normally is not something political protesters do.

Seizing control of the airport is standard operating procedure for a coup d'etat. (A Practical Handbook) It's something the Russian armed forces like to do immediately upon entering a politically ambiguous situation (see the Pristina Airport Incident in Kosovo).
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:19 PM on February 28 [16 favorites]


The world knows that America has spent so much money, time, and manpower in Iraq and Afghanistan that we have neither the will nor the means to intervene militarily.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:20 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Does anyone in the world now actually believe that Obama's warnings are backed by anything other than bluster?

Well, he only said there would be unspecified "costs". Those costs are probably only that Putin will have to listen to a couple more nattering Obama speeches and maybe a phone call from Biden.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:20 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]


Russia invaded Georgia and the world did nothing. The USA only picks fights with countries that can't fight back and Putin knows it.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:21 PM on February 28 [18 favorites]


May you live in interesting times.
posted by Trochanter at 3:21 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]


The poor Ukrainians. Christ.
posted by rtha at 3:23 PM on February 28 [33 favorites]


The "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" is a diplomatic memorandum that was signed in December 1994 by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

It is not a formal treaty, but rather, a diplomatic document under which signatories made promises to each other as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


TFA is your friend.
posted by spitbull at 3:23 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


boo obama

boo
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:23 PM on February 28


Shit. All my Neocon Bingo card is missing is a spurious analogy to World War II.
posted by indubitable at 3:23 PM on February 28 [13 favorites]


Does anyone in the world now actually believe that Obama's warnings are backed by anything other than bluster?

It's a striking difference in approach. Obama makes large statements then acts in a restrained way. Putin doesn't talk too much then makes major moves. I'm guessing that the Russians just don't believe that NATO will start a shooting war over a limited coup in Crimea.

An act is being pushed in the Duma to allow foreign territories to join the Russian Federation after a referendum. There's a referendum on Crimean status scheduled for May 25 by the Crimean government supported by the Kremlin (as can be seen in the RT coverage).

Russia's plan: There's going to be a referendum. Russia will win it (especially given that their men will be counting the votes, but probably actually win it as well). Russia will admit Crimea to the Russian Federation as a matter of self-determination of the Crimean government/people.

Oh, and they are handing out passports. Given that the Russian constitution requires military intervention to protect Russian nationals, that's a none too subtle threat.
posted by jaduncan at 3:24 PM on February 28 [23 favorites]


we have neither the will nor the means to intervene militarily.

Thank God for small favors. But I could do without the spurious "red line in the sand" bullshit.
posted by spitbull at 3:24 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


I really feel bad for the Ukrainians, but I'm not quite sure what the "Obama is a pussy" statements point towards. Do people want to the United States to threaten to go to war with Russia?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:27 PM on February 28 [94 favorites]


Do people want to the United States to threaten to go to war with Russia?

It's as though people yearn for the days not long past when we had a doofus wannabe-cowboy for a president.
posted by indubitable at 3:31 PM on February 28 [87 favorites]


Do people want to the United States to threaten to go to war with Russia?

Surely not, there's no point doing so. Nobody would believe it given that NATO policy for the last 50+ years has been to avoid a shooting war with Russia.

I would assume people just mean that the transparently meaningless threats are bit pointless.
posted by jaduncan at 3:34 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


This article (linked in one of the articles in the FPP) provides some additional context, mainly by comparing the situation in Crimea to South Ossetia in 2008.
posted by twirlip at 3:36 PM on February 28


It's as though people yearn for the days not long past when we had a doofus wannabe-cowboy for a president.

All wars are dumb and shitty. I believe that. But, if we're going to go do dumb shitty things I wish we hadn't done those dumb, shitty things. These dumb, shitty things may have proven preferable had we gone down this particular dumb, shitty road instead of that dumb, shitty one.

The above is only certain parts dumb, shitty internet snark.

Thank you, goodnight, and God bless America.
posted by sendai sleep master at 3:36 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


The threats are not meaningless, they're entirely transparent. When Obama says there will be costs, he probably just means Russia will lose some profit it might otherwise have made. Cost of doing business-level losses, I assume.
posted by clockzero at 3:36 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't want a third world war, but making vague threats that everyone knows are empty just makes it more difficult to accomplish tough goals without force in the future.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:38 PM on February 28




The red line is the boundaries of NATO. The NATO powers credibly threaten that an attack on any member country will be met with force, up to and including nuclear war.

One of the main reasons NATO was not extended to include Ukraine and Georgia was that extending that promise of protection to countries deep inside the traditional Russian sphere of influence would raise the risk of nuclear war in the event that something like this happened.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:39 PM on February 28 [24 favorites]


The USA only picks fights with countries that can't fight back and Putin knows it.

Yeah, because Putin "knows" a lot of stuff that's blatantly false.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:40 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


(Also, um, hey guys, real diplomacy goes on behind closed doors. Presidential speeches are for American ears.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:42 PM on February 28 [68 favorites]


Why is it important that Ukraine stays as it is? From the sound of the folks I heard on NPR last night, what is Ukraine should probably be two countries, as the east is Russian, and the west, Ukranian. Why the desire to mash these two clearly divergent social populations together?
posted by Windopaene at 3:43 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag...

On Thursday, masked gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading "Crimea is Russia" in Simferopol...


Kinda sounds like they might not be actual Russian troops, but pro-Russian Ukranians trying to force some action. I expect if Russia decides to go in there'll be no question whether it's actually them or not.
posted by echo target at 3:43 PM on February 28


Why is it important that Ukraine stays as it is? From the sound of the folks I heard on NPR last night, what is Ukraine should probably be two countries, as the east is Russian, and the west, Ukranian. Why the desire to mash these two clearly divergent social populations together?

This is a very good question.

However, once you begin looking at the world this way, you realize pretty quickly that there could be about three times as many nations as there are right now if the principle were extended universally. That's not an argument against it, just an observation which might inform our attempts to understand high-level political decision-making.
posted by clockzero at 3:45 PM on February 28 [12 favorites]


First shot fired in the twitter/facebook war!
posted by telstar at 3:47 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


This is happening because the only thing more ridiculous that Putin trying to pass this off as something other than the annexation of Crimea is hearing someone from the United States talk about the importance of non-intervention while Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria smolder in the distance.
posted by deanklear at 3:51 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]


To a first order, the people who live somewhere should have the right of self-determination.
posted by Slothrup at 3:52 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Thank god we had those Sochi Olympics to celebrate international harmony and brotherhood!
posted by stargell at 3:52 PM on February 28 [11 favorites]


...NATO policy for the last 50+ years has been to avoid a shooting war with Russia.

Kudos to them for not falling victim to one of the most famous of classic blunders.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:53 PM on February 28 [17 favorites]


Oh, and they are handing out passports. Given that the Russian constitution requires military intervention to protect Russian nationals, that's a none too subtle threat.

Is it true that this extends to the whole of Ukraine, and not only Crimea? Holdout towns and cities in the east stacked with Russian citizens would be explosive.
posted by Thing at 3:55 PM on February 28


Clearly war with Russia is not an option. Having just been watching a show about how the First World War got started, it's a good thing it's not an option that anyone is considering.

The question is whether we would do anything at all other than wag our fingers at them.
posted by philipy at 3:55 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


the east is Russian, and the west, Ukranian. Why the desire to mash these two clearly divergent social populations together?

I believe the reason the East is Russian is because of a purposeful Russian program to make it so: encouraging Russian citizens to move there, issuing Russian passports to Ukranians there, etc. So it may very well be the will of the majority of people in the area to join Russia, but it doesn't seem entirely fair how they got that way. It's kind of parallel to a giant corporation buying up competitors so they can kill their products.

That ship's probably sailed as far as Ukraine goes, but it'd set a bad precedent that it's okay to nibble off bits of your neighbor's country.
posted by echo target at 3:56 PM on February 28 [9 favorites]


Kinda sounds like they might not be actual Russian troops, but pro-Russian Ukranians trying to force some action.

I kind of hope they are Russian troops ... because otherwise there are well-armed, well-trained, autonomous paramilitary forces seizing public buildings in defiance of the new regime in Kiev, and that seems like a recipe for civil war.
posted by twirlip at 3:56 PM on February 28 [7 favorites]


It's an unfortunate situation, but it is also deeply revealing. When your only concept of diplomacy is "Drop a bomb on it!," coming up against an adversary your own size is somewhat flummoxing.

If Russia didn't have so many weapons of mass destruction, we'd be hearing a lot about how many weapons of mass destruction they have right now.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:56 PM on February 28 [90 favorites]


Sevastopol's naval base is truly important for Russia

As someone who spent many hours playing F-19 Stealth Fighter and throwing AGM-65s at the sub pens there, I can vouch for this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:56 PM on February 28 [14 favorites]


Looks like James Blunt will have to save us from World War III, again.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:57 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


I kind of hope they are Russian troops

They look too uniformly equipped not to be nation state backed at the very least. Actual militias generally look like a shower of shit because they have whatever equipment they can quickly lay their hands on.
posted by jaduncan at 3:58 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


This is pretty serious, and sad for the Ukranian people, and not really all that funny in like a Let's Make Our Best Nerdy Jokes way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:59 PM on February 28 [46 favorites]


There's a growing sentiment to initiate perpetual Summer and Winter Olympics every year to keep war threats and actual invasions at bay.

Peace-inducing universal national competition seems to keep the hormones occupied. Hell, even Hitler put off world conquering until after his Games.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 4:01 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Is it true that this extends to the whole of Ukraine, and not only Crimea? Holdout towns and cities in the east stacked with Russian citizens would be explosive.

Hard to know based on the info coming out (that I've seen, anyhow). When they were doing Georgia the offer only extended to Abkhaz and South Ossetians though, and in the past it's just been in the areas in dispute.

The idea is to have a justification to enter the areas they want, so the constitutional requirement to intervene to protect nationals plus the explosiveness is the general plan.
posted by jaduncan at 4:02 PM on February 28


...you realize pretty quickly that there could be about three times as many nations as there are right now if the principle were extended universally.

It's worse than that. Ethnic/cultural diversity is fractal. Every population has "clearly divergent social populations" within it. Start dividing up a community along ethnic lines and you end up dividing cities up by neighborhood, that or start ethnic cleansing.

the people who live somewhere should have the right of self-determination.

I agree only if you mean that the individual human beings who live in a region should get to freely vote on sovereignty.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:03 PM on February 28 [9 favorites]


Is it time to start reciting The Charge of the Light Brigade? Guns to the right of them, guns to the left? A new Crimean War anyone?
posted by njohnson23 at 4:03 PM on February 28


Those are Russian troops. And there are several thousand of them. And they are not hiding. I wish MF didn't feel so American centric. I think the American perspective is very useful right now, but the actors here are the EU, the IMF, and Russia. And Ukrainians are stuck in the middle.
posted by stonepharisee at 4:05 PM on February 28 [18 favorites]




To a first order, the people who live somewhere should have the right of self-determination.

To a first order, that's a reasonable enough goal, but reality is a lot more complicated. The Confederacy didn't get to exist as an independent nation thanks to the Civil War (US) for instance. Separatist movements are traditionally frowned upon because building a useful nation requires some degree of cooperation between regions with different needs and resources. If everyone gets to plunder the country for the bits they find really valuable and refuse to support the rest, then the whole thing collapses. Add in the often tenuous connections and dependencies that various ethnic and cultural groups from killing each other, and you quickly realize the chaos that would ensue if everyone had the complete right to self-determination from the national to the local level.

There's certainly value in self-determination, but that doesn't mean that if Iowa holds a big vote and decides it wants to be a part of Canada, we all have some kind of obligation to make it actually happen.
posted by zachlipton at 4:08 PM on February 28 [8 favorites]


It's also not that simple because of Stalin's efforts a couple of generations ago to starve or deport significant parts of the Ukrainian population.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:09 PM on February 28 [14 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: ... not really all that funny in like a Let's Make Our Best Nerdy Jokes way.

If you have a more effective plan of action in mind than "cope as best one can in a bad situation using gallows humor", I'm all ears.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:09 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


Those are Russian troops. And there are several thousand of them. And they are not hiding.

The landing of 13 military flights after seizing the airport would be a bit of a give away for most people, yes.
posted by jaduncan at 4:10 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


cope as best one can in a bad situation using gallows humor

Oh sure random Americans on metafilter are having a really tough time coping with this.
posted by ryanrs at 4:12 PM on February 28 [29 favorites]


From Wikipedia:

All Crimean Tatars were deported en masse, in a form of collective punishment, on 18 May 1944 as "special settlers" to Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic and other distant parts of the Soviet Union.[30] The decree "On Crimean Tatars" describes the resettlement as a very humane procedure. The reality described by the victims in their memoirs was different. 46.3% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.[citation needed] This event is called Sürgün in the Crimean Tatar language. Many of them were re-located to toil as indentured workers in the Soviet GULAG system

In the present context, the Tartars are about 12% of the population, largely returnees, who loathe Russia and have very strong feelings about this.
posted by stonepharisee at 4:12 PM on February 28 [14 favorites]


Putin scares me in that 'the fucker would slaughter newborns if it were in his self-interest" kind of way
posted by angrycat at 4:13 PM on February 28 [14 favorites]


The full text of Obama's remarks:

Good afternoon, everybody.

Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine. Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.

I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we've made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.

However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.

*It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violence [violation]of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.

Right now, the situation remains very fluid. Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister - the Prime Minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine. I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations.

We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies. We will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government. And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.

Thanks very much.

posted by cell divide at 4:14 PM on February 28 [8 favorites]


It's also worth noting that Russia is in a really good military position. The people wondering why the military threats are laughable should note that following through on this would entail bombing the Russian Black Sea Fleet through a quite impressively large array of AA guns and missiles. It's not very likely that the bombers would actually do much against the threat, and a war with Russia would definitely have started.
posted by jaduncan at 4:14 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


I may be thick here, but I'm not getting it. If Mexico sent in a couple hundred gunmen to occupy the Phoenix airport, say (this is clearly entirely hypothetical) there'd be a diplomatic call for them to leave, and if they didn't go, there would be a military strike. Why so few men? Why just an airport? Isn't the airport clearly within the boundaries of The Ukraine? What do people really expect to happen here (other than Ukranian soldiers defending their country's territorial integrity?)
posted by newdaddy at 4:16 PM on February 28


This is pretty serious, and sad for the Ukranian people, and not really all that funny in like a Let's Make Our Best Nerdy Jokes way.

I'm uncertain if I'm included in this and, frankly, I admit that my earlier comment was flippant enough to probably be rightfully included.

It's just that I don't have the confidence to pretend I know more than what I'm trying to synthesize out of the news reports at the moment, outright dismay still seems premature, and I can't help but feeling like my country, the US, is in such a damned if you do etc. position vis a vis what we can do to help these people.

I know that "doing something positive" is all relative when one is talking international politics but, my god, I feel like if "doing something positive" was a television and The United States was a cartoon character that every god damn time I turned the thing on to check on the character for over a decade, there he is, slipping on a banana, off a cliff, cue slide whistle.

So, please, know I am earnest when I say this:

I hope this situation pans out as best it can for the lives and well being of the Ukrainian people. God help them if we're one of their few options in one way or another.
posted by sendai sleep master at 4:16 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


I may be thick here, but I'm not getting it. If Mexico sent in a couple hundred gunmen to occupy the Phoenix airport, say (this is clearly entirely hypothetical) there'd be a diplomatic call for them to leave, and if they didn't go, there would be a military strike. Why so few men? Why just an airport? Isn't the airport clearly within the boundaries of The Ukraine? What do people really expect to happen here (other than Ukranian soldiers defending their country's territorial integrity?)

There are over 10,000 men in Sevastopol with an entire fleet of warships, artillery, subs and enough ammo to fight a major regional conflict. It's an airport so that nothing can be flown in by anyone but Russia. The troops probably have AA missiles for this reason.
posted by jaduncan at 4:18 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


"cope as best one can in a bad situation using gallows humor"

There's a difference between Samuel Beckett and nerdy humor because failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation, or too detached from it to actually care.

If people were going for the former, I'd say they're mostly missing the mark.
posted by philipy at 4:18 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


The idea is to have a justification to enter the areas they want, so the constitutional requirement to intervene to protect nationals plus the explosiveness is the general plan.

Well aye, but all it would take is a handful of pro-West hotheads to settle on "liberating" an area in the east and the whole lot would get out of anybody's control. It's one thing to have justification to enter, another thing to be dragged. It's easy for Russia to make excuses for "protecting Crimea", but not elsewhere. Which makes me think, like you say, they'll only offer passports in those areas they definitely want to enter.
posted by Thing at 4:21 PM on February 28


See, this is why you're obliged to act morally. So when stuff like this happens, and you condemn a nation, you speak with some sort of moral authority.

How can the West condemn anybody when we've been running roughshod over the middle east as we have.

It seems to be that in the world countries just do what they have the strength to do, and we're the exemplars.
posted by Trochanter at 4:21 PM on February 28 [17 favorites]


> I may be thick here, but I'm not getting it.

In this bizarre analogy, the might of the US Military will be played by the current rag tag and concussed Ukranian state forces (or those who side with the government). The role of Mexico will be played by Russia, who are rather ferocious and militarily vastly vastly superior to the Ukraine.
posted by stonepharisee at 4:22 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


If Mexico sent in a couple hundred gunmen to occupy the Phoenix airport

This is more like if the US decided to take over a piece of Mexico. What is Mexico going to do, go for all out war? Maybe not.

Also Ukraine barely has a functioning government at this point. The people in place are newly appointed, and it is not clear what support they have from the various forces and factions.
posted by philipy at 4:23 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]


Snap Philipy
posted by stonepharisee at 4:23 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Well aye, but all it would take is a handful of pro-West hotheads to settle on "liberating" an area in the east and the whole lot would get out of anybody's control. It's one thing to have justification to enter, another thing to be dragged. It's easy for Russia to make excuses for "protecting Crimea", but not elsewhere. Which makes me think, like you say, they'll only offer passports in those areas they definitely want to enter.

Yeah, pretty much. The passports also come with state pensions for the old (as they are new Russian nationals) so there's also a financial reason not to give too many away.
posted by jaduncan at 4:23 PM on February 28


It's also worth noting that Russia is in a really good military position. The people wondering why the military threats are laughable should note that this would entail bombing the Russian Black Sea Fleet through a quite impressively large array of AA guns and missiles. It's not very likely that the bombers would actually do much against the threat, and a war with Russia would definitely have started.

We could sink the entire fleet at stand off range if we wished. However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups. The VVS would throw everything at us.

Having said that, war is not an option for any of these states--including the US. The ruble would be savaged (its already dropping) on the world exchange markets. From my understanding, these armed men are Russian security contractors from the naval base. Putin cannot just roll on in there when he guaranteed the borders.

What I think this is really about is the reversion to the 2004 constitution, which had the Crimea as a less autonomous region. Putin wants to make sure that it stays in its current formation.

This is really a bad spot for Putin. Traditionally, the Russians have had large buffer states of Slavs between them and the West--Stalin's entire strategy from his own writings, was based on creating such a buffer between him and the West. If Ukraine is part of the West, that buffer is gone.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:24 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


This is disturbing.
posted by homunculus at 4:25 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


We could sink the entire fleet at stand off range if we wished. However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups. The VVS would throw everything at us.

Quite possibly (although the subs would be harder, and might well have a good go at the carrier groups). But sinking the entire Black Sea Fleet really would have started a *major* shooting war with Russia. To do that for Crimea would be insane. You're left with a pointless minor strike or all out war.
posted by jaduncan at 4:26 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]




Again, America is not much of an actor here. All out war is not going to happen, because the principal friction is between the EU and Russia.
posted by stonepharisee at 4:30 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Just keep an eye on the land bridges at Armyansk and north of Dzankoi. At the moment Russia controls the air and sea entry points. Seal the land bridges and they are done and can sit there until the referendum.
posted by jaduncan at 4:35 PM on February 28




I believe the reason the East is Russian is because of a purposeful Russian program to make it so: encouraging Russian citizens to move there, issuing Russian passports to Ukranians there, etc.

A purposeful Soviet program, for just this reason -- implanting a bunch of people more loyal to the central government helps keep the local self-determination movement down. Putin is very good at taking the effects of Soviet programs and applying them well to modern Russia.
posted by Etrigan at 4:37 PM on February 28 [6 favorites]


Just once I'd like to see other influential world powers take the initiative when dealing with blustering threats put forth by bullies. Almost every country in the world is resentful of the US of A for constant meddling in other peeps stuff.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 4:45 PM on February 28


Hell, even Hitler put off world conquering until after his Games.

He'd only been in power for a couple of years, and he was already occupying the Rhineland and providing military assistance to Spain -- "coincidentally" putting the kibosh on the People's Olympiad that had been organized by people protesting Hitler using the Olympics as his personal PR stunt and was attracting half again as many athletes as Berlin.
posted by Etrigan at 4:45 PM on February 28


Somewhat relatedly, a fellow Mefite wrote a very good piece the other day about what he calls the Kremlin's "fascist antifascism" which sketches that idea out by examining a chilling recent television segment. I confess I have no idea what Russia will do in this situation, and I kind of figure he'd have more useful things to say here; but I found this very interesting and worth reading:
The Great Patriotic War is more important as an ideological keystone now than it has been in decades, and its categories—fascist, collaborator, patriot—are a means of understanding politics as well as justifying repression. This is why the Maidan’s far right wing is such an ideally-positioned target for the Kremlin’s fascist antifascism. Who better to demonstrate the link between United States foreign policy, liberal protest politics, and the supposed resurgence of Nazis and “pogromists” in Europe? Hence the YouTube videos of Russians in the Crimean city of Kerch, waving banners with crossed-out swastikas and chanting “Fascism will not pass” (that is, ¡No pasarán!) as they pelt the city’s few Maidan supporters with food and kick them in the face as they flee... What you see here are not just the familiar totalitarian tropes—the threat of the external enemy, the fifth column, the association between liberalism and spinelessness, Jewishness, effeminacy, cowardice. They also openly present to us the spectrum of targets the regime sees as fair game.
"What Kind of Target Are You?"
posted by koeselitz at 4:46 PM on February 28 [13 favorites]


Given that it's 1 March and there are months of warm weather ahead, the West's (well, Europe's) best plan might be to quietly give up on Crimea but organize as many non-Russian sources of energy as possible for the next winter. Russia would be pretty vulnerable to an economic embargo and it would make them more pliant without the need for violence. Of course, I don't think even the most herculean effort could supply Europe without imports from Russia.
posted by Thing at 4:47 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


It's worse than that. Ethnic/cultural diversity is fractal. Every population has "clearly divergent social populations" within it. Start dividing up a community along ethnic lines and you end up dividing cities up by neighborhood, that or start ethnic cleansing.

I'm not sure that the slope is quite so slippery, but I do agree that any given country in the modern world is likely to be home to easily more than three distinct ethnic groups who might, under the right circumstances, want to formalize their differences.
posted by clockzero at 4:47 PM on February 28


> I believe the reason the East is Russian is because of a purposeful Russian program to make it so

No, this is not true. The reason the East is Russian is because of a long history of being settled by Russians; there was never a Ukrainian-speaking majority there. Ukraine has a very complicated history, and there's no point trying to grasp the situation with irrelevant analogies to Mexico or whatever. During the Civil War that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, Kiev changed hands a couple of dozen times; to quote Wikipedia:
As the area of Ukraine fell into warfare and anarchy, it was also fought over by German and Austrian forces, the Red Army of Bolshevik Russia, the White Forces of General Denikin, the Polish Army, anarchists led by Nestor Makhno. Kiev itself was occupied by many different armies. The city was captured by the Bolsheviks on 9 February 1918, by the Germans on 2 March 1918, by the Bolsheviks a second time on 5 February 1919, by the White Army on 31 August 1919, by Bolsheviks for a third time on 15 December 1919, by the Polish Army on 6 May 1920, and finally by the Bolsheviks for the fourth time on 12 June 1920.
Richard Pipes wrote:
The year 1919 in Ukraine was a period of complete anarchy. The entire territory fell apart into innumerable regions isolated from each other and the rest of the world, dominated by armed bands of peasants or freebooters who looted and murdered with utter impunity.
After that Ukraine was whipsawed by the changing Soviet policies on nationalities (one week's pampered viceroys were shot for treason the next week), decimated by Stalin's deliberate starvation (the holodomor), and further decimated by WWII (in which many Ukrainians initially welcomed the Nazis because they thought they couldn't possibly be worse than the Soviets, only to discover their mistake). Ukrainian partisans went on fighting the Red Army for years after the war was over. There are endlessly complicated intertwinings of language, religion, culture, and personal allegiances. It's just as complicated as the Middle East and requires just as much humility of approach. And talk about "the right of self-determination" is so simplistic as to be laughable.
posted by languagehat at 4:54 PM on February 28 [73 favorites]


Somewhat relatedly, a fellow Mefite wrote a very good piece the other day about what he calls the Kremlin's "fascist antifascism" which sketches that idea out by examining a chilling recent television segment.

Wow, I didn't know Greg wrote for n+1! Good for him.
posted by clockzero at 4:59 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


So Russia invades and essentially creates a mini East Bloc country puts Viktor in power all in the name of self-determination. Always fighting past wars.... Putin may as well just reinstate the Soviet system and quit pretending.
posted by edgeways at 4:59 PM on February 28


Oh, and with regard to this from the "what is so dangerous about Crimea" linK:
Russia has been the dominant power in Crimea for most of the past 200 years, since it annexed the region in 1783. However, it was transferred by Moscow to Ukraine - then part of the Soviet Union - in 1954.
That was Khrushchev's own personal hobbyhorse; his biographer William Taubman wrote:
A decade before Khrushchev extracted the Crimea from Russia and benevolently presented it to Ukraine (thus ensuring trouble between the two after the collapse of the USSR in 1991), he tried to pull off the same trick in 1944. What gave him an opening was the Crimea's need for Ukrainian peasants to replace the Crimean Tatars Stalin had forcibly exiled from the area. When he was in Moscow, he told a Ukrainian colleague later that year, he said “Ukraine is in ruins, but everybody wants something from it. Now what if it received the Crimean in return?"
One wonders what he'd say if he'd lived to see the results of his casual decision.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on February 28 [7 favorites]


I believe the reason the East is Russian is because of a purposeful Russian program to make it so

To some extent Russification has been going on since the 18th century, but you also need to understand that there has historically been a bit of ethnic and linguistic fluidity here going back even further. There are still communities of *Germans*, for pity's sake (descendants of merchants and others allowed into Russia beginning in the 16th century).

From the sound of the folks I heard on NPR last night, what is Ukraine should probably be two countries, as the east is Russian, and the west, Ukranian.

Because it's not that simple. First, you have Ukrainians who speak Ukrainian, then you have Ukrainians who speak Russian, then you have Russians who speak Ukrainian and Russians who speak Russian, then you have the Russian Orthodox, then you have the Eastern Rite but not Russian Orthodox, then you have the Catholics, then you have the Protestants (like the Germans) and Muslims (like the Tatars). Et cetera.

Because just splitting a country in two does not always work. Ireland, anyone? Vietnam? Korea? China? Because the boundaries will never be perfect. Because the farms are in one area and the factories in another and the mines or wells in another. Because Russia wants to keep the Black Sea Port it fought several wars to have.

Granted, of all Ukraine, Crimea has the easiest geographic and legal claim to revert to Russia, and it may even be strategically convenient. But ultimately that clean goal might not be what Russia wants anyway; Carl Bildt tweeted today, prophetically I believe, that what Russia wants is "gray zones and frozen conflicts". It would actually suit them better to have an incompletely resolved status, a problem they can continually hold over the head of Kiev, say when the natural gas contracts come up for renewal.

Seizing control of the airport is standard operating procedure for a coup d'etat.

Well, it's also SOP if you want to fly in a lot of planes with troops and materiel. I don't think you need to design a more complicated necessity here.

Is it true that this extends to the whole of Ukraine, and not only Crimea?

The only place where Russian authority holds is the military district of Sevastopol. They don't have the comparable situation in the "whole of Ukraine", not even the parts that are sympathetic or even wannabe Russians.

Does anyone in the world now actually believe that Obama's warnings are backed by anything other than bluster?

I've seen this all over Twitter today and it's just dumb. The US has no bases in Ukraine, nor any formal military alliance. It's too bad nobody understands Realism/realpolitik, because the true weakness of the West here is a lack of essential interests. If anything the risk Ukraine has here is that the West is only using it to harass and weaken Russia, but of course, not only is retaining control of their Sevastopol base an absolutely essential interest, it could be argued that they have a serious rationale of territorial integrity in clawing back the Crimea. I don't know what our real options would be here in a shooting war. Short of a shooting war, however, the US does have options and can seriously impact Russian exports, particularly of oil, although a boycott would carry economic risks for us as well. But Putin in the past has proven malleable in terms of being invited to participate as an equal in the G* community and such.

But the idea that Obama could actually be like Putin and "act instead of talk" is pretty dumb. We have treaty obligations, we have a democratic process, and we care about our standing in the world. Putin has a lot less concern over all those areas, which is precisely why he's dangerous.
posted by dhartung at 5:11 PM on February 28 [49 favorites]


A U.S. response to any Russian intervention in Ukraine could include avoiding deeper trade and commerce ties that Moscow is seeking, the senior U.S. official said.

OH NOES
posted by Kabanos at 5:16 PM on February 28


The threats are not meaningless, they're entirely transparent. When Obama says there will be costs, he probably just means Russia will lose some profit it might otherwise have made. Cost of doing business-level losses, I assume.

I think a sped up integration of Ukraine into the EU would sting Putin quite nicely.
posted by ocschwar at 5:24 PM on February 28


Assuming Russia doesn't have plans to somehow sabotage Ukraine's governmental restructuring and integration into the EU. Which, I expect, has at least been considered over there, if not mapped out as a possible strategy.
posted by cmyk at 5:28 PM on February 28


Oh sure random americans on metafilter are having a really tough time coping with this.

Speaking as a random Canadian, a citizen of a country that has an ongoing border dispute with Russia, it's not just European mefites who are worried.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:29 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


It's too bad nobody understands Realism/realpolitik, because the true weakness of the West here is a lack of essential interests.

My understanding is that natural gas supplies for Germany and for Turkey go through (in part) Ukraine, which makes the stability of Ukraine a very definite national security interest for those countries (and for the U.S. as a NATO ally.)
posted by Jahaza at 5:30 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


But the major supplier of the natural gas is Russia herself.
posted by all the versus at 5:32 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


I suppose the risk is that this turns into some kind of Sudetenland moment.

To expand on the anaolgy:

- As per Neville Chamberlain we can see people saying it's a quarrel in a far away country of which we know little. Clearly pretty much no-one wants to go to war over this, and maybe not do anything of consequence at all.
- We can also see there is some kind of right to self-detemination issue. Confuses the matter, and can be a handy excuse to look the other way.
- So we let this go pretty lightly, and the Putins of the world conclude wrongly "Those guys have no spine, and for all their power they will not do anything ever."
- We conclude, "This is looking bad, time to prepare against the worst."
- A few years down the line, cue disastrous miscalculations and a major war.
posted by philipy at 5:34 PM on February 28


I posted this in an earlier thread re the gas situation.
posted by Kabanos at 5:36 PM on February 28


But the major supplier of the natural gas is Russia herself.

From the previous thread, it appears that Crimea was a big part of Russia's plans for gas distribution to the West. Perhaps holding on to Crimea would allow them to avert pipelines through western Ukraine over time?

Gas Subtexts of Crimea Crisis.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:37 PM on February 28


But the major supplier of the natural gas is Russia herself.

Yeah... so stability in Ukraine is important to both sides. Because Russia wants the cash from selling the gas, just like Europe/Turkey need the gas for heat.

But they disagree (violently!) about how to maintain the stability in Ukraine that they both need. And that idealistic disagreement might be enough to let them get into it with each other. (Which is partly why I don't buy a realist foreign police perspective I guess.)
posted by Jahaza at 5:37 PM on February 28




From the previous thread, it appears that Crimea was a big part of Russia's plans for gas distribution to the West. Perhaps holding on to Crimea would allow them to avert pipelines through western Ukraine over time?

Gas Subtexts of Crimea Crisis.


If I'm reading that correctly, it seems to be suggesting that Russia has a big plan to supply gas to Europe via a new pipeline that avoids Ukraine entirely (by traveling under the Black Sea.) So destabilizing Ukraine can be to the interest to help them get funding for the Black Sea project.

But even better for them would be destabilizing Ukraine just enough to saw off the Crimea, so they could get both a southern route that avoids Ukraine and an overland portion of the route that shortens it and makes it much cheaper to build on land rather than undersea.
posted by Jahaza at 5:44 PM on February 28


No, this is not true. The reason the East is Russian is because of a long history of being settled by Russians; there was never a Ukrainian-speaking majority there.

The 1897 Imperial census shows that Russian-speakers were under 20% of the populations in the the eastern most parts of ukrainian territory (Kharkov Governorate and Yekaterinoslav Governorate), while Ukrainian-speakers were 70%+.
posted by Kabanos at 5:47 PM on February 28 [19 favorites]


It's a bit strange in England, at the moment. There's a vague, though not precise, sense that this particular situation is more serious, and has the real potential to become a lot more serious, than other European flashpoints and conflicts of the last few decades. It's also made a bit stranger that there's a lot of Russians, and Russian investment, in places such as London. Am noticing a lot more Russian accents in Birmingham this last year as well.

One of many other points is that if all of Ukraine joined NATO, then that would put the NATO "border" very close to Moscow. Probably completely unacceptably close by Russian military standards. Google maps says that Hlukhiv in Ukraine is less than 350 miles from Moscow by road. Hmmm.
posted by Wordshore at 5:48 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


The issues in the Ukraine are essentially why widespread fracking in Western Europe is probably inevitable. As is the build out of liquefaction capacity on the east coast of the us. The only reason why the EU has an interest here is that they need Russian gas. Eliminate that and not only are they no longer faced with this issue but it probably has the knock on effect of turning Russia into a much less powerful rival. Worst case given the bad demographics Russia becomes a failed state or a Chinese client. Russia has tried to sell China more gas to diversify away from the EU but China is leery of the reliability of supply.
posted by JPD at 5:51 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


It's just as complicated as the Middle East and requires just as much humility of approach.

So well put. There are no simple causes or solutions here.
posted by Kabanos at 5:54 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


BTW a part of the conflict with Georgia surrounded the construction of a pipeline that would have brought gas from the Caspian to S Europe.
posted by JPD at 5:55 PM on February 28


Pretty sure Ukraine is going to lose the Crimea and all the US will really be able to do is sanction Russia.
posted by dazed_one at 6:31 PM on February 28 [5 favorites]


Just to put this in historical perspective: This is pretty much how the USSR involved itself in Afghanistan: land troops at the airport, seize it, land more troops and initial logistics, "in support of local government", and from there build up an occupation force that's impossible to immediately, diplomatically dislodge due to the lack of overt aggression. Carter didn't just protest, he arranged the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. Didn't matter. A decade later they pulled out after 15,000 dead.
posted by fatbird at 6:45 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure Ukraine is going to lose the Crimea and all the US will really be able to do is sanction Russia.

