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The past is a foreign country, also the present
March 6, 2014 7:37 PM   Subscribe

While you can still follow live events in the Ukraine, with either the compulsively complete live Reddit feed or the constantly updated BBC feed being good choices, there has been increasingly useful analyses of the history and politics of the situation. Yale Professor Timothy Snyder, an expert on the region, wrote a piece in the New York Review of Books describing the roots of the recent uprising, with a great overview of how "people associated with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Polish, and Jewish culture have died in a revolution that was started by a Muslim." Other history is provided by a detailed explainer by the Guardian, in maps by National Geographic, and the dueling arguments about the roots of the conflict from the the semi-official Russia Today and the US State Department.
posted by blahblahblah (476 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm glad to see a well-researched post on this, because the propaganda has been on full blast from both sides. Reading the Internet two days ago you would have thought it was literally the start of WWIII.
posted by young_son at 7:51 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


hi smart people of MeFi! serious question: if I am someone who doesn't care about nationalism or "sides" or saving/losing face or any country's inherent "standing"-- someone who wants to see the maximum possible happiness, safety, parity, and peaceful justice-- what concrete outcome should I be hoping for from this conflict? Will there be less bloodshed if Crimea stays part of Ukraine, or joins Russia? If this question is unanswerable, I get that too. But maybe someone with stronger knowledge can shed some light.

(Thanks for the info, blahblahblah.)
posted by threeants at 7:57 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


America is going completely Riggs, while the EU is going Murtaugh. Putin had A Plan, but it was a dumb one, and now he's caught having a dumb plan.

The best outcome is Putin declaring the Crimea Safe for All Russians, but he's watching you punks, and the EU saying "I'm too old for this shit" and America going "Midterm elections! WOOOO!"
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:03 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


I've got no claim to any knowledge, but the best possible outcome (imo) is for Putin to decide that he's proved his point and withdraw his soldiers from Crimea, without any violence by anybody. Then Ukraine votes in a few months for a new president, and the new president somehow arranges it so the people of Crimea can themselves vote on if they want to stay or leave Ukraine.

That way everybody concerned gets to have a say, and nobody is hurt.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:12 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


There's also a brief history on reddit of the history of the Ukraine, from the 90's till now.
posted by fragmede at 8:13 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


I've got no claim to any knowledge, but the best possible outcome (imo) is for Putin to decide that he's proved his point and withdraw his soldiers from Crimea, without any violence by anybody. Then Ukraine votes in a few months for a new president, and the new president somehow arranges it so the people of Crimea can themselves vote on if they want to stay or leave Ukraine.

Isn't the Crimean referendum set now? I guess I'm hoping to figure out, given that its result appears sure to be incendiary either way, if one outcome would nonetheless be more likely to produce less suffering.
posted by threeants at 8:20 PM on March 6




For what it's worth, it's generally preferred by everyone but Russia that you call it "Ukraine," rather than "the Ukraine," because the "the" was basically added by the Soviets as a way to claim that it was just a region (think "the Rocky Mountains" or "the Philippines") instead of an autonomous country.

Just, y'know, FYI and all that.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:21 PM on March 6 [26 favorites]


From the editors of n+1: Ukraine, Putin, and the West
posted by Going To Maine at 8:24 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Or is it that the holding of the referendum is itself considered an act of political aggression on the part of the Russian government and its proxies, so a back-down-from-conflict scenario would necessarily entail cancelling it (and potentially holding one later under less contentious circumstances)?
posted by threeants at 8:24 PM on March 6


Here is a John Green video about the situation in Ukraine.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:27 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


If folks missed it, the previous thread on the situation has some very good links and discussion throughout. (I think it's ok to start a new post, since so much has happened.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:28 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


what concrete outcome should I be hoping for from this conflict?

I would guess allowing Crimea to vote to join the Russian Federation and let the rest of Ukraine start the long process toward joining the EU. It saves some face for Putin by giving Russia a region thatfeasibly could be either Ukrainian OR Russian, and lets the rest of Ukraine move toward more political stability and the rule of law.
posted by chimaera at 8:30 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I'm skeptical of Snyder's account.

There were leftist activists at Maidan, but when, early on, they tried to set up an organized presence, they were attacked with knives by the right wing groups. Link [n+1 magazine]

More on the fascist presence, from RoarMag, an anarchist magazine. Apparently leftist protesters were attacked and driven off:
" I would agree that the “middle class” definitely plays a leading role in the protests – posing as the “voice” of protesters, even if not dominating numerically (I’m not sure about numerical proportions these days; there has not been serious sociological research since the beginning of December). Anyway, Kyiv bourgeoisie and intelligentsia claims to speak not only for itself but also for everybody else, and there’s no-one around to protest their claim.

Do they have influence on the ultra-right? Vice versa, actually. As I’ve been trying to explain, the ultra-right didn’t fall upon us from the sky, they are a logical product of objective historical factors and of the policies of the ruling class understood in a broad meaning. Today they have evolved to a point when they are a self-sustained political subject, able to dictate their own agenda and to broaden their cultural hegemony.
[snip]
Another part of the left repetitively tried to join the movement, even after they were repetitively kicked out of it. Some of the “euro-enthusiastic” leftists came to Maidan in November with red (instead of blue) flag of the EU, with banners for free healthcare and education, and with feminist slogans. They were brutally attacked by Nazis.

Link
Michael Hudson on the economic aspects:
Events in Ukraine are provided enough heat to overshadow the conclusion of the Sochi Olympics. Since the USSR’s collapse, the “reset” has been changed many times during our long-running Ukrainian “play,” but the underlying theme remains the same as it has been in the Near East: Play the ethnic card to break the country into pieces if you want to disable government regulatory power and investment. Co-opt a client oligarchy whose opportunities for the West lie in privatizing public resources and selling shares in the rent-extracting companies on Western stock exchanges. Keep your proceeds in the West and fritter it away on trophy real estate, ownership of sports clubs and London or Swiss bank accounts.

The alternative would be for a strong government to tax away their natural resource rents and use it to subsidize industrial revival. So the path to “peace” is to promote civil warfare, break up countries and concentrate wealth in as few hands as possible so as to channel it to London, New York and other financial centers rather than leaving it to be invested at home. This is how Russia is being turned into a “hewer of wood and drawer of oil and gas for the house of my bond,” to paraphrase the Bible (Joshua: 9:23). “None of you will be freed from being bondservants.”

This is how American protectionists in the mid-19th century described British strategy for industrial and financial supremacy. And now the tables have been turned – not only against Britain (buckling under its own real estate bubble) but against the post-Communist economies that were utterly free of debt and privatized rent-yielding resources 20 years ago.

Rotating oligarchs shift in and out of this scenario, replacing one another in the rolling sequence of “color revolutions.” While Russian and Ukrainian nationalists spar in “Spy vs. Spy” fashion, Ukraine’s economy unravels and its people continue their exodus on an Old Testament scale to the Promised Land of the EU. Following Horace Greeley’s advice of “Go West, young man,” Ukrainians have joined the multitudes of “Polish plumbers” in the UK.
Link
posted by wuwei at 8:34 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


the holding of the referendum is itself considered an act of political aggression on Russia's part

I think you've got it there. The referendum (set for the 16th, not even two weeks away) can only inflame tensions. If they vote to leave Ukraine, the rest of the country will be angry. If they vote to stay, the pro-Russian hardliners in Crimea will almost certainly cause more trouble. No matter how it turns out, it will have been administered in a rush, so the losing side will dispute the result.
posted by echo target at 8:36 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Or is it that the holding of the referendum is itself considered an act of political aggression on the part of the Russian government and its proxies, so a back-down-from-conflict scenario would necessarily entail cancelling it (and potentially holding one later under less contentious circumstances)?

The Ukranian constitution allows for territorial changes after a whole nation vote. It's possible to see that changing as part of a settlement, but at the moment they have a massive problem with a referendum that's held in only one area and held under an occupation force at that. It's also authorised by a Crimean government that Kiev doesn't recognise as legitimate.
posted by jaduncan at 8:39 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


It's all too hypergraphic for me. It would take me over 60 minutes to read the Wikipedia article on this event. I just want a summary that delves into background just enough. Not every nook and cranny roto-rooted.
posted by sieve a bull at 8:43 PM on March 6


I think Putin has stepped on a pile of dog shit in Crimea and is going to want to get that off his shoes before he goes back home.
posted by humanfont at 8:44 PM on March 6


It's also authorised by a Crimean government that Kiev doesn't recognise as legitimate.

Wow, thanks for clarifying this-- somehow I hadn't been aware at all. I assumed the "Crimean government's" relationship to the Ukrainian government was like that of a state/provincial/regional body; not necessarily always in concert but still somehow clearly subordinate and affiliated. In fact, I didn't realize until now that Crimea had any sort of special autonomous status.
posted by threeants at 8:45 PM on March 6


It is, kinda. It's an autonomous region within Ukraine. Think Quebec if they actually got serious about becoming independent without asking and had France send in/France use it as a pretext to send soldiers to help them out.

Crimea was actually only handed to Ukraine in the 50s though, so it's been Russia proper well within living memory. When it was handed over both Ukraine and Russia were in the USSR, so it seemed meaningless. It was the warm water port for the USSR and now Russian Navy, and is absolutely full of Russian navy families that stayed. Even now, you don't need a visa to be on either side of the border. It's a lot more contentious and complex a political situation in the region than it might first appear.

This is very brief and doesn't touch on the Tartar issue.
posted by jaduncan at 8:51 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Fascism is on the march all over the world. It is like people have forgotten how that story ends.
posted by vicx at 8:56 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


I was going to post the same link supermag did.

I thought it was interesting and a take I hadn't seen elsewhere. The weirdest thing I have seen was either someone who claimed to be in Kiev on Reddit saying the CIA was paying stooges 25 dollars a day to protest in Maidan or it was the poster (I forget which site) who claimed the snipers weren't mainline Ukraine government but right wing nationalists going berzerk.

Us outsiders might have zero accurate info. Nothing. The most informed metafilter user might have jack shit at this point.
posted by bukvich at 8:58 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The guy the Crimean Parliament elected as prime minister, Sergey Aksyonov, is a bit of a character. (From wiki)
...
Alleged criminal career

Some sources have alleged that Aksyonov served in the mid 1990s as a lieutenant or overseer in the organized criminal gang "Salem", which in the early 1990s had approximately 1200 members. Earlier in that decade, the gang fought a deadly contest with the rival "Bashmaki" that killed 30 people in Simferopol in one month of 1991, but by the mid-1990s, as their membership grew to 1200, they had taken a less violent approach, and in 1995 forty of their members had taken office as local deputies, receiving deputy inviolability.[10][11][12]

In 2010, he sued Mikhail Bakharev, vice speaker of the Crimean parliament, for making related statements. Although the court of the original jurisdiction ruled for Aksyonov and demanded that Bakharev to publish a retraction, the decision was overturned by an appellate court which determined that there was not evidence to disprove the allegations.[13] Andriy Senchenko, a Crimean member of Verkhovna Rada from Batkivshchyna party alleged that Aksyonov was involved in these activities together with Supreme Council Chairman, Volodymyr Konstantinov.


Fascism is on the march all over the world. It is like people have forgotten how that story ends.
In Russia the state-run and oligarch-run news have been saying that Putin's actions are in response to facists in Ukraine:
...
The Russian media is serving up a crude portrayal of events as a patriotic fight against fascists in Kiev and spurring its own far-right into action

posted by sebastienbailard at 9:02 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


> Fascism is on the march all over the world. It is like people have forgotten how that story ends.

It's so disturbing to see people chanting "SLAVA UKRAINE!" on one TV channel and "RO-SSI-YA!" on the other. Our grandmothers and grandfathers died in the millions to save the world from fascism, and yet here you are spitting on their memories.
posted by archagon at 9:04 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


Looking at the number of transparently flimsy pro-Putin/Russia comments across the major news sites, I wonder how much online opinion is being influenced by paid propagandists.
posted by shivohum at 9:07 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


No offense, but, ugh, it really grinds my gears whenever people accuse others of being paid shills on the internet. Maybe it happens — rarely — but without evidence, it's just a quick way to shut down conversations that are deviating from a community's norms. As a result, both sides only get more entrenched in their beliefs and no progress gets made.

To address your concern, I think Russia benefits far more from having a state-controlled (or state-influenced) media empire than they ever would from paying some nerds on the internet. (Plus, who reads the comments on news articles anyway?! They're worse than YouTube, seriously.)
posted by archagon at 9:21 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


It's documented that the American military works for influence over foreign news media. To think that Russia is not co-equal is silly.
posted by sieve a bull at 9:25 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


jaduncan: This morning I was imagining if Preston Manning and the old Reform party had been swept into office by anglophone protests, formed a government with no francophone ministers, and announced that their first priority was dismantling official bilingualism. Quebec would have voted to secede faster than you can say "René Lévesque".

In the Ukraine, the Russians (somewhat plausibly) see themselves as protecting their interests against a western backed coup d'etat. The West (equally plausibly) sees an autocratic oligarchy striking back against a popular democratic uprising.

I don't know how it will go or how it can end. I just keep thinking of that Bismark line. "if there is another war it will come out of some damn fool thing in the Balkans." It'd be kind of grim if, 100 years after the first "war to end all wars", we had two nuclear powers go to the brink of war because another damn fool thing in Russia's near abroad spiraled out of all control.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:26 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


> It's documented that the American military works for influence over foreign news media. To think that Russia is not co-equal is silly.

Sure, but to what extent? Why would they bother with the shitty comments on some news article or a random Reddit thread? I think it's important to exclude all other possibilities before coming to the conclusion that shills are at work, unless you have evidence.

Without evidence, if somebody accuses me of being a shill, I can just call them a shill right back and absolutely nothing is gained from that conversation.

Plus, I know plenty of Russians who really and truly are behind Putin 100%.
posted by archagon at 9:32 PM on March 6


I'm skeptical of Snyder's account.

It's quite the whitewash. Modified C&P from the prev thread re the right wing thing:

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 part and Golden Dawn to be banned last year, which should illustrate the company they are in. The party is open to only ethnic Ukrainians, and wishes to ban Russian from being used in any official setting. In the Alliance of European National Movements, which also contains Front national, the British National Party and Jobbik (Hungarian nationalists)

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. Groups within it have also fought in Chechnya and Moldova.

Far right new government people:

Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council: Andriy Parubiy (Svoboda)
Co-founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine, which became Svoboda. Co-authored the "Stop the Criminal Activities of Organised Jewry" pamplet which accused Jews of organising a genocide in Ukraine.

Deputy Secretary of National Security: Dmytro Yarosh (Party leader, Right Sector)
In his own words: "I'm the founder and leader of the all-Ukrainian organization Stepan Bandera Trident since 1994, holding various positions from commander to chief inspector. Trident is like an order of knights, propagandizing Stepan Bandera's Ukrainian nationalist ideology, promoting patriotism among Ukrainian youth, and defending the honor and dignity of the Ukrainian nation by all means available. It created Right Sector to coordinate the actions of various revolutionary groups.

Training takes place at camps throughout Ukraine: Besides military training, we organize events aimed at the de-communization and decolonization of Ukraine."

Deputy PM: Oleksandr Sych (Svoboda)
Aside from standard religious/nationalist/antisemitic combo, believes in no abortion including in cases of rape. Bonus charming approach to rape concerns - women should just "lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including one from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company."

Prosecutor-general of the Ukraine: Oleh Makhnitsky (Svoboda)

All I'm going to say is far-right prosecutors do not generally result in great things.

Less interesting Svoboda-run ministries: Education, Ecology and Agriculture.