Looks that way. Wonder what this does to Turky's chances of joining the EU? If they haven't been sufficiently insulted to have given up on it..
posted by Diablevert at 6:47 PM on February 28


Yeah, but the Crimea has been part of Russia in living memory, which makes it a hell of a lot more of a problematic fringe case diplomatically and geopolitically than "Obviously-Not-Russia" Afghanistan.
posted by absalom at 6:49 PM on February 28 [5 favorites]


Never mind diplomatically, let's be practical --- can you spell "mujahideen" in Ukrainian?
posted by Diablevert at 6:54 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


It's also probably going to vote to be part of Russia.
posted by jaduncan at 6:55 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


As per Neville Chamberlain we can see people saying it's a quarrel in a ...

Bingo!
posted by indubitable at 7:10 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


The biggest question for me is whether our intel sucks. I hope we're just playing dumb.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:22 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


The Crimean referendum is scheduled for May 25, the same day as the presidential elections in Ukraine.
posted by all the versus at 7:23 PM on February 28


I don't think the Daily Beast is a particularly credible source for information at this time.
posted by humanfont at 7:38 PM on February 28


we are no more capable of imposing our will in crimea than russia would be able to do this in british columbia or sonora against our will. i think we should stfu and let matters take their course. ukraine will have to be partitioned.
posted by bruce at 8:16 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Brigade Tracker
The Brigade Tracker tracks the status of the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams. Using open source items it lists which brigades are deployed, which are returning from deployment and which are scheduled to deploy in the future.
Long story short, one combat air brigade and one airborne infantry brigade combat team among approximately 66,000 total U.S. miltary personnel are not a credible (conventional) military threat to Russia. Other members of NATO would have to provide the bulk of any protective force until reinforcements arrive. One imagines that many gallons of coffee and vast quantities of pizza are being consumed in Brussels tonight.

I'm still looking for a link to a precise definition of NATO's obligations to Ukraine under the 1997 NATO-Ukraine Charter.

This is an impossible situation for NATO and the Obama administration. Allowing Putin a free hand can't be allowed. However mobilizing a large enough force to provide a credible threat would probably be seen as a provocation. I really don't have a good idea about what to do.

Therefore I think that the 40% of Crimeans who aren't Russian should be prepared to move unless the want to live in Russia.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:29 PM on February 28


Russia Says It's Building Naval Bases in Asia, Latin America
According to RIA Novosti, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia is looking to build military bases in Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:31 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Christ… Maybe Putin does want to start a war.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:42 PM on February 28


I really don't get the 101st Fighting Keyboardists desire to get the US involved in a war with Russia.
posted by drezdn at 9:07 PM on February 28 [32 favorites]


Interesting reading on the politics of natural gas in all this. Russia's position seems to be much weaker than it was previously.

Russia has an empty treasury from Olympic boondoggles and a decade of corruption under Putin. Russia's military and state security organizations are already pretty heavily committed to existing longstanding conflicts. Crimean Wars have never been easy affairs. I'm skeptical that this will be anything but a fiasco for the Russians should they elect to continue on the path to war.
posted by humanfont at 9:11 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


It's also probably going to vote to be part of Russia.

Probably not.
The number of Crimean residents who consider Ukraine their motherland increased from 32% to 71.3% from 2008 through 2011, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center together with the Frindrich Naumann Foundation in Ukraine. At the same time, this rate is the lowest of the regions of Ukraine. It totals 93% on average across the country.
I don't think that's conducive to voting to be annexed by Russia.
posted by Talez at 9:11 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


It's really shitty that, with the country positioned so perfectly to be an asset to both Russia and the EU, Russia can't just leave well enough alone, because it seems like there's a way out where Ukraine, Russia and the EU all come out ahead and everyone makes some money and strategically important political alliances in the process while Ukraine gets to pursue its own destiny. Helping negotiate a way forward for Ukraine and lending assistance while they sort things out in the interim would be exactly the kind of feather Putin needs in his cap to move from "that asshole everybody has to deal with" to being seen at least a little bit as an actual rational actor and statesman on the world stage. But no, gotta do the predictable strongarm thing because, of course, there's a pipeline interest and he gets to tweak everyone's noses.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:20 PM on February 28


Part of me wishes Obama would have read some choice quotes from Putin's Syria op-ed in his speech today, too.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:25 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


drezdn: "I really don't get the 101st Fighting Keyboardists desire to get the US involved in a war with Russia."

But everything went so well last time!
posted by Chrysostom at 9:35 PM on February 28 [5 favorites]


I got to the initial "Obama is a pussy" upthread when I realized I should go back to RTFA...I was struck by that sentiment, because my first thought was if anyone thinks Obama would be brought to the line and would wimp out, it seems they've not been paying attention the last few years. With the exception of BENGHAZI! Obama has strung together if not an outstanding but at least serviceable record on foreign policy. Hasn't his term been marked by pro-democracy outbreaks throughout the middle east, even Ukraine splitting to West. Hasn't he really gotten pretty much everything he's wanted, even in some really shitty situations? Syria? Russia on the hook, and what they said would happen, is happening. Egypt, Libya, all have been horrorshows, but almost certainly westward-leaning. Middle East Peace process, Hilary and Kerry done an good job.

Economics is bringing the world together. Even if very messy.

Off to TA.
posted by sfts2 at 9:58 PM on February 28 [4 favorites]


NATO’s relations with Ukraine
The formal basis for NATO-Ukraine relations is the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which established the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). Successive governments reinforced the political dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. NATO supports a range of initiatives in Ukraine, while Ukraine contributes to NATO’s missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and in 2013 became the first partner country to contribute to the NATO-led counter-piracy operation Ocean Shield.
From the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership
V. Cooperation for a More Secure Europe
14. NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, economic prosperity and its status as a non-nuclear weapon state, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and in the continent as a whole.
15. NATO and Ukraine will develop a crisis consultative mechanism to consult together whenever Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence, or security.
16. NATO welcomes and supports the fact that Ukraine received security assurances from all five nuclear-weapon states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT, and recalls the commitments undertaken by the United States and the United Kingdom, together with Russia, and by France unilaterally, which took the historic decision in Budapest in 1994 to provide Ukraine with security assurances as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:59 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


Some interesting links on the nuclear angle:

Some general info re nuke proliferation
PDF
Loose Nukes

Putin is a wild card.
posted by sfts2 at 10:22 PM on February 28


"I really don't get the 101st Fighting Keyboardists desire to get the US involved in a war with Russia."

But everything went so well last time!


Good times.
posted by homunculus at 10:40 PM on February 28 [2 favorites]


drezdn: “I really don't get the 101st Fighting Keyboardists desire to get the US involved in a war with Russia.”
Just to clarify my own position, because I realize that it might not be absolutely clear: I'm extremely worried that NATO and the U.S. might be obligated to back Ukraine in a military conflict against Russia. Given the lack of realistic tactical options at this time, and given the history of NATO war plans versus Russia, this situation has me terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

I respond by looking up troop positions and thinking about strategy and logistics because I'm hoping that the dudes whose job it is to think about these things have read all the same books I have and will come to the same conclusions.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:44 PM on February 28


Different Chapter, Same Book, Peter Eltsov and Klaus Larres, Foreign Policy, 01 March 2014
What Crimea’s history can teach us about Crimea’s future.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:47 PM on February 28




From Russia Today's Twitter, 4 minutes ago:
URGENT: Crimea PM asks for #Russia’s help in ensuring peace, says firearms used in clashes - reports http://on.rt.com/xhz2zu #Ukraine

From RT's live blog:
06:17 GMT:

The Supreme Council of the Crimean Autonomous Republic has decided to create a special Berkut law enforcement unit, Unian news agency reported. Berkut was the name of the national crack security force that was disbanded after the rioting in Kiev over allegations that the rallies were cracked down on.

07:18 GMT:

The Crimean premier, Sergey Aksenov, has declared that firearms have been used in the clashes in the region, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

He said he will be managing all national security forces in the region, and has asked Russia's President Vladimir Putin for help in ensuring peace in Crimea.


INTERNATIONAL CRISIS, QUICK SERVICE, NO WAITING
posted by dhartung at 11:28 PM on February 28


URGENT: Crimea PM asks for #Russia’s help in ensuring peace

Again, right out of the Afghanistan playbook.
posted by fatbird at 11:34 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Ukraine: Will Putin Strike?, Joergen Oerstroem Moeller, The National Interest, 28 February 2014
The world should brace itself for a Putin strike to prevent Ukraine from turning towards the West.


Crimean Punishment [Subscription Required], Kimberly Marten, Foreign Affairs, 27 February 2014
Why Russia Won't Invade Ukraine
posted by ob1quixote at 12:34 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


number of Crimean residents who consider Ukraine their motherland increased from 32% to 71.3% from 2008 through 2011, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center together with the Frindrich Naumann Foundation in Ukraine. At the same time, this rate is the lowest of the regions of Ukraine. It totals 93% on average across the country.
I don't think that's conducive to voting to be annexed by Russia.


Ish. The fact that the same local government that asked for Russian assistance will be counting the votes is very conductive indeed.
posted by jaduncan at 1:55 AM on March 1


Dear Kremlin: Careful with Crimea, Timothy Snyder, Foreign Policy, 26 February 2014
Yet all did not turn out as planned. Moscow's strategic goal was to draw Ukraine into the Eurasian Union. This institution, meant to rival the European Union, will come into being in 2015. The prospective members at this point are Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, none of which can be accused of a democratic surplus. Putin has made clear that for him the Eurasian Union is meaningless without Ukraine. He, like everyone else, understands that the Russian empire without Ukraine is without glory. But the Eurasian Union cannot possibly have democratic members, since their citizens, in trading with and emigrating to Russia, would spread dangerous ideas. Thus, Ukraine had to become a dictatorship.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:27 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


This is an impossible situation for NATO and the Obama administration.

no, it's a moment of truth, when we finally have to realize that we are in a multi-polar world with countries that have spheres of influence and control and the ukraine is in russia's sphere not europe's or the usa's

any other conclusion is impossible
posted by pyramid termite at 5:30 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


*PUTIN ASKS PARLIAMENT FOR APPROVAL TO USE ARMY IN UKRAINE: RIA

Moscow (DPA) -- Russia's upper house of parliament approves the use of armed forces in Ukraine's Crimea, the Interfax news agency reports.

Well that was fast ...
posted by pravit at 6:07 AM on March 1


Forgive me if this has been answered already, but why isn't Ukraine's acting PM sending Ukrainian troops into Crimea? There seems to be a complete lack of power coming from the acting government. Of course that vacuum would be filled by someone.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:23 AM on March 1


Do people want to the United States to threaten to go to war with Russia?

Certain people with superpowered imaginary friends are salivating at the prospect because then their book of fairy tales might come true.
posted by Renoroc at 6:32 AM on March 1 [3 favorites]


orgive me if this has been answered already, but why isn't Ukraine's acting PM sending Ukrainian troops into Crimea? There seems to be a complete lack of power coming from the acting government. Of course that vacuum would be filled by someone.

That's a damn good question, and the obvious answers aren't pretty: 1) incompetence/disorganization, 2) mistrust. Can't send an army to march if you're not sure it answers to you.
posted by Diablevert at 6:37 AM on March 1


As much as I hate some of the things that still go on in this world I'm thankful for threads about them here on Metafilter, where I can learn so much about a country and its people that I never even heard of in the first decades of my life.
posted by Big_B at 6:43 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


now Putin is asking to send troops in.
posted by lester at 6:47 AM on March 1


[A couple of comments deleted; Metatalk is the spot to complain about the site or members.]
posted by taz at 6:59 AM on March 1




Let me just say that I truly wish that Ukraine doesn't turn out like Syria has.
posted by newdaddy at 7:20 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


why isn't Ukraine's acting PM sending Ukrainian troops into Crimea?

Probably because if Russia decides to take Crimea, it will and Ukraine can't stop it (at least by force), while heightened military presence on the ground would likely lead to shooting and/or defections. Note that they did send the navy where officers are more in control of the situation's development.
posted by hat_eater at 7:29 AM on March 1


Forgive me if this has been answered already, but why isn't Ukraine's acting PM sending Ukrainian troops into Crimea? There seems to be a complete lack of power coming from the acting government. Of course that vacuum would be filled by someone.

Many reasons, I'd guess:
  • Concern for the safety of their citizens. Their best case scenario is for international pressure to force Putin to withdraw peacefully, and they've been trying to keep that option open.
  • The desire to avoid giving Putin a pretext for further escalation, or material he can use to cloud the waters of public debate.
  • The hope of minimizing casualties among their own forces by waiting for international support before taking military action.
  • Basic chain of command and loyalty difficulties related to the recent government transition.
posted by gsteff at 7:30 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


"cope as best one can in a bad situation using gallows humor"

Meanwhile... and also... while Putin... but over on Reddit...
posted by Wordshore at 7:33 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


As per this agreement, signed by the Russian Tsarina Catherine II on April 19, 1783, the Crimean Peninsula was taken away from the dominion of the Ottomans and handed over to Russia. However, one of the most important provisions of this treaty was the debarment of independence for the Peninsula and outlawing its submission to a third party: Should any such attempt be made, then Crimea would automatically have to be returned to the sovereignty of Turkey. -- Al Arabiya News (writing as the Turkish FM visited Kiev earlier)

EU, US unlikely to intervene in Crimea -- Deutsche Welt, a day or so back

Interesting tweets from RFE/RL journos:
"You spend years trying to dissuade people to talk in Cold War stereotypes and then you watch a parliament session like this. No words."
"Russia's Senate reanimates World War II narrative, senators talk about needed "war against fascism in Ukraine". "
Per attack on Crimean parliament, "Was it staged or just made up?"

Wordshore: Glad to know Reddit is on it.
posted by dhartung at 7:35 AM on March 1


10 minutes ago, BBC: Russia's upper house of parliament has approved President Putin's request for Russian forces to be used in Ukraine.

Whoa! Those people move quickly. Took nine months for the local council to approve my application to replace an old and draughty window with double glazing. Putin, on the other hand, wants to invade and Kapow a few hours later it's "go right ahead, Vladimir".
posted by Wordshore at 7:49 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


why isn't Ukraine's acting PM sending Ukrainian troops into Crimea?

That would be a terrible decision.
posted by humanfont at 7:51 AM on March 1


That would be a terrible decision.

Is losing a province to armed invasion a good decision?
posted by gsteff at 7:52 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Better.
posted by hat_eater at 7:54 AM on March 1 [3 favorites]


> 22 Maps That Explain The Centuries-Long Conflict In Ukraine

I urge everyone to look at those maps, and note how the western half of the country was part of Poland-Lithuania (and then Poland) and the eastern half was under the Mongols and then Russia (with one chunk as a more-or-less-independent Cossack state for a while). They don't "explain" the conflict, but they do provide some useful context.

> Better.

Yup. War is almost never the right decision.
posted by languagehat at 8:03 AM on March 1


I don't think Putin has really caught on to what the US has been doing strategically for the past half decade. Fracking has made the US invulnerable to oil embargoes, and gives it the capacity to put sanctions on petro states.

Russia is now, essentially, a petro state - without oil revenue, things turn real ugly, real quick. Russia's only response would be to embargo natural gas shipments to the west - which will make their economic situation truly dire. Obama's already tried this trick out with Iran, and it's working great.

If Obama says there will be consequences, Russia needs to listen - of course there won't be a shooting war. We've got something much more effective up our sleeve.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:19 AM on March 1 [12 favorites]


Based on what knowledgeable people are saying and writing here, I'm hoping that this is mostly posturing, that Putin will not annex the Crimea but wants to demonstrate that he can to it whenever he wants to a) intimidate the Ukraine so they don't even think about reneging on the base lease agreement and b) show his people that the heavy hit his image suffered recently is not even a flesh wound.
He needs Crimea like a second hole in the ass. And he has a track record as a (mostly) rational actor.
posted by hat_eater at 8:31 AM on March 1




I have been following this closely as my closest co-worker is from Lvov in western Ukraine and her mother is here in the US on a visit. I have been witness to many tears. My co-worker, although ethnically Ukrainian, grew up speaking both Polish and Ukrainian with Russian required at school. Looking at the history of Lvov, I understand better their bitterness towards Russia and I wonder how this can be resolved.

Look at the language charts in the history of Lvov. Before WWII a third of the people in the city spoke Yiddish as their native tongue. Ukraine went through incredible shit during the war and under Stalin. This is all in living memory. They are strong and resourceful, but also very wary of what people are capable of.
posted by readery at 8:53 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


How is this playing in Germany? My personal theory is that they are the lynchpin of this whole thing. If they make a structural decision to turn away from Russian gas that would be a very very big deal.
posted by JPD at 9:17 AM on March 1 [4 favorites]




Sevastopol is is home to a fairly strategic naval force, and represents Russia's only access to warm water port. I wouldn't think Putin is going to let that go away for both military and economic reasons. It looks to me like a fractured Ukraine is in the cards.
posted by sfts2 at 9:39 AM on March 1


If you're playing Eastern European Top Trumps, some statistics of Russia vs Ukraine are being floated on The Twitter. Also indicates why all-out armed conflict between the two countries is unlikely.
posted by Wordshore at 9:44 AM on March 1


It looks to me like a fractured Ukraine is in the cards.

Or at a minimum the return of the crimea to Russia.
posted by JPD at 9:45 AM on March 1


"Those who say that Putin wants to fight are not quite right
Putin doesn’t want to fight at the moment.
At the moment he wants fighting in Ukraine.
He wants Ukrainians, Russians and Crimean Tatars to fight
He wants a fully-fledged civil war in Ukraine."
Via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:45 AM on March 1 [3 favorites]






Putin's flailing. He's not sure what to do or even what he wants. He mainly doesn't want to look bad. Otherwise, why would you recall your ambassador? He wants something he can go back to his people with as not a major loss.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:00 AM on March 1


This is an impossible situation for NATO and the Obama administration.

no, it's a moment of truth, when we finally have to realize that we are in a multi-polar world with countries that have spheres of influence and control and the ukraine is in russia's sphere not europe's or the usa's

any other conclusion is impossible


Uh, we did guarantee Ukraine's borders in exchange for them handing all of their nuclear missiles to Russia. A titanic force. It was larger than UK, France and China's forces combined. They have their own ICBM plant and made their own ICBMs.

If they had those nukes today, then this would simply not have happened. And so this means that Ukraine will re-arm itself with nukes. They will quickly obtain enrichment. With five power plants, they already have the materials.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 AM on March 1 [6 favorites]


Russian troops rolling in.


I don't understand the claim that that is the Zaporizhzhya district since that's smack dab in the middle of the country (north of crimea).

Am I missing something?

EDIT:

Breaking, shooting breaking out in Simferopol
Aftermath confirmed by a second source.

Good secondary livelog Here. Unsure of the political leaning, but has a good cross-section of stuff.
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:16 AM on March 1


Looks like Zaporizhzhya is southern and coastal to me. Are you confusing the province with the city?
posted by gsteff at 11:20 AM on March 1


Searching for it gave me something in the middle of the country(google maps). Yours makes much more sense since it doesn't involve teleporting anything.
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:22 AM on March 1


From the Guardian liveblog:

Ukraine’s acting president has said that Russia has no justification for its aggression and has ordered the army to be put on ”combat alert”. The prime minister of Ukraine has said that Russian forces must return to their bases in Crimea.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:33 AM on March 1


Pretty sure Ukraine is going to lose the Crimea

Ukrainian nationalists and the Russians actually share a common interest if they could only admit it... If I were running the current Ukrainian government, I would unilaterally abandon the Crimea and everything east of the Dniepr. The only way Ukraine can have real independence from Russia is by dumping the fifth columnists and guaranteeing a plurality of the citizenry actually want to live in an independent Ukraine.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:39 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


this FT editorial from yday is already a bit dated, but is good at laying out the stakes: Crimea moves towards the brink
One week has passed since President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled from power in Kiev. The consequences of the Maidan revolution become clearer with each day. Ukraine has an interim government that is desperately trying to take the reins of power. But regime change in Kiev has brought two dangers. It has opened a deep rift with Russia, which is angered at the prospect of Ukraine leaving the Kremlin’s sphere of influence and heading for the EU. At the same time, Ukraine’s large Russian minority, numbering a sixth of the country’s total population, fears that it will be persecuted by Kiev’s new west-leaning leadership. As a result, Ukraine is engulfed in a crisis that could spill into bloody conflict.

The centre of the crisis is the Crimean peninsula. Crimea has a population that is 60 per cent­ ethnic Russian but the territory is controlled by Ukraine. Over the past three days, Russian-speaking gunmen wearing fatigues without insignia have seized Crimea’s regional parliament and surrounded its main airports. It is not clear who these men are. It is hard to believe they are not acting on the orders of Moscow.

The immediate question is how the Ukrainian government will respond to this threat to its authority. If Kiev tries to reassert full control over Crimea, it may trigger a conflict with the peninsula’s ethnic Russians, prompting a full-scale intervention by the Kremlin’s forces. But if Kiev does nothing, Russians in the east of Ukraine may be encouraged to take control of their own regions...

President Vladimir Putin has the reputation for being a ruthless diplomatic chess player. But it is not clear if he has a game plan in this crisis. He may be fomenting upheaval in Crimea because he wants to keep control of the Black Sea naval base that Moscow leases from Ukraine. He may also believe that upheaval there would be a first step towards the break-up of Ukraine, allowing Russia to establish influence in the territory where it can.

Whatever his goal, the west must remind him that Russia is treaty-bound to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and its borders around Crimea. If Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty this would be a manifest breach of international law that would seriously alienate Russia from the west for years.

But Ukraine’s interim leadership must also be made aware of its responsibilities. Some of its recent actions have been provocative. Parliament’s move last week to remove Russian as an official state language in parts of the country was bound to stoke tension. The appointment of ultranationalist figures to leading posts in Ukraine’s security apparatus has also worried ethnic Russians. As it looks to the west for financial support, the government must be encouraged to be more ethnically inclusive.

The leadership in Kiev also needs to recognise that Mr Putin is today acting towards Ukraine as he did towards Georgia in 2008. Russia undertook a series of military manoeuvres, which provoked Mikheil Sakaashvili, the Georgian president, to crack down brutally on ethnic Russians in Tskhinvali. This gave Mr Putin the excuse he sought for an invasion of Georgia, something the west could not wholeheartedly condemn. Ukraine must not fall into the same trap.
previously: The hour of Kiev and Europe - "Why Ukraine and its future matter so much"
This is a moment of immense opportunity – and immense danger – for Ukraine, for the EU and for Russia. More than any single moment since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the revolution that began in Kiev heralds “the hour of Europe”.

Anyone contemplating the revolutionary developments in Kiev and the toppling of President Viktor Yanukovich must start by reflecting on what it signifies for Ukraine and its 46m people... the country has been led by a cynical, corrupt leadership that has taken Ukraine today to the brink of economic meltdown. The fall at the weekend of the Moscow-backed Yanukovich – toppled by his own political ineptitude as much as anything else – now gives Ukraine a fresh opportunity to become a functioning democratic state.

However, the Ukrainian revolution has political implications that go well beyond its borders... If Ukraine can be drawn into the economic and political community of Europe without alarming Russia, this would be an immense achievement for European values and for the international standing of the EU.

Such a development, however, will require the co-operation of Mr Putin... Western leaders must spell out how Ukraine – an ethnically diverse country straddling Russia and the eastern borders of the EU – can enjoy a special position in Europe. The US and EU should unveil a vision of a democratic Ukraine that becomes a fully independent state, mutually respectful to both Russia and the EU and forging close economic relations with both. It is a vision in which Ukraine would be able to set out on a long-term path to join the EU as a fully fledged member. But like Finland, another Russian neighbour, this is a country that must also remain unaligned in east-west security terms, and stay firmly out of Nato...

All this will require leadership from three sets of actors. The first group are Ukraine’s national leaders... Secondly, there are important financial responsibilities that fall on the west, notably the EU, US and International Monetary Fund. The EU miscalculated last year by delivering a “take it or leave it” offer of an association agreement with Ukraine, without offering Kiev badly needed cash to help staunch its debt crisis. The EU and IMF must learn from that mistake. The urgent task is to offer a financial aid package that helps to stabilise the country. True, there are serious obstacles. Much of the Ukrainian elite seems to have been implicated in gross corruption. Future financial aid will therefore have to be conditional...

Finally, a special responsibility falls on Mr Putin... A vicious military response by Moscow to the revolution in Kiev would see Russian troops battling insurrection everywhere. Mr Putin could of course resort to more underhand tactics. He might cut off gas shipments to Ukraine as he did in 2006 and 2009, or impose trade embargoes. He could seek to weaken the coherence of the Ukrainian state by asserting full Russian control over Crimea. But none of this will alter a basic truth: former President Yanukovich, the designated Kremlin ally, is a busted flush. He could seek another protégé. But as a strategist, Mr Putin must know his gambit of turning Ukraine into a Russian satellite is unworkable. Permanently destabilising the country is a tactic, not a policy.

Whether Mr Putin is prepared to accept this reality or is planning to fight on remains unclear. This is why a concerted western response is so important. Not just by the US but also the EU. Throughout the past decade the EU’s effectiveness as an international actor has been battered by the eurozone crisis, its political will sapped by economic austerity and by growing public disaffection with the entire European project. Yet events in Ukraine have demonstrated how much the EU matters for millions of people living beyond its borders.

Throughout recent weeks protesters in Maidan Square in Kiev have wrapped themselves not only in the blue and yellow flags of Ukraine but also in the blue and yellow stars of the EU flag. The EU has come to represent democracy, freedom and decent, if not perfect, governance. These are universal values. Over the past week, Ukrainians have shown they are prepared to sacrifice their lives for those values in the hope of a better future...
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on March 1 [4 favorites]


> 22 Maps That Explain The Centuries-Long Conflict In Ukraine

I urge everyone to look at those maps, and note how the western half of the country was part of Poland-Lithuania (and then Poland) and the eastern half was under the Mongols and then Russia (with one chunk as a more-or-less-independent Cossack state for a while).


You seem to be overlooking the Crimea. They went by a lot of names (Mongol, Ottoman), but basically the Crimea was always inhabited mainly by Muslim Tatars until Russia illegally (treaty, shmreaty) annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783 and perpetuated a deliberate, concerted genocide that continued (and indeed ramped up considerably) through the Soviet era.

Basically, the Crimea is somebody's Israel, and that someone ain't the Russians or the Ukrainians. Since Perestroika, Tatars have been returning in droves; they're now about a tenth of the Crimean population (up from less than 1% fifty years ago, but still a far cry from the 18th century levels of over 90%*). Somehow I get the feeling that'll start to go down again under Putin's virulently Islamophobic regime.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on March 1 [8 favorites]


What a different scenario this would be if Ukraine had retained its nuclear weapons in the 90s. A much frightening scenario, probably, but vastly different.
posted by Atreides at 12:20 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


How is this playing in Germany? My personal theory is that they are the lynchpin of this whole thing. If they make a structural decision to turn away from Russian gas that would be a very very big deal.

I don't know about the events of the last few days, but Germany has been very big on supporting Euromaidan. They've been offering moral and practical backing to Klitschko through the protests, so it would be rawdealing him if they didn't see it out.

Also, depending on the standing of the Energiewende they need to be lessening their gas imports anyway.

I do think Putin would crumple quick if Europe got serious about energy sourcing from elsewhere.
posted by Thing at 12:27 PM on March 1


Atreides: the house atomics, you say?
posted by wuwei at 12:33 PM on March 1 [5 favorites]


TNR: Putin's War in Crimea Could Soon Spread to Eastern Ukraine And nobody—not the U.S., not NATO—can stop him (JULIA IOFFE)
Why is Putin doing this? Because he can. That's it, that's all you need to know. The situation in Kiev—in which people representing one half of the country (the Ukrainian-speaking west) took power to some extent at the expense of the Russian-speaking east—created the perfect opportunity for Moscow to divide and conquer. As soon as the revolution in Kiev happened, there was an unhappy rumbling in the Crimea, which has a large Russian population and is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It was a small rumbling, but just big enough for Russia to exploit. And when such an opportunity presents itself, one would be foolish not to take it, especially if one's name is Vladimir Putin.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:01 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]




if Ukraine had retained its nuclear weapons in the 90s

Let me remind you who was running Ukraine in those days. At the time, the country was a placid Moscow satellite with few economic reforms and no apparent interest in democracy. The place seemed autocratic, brittle, and austere. By comparison, Yeltsin was cuddly.

Basically, the Crimea is somebody's Israel, and that someone ain't the Russians or the Ukrainians

OK, but while I hate to be That Guy, this whole concern seems small potatoes in the current crisis. The Tatars have neither a polity nor a military and, at least in the current matrix, are probably largely sympathetic with the Ukrainian nationalist side of things.
posted by dhartung at 1:38 PM on March 1


are probably largely sympathetic with the Ukrainian nationalist side of things

To be fair if I was in the same position I'd pick the devil I know over the guy who has waged a fifteen year long (so far) Islamic genocide.
posted by Talez at 1:55 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


UN Meeting TLDR:

Russia wants a return to the Feb 21st agreement.
Says Yanukovych was allowed to pause the push to join the EU and that the revolution was armed militants who toppled a government. Also blamed the EU community for encouraging it.

Says that armed pro-kiev militants were trying to take over buildings in crimea, so they're helping protect crimeans.

US/France/UK all give variants of "Not respecting sovereignity or territorial integrity of Ukraine".
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:55 PM on March 1


I'm not advocating intervention here, but if Russia can lop off parts of its neighbors at will, where is the red line? Kiev? Krakow? Bratislava? Berlin?
posted by Jahaza at 1:56 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


The Tatars have neither a polity nor a military and, at least in the current matrix, are probably largely sympathetic with the Ukrainian nationalist side of things.

Well, obviously. And they have pretty much nothing to do with the current situation other than proximity. But I don't see this ending well for them if Russia annexes the Crimea again.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:56 PM on March 1


I'm not advocating intervention here, but if Russia can lop off parts of its neighbors at will, where is the red line? Kiev? Krakow? Bratislava? Berlin?

I'm sure they'd stop after Czechoslovakia.
posted by Talez at 1:57 PM on March 1 [6 favorites]




I'm not advocating intervention here, but if Russia can lop off parts of its neighbors at will, where is the red line? Kiev? Krakow? Bratislava? Berlin?

I can't imagine Russia getting any kind of a foothold in Poland, Slovakia, or Germany anymore, but with Georgia and now Ukraine on Russia's plate, it looks like pretty much anything that was once an SSR and is not part of the EU or NATO is completely up for grabs.

(Belarus and Moldova are probably feeling a lot less secure all of a sudden.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:23 PM on March 1


From the liveblog above:

The UNSC meeting is now closed – A quick analysis — Russia has finally spelled out exactly what its given justification for invading Crimea is. According to their logic:

*The EU, the UK, and the US incited the protests and fueled the revolt.

*Yanukovych signed a deal with the opposition politicians that would keep him in power until, at least, early elections in December.

*The “armed militants” broke this agreement by taking over government buildings, therefore:

*Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of Ukraine and the people in charge are radicals, “Kiev,” the catchphrase for these radicals ho are now running the country, is sending provocateurs to takeover government buildings in Crimea (interjection — there is literally no evidence that this is true). Therefore:

*The government of Crimea has asked Russia to send troops to restore order, and Russia has done so unilaterally because the West helped conspire to remove a democratically-elected government and put these radicals in charge.

*The bottom line: the international community needs to help remove the radicals and enforce the February 21st agreement (which, by the way, would require reinstating Yanukovych back as President).

*If this is not done, Russian troops will defend Crimea, and possibly attack Kiev to make it happen.

posted by Lord_Pall at 2:33 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


> What a different scenario this would be if Ukraine had retained its nuclear weapons in the 90s.

Which, if they don't get the help they thought they were promised in the Budapest Memorandum, is bound to make anyone who has nukes now think many more times than twice before letting go of them from now on.
posted by jfuller at 2:42 PM on March 1 [9 favorites]




Lord_Pall: “From the liveblog above[…]”
Angels and Ministers of Grace, defend us.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:46 PM on March 1


Which, if they don't get the help they thought they were promised in the Budapest Memorandum, is bound to make anyone who has nukes now think many more times than twice before letting go of them from now on.

See also: Libya's decision to give up their WMD program.
posted by jaduncan at 2:49 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if anybody is still reading this far down, but yeah ... the Russians are about to invade Ukraine.

So, yeah.
posted by Avenger at 3:09 PM on March 1


Ukrainian Navy flagship takes Russia’s side, RT, 01 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 3:20 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Invade Ukraine? Oh well, entering Crimea already qualifies as an invasion, I guess? You probably meant full scale invasion taking control of Kiew?
posted by elpapacito at 3:20 PM on March 1


We could sink the entire [Russian Black Sea] fleet at stand off range if we wished. However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups...

Sure thing, Tom Clancy.

Just to be clear, you're saying that the total of 190 F-18 fighter-bombers on five American aircraft carriers could somehow defeat the entire Russian air force in the skies above one of its own bases, somehow without the American carriers themselves being sunk. And you think that would be the end of the war, rather than the beginning? And you're sure the full-scale war you're proposing would not escalate into a nuclear war?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:23 PM on March 1 [15 favorites]


Russia has tried to sell China more gas to diversify away from the EU but China is leery of the reliability of supply.

Yeah, you'd rather not have a supplier who will squeeze the tap whenever The Bear is feeling grumpy.

I do think Putin would crumple quick if Europe got serious about energy sourcing from elsewhere.

Still the problem is that other suppliers would still crank their rates up in response because that's the markets. But even so, having different suppliers to rely on is better than the alternative.
posted by ovvl at 3:31 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Sure thing, Tom Clancy.

Tom Clancy was actually exactly the thing I thought but didn't say. It somehow didn't surprise me that the prospect of sinking 100 naval vessels surrounded by AA and air cover was so airily handwaved at. I genuinely can't even imagine the sheer amount of crap that would occur if military action of that scale was undertaken. "four or five carrier groups." Half the US navy against a Russian fleet and thinking the war would end at that point. It is one of the most intellectually blinkered comments I've read on Metafilter in terms of sheer blasé dismissal.

Naturally the main issue is the impact on the currency markets. Obviously.
posted by jaduncan at 3:36 PM on March 1 [12 favorites]


Still the problem is that other suppliers would still crank their rates up in response because that's the markets.

Nat gas isn't really a commodity that functions like that. The bigger issue is building the regas capacity. The only reason why it hadn't happened before is because the Russians had take or pay contracts. Take a look at the accounts of the big German Utilities. They took huge losses a few years ago because they were obligated to buy gas from gazprom at prices way above market (because they were oil linked back in the 70's)

If the Germans want to they can declare force majeure and shut the valves. But they really can't until there is alternate supply.

Also one of the barriers to importing LNG was that gazprom could have always blown up the economics by reducing prices (because gazproms price of gas out of the ground is like nothing) but once that goes away it becomes much more attractive to bring gas into europe.

And then of course given enough pressure you might think a lot of the reticence to embrace fracking might fade away in Germany and France.
posted by JPD at 3:36 PM on March 1


Latvia+Lithuania have invoked NATO art. 4 in response to #crimea NATO now obliged to hold emerg council meeting. Only 4th time in history— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 1, 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 3:38 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's happening tomorrow:

AndersFogh Rasmussen ‏@AndersFoghR 3h
#NATO Allies coordinate closely on grave sit in #Ukraine. North Atlantic Council will meet tomorrow followed by NATO-Ukraine Commission
posted by jaduncan at 3:42 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Putin ready to invade Ukraine; Kiev warns of war, Lidia Kelly and Pavel Polityuk, Reuters, 01 March 2014
On Kiev's central Independence Square, where protesters camped out for months against Yanukovich, a World War Two film about Crimea was being shown on a giant screen, when Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister, interrupted it to announce Putin's decree. "War has arrived," Lutsenko said.

Hundreds of Ukrainians descended on the square chanting "Glory to the heroes. Death to the occupiers."
posted by ob1quixote at 3:44 PM on March 1


The bigger issue is building the regas capacity.

What does "regas" mean in this context? The capability to convert LNG into gaseous natural gas? If so, wouldn't a bunch of liquification infrastructure need to be built elsewhere for this to happen, too?
posted by Juffo-Wup at 3:54 PM on March 1


"We could sink the entire fleet at stand off range if we wished."
Really?

"However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups."

No, actually I wouldn't. The US has never fought an formidable enemy with such advanced missile technology as Russia (some of their missiles outclass most of what the West has). The importance of missiles is underestimated and the lesson from the Falkland wars not really learned. It is well a possibility that Russia could sink the aircarriers "at will".

http://www.johntreed.com/sittingducks.html
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:12 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Lets not fantasize about all the ways we will kill each other.
posted by humanfont at 4:24 PM on March 1 [10 favorites]


All the other countries described as "former Soviet republics" must be getting pretty nervous. There will likely be no Western will to go to war over this making NATO in some respects irrelevant.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:30 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Sure thing, Tom Clancy.

Those were like, word for word, my thoughts when I read that comment last night. Truly a masterpiece of... something.
posted by indubitable at 4:37 PM on March 1


The US has never fought an formidable enemy with such advanced missile technology as Russia (some of their missiles outclass most of what the West has). The importance of missiles is underestimated and the lesson from the Falkland wars not really learned. It is well a possibility that Russia could sink the aircarriers "at will".

Seriously- the carriers are incredibly vulnerable. Even if they aren't sunk, if the flight deck gets a pockmark on it, they become effectively unusable. This would be one of those situations where there are two kinds of ships- submarines, and targets.

There will likely be no Western will to go to war over this making NATO in some respects irrelevant.

I don't think so. Just as the US-instigated financial crisis ironically led fearful investors to purchase massive amounts of treasuries, I can see how the minimal Western reaction here could encourage some other vulnerable countries to seek stronger relationships with NATO countries. I wouldn't be surprised if the remainder of Ukraine becomes very interested in offering NATO and/or the U.S. basing rights. I also wouldn't be surprised if this, along with recent U.S. reticence to use military force, finally encourage the other NATO member nations to start picking up their share of the tab and rebuild basic defense capabilities, saving the U.S. some money.
posted by gsteff at 4:38 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]



We could sink the entire [Russian Black Sea] fleet at stand off range if we wished. However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups...

Sure thing, Tom Clancy.

Just to be clear, you're saying that the total of 190 F-18 fighter-bombers on five American aircraft carriers could somehow defeat the entire Russian air force in the skies above one of its own bases, somehow without the American carriers themselves being sunk. ...
I

I don't think Clancy would ever say anything that silly. If I recall correctly, didn't he have a carrier get knocked out in Red Storm Rising - or close to it? In any case, I would think Russia has a decent strategy to counter Aegis, and that US carriers would be sitting ducks to some extent.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:00 PM on March 1


New Yorker editor David Remnick, who is a Russian specialist, has a good summary of what is happening in Ukraine at the moment.

If you want to learn a local perspective, Remnick links to the Kyiv Post.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


gsteff: “I also wouldn't be surprised if this, along with recent U.S. reticence to use military force, finally encourage the other NATO member nations to start picking up their share of the tab and rebuild basic defense capabilities, saving the U.S. some money.”
I disagree. If anything, I think there will be tremendous pressure in the Defense establishment to not only reverse the 2013 draw down, but to add at least another 10 Brigade Combat Teams to reinforce Europe.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:05 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Sure thing, Tom Clancy.
The sad thing is that Tom Clancy was far too realistic to propose anything like that. He spoke out against the Iraq war planning and that was so much less of an even match.

This is the full on Dan Brown fever dreaming, where even defense contractors say “Slow down cowboy!”
posted by adamsc at 5:17 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


This sword rattling is all so inane.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 5:36 PM on March 1


This sword rattling is all so inane.

The sword rattling is absurd but must be challenged. Anyone on this thread who thinks Obama is a wimp for not bombing the Russians has at least 8500 reasons to rethink their position.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:47 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]


I think the key word is "insane"
posted by KokuRyu at 5:53 PM on March 1




It's a patriotism marketing ploy. Think mom and apple pie and yellow ribbons.
posted by bukvich at 6:02 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


It's a patriotism marketing ploy. Think mom and apple pie and yellow ribbons.

I don't really go in for founding father worship but it certainly makes one appreciate a split between church and state.
posted by jaduncan at 6:06 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


Anyone on this thread who thinks Obama is a wimp for not bombing the Russians has at least 8500 reasons to rethink their position.

Im not sure how many Mefites (although maybe Tom Clancy) are really advocating a military response, but Obama did himself no favors with the ridiculous 'red line' talk in Syria, and his initial statement yesterday seemed like he was going right back to the same well. He shouldn't bluster when it's transparently backed by nothing, it weakens the credibility of the actual diplomatic response.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:08 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Ukraine must be feeling pretty good about giving up its nuclear arsenal at this point. And by good I mean bad.
posted by Justinian at 6:11 PM on March 1


WaPo: Spell out the consequences for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The most powerful non-military tool the United States possesses is exclusion from its banking system. Mr. Obama should make clear that if Russia does not retreat from Ukraine, it will expose itself to this sanction, which could sink its financial system. Russia’s economy, unlike that of the Soviet Union, is heavily dependent on Western trade and investment. It must be made clear to the Kremlin that the Ukraine invasion will put that at risk.
I wonder which side China will take in this, or if they will stay entirely on the sidelines. I understand Nixon assured Mao the US would take their side if it came to war with Russia. Maybe now would be a good time for China to return the favor, perhaps as part of an arrangement over the South China Sea, but then I doubt China could be trusted.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:35 PM on March 1


I'm getting increasingly uneasy about the May 25 date for elections/referendum. Based on today's events and the general lack of ability for the Ukrainian central authorities to respond with any effectiveness themselves to the provocations, this date sounds too far into the future.

Just wondering aloud if bringing this date forward, maybe for the first week of April, would help in any way in de-escalating the crises. The risk that the central authority in Ukraine completely breaks down so as to not even properly organize the elections/referendums seems to be increasing. Which could only strengthen Putin's positions.
posted by all the versus at 6:43 PM on March 1


if it came to war with Russia

China probably would stay on the sidelines, but that wouldn't save them from the fallout.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:44 PM on March 1


UKRAINIAN GENERAL MOBILIZATION ANNOUNCED VIA FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/andriy.parubiy/posts/667812769951576— UkraineBreaking (@UkraineBreaking) March 2, 2014
Андрій Парубій
Щойно передзвонили мому помічнику з воєнкомату з наказом прибути на 8:00 ранку згідно з планом мобілізації.
Згідно з рішенням РНБО мобілізація відбувається по всій країні.
Andrew Parubiy
Just rang momu Assistant voyenkomatu with the order to arrive at 8:00 am as planned mobilization.
According to the decision of the National Security Council mobilization happening across the country.
[Translation by Google]
Posted Saturday, March 1st, 2014, at 6:25 PM EST
posted by ob1quixote at 6:46 PM on March 1


I think the key word is "insane"

No, I really do think it's just plain inane because all the instigators, schemers, and inherently greedy and evil people who become implicit in these things are far from insane. Just stupid and incredibly selfish, power-hungry, and ego-driven moronic.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 6:48 PM on March 1


According to Stratfor there are currently 2 carrier strike groups at sea. One appears headed back to Norfolk and the other is in the Persian Gulf. There are 5 in port, in Norfolk, San Diego, WA, and Japan. There are an additional 3 undergoing maintenance. Just to inject some reality into the situation...

One thing to consider is that Russia has spy satellites just like the US and you can't get within range of Sevastopol without passing through a dangerous chokepoint, either in the Mediterranean or the Strait of Hormuz. If the US loses a carrier, can escalation be that far behind?

I am extremely glad that we don't have a Decider in the White House right now.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:00 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


Just wondering aloud if bringing this date forward, maybe for the first week of April, would help in any way in de-escalating the crises.

I don't see how there will be very fair elections in areas occupied by Russia, or engaged in armed conflict.

I think Ukraine must be careful not to start the conflict if there must be one. They must take a defensive position and focus on organizing an effective government and loyal armed forces. Let pro-Russians go to the other side. Get as much support from the West as possible, and if there are neo-Nazis tell them to go home. If Russia invades the western part of the country, they need to resist and bog them down the best they can.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:02 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


My shot at a cleaner translation:

Andrew Parubiy
They just rang my assistant from the Recruitment office with the order to arrive at 8:00 am as according to the mobilization plan.
According to the decision of the National Security Council the mobilization will occur across the entire country.
posted by Kabanos at 7:08 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]




I'm getting increasingly uneasy about the May 25 date for elections/referendum. Based on today's events and the general lack of ability for the Ukrainian central authorities to respond with any effectiveness themselves to the provocations, this date sounds too far into the future.

Good news- Putin agrees. The referendum has been moved up to March 30th. I assume because Putin plans to occupy Crimea until the referendum occurs, mainly to avoid giving the rest of the world time to come up with a response.

According to Stratfor there are currently 2 carrier strike groups at sea. One appears headed back to Norfolk and the other is in the Persian Gulf. There are 5 in port, in Norfolk, San Diego, WA, and Japan. There are an additional 3 undergoing maintenance. Just to inject some reality into the situation...

Between this and the intel analysis on Thursday that found it unlikely Putin would invade, I'm shocked at how unprepared the U.S. is right now. How do you allow 9 of your 10 carriers to become unavailable simultaneously? Not that it matters in practice, thankfully, but the Pentagon's job is to be prepared.
posted by gsteff at 7:34 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


A solution in Ukraine is not going to be a military one. It's simply too high risk with virtually no reward.

This is going to be an economic fight primarily between Team Gazprom and Team Western Europe. It just depends on what value the West places on slowing down Putin's territorial ambitions and whether it will be worthwhile to engage in economic warfare to punish Putin.
posted by vuron at 7:43 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


What would having another carrier group available matter? There are virtually no circumstances under which we would engage in military action against the Russians and Putin knows that. Having the carriers available to threaten force only works if there's actually a chance we would use force.
posted by Justinian at 7:45 PM on March 1


Not to mention that carrier groups are primarily deployed when we need additional places to launch aircraft from, but in Eastern Europe and Turkey we have plenty of unsinkable air bases.
posted by humanfont at 7:48 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]


I brought up the carrier issue to point out the futility of the Tom Clancy battle plan above. Even if 5 of them were somehow sufficient to win such a battle, it'd take weeks to get them in position and everyone would know about it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:57 PM on March 1


Ladies and Gentlemen... I never thought that such concerns could come to a loggerhead in 2014. I thought that we cleared that hurdle with the end of the Cold War...

No matter how things break I just want to let you all know one very important thing.

It has been a pleasure, and an honor, to be a member of this community of hearts, minds, and souls.

May no more blood be shed.

May no more madness come our way.

May clear thinking minds and rational actors prevail.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:00 PM on March 1 [7 favorites]


I brought up the carrier issue to point out the futility of the Tom Clancy battle plan above.

I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed...
posted by entropicamericana at 8:07 PM on March 1 [8 favorites]


Wait for Obama to issue new executive orders, sit on them for months before the Senate or House would consider them, and then issue "secret negotiations" have come up with a diplomatic resolution for UN intervention. See past examples with Syria. He is no match for Putin.
posted by brent at 8:41 PM on March 1


3.8 quake in crimea, 60-80 km depth, just off the coast.

I assume it's unrelated.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:45 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Cthulhu has awoken from his slumber. Now we're really screwed.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:46 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Kabanos: “My shot at a cleaner translation”
Thank you.

vuron: “A solution in Ukraine is not going to be a military one. It's simply too high risk with virtually no reward.”
That may not be entirely up to NATO. I've been looking over the TO&E for Ukrainian ground and air forces. Ukraine doesn't have a rinky-dink military consisting of a few paratroopers and handful of tanks. They have more than 100,000 people under arms, dozens of combat aircraft, and several thousand war machines.

Obviously it's a pittance compared to Russia, but it's enough of a force that it would be a significant conflict. Kiev and Moscow are only 500 miles apart. That could make for a very dynamic battlefield.

Just to add to the chaos, there's been an earthquake off the coast of Crimea.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:47 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we have "carriers" right nearby named Incirlik, Aviano, and Ramstein. The design case for our carriers was air wars at sea, but current doctrine is that they are really mobile airfields for limited intervention purposes. There's a whole enormous debate behind that as to how useful and/or cost-effective they are for this we need not enter into. But frankly trying to attack Russia from the Black Sea is pretty much a worst-case scenario for a carrier strike group.

As to gsteff's question:

The Navy Is Dropping Down to Just Two Deployed Carriers; Fifty-percent reduction is mostly budget-driven

That's supposedly to begin in '15, though. Right now, checking one by one, it's mostly a (convenient?) combination of just-back-from-deployment to pre-deployment exercises. I'm not sure whether it would be budgetary because I have no idea how much less expensive it is for a carrier to carom around the nearby Atlantic versus actually being on patrol out there. But essentially there is a deliberate draw-down cum peace dividend thing here. Not to mention the previously discussed disappearance of the original design case. Bottom line: there are so many ways this is just the wrong answer for the current crisis. Plus the whole idea of us tangling mano a mano with Red Army units seems like a bad Eighties movie. It just can't happen.
posted by dhartung at 9:15 PM on March 1 [2 favorites]


Not that I think we're getting into a shooting war over this, but:

Yeah, we have "carriers" right nearby named Incirlik, Aviano, and Ramstein.

Spangdahlem more than Ramstein, I'd think. And Lakenheath isn't that much farther.

I wouldn't be too surprised to see Spang decommissioned sometime in the next few years and new "carriers" launched in eastern Europe.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 PM on March 1


I wouldn't be too surprised to see [...] new "carriers" launched in eastern Europe.

Carriers? You've got Bulgaria.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:13 PM on March 1


We could sink the entire fleet at stand off range if we wished. However it would be a hell of an air battle. We could head up the straits, (Turkey is in NATO) with four or five carrier groups.

I'd like to think that Iraq had muted the kind of armchair warmongering (regrettably) seen in some parts of American society, but I suppose that even with all the evidence that war is never simple, that victory is often unclear, and that the cost of war is monumental, there are still some who look at complex and volatile situations and imagine that "we" could just blast away and in some sense "solve" a problem. Real life doesn't work that way.
posted by jokeefe at 10:17 PM on March 1 [7 favorites]


brent: "Wait for Obama to issue new executive orders, sit on them for months before the Senate or House would consider them..."

You don't quite get the point of executive orders, do you.
posted by notsnot at 10:19 PM on March 1 [11 favorites]


and if there are neo-Nazis tell them to go home

There are neo-Nazis, and they don't always do as they're told.
posted by Jimbob at 11:07 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


I don't even think Obama even knows a pseudo-fascist motorcycle gang leader, let alone is friends with one, so he maybe he is just a pussy

I bet Sarah Palin does
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:43 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Could I take the contrary stance, for a moment?

People are getting angry, saying that the US should bomb Russia, decrying Putin as a dictator and tyrant. On the other hand, Redditor ManyBeasts has an interesting perspective on this conflict, essentially saying that Russia needs to secure the future of the Black Sea Fleet, doesn't want a war, and has put troops in the Russian side of Ukraine to protect its interests and its people. Is this invasion really all that different than all the terrible conflicts that the Western Bloc has participated in over the past few decades? Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so many more. I don't know if it's propaganda or not, but these pictures of Russian soldiers in Crimea look a lot like the Iraqis greeting US soldiers just a few years ago. They don't look like the spooks or shadowy paramilitary troops that we're all imagining them to be. Could it be that our perspective on this conflict is severely tainted by the fact that it's being perpetrated by our traditional enemies, reinforced through years of Cold War propaganda and media vilification?

I dunno. As I grow older, I'm finding myself more and more irritated by the black and white thinking so often found on the internet. For the most part, the world isn't good and evil; it's full of nuances, even when we really want to believe otherwise. And us, we're full of biases from so many different sources. Especially when a situation is emotionally charged, it's important to lay all this out on the table, lest we end up too sure of our own limited knowledge of the world. Instead, people often end up slinging insults at each other and decrying any dissent as being sponsored by third parties.

I'm not saying that I want Ukraine to be under Russian control; on the contrary, I'd rather the country rule itself, to the best of its ability. I also don't think that war is acceptable under any circumstance. This situation frightens me too. But I don't think Putin is in any way comparable to Hitler or Stalin, as some people are saying, nor do I think that this situation is out of the norm for countries like the US. (At least, not with the information I've gathered so far.) Isn't it hypocritical to judge it so harshly?

(Again, I really hope this resolves itself peacefully in Ukraine's favor.)
posted by archagon at 1:42 AM on March 2 [5 favorites]


That was rationally no way the Ukrainians were ever going to even contemplate fucking with the base at Sebastopol. Put aside that any attack would be tantamount to suicide, the actual lease arrangement itself is hugely important to their economy.

The notion that there was some imminent danger in the Crimea is pretty much pure propaganda
posted by JPD at 3:14 AM on March 2 [12 favorites]


Extreme irony:

Nick Griffin MEP ‏@nickgriffinmep Mar 1
Neo-cons & CIA also promoting racist Russian nationalists to try to use them v #Putin. But summoning that genie is a very dangerous game!

Note for non-Brits: Nick Griffin is himself an extremely racist British nationalist and is pretty much as far right as British politics goes.
posted by jaduncan at 3:52 AM on March 2


these pictures of Russian soldiers in Crimea

It's so ridiculously easy to come up with images of other soldiers greeted with flowers as liberators that I'm not even going to bother.
posted by hat_eater at 4:22 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I think the big issue is that if the EU and the West does nothing, they invite Russia to continue its expansion. I'd like to believe there are some economic sanctions the US could make that would have teeth - I haven't heard much yet that sounds substantial or convincing.
posted by newdaddy at 4:35 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I know I've said this a few times already in the thread, but I think we'll respond with some kind of energy embargo. That's really the most sensible road for us at the moment unless things change.
posted by Thing at 4:37 AM on March 2


I wish Metafilter would split into it's two natural constituencies of those in the Western Half who see everything that happens in this world as part of Obama's Daily Briefing, and those in the Eastern Half who are more interested in sharing insights into what is actually going on.

Aircraft carriers are not part of what is going on.
posted by stonepharisee at 4:48 AM on March 2 [5 favorites]


but I think we'll respond

How many times do people need to point out that not everybody here is from the US, and thus not a part of this "we"?
posted by Wolof at 4:52 AM on March 2 [9 favorites]


Pretty sure that MetaFilter can't enact an energy embargo on Russia.
posted by Etrigan at 5:00 AM on March 2 [6 favorites]


I think we'll respond with some kind of energy embargo. That's really the most sensible road for us at the moment unless things change.

..."we"... "us"... are you speaking on behalf of the people of the EU? There are 28 nation states in the EU. Russia supplies 38% of EU's natural gas imports. Embargo?
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:27 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Even though it looks the other way round, Russia is more reliant on us than we are on it.
posted by Thing at 5:34 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Can we please avoid the "we" derail. At least just use the talk thread.

Yeah I agree with Thing. I really don't get what Putin thinks This can't possibly end up in a long-term win for him.
posted by JPD at 5:36 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]


Russia supplies 38% of EU's natural gas imports. Embargo?

Winter's almost over and stranger things have happened... I wonder how quickly such action could fuck up Russia's economy?
posted by Meatbomb at 6:06 AM on March 2


Yeah I agree with Thing. I really don't get what Putin thinks This can't possibly end up in a long-term win for him.

And on the other side, I don't understand how Obama is the big loser here. As long as a shooting war doesn't break out, he could quite possibly be coasting to one of the biggest international successes (in centrist, mildly hawkish terms, i.e. most of the US) of the last couple decades, and certainly of his career. He gets a big cudgel on energy policy with any country that's not China or NK. One of his largest international political opponents has just squandered all of his diplomatic goodwill from the last couple months, and then some. He presumably doesn't get involved in another quagmire apart from the now-rote weapons dealing business. The US gains an enormous military foothold for NATO and especially themselves in an area previously closed off. At home, he gets a chance to split an opposition already at a crossroads between an old guard made up of "bomb, bomb Iran" McCain et al and the non-interventionist Paulites in an election year (for whatever good that will do him, although he doesn't really have to give a shit either way). All he has to do is weather about a week or three of Fournier-style "why won't he lead" squawking from the press before they find another shiny object. He doesn't even have to lift a finger, just make his noises, look serious, and when necessary, squeeze some metaphorical balls when it comes to the natural gas problem.

Unfortunately, this all means that the Ukrainian people who just fought hard for their revolution are fairly fucked right now, since even if this ends relatively peacefully, the US and the EU have them over a barrel. Americans who are involved in energy or finance or weapons make out like bandits while nothing happens to fix domestic economic issues, and the US maintains their belligerent assholery reputation. It's quite possible this makes stuff like fracking and Keystone XL a permanent fixture, to the detriment of Americans and the world at large. And yes, this a 1000-mile high view that ignores what it means to the people on the ground and in the streets, but tbh that's all most of us in the US have to work with right now.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:13 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]


I wonder how quickly such action could fuck up Russia's economy?

Pretty damn fast... but it's unlikely. Yet the bigger strategic cost for Russia would be the loss of the energy card it so likes to play during negotiations with European countries.
posted by hat_eater at 6:34 AM on March 2


On a personal note, this situation freaks me out big time.

I grew up with Soviet subs in Swedish waters, the ever-present threat of nuclear war (and my country being slam-bang strategically placed to get obliterated) and family friends who could not visit their family back in East Germany.

1989 happened but then Yugoslavia imploded. I made new friends who had fled the genocide in the Balkans and other friends were sent there to patrol the whole mess. And it was messy, really messy.

Add to that, uncomfortable echoes of the run-up to the two world wars - and I'm just sitting here thinking "I don't give a beep about Obama's probable legacy because this stuff is real, it will destabilise the world around me, and oh, god, please don't let this turn into all the things I fear the most."

It doesn't help knowing how hawkish Anders Fogh Rasmussen (General Secretary of NATO) acted in the whole WMD debacle. And I'm struck by the different discourse used by William Hague and Carl Bildt - the foreign secretary of Sweden and an experienced global diplomat about Russia's act of aggression. Bildt was exceptionally blunt for a diplomat - the difference between being part of the UN's Permanent Security Council and, er not?.

Can anybody give me a ray of sunshine in all of this? Please?
posted by kariebookish at 6:37 AM on March 2 [7 favorites]


but I think we'll respond
How many times do people need to point out that not everybody here is from the US, and thus not a part of this "we"?
The person you're responding to didn't say what "we" meant in the post you're responding to; you assumed it. Furthermore, in their previous posts, they clearly spoke of "the West", quickly clarifying that by that they essentially meant Europe, and thereafter continued to speak of Europe with respect to this. Not once -- literally not once -- did they even mention the United States.

Heal thyself.
posted by Flunkie at 6:43 AM on March 2 [7 favorites]


[Completely drop the "we" derail now. Go to Metatalk if you want to discuss it.]
posted by taz at 6:45 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Can anybody give me a ray of sunshine in all of this? Please?

The Russians are expending a lot of capital here. There's only so many times they can pull this before Europe decides that fracking and renewables look awfully cheap in comparison to funding the reconstruction of the cold war and resultant defence expenditure.
posted by jaduncan at 6:47 AM on March 2 [7 favorites]


That said, I personally think this is fixing Khrushchev's mistake and Crimea is better off actually Russian than merely having separatist Presidents removed by Kiev and having language bills barred. It is better that the divorce happen quickly if it is going to happen.
posted by jaduncan at 6:59 AM on March 2


Crimea is only 60% ethnically Russian, and those aren't in lockstep in terms of wanting to be Russian instead of Ukranian. Russia may be in for another never-ending guerrilla war if they annex Crimea.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:18 AM on March 2


And vice versa if they stay at this point. I do wonder if they are going to end up as a protectorate a la Abkhazia.
posted by jaduncan at 7:21 AM on March 2




"the Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened war if Russia sent troops further into Ukraine."

Yeah. I think they accept they've lost Crimea, but are now playing for the rest of eastern Ukraine.
posted by jaduncan at 7:45 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


"Does anyone in the world now actually believe that Obama's warnings are backed by anything other than bluster?"

Would you rather it be backed by troops? A nuclear arsenal? Please, prithee, tell us what your preferred military options would be?

...or, alternately, perhaps his warnings are backed by diplomatic efforts that don't have to be bluster, but can, in fact, affect Russia's influence and exports abroad?

If you're attempting to view the current situation in the Ukraine as a failure of the Obama Administration, well... you're dead wrong. That's like blaming the invasion of Poland on F.D.R. It's fringe territory, best left to the teabaggers.

To be clear, it was Putin's failed policies -- and that of his ousted puppet -- of in-your-face repression and violence against protesters that caused them to lose control over the Ukraine. And while Russian troops are securing the generally pro-Russian Crimean region, the much larger, economically more successful heart of the Ukraine is now even more opposed to Russian rule. Putin's hamfisted actions have not only united Ukrainians, they're also pushing the EU and NATO towards standing up for the Ukraine, which is what they will need, both in order to secure themselves from complete occupation and to recover economically.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's loss of the majority Russian Crimea is actually a fairly good thing, as far as creating a less divided, pro-Western democracy is concerned, while Russia's militarism and willingness to violate their agreements will also help to encourage policies throughout the EU that should help reduce their dependence on Russian oil and raw materials. These are all good things.

In what sense is losing control over the Ukraine and facing embargoes and a possible longterm military conflict if it attempts to try to get it back anything other than a massive defeat for the Russian policy of surrounding itself with repressive puppet governments? If the heart of the Ukraine goes pro-West successfully, and sees its economy improve, what message with that send to the people of Belarus, or others under the thumbs of pro-Russian puppets?
posted by markkraft at 7:59 AM on March 2 [8 favorites]


Oh, and as a means of comparison, the population of the Ukraine is about 45.6 million people... which is about 37 times the population of Chechnya and 7.5 times the population of Georgia. Which is to say, Russia would have a hard time pushing them around too much militarily, especially if they became unified, in large part, due to Russia's thuggish policies, while the West not-so-quietly fed Ukrainian rebels arms and support.

Meanwhile, the population of the Crimea is about 1.95 million, or roughly 1/23rd of the total Ukrainian population.

In other words, Ukraine losing the Crimea is almost exactly the same, population-wise, as the US losing control of North and South Carolina -- and just North and South Carolina -- to a bunch of really troublesome, somewhat economically backwards secessionists.

Hm... problem or opportunity?!
posted by markkraft at 8:25 AM on March 2


Can anybody give me a ray of sunshine in all of this? Please?

Putin is 61 years old. The life expectancy of Russian males is 65.

That's all I got.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:27 AM on March 2 [6 favorites]


Americans who are involved in energy [will] make out like bandits....

First, it's not just Americans. Second, making out like bandits in a situation like this depends on one's paper positions and inventory which I can tell you firsthand, not many adjusted before COB Friday. Compared to the run up to the Friday after Kerry's speech on Syria, literally nothing happened this time (then, with the potential intervention in Syria, everyone was hedging like mad all day.)

As a side note, the situation in Ukraine is having a very negative effect on Turkey's already fragile political and economic position as many Turkish industries rely on im/ex business that passes through Ukraine, and this is more or less killing Turkey's arbitrage position.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:34 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]


In other words, Ukraine losing the Crimea is almost exactly the same, population-wise, as the US losing control of North and South Carolina -- and just North and South Carolina -- to a bunch of really troublesome, somewhat economically backwards secessionists.

Hm... problem or opportunity?!


This is perhaps an opportunity to reflect on the extreme difference in tension between tensions between people from different parts of the US and the tensions felt between the ethnic Ukrainian and Russian populations in the Ukraine.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:51 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Difference?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:53 AM on March 2


"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

Is Kerry a troll? Does he comprehend the galactic hypocrisy in that declaration? Or is he so blinded by American exceptionalism that he sincerely doesn't get it?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:31 AM on March 2 [9 favorites]


I was just going to post that. Kerry was all like you can't invade other countries for fake reasons and I was all like O_O and he was all like ROFL just kiddin man.

But seriously, the irony burns like fire.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 AM on March 2


Is Kerry a troll? Does he comprehend the galactic hypocrisy in that declaration? Or is he so blinded by American exceptionalism that he sincerely doesn't get it?

None of the above. He is trying to make sure they don't make the same mistake we did.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:34 AM on March 2 [4 favorites]


"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

Is Kerry a troll? Does he comprehend the galactic hypocrisy in that declaration? Or is he so blinded by American exceptionalism that he sincerely doesn't get it?


Did you miss his entire presidential campaign? It was pretty much that sentence over and over again.
posted by Etrigan at 9:34 AM on March 2 [8 favorites]


Kerry voted for the Iraq War and then later, after no WMDs were found, said that he still would have voted for the war even knowing there were no WMDs.

He did god's work on Vietnam. Then he got old and turned into the same people who fucked up in Vietnam.
posted by Justinian at 9:37 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]


Is Kerry a troll? Does he comprehend the galactic hypocrisy in that declaration? Or is he so blinded by American exceptionalism that he sincerely doesn't get it?

Kerry: "Where did you even learn about this?"

Putin: "I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU"
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:39 AM on March 2 [7 favorites]


Actually, I may be confusing this Secretary of State (Kerry) with the former Secretary of State (Clinton) about the would-still-have-voted-for-military-action thing, so perhaps that was not Kerry. He certainly voted in support at the time, however.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


There has been a whole lot of back peddling on Iraq votes by a lot of people.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:45 AM on March 2


NATO does have a lever on Putin & co, and it doesn't even involve action in the Black Sea!

France and Germany blockade Monaco, the Channel Islands, Austria and Switzerland.

The US does the same for Bermuda and the other tropical Tax Havens.

The UK takes care of the City.

Obama calls Putin, and goes "So, about those Billions of yours..."
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:54 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]


Can anybody give me a ray of sunshine in all of this? Please?

Putin wants some wins. He doesn't just want to watch the world burn. He's almost certainly gamed out a scenario that ends up with something like the Crimean Peninsula being Russia's special autonomous zone rather than Ukraine's, and a continued deal for gas imports to Ukraine and Europe, while ceding a degree of west-leaning-ness of the remainder of Ukraine. The US is clearly not going to war over this, and after the crisis has passed, some of the surrounding territories like the baltics and Moldavia will have made their quiet deals, either east or west, to take sides with one or the other.

I don't want to downplay the significance to the people there at risk of the violence of war, but the conflict here seems more about trade agreements than square miles. The U.S. "going to war" here will be seen as economic sanctions and frozen assets, not carrier groups (of whom only 1 is actually available to send in short order).

[Kerry] certainly voted in support at the time, however.

He "voted against it before he voted for it." IIRC, Kerry took the line "I wanted to the give the President options, not a blank cheque."

That said, this is not monumental hypocrisy on Kerry's part. Acting like national diplomacy is somehow the equivalent of personal character is easy and irrelevent.
posted by fatbird at 9:57 AM on March 2 [5 favorites]


These events have made me an advocate for fracking throughout Europe. Putin can stick his pipelines where the sun don't shine.
posted by Anything at 9:59 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Did you miss his entire presidential campaign? It was pretty much that sentence over and over again.

No. I was there. I watched as he campaigned against the war he voted for. And although it certainly wasn't the same thing, Kerry was beating the drum for war in Syria pretty hard during the spring of 2013. Which is to say that I don't think he has as much skepticism about jumping into a fray as others seem to believe.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:00 AM on March 2


Obama calls Putin, and goes "So, about those Billions of yours..."

Privately that's almost certain to have come up, or at least hinted at. I'm certain Putin would just laugh at it though. Crimea is worth more than those accounts, certainly, and he only has to look to China for a closer, friendlier ally and all the money he could possibly want. When push comes to shove, as we're seeing here, Putin is extending his middle finger to the west. He has all the market and might he needs without the US, or Europe. It would be a mistake to overestimate how much Russia gives a shit about the west.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:05 AM on March 2


And although it certainly wasn't the same thing, Kerry was beating the drum for war in Syria pretty hard during the spring of 2013.

A) In his capacity as Secretary of State, and B) "trumped up pretext" doesn't really apply to what was actually happening in Syria.
posted by Etrigan at 10:06 AM on March 2


That is why I said "it certainly wasn't the same thing"
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:08 AM on March 2


some of the surrounding territories like the baltics and Moldavia will have made their quiet deals, either east or west, to take sides with one or the other

The Baltics are already in NATO.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:11 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]


This is very much worth the read for background on Putin, but it won't make you feel any better.

The Seduction of George W. Bush By Vladimir Putin, Peter Baker, Foreign Policy, 06 November 2013


However, this might, if you read to the end.

How Far Will Putin Go?, Alexander J. Motyl, Foreign Policy, 01 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 10:18 AM on March 2


China wants nothing to do with Russia. Unless its a severely weakened Russia.
posted by JPD at 10:22 AM on March 2


A curated Twitter list for updates on the situation.
posted by one_bean at 10:29 AM on March 2 [6 favorites]


China wants nothing to do with Russia.