BBC: Svoboda: The rise of Ukraine's ultra-nationalists (written pre-revolution)
Channel 4: How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine's power vacuum
Interview with Dmytro Yarosh, Leader of Right Sector
Katya Gorchinskaya: The not-so-revolutionary new Ukraine government

I actually think that the new government could do well, but I fear a little for elections held in an atmosphere where the far right have the halos of liberators and Western media seems to downplay the far right influence on the new government considerably.

The combination of a far right head of the security and defence council (with an extreme right deputy) combined with a far right prosecutor general to police the resultant actions is a potentially quite worrying development. I hope very much that cool heads from the EU or mainstream parties can ensure sane policies rather than relying on the far and extreme right to do the right things.
posted by jaduncan at 9:56 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


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.
...
They have tried to scare us (and are continuing their attempts) with “Bandera followers” and “Fascists” attempting to wrest away the helm of Ukrainian society, with imminent Jewish pogroms. Yes, we are well aware that the political opposition and the forces of social protests who have secured changes for the better are made up of different groups. They include nationalistic groups, but even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behavior. And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government – which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.
I think Obama and the EU are making a mistake by not speaking out more forcefully against neo-nazis in Ukraine and Western Europe. He should tell Putin the US will always be happy to fight alongside Russia against nazis - as they have together in the past - in Western and Eastern Europe (and Russia where neo-fascism appears to be a big problem as well). If the West is going to give money to the new Ukraine government (which is a far better option than sanctions against Russia, imo), it should come with the condition that it will be cut-off as soon as the government tramples on the rights of any of its citizens, and warnings should go to Western European countries regarding growing fascism and their relationship with the US, but I tend to think the fascism problem is being greatly exaggerated by Putin.

I think Yanukovich and Putin (and Obama) have made a few big mistakes. Yanukovich should not have used violence against the protestors, he should have basically let them be and tried to appease them. Putin is doing an incredible job with his propaganda (the perception that Euromaidan was lead by fascists is far more prevalent now than while it was actually happening - when protestors were countering these claims every chance they had), but he is making a mistake by getting involved militarily. He should have stuck with economic sanctions and an open invitation to join the Eurasian Union that was not predicated on cancelling the free trade agreement with the EU - and the massive anti-fascist propaganda campaign.

Ukraine engaging in free trade agreements with both Putin's Eurasian Union and the EU without truly joining either would have been the best (and most obvious) solution to the crisis early on. Obama and the EU should have told Putin in no uncertain terms that they were not interested in having Ukraine join the European Union without Russia's tacit approval, and try to convince him that the trade agreements with Europe were not a threat to Russia.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:10 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]




n+1 always writes so much to say so little.
posted by Jahaza at 10:49 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]




I acknowledge that people are calling Obama a hypocrite for his statements that Russia's actions are in violation of international law. But, as a matter of international law, they are. (And the US, despite the obvious cited examples, generally obeys international law by comparison.)

A referendum in Crimea cannot "beget its own legality." A unilateral secession by Crimea may, under the principle of effectivity, be accorded sovereign legal status eventually. However, "this does not support the more radical contention that subsequent recognition of a state of affairs brought about by a unilateral declaration of independence could be taken to mean that secession was achieved under colour of a legal right."
posted by ageispolis at 11:17 PM on March 6


From the BBC live feed
Sergei Markov who often thinks how the Kremlin thinks, writes "Why There Will Be War in Ukraine" in the Moscow Times.
It's a fascinating and scary view from the other side, that basically says Ukraine is full of 'russian speakers', whose democratically elected president was overthrown by neo-nazis in a violent coup. Those neo-nazis are now going to evict the Russian fleet, 'purge Crimea', send their activists into Russia to forment rebellion in Russia, and then overthrow Putin in four years time at the next Presidential election, or sooner by revolution. This is all - of course - backed by Western money and expertise (presumably he's hinting at the CIA at this point), who will also back the Ukrainian subversives infiltration of Russia, in concert with Western backed Russian subversives in order to engineer a Putin-less compliant Russia who will sell out its interests to the West.

If the Kremlin thinking really is that paranoid, I'm very glad I don't live in Ukraine right now.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:39 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Ukraine Crisis: China’s Crimea Dilemma, Daniel Bodirsky, Geopolitical Monitor, 05 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 1:33 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


"(And the US, despite the obvious cited examples, generally obeys international law by comparison.) "

Oh my god I can't believe someone actually believes this.

And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue, they just have to dive in, they think no one can solve things without america, and then they get involved and then the wars start.
posted by marienbad at 1:37 AM on March 7 [9 favorites]


My preferred source of informed commentary on the current crisis has been Julia Ioffe of The New Republic (and formerly The New Yorker), though I must admit this is in part because she largely shares my view of recent events.

Twitter feed.

Terrific recent piece on the historical context of the crisis.
posted by eugenen at 2:19 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


I still really don't know how to feel about this. It's like it overloaded my feel-i-nator 3000. My partner is Armenian, but she grew up in Kyiv(they moved there, you know, because genocide) and most of her family besides her parents and grandpa are there. Including her best friend growing up and her friends mom.

They've talked with them on the phone, and everyone who's over there is pretty much afraid to say anything on the phone besides "Yea it's kinda bad, uh... yea". No one wants to give any details or say anything all that negative or really anything because they're so goddamn afraid the phones are tapped and what that could mean later on. I mean hell, they were around for all the cell phone tracking "attention citizen, you are registered as an illegal protestor!" stuff.

Her friend and her friends mom are planning to come to the US to visit in the summer, and i think they're going to try and get them to stay as long as they can. We're also hoping to hear what's really actually been going on because they won't talk about it at all over the phone.

I feel like such an asshole sitting around in my boxer shorts, drinking a rum and pineapple in my city that's you know, not burning to the ground. So does my SO, but she just seems pretty quiet and depressed about it.

Oh my god I can't believe someone actually believes this.

Amusing random anecdote related to above, in a conversation yesterday my SO and her mom brought this up.

the conclusion was basically "the US invaded iraq, it's not like that international law shit means anything anymore". There were a few "but that's pretty much what holds the world together! someones got to enforce it" interludes by her, but her mom was just like "yea, but uh... yea".
posted by emptythought at 2:29 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


the conclusion was basically "the US invaded iraq, it's not like that international law shit means anything anymore". There were a few "but that's pretty much what holds the world together! someones got to enforce it" interludes by her, but her mom was just like "yea, but uh... yea".

I would say that this particular one goes back a bit further to the invasion of Kosovo.

SMH, February 23, 2008:
Russian President Vladimir Putin today described the declaration of independence by Kosovo as a "terrible precedent" that will come back to hit the West "in the face."

The comments came as Moscow ratcheted up its condemnation of Western powers' support for the province's secession from Serbia, with a Russian envoy warning NATO and the European Union against "brute force" in Kosovo.

Russia has vehemently opposed Kosovo's independence declaration, reflecting Moscow's historical ties with Orthodox Christian Serbia, which continues to claim Kosovo as a Serbian province.

"The precedent of Kosovo is a terrible precedent, which will de facto blow apart the whole system of international relations, developed not over decades, but over centuries," Putin told a Moscow meeting of regional leaders.

"They have not thought through the results of what they are doing. At the end of the day it is a two-ended stick and the second end will come back and hit them in the face," Putin said, in comments later broadcast on state television.

In recent weeks Russian officials have suggested that Kosovo's declaration could boost the independence claims of separatist regions in Western Europe.
It was of course also a Russian humiliation. Kosovo was a very different level of threat, but the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is what is being reached at by Russia here at times. From a Russian perspective it can very easily seem that different rules apply to Russia and NATO.
posted by jaduncan at 3:21 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Full disclosure: I'm American, military family rah rah, sitting in Belarus (similar to Russian culture), Russian girlfriend. I'm not on anybody's side here, but I am disgusted by our country's actions in Iraq, and I'm afraid that it might happen again. Only this time with real life WMDs.

Prevailing wisdom here in Belarus is that the EU/US has installed a puppet government in Ukraine that is friendly (and with Nazi ties**) to western interests, both corporate and political. And keep in mind that many of these people have access to western news/media. Westerners (including myself) have almost no access to Russian news/media. And what little we do, we dismiss as propaganda. So we only get the western narrative, which I believe to be tightly controlled.

** Jesus.. How far down the rabbit hole do we go???
posted by NiceKitty at 3:38 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


The Altaic language line runs from Japan to Turkey, and includes the Tatars.

Slavic is Indo-European, as is Iranian.

Deep cultural divisions can be parsed by language. For example, if you look at an agricultural map of Ireland, you will see that the pigs are in Northern Ireland, while cows cover the rest. Tie that with native speakers, and Irish mythology ("The Book of the Dun Cow"), and you can tell where the old guard believes the invaders live.

Note the following:
"According to news appearing in the French, Ukrainian and Russian press, Turkish Intelligence has a finger in the ongoing pro-EU protests in Ukraine. News stories from these three nations have claimed that the governmental intelligence organization of Turkey, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) organized the transfer of separatist, jihadist Tatars trained in Turkey to the Ukraine. According to French news site Egalite et Réconciliation, dozens of Crimean Tatar Jihadists were extracted from Syria by the MİT and transferred to Ukraine via Turkey on an İstanbul-Sevastopol flight of Turkish Airlines on the 22 November."

and this, involving Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan:

"In the fourth conversation at 11:15 that night, Bilal says he had almost “zeroed” out the money, but that there were some 30 million euros (about $39 million) left. When his father asks why he didn’t transfer all the money to Mehmet Gur, a contractor who was building the Erdogan family villa, Bilal responds: because “it takes a lot of space.”

That last call was revealed by Ukranian Intelligence. The chance they had Russian help is pretty high.

Expect the movement toward New Kurdistan in Turkey to get an influx of rubles.
posted by dragonsi55 at 3:39 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


.
posted by angrycat at 3:46 AM on March 7


i commented in the last crimea thread that "ukraine will have to be partitioned." no two ways about it. it's so close to the russian bear, you can smell the dingleberries.

i awoke this morning to latimes.com reporting that obama had said that splitting off crimea was "unconstitutional", referring to the ukrainian constitution, and i lol'ed. president peace prize can't even get our own constitution right. i have more respect for putin than i do for obama.
posted by bruce at 3:47 AM on March 7


How is Iraq even close to the same thing? Iraq was run by a vile dictator who was in violation of a UN resolution. Ukraine is not run by a dictator and there is no UN resolution involving it; in fact, there is an agreement to which Russia is a party securing its borders in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes.

I think this is going to encourage Ukraine and every other country on Russia's borders to get nukes ASAP.

It's documented that the American military works for influence over foreign news media. To think that Russia is not co-equal is silly.

The NSA has been documented to use the Internet to discredit specific people, btw, not sway general public opinion on large news sites, which Putin appears to be doing with brainwashed talking-points robots.

i have more respect for putin than i do for obama.

You and Fox News both.
posted by shivohum at 3:49 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


Sorry my comment is sorta sitting out there in the middle of nowhere. I had a comment before it there that has been deleted.
posted by NiceKitty at 4:01 AM on March 7


So we only get the western narrative, which I believe to be tightly controlled.

Compared to what? Not the Russian narrative, surely.
posted by eugenen at 4:02 AM on March 7


[NiceKitty, contact us about moderation issues if you have questions. Don't comment flood in this thread, and don't accuse people of being shills. If you want people to read something other than what they're reading, feel free to link to sources. If you have complaints about Metafilter, please take it Metatalk.]
posted by taz at 4:05 AM on March 7


eugenen: Yes. I'm starting believe they are similarly controlled. Consider the build up towards the war in Iraq. A child could see that was a resource war. And yet we got a steady stream of 9/11, terrorists, Saddam Hussain, 9/11, WMDs, terrorists, WMDs... And now half a million Iraqis are dead. I believe the same thing is happening here, and I don't think that's a terribly outlandish opinion.

Noted, taz - thanks!
posted by NiceKitty at 4:09 AM on March 7


Well, okay. I won't pursue the Iraq derail (I don't agree with your characterization), but -- given the vast differences in how American and Russian media operate I do think it's outlandish to say that the media narratives in the two countries are "similarly controlled."
posted by eugenen at 4:24 AM on March 7


...given the vast differences in how American and Russian media operate I do think it's outlandish to say that the media narratives in the two countries are "similarly controlled."

I did too, eugenen, until I travelled over here. Perspective is a motherfvcker.
posted by NiceKitty at 4:32 AM on March 7


Westerners (including myself) have almost no access to Russian news/media. And what little we do, we dismiss as propaganda. So we only get the western narrative, which I believe to be tightly controlled.

a) What makes you think that people here don't have access to Russian sources (it's online), or indeed speak Russian and/or Ukrainian?
b) You realise you're in Belarus, right? Belarus media is not going to be very critical of Russia given that they are a dictatorship who have very few friends aside from Russia. People's attitudes are indeed likely to be more pro-Russia.
c) The fact that US media is generally fairly horrific at reporting on Russia doesn't mean that all Western sources are. Der Spiegel, the Guardian, NBC and Fox News are not the same in quality.
d) Yeah, it's a bad idea to rely on only one or a couple of sources.
posted by jaduncan at 4:36 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


FWIW, I was born in Russia, my entire family is Russian, I'm a fluent Russian speaker, and I browse Russian news regularly, so I don't think my perspective is hugely blinkered.

Still don't think it's possible to remotely equate media independence (or lack thereof) in Russia and the United States with a straight face.
posted by eugenen at 4:54 AM on March 7 [7 favorites]


Ok, glad to see you here eugenen -- thanks for your perspective!
posted by NiceKitty at 4:56 AM on March 7


Media independence is not the only measure of freedom. But again, you don't have to love Russia or Putin to distrust Ukrainian nationalists, who don't much care for media independence either.
posted by spitbull at 4:57 AM on March 7


[Comment deleted. Spitbull, don't start a derail about "USian" here or jump in to throw out general insults; you can pursue that in the Metatalk thread. ]
posted by taz at 5:00 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I just don't think this is a Cold War black and white Russia Bad because freedom! situation.

My big frustration is that that's what it feels like so many people around me are turning it into and I can't really figure out how to start sifting through the propaganda. I guess it's showing me who around me likes to comment authoritatively on things they don't understand and giving me practice is not doing so.
posted by hoyland at 5:09 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


For context, I think I just quoted a comment that got killed.
posted by hoyland at 5:10 AM on March 7


MetaTalk
posted by Jahaza at 5:14 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'm not American (I'm Polish), I can read Russian fluently, I lived in Moscow for three years (long time ago, 1985-88), I read Russian sources, both state and privately owned (and speaking from abroad, sadly), Ukrainian sources, English language sources (not just American, also English, German and Al-Jazeera) and of course the coverage in Polish media which are far form homogenous. I have great interest in this topic. I have also Russian friends, although they are largely against Putin so you may consider them biased.
The amount of outright lies in the Russian state media is absolutely incomparable.
It's true that the Russian perspective is not often presented in the, broadly speaking, Western media - but you can find links to pieces that show the conflict from various sides in the previous thread. While any perspective other than the one dictated by the Kremlin is virtually absent from the official Russian news.
posted by hat_eater at 5:51 AM on March 7 [16 favorites]


On the subject of Belarus, a couple of Euromaidan protestors (both called Sergei IIRC) interviewed by the BBC said that they would rather have leader like Lukashenko than the corrupt government of Yanukovich. That interview was about 10 days ago. It wouldn't surprise me if they were extreme right wingers, but when your economy is as destroyed as Ukraine's it doesn't surprise me that people are desperate for someone to blame and some stability. Painting the protestors as the goodies vs. the Russian baddies is normal procedure in creating a simplistic dialogue for public consumption.