China just wants stability. Unlike the US, they don't fight for resources - they buy them. They'll happily trade with Russia or anyone else who's buying or selling. You think they won't trade with Russia if NATO imposes sanctions? It doesn't matter if they don't really like each other. They hate NATO and its influence more.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:29 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


The Chinese have rebuffed Russian plans to build gas transportation infrastructure multiple times. Russia would love to sell them gas and has been told thanks but no thanks several times. China would much rather contract with parties that function on commercial terms or where they can invest large sums to control the resource themselves.
posted by JPD at 10:34 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]


The nature of pipelines is that you don't get to switch customers/suppliers all that quickly. If Russia can't sell to us, they can't sell, at least for the time being.
posted by Thing at 10:34 AM on March 2


Also Russia doesn't have internal markets. Thats one Of their Biggest issues. The actual domestic market is a bit of a basket case and the population is shrinking at I believe a faster rate than Japan. To say Putin doesn't need the West is just manifestly false. Not only that he needs access to western capital markets.
posted by JPD at 10:38 AM on March 2 [5 favorites]


Vladimir Putin's New Axis of Evil: Liberal Russians, Ukrainian 'Fascists,' and America "When the dust settles, the lack of any long-term strategy on Kremlin’s part will become unmistakable. The newly acquired republics become nothing but a financial liability for Moscow, and possible hotbeds for future conflicts. Just like it happened with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Putin is left with corrupt local governments, refugees, and brain-dead economies on permanent life support from Moscow. But as long as Russia got to parade its tanks, threaten everyone around them, and search enemies within their ranks, to them, it was absolutely worth it. "
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:40 AM on March 2


Just thinking, I wonder if the situation in Ukraine will get any play in the elections in May. I don't know what shape it would take if it did (pro and anti intervention?). Any insight would be welcome.
posted by Thing at 11:10 AM on March 2


Haven't the May elections been moved up to March 30th?
posted by fatbird at 11:15 AM on March 2


JPD I guess you know more about it than I do. You think it's just China posturing to appease the US? I really don't believe they'd turn down Russian oil if it suited them.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:26 AM on March 2


Of course they wouldn't turn down Russian exports if it suited them to take them. But Putin has proven himself more..quick..to use energy exports as a cudgel than other exporting nations, so they're probably loathe to put effort into relying on an unreliable partner. Plus they can basically control the whole process when they buy from basket case African countries instead.
posted by wierdo at 11:30 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I really don't believe they'd turn down Russian oil if it suited them.

I think the issue is that Russian gas comes with a pipeline and an agreement to pay for oil whether or not you use it (i.e., "take or pay" agreements). China is rejecting a lock-in on Russian gas, and they're seeing a demonstration right now of why they should.
posted by fatbird at 11:32 AM on March 2


I can imagine that all bets are hedged there though. The situation could change very rapidly.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:33 AM on March 2


Russian forces in Ukraine: What does the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea look like?, Kathy Lally, The Washington Post, 01 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 11:39 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


> You seem to be overlooking the Crimea.

I didn't "overlook" anything, I simply didn't mention that tiny bit of Ukraine in what was obviously a highly general comment. But thanks for trying to slip in a zinger. (Hey, you overlooked Bukovina!)

> Russia needs to secure the future of the Black Sea Fleet, doesn't want a war, and has put troops in the Russian side of Ukraine to protect its interests and its people.

Exactly.

> Is this invasion really all that different than all the terrible conflicts that the Western Bloc has participated in over the past few decades?

No, it's not.

> I do wonder if they are going to end up as a protectorate a la Abkhazia.

That would be my guess.
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on March 2


Why Russia No Longer Fears the West -- Ben Judah, author of Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out Of Love With Vladimir Putin

Russian media on Crimea: “Putin will become the first person of world politics”
posted by dhartung at 12:20 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


I don't even think Obama even knows a pseudo-fascist motorcycle gang leader, let alone is friends with one, so he maybe he is just a pussy

There's more on the Night Wolves in this article about Pussy Riot.
posted by homunculus at 12:35 PM on March 2


Can anyone reading down here explain why the Germans don't seem to be opposing the Russians as strongly as the French/Brits/Americans? They are against excluding from the G8, calling for "fact-finding," etc. This strikes me as odd?
posted by dame at 12:47 PM on March 2


Because after WWII, Germany, if it cares about appearances, can never get into a position where it could have to take military action, even just potentially, against Russia.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:05 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


In a more realpolitik sense, 36% of Germany's natural gas supply comes from Russia
(wiki link, EU data source.)
posted by stevis23 at 1:08 PM on March 2


Mark Adomanis is calling this Russia's worst foreign policy blunder in years,, and I'm inclined to agree. Even in a best case scenario for them, they've deeply pissed off the very people they need to sell their oil and gas to, plus now they get to maintain an exclave with at least half a million people who aren't Russian and don't particularly want to be.
posted by Copronymus at 1:11 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


dame, Germany played a key role in negotiating the February 21 agreement that resulted in Yanukovich ceding power and ultimately (though this was outside the agreement, part of what rankles him and the Russians) stepping down. Before the Crimea wrinkle, Germany was touting its new, close relationship with Washington and appears to want to play middleman. In the last hour, it appears that Merkel spoke with Putin and may have gotten him to agree to an OSCE fact-finding mission, which the Post reported previously was being framed as an exit strategy Washington wanted to offer Putin.
posted by dhartung at 1:21 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Crisis in Crimea - ALEXANDER FROST

A more even-handed perspective:
As Crimea is now de facto under Russian control the best course of action is to open a dialogue with the Russian leadership, led by Germany (Russia’s most respect European partner) or Switzerland (A non-EU non-NATO actor) to establish a scale of de-escalation. 
Merkel to the rescue?
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:25 PM on March 2


> Mark Adomanis is calling this Russia's worst foreign policy blunder in years

From that link:
...we could shortly be seeing open warfare in Europe for the first time since the end of the Second World War.
If this guy can't even remember the Balkan Wars of the '90s, I'm not sure I'm all that interested in his foreign-policy wisdom.
posted by languagehat at 1:27 PM on March 2 [30 favorites]


"And although it certainly wasn't the same thing, Kerry was beating the drum for war in Syria pretty hard during the spring of 2013."

Actually, no, you completely misinterpreted what he was doing -- bolstering the idea of a credible threat against Syria, to get them to disarm -- because you were unaware of the backchannel negotiations between Kerry and his Russian counterpart Lavrov.

Indeed, Kerry urged Obama for more time for negotiations to work... and got it.
posted by markkraft at 1:47 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Apparently the idea is a Swiss-led OSCE mission that will take over as a civilian security force while the Russians pull back to their bases, but many details remain to be worked out, as this is still in the trial balloon stage.

Kerry will travel to Kiev on Tuesday.
posted by dhartung at 1:51 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Where do you get these clowns? John Kerry: Russia Could Be Kicked Out Of G8

Newsflash: Vladimir Putin is actually the President of the G8 and he would probably have to be consulted about that decision. I don't think Putin would necessarily care about it, though: he didn't bother attending in 2012, and presumably only attended in 2013 so that he could officially receive the honor of being the G8 President for the coming year.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:52 PM on March 2


Well, the US could set up a new G8, the Ancient Mystic Society of No Russias.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:10 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


The most potentially painful thing is nothing to do with the G8. Putin may or may not have torpedoed the Eurasian Union project by demonstrating that security guarantees from Russia can be quite changeable these days.
posted by jaduncan at 4:15 PM on March 2


The G8 doesn't have a formal charter, bylaws or a permanent secretariat. The President of the G8 is a ceremonial position and it can be revoked at any time.
posted by humanfont at 4:20 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


New head of Ukraine's navy defects in Crimea

"The newly appointed head of Ukraine's navy has sworn allegiance to the Crimea region, in the presence of its unrecognised pro-Russian leader. "

"Admiral Berezovsky appeared in Sevastopol before cameras alongside Sergiy Aksyonov, the pro-Russian politician elected by Crimea's regional parliament as local prime minister.

Mr Aksyonov announced he had given orders to Ukrainian naval forces on the peninsula to disregard any orders from the "self-proclaimed" authorities in Kiev.

Sunday, he said, would go down in history as the birthday of the "navy of the autonomous republic of Crimea".

Admiral Yuri Ilyn: "I'm very sorry that Ukrainian soldiers and sailors are hostages of this situation"

The admiral then pledged to "strictly obey the orders of the supreme commander of the autonomous republic of Crimea" and "defend the lives and freedom" of Crimea's people"
posted by I-baLL at 4:21 PM on March 2




Putin may or may not have torpedoed the Eurasian Union project by demonstrating that security guarantees from Russia can be quite changeable these days.

There are so many soldiers in Crimea that it is possibly more secure now than it has ever been before.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:36 PM on March 2


Ah, that noted Russian-observer Sarah Palin has come out with a zinger: Sarah Palin: 'I told you so on Ukraine'

Sarah Palin, America's Churchill.

It looks as though I'm laughing but I'm actually crying inside.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:42 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "Sarah Palin, America's Churchill."

Yeah, she's a regular Nostradamus:
Two days later, in what The Weekly Standard called "prepared remarks" -- translation: Palin wasn't the author -- the Alaska governor did a riff on possible foreign policy crises that might result from Obama policies. Now, please note two things:

First, Palin's speechwriters were predicting a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine "next," presumably in (to use Biden's words) the first "six months" of an Obama presidency. It's more than six months since Barack Obama became president, according to my calendar.

And second, Palin's speechwriters were condemning an invasion of Pakistan without the country's assent -- which is precisely how Osama bin Laden was killed.

posted by tonycpsu at 4:48 PM on March 2


Members of Putin's human rights council say no grounds for Ukraine invasion
"True, there are known cases of lawlessness and violence carried out by representatives of various political forces," it said.

"But the use of external military force, linked with the violation of the sovereignty of a neighboring state and contradicting Russia's international obligations, is completely inappropriate to the scale of the violations, in our opinion."
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:51 PM on March 2


Well, the US could set up a new G8, the Ancient Mystic Society of No Russias.

The problem with that is that you're allowed one Russia but not more than one so we'd have to let them in. Unless we could find ANOTHER Russia.
posted by Talez at 5:03 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]




Putin may or may not have torpedoed the Eurasian Union project

Meh, not sure this is seriously going to alter trajectories in Minsk or Astana. Mostly, he's torpedoed it because without Ukraine it's sort of pointless.

Members of Putin's human rights council say no grounds for Ukraine invasion

A tweet I saw read: Next up: Putin has a human rights council.

Anyway, the thing about the G8 is that it's basically a club. Yeltsin hung outside the doorway looking forlorn for so long we eventually let him inside. For the longest time, though, it was only as a Plus One! (Seriously, it was the G7+1 for a little bit, and Russia's participation was as a special session afterward.) So Russia's membership is essentially a matter of prestige, and you know what prestige and a cup of coffee will get you.
posted by dhartung at 5:26 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


(And it looks official: As of now there really isn't a G8 at all.)
posted by dhartung at 5:37 PM on March 2






What does the G8 even do? Has one concrete policy or reform ever come out of it, other than maybe spreading Monsanto Roundup Ready Seeds and Hollywood DRM slightly faster across the world? Booting Russia or disbanding it entirely seems like the world tiniest violin.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:21 PM on March 2


and you know what prestige and a cup of coffee will get you.

No, the saying is: prestige and $7.50 will get you a double venti soy amaretto vegan free-trade animal-testing-free grande latte with free-range whipped cream.
posted by telstar at 6:36 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


The Ruble is crashing. The Russians are about to have a major financial crisis.
posted by humanfont at 6:38 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


The Ruble is crashing. The Russians are about to have a major financial crisis.

The ruble has been holding steady between 34 and 36 to the dollar over the past month. It hasn't moved that far away from 36 over the past five days. If there's a crash going on it's not being reflected in the FX.
posted by Talez at 6:48 PM on March 2


Ruble seems to have lost about 7% over the last three months? Sorry, I've just come in from the bitcoin charts where a 7% loss happens before you finish that $7.50 latte.
posted by telstar at 6:50 PM on March 2 [7 favorites]


It seems like the value is a localized thing (i.e. at the local exchange window) as some Russians have been rushing (no pun intended) to change rubles into USD before any "costs" are imposed on the Russian state.

Apparently a few of the exchange windows have also run out of forex as well and are only buying.
posted by Talez at 6:56 PM on March 2


>I think the key word is "insane"

>>No, I really do think it's just plain inane because all the instigators, schemers, and inherently greedy and evil people who become implicit in these things are far from insane. Just stupid and incredibly selfish, power-hungry, and ego-driven moronic.


I think there are a lot of normal people (not a majority) besides profiteers etc.who wish the US and NATO would do something to stop this "aggression". A number of people in my extended network on Facebook are comparing the to the Sudetenland, with Obama playing the role of Chamberlain.

It's crazy.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:52 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Crazy and stupid. When Russia backs out gracefully, head held high goose-stepping all the way to the border, sneering at the weakness of the west while its markets are in tatters, most of Europe signed on to long-term USA energy deals, China laughing openly at the idea of Russian petro exports coming anywhere near its economy, Ukraine and every other former Soviet satellite falling all over themselves for a NATO membership card, then boy, won't Obama seem like the appeaser.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:05 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


NYT: In Crimea’s Phantom War, Armed Men Face Unseen Foe
By ANDREW HIGGINS and ALISON SMALE
March 2, 2014
A visit to the command center, next to a shopping mall, revealed only a few dozen unarmed “self-defense” volunteers pushing packets of cigarettes, candy and bottles of water through a locked gate to glum Ukrainian soldiers standing guard with automatic rifles on the other side.

“The fascists don’t even give them food or water,” said Vadim Bonderenko, a truck driver who signed up to join the resistance movement against a Ukrainian government made up of “the grandchildren of traitors who killed Russian soldiers during World War II.”
...
At a rundown Ukrainian military base perched amid barren hills at Perevalnoye, years of peaceful coexistence between ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and an indigenous population of Tatars, a Turkic people, had degenerated by Sunday into a tense standoff between armed soldiers of uncertain affiliations and increasingly unbridgeable quarrels between residents who argue that only their side can protect them.

According to Col. Sergei Starozhenko, commander of the small Ukrainian base, scores of well-armed, Russian-speaking troops had moved in around 5 a.m. and taken up positions around the perimeter.
...
After a meeting with his Russian counterpart, the colonel said, “There won’t be war.” He declined to elaborate.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:09 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: “A number of people in my extended network on Facebook are comparing the to the Sudetenland, with Obama playing the role of Chamberlain.”
Mine concluded his misinformed and childish diatribe about how Obama weakened America with, "Reagan taught us what strength was."

I had to hit him with, If your main interest in Foreign Policy is scoring domestic political points, please stick to God, guns, gays, etc & leave FP to adults, ok?John Schindler
posted by ob1quixote at 8:10 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


That is based on the price on the Moscow exchange at the close on Friday. However per the Wall Street Journal:
Russia's largest lender, Sberbank, SBRCY -1.83% moved its the dollar rate to 38.50 rubles on Sunday, which far exceeds the dollar's all-time high of 36.73 rubles reached at the end of the crisis-driven ruble devaluation in March of 2009. The ruble stood at 35.89 versus the dollar at the end of the trading session on the Moscow exchange on Friday, losing more than 8% so far this year.

Following Sberbank's example, many other banks raised their conversion rates on Sunday. Sovinkombank was offering to sell the dollar for 40 rubles, Creditbank's rate stood at 39.5 rubles per dollar, while Obrazovanie bank was ready to sell cash at 39.05 rubles per dollar
posted by humanfont at 8:12 PM on March 2


> Ukraine and every other former Soviet satellite falling all over themselves for a NATO membership card, then boy, won't Obama seem like the appeaser.

According to this map the only partly free states in NATO are Turkey and Albania. So I doubt if Ukraine is going to be joining NATO any time soon, but it makes me wonder . . .

WTF are Turkey and Albania doing in NATO?
posted by bukvich at 8:22 PM on March 2


WTF are Turkey and Albania doing in NATO?

I think the original intention was to keep the USSR from rolling into the Middle East. Turkey is also hosting a few dozen of our nukes for us. You gotta break some eggs to make the Freedom Omelet...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:30 PM on March 2


Turkey has been in NATO since 1952. Its membership was not without controversy.
posted by absalom at 8:31 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Because it's an anti-USSR alliance and we wanted lots of members.

Albania is a late addition, but Turkey joined because (a) Greece did and (b) because it's strategically important: it commands the entrance to the Black Sea, and hence the sea route between the Mediterranean and the former USSR (i.e., what is now Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia). So Turkey was a real prize, a lot more valuable than, e.g., Italy.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:34 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


"Russia Is Repeating 1968"
A Pussy Riot founder on the occupation of Crimea—and the silence in Moscow

BY MARIA ALYOKHINA
Troops are marching through the streets of Crimea today, on Shrove Tuesday, as the patriarch declares “I hope Ukraine will not resist.”
...
There won’t be a record of our resistance in the history books because we will be arrested before we even reach the square to voice our opinions.
...
Last night, frantic calls were made to those who receive salaries from the state, such as teachers, to order them to take to the streets in a rally supporting the sending of troops. They were paid to go. They went to rally for war.
...
“Citizens, don’t block the way for other citizens.” These are the words we hear emanating from loudspeakers during the last demonstrations against arrests and war. These words most clearly embody the quiet creeping civil divide in Russia, a divide possibly more frightening than civil war. This is an artificial yet effectively constructed divide of citizens into those who have opinions but have no right to walk along the streets, and those who walk along the streets with empty heads and without a desire to have a say in government.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:36 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


At a rundown Ukrainian military base perched amid barren hills at Perevalnoye, years of peaceful coexistence between ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and an indigenous population of Tatars, a Turkic people,

They aren't "indigenous" to the Crimea, are they?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:42 PM on March 2


Justin E. Smith: Crimea
posted by homunculus at 8:43 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


They aren't "indigenous" to the Crimea, are they?

Yes, though Stalin tried to change that.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:45 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


So Turkey was a real prize, a lot more valuable than, e.g., Italy.

I remember in the Twilight 2000 RPG, Italy fought on the side of Warsaw Pact forces in WWIII. And, like India, post-war Italy did a lot of business with the USSR...
posted by KokuRyu at 8:55 PM on March 2


"Western leaders mostly paint the whole dispute as totally one-sided: it is all Russia’s fault. But the Crimea crisis is directly related to the misguided steps taken after the Soviet Union’s fall." A sensible analysis.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:06 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Troops are marching through the streets of Crimea today, on Shrove Tuesday, as the patriarch declares “I hope Ukraine will not resist.”

?

It's not Tuesday.
posted by Jahaza at 9:11 PM on March 2


Malcolm Fraser's "sensible analysis" is that Fraser seems to regard respect for "spheres of influence" as being more important that self- and national determination. While there is no doubt the West took advantage of Russia's weakened state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he discounts the fact that Poland and the Czech Republic welcomed ballistic missile defense. Estonia and Poland wanted very much to join NATO.

This story does not date back to just the collapse of the USSR, and it does not back just to the war, or the beginning of the war.

My great grandparents rode in a boxcar in 1919 during the Civil War, all the way from east of the Urals to Estonia to finally live in their own country.

I suppose it's logical to expect that Russia should have influence over Ukraine or the Crimea, and that the West should back off. But it is not logical to expect that the people living Russia's presumed zone of influence should have to accept Russia's primacy.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 PM on March 2 [7 favorites]


No one has said they think the Ukrainians should submit willingly. Almost everyone in this thread is saying how unhappy they are that there doesn't seem to be any measures of much effect that they can be taken from outside. I appreciate (and share) your feelings but that's nothing but a pure straw man argument.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:50 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


?

It's not Tuesday.


I think she essentially means the week of Shrove Tuesday, though presumably the troops will still be there on Tuesday in any case.

I had never heard of Shrove Tuesday. Apparently, it is preparation for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent and is related to Mardis Gras and Carnival. In some Eastern Orthodox traditions it starts on Sunday. Perhaps it isn't translating well.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:58 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Sunday was the "Day of Forgiveness" in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 PM on March 2


In the UK, Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Day.
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:22 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of measures the US, Europe and G7 can take. These measures will take time.
posted by humanfont at 10:27 PM on March 2


I-baLL, it is hoped that you understand that the G7 and G8 basically exist for these meetings only and that not holding the G8 meeting at all means the G8 is essentially inoperative for the forseeable future. They are not organizations as such like the OSCE or NATO. Vlado can hang the garlands and serve the cake, but if nobody shows up, there's no party.

T.D. Strange, the point of the G8 or any of its subsets or the similar G20 is mainly dialog and the regular opportunity for leaders to meet. The G7/8 in particular hold annual meetings just for the finance ministers (or equivalent) as well as the summits for heads of government. Outside of monetary policy or discussion of things like IMF loan tranches much of what goes on at them is off the record and outside of the realm of concrete policy as such.

benito.strauss, the point is that Malcolm Fraser was in effect saying that precisely -- that the Western powers should have ceded Ukrainian politics to Russian influence, lest Russia feel slighted by any tilt toward Europe. It's sickening, really. KokoRyu specifically named to whom he was speaking, and it was not anyone in this thread, nor any presumed bogeyman. It was a real argument made by a real pundit and deserved a real response.
posted by dhartung at 10:33 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Ah, I hadn't followed the link to the Fraser article and couldn't see how the comment was connected to it or to anything people were saying. Apologies, KokuRyu.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:47 PM on March 2


Sunday was the "Day of Forgiveness" in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Yes, but "Shrove Tuesday" is a really terrible translation or a real lack of understanding on the part of the author or both. It makes it hard to take the criticism of the patriarch's position seriously (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate just last week issued a statement calling for respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine). I've met lots of Russians who have no understanding of religions or religious language, which is not surprising after so many years of state atheism, but it makes things like this a bit muddled.
posted by Jahaza at 10:49 PM on March 2


NYT: Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein In Russia
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,” she said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:08 PM on March 2 [7 favorites]


NATO Needs to Move Now on Crimea, Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.), Foreign Policy, 01 March 2014


“Moscow understands only force and willingness to sacrifice human lives”, The XX Committee, 02 March 2014


Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein In Russia, Peter Baker, The New York Times, 02 March 2014
The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin? It is no easy task. 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,” she said.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:17 PM on March 2


I appreciate (and share) your feelings but that's nothing but a pure straw man argument.

Did you read Malcolm Fraser's "sensible analysis"? What I wrote was how I interpreted his take on things. If you think I misread that's great, but you have to understand I am "arguing" in good faith and am not constructing arguments to win arguments.

So why not RTFA and discuss my point of view instead?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:19 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Jinx.

That might be the most frightening sentence ever written in the English language though.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:19 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


You know, everybody is all down on Neville Chamberlain, but if it came to a choice between Russia taking Crimea and a fight that would lead to WW3, I'd be all "Sure Mr Putin! Enjoy your new dacha!"
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:23 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Well, it's commonly thought that Herr Hitler was very weak at the time of the Sudetenland crisis, and he could have been headed off at the pass, notably by France, which had a very large army.

On the other hand, Hitler never had nukes.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:24 PM on March 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>

ob1quixote: That might be the most frightening sentence ever written in the English language though.

Maybe Putin took a page out of someone else's book... you know: "The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." (attributed to someone called Karl Rove)
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:32 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: “On the other hand, Hitler never had nukes.”
That's the thing that's driving me nutty with the facile arguments from the Usual Suspects on Facebook and elsewhere. What precisely do they expect the President or NATO to do? Say the U.S. sends everyone that can be sent on short notice tonight, tells Putin, "Get out or else," and he just laughs? What then? Attack? Really? When "You'll have our response via the North Pole," is an option? It's mad.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:39 PM on March 2 [7 favorites]


Maybe Putin took a page out of someone else's book...

Thought for sure you were referring to Nixon there for a minute...
I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:52 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


it's commonly thought that Herr Hitler was very weak at the time of the Sudetenland crisis

It's also thought that Chamberlain was well aware of the coming aggression, but believed he was buying time for British and French re-armament and to shore up American support.
posted by fatbird at 11:54 PM on March 2


So why not RTFA and discuss my point of view instead?

It's hard to not miss the occasional comment in this thread.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:05 AM on March 3


Russian rouble hits new low against the dollar and euro
Stocks on Moscow's MICEX main stock index also fell, dropping 9% in early trading.

"Now that (Russia and Ukraine) are actually on the verge of a military confrontation investors will start selling Russian stocks with special fervour," analysts at Rossiysky Capital said in a note for investors.

Artem Argetkin, trader at BCS in Moscow, said brokers were trying to close their positions at any price.

"There's a sell-off of everything right now," he added.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:17 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


>It's hard to not miss the occasional comment in this thread.

Whoopsies.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:22 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


What's the Hryvnia doing?
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:23 AM on March 3


What's the Hryvnia doing?

Taking a bath. Even excluding war/conflict stuff, without IMF support Ukraine will probably default.
posted by jaduncan at 1:05 AM on March 3


What I said yesterday about hedging activity being near zero last week.

Markets in Europe are moving crude positions fast this morning.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:17 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


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,” she said.

As far as i can tell, the reality is that Russia can do what it wants in the former soviet sphere of influence and the west won't do anything about it besides make tut-tut sounds and perhaps imposing some half-assed sanctions.
posted by empath at 2:30 AM on March 3


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,” she said.

Well, that's not encouraging

I'm lecturing my students on the Cold War this week, maybe I'll skip showing them Threads
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:03 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


As far as i can tell, the reality is that Russia can do what it wants in the former soviet sphere of influence

A large part of it is in the EU now. And NATO.
posted by hat_eater at 4:37 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


A large part of it is in the EU now. And NATO.

Rump Ukraine (if such a thing comes to be) will almost certainly aim to be. One of the outcomes regardless of what ends up happening here that the countries currently on the fence are being pushed into the arms of the EU bloc.
posted by jaduncan at 4:39 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


dhartung:: Thanks for the clarification. I seem to have misread the Twitter post somehow yesterday.
posted by I-baLL at 4:41 AM on March 3


the west won't do anything about it besides make tut-tut sounds and perhaps imposing some half-assed sanctions

"The west" (by which I assume you mean western Europe/the EU) is Russia's biggest customer for natural gas. If they decide that, say, the US is a more stable source of that (thanks, fracking!) who is willing to offer them some neat discounts, then sanctions might not be Russia's biggest problem.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:36 AM on March 3


Also, why does Russia desire yet another contested area in which they will need to divert state funds (which are dwindling) and worry about potential uprisings? Putin's reality is surely a strange one. Probably explains why the smart money in Russia is moving west. If there were any sort of democracy in Russia, a 10% stock market drop would make Putin reconsider. But what does he care? He can tank the economy and isolate Russia all he wants; he ain't getting voted out.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:41 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


The Russian central bank used about $10 billion in foreign currency reserves and moved short term rates from 5-7% to defend the Ruble today. Yields on Russian bonds rose to 9%. Gazprom was down 11%.

the west won't do anything about it besides make tut-tut sounds and perhaps imposing some half-assed sanctions

What is your proposed alternative? Why do you assume that the sanctions will be half-assed? Sanctions appear to have worked a hell of a lot better in Iraq than the invasion and conquest.
posted by humanfont at 6:16 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Also, why does Russia desire yet another contested area in which they will need to divert state funds (which are dwindling) and worry about potential uprisings? Probably explains why the smart money in Russia is moving west.

Well, that and the whole agree-with-Putin-or-get-sent-to-a-Siberian-labour-camp thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:51 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


According to the latest reports, Russia has demanded the surrender of all remaining Ukrainian forces in Crimea by 0300GMT, or they will 'face storm'. BBC.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:06 AM on March 3


languagehat: "> Mark Adomanis is calling this Russia's worst foreign policy blunder in years

From that link:
...we could shortly be seeing open warfare in Europe for the first time since the end of the Second World War.
If this guy can't even remember the Balkan Wars of the '90s, I'm not sure I'm all that interested in his foreign-policy wisdom.
"

He was probably in his early teens when the Balkans was disintegrating (according to his LinkedIn profile), but yeah, for someone who calls himself a 'Russia watcher' it's a fairly egregious error.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:14 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Russia's worst foreign policy blunder in years

From my armchair I would say that though it is unlikely NATO/the-West will counter Russia's moves militarily, it does also seem like this is a sort of "the more you tighten your grip[...] the more star systems will slip through your fingers" moment.

As others have pretty much said, this sort of removes the fig-leaf of the Eurasian Union being anything other than a vassal-like structure controlled from Moscow.

Still, Putin is no dummy and the Crimea does seem very strategically important. Perhaps the math does add up from the Russia POV.
posted by rosswald at 8:29 AM on March 3


Russia has demanded the surrender of all remaining Ukrainian forces in Crimea by 0300GMT, or they will 'face storm'.

RIA Novosti reports Duma Speaker Naryshkin said that "there is currently no necessity to use armed forces in Ukraine". Does that include Crimea?
posted by hat_eater at 8:30 AM on March 3


He was probably in his early teens when the Balkans was disintegrating (according to his LinkedIn profile), but yeah, for someone who calls himself a 'Russia watcher' it's a fairly egregious error.

I think this is particularly important in this case, as Russia seemed to quite fundamentally change their attitude to international institutions after NATO arguably ignored international law when invading Kosovo and humiliated Russia whilst doing so.
posted by jaduncan at 8:34 AM on March 3


A Kiyv Post page in English with live updates.
posted by hat_eater at 8:58 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Der Spiegel: The New Ukraine
Inside Kiev's House of Cards

By Christian Neef, Wladimir Pyljow and Matthias Schepp
Oleg can effortlessly recite the names of section heads responsible for issues pertaining to Russia and Ukraine in the foreign ministries of Western European capitals. He knows them all. He soberly recounts how Europe rebuffed him and his delegation while the Kremlin ratcheted up the economic pressure on Ukraine in recent years. "The EU should have gotten involved," he says.

Then Oleg explains the preparations made by Yanukovych to storm Independence Square, the location of the mass protests that ultimately brought down his government. Oleg says he knows that fighters from the elite ALFA unit were responsible for setting fire to opposition headquarters and that ALFA snipers opened fire on demonstrators from the rooftops of surrounding buildings. "Everything went according to plan. But then Yanukovych suddenly flinched and ordered the offensive to be stopped," Oleg says.
...
But in Kiev, anarchy has been making inroads. Ukrainians speak of "Makhnovshchina," a reference to the anarchist-Communist partisan movement under the leadership of Nestor Makhno during the civil war that started in 1917. Makhnovshchina is a term applied to anything that smells of capriciousness and chaos.
...
Tuchinov was long the éminence grise of Yulia Timoshenko's Fatherland alliance, but has now become the country's most important figurehead. He is head of parliament, acting president and is simultaneously coordinating the establishment of a new government. "Yanukovych couldn't have dreamed of having so much power," commented the editor-in-chief of one Kiev newspaper.

The biggest loser thus far has been Vitali Klitschko's UDAR party, which has been unable to keep up with Turchinov's fast pace. When it came time to appoint a new governor of Ukraine's national bank last Monday, UDAR was still trying to agree on a candidate of its own. Undeterred, Turchinov simply called a vote and had his own favorite installed -- a candidate who hadn't even been part of previous discussions. The Fatherland alliance, with its experienced apparatchik Turchinov, is handing out portfolios and cabinet positions as it sees fit.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:33 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]






Heard a weird interview on BBC World News this morning with a lieutenant in the Ukranian reserves, ethnically Ukranian and Tatar, who is in Crimea. The guy was very matter-of-fact, and was of the opinion that Crimea has already been taken over by Russia, and that there's no point in fighting it. He plans on trying to escape, first to what he now calls Ukraine, and then elsewhere. He will not join the active Ukranian armed forces if he is called up, and in fact he says the Ukranian government no longer has the legal power to call up forces in Crimea.

The weird part is despite all of this, the BBC interviewer was asking leading questions to try to get him to demonstrate how deeply patriotic he is and how he will fight for Ukraine and all that. So stuff like (paraphrased):

"What are your plans at the moment?"

"I hope to escape Crimea, first to Ukraine and then elsewhere."

"You say you want to escape to Ukraine. This is because of your love of your country and so that you can fight to save your nation?"

"It is because Crimea is a peninsula and there are no boats leaving it."
posted by Flunkie at 10:37 AM on March 3 [18 favorites]


BBC is reporting having captured an image of a document held in the hand of a British official. The document stated that the UK government will not curb trade with Russia or close London's financial centre to Russians.

This, to my Western ears, sounds like terrible news, if true.
posted by newdaddy at 11:08 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Chutzler: "Russia Denies Issuing Ultimatum Or Warning Ukraine Of 'Storm'"

More accurately, an 'unidentified Russian defence official' denies it. It seems like there's a lot of back-channelling and bluffing going on here.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:25 AM on March 3


What's really frustrating is the sense over here in the States that Obama must. do. something, even if nobody has any idea what that something is -- with platitudes about "resolve" and "leadership" substituting for any substantive action. Sternly-worded statements aren't going to move the needle, but neither is anything else we can make a credible bluff of being willing to do, so I wish the press would give the adults some time to let the principals make their moves before committing to something we aren't prepared to do.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:36 AM on March 3 [8 favorites]


the sense over here in the States that Obama must. do. something

Well, it's prob fair to say the West must do something. And also to observe that at this point we don't really know exactly what.

To quote The Wire, which I happened to be rewatching last night:

Sometimes life just be that way I guess.
posted by philipy at 11:45 AM on March 3


The EU Council statement is out, and we're saying that the UN Charter has been breached.
1. The European Union strongly condemns the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces as well as the authorisation given by the Federation Council of Russia on 1 March for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. These actions are in clear breach of the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, as well as of Russia's specific commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997. These actions are also a clear breach of the Ukrainian constitution which specifically recognises the territorial integrity of the country and states that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea can only organise referenda on local matters but not on the modification of the territorial configuration of Ukraine.
The package being offered to Ukraine is also notably generous:
6. The EU is ready to further pursue its efforts with the international community and international financial institutions, especially the IMF, to assist Ukraine. To this end, the EU and its Member States will lend their full support to an international assistance package to address the urgent needs of Ukraine, based on a clear commitment to reforms. The Council welcomes the efforts already undertaken by the Commission, which has dispatched a fact-finding mission to Kyiv in parallel to the IMF mission. The Council also encourages interested third countries to join such an international assistance package. Recalling its conclusions of 20 February 2014, the Council agreed to swiftly work on the adoption of restrictive measures for the freezing and recovery of assets of persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of State funds, and the freezing of assets of persons responsible for human rights violations.