There appears to be some interest in Ukraine/Crimea's shale gas. Europe and American are continuing to shower Ukraine with 'aid' contingent on a close relationship with the IMF. A similar deal fell through last year, prompting Putin to offer them $15 billion and kicking off the whole Euromaidan thing.

Putin plays to win and everyone seems to agree that he plays the international political chess game well for the benefit of Russia('s oligarchs). Europe seems to be less capable of the ruthlessness that is required when dealing with Putin, and the UK is not going to use the ace it holds and start freezing the £billions that Russia's oligarchs are laundering and storing in London. Apparently Putin keeps his money in the UK as well.
posted by asok at 6:20 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Fascism is on the march all over the world.

Oh FFS. Fascism? Really? That word actually has meaning, more than just right-wing violent militarism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:30 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


If the first action of the new government was to free a political prisoner known for fighting corruption and raising the minimum wage, it mmmmmay not be as neo-nazi as advertised.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:47 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue, they just have to dive in, they think no one can solve things without america, and then they get involved and then the wars start.

I disagree, somewhat. I think it is fine for the U.S. to be involved in a limited, diplomatic way. We can make statements, have talks, express some disapproval, etc. However, I agree with the overall thrust of your comment. Aside from Russian and the Ukraine, the key player is the EU. Germany, in particular. The U.S. shouldn't be sailing the 6th Fleet into the Black Sea or anything like that.
posted by Area Man at 6:49 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue, they just have to dive in, they think no one can solve things without america, and then they get involved and then the wars start.

The US is kind of like Chunk in Goonies. We're a generally positive and optimistic nation, who have a tendency to barge into things, break things (sometimes with the expectation of others setting us up to do it), but in the end, we try to end up bringing Sloth to the party. Cause, you know, pirates!
posted by Atreides at 7:09 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue,

This reads as an automated, generic criticism of America. What exactly is the United States doing that it shouldn't? Obama shouldn't back the EU line with Putin?

and then they get involved and then the wars start.

Yeah, we wouldn't have had wars in Eastern Europe if it wasn't for America!
posted by spaltavian at 7:11 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


Well, for one thing Kerry has been publicly criticising the EU for having their own ideas and not following his department's response plan, which I think he definitely shouldn't be doing. It's not his place to demand that everyone here jeopardises their energy supplies and trade on his say-so when the USA has nothing at risk.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:28 AM on March 7


(Although if letting him dribble on in public means that he might accidentally bumble his way into making a useful development again like he did in Syria, I certainly won't complain.)
posted by forgetful snow at 7:33 AM on March 7


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Allow me to cut and paste from one of the links I provided
Russia's armed intervention in the Crimea undoubtedly illustrates President Putin's ruthless determination to get his way in Ukraine. But less attention has been paid to the role of the United States in interfering in Ukrainian politics and civil society. Both powers are motivated by the desire to ensure that a geostrategically pivotal country with respect to control of critical energy pipeline routes remains in their own sphere of influence. [cut]

But Russia's Gazprom, controlling almost a fifth of the world's gas reserves, supplies more than half of Ukraine's, and about 30% of Europe's gas annually. Just one month before Nuland's speech at the National Press Club, Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with US energy giant Chevron "that the ex-Soviet nation hopes could end its energy dependence on Russia by 2020." The agreement would allow "Chevron to explore the Olesky deposit in western Ukraine that Kiev estimates can hold 2.98 trillion cubic meters of gas." Similar deals had been struck already with Shell and ExxonMobil. [cut]

But while Russia's imperial aggression is clearly a central factor, the US effort to rollback Russia's sphere of influence in Ukraine by other means in pursuit of its own geopolitical and strategic interests raises awkward questions. As the pipeline map demonstrates, US oil and gas majors like Chevron and Exxon are increasingly encroaching on Gazprom's regional monopoly, undermining Russia's energy hegemony over Europe.

Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia's energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels.
posted by asok at 7:39 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure that deal shows that Ukraine is caught hapless in between the parties to a struggle. Instead, it appears to be a deliberate attempt by the country to gain some energy independence. Russia's ability to turn off the gas running to Ukraine is a real threat to Ukrainian independence.
posted by Area Man at 7:52 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Russia's ability to turn off the gas running to Ukraine is a real threat to Ukrainian independence.

Ability, and the willingness to use that ability: it's been turned off repeatedly in recent memory, 2009, in 2006, and several times in the early 1990s.
posted by cjelli at 8:03 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


president peace prize can't even get our own constitution right. i have more respect for putin than i do for obama.

No matter how unpleasant things get in Ukraine, it's good to know there is always time to keep our axes ground nice and sharp here at home.
posted by aught at 8:28 AM on March 7 [12 favorites]


Ukraine seems to think it needs foreign investment and expertise to extricate itself from Russia's grip on the gas supply and as such must ally with interests counter to those of Russia, despite the fact that they could be self sufficient in energy given their resources. In doing so I think it is fair to say that Ukraine allows itself to become the battleground between these far more powerful competing players.
posted by asok at 8:31 AM on March 7


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

I know! Why won't the US just let Europeans settle their conflicts among themselves? After all, nothing bad ever happened when Europeans differed with each other about who should govern which plot of land.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:40 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


president peace prize can't even get our own constitution right. i have more respect for putin than i do for obama.

Vladimir Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
posted by zombieflanders at 8:41 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]




"The Nord Stream Pipeline through the Baltic Sea is the most direct connection between the vast gas reserves in Russia and energy markets in the European Union."

"Gerhard Schröder: Chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee and former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany"

"Matthias Warnig (born 26 July 1955) is a former member of the Stasi and currently the Managing Director (CEO) of the Nord Stream AG, a company for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine gas pipeline from Russia to Germany."

The Managing Director of the Nord Stream pipeline (allegedly) worked with Putin recruiting spies, before the breakup of the Warsaw Pact.

Victoria Nuland: "So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU."

Yats is not pro-European. Ukraine owes European banks over $20 billion, who stand to lose big with destabilization. As far as the German banks at the center of the European Union are concerned, this is a bad thing. It appears that the American government is willing to leave the Europeans holding a tattered bag.

A personal note: a few years ago, my father-in-law told me how odd it was to be visiting Croatia, and everything was completely normal in the town they were in, while sixty miles away tanks were blowing holes in buildings. The possibility of tanks in the street is a reality to Europeans in a way that is a fantasy to Americans.

The Warsaw Pact broke up after a decade mired in Afghanistan. We've been there about a decade now. The way we are treating our allies, coupled with the utter strategic necessity of the Black Sea Fleet for Russia, leaves me for the first time considering the deep pressures on NATO and how much NATO can endure before cracks start opening.
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:34 AM on March 7


Oh FFS. Fascism? Really? That word actually has meaning, more than just right-wing violent militarism.

Well, Svoboda used to be called the "Social National Party of Ukraine"... hmm 'Social' 'National' sounds familiar doesn't it? Oh wait, their old party symbol, the "wolfsangel" has a sort of teutonic feel to it....

As strange as it seems, Russia and the ex-Soviet block have had some of the most active neo-Nazi movements around for awhile now.

to the point: yes, hard as it is to believe, not only are they fascists but they are actual Nazis.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:35 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Has the US had any involvement in this beyond making some comments to the press? I guess I assume they're talking to the major parties involved at some diplomatic level, but it honestly doesn't seem like the level of direct involvement is particularly high.
posted by Copronymus at 10:22 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Well, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, flew to Kiev to offer Ukraine a $1 billion loan guarantee, so yeah we're fairly involved, albeit in a non-military capacity.
posted by gilrain at 10:49 AM on March 7


Oh FFS. Fascism? Really? That word actually has meaning, more than just right-wing violent militarism.

Yes, regardless of most people's desire to comfortably relegate it to the 1930's and early 40's.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:56 AM on March 7


And honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Treaties and established relationships, including, notably, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances , which said that "Ukraine, give up your nukes and we'll protect you from aggressors."
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:14 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Unconfirmed reports of Russian troops storming an air force base in Crimea, only Russian language sources so far - Reddit thread with sources

Ongoing Reddit Live Thread
posted by Happy Dave at 11:16 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


So if Putin starts being the defender of all Russians everywhere, how does he stop here? The Baltic states, home to a lot of Russians are members of NATO. If he attacks them, it is war with the United States. By treaty.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:40 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Maybe inviting the Baltic states into NATO was not such a great idea. If Putin goes after them, it will either start WWIII or weaken NATO.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:44 AM on March 7


Maybe inviting the Baltic states into NATO was not such a great idea. If Putin goes after them, it will either start WWIII or weaken NATO.

It will be World War III. The U.S. is treaty bound to defend them.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:46 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


McCain: Obama Is 'Near Delusional In Thinking The Cold War Was Over'
"Maybe the President thinks the Cold War is over," he added, "but Vladimir Putin doesn't and that's what this is all about."

If the Cold War never truly ended, it sure fooled former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the latter of which famously peered into Putin's soul and proclaimed him "a very straight forward and trustworthy" man.

It also fooled John McCain, who faced off against Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

"The Cold War is over, the Soviet empire is gone and neither one is missed," he once told a group of military veterans during the campaign.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:49 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Putin won't go after the Baltic states.
posted by Justinian at 11:52 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Still reporting no shots fired. The Ukrainian ROE must be insanely restrictive if ramming the gates with a truck doesn't result in fire at will.
posted by jaduncan at 11:54 AM on March 7


That live thread is reporting the Ukrainians have retreated to a bunker. Also some speculation that they're taking down an anti-air unit in preparation for air ops. Crazy stuff.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:57 AM on March 7


So if Putin starts being the defender of all Russians everywhere, how does he stop here? The Baltic states, home to a lot of Russians are members of NATO.

The answer is in your question somewhere.
posted by jaduncan at 12:00 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


While Putin certainy wants to be seen as the leader of Russians everywhere, Ukraine and the Baltics are truly different cases. Russia sees the Ukraine as its own territory to an extent, and it knows the West ultimately doesn't have as much at stake there.. The Baltic states have a different history, and the NATO guarantee does protect them.

As much as Putin loves to act as if the United States/NATO is declining into irrelevance, he knows he can't really challenge America when it actually feels its interests or European stability is at stake.

Hence, he bullies Georgia and Ukraine, where Western commitment is lukewarm, but you're not going to see much more than bluster in nations intergrated into the European-American system. Russia is a rebounding power, not a rising one. It's just now starting to play in its near abroad again, we're a ways off from a new Cold War or World War III.
posted by spaltavian at 12:04 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


While Putin certainy wants to be seen as the leader of Russians everywhere, Ukraine and the Baltics are truly different cases. Russia sees the Ukraine as its own territory to an extent, and it knows he West ultimately doesn't have a much at stake. The Baltic states have a different history, and the NATO guarantee does protect them. As much as Putin loves to act as if the United States/NATO is declining into irrelevance, he knows it isn't and he knows he can't really challenge America when it actually feels its interests or European stability is at stake.

Here's the problem. Putin is also controlled by politics. If he set's these sorts of forces in motion, he doesn't control all of them. If he succeeds here, nationalists in the former Soviet Republics may push him into positions where he can't just say no, or worse, create facts on the ground he can't just ignore.

These moves by Putin are very, very dangerous and destabilizing.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:08 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


BBC now reporting Russian forces taking control of Ukrainian base - breaking news.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:09 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


A Chat With Putin’s Old Nemesis: ‘He Likes to Lie’
“I called him just before the war and said, ‘Do you see all these statements condemning you?’” Saakashvili told TIME in a Wednesday interview in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. “He said, ‘Yes. There are lots of these pieces of paper condemning me. Why don’t you roll up these papers and stick them in their ass?’”
...
“Your Western friends will promise you nice things, and they won’t deliver,” he said Putin told him. “I won’t promise you nice things, but I will deliver.”

At that, Saakashvili laughed ruefully.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:17 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Putin won't go after the Baltic states.

The Baltic states and Poland aren't convinced. More, they're not worried about what Putin will or won't do, they're worried about Russia. There is a few hundred years of history here they thought had been put to bed in 1991. They see this as a return to 18th century empire building, and are more than a little freaked out.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:45 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


No matter who is in charge, using military force against NATO is a massive step. Aside from anything else, unless people are willing to go nuclear Russia is heavily outgunned.
posted by jaduncan at 12:51 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Because, besides the realist reason of wanting to screw Putin, nato offered security guarentees and particularly a territorial integrity guarantee in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes. backing out of that guarantee would make Poland and the Baltic States very nervous.
posted by Jahaza at 12:53 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Because, besides the realist reason of wanting to screw Putin, nato offered security guarentees and particularly a territorial integrity guarantee in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes. backing out of that guarantee would make Poland and the Baltic States very nervous.


Its more than a security guarantee. The North Atlantic Treaty requires the members to act as if an attack on one nation is an attack on all the nations of NATO. We're required to react as if Putin tried to do this to New York. It says war on whoever attacks one of these countries.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:00 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


To be clear, Ukraine isn't in NATO. Ukraine was offered security assurances in exchange for nuclear disarmament, but it isn't the iron clad guarantee of being a NATO member.

"It refers to assurances, not defined, but less than a military guarantee of intervention. According to Stephen MacFarlane, a professor of international relations 'It gives signatories justification if they take action, but it does not force anyone to act in Ukraine.' In the U.S. neither the George H. W. Bush administration nor the Clinton administration was prepared to give a military commitment to Ukraine, nor did they believe the U.S. Senate would ratify an international treaty, so the memorandum was agreed as a political agreement."
posted by spaltavian at 1:19 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


> honestly, why is America even involved in what is essentially a EU/Ukraine/Russia issue

Because, besides the realist reason of wanting to screw Putin, nato offered security guarentees and particularly a territorial integrity guarantee in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes. backing out of that guarantee would make Poland and the Baltic States very nervous.


Maybe. That's the western narrative.

Most folks over here believe that US and EU business interests are similar, and they are combining forces in an attempt to install a western-friendly government in Ukraine. And the Ukrainian people will bear the brunt under "austerity" measures. I tend to believe it. Sad.

Side question: Has anybody posted any perspectives of the Crimean people? Seems awful relevant to be omitted.
posted by NiceKitty at 1:19 PM on March 7


Its more than a security guarantee. The North Atlantic Treaty requires the members to act as if an attack on one natio

Ukraine though is not a NATO state. There's a different agreement, but the failure to live up to that agreement would make the newer NATO members much more nervous about whether NATO agreements would be honored.
posted by Jahaza at 1:21 PM on March 7


NiceKitty, post them if you want to, otherwise, stop tsk tsk-ing everyone else without doing anything.

By the way, the Ukrainian Parliament "installed" a western-friendly government; unless you think the legislature is made up of CIA/MI6 operatives.
posted by spaltavian at 1:23 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Okay, will do.

Here are some images that give the perspective of the Crimean people.

"For Motherland! For Putin! For Russian Bloc!"

pic1
pic2
pic3

"russian as official language"

Burning Ukrainian books

Could all be staged for all I know. I suspect not. We are getting fed a plate of shit, people. Again. Remember Iraq.
posted by NiceKitty at 1:27 PM on March 7


Maybe. That's the western narrative.

The Agreement in which Russian agreed to respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders is not just a matter of the western narrative. That's an agreement that Russia signed. Argue, if you wish, that present circumstances make it reasonably for Russia to violate that agreement, but don't pretend its existence is just some Western myth.

As for opinion in Crimea, Western reporters seem to think a majority of Crimeans may well wish to join Russia, but that the Crimean Tartars do not. I don't know whether or not that's true. I think it would be difficult to get an accurate sense of public opinion in these circumstances.

I also question whether Russia itself is really committed to the idea that parts of a country can leave if a majority of the residents agree. The Russian government has certainly not been interested in letting Chechnya leave. Maybe ask your new friends over there about Grozny. I assume no one thinks Ukraine should treat separatists in the way Russia does.

Could all be staged for all I know. I suspect not. We are getting fed a plate of shit, people. Again. Remember Iraq.

What are you talking about? I don't see a narrative in the U.S. press claiming that most Crimeans are particularly pro-Ukrainian.
posted by Area Man at 1:30 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


NiceKitty, what does Iraq have to do with this? There has not been a call for war from the Administration or any major media outlet.

They may not be staged, and even if they are, I have no doubt there are many people in Crimea who feel that way. However, I expect you would get entirely different opinions from ethnic Tartars and Ukrainians in the area.

It's funny, other than CNN, I think Western media has done a half-passable job of explaining that no where in Ukraine is monolithic, and even in Russian-speaking areas, there are plenty of people who are loyal to Ukraine. The most simplistic analysis of the situation I've seen so far is yours.

Also, can you drop the "wake up sheeple" tone?
posted by spaltavian at 1:36 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


The lesson to be taken from the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq is not that one should choose some other country's propaganda to believe. I think you need to consider the possibility that Russian oligarchs, generals, and politicians can be just as sinister as the U.S. miiltary, business, and political interests you fear.
posted by Area Man at 1:42 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Russian/non-western narrative is that ethnically Crimeans fear Ukrainian fascism (believed to be EU/US western-backed) and asked Russia for help with security.

What are you talking about? I don't see a narrative in the U.S. press claiming that most Crimeans are particularly pro-Ukrainian

The narrative in the US press is, essentially, PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE!! When narrative in Russian press (and I believe reality) is Crimea requested security assistance. So... not a lie on part of western press, but certainly a different... perspective.

NiceKitty, what does Iraq have to do with this?

I believe we're being misled about this, similar to the run-up to Iraq. I believe the CIA/NSA control of the narrative is in full force. I honestly don't know a more neutral tone to say that; I realize the statement is pretty inflammatory, but when people ask "But why?" I gotta say why. I'll try to limit commentary as much as possible and just publish information.
posted by NiceKitty at 1:43 PM on March 7


Given Ukraine's reactor capacity and enriched Uranium fuel stores and technical expertise how long would it take them to assemble and small nuclear stockpile?
posted by humanfont at 1:45 PM on March 7


Here is the public forum for Sevastopol, town in Crimea:
Sevastopol (/ˌsjivæˈstoʊpəlj/[1] or /sɛˈvæstəpəl, -ˌpɒl/; Ukrainian and Russian: Севасто́поль; Crimean Tatar: Aqyar; Greek: Σεβαστούπολη, Sevastoupoli) is one of two cities with special status in Ukraine (the other being the capital, Kiev), located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean Peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 (2001). Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine,[dubious – discuss] after the Port of Odessa.
It's a local community forum. You can find perspective from locals there. Most of it is mundane. Some of it is not.

I use Chrome to auto-translate the Russian to English.
posted by NiceKitty at 1:50 PM on March 7


The narrative in the US press is, essentially, PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE!! When narrative in Russian press (and I believe reality) is Crimea requested security assistance

Depending on how you to define "Crimea" these can both be true. However, here's a huge hint of what's closer to the truth: Putin this week was claiming that there were no Russian troops in Crimea, and that it was just self-defense forces organically rising up.

I believe we're being misled about this, similar to the run-up to Iraq.

You seem to not understand who misled the country in the run-up to Iraq. The Bush administration lied. The failure of the media was that they acted as stenographers, and didn't seriously investigate Bush's claims, not that they had a specific agenda to invade Iraq. (Do you think they would have independently started drumming up support for the war if Gore had won the presidency in 2000?)

They didn't want to lose access, they were lazy, they had been frightended by years of the Right claiming liberal bias, and the corporate interests that owned them didn't want them to hit an ideological-fellow travler. The New York Times wasn't a ringleader, it was a sniveling follower.

The current administration isn't pushing for war, and basically wants you to think Putin is a bad guy. The media is basically doing that; except for Fox News' weird Putin crush, which you seemed to have completely missed. (Because you're an FSB agent perhaps? OMG!!!)

Beyond that, you probably should point to actual instances of where the media is lying, rather than just hurling around stories about the NSA. Everyone here knows the American security agencies push agendas. You haven't demonstrated what narrative they are actually pusing here.

For example, those pro-Russian demonstrations you linked, as if you blew our minds? I heard reports of similar pro-Russian demonstrations on NPR yesterday morning.
posted by spaltavian at 1:53 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


By the way, you do realize that Sevastopol is home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, right? It's odd to pretend that that's necessarily representative of Crimea as a whole, or that Russia doesn't have any motives other than "defending" Crimea.
posted by spaltavian at 1:58 PM on March 7


ethnically Crimeans

Are you referring to Crimean Tartars or the ethnic Russians who make up a majority of the population on the penninsula? For someone who is supposedly waking up a bunch of ignorant victims of propaganda, you seem a little fuzzy on the details.

Crimea requested security assistance

Is the request supposed to have been made through the government in Crimea headed by Sergei Askyonov? If so, I assume you realize that he wasn't the head of Crimea until after the invasion and his poltiical party didn't do that well when they last had elections.

Doesn't the timing of any of this seem suspicious to you? Russia invades Crimea (assuming you'll admit those are actually Russian soldiers), suddenly there is a new government in Crimea, and that new government seeks Russian assistance.
posted by Area Man at 1:59 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


I believe we're being misled about this, similar to the run-up to Iraq. I believe the CIA/NSA control of the narrative is in full force.

You know, there is a precedent for the US (through CIA and the State Dept.) to provide assistance in some capacity to "pro-West" forces, sometimes legal and sometimes definitely illegal. But, I honestly don't see how a Crimean referendum would be fair and objective at this point in time, since there's probably involvement from a number of different powers on the ground.

I think the most fair thing to do is to suspend the referendum until there's some international monitoring done, or at least until some time passes, to allow tempers to die down and to develop a more clear picture of the situation.
posted by FJT at 1:59 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Given Ukraine's reactor capacity and enriched Uranium fuel stores and technical expertise how long would it take them to assemble and small nuclear stockpile?

I used to always hear that it would take Japan less than a year to do this. I'm guessing it would take Ukraine longer.
posted by Area Man at 2:03 PM on March 7


>ethnically Crimeans

Are you referring to Crimean Tartars or the ethnic Russians who make up a majority of the population on the penninsula? For someone who is supposedly waking up a bunch of ignorant victims of propaganda, you seem a little fuzzy on the details.


I apologize -- I meant to type ethnically _Russian_ Crimeans. Sorry for any confusion.

Is the request supposed to have been made through the government in Crimea headed by Sergei Askyonov? If so, I assume you realize that he wasn't the head of Crimea until after the invasion and his poltiical party didn't do that well when they last had elections.

Not sure, let me check. Sorry, I'm essentially getting my info through Russian translators. Really hard for an English-only guy to see the Russian angle on things directly.

Doesn't the timing of any of this seem suspicious to you? Russia invades Crimea (assuming you'll admit those are actually Russian soldiers), suddenly there is a new government in Crimea, and that new government seeks Russian assistance.

I believe you have it backwards. I believe the (new?) Crimean government asked the Russian govt to intervene, then assistance from Russia were sent in. I definitely had a WTF moment when western media was reporting Russia invading Ukraine, and my Russian friends are saying "No Russia has not moved in yet."

I'm trying to figure this out as much as anybody. Please bear with me.

assuming you'll admit those are actually Russian soldiers

I'm still not actually sure about that. They were ethnically Russian, yes, but I am told they were not troops from the country of Russia. Most of Crimea is ethnically Russian. So saying "Russian soldiers" does not necessarily mean "soldiers from Russia". What a nasty trick that would be, if that's what's going on.

Troops from Russia may be there now, but you're right -- the timing is important. I would love to see this broken down.
posted by NiceKitty at 2:11 PM on March 7


Putin won't go after the Baltic states.

A month or two ago a lot of people would have said the same about Ukraine.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:14 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


The narrative in the US press is, essentially, PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE!!

As Ukraine is a sovereign nation, the presence of Russian troops on their territory constitutes invasion under most common definitions.

When narrative in Russian press (and I believe reality) is Crimea requested security assistance.

As Crimea is not a sovereign nation, but a territory of Ukraine, the appropriate capital to which to appeal for security assistance is Kyiv. An alternate mechanism would be to present evidence of human rights abuses and other failures of protection by the sovereign government of Ukraine before the United Nations in a venue where the international community can judge the import of this information.

Under most definitions, the acts of the government of Crimea constitute treason, essentially delegitimizing their own existence.

While the US has been involved in what Putin labels "precedents" such as Kosovo, Iraq, or even Syria and Libya, there is a history of at least trying to create international consensus prior to taking action. You may scoff at this, for whatever reason, but it certainly is not the approach taken by Russia here, which was move troops first, answer questions second.
posted by dhartung at 2:16 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


That's an excellent point, dhartung. Russia claims the right to send its forces into neighbouring countries whenever they think ethnic Russian people are in danger, but there's no international law backing this up.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:20 PM on March 7


Related MeTa thread shut down due to lack of activity, btw.
posted by NiceKitty at 2:23 PM on March 7


I think the most fair thing to do is to suspend the referendum until there's some international monitoring done, or at least until some time passes, to allow tempers to die down and to develop a more clear picture of the situation.

It's worth noting that the OSCE, which is the international body that is expected to do exactly this (and which Russia is a member of), has been blocked from entering Crimea by armed men flying the Russian flag.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:26 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


dhartung: I do think that's kind of a weak defense. What moral difference does it make if you try to create international consensus before acting if you're going to act whether or not you can form that consensus, as in Iraq? It makes a practical difference since you might have an easier go if other nations commit forces and support but, morally, if you're going to take military action regardless of whether you are successful at achieving international consensus I don't see what difference it makes whether you try to do so or not.

I think there are really staggering levels of hypocrisy going on internationally. Note that isn't a defense of Russia but rather a condemnation of everyone else.
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on March 7


The narrative in the US press is, essentially, PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE!! When narrative in Russian press (and I believe reality) is Crimea requested security assistance. So... not a lie on part of western press, but certainly a different... perspective.

Depends on how much you think the Crimean governement is legtimate. Russian media also tends to go with the claim that the first unmarked troops were just militia with excellent and uniform kit, the ability to borrow Sevastapol plated APCs and the military training to take positions in a professional way. Oh, and all of them muscular and well fed men with occasional VDV tattoos.

Coincidentally, they don't look like the standard showers of shit that are involved in policing the pro-Russian demonstrators, who have no standard uniforms, look in various states of fitness and various ages, and walk around in formations with all of the discipline of a group of vaguely threatening Wombles.

I can't quite believe that really very-sympathetic-to-Russia me is having to make the opposing case, but no matter what you think of Putin and Crimea it's very clear that the initial moves were made by Russian military without proper insignia. It is very obvious indeed who is and is not actually external military.
posted by jaduncan at 2:28 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: a group of vaguely threatening Wombles.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:33 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


[Couple comments deleted. NiceKitty, your meta-concerns got aired in that MetaTalk thread, and people can go check them out there; do not continue to derail this thread with them.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:34 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Burning Ukranian books

Curiosity about exactly which books those guys thought worthy of burning led me to this. From the looks of things, claiming that any one book-burning ceremony is representative of the perspective of Crimea is not the only thing problematic with your selection of images there...
posted by sfenders at 2:34 PM on March 7


"I think there are really staggering levels of hypocrisy going on internationally. Note that isn't a defense of Russia but rather a condemnation of everyone else."

It's true that other countries (notably the US) have done the same sort of thing in the past. The second Iraq War might not be the best example, because the Americans did at least try to build a consensus of international opinion before invading. Like with Colin Powell's famous speech to the UN.

Kevin Drum came up with a better example recently when he compared Russia's actions with Reagan's invasion of Grenada: Flashback: Why Ronald Reagan Invaded Grenada
posted by Kevin Street at 2:38 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


NiceKitty, will you please stop it with the 'informing the sheeple' schtick. Unsurprising a lot of us here get our information from a variety of sources, besides being professionally required to and more than able to be critical of those sources. And indeed many have personal and familial connections to the region. You're starting to sound like the occasional student I have who goes for what my colleagues and I call the 'doesn't really understand post-modernism' gambit when they don't like the mark they get for their essay. There is not some holy ground of truth between what the (largely state controlled) Russian media is telling you, and the people around you, and what the Western media (and let's not forget organisations like Al Jezerra, who are currently trying to get a bunch of their journalists released from prison in Egypt) is saying.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:39 PM on March 7 [7 favorites]


The one book title I can clearly make out in the burning books picture linked to by NiceKitty is a history of the Ukraine. I'm a more than a little puzzled to see a MetaFilter user claiming burning books is a positive thing and I don't see why burning that particular book is a good thing. Is the basic idea that Ukraine shouldn't be treated as if it were a separate country with a separate history? That the very notion of Ukrainian history is itself illegitimate?
posted by Area Man at 2:40 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


The second Iraq War might not be the best example, because the Americans did at least try to build a consensus of international opinion before invading

Again, I don't see what difference it makes morally if you try to build a consensus if you're going to go ahead and do what you were going to do anyway even if you fail at building that consensus.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on March 7


Hi, guys - please don't make this about me. I'm posting information that I believe to be relevant. Open another MeTa if you like. Thanks! =)
posted by NiceKitty at 2:50 PM on March 7


Maybe not much difference in the end. The Russians (or at least their Foreign Ministry) seem to see Iraq in much the same light as Grenada and Kosovo, Lebanon in 1958, the Dominican Republic in 1965, bombing Libya in 86 and the invasion of Panama. From their perspective both Superpowers are guilty of the same sins.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:51 PM on March 7




The narrative in the US press is, essentially, PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE!! When narrative in Russian press (and I believe reality) is Crimea requested security assistance

So, if Chechens asked the US for "security assistance" it would be just fine with Russia if we sent two divisions there, because "hey, they asked for help?"

Didn't think so.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:54 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


From their perspective both Superpowers are guilty of the same sins.

That article suggests Russia is claiming the U.S. is guilty of those sins. Russia, in contrast, is simply rescuing fellow Russians from the clutches of Ukrainian facists.
posted by Area Man at 2:54 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


From The New Yorker: Who Will Protect The Crimean Tatars?
posted by Going To Maine at 2:55 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


The one book title I can clearly make out in the burning books picture linked to by NiceKitty is a history of the Ukraine. I'm a more than a little puzzled to see a MetaFilter user claiming burning books is a positive thing and I don't see why burning that particular book is a good thing. Is the basic idea that Ukraine shouldn't be treated as if it were a separate country with a separate history? That the very notion of Ukrainian history is itself illegitimate?

I don't think burning books is positive. And I'm not pro-Russia, necessarily. I simply feel the western media is presenting a false narrative. (FWIW, I think the US is on the right side in Venezuela -- I almost don't want to dig too much and find out otherwise!)

I'm a little ashamed to say it, but up until this past summer I thought Ukrainians and Russians were best buds. From my ignorant American perspective, they look similar and both speak Russian. And I still don't fully understand the Nazi involvement. I keep reading more random news about Nazis. Seems surreal. I'll dig em up if anybody's interested.