7. The Council reconfirms its offer of the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The Agreement would bring opportunities for sustainable economic development and prosperity to all the regions of Ukraine, including Crimea, as well as to its neighbours. The Agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine cooperation. The EU reiterates its commitment to enhance people to people contacts between the EU and Ukraine, i.a. through the visa liberalisation process, in line with agreed conditions in the framework of the VLAP.
posted by jaduncan at 11:56 AM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Geez, why aren't you poking that beehive, Obama? grumblegrumblegrar
posted by jason_steakums at 11:57 AM on March 3 [5 favorites]


The West needs to try to dissolve the crisis, not intensify it.

I think Obama should call for a summit with Putin, the EU, Yanuchovich, Tuchinov, and regional leaders within Ukraine and Crimea to sort out elections and a Ukrainian constitution that is acceptable to all parties.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:57 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Anyone know what the rule is for the UN determining whether there's been a violation of its charter by a veto-wielding State?

Ignoring the political realities for a second, do they even have a mechanism for barring that country from voting/vetoing? A forced abstention, essentially?
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:06 PM on March 3


Golden Eternity: "Artem Argetkin, trader at BCS in Moscow, said brokers were trying to close their positions at any price."

What's the chance this is a reverse pump and dump writ large?
posted by wierdo at 12:08 PM on March 3


That depends. Where's Bruce Willis right now?
posted by Etrigan at 12:09 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


do they even have a mechanism for barring that country from voting/vetoing?

I'm no expert, but I doubt it - the core purpose of the UN is not to act as global police officer, but to prevent war between the superpowers (basically the ones with veto power). A forced abstention is the kind of thing that would increase tensions, so I'd be surprised if it's possible.
posted by echo target at 12:19 PM on March 3


Lemurrhea: “Anyone know what the rule is for the UN determining whether there's been a violation of its charter by a veto-wielding State?”
echo target: “I'm no expert, but I doubt it - the core purpose of the UN is not to act as global police officer, but to prevent war between the superpowers (basically the ones with veto power). A forced abstention is the kind of thing that would increase tensions, so I'd be surprised if it's possible.
I think the only mechanism available would be to take a vote of the General Assembly, as in the resolution concerning Azerbaijan from a couple of years back. I'm not sure it's legal binding as a UNSC Chapter VII resolution would be.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:45 PM on March 3


The West needs to try to dissolve the crisis, not intensify it.

I believe that's what many are trying to do. But the media reporting is skewed so we hear less of the trying-to-defuse parts of what people say, and mostly get the this-is-appalling parts.

But at the end of the day, if Putin & co were going to be amenable to being talked down, they probably wouldn't have done what they have so far.

The Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, tells the BBC: "My biggest fear is that the Russian authorities believe their own propaganda and make fatal mistakes that open the gates of hell."

This.
posted by philipy at 12:47 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Happy Dave: More accurately, an 'unidentified Russian defence official' denies it. It seems like there's a lot of back-channelling and bluffing going on here.

It looks like it goes both ways. From the NYT:

"The Interfax-Ukrainian news agency quoted an unidentified Ukrainian Defense ministry official as saying Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander had set a deadline of 5 a.m. Tuesday..."

Either way, we'll find out soon enough.
posted by Chutzler at 12:58 PM on March 3


BBC is reporting having captured an image of a document held in the hand of a British official. The document stated that the UK government will not curb trade with Russia or close London's financial centre to Russians.

I think the calculation there is that Britain's economy would be in ruins without rich Russians buying flats in London (I only somewhat kid).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:03 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Here's another source of info on the Ukrainian crisis:

LiveJournal.

No, seriously. Since it got bought by a Russian company, it's become the most popular blogging platform in the region by far.

Just load it in Chrome, have the Google Translate plugin installed, set it to "Always translate Russian to (your language)", if you don't read Russian, and then go to LiveJournal's front site. There's loads of posts on the front page; most are about the crisis. Of course, it's not presented as an unbiased source, but you'll probably get info that you can't find anywhere else. And you don't need to make an account to read the posts.

LiveJournal - Not Just for Fanfic Anymore.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:10 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


This is a horrible situation, and it seems to be getting worse by the day. One interesting thing for me, though, has been the lack of reports of cyber attacks by either side. That was a huge part of the Russian conflicts in Georgia and Estonia, and it seems odd that we haven't really heard about it much so far. I wonder if that is because the Ukraine has a more well-developed cyber capacity?

Here's hoping we don't find out how far Putin is willing to go on this...
posted by gemmy at 1:31 PM on March 3


The West needs to try to dissolve the crisis, not intensify it.

I believe that's what many are trying to do.


Yeah, and I think that's why Lombard Street isn't going to Gox Russia yet.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:43 PM on March 3


No, this situation isn't so horrible. (Unless you're a Tartar, in which case it probably is pretty crappy.) The horrible situation was a week or so back when protesters were being shot by snipers in Kiev. This is just the saber rattling and chest beating that powerful people do to express their displeasure with the commoners. Even if Russia takes the Crimea, it isn't the end of the world. Losing the other eastern provinces would be a much bigger blow, but that doesn't seem likely.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:44 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: "That depends. Where's Bruce Willis right now?"

If he's using the name "James Cole," we should be very nervous.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:48 PM on March 3


The BBC is reporting that ousted President Yanukovych has asked Russia to use military force in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia's UN envoy has said ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has asked Russia to use military force in Ukraine.

Vitaly Churkin said in a speech at the UN that Mr Yanukovych had made the request in writing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yeah. This is not going to end well.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:10 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


...

So... one major actor REALLY wants it to break that way.




Has anyone heard rumblings about SSBN deployments?
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:20 PM on March 3


I'm doubtful that Russia will go to war with Ukraine to take the Crimea by force. If something bad actually happened to ethnic Russians or other allies living there (like when Georgia attacked the South Ossetian separatists in 2008) then yes, they'd do it. But nothing like that has happened so far.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:26 PM on March 3


Ho gawd, the right is jiizzing over China/Russia alliance. Too much Clancy.
posted by telstar at 2:27 PM on March 3


Kevin Street: “I'm doubtful that Russia will go to war with Ukraine to take the Crimea by force. If something bad actually happened to ethnic Russians or other allies living there (like when Georgia attacked the South Ossetian separatists in 2008) then yes, they'd do it. But nothing like that has happened so far.”

Will the Crimea be returned to Ukraine after all this dies down? What are your odds on that? How about lasting damages to the national sovereignty of nations bordering Russia, which seems increasingly willing to invade nations willy-nilly unilaterally any time anybody's distant cousin gets involved in a riot somewhere? Or will all that turn out just fine?

This whole "they are protecting ethnic Russians" thing is nonsense. Family is fine, yeah, but you don't all-out violate the sovereignty of other nations in the name of defending your race, particularly if you're doing so under the increasingly silly guise of fighting fascism.
posted by koeselitz at 2:37 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


BBC is reporting having captured an image of a document held in the hand of a British official. The document stated that the UK government will not curb trade with Russia or close London's financial centre to Russians.

I think the calculation there is that Britain's economy would be in ruins without rich Russians buying flats in London (I only somewhat kid).


Ukrainian assets owned or used by ousted President Viktor Yanukovych hidden behind trail of firms with links to UK.
posted by Kabanos at 2:42 PM on March 3


From the Telegraph...

Ukraine crisis: UK prepares to rule out sanctions against Russia amid threat to global economy.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:43 PM on March 3


What freaks me out about this "ethnic Russian" bit - and I'm sure is no news to anyone - is that declaring that as an inviolable right of Russia gives them carte blanche to invade any former SSR and rebuild the old empire.

It's like all of that genocide and people-shuffling wasn't just a means to an end, but an insurance fallback for the future, which is even scarier. They may be psychotic, but they are also smart, and looking at this now it's hard to think that when they planned the deportations it wasn't just a then thing, so to speak, but a permanent thing. Ensuring the goddamn empire for all time, yea unto the nth generation.

As an American of ethnic-Estonian extraction who grew up on chilling tales of Why We Left - the village my family came from underwent at least one mass execution of any men of fighting age - this all has me hell of nervous. I do not want that history to repeat. One time is too many.
posted by cmyk at 2:45 PM on March 3 [10 favorites]


"Will the Crimea be returned to Ukraine after all this dies down? What are your odds on that?"

I don't know. But if there's no provocation (and there certainly hasn't been any so far), I think it will be difficult for Russia to maintain its de facto occupation of Crimea. Hopefully they'll leave after a while, after staying long enough to prove their point. (Chest beating, in other words.)

"How about lasting damages to the national sovereignty of nations bordering Russia, which seems increasingly willing to invade nations willy-nilly unilaterally any time anybody's distant cousin gets involved in a riot somewhere? Or will all that turn out just fine?"

It isn't fine - but then, living next to Russia has never been a great situation. Progress comes in fits and starts, with an election here and a revolution there. Maybe the end of a frozen conflict or two. As long as it's clear that change is coming from the concerned peoples themselves and isn't being encouraged from abroad it will get harder for Russia to justify unilateral imposition of its will in the region.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:50 PM on March 3


I mean, this isn't the age of empires any more, or the age of conflicting philosophies vying to rule the world. This is an increasingly interconnected globe where Russia needs other countries just as much as they need it. Large scale conflicts that tank Russia's currency and cut its revenue from fossil fuel exports are not in their long term interests.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


it will be difficult for Russia to maintain its de facto occupation of Crimea.

I don't know, they're still sitting on the chunks of Georgia that they took a fancy to. Putin seems to be willing to trade some short term economic damage for long term influence in surrounding nations. He can use that influence later to secure pipeline deals that more than make up for the earlier economic loss. At least that's my current theory.
posted by echo target at 3:03 PM on March 3


me: "Will the Crimea be returned to Ukraine after all this dies down? What are your odds on that?"

Kevin Street: “I don't know. But if there's no provocation (and there certainly hasn't been any so far), I think it will be difficult for Russia to maintain its de facto occupation of Crimea.”

If there has been no provocation (and I agree that there hasn't been any so far) then why the hell is Russia in the Crimea at all to begin with? And what about South Ossetia, after all?
posted by koeselitz at 3:05 PM on March 3


He can use that influence later to secure pipeline deals that more than make up for the earlier economic loss. At least that's my current theory.

All the pipeline deals in the world mean nothing if nobody is buying the gas going through them.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:06 PM on March 3


increasingly willing to invade nations willy-nilly unilaterally

I don't know about the "increasingly." Russia aka the Soviet Union has been invading whoever pretty much as long as anyone cares to look back in history. This isn't out of line for them, really -- it's only out of line for "us" because they're leaning in a more westward direction than usual since the breakup of the Soviet Union. I had a little vague hope there would be a sea change at the beginning of Yeltsin's term, but Putin is just more of the same, though no one will ever be as bad a Stalin, who overshadows anyone anywhere as The Worst Person Ever, so the bar is pretty high & anyone looks mild by comparison, no matter how avaricious they are.

NATO & Russia actually shooting at each other is just a thing that cannot happen though, and Putin knows that NATO knows that Putin knows that NATO this, so expect much blustering, and pray that this gets settled to whoever's benefit (probably Putin's) without bullets.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:06 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


The assumption I've been working under here (and if I'm wrong, tell me) is that the Maidan revolution in Ukraine is what tipped this off. Putin wanted the Eurasian Union to succeed, and he also wanted Ukraine in it. The Ukrainian people disagreed so badly they toppled the puppet president, and now Putin's in a snit.

That, and as Devils Rancher says, it's what they do, and always have done.

Given family history etc I am perhaps not capable of looking at this dispassionately. Oh well.
posted by cmyk at 3:09 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


They may be psychotic, but they are also smart

It doesn't really do us any good to cast them as evil geniuses. Putin is encouraging and taking advantage of ethnic tensions that were in place long before he came to power. There's no reason to think it's part of a century-long carefully planned conspiracy.

You're correct, though, that this gives any bordering nation with a Russian minority reason to be worried about an invasion. Which is probably just how Putin wants them to feel.
posted by echo target at 3:09 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


koeselitz and Kevin Street, you may wish to review the principles of Realism here. Any ethnic or provocation related claims are essentially a pretext -- in origin, the narrative basis the nation needs to declare war. They don't have to be "real" in an objective sense. What determines where and when a nation acts militarily is more easily predicted by its actual and permanent interests. Crimea, in those terms, is actually far more understandable than its relatively minor interests in Abkhazia and Ossetia. But the consistency betweeen the two is a permanent interest in keeping Georgia and Ukraine destabilized, in a state of emergency, demoralized, and delegitimized.

Putin wanted the Eurasian Union to succeed, and he also wanted Ukraine in it.

As far as Belarus and Kazakhstan he already has everything he needs. The "Eurasian Union" is largely a creation meant to lure Ukraine into a similar arrangement and has little point outside of that purpose.

‘Russia is Looking for a Hot War,’ Says Georgia’s Former President -- Saakashvili, the last man to fight a war with Russia, is now advising Kiev
posted by dhartung at 3:13 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


"But the consistency betweeen the two is a permanent interest in keeping Georgia and Ukraine destabilized, in a state of emergency, demoralized, and delegitimized."

Yes, this is the probably the greatest danger. Russia might create a Crimean puppet government, and then stick around as "peacekeepers" to ensure it doesn't collapse. I hope it doesn't happen, but you never know.

Georgia's mistake in a similar situation was defending their sovereignty with... vigor. It gave the Russians a pretext for an equally vigorous counterattack.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:16 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Well if Britain isn't willing to take economic measures against Russia now, I cannot see how they can maintain that they are honoring their obligations under the Budapest Memorandum.
posted by newdaddy at 3:24 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I actually kind of wonder if Putin doesn't want Crimea and the eastern parts to stay in Ukraine so that they can continue to influence elections. Yanukovych was elected 49-45, after all. If Putin peels off his strongholds, he controls the territory, but makes it much more likely that the rest of the country will go straight to the EU.
posted by echo target at 3:25 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


Someone take Putin's keys, call an uber and send him home. He's drunk, and when he's drunk he's an asshole.
posted by humanfont at 3:56 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


newdaddy: Why do you think they call Britain Perfidious Albion?
posted by adrianhon at 4:18 PM on March 3


> I think it will be difficult for Russia to maintain its de facto occupation of Crimea.

Why? Who's going to stop them?

> why the hell is Russia in the Crimea at all to begin with?

To protect their naval base.

> And what about South Ossetia, after all?

What about it? Who outside the Caucasus gives a damn about it, or even remembers it exists?
posted by languagehat at 4:37 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


The British memo said they are not going to support trade sanctions *for now*.

While it's depressing that it's not even to be considered, it's apparently not ruled out forever and in any circumstances. Also bear in mind that such memos are likely written in circumstances where people disagree and get worded in a way so as to not offend anyone too much.

Meanwhile Dara O'Briain is not imposing any trade sanctions either.
posted by philipy at 4:42 PM on March 3


I miss Boris Yeltsin. He was like the Rob Ford of Russia.
posted by Kabanos at 4:48 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


> why the hell is Russia in the Crimea at all to begin with?

To protect their naval base.


Some reason they can't do that from their own side of the border?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:12 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


If there has been no provocation (and I agree that there hasn't been any so far) then why the hell is Russia in the Crimea at all to begin with?

-Ukraine On The Brink, Ctd
-Ukraine crisis live
-Ukraine crisis live
-Ukraine Live Blog
-Live blog: Ukraine crisis
10:41pm

The US state department has posted the full text of UN ambassador Samantha Power's remarks to the UN Security Council.

She begins:
Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.

...Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission. It is a violation of international law and a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent nation of Ukraine, and a breach of Russia's Helsinki Commitments and its UN obligations.

...Russia has every right to wish that events in Ukraine had turned out differently, but it does not have the right to express that unhappiness by using military force or by trying to convince the world community that up is down and black is white.

...The bottom line is that, for all of the self-serving rhetoric we have heard from Russian officials in recent days, there is nothing that justifies Russian conduct. ... What is happening today is a dangerous military intervention in Ukraine. It is an act of aggression. It must stop.
10:24pm

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, retorts at Russia that Viktor Yanukovich was voted out by his own party. She calls on Russia to join other nations on the security council in supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"Why not support international mediation? Why not support an observer mission?" she asks Vitaly Churkin. "Why not pull back your forces instead of sending more?"

[...]

10:00pm

Why are Russia's military forces in Crimea?, Ukraine's UN envoy, Yuriy Sergeyev, asks Russia at the UN Security Council.

He dismisses the justification that Russia is protecting Russian speakers, saying that is the role of Ukraine's government - and says that he is himself a Russian speaker and does not need Russia's support.

Mr Sergeyev says there are 16,000 Russian troops now deployed in Crimea, controlling "crucial" military and government installations. He also accuses Russian forces of conducting operations in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine that are aimed at "discrediting the legitimate authorities" and undermining public opinion.

Ukraine's troops have refrained from action so far but are on full operational readiness, he says.

He finishes his statement in English and switches to Russian, seeming to directly address Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador.

[...]

9:41pm

Kiran Stacey, FT UK political correspondent, reports that the UK government has had to deny putting the interests of London's financial centre "ahead of attempts to defuse the Ukraine crisis after an official was pictured walking into Number 10 with a document warning the UK should not 'close London's financial centre to Russians'."

He writes:
London has argued that any sanctions – including asset freezes and travel bans – should be carefully drawn so as not to hit innocent parties. The document said: "The UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians."
This latest development comes as David Cameron's government is navigating tricky waters:
London has found itself in a difficult position over the situation in Ukraine, caught between the US, which is advocating a hard line against Russian aggression, and western European members, such as Germany, which are urging moderation.

David Cameron spoke to both Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and François Hollande, the French president, about the situation on Monday night, with an emergency EU summit planned for Thursday.

Downing Street said it will continue to act in "lockstep" with its official partners, while some UK officials have suggested that John Kerry, the US secretary of state, spoke out of turn when going into detail about what sanctions might be levied.
[...]

7:45pm

Speaking at the White House, Barack Obama, US president, emphasised that Russia has violated international law and Ukrainian sovereignty.

Secretary of State John Kerry will offer a "specific and concrete" aid package to Ukraine when he travels to Kiev, Mr Obama said. He added that the US was "examining a series of steps, economic and diplomatic, that will isolate Russia and have a negative impact on Russia's economy and its status in the world."

He warned that "over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia".

However, Mr Obama reiterated that Vladimir Putin could still defuse the crisis by accepting international monitors, possibly under UN or Organisation for Security and Cooperation authority, to ensure the security of Russian nationals and Russian speakers in Ukraine. "Really there are two paths Russia can take at this point," he said.

Mr Obama called on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to unite on affirming the principle that no country should invade another unprovoked. The first order of business would be to "work with the administration to provide a package of assistance to Ukraine."

[...]

6:30pm

Following John Kerry's warning on Sunday that "all options are on the table", Jennifer Psaki, a US state department spokeswoman, said that the US was "likely" to introduce sanctions on Russia if it tried to retain military control of Crimea and was not just using the threat of sanctions to dissuade Russia from taking military action in eastern Ukraine, reports Geoff Dyer in Washington.

"It is likely that we will put these [sanctions] in place," she said. "We have a broad range of options available. We are far more forward on this than we even were yesterday."

6:18pm

An update on the latest developments:

- Russia has denied reports it issued an ultimatum for Ukraine’s army and navy personnel in Crimea to surrender by 5am Tuesday (3am GMT) or face military attack.

- The EU's Foreign Affairs Council has put out a statement calling for Russia to withdraw its troops from Crimea and warning that "in the absence of de-escalating steps" it would re-consider bilateral relations and "consider further targeted measures."

- The EU has called an "extraordinary summit" of presidents and leaders for Thursday to push for de-escalation.

- The UN Security Council is set to hold a public meeting, at Russia's request, today at 20:30pm GMT.
/emphasis added; note that sanctions are likely unless russia withdraws from crimea

also btw...
  • Ukraine: Russian native speakers, cf.
  • Ukrainian vs. Russian armed forces, viz.
  • Russia ties compound German dilemma in Ukraine crisis
    Berlin remains desperate to avoid a confrontation with Russia that could have a long-term impact on relations with a country it continues to view as a vital strategic partner. Germany receives close to 40 percent of its gas and 35 percent of its oil from Russia - well above the European average. German corporate investments in Russia totalled $22 billion as of October 2013 and German firms own stakes in roughly 6,100 Russian companies. Some 200,000 Russian citizens and 2.5 million ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union live in Germany. Putin himself spent five years in Dresden as a KGB agent in the 1980s, speaks fluent German and reads the German press.
  • Europe less reliant on Russian gas through Ukraine - "In Germany, Europe's biggest gas consumer and Russia's largest customer, inventories are more than 60 percent of capacity, equivalent to around 60 days of demand."
oh and, if oligarchs are a/the source of putin's power, presumably london could freeze a whole lot of oligarchs' assets, which i'm assuming is one reason this hasn't escalated beyond crimea yet particularly if the ruble were to join the hryvnia in freefall...

kasparov's tweets, fwiw:
  • "Not about punishing RUSSIA. Russia is not Putin. He's a dictator. Go after him & his cronies & their assets."
  • "You don't need tanks, you need banks. They are all addicted to Putin's cash. He thinks he can buy the West and so far he has been correct."
  • "Hit them where it hurts, their wallets. Their London IPOs & real estate, visas. They don't want to live in the Russia they are destroying."
  • "Western leaders & banks are in love with the cash Putin & his gang control & spread around in Europe & US. Cut it all off if are serious."
and if survey sez that "73% of Russians oppose intervention in Ukraine" is correct then putin's gambit is coming from a position of weakness...
posted by kliuless at 5:16 PM on March 3 [14 favorites]


> Some reason they can't do that from their own side of the border?

Uh, you might want to consult a map.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Some reason they can't do that from their own side of the border?

Sevastopol is on the southwest coast of Crimea. The naval base per se is Russian territory, but the city is/was a special autonomous district (the only similar case in Ukraine is Kiev itself) separate from the Crimean ASR. The base and city are 250km across the whole of Crimea from the Strait of Kerch which represents the legal border between Ukraine and Russia. Under the treaty regarding the naval base Russia had certain transport rights (and attendant responsibilities such as notification) across Ukrainian territory. So in theory, no, there is no reason they could not retain, service, and protect their naval base even though it is technically deep within Ukraine.
posted by dhartung at 5:34 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Was there some indication that Russia's base in the Crimea was under threat?
posted by koeselitz at 5:35 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Uh, you might want to consult a map.

Maybe you should. Try not to overlook the Crimea this time.

(The base is on Russian soil, just like Guantanamo Bay is on US soil despite being on the island of Cuba.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:36 PM on March 3


"Why? Who's going to stop them?"

Well, nobody really. The West isn't going to fight Russia, and while Ukraine could put up a lot of resistance in their mainland territory, the Crimea seems less heavily defended. I guess I'm just hoping that international condemnation, including possible economic sanctions, plus the lack of any justifiable reason to be there, will persuade Russia to withdraw. They can't afford to become a rogue nation.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:38 PM on March 3


Was there some indication that Russia's base in the Crimea was under threat?

Depends on how much Russia Today you've been watching.

just like Guantanamo Bay is on US soil despite being on the island of Cuba.

Except it's even more like if Guantanamo City, and the whole district of Guantanamo itself, were made up almost entirely of people who have family connections to the US Navy going back the entire history of the existence of the base.

Sevastopol has been Russia's warm water naval headquarters since 1804.
posted by dhartung at 5:43 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Sevastopol is their only warm water port, correct? If that's the case, they're not letting go of it without a fight. I suppose a westerner could suggest they use Vladivostok or some other place on the Pacific coast, but, the enormous distance across Russia makes that completely impractical. My guess is they're in Crimea to stay.

The scary question, as has been noted, is whether they will soon decide to "protect" the eastern sections of Ukraine.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:53 PM on March 3


The point is, nobody was suggesting they let go of the naval base. The lease, last I read, extended to 2042 under the Kharkiv Pact. For 20 years, they've peacefully operated (in fact side by side with the Ukrainian Navy's own headquarters). Even if you consider that the post-Yanukovich government of Ukraine would be potentially more hostile to Russian intentions than any post-USSR regime yet, they are a far cry from being in any sort of position (politically, financially, militarily) to mount a strategic operation to cut off the base in any meaningful way.
posted by dhartung at 6:12 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Ukraine: Russian native speakers, cf.

Presented a different way: Most common native language in urban and rural municipalities of Ukraine according to 2001 census (last available census). Blue is Ukrainian, red is Russian.
posted by Kabanos at 6:14 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Things have been quieter on the Russian side today, right? So it seems that there may be diplomatic efforts underway to see if Russia can back down and not lose face.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:23 PM on March 3


Polls since the 2001 census regarding native language, as well as actual language use add more information that complicate the picture. And this is all separate from the actual ethnicity of the population.
posted by Kabanos at 6:24 PM on March 3


mount a strategic operation to cut off the base in any meaningful way.

How do you cut off a naval base on the Black Sea when your own, very dominant, fleet is the one with the moniker "Black Sea Fleet"?

More and more, this is looking like the kind of situation where you're very careful not to get in your opponent's way while he's destroying himself.
The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes – hardly a national consensus.
Economically, the costs are dire:
the key Russian stock indexes tanked by more than 10%. That amounts to almost $60 billion in stock value wiped out in the course of a day, more than Russia spent preparing for last month’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom, which accounts for roughly a quarter of Russian tax revenues, lost $15 billion in market value in one day – incidentally the same amount of money Russia promised to the teetering regime in Ukraine in December and then revoked in January as the revolution took hold.

The value of the Russian currency meanwhile dropped against the dollar to its lowest point on record, and the Russian central bank spent $10 billion on the foreign exchange markets trying to prop it up. “This has to fundamentally change the way investors and ratings agencies view Russia,” said Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank. At a time when Russia’s economic growth was already stagnating, “This latest military adventure will increase capital flight, weaken Russian asset prices, slow investment and economic activity and growth. Western financial sanctions on Russia will hurt further,” Ash told the Wall Street Journal.
posted by fatbird at 6:45 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


fatbird: "mount a strategic operation to cut off the base in any meaningful way.

How do you cut off a naval base on the Black Sea when your own, very dominant, fleet is the one with the moniker "Black Sea Fleet"?
"

I believe dhartung was referring to the Ukrainians being unable to cut off the base from the Russians.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:50 PM on March 3


Guys... does this mean Romney was actually correct about Russia being the biggest strategic threat to US interests? And Obama mocked him for it? I'm so confused.
posted by Justinian at 6:58 PM on March 3


Learn the lessons of history, or you will repeat it.
posted by humanfont at 6:59 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Guys... does this mean Romney was actually correct about Russia being the biggest strategic threat to US interests? And Obama mocked him for it? I'm so confused.
Not to mention all the bayonets we're gonna need if worst comes to worst.
posted by Flunkie at 7:19 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


It's weird reading any of the good cop/bad cop stuff going on with the Obama/Merkel/Cameron statements because this is the group of leaders that often includes Putin himself in this good cop/bad cop PR game when there's a big international debate, and they all know the game well enough that I'm sure it doesn't even feel like saber rattling to them, just going through the motions. It just feels like, with a bunch of G8 countries, it's less "Putin did what? How dare he? Grumble grumble!" and more "Ugh, Putin, way to be subtle. Ok, now how do we all save face here?"
posted by jason_steakums at 7:58 PM on March 3


What I don't get is who does the current leadership of Ukraine recognize as the prime minister of Crimea? The prime minister of Crimea is supposed to be appointed by the prime minister of Ukraine so who does the new guy recognize?
posted by I-baLL at 8:04 PM on March 3


Jason_steakums wrote: It's weird reading any of the good cop/bad cop stuff going on with the Obama/Merkel/Cameron statements [...]

The thing is, those statements are directed at us. When Merkel's people reported that she said Putin was crazy (“In another world”) I immediately thought "Oh, what a good rationale for not doing anything: crazy people are unpredictable!" I mean, this is obviously a purposeful, directed "leak", and I don't imagine it's meant to change Putin's mind on the invasion. The same goes for all the sabre-rattling. It's hardly going to scare Putin. I suppose it's just meant to show us they care.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


The thing is, those statements are directed at us. When Merkel's people reported that she said Putin was crazy (“In another world”) I immediately thought "Oh, what a good rationale for not doing anything: crazy people are unpredictable!" I mean, this is obviously a purposeful, directed "leak", and I don't imagine it's meant to change Putin's mind on the invasion. The same goes for all the sabre-rattling. It's hardly going to scare Putin. I suppose it's just meant to show us they care.

Yeah, it's basically half saying what they think their citizens want to hear, half floating trial balloons to gauge public support for possible paths. They definitely aren't talking to each other via the front pages of newspapers.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:30 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I'm really liking the Reddit /r/UkranianConflict live thread. It's not a normal Reddit thread, it's a live-updating stream where a select set of people are curating links. They've done a great job so far and unlike similar live feeds from news organizations, the stream seems to be getting updated 24 hours a day.
posted by av123 at 9:44 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


Haaretz: Jewish leaders in Crimea back Ukrainian government, call for Russian withdrawal
Official Russian spokespeople and Kremlin-controlled media have repeatedly accused the pro-Western interim government in Kiev of harboring “anti-Semites” and “neo-Nazis,” putting the Jews in Ukraine in an awkward position where if they warn of actual anti-Semitism they could be aiding Russian propaganda.

This week, Jewish leaders aligned themselves firmly with the government and against the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s chief rabbi, Yaakov Bleich, signed – along with other Ukrainian religious leaders – an open letter calling upon Russia to “stop its aggression against Ukraine” and withdraw its army from Crimea.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:37 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


A little more than an hour ago, near Sevastopol, Ukraine, the Ukrainian commander of Belbek Air Base Colonel Yuli Mamchuk formed his men into an unarmed column, then marched at the head of the column to the airfield to demand access to his aircraft. Warning shots were fired, but a small group was permitted to check on the aircraft while the Russians waited for orders.

Unbelievably, there is a live stream, which at the moment is mostly Ukrainian soliders smoking and joking the way soldiers do. Although they are also messing around on their phones, because it's the 21st century.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:57 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Oh, wow -- the feed has switched to footage of a peace demonstration in St. Petersburg. Cops arresting sign-holders, tearing up signs, someone has a bloody nose. Young girl wearing scarf with Ukrainian flag colors. Very orderly and calm.

Now interviews in Simferopol. Guy in background wearing Cubs sweatshirt!
posted by dhartung at 12:13 AM on March 4


The revolution is being live-streamed.

In further news, Russia is to take a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Bad timing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:24 AM on March 4


Putin is about to give a press conference. I'm hoping for "Declares Victory and Goes Home".
posted by Justinian at 12:31 AM on March 4


av123: "I'm really liking the Reddit /r/UkranianConflict live thread. It's not a normal Reddit thread, it's a live-updating stream where a select set of people are curating links. They've done a great job so far and unlike similar live feeds from news organizations, the stream seems to be getting updated 24 hours a day."

Thanks, that's a great resource.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:32 AM on March 4


I've also been watching The Interpreter magazine from the Institute for Modern Russia, which has been liveblogging for the last two weeks, summarizing and translating things from UKR/RUS media.
posted by dhartung at 1:04 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Russia Today anchor Abby Martin speaks her mind live. I suppose this might be her last appearance on RT.
posted by hat_eater at 1:33 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]




Fascinating turn (this is GTranslated):
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the situation in Ukraine

Kazakhstan expresses its deep concern about the situation in Ukraine. Further escalation of tension can lead to unpredictable consequences , both regionally and globally.

Kazakhstan calls on all parties involved to renounce power options to resolve the situation and to take maximum political efforts to resolve the current problems through negotiations . This decision should be based on the fundamental principles of international law.

Encourage all stakeholders to balanced , objective and responsible approach to the assessment of the situation and to refrain from actions that could provoke a further aggravation of the Ukrainian crisis .

Kazakhstan hopes for an early normalization of the situation , the peace dialogue between all political forces and restoration of law and order .


Kazakhstan, of course, is a proposed member of the Eurasian Union and would normally be expected to be in near-lockstep with Moscow. But this comes close to the EU point of view. In addition to apparent poor reception of the invasion/occupation among ordinary Russians, Putin is seeming to have blundered among his own constituency.

Still waiting for the Putin statement. RT feed here? Reuters feed here, now running Pistorius trial. It's in Afrikaans, naturally.
posted by dhartung at 2:31 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Putin is seated, trying to affect a relaxed attitude, and explain the "root causes" of the conflict, but he's all over the place -- talking about income inequality, constitutional law, corruption. I think this is a taste of the unreality reported by Merkel. If this is meant to argue to the world the urgency of intervention he's sure taking the long way around.
posted by dhartung at 2:42 AM on March 4


This is an intensely rambling 'statement'.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:45 AM on March 4


From Mr. Putin's press conference:

"There are three ways for someone to legally step down from power. One, DEATH."

[thinks]

"Uh... um, two, stepping down. And three, impeachment."
posted by archagon at 2:46 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]




He's now claiming he's ordered his troops to return to their bases already, so what could cause/trigger a military response?

Claims Ukrainian and Russian troops are friendly, and Ukraine and Russia are fraternal nations, so why would they stand on opposite sides?

Now he's talking about the US Federal Reserve monetary policy.
posted by dhartung at 2:53 AM on March 4


What I'm hearing: "We have no current plans to do the same thing in Eastern Ukraine. But the legal powers there had better get their shit together soon, or else."
posted by archagon at 2:54 AM on March 4


He talked a lot about how it's totally justified for the people of Ukraine to be pissed at their corrupt government, but that the current overthrow was unconstitutional. He also talked about how legal rights must be extended to all citizens of Ukraine, presumably meaning the Russian population. I think he wants Yanukovych back in power followed by a lawful re-election/impeachment/whatever. (Whether or not you want to put lawful in quotes is up to you.)
posted by archagon at 2:58 AM on March 4


Denial that the insignia-free troops in Crimea are Russian soldiers, calling them "local self-defense forces".
posted by dhartung at 3:03 AM on March 4


I think he's pushing strong for plausible deniability for the time being, as evidenced by the missing Russian insignias, license plates, etc. When asked directly if they were Russian troops, he did not answer.
posted by archagon at 3:10 AM on March 4


Denial that he wants war with "the Ukrainian people", but perhaps with the "Ukrainian army".

Now a softball question about a wounded Berkut militiaman, Berkut families being ostracized.

And has this video looped somehow? OK, confused, going to bed.
posted by dhartung at 3:11 AM on March 4


(In reference to the Russian population of Western Ukraine.) "The people currently in power need to ensure the safety of their people. We will be watching closely."
posted by archagon at 3:51 AM on March 4


Yeah, the backpedaling is amazing. I think he believed he could move quickly enough to catch the West flat-footed - and he did - but he underestimated the complete freak-out from former Soviet satellites, and the co-ordinated game the West could play with little to no advance warning. They were totally going good-cop/bad-cop with him, with the USA talking about asset freezes and travel bans, and other European powers going, "Oh, we're sure that's not necessary, THO WE COULD TOTES MAKE IT HAPPEN, because you're just there to protect Crimean civilians and Russian military assets, and will pull out once the situation stabilizes, RIGHT?"