Wish we had some Crimean folks in-thread to help answer questions and give more direct perspective. (Then again, they could be EU/US PsyOps -- only half-kidding.)
posted by NiceKitty at 3:06 PM on March 7


I'm waiting for McCain to say "we are all Tatars now."
posted by spitbull at 3:07 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


[NiceKitty, kidding or not, please drop it with the spy stuff. You've made your point more than clear.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:15 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


> I'm a little ashamed to say it, but up until this past summer I thought Ukrainians and Russians were best buds. From my ignorant American perspective, they look similar and both speak Russian. And I still don't fully understand the Nazi involvement.

You don't seem to understand much of anything, and you seem to be ignoring the many people here who know Russian and read news in Russian out of Russia and think you're completely wrong. (For what it's worth, I too read news in Russian out of Russia and think you're completely wrong.) So maybe you should show a little more humility and stop trying to be the Voice of Reality here.

> For what it's worth, it's generally preferred by everyone but Russia that you call it "Ukraine," rather than "the Ukraine," because the "the" was basically added by the Soviets as a way to claim that it was just a region (think "the Rocky Mountains" or "the Philippines") instead of an autonomous country.

I know it's a minor issue, but this is not true. It was called "the Ukraine" until independence because it was just a region; the only time it was sort of an independent country (self-declared) was right after the February [1917] Revolution. It's the same reason we said "the Congo" (because that used to refer to a large region in central Africa) and, for that matter, "the Crimea." Nothing to do with "the Soviets" (and it's hard to see how they would have added an article to the English language anyway).
posted by languagehat at 3:15 PM on March 7 [23 favorites]


From The New Yorker: Who Will Protect The Crimean Tatars?
“We are on a verge of losing our culture, our language, our identity,” Yunusov, the senior journalist, told me. And yet, like most of the Crimean Tatars I have interviewed, he believes that the community will be safer if the peninsula remains part of Ukraine. “For us, a European Ukraine is the only way of making sure that we survive as people,” he said. “We need European laws to protect our identity. After what happened in 1944, we can never trust the Russians.”
Needing 'European laws' was one of the more widely cited reasons of the protestors for Euromaidan in Kiev. Unfortunately, the way the new government is being formed is a little discouraging in that regard.

I have a former colleague from Odesa. He is Jewish and was a wrestler in high school. I wish I could describe his personality better. He told me once that he and his friends loved Rambo growing up. He was a very friendly guy but had a sort of resigned toughness. He reminds me so much of the unarmed Ukrainian commander confronting the Russian soldiers, "are you going to shoot us?" I was talking to him the other day, and he told me his friends were pissed at the Euromaidan protestors and thought they were just going to cause a lot of suffering, and possibly get a lot of people killed, and they weren't thrilled about the 'fascists' either, but people he knew there would generally prefer to be closer to Europe.

NYT: For First Time, Kremlin Signals It Is Prepared to Annex Crimea
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:16 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I wish the media would decide whether they should pronounce Kiev as one syllable or two because it's quite distracting when even two people in the same segment will pronounce it differently.
posted by Justinian at 3:18 PM on March 7


I'm waiting for McCain to say "we are all Tatars now."

[Rick Perry]That McCain just called me a 'tater.[/Rick Perry]
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:29 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Justinian, as you may know, Kiev is the Russian transliteration and Kyiv is the Ukrainian transliteration. I saw a good post on this by a Ukrainian who fought to have a Western-published op-ed spelled Kyiv, but lost, because the AP Style Guide defers to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary spelling. Both spellings have been found in the same document issued by the White House a few days ago, in fact. Until consensus is found, at least it can give you an indication of possible bias by the speaker or writer!

dhartung: I do think that's kind of a weak defense. What moral difference does it make if you try to create international consensus before acting if you're going to act whether or not you can form that consensus, as in Iraq?

Well, you're arguing a hypothetical, since the US was able to persuade a minimal group of allies to invade.

The real problem here, as you may be aware, is that the international system (derail: Treaty of Westphalia and all) was originally designed to privilege the rights of nations, which in the beginning were nearly synonymous in most cases to the fief of a monarchy, but later adapted fairly effectively to include constitutional monarchies, democracies, and even totalitarian regimes of various stripes. The interventionist argument privileges human rights and has an awkward relationship to what we might call settled international law. That is, there is no legal or political consensus on when intervention is warranted as a general rule, although there are a set of guidelines that fall under the rubric of the responsibility to protect^. Here's what the UN says about those guidelines. This is an evolving and fluid area of international law, but I think it has passed a tipping point and is accepted as a basis for the abrogation of what we might call "pure" sovereignty; it's just that the actual triggers are not yet settled.

The thing is, whether any party has in the past violated sovereignty, the test should not be based on their past actions but on the present circumstance. I think the US and others who may have backed other interventions have a right and even a duty to say whether they believe this intervention meets the new tests or how it compares to any other prior circumstance. If we simply scratch off a country's right to speak up because of a past violation, we close off the possibility of developing any consensus and eliminate the very purpose of having international fora for weighing and acting on one. I mean, really, going forward do you or do you not want the United States (for example, speaking to your point on Iraq) to back international standards or not?

I personally took a position as a liberal interventionist, with a personal preference for the responsibility to protect in moral force even though it had not yet emerged as a real standard, but knowing that the more settled argument was likely to prevail as far as Iraq's military threat should it deploy WMDs. As we now know that was based on faulty or even deliberately deceptive intelligence, but it was the primary argument that was made to the international community. But many opposed the US invasion on the basis of sovereignty alone, more in the sense of how far the rights of the US went than as the responsibility of the international community, I might offer. Despite the way things turned out, that position still troubles me. I don't take a position where warfare is morally unacceptable, but assess rather its costs and benefits (it would be dishonest not to point out here that following our experience in Iraq my skepticism in this regard is much higher now). But ultimately we have transitioned to an era of greater self-determination for smaller and smaller polities. The UK and Spain both have regions that might choose independence, and my weighing of that is that within the EU and the broader international system this is something we can accept though not, perhaps, unduly encourage (as where can it end?). This evolved, itself, from the position a century ago that essentially allowed countries like Turkey to eject its Greek minority, creating stateless peoples, but also from the choices by which the UK granted independence to a -- and this is particularly germane -- a part, if the greater, of Ireland, followed by things like the partition of India and other post-colonial transitions. Yet at the same time we have polities still at risk, such as the above discussion of the concern felt by Poland and the Baltic States. Are these nations too small to effectively defend, NATO treaty notwithstanding? Is Poland's lack of any potential strategic depth (see: map of Europe, multiple disappearances from) a meaningful reason to doubt our international system? We can find many such examples (more outside of the European theater) if we are willing to entertain the "unthinkable" enough.

So we end up with self-determination and the responsibility to protect and an inchoate consensus on when they apply and how far they go, but with a certainty that both of these, while in theory dependent on the broader system of accepted international law, are also in direct conflict with the foundational basis for that law and ultimately undermine it to some degree, and probably by degrees each time they are invoked.
posted by dhartung at 3:55 PM on March 7 [12 favorites]


Ukraine crisis: Does Russia have a case?
5 March 2014 Last updated at 12:04 GMT

...

Under the terms of its agreement with Ukraine, Russia is entitled to have 25,000 troops on the peninsula and currently has an estimated 16,000 deployed there. But these troops have to remain on base. Pro-Russian troops have been deployed across Crimea. Moscow insists they are local self-defence forces, but there are widespread reports that they are from Russia.
I'm not sure where things stand right now. We really need a time-line of who said and did what, and when.
posted by NiceKitty at 4:11 PM on March 7


For that matter, there's this which looks at things from the other end of the spyglass:
Analysis: Why Russia's Crimea move fails legal test

It does answer some of your five-Ws questions.
posted by dhartung at 4:25 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


russia gets crimea, we get baja california, deal? it has lesser strategic value, but i would be one of the first to revisit it under my country's flag.
posted by bruce at 5:58 PM on March 7




we get baja california, deal?

We should straight-up trade 'em back everything west of Louisiana and south of I-10. It's alta mexico, yeah no?

posted by hap_hazard at 6:40 PM on March 7


dhartung: The problem is that Kosovo provided a stinging example to the Russians that NATO was not always going to abide by Westphalia and the UN charter. as mentioned earlier We can say "oh this is how we do thing these days, these are the rules" but Russia is not going to just ignore an action like Kosovo. They are going to notice that an old move was slipped back in to the repertoire.
posted by bdc34 at 7:13 PM on March 7


Russia’s information warriors are on the march – we must respond
I confess: the crude and shrill nature of the propaganda now being aired on Russian media and especially on Russia Today (RT), the international news channel owned by the Russian state, has surprised me. Until now, the tone has generally been snide and cynical rather than aggressive. With slick, plausible American anchors and some self-styled hip outsiders – Julian Assange had a regular show – it seemed designed to undermine Western arguments, not denounce them. But now it is openly joining an information war being conducted on an unprecedented scale.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:26 PM on March 7


Story I'm getting is that Russia doesn't particularly want Crimea. Wealthy Russians own most of the property anyhow, and Russia already had access to the much-bandied "warm port" via conventional business contracts. If NATO moves into Ukraine, even with Russia annexing Crimea (remains to be seen how hotly that will be contested), we have NATO and Russia staring at each other with no buffer. The potential for conflict is frightening.

Also: The nation of Ukraine owes Russia a lot of money. If there is war, those loans are essentially lost debts. Simultaneously, Ukraine is offered a large loan package from western interests with very low interest. Also, will lose a lot of gas and oil contracts to Ukraine.

A few angles on the loan itself:
Reuters: EU offers Ukraine $15 billion, but help hinges on IMF deal
LewRockwell.com http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/03/lyuba-lulko/eu-prepares-poisoned-loan-for-the-ukraine%E2%80%A8/
Pravda: EU prepares poisoned loan for Ukraine
WSJ: EU to Offer Aid Package to Ukraine

Old news but Russia has matched this offer (dunno about the details):
Russia says will honour $15 billion loan pledge to Ukraine

From what I gather, a big downside is that this loan package will lower the wages of the average Ukrainian, under the auspices of "austerity", tough economic sacrifices borne mostly by the common person. Their wages were already so low the average Ukrainian person has no money for food after paying rent -- part of the reason for the civil unrest to begin with. This narrative surprised me -- I expected Ukrainians to be better off, financially, with western interests than with Russia. Of course, this will benefit western businesses with financial stimulus and cheap labor. This would be motivation for western businesses in this whole mess.

Another aspect will be the Ukrainian border opening to the EU. But economic conditions will be so bad in Ukraine that the result will be thousands of Ukrainians fleeing to better economies of the EU. I'd expect Ukrainians will become an underclass, the women likely disproportionately sex workers as they are widely regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. Google if you want; I'm not going to link to a gross "countries with the hottest women" list. I could be wrong, but beauty + poverty gives me a sinking feeling for their future.

Ah, one more thing: Despite the ethnic cleansing of the past, Crimean Tartars will likely stick with Russia, as this they will not suffer a wage cut by doing so.

This is the story I'm getting; I've tried to relay it as accurately and fully as possible.

There just doesn't seem to be much incentive aggression for Russia to "invade" Crimea, apart from protecting Russian nationals living there from fascist violence. It appears to be a wholly defensive maneuver against EU aggression, though western media is spinning it as the opposite.

I will ask more about the whole Nazi angle when I can, whether there's a Russian narrative that addresses that. I need to explore how western narrative addresses this, as it seems a bit of a poison pill.

Will assemble a quick post on avg economies and income inequity for some more context.
posted by NiceKitty at 7:33 PM on March 7


Average gross annual wage (wikipedia)

(I did the wiki gross * 12 for some relevant countries)

- Russians $9,948/year
- Ukraine $5,832/year (note that they're expected to endure austerity measures under the EU deal)
- United States $36,000/year
- Germany $54,912/year
- Belarus $7,188/year

Somebody please correct these if you have better or more recent numbers. Thanks.
posted by NiceKitty at 7:48 PM on March 7


Income Equality

Country -- UN R/P 10% --- UN R/P 20% --- CIA Gini %
Russia --- 12.7 --------- 7.6 ---------- 41.7
Ukraine -- 5.9 ---------- 4.1 ---------- 28.2
US ------- 15.9 --------- 8.4 ---------- 45.0
Germany -- 6.9 ---------- 4.3 ---------- 27.0
Belarus -- 6.9 ---------- 4.5 ---------- 27.2

R/P 10%: The ratio of the average income of the richest 10% to the poorest 10%
R/P 20%: The ratio of average income of the richest 20% to the poorest 20%
Gini: Gini index, a quantified representation of a nation's Lorenz curve

UN: Data from the United Nations Development Programme.
CIA: Data from the Central Intelligence Agency's The World Factbook.


(I really hope the formatting came out alright. Maybe there is a better way. Damn that was painful.)

Okay, so a few things jump right out at me. Russia's ratio of Richest 10% to Poorest 10% is actually less than the United States. I had no idea; I expected the opposite. I suspect this has something to do with why the media is so controlled, in both places. If people in the US or, to a lesser extent Russia, knew -- really KNEW -- how unfair income equality was, there would be rioting in the streets. Does anybody else feel like there is a narrative in western world that Russia's income equity is much worse than the US's?

Ukraine, Germany, and Belarus have much more evenly distributed incomes. But it looks like Germany is the place to be, if you can swing it.

Kinda squicks me out that the CIA collects evidence on income equality, but I suppose it's basic "intelligence" after all.

I welcome corrections or additional commentary. Hope I haven't oversimplified or made mistakes. I apologize if this too much information and is dominating the conversation. I'm going to bed now. I apologize if this comes off as abandoning the thread. I've been up til 7AM working on this and I need a little rest. Hope my tone is okay too.
posted by NiceKitty at 8:18 PM on March 7


Does anybody else feel like there is a narrative in western world that Russia's income equity is much worse than the US's?

No.

You are neck deep in conspiracy theory. It's fairly tedious for those of us who've already read the Illuminatus Trilogy. Your deprogramming begins there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


Just stumbled upon opir.org (meaning "resistance".org; sorry all in Ukrainian) which is an interactive-social-geographic-infosharing thing (someone from silicon valley can provide the correct name for this sort of thing). Anyway I understand this was in wide use by protesters during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, as a means to share info and co-ordinate needs and resources. Wish I knew about this then.But now they have added military info. So zooming into Crimea you can get a better geographic context for some of the news we've been hearing.

Even if you can't read Ukrainian, you may be able to decipher some of the icons. I especially like the "Mickey Mouse on a Boat" icon for the location of US navy vessels.
posted by Kabanos at 9:14 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


This guy's hat is awesome.

(from the telegraph slideshow)
posted by bukvich at 9:45 PM on March 7


This guy's hat is awesome.

So far in this mess, the Ukrainians have had this world-weary, pragmatic and relentless attitude - "You are powerful, but I am right, and we both know it. One of us will fight this."

The Russians are in for a lot of trouble keeping Crimea... quiet, resolute protests brutally quashed. Weekly. Then Moscow begins to worry... if ethnic Russians way down there are sick of our bullshit, how can we bring down the boot harder? Then everything falls to pieces.

So, yeah! Keep on keepin' on, Tsar Vladimir I! You go, you!
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:03 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


bdc34, Kosovo was fifteen years and two presidents ago. My discussion is about the evolving responsibility to protect, which is something that you might say was sparked by the Kosovo war and the differing points of view on that intervention which pointed to the need to codify this area of international law.

Now clearly Kosovo involved people actually fucking being killed for their ethnicity, so even the idea that Putin considers this a comparable situation is morally offensive.

If this were 1999 it would still be morally offensive but it would not be possible to claim "and old move was swapped back into the repertoire" (whatever that means). The US did not sneak into the UN in the dark of night and open the big three-ring binder holding the master copy of the Charter so they could unilaterally and secretly alter it. The process of creating loopholes for the formerly sacrosanct [no jeers, we are speaking of de jure here] concept of national sovereignty has been lengthy, public, very international, and not without tears.

As has been pointed out Russia may wish to be wary of an absolutist and solipsistic right of intervention, because it has a vast area which is populated by people with closer ethnic ties to China than to itself. That may not be a box they should desire to open blindly.
posted by dhartung at 10:34 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


Wow. The Voice of Russia in German is saying Kissinger took Putin's side. Frankly, sounds like an opening. Because Kissinger's ideas were pretty good. If that's a deal that shows Kissinger is on Putin's side, we could totally do that. Crimea keeps autonomy in 2008 constitution, 2004 constitution for the rest.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:26 PM on March 7


Link to Stimme Russlands article:

http://german.ruvr.ru/news/2014_03_07/Ukraine-Krise-Henry-Kissinger-auf-der-Seite-von-Putin-5023/
posted by Ironmouth at 11:27 PM on March 7


Ironmouth: "Because Kissinger's ideas were pretty good."

That's some kind of sick joke, right? Kissinger needs to be tried for all sorts of war crimes.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:47 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Kissinger's recent article, not his past ideas.
posted by archagon at 12:12 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]




Someone wrote recently that Ukraine's role (ideally) should be not as a member of the EU or of the Russian block (whichever designation you like here) but rather as a bridge between the two. I liked this notion, though I don't know whether it has any practical value.

What makes sense to me is that if Crimea goes with or joins Russia, the rest of Ukraine will be wanting EU membership and NATO protections, and strategically that's a bad outcome for Russia. An EU member Ukraine encroaches on Moscow and offers it no buffer.
posted by newdaddy at 3:30 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]




we have NATO and Russia staring at each other with no buffer

We have that now, across quite a long stretch of land: the Baltic states border Russia and Poland's borders the Kaliningrad Oblast. Granted, Ukraine would add to that a couple thousand kilometers, but wars aren't really started just because of border incidents.

The one book title I can clearly make out in the burning books picture linked to by NiceKitty is a history of the Ukraine.

In sfenders link there's also a photo of The Good Soldier Švejk on top of the pile and a mention of physics textbook.

Just stumbled upon opir.org

I don't know Ukrainian, I can guess the meaning most of the time but it's tiresome, so I opened the link in Chrome and agreed to having it translated. Worked like a charm.

Try it even if you have to install Chrome to do that, this map is a veritable treasure trove of information.
posted by hat_eater at 4:17 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I think this video is very good on Ukraine's strategic importance.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:53 AM on March 8


> Try it even if you have to install Chrome to do that, this map is a veritable treasure trove of information.

For Firefox, the S3.Google Translator add-on does the same thing with a bit more flexibility: you can translate the entire page or individual paragraphs, etc. Works as well as Chrome, since both use Google Translate.
posted by gilrain at 7:02 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]




Wow. The Voice of Russia in German is saying Kissinger took Putin's side. Frankly, sounds like an opening.

That is weird. Kissenger's ideas don't seem any different than the administration's - and seem obvious. If Putin likes Kissenger so much, maybe Obama can put him on the phone instead. Heck, perhaps Kissenger and Putin could share the Nobel Peace Prize if they resolve this thing.
In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.
Yeah and nevermind the carpet bombing of millions of innocent Vietnamese and Laotians that happened in between.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:09 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah and nevermind the carpet bombing of millions of innocent Vietnamese and Laotians that happened in between.

Pretty sure he's referring to that.

I'm not saying Kissinger is any saint, I'm saying that the ideas in his editorial are pretty much the way to solve this.

Funny how most of the brief against Kissinger was written by Hitchens, who nearly immediately thereafter became a neocon and vocally supported even less justifiable hell-making by the US in Iraq. So sick of people kissing Hitchens' ass because he was a militant atheist and not noting how hard he worked to turn moderates in favor of the Iraq invasion.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:20 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


If I remember right, one of Hitchen's big accusations was that Kissenger stopped a peace agreement negotiated by LBJ, promising South Vietnam they would get a better deal from Nixon if elected.

I'm not seeing how Kissinger's ideas are different than what others have already offered.

This is pretty good criticism of Obama's Ukraine policy:

"We Are Speaking Very Loudly. We Are Carrying a Small Stick."
Dmitri K. Simes on why Russia isn't taking the U.S. seriously

posted by Golden Eternity at 8:39 AM on March 8




Julia Ioffe retweeting Carl Bildt;

"Russia independent media reports of Russian forces laying minefields blocking access from other parts of Ukraine to Crimea."

It would be good to have some independent confirmation of that. It's a pretty despicable thing to do, if true.
posted by newdaddy at 10:49 AM on March 8


I think this video is very good on Ukraine's strategic importance.

So what you're saying, here, is that Ukraine should not make the classic mistake of becoming involved in a land war in Eurasia.

I'm saying that the ideas in his editorial are pretty much the way to solve this.

One way to look at it is cold-blooded Realism, just expressed as a policy solution rather than a geopolitical necessity, which is what the video linked by Mister Bijou does.

Kissinger certainly doesn't feel the neoliberal/liberal hawk impulse to sugar-coat his words (and hell, with his record, it would almost be disingenuous to do so). Still, the key criticism of his proposal is that it effectively delegitimizes any political choice on the part of Ukraine itself. Hey, 50 million people! You're a bridge! Now assume the position....

Returning to the video, I think there's an unintentional slight, in that he says the EU has only been offering association with no guarantee. Well, that's just the EU, which isn't technically an alliance so much as a policy matrix. You can't join the matrix without e.g. stabilizing your economy first and harmonizing your legal structure. It's intended to create linkages between its parties, so they don't fight another European war, rather than to create an alliance against a common enemy.

Now, back to Kissinger. I don't think that in principle there should be a concern by Russia that Ukraine is in the EU if Russia is certain of its future benefit through its own relationship with the EU. That's sort of the carrot to the stick here. But of course it is clear, and this is part of the problem, that Russia does not see that rational cost-benefit accounting as a long-run plus that outweighs militarism and sphere-of-influence imperialism. (This is e.g. what Merkel meant about Putin not seeing reality, if you ask me, not a psychological diagnosis.) So the question might be what we offer Russia in terms of a carrot, or why they don't like the taste of the carrots we've put on the table.
posted by dhartung at 11:31 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


New Republic is posting a round-up of Ukraine/Crimea news every day, here is March 8th.

Also I would like to go on record today as having predicted a shooting war in Crimea before the next two weeks conclude. I don't think that would be any kind of good outcome, in fact it would be horrible, but I keep seeing signs of escalation rather than the opposite.
posted by newdaddy at 11:33 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Still, the key criticism of his proposal is that it effectively delegitimizes any political choice on the part of Ukraine itself.

It doesn't seem that the Euromaidan government or the Russian client government represent the entire Ukraine very well at all, and are thereby not capable of making such a decision. Perhaps an interim arrangement could split the Ukraine into autonomous regions capable of making somewhat independent international agreements, but I wouldn't think that would be very good for the country.

Will America heed the wake-up call of Ukraine?
- Condy of the Mushroom Clouds
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:34 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


dhartung: Yanukovych negotiated an agreement to end the crisis and hold early election, then was immediately deposed and chased into Russia. The west didn't say boo about it. The Russian historical narrative over the last 20 or so years is that the west is committed to destroying their government and replacing it with a more compliant one. The NATO expansion right to their borders, the missile defense deployments, the color revolutions, all feed into this narrative. Given what happened with the first negotiated deal in the crisis, and this ongoing narrative, there's not going to be a negotiated solution in the Crimea. Carrot and stick only works if the other party is convinced that you're not trying to lead them off of a cliff.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:40 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Yanukovych negotiated an agreement to end the crisis and hold early election, then was immediately deposed and chased into Russia.

Maybe that has something to do with his ordering snipers to kill protesters - Putin even seemed to acknowledge this. There are indications that he eventually called off the assault, which could have been an absolute massacre otherwise.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:09 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


According to Klitschko, Yanukovich fled into hiding, and they searched for him for 24 hours before declaring the presidency vacant and acting in the Rada. So, yes, there is a Russian narrative here that is in conflict with what others indicate and that certainly feeds into their mindset.

Still, it is hard to understand why they have reacted with such paranoia, if the figurative basis of their taking military action in Crimea is that the West will not respond with force. It can't be both, really. In any case, you can't make a deal with a mindset. You make a deal with rational actors faced with contradictory courses of action. The Simes piece is fairly accurate in its assessment, as I see it: "We are not clearly defining what is important to us." There are times when strategic ambiguity is of value and I don't see this as one of them, especially with troop movements and minefield placement.

Golden Eternity: Kissinger is proposing essentially removing the political ability of any government of Ukraine to tilt in either direction (Finlandization, in all but name). I am saying that if that is to be the future of Ukraine it should be a choice made by Ukrainians. I was not speaking of any current or former entities who may or may not be legitimate representatives of the people, I was speaking of the country as a whole. Absent the Crimean action taken by Moscow, the May 25 elections would likely have been a step toward a legitimate government that at least had electoral backing, even if they would not have per se solved the deep divisions of the various peoples within Ukraine. Nevertheless, even an association agreement with the EU is ultimately only a trade pact, not a military alliance, and it is not ... rational ... for Moscow to see it that way.
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]




Right Sector will form a political party, and leader Dmytro Yarosh plans to run as a candidate for President.

Not good. I guess maybe it's better than them joining up with Svoboda, but I don't know.
posted by Kabanos at 2:55 PM on March 8




Right Sector will form a political party, and leader Dmytro Yarosh plans to run as a candidate for President.

Not good. I guess maybe it's better than them joining up with Svoboda, but I don't know.


Much better. They are going to get absolutely electorally hammered into the ground by Svoboda, but still somewhat split the Svoboda vote. The only drawback is the Overton window making Svoboda look sane compared to the actual open racial revolutionaries.
posted by jaduncan at 3:28 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Just trying to understand the Ukrainian parliamentary electoral system, the rules of which seem to change with each election!...

According to wikipedia, in the last election (2012) a mixed voting system was used (50% proportional under party lists and 50% under simple-majority constituencies) with a 5% election threshold.

So yeah, I don't think the Right Sector Party (or whatever name it decides to choose) will be able to hit 5% popular support, but should still eat into Svoboda support.
posted by Kabanos at 6:40 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


How Sharply Divided is Ukraine, Really? Honest Maps of Language and Elections.

These maps look a lot more realistic than the ones I have seen earlier which were like red state blue state simple.
posted by bukvich at 6:42 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the link, bukvich. I started notice that I can usually guess which way a news source's editorial staff leans by the map they use for Crimea. Crimea is bordered by the rest of Ukraine and by Russia. With Crimea labelled as Crimea, if Ukraine is labelled but Russia is not then the news source tend to be pro Maidan. If Russia is labelled but Ukraine isn't then it's pro-Putin. If both are labelled then, in my opinion, that's a good sign of objectivity.
posted by I-baLL at 7:19 PM on March 8


Yeah, the sharp divide shown on most maps has been a beef of mine. I posted this map from the 2001 census in the previous thread. It shows native language broken down to the municipality level. Crimea? Lots of native Russian speakers. But in Eastern Ukraine, Russian native-speakers are concentrated in the urban centers, making the "simple" partition of Ukraine, that some suggest as a solution, that much more complicated. A map of ethnicity (rather than language) also shows there is no clear divide. Apart from geography, it is the language, ethnicity, and political preferences of Crimea make it relatively easier to try and separate from the rest of the state. But any attempt to partition other parts of the country will lead to something very messy.
posted by Kabanos at 8:26 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Putin doesn’t see America as weak, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow says, Hannah Allam, McClatchy, 08 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 10:38 PM on March 8


Andrey Kurkov: Why I stayed as the crisis in Ukraine flared
These days my children go to school with a little more enthusiasm. They have something to discuss and even debate with their classmates. They follow the news closely and earnestly recount how the Ukrainian officer Yuli Mamchur and his soldiers, all unarmed, set out to retake Belbek, a Ukrainian airbase in Sevastopol that had been occupied by armed Russian troops, and how they advanced, singing the Ukrainian national anthem, in spite of the Russian troops' warning shots. The children know all about the Ternopol, a Ukrainian warship whose captain, in reply to a Russian admiral's command to surrender, said, "Russians do not surrender!", going on to explain that he, Captain Emelyanchenko, was ethnically Russian as were half of his crew. The admiral left empty-handed.

I am also Russian, an ethnic Russian who has lived in Kiev from early childhood. Between 8 and 14 million of Ukraine's 47 million population are ethnic Russians and the word Russian doesn't give rise to any aggression among Ukrainians or spark any glint of hatred in their eyes.
...
The pro-Russian Ukrainians as well as most Russian citizens believe the "fascists" are on the Maidan and in western Ukraine, while pro-Ukrainian Ukrainians point at the Kremlin and Crimea, and the children in the village 80km west of Kiev, where we go at the weekends, play war games dashing about and shouting: "Putin kaput!" ("Down with Putin!" Putin kaput is a remake of Hitler kaput – very popular words from all Soviet war films.)
...
I like to think that there will not be any war, that the worst is behind us. That way I feel better. I want to see the present reality in terms of material for a memoir, something that is already in the past. In Kiev they've stopped setting light to cars at night. Strange people in civilian clothes no longer surround an individual to ask the way to University metro station and check whether he is one of the guys who has come to Kiev to join the Maidan protest. Maidan activists are not being abducted any more, but more than 300 of them are still missing, feared dead.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:44 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


If I remember right, one of Hitchen's big accusations was that Kissenger stopped a peace agreement negotiated by LBJ, promising South Vietnam they would get a better deal from Nixon if elected.

Almost every historian working on this has Anna Chennault in that role.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:15 AM on March 9


more kasparov tweets fwiw...
  • Cannot out-drill Rus, Ven, Iran, et al. RT @ndimoro: Except please don't use it as an excuse for fracking! R&D sustainable energy.
  • I agree Putin is a Russian problem for Russians to deal with. But he is aided greatly by connections to the free world/markets. Cut them.
  • Do what you can to support freedom in Ukraine & around the world. Get involved.
  • A free, strong, & democratic Russia will be a complex world power. But it will not be an enemy of the West or ally of dictators like now.
  • 6) This is rhetorical not an action item, but it's critical: Distinguish Putin from Russia. He's a dictator. Russian people don't want war. 5) Support, not blame the victims. It wasn't Georgia's fault it wanted to join NATO. Wasn't Ukraine's fault didn't want to be Putin's slave. 4) Like a disruptive tech company, take the list of "what free world needs from Putin" & create substitutions. Energy, supply lines, etc. 3) Support the nations & institutions Putin is trying to dominate & destroy before they collapse. Ounce of prevention worth pound of cure. 2) Target Putin's ally oligarchs & state companies with investigations & sanctions as appropriate for the criminal enterprises they are. 1) Treat Putin's Russia like the rogue state it is. Remove from international institutions he exploits & abuses. G-7, Interpol, WTO, et al.
  • Some disagreements with Henry Kissinger's WaPo op-ed today. He should ask the Ukrainians if they want to be a "bridge" between East & West!
also btw: Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They'll Dump Putin - "Target their assets abroad, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts. Use banks, not tanks."
Mr. Putin is also following the Stalin model on Poland in Yalta: First invade, then negotiate. Crimea will be forced to hold a referendum on joining Russia in just 10 days, a vote on the Kremlin's preferred terms, at the point of a gun.