Obama's administration has made it publicly known they're going to take their time and set up something comprehensive and multi-national rather than going off half-cocked, and that's got to worry the Russians more than a little.

So, Putin will declare "Mission Accomplished", return the troops to barracks in triumph, and harrumph loudly when his Crimean puppet is sent back to the far fringes of local politics with the next election ("The Goblin" - really? Now there's a genius move, let's install a gangster and perennial parliamentary loser as Our Guy.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:15 AM on March 4


a 'busted flush', then a bluff he was called on and now face saving; this was (some high stakes) geopolitical poker, but thankfully enough people were fed up enough with 'the game' and tired of having their lives played with...
posted by kliuless at 5:38 AM on March 4


RT host Abby Martin condemns Russian incursion into Crimea on RT by Glenn Greenwald

"UPDATE: The official RT account on Twitter seems perfectly proud of Martin’s statements, as they re-tweeted my commentary about her monologue condemning Russia’s actions ..
posted by jeffburdges at 7:28 AM on March 4


Long thread, but we just spoke with a Ukrainian friend of mine who is ready to be mobilized into war (he's part of Ukraine's reserve force or something). His assessment of the military strengths is thus: We Ukrainians will be fighting for our country. What will the Russians be fighting for?
posted by the cydonian at 7:58 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


It's been really creepy watching the American right gush over Vladimir Putin's "macho" leadership in their transparent attempts to make Obama look weak by comparison. Just imagine the outrage throughout the media universe, not just on Fox News, but in the grown-up news media as well, if the American left had tried to use the conflict in South Ossetia to take cheap shots at George W. Bush.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:18 AM on March 4 [11 favorites]


Julia Ioffe: Putin's Press Conference Proved Merkel Right: He's Lost His Mind
Gone was the old Putin, the one who loves these kinds of press events. He'd come a long way from the painfully awkward gray FSB officer on Larry King, a year into his tenure. He had grown to become the master of public speaking, who had turned his churlish, prison-inflected slang to his benefit. A salty guy in utter command of a crowd. That Putin was not the Putin we saw today. Today's Putin was nervous, angry, cornered, and paranoid, periodically illuminated by flashes of his own righteousness. Here was an authoritarian dancing uncomfortably in his new dictator shoes, squirming in his throne.

For the last few years, it has become something like conventional knowledge in Moscow journalistic circles that Putin was no longer getting good information, that he was surrounded by yes-men who created for him a parallel informational universe. "They're beginning to believe their own propaganda," Gleb Pavlovsky told me when I was in Moscow in December. Pavlovsky had been a close advisor to the early Putin, helping him win his first presidential election in 2000. (When, in 2011, Putin decided to return for a third term as president, Pavlovsky declared the old Putin dead.) And still, it wasn't fully vetted information. We were like astronomers, studying refractions of light that reached us from great distances, and used them to draw our conclusions.

Today's performance, though, put all that speculation to rest. Merkel was absolutely right: Putin has lost it. Unfortunately, it makes him that much harder to deal with.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:38 AM on March 4 [8 favorites]


This is kind of funny.
posted by Kabanos at 8:43 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


> The base is on Russian soil, just like Guantanamo Bay is on US soil

The base is leased, for not that much longer, and it's a hell of a lot more vital to Russia than Guantanamo is to the US.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Obama is a fucking shark man. Russians play chess and Americans play poker. Putin just got suckered into making a huge bed with a bad hand. Now he has to fold.
posted by humanfont at 9:13 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


'We were so naive and optimistic': Ukraine Euromaidan protesters tell us what's changed for them
This is a revolution of generations. My mum always supported Yanukovych. She voted for him in 2010 and defended his actions. Many of my friends face the same situation at home. My parents live in the city close to the Russian border. Her [my mother’s] counter-argument was: “Better to have someone in charge whom we know, then those nationalists” and “I don’t want the power being taken with violence.”

The atmosphere changes every day, with the rapid development of the events. Yesterday, for example, the air was full of hope, in my opinion; however, still sorrow is in the air. Tonnes of flowers for Ukrainian heroes are being brought constantly. I’ve never seen so many flowers in my life and so many people keep on bringing them. And many, many people are listening to the politicians on the stage and praying for the best. I think that the atmosphere also changed drastically in regards of number of people following the situation. Basically now there many fewer indifferent people.

After she saw Yanukovych’s actions, his house, the intervention in Russia, she started to filter the information and became much more careful and sceptical, though she still tends to trust propaganda. But I am working on it! I think the attitudes of many have been shaken. People are less apathetic now. People know that the future depends on every single citizen.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:24 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


We wish your friend all the best of luck, the cydonian.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:28 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


If it wasn't for the size of the country this really would be a Micky Mouse operation. Seriously? Removing license plates and insignias for plausible deniability? (You can bet there are a handful of satellites not trained on the area ready to follow those troops around.)

Things can certainly change, but at this moment it looks like Putin got bad information and analysis and has overplayed his hand. (really we can just march in and they'll roll over and piss themselves!) After this settles down (lord let it) I expect there is going to be an internal bloodbath in Moscow.

Now, if only this would follow on and result in him actually losing power maybe things can progress beyond idiotic spasms of cold war wannabe aftershocks.

What happens if everyone withdraws and then in 30 years Ukraine decides to not renew the base lease? And why the hell can't Russia just build a Black Sea port on it's own territory so they don't have to freak out about this.
posted by edgeways at 9:42 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'd be leery of these pieces making Putin out a nutter. They sure serve the purpose of narrative building and water carrying we've seen so often on other issues.

I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no, but it's just so convenient.
posted by Trochanter at 9:51 AM on March 4


Yeah, I don't think he has "lost it", but has made some tactical mistakes and is now over his head. Give it a day or two and he'll look confidant again. Hopefully while saying nonsense as he withdraws
posted by edgeways at 9:55 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Removing license plates and insignias for plausible deniability?

Don't forget the name tag on your backpack.
posted by ryanrs at 10:14 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


A transcript of Putin's press conference.

Not sure if that's the best translation, but nice to have it all in writing.
posted by cjelli at 10:28 AM on March 4


About Sevastapol being their only warm-warter naval base. This is totally 101st fighting keyboardists territory, but when I look at Google maps, Russia appears to have over 100 miles of Black Sea coastline, & there is obviously a battleship parked in the port of some town called Novorossiysk. Looks like a decent deep-water port to me, and it's in Russia. Am I missing something?
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:29 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Removing license plates and insignias for plausible deniability?

May also be a war crime under Article 39 of the Geneva Convention, especially as Russia claimed they were Crimean Ukranians and not Russian troops.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:31 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'd be leery of these pieces making Putin out a nutter. They sure serve the purpose of narrative building and water carrying we've seen so often on other issues.

I'm not sure if either Merkel or Ioffe were saying he was losing his mind, or if he and the people surrounding him were becoming isolated and starting to believe their own propaganda. Maybe it is just an act, but it is scary to think that Putin's regime may have more in common with the DPRK than we realized. And if the conclusion from that is that the West should act with more caution as it is not clear how rationally or how well informed Putin and his staff are - well, that is the water that we want carried anyway.

May also be a war crime under Article 39 of the Geneva Convention, especially as Russia claimed they were Crimean Ukranians and not Russian troops.

But wouldn't they have to be wearing a Ukranian insignia for it to be an actual violation?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:33 AM on March 4


Am I missing something?

They are indeed making a new naval base out there, or at least they were, until they had a fair indication that they could basically keep Sevastopol peacefully. The other problem is that there's this little town called Grozny a few hundred miles up the road. Putting not-active-duty warships right next to Chechnya is probably not the safest of plans.
posted by Talez at 10:38 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


there is obviously a battleship parked in the port of some town called Novorossiysk

On search, that's Mikhail Kutuzov, a museum ship.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:42 AM on March 4


Russians play chess and Americans play poker. Putin just got suckered into making a huge bed with a bad hand. Now he has to fold.

Sometimes the loser doesn't take loss gracefully.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on March 4


Russia foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says Moscow will retaliate against any unilateral US sanctions, Reuters reports:

“We will have to respond,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. “As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: this is not our choice.”


So, when he says "we will have to respond," is he talking about responding economically or militarily?

I hope all this chatter about Putin's mental state is just propaganda... It's getting a little creepy.
posted by diogenes at 10:52 AM on March 4


Also, the naval base on Crimea is strategically better placed than any on the Russian coast. Closer to the Turkish straits (linking to the Mediterranean), which is where almost any incoming naval assault or outgoing naval mission would pass through. Along the same lines, if a Crimean naval force was controlled solely by a non-Russian state, it becomes a potential impediment for Russia's clear passage to the straits.
posted by Kabanos at 10:52 AM on March 4


On search, that's Mikhail Kutuzov, a museum ship.

I thought it looked old.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:57 AM on March 4


re: Putin Envy (the bigger picture?)
But how pathetic and short-sighted is this vision? In fact, Putin is stirred to move because he feels humiliated. His puppet was ousted from power by a popular uprising. His plans to seal Ukraine to Russia for another generation are evaporating. His hold on a plausible plurality of the Ukrainian people was shattered. The fuel deals are clearly seen as a crude power-play by most Ukrainians. Even the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of the eastern and southern provinces are slipping out of Moscow’s grasp. There, when we look more deeply into the demographics, we see that even if the 50+ers feel nostalgia for Moscow and support for the Kremlin, the generation of 35-down increasingly sees more promise from an alignment with Europe. The pro-Russian regions of Ukraine will predictably cease to be pro-Russian within a generation.

Putin, the crass intelligence officer, turns quickly to brute force. But what is the cost to him of this step? Not only in Ukraine, but in all the other states of the “near abroad,” the fear of Russia is moved up several notches, the image of Russia as a reptilian predator rises. Even within Russia, most citizens understand the shrill propaganda of ORT (the Russian state TV) for what it is and consider war with Ukraine to be irresponsible nonsense. Putin’s credibility as a leader fades. Increasingly he appears to be someone motivated by fear of loss and failure, not by greatness.

The Putin who shows his face to the world today is not some dynamic new Napoleon delivering a new master stroke. He is a tired, failed leader, who is steadily losing the confidence of his own people, who is seen as hopelessly corrupt, and who is being deserted by Russian elites and detested by the youth in particular. Putin is a spent force. He may hang on for another year or another decade, but in Russia the demand for a new leader will grow steadily from this point.
also btw i haven't read the transcript but going by the BBC: "President Putin says he is not thinking of annexing Crimea, but people there should enjoy the right to self-determination."

oh and: IAMA G8 leader contemplating invasion. Ask me anything.
The tone of the conference was arguably more conciliatory as Putin stated that Russia would only use force as a last resort and that he is not thinking of annexing Crimea. At the same time, the presence of Russian troops in Crimea will remain as a way of “preventing lawlessness” and protecting people’s “right to self-determination” there.
will this go to a vote? (à la scotland and catalonia)

in the meantime...
12:00: The soldiers who took control of Crimea without firing a single shot are likely to be Russian special forces, airborne units and possibly commandos from the elite Spetsnaz force, London-based military experts have told the AFP news agency. Igor Sutyagin, a specialist on Russia at the Royal United Services Institute said the soldiers in unbadged uniforms who fanned out across Crimea were using kit only handled by elite divisions.

[...]

14:38: Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier denied that troops surrounding bases in Crimea were Russian, instead he said they were "pro-Russian self-defence forces". But the BBC's Mark Lowen and his team managed to speak to one of the heavily armed soldiers blockading the military base in the town of Bakhchisarai, central Crimea, yesterday, who said he was a Russian soldier "usually based in Sevastopol".

14:39: Asked whether he thought it was right that Russian soldiers were barricading troops of the Ukrainian army in sovereign military bases of the Republic of Ukraine, the soldier said: "If you ask me as a person, then no it's not right. But I'm following orders."

[...]

16:56: Russian servicemen have forced Ukrainian border guards at the Krym border checkpoint in eastern Crimea to lie on the ground at gunpoint, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports, quoting a Ukrainian border service source - via BBC Monitoring.

16:57: Russian troops have been breaking into the premises of an air defence unit outside of outside Yevpatoria in western Crimea, Interfax reports. The unit's spokesperson was quoted by the agency as saying they had tried to block the Russian troops but about 150 of them had "crushed the defence and broken into the territory of our unit". Via BBC Monitoring.

[...]

17:20: A pro-Russian figure in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk has said that he may ask Russia to deploy peacekeepers in the region to maintain order there. The Kiev-based 5 Kanal TV has shown Pavlo Hubarev, the self-styled "people's governor" of the Donetsk region, saying that "if a threat emerges to civilians...I cannot rule out the possibility of adopting a request to the Russian authorities for the deployment of a military peacekeeping contingent" - via BBC Monitoring.

17:24: The new interim Ukrainian authorities confirm that observers from the pan-European security body, the OSCE, have been deployed to Ukraine in an attempt to diffuse the military standoff with Russian forces. "An OSCE mission has arrived in Kiev which will go to the Crimean peninsula to monitor the situation," Ukraine's national security chief, Andriy Paruby, told reporters in Kiev, quoted by Reuters.

[...]

18:25: There is no question the noose is now tightening around those who refuse to submit to the new authority in Crimea and it is getting ever more hostile, writes the BBC's Christian Fraser in Sevastapol. You can read more from Christian here: Ukraine resistance proves problem for Russia
on the sanctions front it looks like US-EU sanctions are on the way unless russian troops crimean self-defense units pro-russian forces retreat and are likely to ratchet up (financial & energy related) the longer they stay...
This is where it is instructive to turn to the EU’s own research on the targeted sanctions imposed on Belarus. In May 2012, the EU published a fascinating report, which says that it opted for “targeted sanctions” because:
EU sanctions are likely to have the desired impact on policymaking in Belarus if they target representatives of Belarusian business elite, actively supporting the regime, who have a strong lobbying power and whose political effectiveness could be enhanced as a consequence of adverse effect of sanctions on their welfare status, forcing them to negotiate their interests in the government and possibly persuading the government to make some political concessions.
If you replaced “Belarus” and “Belarusian” with “Russia” and “Russian”, you would have the argument made by some for targeted sanctions against the Putin regime.

Leaving to one side for a second the rights and wrongs of sanctions, what the EU report also shows is the work needed before they can be imposed. And how did the EU find the individuals it wanted to target?
To identify key members of the Belarusian business elite actively supporting the Lukashenko regime, Internet-based portal entitled Ezhednevny zhurnal [The Daily Journal] was used in this study as a primary source of information. Since 2007 it has annually published rankings of the most successful and influential businesspeople in Belarus. This is the only available source of information which has the most comprehensive coverage of the Belarusian contemporary business elite.
The EU also used data on state-owned businesses and LinkedIn: “This information was partly collected through press-releases of the businesses in question. LinkedIn was also used in the attempt to identify BelOil company’s trading partners.”

Whether to impose sanctions is a question bigger than their likely efficacy. The EU may consider the costs too high. It may be resigned to the cold logic of letting Russia retain control over Crimea. But if they decide to support targeted sanctions, EU governments will need to have a clear sense of what costs they are willing to meet, for how long, and for what purpose. They should be aware of the dangers of ersatz cooperation with the US. And for reasons legal and practical, the EU will have to have done its homework.
more kasparov today...
  • There's no "logical outcome," no. Putin looked weak after Yanukovych was kicked out. He needed to look tough. But war is bad for business.
  • Putin isn't going to risk heavy sanctions that would cripple his ability to loot Russia with his gang. But will push until threatened.
  • It's no coincidence that Putin retreats in the face of the first real threat against his money by US.
one more :P "CNN talking about 'sanctioning Russia'? Sanction damn 150 oligarchs who'd dump Putin in the trash if he can't protect their assets abroad!"
posted by kliuless at 10:59 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


Putin from his press conference:
“When we point out that it is an unconstitutional coup, we are told, no, it’s not an armed seizure of power, it’s a revolution. Ok, if it’s a revolution, what does that mean? It’s difficult for me to disagree with the experts, who say there is a new country on the old territory. It’s just as it was in 1917, after the fall of the Russian Empire. And we haven’t signed any binding agreements with this new state.” (in reference to the Budapest Memorandum)

Hey! So following this logic, the Sevastopol lease is now null and void too. Congratulations, you're now officially an invading army/navy (unless they all suddenly become part of the "Crimean self-defense force" too).

Also, those billions that are owed Gazprom were under a contract with the "old" Ukraine. Sorry!
posted by Kabanos at 11:16 AM on March 4




So, apparently Russia just test fired an ICBM?
posted by Going To Maine at 11:19 AM on March 4


Well, this sucks. I usually make predictions based on Putin being a self-interested and amoral but fundamentally rational actor with the desire to return Russia to great power status. If that's breaking down Putin gets a lot harder for everyone to do business with.
posted by jaduncan at 11:25 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


From the Guardian live blog:

Reuters picks up a report by state-run RIA quoting a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying that Russia successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).


That doesn't seem like de-escalation...
posted by diogenes at 11:28 AM on March 4


So, apparently Russia just test fired an ICBM?

Pass the S.A.L.T.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:30 AM on March 4


#Russia ICBM test was planned ahead of #Ukraine and US had been notified of window, US official tells @LMartinezABC
posted by Kabanos at 11:32 AM on March 4


A test launch of an RS-12M Topol.

So... about those SSBN deployments...
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:32 AM on March 4


Nice find, Kabanos. Damned odd to move forward with the test launch considering all else that is going on.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:35 AM on March 4


For those curious, the Topol is in the drop-down menu.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:42 AM on March 4


But wouldn't they have to be wearing a Ukranian insignia for it to be an actual violation?

No. It's not so much that it's a war crime as that removing insignia effectively removes any protection under the convention. Such troops may be treated as partisans (rebels) or spies and, if captured, executed under the laws of the controlling power.

There was a point at which our special forces in Afghanistan were dressing down so much that they had to revert to displaying minimal identification as US armed forces to receive Geneva Convention protection.

But yes, should htey actually adopt some sort of Ukrainian identification that would be a war crime itself.
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on March 4




It's kind of ludicrous that having Russian troops remove their insignia has worked as well as it has for plausible deniability. If random internet people could identify one guy as Russian special forces because of a lucky catch on a backpack tag, I'm sure actual western intelligence services confirmed their origins day one, and surely Putin knows the gambit won't hold up to any scrutiny.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:02 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Robinson's point is not invalid, but if we are going to start trying to stand on principal (and it'd be nice if we could) I suspect there would be scant few nations that could morally object, and thus it would go from inconsistent but occasional attempts to do the correct thing to throwing all hands in the air and no body doing anything because everyone's hands are bloody sooner or later... The article seems to be around about way of saying "welp there's nothing we can do, Sorry Ukraine"
posted by edgeways at 12:06 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


About Sevastapol being their only warm-warter naval base. This is totally 101st fighting keyboardists territory, but when I look at Google maps, Russia appears to have over 100 miles of Black Sea coastline, & there is obviously a battleship parked in the port of some town called Novorossiysk. Looks like a decent deep-water port to me, and it's in Russia. Am I missing something?

Here's the thing. They had a lease on Sevastopol that had received no explicit threat of being abrogated, so any idea that it was going to be taken away is purely hypothetical. It's really Russia's place to make the argument that it was being pushed out, not ours.

But yes, the importance of Sevastopol is somewhat overrated [CSM]:
There was a time when the Black Sea Fleet was the spearhead of Russian power and the symbol of its determination to break out of the Black Sea into the Mediterranean and beyond....

But over the past two decades, Russia's once-mighty Black Sea Fleet has mostly rusted at anchor in Sevastopol. Without the Soviet Union's ambitions to build a blue-water navy capable of challenging the US on the world's oceans, it has had little to do....

The fact is ... Russia is a classical land power....

The officially acknowledged roster of the Black Sea Fleet includes a few dozen warships, most of them light. Many date back to the Soviet era and, experts say, are not in operational shape. The fleet has no aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines....

In Soviet military doctrine, the main role of the ocean-going navy was to protect the USSR's huge fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Russia has been rebuilding that force, and now has about a dozen such subs in service, but none of them are based in Sevastopol. Of Russia's four major conventional naval units, the Black Sea Fleet is ranked last in importance after the Baltic, Northern, and Pacific Fleets – which enjoy far better access to the open sea.

...the official understanding with Ukraine ... was that Russia would eventually redeploy its Black Sea naval forces to Novorossiysk,


Essentially retaining Sevastopol is a point of pride for Putin and some in Russia, owing to its importance in Russia history, particularly in the Crimean War and the Second World War ["Great Patriotic War"], as well as its role as an objective for Russian expansion dating back to the 18th century. So this explains (to some extent) why Russia is apparently willing to risk decades of trust relationships in order to prevent it falling into what it deems hostile hands, but suggests little about why it's necessary now to take such precipitate action.
posted by dhartung at 12:07 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


PROD_TPSL: "Nice find, Kabanos. Damned odd to move forward with the test launch considering all else that is going on."

Able Archer 83
posted by Chrysostom at 12:15 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


It's kind of ludicrous that having Russian troops remove their insignia has worked as well as it has for plausible deniability. If random internet people could identify one guy as Russian special forces because of a lucky catch on a backpack tag, I'm sure actual western intelligence services confirmed their origins day one, and surely Putin knows the gambit won't hold up to any scrutiny.

Puppetry. The puppet master knows he's playing with puppets, the people watching know they're puppets, but treat it as real.

I guess it makes sense to send in the Russian troops who can actually fight, in case those crazy Ukrainians decide to resist forcibly.
posted by Atreides at 12:16 PM on March 4


I hope all this chatter about Putin's mental state is just propaganda... It's getting a little creepy.

It is objectively the case that the President of a nuclear-armed state went on television of his own volition and made statements that conflict with easily verified reality. That is definitely creepy, and does not require you to blindly accept all Western points of view on the crisis.

It is not so much that he's off his rocker in a psychological sense, as it is that if you can't even agree on the facts you can't have a conversation that leads to a pragmatic solution.
posted by dhartung at 12:21 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


I went to sleep and missed Russia test firing an ICBM? Did I wake up in 1982?
posted by Justinian at 12:33 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


From what I heard the ICBM test was schedule waaay ahead in advance. I'll find some sources.
posted by I-baLL at 12:37 PM on March 4


PROD_TPSL, I'm pretty sure SSBNs have two crews precisely because they only stay in port long enough to resupply after a deployment.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:55 PM on March 4


There should be some sort of a clause in whatever agreements surround ICBM tests that says something like "in the event of a tense standoff between nuclear powers, it is recommended that the test be postponed until a later date."
posted by diogenes at 12:59 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one thinking of the "Crazy Nixon" strategy that Kissinger used in the 70s, when we talk about Putin being unhinged? "Act a little nuts" doesn't seem out of reach for a KGB veteran as a negotiating strategy.
posted by fatbird at 1:00 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the missile launch was scheduled long before Russia's Great Crimean Adventure. It wasn't a North Korean style subtle reminder. But it is good to remember that they have nukes. Reading some of the American newspaper opinion pages you'd think that people forgot.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:00 PM on March 4


Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean is actually not ice-locked, thanks to warm ocean currents. The definition of "warm-water port" extends no further than "accessible 12 months a year".

CBC just tweeted an infographic comparing the size of Russia's and Ukraine's military. That's not a good development.
posted by dry white toast at 1:02 PM on March 4


"There are three ways for someone to legally step down from power. One, DEATH."

[thinks]

"Uh... um, two, stepping down. And three, impeachment."


um, four, getting voted out of office

oh, right, that's not going to happen to putin, is it?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:10 PM on March 4


Am I the only one thinking of the "Crazy Nixon" strategy that Kissinger used in the 70s, when we talk about Putin being unhinged?

Nope

After I linked that, I thought, well, that had to have actually been Machiavelli originally, right? Which that Wikipedia entry helpfully confirms, but goes on to say that Nixon probably actually either thought of it 'from personal experience', or from watching Eisenhower (!) during the Korean conflict.

As delightful as it might be to think of Putin somehow emulating Nixon, he probably also would have multiple sources for the concept. And at any rate it does sound less like he's playacting and more like, as people are saying, he's just out of touch/surrounded by yesmen/nearing the end of his run. Which actually sounds worse, honestly, and I guess the effect ends up being exactly the same.
posted by hap_hazard at 1:19 PM on March 4


"in the event of a tense standoff between nuclear powers, it is recommended that the test be postponed until a later date."

I believe you are missing the essential theatrical element of a cold war. (Perhaps we should be using the phrase in vogue at a certain other point: the Phoney War. Which the German press called the Sitzkrieg.)
posted by dhartung at 1:19 PM on March 4


Lindsey Graham has the whole problem figured out: The problem is Benghazi.
posted by Flunkie at 1:22 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I just heard Sarah Palin blame it on Obama wearing mom jeans. Not like that macho bear-wrasslin' hunk'o'man Putin.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:26 PM on March 4


LINDSY GRAM UNLOCKED THE CODE

Balkans
Euromaidan
Nukular weapons
Grimea
Hats (big, black)
Airforce
cZar
Interconnected
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:46 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


CBC just tweeted an infographic comparing the size of Russia's and Ukraine's military. That's not a good development.

Actually, Ukraine's better situated than I thought. Especially with regard to armor. Russia is HUGE, and cannot call down all of that might upon Ukraine. It's going to be evenly matched in terms of land forces, at least at the outset. Russia can call down hell with bombing raids and ground-attack aircraft... except that Ukraine has current-gen anti-aircraft batteries (Russian-made, natch) and a home-grown passive radar setup that's the best in the world.

It won't be a walk-over like Georgia if it happens, but it seems Ukrainian heads are keeping calm, and letting international pressure do its thing... an immensely tough thing to do, but they're doing it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:47 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Chrysostom, I had almost forgot about the madness that was Able Archer. I am damn glad that the fledgling Ukrainian government is keeping level headed when beset with such extreme pressure.

Hopefully reports of Putin's lack of reality coherence are overplayed, and that the he pulls back from this misstep.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:56 PM on March 4


Lindsey Graham is a wanker. Probably thinks Benghazi is the capitol of Ukraine.
posted by edgeways at 2:03 PM on March 4


Surreal VICE report from inside and outside a Ukrainian naval base. The admiral defected, so there are armed Russians walking around the base; the Ukrainians decided to stick with their allegiance and locked up their own guns to avoid a provocation. Meanwhile an angry group of civilian cossacks -- drawing the contempt of both groups of soldiers -- outside the base is demanding a power cut-off, and civilians including women attack the VICE crew. They escape but lose their press card in the process.
posted by dhartung at 2:12 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


What I don't get is who does the current leadership of Ukraine recognize as the prime minister of Crimea? The prime minister of Crimea is supposed to be appointed by the prime minister of Ukraine so who does the new guy recognize?

I-baLL, your answer just came through on the BBC:

22:09: A court in Kiev has quashed the decision by the Crimean parliament to sack the region's previous government and appoint as prime minister the pro-Moscow leader, Sergiy Aksyonov.

This means that Kiev considers the incumbent, Anatolii Mohyliov^, the legal representative of the Autonomous Republic.

22:19: The same district administrative court in Kiev (see 22:09 entry) ruled that the move to hold a local referendum on the status of Crimea was "illegal". The referendum was approved by the Crimean regional parliament in the same vote that elected Serhiy Aksyonov as prime minister.

This suggests that at least any previously unscheduled referendum (one for May 25 was already in the offing) would be ignored by Ukraine.
posted by dhartung at 2:22 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Sort of interesting parallel there too, where Putin refuses to recognize the sacking and appointment of a president by the Ukrainian parliament, and then the Ukrainian government in turn refuses to recognize the sacking and appointment of the Crimean Prime Minister by the council. (Of course there are differences in law etc.).
posted by Kabanos at 2:46 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Interesting: the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kiev has launched a site to debunk rumors and false news reports about the Ukraine crisis, Stopfake.org. It does have an apparent pro-Ukrainian bias. Interestingly, they suggest they have identified at least two women who appeared on media as "concerned citizens" during pro-Russian demonstrations in both Kharkhiv (far northeastern Ukraine) and Odessa (far southwestern Ukraine).

(Previously in Ukraine journalism.)
posted by dhartung at 3:40 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


That VICE video is really interesting, and surreal.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:49 PM on March 4


dhartung: Thanks for the update! I'm amazed that it took this long for this to happen.


Wow, reading about the guy though...


"Mohyliov is remembered for praising the Stalin-era deportations of the Crimean Tatars, as well as the shooting of unarmed people in 2007 by police under his command""
posted by I-baLL at 3:55 PM on March 4


dhartung: Can you link me to the BBC feed? I'm trying to find it on their site.
posted by I-baLL at 4:03 PM on March 4


Well, he was a Yanukovich man, and in the Party of Regions, not a reformer.

The BBC's latest is here, but their live feed is put to bed for the night.

BILD gets two Russian soldiers to admit where they're from, and asks them why they aren't wearing the Russian flag on their uniforms. They don't know why, and agree it was "a decision of someone else" for the mission. (German narration, but they use English to talk to the reporter.)
posted by dhartung at 4:06 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I kind of agree that the "crazy Putin" thing sounds a bit too propagandistic. Merkel made a quip after a frustrating phone call with (what looks like) a very tired Putin. She's not a psychologist.

Having watched the conference in Russian last night, I came away thinking that Putin has some valid points. I am not on the Russian side of the conflict by any means, but facts about the situation in Kiev are getting hard to come by. Here are some of the things he said that I'd love to be able to confirm or deny:
  • Ukraine's government has been violently and extra-legally overthrown. (As far as I know, this is true. Legal procedure wasn't followed with the impeachment.)
  • Before fleeing, Yanukovych accepted all the demands, including reverting the Constitution. The protestors still used violence and occupied the government buildings once he left.
  • The fascist element in Ukraine is bigger than we've been lead to believe. (I was lead to believe by the Western media that the fascist element was small, but things like this letter and a few videos I've seen point to it being a bigger problem.)
  • Russians aren't equally represented in Maidan's current decision-making. (I think we've seen plenty of legitimate articles confirming this. Ukraine is split along the middle, and Maidan did not by any stretch have universal support.)
  • Some (many?) Russians in Ukraine are welcoming Russia's intervention. (Other people are saying they're Russian plants, or that it's pure propaganda. Which side is correct? Are they both right?)
Watching the speech, I saw a strong-armed response to a (minority?) revolution in a neighboring nation, not a hostile invasion. Putin can not and will not tolerate a Syria-like situation in his back yard. (But again, I agree that he may be getting or purposefully spreading bad information, and I'd love to know more about the bullet points I listed above. Is it all BS, or is there some truth to it?)

Again, I am not by any means pro-Russia, and frankly I want the Russian troops out of Ukraine ASAP. But reaching compromise requires looking at an issue from both sides, even if we really don't want to.
posted by archagon at 4:26 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Putin is on steroids? His face is all puffy and he looks kinda weird with his shirt off. If so, I wonder if he is suffering from roid rage.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I think it's rage over realizing that by jailing his critics he ended up being surrounded by yes men who aren't feeding him facts and he's starting to realize this.
posted by I-baLL at 4:45 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


From the stopfake link "The actor earlier confirmed he had done stand-up comedy in Chechnya and Dagestan."

Those have got to be tough rooms.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:51 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Those have got to be tough rooms.

"Another night of explosive comedy"
posted by jaduncan at 5:10 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Having watched the conference in Russian last night, I came away thinking that Putin has some valid points.

reaching compromise requires looking at an issue from both sides, even if we really don't want to.

All of which could be accomplished without Russia sending troops to occupy the sovereign territory of another country. I've seen nothing indicating that the Russians living in Ukraine were under any kind of threat, beyond the loss of political power that was precipitated by an intensely corrupt government in Kiev. There are political and democratic avenues for Russians in Ukraine to seek redress.

The crisis is entirely precipitated by the Russian presence.
posted by dry white toast at 5:15 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I think the wartime history of occupied Ukraine is bound to be "difficult" to interpret. In Estonia, where my grandmother (an ethnic Estonian as opposed to a "Baltic German") witnessed the Russian invasion and occupation in 1939, also witnessed the German "liberation" in 1941 (and luckily escaped to southern Germany in late 1944).

A lot of residents of the Baltic states joined the Waffen SS, which was essentially paramilitary units set up in a parallel system to the old, established, and untrustable Heer.

While I don't agree with the sentiment, a lot of the foreign volunteers in the Waffen SS believed they were "saving Western civilization" from the Bolsheviks. But if you had seen your country invaded by the Russians in 1939, or if you were a Ukrainian who remembered Stalin's policies in the 1930's, perhaps you would have embraced the German occupation and the promise, for some, of a new order in Europe.

Of course, as my grandmother discovered after marrying a German non-com, union with Germany was not pleasant.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:32 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]




The Crimean prime minister called the forces in after the forces made the old Crimean government resign at gunpoint and installed a fringe politician who's local gangster name is "Goblin" as Crimean prime minister. Wibley-wobley timey-wimey.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:11 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Putin's statement (in translation):

"As you may know, we have a direct appeal from the incumbent and, as I said, legitimate President of Ukraine, Mr Yanukovych, asking us to use the Armed Forces to protect the lives, freedom and health of the citizens of Ukraine."

So he is referring to a request by Yanukovich, not Aksyonov.
posted by dhartung at 6:23 PM on March 4




dhartung: I finally managed to watch that BILD video. The soldiers don't say that they're from Russia. They say that they're Russian. That's actually a pretty big difference in this case. The caption under the video says:

SOLDIER IN THE CRIMEA ADMITS
"Yes, I am from Russia!"

But that's not what he says. He says "I am Russian". The German subtitles are also mistranslating what the soldier is saying. It's like going up to an Irish-American person in the U.S. and asking "Are you Irish?" and when they say "Yes" claiming that they're from Ireland. No, they're just of Irish heritage.
posted by I-baLL at 7:05 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I kind of agree that the "crazy Putin" thing sounds a bit too propagandistic. Merkel made a quip after a frustrating phone call with (what looks like) a very tired Putin. She's not a psychologist.

Putin's not literally crazy, he's just a mess. He's a shlumpy, pathetic mob boss with no class or polish and he's faking his way through press conferences with incoherent bullshit because he doesn't have to care about impressing anyone, since he is basically unaccountable to his own populace or any higher body.

Having watched the conference in Russian last night, I came away thinking that Putin has some valid points.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Ukraine's government has been violently and extra-legally overthrown. (As far as I know, this is true. Legal procedure wasn't followed with the impeachment.)

Nobody bayoneted the Romanovs or beheaded Marie Antoinette, dude.

Before fleeing, Yanukovych accepted all the demands, including reverting the Constitution. The protestors still used violence and occupied the government buildings once he left.