Mr. Putin's move in Crimea came just hours after now-former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych scrambled up his puppet strings from Kiev to his master's hand in Russia. He left behind thousands of papers and a few palaces, evidence of the vast scale of his personal and political corruption. His ejection, bought in blood by the courageous people of Ukraine, made Mr. Putin look weak. Like any schoolyard bully or crime boss, he immediately found a way to look and feel tough again. The historically pivotal Crimean peninsula, with its large Russia-leaning population and geographic vulnerability (and a Russian naval base), was the obvious choice.

As I have said for years, it is a waste of time to attempt to discern deep strategy in Mr. Putin's actions. There are no complex national interests in a dictator's calculations. There are only personal interests, the interests of those close to him who keep him in power, and how best to consolidate that power. Without real elections or a free media, the only way a dictator can communicate with his subjects is through propaganda, and the only way he can validate his power is with regular shows of force.

Inside Russia, that force comes with repression against dissidents and civil rights that only accelerated during the distraction of the Sochi Olympics. Abroad, force in the form of military action, trade sanctions or natural-gas extortion is applied wherever Mr. Putin thinks he can get away with it...

Thanks to their unfettered access to Western markets, Mr. Putin and his gang have exploited Western engagement with Russia in a way that the Soviet Union's leaders never dreamed of. But this also means that they are vulnerable in a way the Soviets were not. If the West punishes Russia with sanctions and a trade war, that might be effective eventually, but it would also be cruel to the 140 million Russians who live under Mr. Putin's rule. And it would be unnecessary. Instead, sanction the 140 oligarchs who would dump Mr. Putin in the trash tomorrow if he cannot protect their assets abroad. Target their visas, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts and Swiss bank accounts. Use banks, not tanks. Thursday, the U.S. announced such sanctions, but they must be matched by the European Union to be truly effective. Otherwise, Wall Street's loss is London's gain, and Mr. Putin's divide-and-conquer tactics work again.

If Mr. Putin succeeds—and if there is no united Western response, he will have succeeded regardless of whether or not Russian troops stay in Crimea—the world, or at least the world order, as we know it will have ended. The post-1945 universe of territorial integrity has been ripped asunder and it will have a far-reaching impact no matter what the markets and pundits say over the next few days.

For those who ask what the consequences will be of inaction by the free world over Ukraine, I say you are looking at it. This is the price for inaction in Georgia, for inaction in Syria. It means the same thing happening again and again until finally it cannot be ignored. The price of inaction against a dictator's aggression is always having a next time.
and another FT editorial along the same lines: Belligerence cannot hide Russia's frailty
On March 16 the Russian-backed administration in the peninsula will hold a plebiscite to determine whether it rejoins Russia after 60 years within Ukraine or remains under Kiev’s sovereignty – albeit with far greater autonomy.

This is a bogus exercise, rushed through under the guns of balaclava-clad militia men, whose purpose is to apply a veneer of constitutionality to the dismemberment of a sovereign state. The results of such a vote may well trigger a new escalation between Kiev and Moscow. But in the meantime, this is a moment to evaluate how the west might navigate the immense diplomatic imbroglio in which it now finds itself.

The US and its allies must be clear about their long-term vision for Ukraine. This country of 46m perched on the faultline between Russia and Europe must remain an independent entity. Whatever decisions are taken, its political and economic future should be decided by its own people...

When it comes to de-escalation, the onus is firmly on the Russian side. Moscow must show the will to begin constructive negotiations with Ukraine and the west to find a lasting political settlement.

It may be that Mr Putin is in no mood to do this, and Russia continues down its belligerent path. If so, the US and the EU must start to unveil a series of punitive sanctions that impose ever heavier costs on the Kremlin and those around Mr Putin.

So far, the US has acted cautiously. Washington has targeted unnamed individuals involved in the Crimean operation and money laundering. It has, however, left open the possibility of actions that would worry the Kremlin, such as freezing the overseas assets held by leading Russians.

The hope must now be that the threat of such actions will be enough to force Mr Putin to back down. But if the screws have to be tightened, the west should not shrink from acting. Mr Putin's Russia may have plenty of swagger when it comes to bullying a former vassal such as Ukraine. But in a drawn out stand-off with the west, its position is fundamentally weak.
posted by kliuless at 11:54 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]




Video footage of Russia firing shots at Ukraine plane emerges after Ukraine addresses Kiev as pro-Russia supporters turn out in Crimea

Also reports of run-on headlines after reporters are fired due to increased cost-cutting in newspapers affected by job cuts causing fewer editorial staff.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:12 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


WaPo: Why Crimea might be worse off under Russian rule, that due to strategic significance and the increased federalization and centralization that is occuring in Russia, Crimea may not get much chance at local rule.

Anyone else amused by the references to "ski-masked" or "face-masked" soldiers, polices, and paramilitaries?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:44 PM on March 9


Well, I'm amused that they never say that the men menacing the base at Balaklava are wearing balaclavas.

This is a smart take: Playing by Putin’s tactics

In Crimea, Putin debuted a pop-up war — nimble and covert — that is likely to be the design of the future.

First, the hidden army appeared out of nowhere. Soldiers-of-no-nation were outfitted for troublemaking and street-fighting. These troops, denied by Putin, are also seemingly unconstrained by the laws, rules and conventions governing warfare — Putin’s biggest brush-off yet to international order. They are Putin’s hybrid of soldiers and terrorists: hidden faces, hidden command-and-control, hidden orders, but undoubtedly activated to achieve state objectives. The lack of an identified leader gums up the international community’s response: There is no general with whom to negotiate a cease-fire or surrender; if violence erupts, there is potentially no way to end it short of stopping each gunman.


The first part of this I like (although perhaps not the overcute name of "pop-up war"). It is definitely a set of tactics that have flummoxed, at least temporarily, some of the international response, and created a foggy Cold-War-ish menace for the population. On the other hand, I think the 21st century is having a field day piercing the, uh, balaclavas and identifying the weaponry and even the point of origin of military vehicles (which, note, newer arrivals seem to be avoiding by forgetting their plates back in Russia). I'm pretty sure as a longer-term response, e.g. by personally identifying invasion-force commanders through crowdsourcing, that any future tribunal or sanctions regime will have minimal trouble applying appropriately.

I'm of the opinion that the Baltics or Poland are not particularly more at risk in the near-term, as Crimea represents a kind of special case for Russia, but there is definitely a possibility of an expansion of this approach to seize the eastern Ukraine, at least as far as the Dnieper. The Ukrainian authorities seem to have tamped down such things in Donetsk, but yesterday the city hall in the closest-to-the-border city of Lugansk was taken over by a pro-Russian mob. Given how a crackdown in Georgia was a pretext for that action, Ukraine needs to tread carefully here.

But I guess I'm more worried about a similar tactic being used in the future, elsewhere, by another entity than Russia.
posted by dhartung at 1:05 AM on March 10


Understanding the Crimea Crisis, John R. Schindler, The XX Committee, 07 March 2014

Deterring Putin, Part I, Ibid., 08 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 1:56 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]




Since I skipped a pull quote, I should note that the linked article is basically a slam on the NYRB's coverage of the Ukraine. Which is a shame, because I like the NYRB a lot. However, their tone has been pretty upbeat about all this, which doesn't seem particularly merited.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:18 AM on March 10


That article seems...off somehow. It makes a couple of good points to debate on, but then throws in a bunch of doozies without providing any evidence to back them up. Stuff like this:
Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin’s Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s—only in the “autocrat” Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power.
or this:
Virtually every US report insisted that a record $51 billion “squandered” by Putin on the Sochi Games proved they were “corrupt.” But as Ben Aris of Business New Europe pointed out, as much as $44 billion may have been spent “to develop the infrastructure of the entire region,” investment “the entire country needs.”
or this out-of-left-field gay-baiting bit:
And what of Barack Obama’s decision to send only a low-level delegation, including retired gay athletes, to Sochi?
And, of course, this bit of double irony:
Again without any verified evidence, [Yale professor Timothy Snyder] warns of a Putin-backed “armed intervention” in Ukraine after the Olympics
Did the editors make the decision to post an article two weeks out of date because they thought the article would stand on its own, or was this an unforced error?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:35 AM on March 10


New Yorker: Putin's Pique
At the time, Ukrainian nationalists, particularly in the western part of the republic, were joining the Baltic states in their bold drive for independence, and had formed a “people’s movement” called Rukh. Leonid Kravchuk, a dreary Communist Party hack who had previously shown nothing but indifference to Ukrainian nationalism, won the Presidency, in 1991, by deciding to stand with Rukh. This was a trend that Solzhenitsyn, in the woods of New England, and so many Russians throughout the Soviet Union, could not easily abide. It defied their sense of history. To them, Ukraine was no more a real nation than Glubbdubdrib or Freedonia. Vladimir Putin, a former officer of the K.G.B., was the first post-Soviet leader to deliver a state prize to Solzhenitsyn, who had spent a lifetime in a death struggle with the K.G.B.; a large part of their common ground was a rough notion of what Russia encompassed. As Putin told the second President Bush, “You have to understand, George. Ukraine is not even a country.”
The Week: Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia: A brief history- "Ukraine has been part of Russia on and off for centuries. Why does Russia feel justified in interfering in its affairs?

also, Pentagon Spends $300,000 Per Year to Study Body Language of Putin, World Leaders - "The findings haven't been used to help decipher the close-to-the-vest Russian leader during the ongoing tensions over Ukraine, Kirby said. "The reports are given right to the Office of Net Assessment, and as I understand it, that is where they stay," he said. Kirby didn't know who specifically had seen the reports but said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hasn't read the studies."
ONA, previously
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:39 AM on March 10


Did the editors make the decision to post an article two weeks out of date because they thought the article would stand on its own, or was this an unforced error?

Ha! That's actually on me, since the article dates from February 11. However, I'd blame this on the lag of print. For instance, Snyder's article from February 16 appears in the current (March 20, because print dates are strange) issue of the NYRB: Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine. While the maidan stuff in the first part of that article feels dated, the second part provides some background on the Eurasian Union, arguing that it is inherently anti-EU in its basic principles. More recently, Snyder made this very Russia-is-in-a-fantasy-world blog post: Crimea: Putin vs. Reality.

But yeah, that does make me rather more dubious of the Nation's analysis.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:19 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


In Crimea, Putin debuted a pop-up war — nimble and covert — that is likely to be the design of the future.

argh. Using non-army forces, like soldiers with no insignia, paramilitaries, and local gangs to stir up trouble and justify an armed intervention in a neighboring state that is experiencing political crisis is a tactic older than the idea of a state!

I found this in one of my favorite subreddits.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 AM on March 10


A fellow Crusader Kings 2 aficionado, I see.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:46 AM on March 10


Using non-army forces, like soldiers with no insignia, paramilitaries, and local gangs to stir up trouble and justify an armed intervention in a neighboring state that is experiencing political crisis is a tactic older than the idea of a state!

Rwanda is currently playing this game (again) in the eastern DRC mining areas, to pick a random example.
posted by jaduncan at 8:48 AM on March 10


argh. Using non-army forces, like soldiers with no insignia, paramilitaries, and local gangs to stir up trouble and justify an armed intervention in a neighboring state that is experiencing political crisis is a tactic older than the idea of a state!

Can I just say, I don't understand what's going on in the minds of Russian soldiers participating in this? If my country were so ashamed or duplicitous about what they were doing that they'd send me into harm's way without even a flag or insignia, I would give serious condideration to refusing to follow orders. I realize, 'just following orders' and all, but whose orders? Do they think Russia will openly bargain for their return, if they become POWs?
posted by newdaddy at 9:39 AM on March 10


Invoke Cher!
posted by asok at 9:51 AM on March 10


If my country were so ashamed or duplicitous about what they were doing that they'd send me into harm's way without even a flag or insignia, I would give serious condideration to refusing to follow orders.

Fairly normal for special forces everywhere. The unmarked soldiers have occasional VDV/ВДВ tattoos, meaning that they are paratroopers. This would make sense, as the paratroopers are all-professional so no issues with conscripts, quite good compared to much of the rest of the men, are fast to deploy, would neatly explain the 13 flights into the main airfield after it was taken, and (unlike much of the rest of the army) are all well fed and healthy. They are just deep enough into that culture that it's unlikely to be as much of an issue as it would be with simple infantry.
posted by jaduncan at 10:24 AM on March 10


> Since I skipped a pull quote, I should note that the linked article is basically a slam on the NYRB's coverage of the Ukraine.

You should also have noted that the article is by Stephen Cohen, who's long been one of those scholars whose anti-anti-Communism has carried them too far. I suspect he still thinks that the Soviet Union would have been peachy keen if only his hero Bukharin had come out on top instead of that nasty Stalin. In any event, while he makes some good points, he also makes some stupid ones (as noted by zombieflanders), and he's certainly no more credible or above the fray than any of the people he trashes with such a superior air; his default position is always "Waah, those nasty Cold Warriors are attacking Mother Russia again!" Plus his rose-colored view of Putin is repugnant. Timothy Snyder, while he has his own biases (like many scholars of Eastern Europe, he's none too fond of Russia), is a far more trustworthy source than Cohen. In my opinion, of course.
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]


newdaddy: "argh. Using non-army forces, like soldiers with no insignia, paramilitaries, and local gangs to stir up trouble and justify an armed intervention in a neighboring state that is experiencing political crisis is a tactic older than the idea of a state!

Can I just say, I don't understand what's going on in the minds of Russian soldiers participating in this? If my country were so ashamed or duplicitous about what they were doing that they'd send me into harm's way without even a flag or insignia, I would give serious condideration to refusing to follow orders. I realize, 'just following orders' and all, but whose orders? Do they think Russia will openly bargain for their return, if they become POWs?
"

There's a lot of discussion going on about whether, if these troops are indeed Russian (and the balance of evidence seems to suggest they almost certainly are) whether they will be in breach of the Law of Armed Conflict, specifically rules about who is or is not an armed combatant.

Basically, they are in a bit of a grey area, where national flags and insignia are usual but not required and only the use of the flag or insignia of another country while in combat is outright considered a war crime. Carrying weapons and wearing uniforms that clearly show a person is part of an armed group is sufficient to not be breaking the international laws of armed conflict, so far as they are agreed by treaty.

In my limited experience of the military (British reserve forces), this will likely have been explained by commanding officers on the ground as part of a broader plan of action. The troops themselves, who have in many cases been tentatively identified as professional volunteer regiments like paratroopers and naval infantry, will likely be very focused on the execution of that broader plan and have very few qualms about this legal grey area. What that broader plan of action actually is, remains to be seen.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:47 AM on March 10




"if these troops are indeed Russian"

That's a problem I'm seeing in the media. It doesn't matter if the troops are Russian or not as a majority of Crimeans are ethnically Russian and so if they took up arms would also technically be called "Russian troops". The question is if they are troops from Russia. I'm guessing that at least some of them are. Maybe even the majority. But I can't tell when news reporters tend to ask "Are you Russian?" and when the soldiers say "Yes" and the medias reports that they're from Russia. That's not what they asked the soldiers. They should ask them if they're from Russia first.
posted by I-baLL at 12:19 PM on March 10


I'm guessing that at least some of them are. Maybe even the majority. But I can't tell when news reporters tend to ask "Are you Russian?" and when the soldiers say "Yes" and the medias reports that they're from Russia. That's not what they asked the soldiers. They should ask them if they're from Russia first.