Yanukovych had been doing exactly what he wanted for a long time, while superficially pretending to not be a completely corrupt arse. More of the same.

The fascist element in Ukraine is bigger than we've been lead to believe. (I was lead to believe by the Western media that the fascist element was small, but things like this letter and a few videos I've seen point to it being a bigger problem.)

Okay, I'm sorry but if you'd been to Russia you'd laugh at this. Russia is hands down the world capital of racist neo-nazi skinheads, seriously. Hands down, far and away. Black tourists can't even travel to Russia without risking their lives. Eastern Europe is bad, but Ukraine is way better than Russia.

Russians aren't equally represented in Maidan's current decision-making. (I think we've seen plenty of legitimate articles confirming this. Ukraine is split along the middle, and Maidan did not by any stretch have universal support.)

Ukraine was basically ruled by a Russian puppet government, so I'd say they were "represented" as much as any dictator represents their own ethnic people.

Some (many?) Russians in Ukraine are welcoming Russia's intervention. (Other people are saying they're Russian plants, or that it's pure propaganda. Which side is correct? Are they both right?)

Some ethnic Russians feel patriotism to Ukraine, some don't.

Watching the speech, I saw a strong-armed response to a (minority?) revolution in a neighboring nation, not a hostile invasion. Putin can not and will not tolerate a Syria-like situation in his back yard. (But again, I agree that he may be getting or purposefully spreading bad information, and I'd love to know more about the bullet points I listed above. Is it all BS, or is there some truth to it?)

Putin's a clown living in 1790.

Again, I am not by any means pro-Russia, and frankly I want the Russian troops out of Ukraine ASAP. But reaching compromise requires looking at an issue from both sides, even if we really don't want to.

A noble, admirable, and futile effort with Putin and Russia.
posted by quincunx at 7:07 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


If we're going to discuss Putin's bullshit, surely we should avoid spouting our own?

I mean things like "Ukraine was basically ruled by a Russian puppet government". Where is the evidence? Yes, Yanukovych had cloes ties with Russia, but does this necessarily mean he was a marionette? From what I understand, Yanukovych's election was determined to be legitimate by third parties. Seriously, I'm not trying to be contrarian, but I'd love to know if this assertion is factually true or not.

Also, "he's a shlumpy, pathetic mob boss"? Putin might be an asshole, but I've seen no evidence that he's a mob boss of any description. And what's with the attacks on his character? How does that help?

"Nobody bayoneted the Romanovs or beheaded Marie Antoinette, dude."

Yes, but I think his point was that half the country had no say in the overthrow, and that the current people in power got there by use of force.

"Okay, I'm sorry but if you'd been to Russia you'd laugh at this. Russia is hands down the world capital of racist neo-nazi skinheads, seriously. Hands down, far and away."

I have no doubt that this is true. But at least they're not in a position of power, as far as I know?

Again, not saying I agree with any of this. In fact, Kerry's speech today had some pretty scathing refutations of Putin's statements.
posted by archagon at 7:41 PM on March 4


The fascists taking over Ukraine story is clearly a pretense and deliberate bit of Russian propaganda, hearkening back to trusty old tropes that have worked before.

Anyway, it's a long and complicated and ugly story, let's just agree to disagree and leave it at that. I don't have any proof for you that will satisfy you, just the fact that my sister worked for Raytheon in Russia during the 90s and lived in Moscow, has a Ukrainian husband and also lived in Ukraine, speaks both languages, and has family connections there.

It makes a lot more sense if you think of both Ukraine and Russia as being completely corrupt and sadly messed up countries that run on bribes and cronyism. "Legitimacy" is already on pretty shaky ground on a good day, in other words.

And the attacks on Putin's character sure help me feel better and relieve my frustration.
posted by quincunx at 7:54 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I just want someone to explain the hats from dry white toast's link above.
posted by rosswald at 8:10 PM on March 4


He's a shlumpy, pathetic mob boss with no class or polish

Apparently his spoken Russian (a language of quite a lot of elegance and style) is quite refined and polished. He also speaks good English.

I don't buy this characterization.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 PM on March 4


quincunx, I'm not really disagreeing with you. The reason I'm writing all this is because I'm Russian and I feel like I'm being pulled in two directions: some of my Russian friends and family (very smart people) are supporting Putin on one end, while my Western friends as well as my own predilections are pulling in the opposite direction. For the past few days, I've been arguing with both sides, trying to work out for myself where the truth is.

But that's neither here nor there. I think we can all agree that this really sucks for the Ukrainians, especially the people who genuinely and legitimately want change at ground zero. :(
posted by archagon at 8:12 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Why do you/they feel like they have to support Putin? I think Russia's a beautiful country with a great cultural heritage, that's part of why the guy frustrates me so much. I don't think he's good for his people, either. He's great at taking shirtless photos, though...

I think Garry Kasparov should replace him.
posted by quincunx at 8:18 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Kasparov as president? That would be sweet. (Plus, you could talk about Russia's president being a "chessmaster" without any exaggeration!)

I think they support him because:
  • He doesn't talk like other politicians. When you listen to him, you feel like he's being earnest — certainly much more so than the scripted, carefully prepared statements of Obama. (A lot of this may be lost in translation.)
  • Russia became much less shithole-y with him in power.
  • I didn't realize this until I started talking to my dad more about politics, but there's definitely still some (or a lot, depending on who you ask) anti-East, pro-West bias in the Western media. My relatives love that their president can stand up to the West and not take their BS.
  • They watch a lot of Russian TV, which is obviously biased in Russia's favor.
  • Russians love strong, authoritarian figures. It's kind of a cultural thing.
posted by archagon at 8:36 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Plus, there's the lingering thought that Putin is one of the few people who has enough authority to reign in the corrupt, criminal elements of the Russian government. Could anyone else do it, or would Russia turn into a full mafia state?
posted by archagon at 8:42 PM on March 4


>there's definitely still some (or a lot, depending on who you ask) anti-East, pro-West bias in the Western media. My relatives love that their president can stand up to the West and not take their BS.

Definitely. Before this crisis, based on what has happened to Greece, Spain, Portugal etc etc etc, I was not exactly sure what Ukraine would get out of joining the EU versus some sort of compact with Russia.

Western media always has this smarmy, smug bias that is full of contradictions.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:46 PM on March 4


Well, yeah, I guess that's pretty much what I expected. I just think manufacturing external enemies is a really old trick that should be distrusted absolutely. It is very similar to what the CCP does- strikingly similar. They're obsessed with the idea of "the West" - what is this "West"? UK? America? Western Europe? Eastern Europe? Australia? Poland? Japan? India? South America? Iceland? Israel? Hong Kong? Singapore? In any case, everything must be defined in opposition to it. I mean, in America, we do not talk about "the East" or anything, right? Maybe a bit, but not really, it's pretty much passe. "Former communist countries" or just don't think about it, at all. I mean, when you say "anti-East bias" that doesn't even conjure up a specific image to me.

I do agree that the BBC has a smarmy tone, though. Oh, do I agree there.
posted by quincunx at 8:57 PM on March 4


I guess the recent Olympics are a good example. Remember the mockery of the Sochi hotels, or the allegations of corruption in the figure skating event? There's this assumption in the Western media that Russia is despotic, corrupt, and falling apart. And I'm not saying that's not true, but whenever I talk to my dad about these things and he asks me, "Well, where's the proof?", more often than not I can't come up with any. It's easy to see how Russians, who are very proud of their country, can see this as a direct assault.
posted by archagon at 9:05 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


(And I should add, most Russians are very acutely aware of the corruption and general disrepair going on in their country.)
posted by archagon at 9:10 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Well "in America" we do tend to talk in broad swaths of geography as well. Perhaps not "The East", but certainly the mideast / the subcontinent/ Africa / Eastern Europe / The Far East / Western Powers / etc.
posted by edgeways at 9:12 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Right, but the point I was trying to make there is that it's not an accurate geographical term so much as a sort of ephemeral idea. And it's hard to pinpoint.
posted by quincunx at 9:13 PM on March 4


Just like the lingering post-Soviet obsession with "the West", that image of a corrupt Russia was pushed hard on at least American culture during the Cold War and hasn't shaken out yet. America, broadly speaking, tends to think it was only Russia that manipulated its people hard in the propaganda game, when it's blindingly obvious that there's still this image of Russia in America that's entirely formed by decades-old American anti-Soviet propaganda. And it also feels like there's a big stupid media obsession in America with snubbing Russia whenever it's convenient that came out of the Cold War and is still holding on, like every goddamn minor political happening is Rocky IV.

I don't think those attitudes are taken too seriously in actual political spheres, but they're absolutely milked by politicians to score cheap PR points because there are certainly people still receptive to that 1980's bluster and Putin ticks all their boxes - former KGB, stifles dissidents, grip on power, etc, while over here we've had what, three two-term presidents now who haven't dealt with Soviet-era Russia at all? I think Putin, as the face of Russia to the outside world, does kind of attract some of those anachronistic reactions, even though those reactions miss the mark of Russia as it really is.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:37 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


I dunno... Russia's certainly changed a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it's still a pretty damned corrupt country. The perception of that corruption in the U.S. is likely exaggerated, in part due to decades-old tropes as you point out, but there's more than a kernel of truth to it, and I kind of feel like your comment minimizes the real problems that nation still has.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:47 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Shortly after the close of World War I, I learned an invaluable lesson one night in London. I was manager at the time for Sir Ross Smith. During the war, Sir Ross had been the Australian ace out in Palestine; and shortly after peace was declared, he astonished the world by flying halfway around it in thirty days. No such feat had ever been attempted before. It created a tremendous sensation. The Australian government awarded him fifty thousand dollars; the King of England knighted him; and, for a while, he was the most talkedabout man under the Union Jack. I was attending a banquet one night given in Sir Ross's honor; and during the dinner, the man sitting next to me told a humorous story which hinged on the quotation "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."

The raconteur mentioned that the quotation was from the Bible. He was wrong. I knew that, I knew it positively. There couldn't be the slightest doubt about it. And so, to get a feeling of importance and display my superiority, I appointed myself as an unsolicited and unwelcome committee of one to correct him. He stuck to his guns. What? From Shakespeare? Impossible! Absurd! That quotation was from the Bible. And he knew it.

The storyteller was sitting on my right; and Frank Gammond, an old friend of mine, was seated at my left. Mr. Gammond had devoted years to the study of Shakespeare, So the storyteller and I agreed to submit the question to Mr. Gammond. Mr. Gammond listened, kicked me under the table, and then said: "Dale, you are wrong. The gentleman is right. It is from the Bible."

On our way home that night, I said to Mr. Gammond: "Frank, you knew that quotation was from Shakespeare,"

"Yes, of course," he replied, "Hamlet, Act Five, Scene Two. But we were guests at a festive occasion, my dear Dale. Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? He didn't ask for your opinion. He didn't want it. Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle." The man who said that taught me a lesson I'll never forget. I not only had made the storyteller uncomfortable, but had put my friend in an embarrassing situation. How much better it would have been had I not become argumentative.

—Dale Carnegie, "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
Point is, Russia's a messed up place and everyone knows it, but Russians are tired of hearing about it — especially from the Western media.
posted by archagon at 11:00 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I dunno... Russia's certainly changed a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it's still a pretty damned corrupt country.

If you don't mind, I'd like to challenge you on this - do you have any first-hand knowledge or insights about corruption in Russia?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:02 PM on March 4


I don't know, y'all. I think the action movies of the last ten years, in which the bad guys are very often Russian mobsters, have much more to do with current public perception of Russia than 30 year old ideas about the Soviet Union that mostly come from Rocky IV and Red Dawn. Then again I see all kinds of people who are old enough to know better acting like this is all Obama's fault and Reagan personally tore down the Iron Curtain with his bare hands, so…
posted by ob1quixote at 11:03 PM on March 4


I dunno... Russia's certainly changed a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union, but it's still a pretty damned corrupt country. The perception of that corruption in the U.S. is likely exaggerated, in part due to decades-old tropes as you point out, but there's more than a kernel of truth to it, and I kind of feel like your comment minimizes the real problems that nation still has.

Oh there's a laundry list of real issues with corruption, rights violations, etc, but there's a prevalent perception in American media that that's all that Russia is. We just kinda swapped out Soviet agents for Russian gangsters in our action movies and kept on ticking.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:04 PM on March 4


I think the action movies of the last ten years, in which the bad guys are very often Russian mobsters, have much more to do with current public perception of Russia than 30 year old ideas about the Soviet Union that mostly come from Rocky IV and Red Dawn.

Same old, same old...
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:06 PM on March 4


I mean it's not particularly surprising nor is the American perception of Russia a uniquely flawed thing - there's still lingering WWII-era stereotypes about Germany and Japan, and you can pretty much picture what the public perception of the Middle East will be in a few decades. And it's not like America has the market cornered on flawed perceptions either.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:08 PM on March 4


The previous president, Medvedev, made anti-corruption efforts a central plank of his platform. It's not as if the idea that there is considerable corruption in Russia is media propaganda.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:13 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Plus, Putin directly addressed Russia's corruption in his address yesterday.
posted by archagon at 11:22 PM on March 4


Bad Reputation, Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station, 04 March 2014
Meanwhile, in America, it’s all about face.

The old graying warhawks are raucously crowing “I told you so! I told you so!” while grimly polishing their brass campaign buttons and girding on their sword-belts.

This is it! They’ll finally get the glorious war with the Soviet Union they’ve always dreamed of. To arms! To arms! Man the bunkers! Open the silos! Launch the bombers and bring the subs to firing depth! Stand out the fleet to sea! The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming at long last! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Or … maybe not.

Frankly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the creaky old Cold Warriors think America should do.
Wright echoes so many of the points we're discussing here, I had a hard time picking a quote from this essay. I think it's worth the 10-15 minutes it will take to read it.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:50 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Point is, Russia's a messed up place and everyone knows it, but Russians are tired of hearing about it — especially from the Western media.

I know, we just can't stop mentioning how bad Russia is whenever it invades a neighbor. Bad, bad us.
posted by dhartung at 12:13 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


Putin Can’t Stop, David Brooks, March 3, 2014
So as he has been throwing his weight around the world, Vladimir Putin has been careful to quote Russian philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries like Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov and Ivan Ilyin.

Putin doesn’t only quote these guys; he wants others to read them. As Maria Snegovaya pointed out recently in The Washington Post, the Kremlin recently assigned three philosophic books to regional governors: Berdyaev’s “The Philosophy of Inequality,” Solovyov’s “Justification of the Good” and Ilyin’s “Our Tasks.”

Putin was personally involved in getting Ilyin’s remains re-buried back in Russian soil. In 2009, Putin went to consecrate the grave himself. The event sent him into a nationalistic fervor. “It’s a crime when someone only begins talking about the separation of Russia and the Ukraine,” he said on that day.
...
“We trust and are confident that the hour will come when Russia will rise from disintegration and humiliation and begin an epoch of new development and greatness,” Ilyin wrote.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:18 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]




Russians love strong, authoritarian figures. It's kind of a cultural thing.

I want to challenge this! On the surface it would seem the case, but the cause is incessant propaganda, lack of much alternative, and no experience living in an even vaguely just and fair world.

Anybody in that context can become a jingoist raving for the strongman - there is nothing specially Russian about it!

I never lived in Russia but spent many years in ex-Soviet Central Asia, I've spoken to plenty of Russians in situ - anybody who has had much education or spent any time in a normal country becomes anti-authoritarian as a matter of course.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:55 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


Golden Eternity: “Putin Can’t Stop, David Brooks, March 3, 2014”
Our Mister Brooks and the Messianic Mr. Putin, Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 04 March 2014
[I]n the wrestling match with history, David Brooks gets hit with another folding chair. Sometimes I wonder, in all his vast spaces for entertaining, whether he's ever bothered to hang a mirror.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:58 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


According to my sociologist friend, different countries have different attitudes towards raising children; for example, if you try to discipline someone else's child in the US, you'll probably get torn a new one by his or her parents. In Russia, it's considered totally acceptable for strangers to tell your child off if they're being a brat. You can see this sort of deference to authority in many parts of society: the rigid perscriptivism that many people follow to in regards to the language, the formal "you" that's used when talking to your elders and superiors, the strict adherence to Orthodox Christianity that many Russians still hold. You can also hear it in Putin's rhetoric when he says "I oppose this because this kind of method does not inculcate legal culture, respect for the law." To Western ears, this sounds batty: what right does any government have to "inculcate legal culture"? But Russians really do demand this sort of hierarchy of respect in society, and shun those who don't adhere to it. (If you want to understand Russia's reaction to Pussy Riot, this goes a long way towards explaining it.) I don't think it's a stretch to say that this attitude leads to choosing more authoritarian leaders.

As a Russian, that's my take on it, anyway. Maybe I'm wrong!
posted by archagon at 3:59 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


When I've spent time in Russia people also often note what an improvement Putin was over Yeltsin. It might not be the rule of law, but it is at least the rule of the state.
posted by jaduncan at 4:38 AM on March 5


KokuRyu: "If you don't mind, I'd like to challenge you on this - do you have any first-hand knowledge or insights about corruption in Russia?"

No, but I'm also not exactly sure what you're challenging. I acknowledged that the image of Russia's corruption is inflated, but I felt like jason_steakums' comment was a bit too dismissive of the real issues, which he has remedied in this comment:

jason_steakums: "Oh there's a laundry list of real issues with corruption, rights violations, etc, but there's a prevalent perception in American media that that's all that Russia is. We just kinda swapped out Soviet agents for Russian gangsters in our action movies and kept on ticking."

Sure, but couldn't you make a similar argument about America's perception of basically any other country? We have these antiquated stereotypes and labels we apply to other countries because, when it comes down to it, Americans by and large have never felt much of a fneed to follow details of what goes on elsewhere. I just don't know that Russia's caricature is any less unfair than the caricatures we have in our mind of many other countries, friend and foe alike.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:03 AM on March 5




Sure, but couldn't you make a similar argument about America's perception of basically any other country? We have these antiquated stereotypes and labels we apply to other countries because, when it comes down to it, Americans by and large have never felt much of a fneed to follow details of what goes on elsewhere. I just don't know that Russia's caricature is any less unfair than the caricatures we have in our mind of many other countries, friend and foe alike.

Yeah, I commented on that later - that the American perception of Russia isn't unique, nor is this a purely American phenomenon - but it's still a thing, it's a problem, and it's relevant right now. If Putin stepped into Ukraine in, say, October 2016, I think it could even swing elections towards the old moldy Cold War hawks or anyone who talks enough like Reagan. It's also a problem in that there's a lot of projection and distraction in it when it's coming from the mouths of politicians and the media - corruption, rights abuses, itching for a fight? We've got our fair share of all of that, and we paint Russia in particular with this kind of amplified version of a very particular set of our own problems as a declining superpower.

Another thing that is unique, I think, in the particular circumstance of Russia is how the Cold War ended with muddled closure at best, rather than a decisive and traditional victory like WWII, which led to Cold War-era attitudes towards Russia just kind of going to simmer on the back burner instead of being taken off the heat entirely. I find that, combined with the fact that we've had numerous presidents who weren't involved in the Cold War while Russia has Putin, actually kind of fascinating in a kind of armchair sociology lite way.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:16 AM on March 5


> If you don't mind, I'd like to challenge you on this - do you have any first-hand knowledge or insights about corruption in Russia?

Are you serious or trying out for The Onion?
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


From CBC's Neil Macdonald
The Ukraine crisis through the whimsy of international law
posted by bitteroldman at 9:03 AM on March 5


> If you don't mind, I'd like to challenge you on this - do you have any first-hand knowledge or insights about corruption in Russia?

Russia is one of only seven nations where public servants are seen as the most corrupt of 12 institutions. In 2013, five percent of Russian respondents rated President Vladimir Putin’s anti-corruption campaign as effective.

This is not just a Russia thing though, all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia have serious problems with corruption.

We have a chicken farm,
With another one being built,
But the farm-worker sees his "eggs" (slang for testicles)
Only while bathing himself!

posted by Kabanos at 9:18 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


If you don't mind, I'd like to challenge you on this - do you have any first-hand knowledge or insights about corruption in Russia?

Anecdata: I have personally found that one of the defining characteristics of Russia is that almost everything can be arranged with money in the right hands, which can be very handy indeed. I'm also aware that's a statement very much from a place of privilege, and that the normal population are on the losing side of that deal. It's not quite third world banana state in levels of corruption, but it is pervasive and there's a reason people employ a krysha.
posted by jaduncan at 9:25 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Thanks very much to all on this thread---it's been a great resource!

Regarding Russians and Putin: It's certainly true that no matter how much someone may dislike aspects of their country or community, they're going to bristle when outsiders characterize it by its worst elements (one wishes more urban liberals would remember that when talking about rural Christians).

But more than that, it's important to understand that the vast majority of Russians have seen their lives improve under Putin. The 90s are spoken of in Russia as a synonym for poverty, crime, and chaos. Under Putin, the economy improved, their world standing improved, everything got better. In the cities, the difference is especially striking, but even rural areas are a whole lot better than they were in the Yeltsin years. So not only do a lot of Russians think of Putin as the one who saved the country, they see how the West hates him and conclude that they hate him *because* he saved Russia.

None of which justifies Putin rolling troops into another country. But it's an important context.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:46 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


From that David Brooks column:
In his 1948 essay, “What Dismemberment of Russia Entails for the World,” Ilyin describes the Russian people as the “core of everything European-Asian and, therefore, of universal equilibrium.” Yet the West, he argues, is trying to “divide the united Russian broom into twigs to break these twigs one by one.” The West is driven by “a plan of hatred and lust for power.”
You know who else thought that bundles of sticks bound together were stronger than the constituent sticks?
posted by The Tensor at 11:57 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


But more than that, it's important to understand that the vast majority of Russians have seen their lives improve under Putin [...] even rural areas are a whole lot better than they were in the Yeltsin years.

Yes, and I often think people misread rural Russians in particular. One of the most striking things about the Russian countryside used to be the sheer amount of infrastructure that hadn't been maintained since 1991; I've been in several places where the communities were thinning out due to a lack of reliable electricity and water as one got up into the mountains and replacement became a lower priority. That is increasingly untrue of modern Russia, and I can certainly see the viewpoint of people who appreciate that renewal of state power and provision.
posted by jaduncan at 12:33 PM on March 5


Put another way, it's easier to appreciate what new things exist than the possible opportunity costs due to a lack of increased freedom, especially when that freedom also seems to be viewed as having the potential to bring the same chaos as last time. At that point, why wouldn't someone be interested in continued stability and relatively reliable growth?
posted by jaduncan at 12:41 PM on March 5


Indeed, periods of chaos and hardship tend to make people prefer stability, even at the cost of freedom, to continued uncertainty. The post-communist transition was always going to be hard, but it's possible that the Capitalist countries could have made it easier than it was.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:24 PM on March 5


Yeah. The failure to do that really was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.
posted by jaduncan at 1:46 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Yeah. The failure to do that really was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.

It wasn't so much a failure as it was intentional "shock therapy" by western free-market ideologues, i.e. Jeffrey Sachs and the like.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:00 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


"At that point, why wouldn't someone be interested in continued stability and relatively reliable growth?"

The problem is they're being deceived by the fallacy of selective observation. Russians are doing better under Putin than they were under Yeltsin - but all of the former Soviet nations went through hard times in the 90's, and the ones who maintained the free-est economies and political systems (like Poland) are now doing much better economically than Russia is.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:04 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


The problem is they're being deceived by the fallacy of selective observation

As I said, sometimes it's hard for people to see opportunity cost.
posted by jaduncan at 2:05 PM on March 5


Omnivore: Putin's Ukrainian folly
posted by homunculus at 2:36 PM on March 5


You know who else thought that bundles of sticks bound together were stronger than the constituent sticks?

That fascist Alvin Straight.
posted by hat_eater at 2:43 PM on March 5


hat_eater: "Russia Today anchor Abby Martin speaks her mind yt live. I suppose this might be her last appearance on RT."

RT anchor Liz Wahl quits on air over ‘whitewashing’ of Putin’s actions against Crimea
posted by tonycpsu at 3:39 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Frankly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the creaky old Cold Warriors think America should do.

No, it's exceedingly easy. For them, America should do whatever it is Obama is not doing.
posted by Rykey at 3:43 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]




Oh, good, it's not just me who is getting weirded out by all the Republican boners (and ladyboners) over Putin's manly manly strength.
posted by Justinian at 4:51 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


It's been a good source of tweets, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:26 PM on March 5


How the Ukraine crisis ends -- Henry A. Kissinger

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

(billmon agreed on Twitter, and sunk into a funk.)

Two related opinions that essentially see Putin's aim as destabilization and delegitimization of Ukraine as a polity (for which purpose he need not actually annex Crimea):
Putin Isn't Crazy, He's KGB
On Putin’s combination

Meanwhile this line of reasoning now comes with one of its most detailed defenses yet:
The clash in Crimea is the fruit of western expansion: The external struggle to dominate Ukraine has put fascists in power and brought the country to the brink of conflict
posted by dhartung at 10:58 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]


dhartung, I recently had a business meeting with a fairly well-to-do Russian-speaking Ukranian who pushed a similar line of thinking. He told me despised Yanukovitch, but that the "fascists and neo-nazis" who replace him are worse. He spoke of having to know the proper response to Nationalistic slogans, and "having survived communism" has a deep aversion to slogans of any type.
posted by cell divide at 11:05 PM on March 5


I preferred Abby Martin's approach because she both denounced Russia's invasion, while implicitly critiquing U.S. news organizations for not doing the same thing. Ain't clear if Liz Wahl quit because RT “whitewashes the actions of Putin” generally or specifically here.

Is there enough editorial freedom at RT? Appears so. Greenwald made two important observations : "Donahue and Arnett were fired [from (MS)NBC] because of their opposition to the U.S. war [in Iraq]." "The official RT account on Twitter seems perfectly proud of Martin’s statements, as they re-tweeted my commentary about her monologue condemning Russia’s actions."

We should not assume that Liz Wahl is just pumping herself for a new job with say Fox by creating some drama though either. In particular, RT might've done more pro-Kremlin propaganda back before the Kremlin realized the main stream American news happily did their propaganda right alongside U.S. government propaganda. And that past maybe left some bad blood.

RT’s Abby Martin Goes Off on ‘Corporate Media’ Propaganda During Piers Morgan Interview
posted by jeffburdges at 2:14 AM on March 6


So, about those big moves. Crimea's MPs just voted to join Russia.
posted by jaduncan at 4:11 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This is about to get seriously ugly - tweet here:
UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES IN CRIMEA WILL BE CONSIDERED "OCCUPIERS", MUST SURRENDER OR LEAVE ITS TERRITORY, SAYS DY CRIMEAN PM via@reuters

This is reminding me strongly of the initial breakaway of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:35 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


huh, there's actually a chance that russia might refuse crimea, re: Putin's aim as destabilization and delegitimization of Ukraine as a polity (for which purpose he need not actually annex Crimea):

What Putin Really Wants - "That's because Russia has a strong interest in nominally retaining Crimea as part of Ukraine. From the disintegration of the Soviet Union onward, Crimea, with its traditionally separatist leanings, was always a destabilizing factor. It served as a direct avenue of Russian pressure on Ukraine, and also guaranteed almost a million 'pro-Russian' votes in Ukrainian elections, ensuring the dominance of the pro-Russian eastern half of the country over the nationalist western half."

without crimea, ukraine will drift further into the EU's orbit...

as for sanctions, kasparov is pretty disappointed so far:
  • The Budapest Memo isn't the same as a mutual defense treaty or NATO. But with Russia openly shredding it, co-signers UK & US must act.
  • Europe has higher conquences of action than US, yes. But also of inaction. Putin won't stay quiet if he gets what he wants in Crimea.
  • A trade war & sanctions would bother EU a bit, some nations more than others. But it would destroy Russia in 3 months & Putin knows that.
  • As we are seeing, no sacrifice is too small for West to avoid when standing up for human rights. Individual freedom begins, & ends, at home.
altho predictable...
There are at least two sets of measures that the EU should consider. One is to impose a bloc-wide visa ban and an asset freeze on selected individuals with strong links to the Kremlin. A model is the Magnitsky Law, which the US passed after the killing of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. This law bars named Russian officials accused of human rights violations from the US.

If such measures prove unavailing, the EU should consider a concerted plan to reduce its dependence on Russian energy exports. Of course, this would require member states to find new sources of fossil fuels – hardly a trivial task. But it would pose a serious threat to Moscow’s finances. Oil and gas account for 70 per cent of Russia’s exports and 50 per cent of its government’s revenues.

Unlike the US, the EU’s economic links with Russia are so pervasive that sanctions have the potential to do real harm. Russia enjoys a large trade surplus vis a vis the EU, which Moscow would be foolish to jeopardise. The trouble is that EU countries have conflicting interests to defend. Germany is one of Russia’s main trading partners. A third of its gas imports come from Russian sources. Italy is also largely reliant on Russian gas and Eni, its energy giant, has vital interests in the region. Britain is wary of measures that would close London’s financial centre to wealthy Russians.

The EU response has so far been lame. A split has emerged on more radical steps. A summit involving the heads of government will take place on Thursday. When EU leaders meet, they should draft a series of escalating measures against Moscow. This list must have teeth and – crucially – be backed by all member states. As Mr Putin ponders his next moves, he must know he faces a strong and united EU.
some statistics and mechanics...
One notable statistic about Russia is that the mean wealth of its 110m adults last year was $10,980 while the median was $870. In other words, if the country’s assets were equally divided, the man in the middle would possess more than $10,000 but, in practice, his net worth is less than a 10th of that sum. This is the result of 110 billionaires controlling 35 per cent of the wealth.

Another result of these figures from the Credit Suisse Research Institute (and a Swiss bank should know) is that much of the money ends up elsewhere, in more stable and bankable places.

As one City of London lawyer observed to me this week: “If [President Vladimir] Putin is occupying territories with minority Russian-speaking populations, what about Kensington and Chelsea?”

A third result is that it looks as if the west has a simple and painless retaliation against Russia’s invasion of Crimea – the financial equivalent of a drone strike instead of a war. It could impose asset freezes and visa bans on a few selected oligarchs (perhaps seizing Chelsea Football Club from Roman Abramovich, the minerals magnate). That, some say, should do the trick...

There is a twofold problem with targeting oligarchs.

First, although it sounds curious in this context, there is a matter of principle involved. London attracts foreign investors both because of its expertise and the consistent rule of law. “What legal basis would you have for seizing their assets? You would have immense difficulty framing any law and the courts would throw it out,” says one City adviser.

Second, the logical target for visa bans is those who decided to invade Crimea, notably Mr Putin himself and his intimate circle. That is very unlikely to happen because it would be too difficult diplomatically. It would be perverse instead to pick upon people who are at least one step removed from the action but happen to be within reach...

The most punitive financial sanction would not be to block listings by Russian supermarkets such as Lenta, which squeaked on to the London market just in time last week, but to target state-controlled Russian banks. They are fragile, with weak capital and $30bn of loans to Ukraine, and they rely heavily on interbank funding.

If sanctions were imposed, cutting off international funding, Russia’s central bank would have to provide liquidity at the same time as trying to prop up the rouble with its dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
oh and kasparov on RT: "Okay, I'm glad they quit RT and are speaking out, it's good. But can't pretend they didn't know what it was before."
posted by kliuless at 5:49 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]


A trade war & sanctions would bother EU a bit

Russia's major trading partners: a nifty graph.
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:04 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


A trade war & sanctions would bother EU a bit

Russia's major trading partners: a nifty graph.


That graph kind of cheeses me off because it doesn't show how much trade any of those countries do with countries other than Russia. It would seem like that's the most important thing. What percentage of your total trade is going away?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:13 AM on March 6




The question is, will the EU (and more specifically, Germany and the UK) do the same, per what kliuless posted?
posted by zombieflanders at 6:55 AM on March 6


I very much doubt we (the UK) will have financial sanctions on high net worth individuals. The London markets would be absolutely appalled, as much of the upper end property and City business is predicated on London being a safe haven for international investors in general and Russia in particular. I would put money on our response being purely diplomatic.
posted by jaduncan at 6:59 AM on March 6




Russian navy scuttled two ships at the entrance of the Bay of Donuzlav (Crimea) to prevent Ukrainian ships from leaving. Video of one of the ships.
posted by Kabanos at 8:24 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


I didn't see this posted:

Game-changer? Leaked Ashton call suggests 'new govt member behind sniper'
These are the images that shocked the world just a few weeks ago, when over 80 people were shot dead during riots in Kiev. Ukraine's government then insisted that police had nothing to do with the killings and now those claims have been independently backed up. In a leaked conversation with the EU's foreign policy chief, Estonia's top diplomat says it was the same snipers who targetted both activists and police.
I have no special information, but I strongly suspect EU/US interests used snipers to escalate the violence and use the opportunity to install a government friendly to western interests.

I don't expect this to be reported in western media, although I'm curious to see how it is spun. I believe the "RT anchor Liz Wahl quits on air over ‘whitewashing’ of Putin’s actions against Crimea" development is a covert attempt to discredit RT as a news source. Again, I have no special information, but I strongly suspect Ms. Wahl was coerced into giving this statement, either bribed or threatened or both. I wouldn't be surprised to see her pop up on Fox News with a multi-million dollar compensation package. And an alive family.

I could be wrong about all this, but I'm about 90% sure, just based on all the info I've seen, and based on the US's willingness to fabricate evidence to go to war with Iraq. I feel like throwing up. (Almost did, but I pulled it back -- small victories!)

And if this is indeed what happened, then well good job losing Crimea to Russia, covert ops. You can't behave like this any more. The truth will get out.

And if there are any covert ops in this thread (and, based on recent revelations, I have to think that there are), please consider that you're not working for the American people anymore -- you're working for corporations that are willing to kill people for money. A job is a job, but being a traitor to your country (you know, the actual people who live there) is not a good way to go.

(hi all -- back for a spell)
posted by NiceKitty at 8:29 AM on March 6


Mmmhmmm....
posted by wierdo at 8:38 AM on March 6 [6 favorites]


RT has been doing a good job discrediting themselves as a news source in the last couple years, so I'm not sure why they'd need anybody to help them.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:41 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


"Game-changer?"
Just because the person selling their credibility to the Russian government has a British accent does not mean it makes a damn bit of sense to take them seriously.
"I don't expect this to be reported in western media, although I'm curious to see how it is spun. I believe the "RT anchor Liz Wahl quits on air over ‘whitewashing’ of Putin’s actions against Crimea" development is a covert attempt to discredit RT as a news source. Again, I have no special information, but I strongly suspect Ms. Wahl was coerced into giving this statement, either bribed or threatened or both. I wouldn't be surprised to see her pop up on Fox News with a multi-million dollar compensation package. And an alive family."
This suffers from two very common misconceptions of the western intelligence community, that it exists to further the interests of western governments and that it is competent to do so - the US efforts to fabricate evidence for Iraq were almost as absurdly transparent as Putin's efforts are now. Besides, RT is a steaming pile of shit that should turn the stomach of anyone who felt the need to work for them, they don't need any help discrediting themselves and it would be pretty bizarre to imagine that their reporters would need any special assistance to make finding a backbone plausible.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:02 AM on March 6


And if there are any covert ops in this thread

*rips off own mask, tears away paper suit, reveals CIA badge*

I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:02 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]


*rips off fake beard*

Damnit! Wait! Are we all just coverting with each other?!

Shit.

Okay... Hands up anyone who isn't a covert operative.
posted by garius at 9:09 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Bladelb: I believe western government exists largely to further the interests of corporations. West govt convert ops support corporate interests. I suppose there may be some trickle-down to the common person, but especially after Citizens United, I really don't think the American people are in charge anymore.

If the US can manufacture a story to invade Iraq & Afghanistan, kill 500,000 civilians, steal their resources... and those responsible are able to walk away to a comfy retirement rather than face international tribunal?? Yeah I think they're pretty fucking competent.

If you saw this story on CNN or any western news outlet, you'd believe it. Fascinating insight into the work the US covert ops is doing and why it's so important for them to control the message. Have you seen the Vice story about Facebook censoring posts regarding the conflict in Syria? Mock all you like, but we know this is happening.
posted by NiceKitty at 9:14 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


ummm ...I'm not even wearing pants most of the time
posted by Blasdelb at 9:14 AM on March 6


Estonia's top diplomat says it was the same snipers who targetted both activists and police.

It would be more of a game changer had he actually said that. What he actually says is that, within the context of discussing how little trust there is on the ground, that some people have alleged that the snipers were targeting both sides, that a fair number of people believe that some member of the opposition was responsible, and that the violence has not been sufficiently investigated to prove anything one way or another. He's relaying claims, not making his own.

As the BBC (that incorrigibly western media outlet) puts it, "In the recording, Mr Paet told Baroness Ashton that there was an "increasing understanding" in Ukraine that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's government was not responsible for the deaths of police and protesters during clashes last month in Kiev. He said some Ukrainians believed elements from within the new regime in Kiev had employed snipers. He said Ukrainian doctor Olga Bogomolets had told him that victims from both sides were shot by snipers using the same weapons. However, Dr Bogomolets told the UK's Telegraph newspaper that she had never had access to victims from the government side and was unable to comment on how they had been killed. Mr Paet confirmed that the conversation with Baroness Ashton had taken place on 26 February."

He's reporting a statement from, among other people, a doctor claiming that the victims were all shot with the same weapons...but the same doctor claims separately that she had never seen the government victims and can't actually prove that. I suspect if you're inclined to believe in conspiracies that won't be very convincing -- perhaps someone pressured the doctor to change her story? -- but, really, what this is is someone on the ground passing on their understanding of what other people think, amidst a tense, conflicted area, and having his extremely narrow and qualified statements taken as confirmatory proof of those rumors.

The actual story here is that, as RT itself notes, the story exists because "[t]he file was reportedly uploaded to the web by officers of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to ousted President Viktor Yanukovich who hacked Paet’s and Ashton’s phones." One wonders who else's phones have been hacked (presuming it wasn't a man-in-the-middle sort of thing), what hasn't been leaked, etc etc.
posted by cjelli at 9:21 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


I believe western government exists largely to further the interests of corporations. West govt convert ops support corporate interests. I suppose there may be some trickle-down to the common person, but especially after Citizens United, I really don't think the American people are in charge anymore.

And you believe the Russian government is different somehow? The business connections in their government aren't exactly secret.

If the US can manufacture a story to invade Iraq & Afghanistan, kill 500,000 civilians, steal their resources... and those responsible are able to walk away to a comfy retirement rather than face international tribunal?? Yeah I think they're pretty fucking competent.

It might be useful to remember who has moved armed forces into an autonomous region for the purposes of resource acquisition at this point.

If you saw this story on CNN or any western news outlet, you'd believe it.

Speak for yourself.

Fascinating insight into the work the US covert ops is doing and why it's so important for them to control the message.

If they're controlling the message, they're doing a piss-poor job of it so far. That Onion article about Americans ranging from indifference to confusion isn't far off the mark.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:26 AM on March 6


Via Mashable's article on StopFake, a tweet demonstrating an actress posing as at least 5 different Ukranians supporting Putin.

This is a wonderful example of how televised global news is being affected by the internet and its users. Wild stuff.

NiceKitty, I'm kind of curious, you appear quite quick to consider conspiracy on behalf of the US/West, but also imply that Russia and Russian sources are more infallible. Why is such trust given? Is it because you view them as the victimized party?
posted by Atreides at 9:34 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The Estonian Foreign Minister has already explained that what he was doing was describing rumors circulating in Ukraine at the time, not what he believes.

He said there have been altered versions of the recording, aimed at discrediting the new Ukrainian government: “I ask journalists to be extremely cautious with that recording - (in the recording) I was talking about which versions of events were doing rounds in Ukraine.”

“I was not making judgements. I was only expressing concern that if the rumors take on a life of their own, it could harm the situation in Ukraine.”


The call was made on 26-Feb, between EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and a senior Estonian politician. Someone managed to listen in and record it.

I think we can all probably guess who, and what their agenda is in releasing parts of it.
posted by philipy at 9:46 AM on March 6


Atreides:

Not quick to judge at all, on the contrary I feel like a dumb kid that's slowly "getting it" -- but living in Belarus for a couple months I do have a perspective that I didn't have sitting in the US just a few months ago. So now I have both the Russian perspective and the western perspective -- and I don't even have the complete Russian perspective, as I don't speak Russian, so I can only read whatever is translated to English. And honestly, western media looks like pretty obvious propaganda now.

The whole western OMG RUSSIAN IS INVADING UKRAINE story is presented over here as Crimean parliament requesting assistance from Russia because they fear fascist violence against Russians who live in Crimea. And, I gotta say, that angle seems far more reasonable to me.

I can do without the mocking tone (not from you, from others), as it's pretty gross, but I'd love to talk about all this, if only from an academic perspective. The "truth" between Americans and Russians could not be more different. Both sides strongly believe they're right -- down to the mocking tone. When they hear the US version, they're all like "What? Are Americans all STUPID??" And that's pretty much the reception the Russian viewpoint has gotten here on metafilter. Mock, mock, mock, won't even consider it.

And as an American in Belarus, with access to both news pumps, I get to see both mutually exclusive "truths" and try to make my own mind up. It's fvcking crazy!

A wise Vulcan once said: "Fascinating!"
posted by NiceKitty at 9:55 AM on March 6


Crimean parliament requesting assistance from Russia because they fear fascist violence against Russians who live in Crimea.

What violence against Russians in Crimea? Is there any documentation of this actually happening?

Open letter of Ukrainian Jews to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin
You have stated that Russia wants to protect the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens of the Crimea and all of Ukraine and that these rights have been trampled by the current Ukrainian government. Historically, Ukrainian Jews are also mostly Russian-speaking. Thus, our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you.

We are convinced that you are not easily fooled. This means that you must be consciously picking and choosing lies and slander from the entire body of information on Ukraine. And you know very well that Victor Yanukovich’s statement used to describe the situation after the latest treaty had been signed – “…Kyiv is full of armed people who have begun to ransack buildings, places of worship, and churches. Innocent people are suffering. People are being robbed and killed in the streets…” – is simply a lie, from the first word to the very last.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:08 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


The Snipers of February
If the viewer looks closely, ejected shell cases can be seen on the street, indicating where a shooter positioned himself to fire. Also visible is a security officer dropping off several cans of what appear to be military rifle ammunition. Finally, the video also shows one of the security force BTR armored transporters being driven around, stopped and entered by a man in a Berkut
...
I saw these same rifle-armed men intermingling with men in clearly marked militia or Berkut uniforms. Judging from the behavior I saw in the videos, the presence of these rifle armed snipers and sharpshooters was not a threat or a surprise to the policemen and Berkut who walked among them. In fact, there seemed to be, if anything, a camaraderie between these uniformed men, armed or not, that made it clear to me that they were indeed on the same side and cooperating with one another in carrying out orders that have yet to be fully revealed.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:22 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Hmm, documentation? Nah, I'm just a guy. I can look around.

At least according to locals in Belarus (and who knows they could be In On It), Crimea has an ugly history, including some real nastiness on the Russian side. But NOW, it's like 90% ethnically Russian. And they are not entirely welcome in Ukraine.

The story goes that there was fear that Ukrainians would turn their violence towards Russians. So the Crimean leadership requested help from Putin.

One confusing thing is that when US media was going nuts about Russia invading Ukraine, people here said "No, Putin hasn't actually moved anybody in yet." I show them videos of supposed Russian troops in Ukraine on YouTube, and they say "How do you know that is Crimea? That could be anywhere. How do you know those are Russian troops? They could be anyone" And I gotta say.. I don't know! I wasn't there, I'm just looking at video, trusting what the talking heads or captions tell me.

I don't know who to believe anymore, and neither side has a great track record. So it's like I'm taking 2 stories from pathological liars, examining their motivations, and trying to piece together the truth. And it's giving me a ton of insight into the recently revealed NSA/CIA online information control efforts. Getting hard to take anything at face value anymore.

I'm down the wabbit hole -- hunting wabbits.
posted by NiceKitty at 10:23 AM on March 6


Rather uncritically reporting something that doesn't even say what you claim is a bit unseemly, and doesn't look like giving equal weight to "pathological liars" as sources. Plus, for all the "US media" accusations, it's worth noting that a lot of information (if not most of it) is coming from foreign news sources that have not been kind to the US (for example, The Guardian and Al-jazeera.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:32 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Here's the complete leaked phone call -- looking for a transcript, because it's looooong. FWIW, it's confirmed as real, but I'm getting conflicting stories on whether the participants are denying the conversation or saying it was out of context or what.

Of course audio is pretty easy to fake, compared to video. And video is getting pretty easy to fake... (I actually can see this being a problem soon, if not already. What happens when govts can manufacture whatever footage they want??)

But over here, in Belarus, this is fully accepted as legit by most people. Completely and earnestly.
posted by NiceKitty at 10:34 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Belarus has a large amount of political, cultural, and economic ties to Russia. Repeatedly telling us what they completely and earnestly think about Russian media is not exactly supporting your points here.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:42 AM on March 6


Sorry, zombieflanders, you'll need to be more specific. I'll do my best to address.

I could certainly be wrong about ALL of this. Over here, this story is accepted as truth. For the west, it hasn't even been considered as a possibility. See the disconnect? The 2 perspectives could not be more different, and I'm not in a privileged enough position to determine 100% truth from lie. Just from what I've seen of BOTH western and Russian media... I think the EU/US are full of shit! Putin's no angel, but in this case I think he comes out smelling like a rose and having a warm port basically handed to him by a botched western covert operation.

on preview: Your perspective is from the US, with zero from Russia. (Have you so much as google translated a Russian news page?) US has ties to EU. Not sure what your point is. Your perspective is skewed as well; you're just not aware of it.
posted by NiceKitty at 10:45 AM on March 6


Okay, Imma take a break. 3 and done? Er, maybe 6 and done. Not tryin to make this all about me, but not trying to threadshit and run either. Hard to know the balance, but I hope I'm getting it right.

I'll drop by later unless I get really really into this mashup of "Somebody's Watching Me"...
posted by NiceKitty at 10:49 AM on March 6


Belarus doesn't exactly have a free press either. It ranked 157 out of 179 countries last year, according to Reporters without Borders.
posted by Kabanos at 10:50 AM on March 6




Hard to know the balance, but I hope I'm getting it right.

You came into the fpp about gay marriage in Virginia and accused people of looking down their noses at Russia when no one in the thread had mentioned Russia. That was weird, and your stuff in this thread is weird, too. This is a complex and fast-moving situation with a lot of history and many agendas to it, and I'm not sure your "well, I'm just wondering!" is helping very much.
posted by rtha at 10:53 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Euromaidan PR: Chief of Volyn Berkut tells who issued the weapons and how much his Berkut were paid

This is interesting. It seems Berkut were shot at by snipers, and there were "titushkiy" (gangsters?) allied with the Berkut posing as protestors.
"...We just stood there by the barricade behind the interior troops. I don’t know if it was a sniper, but after they took out twelve of our guys, I brought the boys back and told them I would never place them in the line of fire again. In five minutes, they got twelve men. "
...
When asked whether the Berkut had collaborated with the titushkiy, Beliayev answered in the affirmative. According to him, the Volyn troopers did not work with them but occasionally there were people behind their backs who sported yellow ribbons and were dressed up as activists.

“Those who stood behind us and didn’t throw anything had to be let through,” explained the chief of the Volyn Berkut.
It is a mess, but it seems to me the evidence is there that the snipers shooting at protestors were special forces of some kind either from Ukraine or Russia, but that there may also have been unrelated snipers shooting at Berkut.

There is a lot of video of actual snipers. I suspect many will be identified eventually.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:10 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]




Your perspective is from the US, with zero from Russia. (Have you so much as google translated a Russian news page?) US has ties to EU. Not sure what your point is. Your perspective is skewed as well; you're just not aware of it.

This is pretty rich coming from someone who seems clueless about Russia and Belarus' relationship, and who is trying to present themselves as immersed in the culture that apparently hasn't asked basic questions about it.

FWIW, I'm getting my news from a variety of sources that aren't limited to the US, some of which have been and continue to be unfriendly to US foreign policy. You're telling us that you're getting all of yours from the explicitly state-run media of the Russian government, in a state that is essentially a satellite of Russia, surrounded by people predisposed to be sympathetic to Russians and critical of Ukrainians. It also seems like you missed all of the discussion here about the disconnect between the US and the EU (again, the UK and Germany don't seem to be totally on board), the economic push-and-pull between the EU and Russia and the US, and the internal political wrangling for every nation involved. At the very least, you should try and get some context of the conversation, if not the entire situation, so please don't lecture us about skewed perspective.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:37 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]




Kabanos, that was an excellent piece. I think one of the most interesting ignored factors is what happens if it turns out that Putin and the siloviki prove to have the whip hand over even the oligarchs and just let the sanctions kick in. There's an interesting possibility of an increasingly divergent financial system and set of relationships.
posted by jaduncan at 1:00 PM on March 6


Ack – sorry – that was meant to link to the full google-translated version.
posted by Kabanos at 1:00 PM on March 6


Responding a bit to NiceKitty as well as the correspondence posted by cell divide, my take on the situation is largely this: It does not seem plausible to me that actual fascists, of the dangerous sort, would be keen to join the EU -- a transnational grouping in which they would be forced to harmonize their laws, safeguard minority rights, and submit to the European Court of Human Rights, among other requirements. Thus I worry that the word "fascist" is simply being tossed about rhetorically to the point where it is drained of all meaning (cf. the sixties complaint, "Get a haircut!" "Shut up, dad, you fascist!" as the extreme version of this). It does seem to me valid that during a protracted political conflict that hardliners would migrate to opposite corners, so to speak, but the presence of hardliners in a corner does not define the actions of the majority. As a basic principle, the concept of democracy trusts that the people en masse will make the right decisions most of the time, and the concept of the rule of law posits that when the wrong decisions are made politically rights will be safeguarded under the right of appeal.

It is my belief that these ends are best served by Ukraine increasing its association with the EU, rather than decreasing, and certainly would not be served by Ukraine tilting back toward Moscow, which is controlled by an autocratic regime verging on personal rule (where the presidency is swapped among trusted faces a bit like a Magic: the Gathering card). Ultimately I believe that Putin has made one of the classic errors of judgement (not a land war in Eurasia!), that of forcing his opponents to combine and creating, if you will, a national moment for Ukraine not unlike that of, say, Bunker Hill for the US colonists.

In any case, you can see why I believe that even documented presence of broadly-defined fascists within the opposition to Yanukovich does not, to me, mean that Ukraine moving toward the EU is the wrong direction; to the contrary. If we want to get rid of the fascists, sap their purpose, and build them into a conforming system wherein they are unable to do much harm, we probably want more EU integration for Ukraine.
posted by dhartung at 1:00 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Belarus doesn't exactly have a free press either. It ranked 157 out of 179 countries last year, according to Reporters without Borders.

There's a thread about that, if anyone's interested: World Press Freedom Index 2014
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on March 6


To suggest that there may be a Western/US bias? I appreciate that – I added the Reporters without Borders link because I figured as a France-based organization it might be considered a more neutral source than Freedom House (which I understand receives most of it's funding from the US government).

Are there any non-western press freedom organizations that research world-wide?
posted by Kabanos at 1:26 PM on March 6


NYT: For Russian TV Channels, Influence and Criticism
MOSCOW — The conflict in Ukraine can be difficult to sort out, but on the most recent edition of “Vesti Nedeli,” Russia’s most popular evening news program, a sober-voiced announcer broke it down into very simple terms. “Experts,” he intoned, “are more and more comparing the actions of these nationalists with those who came to power in Germany in the 1930s.”

That was a moment of restraint. A throbbing, cinematic soundtrack accompanied nightmarish images: Officials forced to their knees, heads bowed, before baying mobs. A masked man with a swastika armband. The events in Kiev, the announcer said, were “a cocktail of revolutionary ecstasy and criminal disorder.”

Russian television coverage, a mixture of legitimate perspectives, half-truths and outright propaganda, has made similar assertions day after day, though Kiev is now relatively calm. It is the same narrative that President Vladimir V. Putin described Tuesday in a news conference: The United States and its allies had poured resources into creating a dangerous far-right force now closing in on worried citizens in the east of the country.

The authorities in Kiev slammed the government-operated Russian channels’ depictions as incitement to war this week, prompting at least one Ukrainian cable operator to stop broadcasting all three. Russians and Ukrainians critical of the Kremlin’s policy have taken to fact-checking the news, debunking misrepresentations through social media. But TV remains the single greatest influence on Russian public opinion, often used to lay the groundwork for steps Mr. Putin intends to take.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:37 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


In any case, you can see why I believe that even documented presence of broadly-defined fascists

Although I agree with you regarding the tendency of the EU to moderate political stances, I think it's worth noting that Svoboda and Right Sector are extremely far right. Svoboda's leader used to complain about a Muscovite-Jewish mafia...and if you really want your eyes to raise, look up the deputy leader Ihor Miroshnychenko. The World Jewish Congress asked for the party and Golden Dawn to be banned last year, which should illustrate the company they are in.

Right Sector are to the right of Svoboda, give out copies of Mein Kampf and now patrol Kiev in armed groups. It's certainly reasonable to call the latter in particular neo-Nazis.

A good primer: How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine's power vacuum
posted by jaduncan at 1:51 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


"The authorities in Kiev slammed the government-operated Russian channels’ depictions as incitement to war this week, prompting at least one Ukrainian cable operator to stop broadcasting all three."

It must be surreal for Ukrainians to watch Russian TV right now.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:55 PM on March 6


Oh, and one interesting difference. This is how the BBC discussed them before the real action started:
In 2004, Tyahnybok was kicked out of former President Viktor Yushchenko's parliamentary faction for a speech calling for Ukrainians to fight against a "Muscovite-Jewish mafia" - using two highly insulting words to describe Russians and Jews - and emphasising that Ukrainians had in the past fought this threat with arms.

Tyahnybok stresses that he has never been convicted for anti-Semitism or racial hatred, though prosecutors opened a case against him after his 2004 speech. "All I said then, I can also repeat now," he says. "Moreover, this speech is relevant even today."

Other Svoboda members have also courted controversy. Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, a parliamentary deputy considered one of the party's ideologues, liberally quotes from former Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, along with other National-Socialist leaders.

This undoubtedly appeals to a number of Svoboda's voters, though to what extent is difficult to determine.

Even now, Svoboda's platform calls for passports to specify the holder's ethnicity, and for government positions to be distributed proportionally to ethnic groups, based on their representation in the population at large.

"We want Ukrainians to run the country," says Bohdan, a participant in a recent Svoboda rally, as he waves a Ukrainian flag and organises cheering and chanting.

"Seventy percent of the parliament are Jews."
I'll just note wryly that they appear to get better PR in the Western press these days.
posted by jaduncan at 2:08 PM on March 6


Oh, and as noted earlier in that article they actually started a fight in the parliament when someone tried to address it in Russian and have a policy stating that Russians shouldn't be used in any Ukrainian body. They are also the party that was pushing the recent bill to remove the use of Russian in any official capacity.

I think it's fair to say they are not exactly making it hard for Russia to paint them as anti-Russian and antisemitic authoritarians.
posted by jaduncan at 2:13 PM on March 6


Thanks to recent events, Ukraine is scheduled to have a Presidential election on May 25. So the people (except maybe the ones in Crimea, if the Russians are still there) will get a chance to voice their opinion on who should be controlling the government. Let's hope it's a free and fair election.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:17 PM on March 6


So it appears to be Europe standing in the way of meaningful sanctions this time around. It's funny how everyone's ideals go by the wayside the minute significant economic interest gets in the way!
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Difficult to have a discussion with you zombieflanders, as you seem more interested in discredit discredit discredit mock mock condescend condescend than having an actual discussion. Please try to keep a civil tone; it really helps the discussion.

If I wasn't clear, I'm an American living in Belarus for the past nearly 2 months on and off with my Russian girlfriend. I'm certainly no expert on Belarus, nor one on Russian. I'm not an expert on Ukraine, but I do have a perspective here that I didn't have in the United States, and it is fairly shocking. I don't get all my news from RT; why would you assume that? Why would you even say that?? My girlfriend and I constantly compare news. She asks "What does your news say?" and I ask "What does YOUR news say?" and we try to put them together into a cohesive story.

There is a clear difference between the narratives of western and the Russian media. I see similar facts being presented, but a very different stories being told. I see selected details omitted or deleted to serve one story or another. The western narrative is fairly cartoonish, IMO. Ukrainians want freedom!! Evil Putin invades Ukraine!!

I've said what I think is going on, so I don't feel a need to repeat it. The latest I hear, as of 2 minutes ago, is that Russia has moved no forces into Crimea. NONE. The "troops" you see are Crimean police -- of Russian decent, but not armed forces from Russia. So it's not a lie to say Russian forces are in Crimea, just very misleading. And it serves a false narrative.

Regarding the credibility of RT -- sure, I agree they are not 100% credible. Would you say western news is 100% credible? Even given their complicity making the case for the Iraq War? WMDs, 9/11, terror terror terror, 500,000 dead Iraqi civilians, stolen oil and lithium and it's just business as usual. Come on, we KNOW they are corporate mouthpieces! And corporations largely control the US government. So therefore, to a large extent, government controls the news narrative. Pathological liars, always spinning the story to their best advantage.

Again, for some perspective, as biased as you think RT is, that's how biased many folks here see CNN, FoxNews, NBC... I just don't think you can understand it because you're immersed in western and English-speaking news. I totally understand; I was in the same place half a year ago. Do you speak Russian at all? Have any access to Russian news? Have a Russian friend who can explain things from a Russian perspective? This is not a lecture, this is asking you to recognize your limited perspective and how it influences your reality.

Coming over here has been pretty "psychedelic" for me -- not at all what I expected from from I've been told. I expected it to be dangerous and the people unkind. Nothing is further from the truth. My gf and I went for a walk in the city at 3am yesterday. No worries.

Are there any Russians in-thread that can offer their perspectives? Keep in mind that these will, by situation, be English-speaking Russians, so they may have a bit different perspective than non-English speaking Russians. And if there are none in-thread after all... Does that tell you anything about the perspective that has been offered in this thread?
posted by NiceKitty at 2:37 PM on March 6


I've said what I think is going on, so I don't feel a need to repeat it. The latest I hear, as of 2 minutes ago, is that Russia has moved no forces into Crimea. NONE. The "troops" you see are Crimean police -- of Russian decent, but not armed forces from Russia. So it's not a lie to say Russian forces are in Crimea, just very misleading. And it serves a false narrative.

This does raise a question, though perhaps it has been addressed up thread. As yet, I've seen Russian officials deny that the soldiers are their troops, and I've seen European and American officials assert that these troops are obviously Russian troops. Has anyone gotten a quote from the troops themselves?

(I should add that it intuitively seems nonsensical that the soldiers would deny their affiliation with the "Crimean militia" if that were the case, in the same way that it seems like nonsense that a state militia would have oodles of tanks.)
posted by Going To Maine at 2:50 PM on March 6




The "troops" you see are Crimean police -- of Russian decent, but not armed forces from Russia.

Who all happened to have the same Russian-issue military uniforms in their closets but didn't want to wear their official police uniforms to do an obviously police function.

Pull the other one; it has bells on.
posted by Etrigan at 3:00 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This does raise a question, though perhaps it has been addressed up thread. As yet, I've seen Russian officials deny that the soldiers are their troops, and I've seen European and American officials assert that these troops are obviously Russian troops. Has anyone gotten a quote from the troops themselves?

(I should add that it intuitively seems nonsensical that the soldiers would deny their affiliation with the "Crimean militia" if that were the case, in the same way that it seems like nonsense that a state militia would have oodles of tanks.)


What if they are ethnically Russian, but part of Crimean militia using equipment supplied by Russia. on preview: including uniforms

FWIW I'm trying to figure this mess out too -- open to whatever reality is actual reality. I just feel like western press is feeding us a very dangerous story, trying to rachet up tensions as far as they will go. It happened before in Iraq, got a half million civilians killed. Now we're playing with nukes. Scary stuff!
posted by NiceKitty at 3:02 PM on March 6


"The latest I hear, as of 2 minutes ago, is that Russia has moved no forces into Crimea. NONE. The "troops" you see are Crimean police -- of Russian decent, but not armed forces from Russia."

Seriously?
posted by Kevin Street at 3:02 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Darn it, Golden Eternity. grumble grumble
posted by Kevin Street at 3:04 PM on March 6


[A few comments deleted. Folks, let's not have this thread devolve any further into NiceKitty vs everybody.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:11 PM on March 6


Ya know what? I'm out. If it turns out I'm right, I'm afraid I'll be Bradley Manninged. Fucking sucks that I can't trust my own goddamn country anymore. Traitors.
posted by NiceKitty at 3:11 PM on March 6


("Traitors" being, essentially, corporations. Not you guys, love you guys!)
posted by NiceKitty at 3:13 PM on March 6






First rule of mic drop is walking away after the mic drop.

Reminded that tacky, social media jingoism is not just an American phenomenon. I'm reminded of all the reposted nonsense that clutters up my own feed whenever some flashpoint captures national attention.
posted by absalom at 3:19 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


[Seriously, NiceKitty, please ease back, and others, please drop it too. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:21 PM on March 6


Reminded that tacky, social media jingoism is not just an American phenomenon. I'm reminded of all the reposted nonsense that clutters up my own feed whenever some flashpoint captures national attention.

It's interesting that none of those images portray a hate for Ukraine, even on the brink of a possible war.
posted by jaduncan at 3:37 PM on March 6


Why should there be? This is a fraternal gesture made by a concerned neighbour with a common history and culture. The US-sponsored gangsters who masterminded the Ukrainian coup are the only ones with anything to fear. Well, them and their fascist lackeys.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:42 PM on March 6


This does raise a question, though perhaps it has been addressed up thread. As yet, I've seen Russian officials deny that the soldiers are their troops, and I've seen European and American officials assert that these troops are obviously Russian troops. Has anyone gotten a quote from the troops themselves?

As far as I'm aware, no. But I don't know how much difference it would make if someone did. Take a look at this RT article implying that any troops that just happen to be in Crimea are totally supposed to be there anyway:

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin pointed to the longstanding 25,000 troop allowance while FM Sergey Lavrov stressed the Russian military “strictly executes the agreements which stipulate the Russian fleet’s presence in Ukraine, and follows the stance and claims coming from the legitimate authority in Ukraine and in this case the legitimate authority of the Autonomous Republic Crimea as well.”...Russian naval units are permitted to implement security measures at their permanent post as well as during re-deployments in cooperation with Ukrainian forces, in accordance with Russia’s armed forces procedures.

Are there Russian troops in Crimea? By Russia's own admission there are (in the port). But are those the only Russian troops in Crimea? According to Russia, yes. Is Russia using its armed forces to isolate Ukranian forces and control the area? According to Russia, no. According to Crimea, yes:

The New Yorker: The Creeping Annexation of Crimea
Andrei Ivaninchenko, a captain in the Ukrainian Army, didn’t have time to listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday afternoon. Ivaninchenko was busy coördinating talks between his commanders and senior Russian officers, checking on his troops, and taking an inventory of his food and water supplies.

By the time that Putin broke his silence over the movement of Russian troops into Crimea, the blockade of Ivaninchenko’s base on the outskirts of Sebastopol had entered its fourth day. But if he had taken the time to listen to Putin, he would have learned that the Russian soldiers pointing guns at him were merely figments of his imagination.


The removal of insignia doesn't merely provide cover to deny that Russia has moved troops into the area; it helps to disguise which units of troops are where, and how many units of troops there are in total. Presumably, should anyone manage to get a Russian soldier to identify himself as such Russia could simply claim that he was there legally for the defense of the port and that claims to the contrary are fabrications.
posted by cjelli at 3:43 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Why should there be? This is a fraternal gesture made by a concerned neighbour with a common history and culture. The US-sponsored gangsters who masterminded the Ukrainian coup are the only ones with anything to fear. Well, them and their fascist lackeys.

Yes. But IMO it's an interesting insight into the slightly paternalistic relationship.
posted by jaduncan at 3:44 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Without making this personal, the evidence that the troops in Crimea are Russian simply keeps mounting. Vehicles with Russian military license plates, weapons typically issued to Russian special forces, soldiers with no insignia, but whoops, a special forces tattoo, and so on. There is video evidence of vehicles moving from Russia into Ukrainian territory, and if you care to look, an increasing number of video interviews with soldiers who admit to being Russian (taken by outlets ranging from the BBC and Financial Times to VICE). These are also very obviously trained and professional soldiers behaving under military discipline, as opposed to the so-called Cossacks or civilian militia, which are motley collections of guys of various ages, shapes, and sizes, mostly distinguished by wearing St. George ribbons (and doing a lot of unarmed fist-shaking and yelling).

Even setting this aside, though, you have undisputed elements of the Russian Black Sea Fleet conducting blockade operations that are preventing Ukrainian naval vessels from leaving port, and the scuttling of a decommissioned Russian anti-submarine warship -- which if that were done by civilians it seems Russia is not in control of its naval assets and ought to be even more concerning. Incidentally, this is probably less useful than symbolic, as a callback to the (in Russian terms) heroic scuttling of the fleet in the 1854 defense of Sevastopol -- against the European allies, Britain, France, and Turkey.

By the way, here's an interesting analysis/translation of the treaty limitations that apply to the Black Sea Fleet and other Russian forces on the territory of Ukraine.
posted by dhartung at 3:47 PM on March 6 [12 favorites]


"But in Kiev, anarchy has been making inroads. Ukrainians speak of 'Makhnovshchina,' a reference to the anarchist-Communist partisan movement under the leadership of Nestor Makhno during the civil war that started in 1917. Makhnovshchina is a term applied to anything that smells of capriciousness and chaos."

The Last Time Ukraine was Truly Free
posted by homunculus at 3:52 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


*sighs, deletes bookmark*
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:57 PM on March 6


Why should there be? This is a fraternal gesture made by a concerned neighbour with a common history and culture. The US-sponsored gangsters who masterminded the Ukrainian coup are the only ones with anything to fear. Well, them and their fascist lackeys.

I think this is sarcasm? The ethnic Ukranians are, I imagine, still somewhat bummed out by the whole introduction of ethnic Russians into their land, as well as the Holodomor. The ethnic Russians who are now Ukranian citizens, perhaps less so.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:04 PM on March 6


He was definitely being sarcastic.

Looking at the images in that social media jingoism link, the thing that strikes me most strongly is that Ukraine is always portrayed as young and childlike, too naive perhaps to make its own way in the world. That's why they need papa bear.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:20 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


People calling for strict economic sanctions on Russia and weaning Europe off the dependency on Russian oil concerns me. Sometimes, I feel like the only reason we, the people of the world, haven't blown ourselves up yet is because our economies are all so closely connected. If Russia gets isolated and they decide they're fine with that, there's a good chance we'll have another fun and exciting Cold War.
posted by archagon at 4:34 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


VICE News have another video up, wherein they pay a visit to one of the blockaded ships of the Ukraine navy. CNN and BBC may be better at telling you about who's saying what at the UN, but the VICE guys are the only ones I'm aware of providing a realistic video portrayal of what's happening on the front lines over there.
posted by sfenders at 5:30 PM on March 6 [8 favorites]


sfenders, the BBC's Christian Fraser has also been on one of the ships (same one, I think) -- in fact at least temporarily the Crimean "Cossack" militia prevented him from leaving.

But I agree, Ostrovsky has a knack for a very human-level kind of reporting and his dispatches are revelatory.
posted by dhartung at 5:52 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Those VICE guys (and the BBC guys) are really brave. When Simon Ostrovsky was arguing with the masked, armed soldiers (Twice!) I was cringing. Be careful, man! "What are you going to do. Beat me?" Yes, maybe he will! But they let him talk to the captain of the Ukrainian ship.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:52 PM on March 6


During the second confrontation, the one with the soldier at dockside, I felt like I was watching a Star Trek episode where Kirk makes a robot break down and start to smoke at the sheer levels of contradiction he's forced to confront.
posted by dhartung at 5:57 PM on March 6


As we say in Odesa..." is the beginning line of many an anecdote.

Odesa, Ukraine's capital of humour and creativity, since 1972 has been hosting the annual festival of humor, Humorina. For this and other reasons Odesa was known as the "capital of humor" even in the Soviet Union.

Russian-speaking Odesites decide it's time to tell Putin to go home...


Odesa gives President Vladimir Putin a call.

posted by Kabanos at 6:06 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Odesa gives President Vladimir Putin a call.

"He would be nothing in Odessa."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:19 PM on March 6






Say what you will about VICE, their reporters aren't afraid of anything. Wow.

Those Russian soldiers don't look like they're enjoying the charade very much either.
posted by archagon at 6:43 PM on March 6


Ukrainian marines in Kerch give an open air rock concert.

That is surprisingly metal.
posted by jaduncan at 7:02 PM on March 6


Really appreciate people posting the VICE updates. Those reporters are impressive.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:47 PM on March 6


There's a new thread on the front page.
posted by goHermGO at 7:51 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted. NiceKitty, you need to cool it. Do not make accusations of other members being paid shills, and do not pound the thread with repetitive comments. I get that you're feeling emotional, but this is not all about you and you need to dial back.]
posted by taz at 3:24 AM on March 7


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