I suspect that would end in less exciting news stories. Even the dumbest private is going to say no to that.
posted by jaduncan at 12:23 PM on March 10


It's also worth noting that some of the older actual militia and protesters may have literally been from Russia. The changeover was only 1954. It would probably be easy to do a harsh edit on the answers given if you wanted to write the 'Russia sends old people over to protest' story.

That said, I entirely agree with you that it's crap journalism.
posted by jaduncan at 12:28 PM on March 10


Omnivore: A solution for Ukraine?
posted by homunculus at 12:46 PM on March 10


jaduncan: "I'm guessing that at least some of them are. Maybe even the majority. But I can't tell when news reporters tend to ask "Are you Russian?" and when the soldiers say "Yes" and the medias reports that they're from Russia. That's not what they asked the soldiers. They should ask them if they're from Russia first.

I suspect that would end in less exciting news stories. Even the dumbest private is going to say no to that.
"

Complicating the matter is these guys, who appear to be actually be Crimean-resident ethnic Russians forming up as balaclava-clad irregular militias, to assist the 'unidentified' regular forces with the heavy weaponry and matching uniforms. I've even seen some mentions of Serb militiamen turning up at checkpoints, there to 'support the Russians the way they supported the Serbs'.

All in all, it's a volatile mix.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:56 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Yes, one of the pictures I saw had a guy with SSSS on his hand. More than a bit of a tell.

On another happy note, Ukraine has started to talk about going nuclear again. An interesting alternative to joining NATO I guess.
posted by jaduncan at 1:07 PM on March 10


Ukraine crisis: With no orders from Kiev, the besieged forces in Crimea are starting to feel let down
The forces of the Ukrainian government have, so far, shown astonishing bravery and resilience against far larger and better armed Russian troops. They have also resisted intimidation from the strutting "Self Defence Guards", or Soma Barona, of Russian nationalists. But now a slow trickle of soldiers has begun to change sides; and one reason for them doing so is the feeling that they have been abandoned by Kiev.

The government there, the complaint goes, has been only too ready with tough words; but that is as far as it goes.
...
The officer commanding the headquarters, Maj-Gen Igor Vorunchenko, was blunt: "I served in the old Soviet army and I know some of the Russian officers who are here now: I like some of them. But I have no intention of joining them, nor are we going to any other part of Ukraine without orders from my superiors in Kiev."
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:38 PM on March 10


Aftenposten: "It was just overnight that Crimea requested to be part of Russia, and the Ukrainian peninsula got an unpopular pro-Russian prime minister. How did it happen?"
posted by sfenders at 3:19 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Somebody finally noticed the balaclava convergence.

I wouldn't be terribly hard on the journos here, who are doing fantastic work while having tires slashed, equipment stolen, bodies boot-kicked, and generally made to fear for their lives at points. They're not experts on the law of war and aren't trained to trip up soldiers who are deliberately evading standard practice, like wearing the insignia of your own army or unit.

Using non-army forces, like soldiers with no insignia, paramilitaries, and local gangs to stir up trouble and justify an armed intervention in a neighboring state that is experiencing political crisis is a tactic older than the idea of a state!

Whatever -- I'm not here to fight with you. The point seems to be that this tactic is tailor-made to slip between the lines of the 21st century era's rules of warfare, even if evading the rules is not itself a new idea. I'm just trying to help people look at the situation from different angles.

Personally, I've never seen a wholly-professional army with up-to-the-minute kit strip off all its insignia and pretend to not be any army whatsoever. Usually when there have been illegal incursions or questionable identification the participants have sought to disguise themselves as irregulars/civilians and melt away using guerrilla tactics, not operate in the open with no clear authority yet exhibiting all the expectations of a sovereign force.
posted by dhartung at 3:50 PM on March 10


Putin’s Man in Crimea Is Ukraine’s Worst Nightmare, a TIME profile of de facto Crimean PM Sergei Aksyonov. A former mobster, according to some reports, he began gathering an army in January, which was "officially" inaugurated today in the ceremony attended by Stuart Webb (linked in my prior comment).

Troubling to me is that he sees the future of Crimea the way I do -- as a zone of frozen conflict with direct similarities to Transnistria (the part of Moldova that exists as a kind of rump Soviet republic). To him, the negatives are positives (presumably for example the smuggling-based economy). Once again I call your attention to the chapter of The Sochi Project centered on Abkhazia, the coastal region of Georgia stripped away during the war over Ossetia. It exists in a limbo of no international recognition and negligible support from any central government.
posted by dhartung at 5:39 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


The National Interest, 21 FEB 2014: Putin Is Russia's Reagan
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:03 PM on March 10


"Self Defence Guards", or Soma Barona

It's not a name, just a word: "sa-mo-a-ba-ro-na" (самооборона), dear Kim Sengupta of the Independent.
posted by hat_eater at 12:58 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


If this comment is perceived as mocking, I apologize, it was unintentional. Actually I think that the journalist in question is doing a fine job.
posted by hat_eater at 1:17 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Russia's leverages on Ukraine

I found this on youtube, a refreshingly honest analysis from someone in Azerbaijan with no "Western media" bias. If he's right, Russia will not be happy to leave with nothing but the annexation of Crimea.
posted by sfenders at 8:48 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


"And I dont believe the neo-nazi dominated crowd truly represented the modern Ukrainian society."

Screw the "biased Western media" - I have friends who were there and I choose to believe them rather than this guy. While there are neo-nazis and assorted right-wing forces in Ukraine and they were perhaps over-represented among those who clashed with the Berkut and millitia and threw molotovs at them (and especially in the Russian coverage of the events), they did not "dominate the crowd". And I think that calling the people who protested at Maidan for months "the crowd" belies the bias of the author.

People who were fed up with Yanukovych were represented on Maidan pretty well, proprotionally to their willingness to do something to fight him1. And those whose representatives are absent from the temporary government will have the chance to rectify this in the coming elections.
posted by hat_eater at 9:33 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


1 I remember reading in the previous thread that the right-wingers chased away - twice - people from left-leaning organizations, feminists and other activists (lgbt? I can't remember at the moment) who came to join the Maidan protestors.
posted by hat_eater at 9:37 AM on March 11


Yeah, that line made me wince too. Also his point that none of the three largest parties are represented in cabinet ignored the fact that the UDAR party made a conscious decision not to accept any cabinet positions.

Apart from some details like that though, I think his assessment of the pressures Russia is likely to but on Ukraine was pretty even-handed and accurate.
posted by Kabanos at 9:52 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


And I think that calling the people who protested at Maidan for months "the crowd" belies the bias of the author.

I think his bias and prejudices are clear enough without trying to read anything into that. People doing Nazi salutes did not dominate the crowd, but it seems fairly natural that they would be over-represented in media coverage, being such attractive targets for the cameras, and thereby end up over-estimated by a lot of people who weren't there. There has been some neo-Nazi behaviour seen in pro-Russia demonstrations in Crimea as well, and all I can conclude is that there are a disturbing number of them around Ukraine.
posted by sfenders at 9:57 AM on March 11


I think it may be true that a majority of the country as a whole is not thrilled with the Maidan protesters, believe Maidan has only made things worse, and are frightened of Svobada and other nationalists leading the temporary govt for good reason. The article fails to emphasize the non-Nazi majority protesters' primary motivation of the desire for rule of law facilitated through a closer relationship with Europe.

There has been some neo-Nazi behaviour seen in pro-Russia demonstrations in Crimea as well

I've seen tweets about neo-Nazis flowing into Crimea from Russia - along with Serbian troops possibly involved in prior atrocities.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:48 AM on March 11


The National Interest, 21 FEB 2014: Putin Is Russia's Reagan

That time Ronald Reagan met Vladimir Putin ?
posted by Kabanos at 12:39 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Found on twitter, here is Yuriy Gorodnichenko (he appears to be a serious economist) also saying that Putin's aim is "to make the February revolution in Ukraine a failure". He is quite optimistic about the potential efficacy of economic sanctions, and about the likely outcome: "The Russian invasion of Crimea makes Ukrainians even more determined to establish a successful democracy in their country."
posted by sfenders at 1:58 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Putin's Counter-Revolution, LRB

Putin’s great fear is that the people of a future better Ukraine might inspire an entirely different unification with their East Slav brethren on his side of the border – a common cause of popular revolt against him and other leaders like him. The revolution on Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Independence Square in Ukrainian – is the closest yet to a script for his own downfall. In that sense the invasion is a counter-revolution by Putin and his government against Russians and Ukrainians alike – against East Slav resistance as a whole.
posted by dhartung at 3:03 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


That time Ronald Reagan met Vladimir Putin ?

This has gone around periodically and I'm not convinced. Putin has a particular slouch to his body language and I don't see that here, and there's facial resemblance, but I think Putin has deeper eye sockets and heavier eyebrows -- and was losing his hair very obviously by 1989. Mainly, he has a sort of line that comes down from his mouth, rather than prominent cheekbones, which you can see in these photos from the 1980s, and these semi-official photos of his adult career.

Also, logistically, Putin spent the first 10 years of his career in Leningrad, then was transferred at some point in 1985 to Dresden, then in East Germany. While his brief was "monitoring foreigners and consular officials", I don't think that necessarily places him in a position to be given a position of meeting Reagan.

The boy actually looks a lot like the guy, too, and Putin does not have any sons and no children anywhere near that age.

So, wrong place, wrong face, too much hair. While Russia is murky and at times deliberately obscurantist about its motives, I don't see the rationale for lying about this identification.

Final point: another data point in not reading the comments, ever
posted by dhartung at 3:27 PM on March 11


via:
Why Ukraine's crisis keeps central Asian leaders up at night - "On the one hand, the success of the Euromaidan protests in driving Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych from power obviously raises concerns amongst central Asia's ruling elite regarding the sustainability of their hold on power... On the other hand, central Asian leaders also must be watching recent events in Crimea with an eye toward the potential actions of Russia in its 'near abroad.' "

Ukraine's Implications for Asia - "autocracies overestimate their power and leverage, while democracies underestimate theirs..."
Kasparov on standing up to bullies - "Ignoring a dictator often seems rational & sensible. Then there's a next time, etc, until you can't ignore him & by then it's much worse."

EU growing a spine - "With little movement on western demands for de-escalation in Crimea, even officials in Germany, long the most resistant to taking a hard line against Russia, acknowledged sanctions appeared inevitable... Officials from the EU, the US and the UK will meet in London on Tuesday to begin drawing up a list of which Russians might be affected by sanctions."

Russia sanctions to be finalised in UK - "Cameron indicates asset freezes and travel bans will be imposed within days as tensions continue to escalate in Crimea"

Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch Six) (via)
posted by kliuless at 3:45 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Simon Ostrovsky for the Balls of Steel award. He seems to raise the bar each time he files.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 PM on March 11


Putin's Counter-Revolution, LRB

This is really, really good. Long, too. But very much worth reading.
posted by hat_eater at 4:37 PM on March 11




Russian poet Olga Sedakova writes about the Maidan:

Russian society in the light of Maidan [English translation]

… all this makes me talk about the light of Maidan. … Above all, it is the light of conquered fear.
posted by Kabanos at 7:01 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


RUSSIA invades and occupies Crimea

				RUSSIA
		Those Russian military forces occupying Crimea?
		They're not ours, we don't know where they came from.

				USA
		We are deeply concerned by your actions.  If you continue
		on this course, there will have to be consequences.

Russia sends in more troops, consolidates its position

				ANGELA MERKEL
		Mr. Putin cannot possibly get away with this.  Has
		he lost touch with reality?

				EUROPE
		If this situation is not promptly resolved, we may have to
		form a committee to consider the possibility of discussing
		tough sanctions against Russia such as making it slightly
		harder for Russians to get travel visas.

				METAFILTER
		Hey, why doesn't everyone just stop buying Russian oil 
		and gas?  That would hurt them, right?

				UK NEWSPAPERS
		Crisis in Ukraine poses threat to Britain:  It could lead 
		to higher gas prices!

The new Moscow-friendly Crimea government starts setting up its 
own new security forces.

				DAVID CAMERON
		The world is watching.  We are deeply concerned by this
		potential threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
		There will be serious consequences.  We have already 
		announced that members of the royal family will not be 
		attending the Sochi Paralympics.

				JOHN KERRY
		This brazen act of aggression in violation of all 
		international law might lead us to stop inviting Russia
		to our G8 meetings.

				GERMANY
		Let's not be too hasty, we need to continue exploring
		all of the diplomatic options.

				RUSSIA
		Let us find a peaceful diplomatic solution.  We are ready
		to begin discussing the idea of considering the setting up 
		of a contact group to facilitate dialogue.

Russian troops start laying minefields, journalists in Crimea
start getting arrested.

				UKRAINE
		Help pls?  Budapest memorandum?  Anyone?

				EUROPE
		We demand that Russia immediately start to prepare for
		conducting a dialogue with Ukraine.  Otherwise we will 
		have to temporarily freeze financial assets of at least 
		a few individual Russians.  We're not sure who exactly, 
		but probably not Vladimir Putin, we wouldn't want to 
		offend him too much.

Russia deploys thousands of troops, tanks and helicopters, along
its border with eastern Ukraine.  What will they do with them?  
Tune in next week to find out.

posted by sfenders at 7:31 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


You forgot Poland! (and the rest of NATO)
posted by hat_eater at 8:57 AM on March 12


Putin, in a phone conversation with Dzhemilev (leader of the Crimean Tatars), supposedly claims that Ukraine did not exit the USSR lawfully.
posted by Kabanos at 9:58 AM on March 12


kliuless: "Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch Six)"

The only reason the Vice crew didn't get roughed up and thrown in jail (or worse) is because they're westerners, and the berkut don't have orders to go that far with non-locals. At least, not yet. But those guys are pissed off and ready to hurt someone.

If Ostrovsky and his crew keep doing this, something is going to happen to them. I hope it doesn't, but you can only have so many close calls.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:20 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Russia v NATO: Ukraine, Crimea and the new Cold War, The War Tard, 12 March 2014
All those neoliberal economic ties and global interdependence is supposed to make the 21st century a century where war is impossible outside of the odd Third World resource grab or minor proxy war. Major wars are not supposed to happen say the architects of the new century because we will all buy tonnes of shit from each other and our need for more toys will mean our greed will save us from war.

I must admit I'm pretty curious to see how that theory works out.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:50 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]






Will America heed the wake-up call of Ukraine?
- Condy of the Mushroom Clouds


As Though Iraq Never Happened: The short memory of Condoleezza Rice
posted by homunculus at 12:52 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]






Ukraine could always threaten to blow up the Sarcophogus over Chernobyl if Russia doesn't step back. I mean sure its death for everyone, but so is a big war.
posted by humanfont at 7:28 PM on March 13


homunculus: “Are Russia and Ukraine on the Verge of an All-Out Cyberwar?
The Small Wars Journal agrees with The Christian Science Monitor that if the weapon is activated and wreaks havoc on Ukrainian networks, the current international view of this as an operation-other-than-war may not last much longer. Cyber-attacks, even mere installation without activate of the trojan horse payload, will come to be viewed as naked aggression appropriate to be countered with "kinetic" responses.

Cf., Sophisticated Russian Malware 'SNAKE' and 'Turla' targets Governments and Military Networks, Swati Khandelwal, The Hacker News, 07 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 8:27 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Ukraine could always threaten to blow up the Sarcophogus over Chernobyl if Russia doesn't step back. I mean sure its death for everyone, but so is a big war.

A) It wouldn't be death for everyone;
B) given that it isn't near Crimea (it's on the northern/Belorussian border) it would mostly kill Ukrainians and Belorussians;
C) it would then be reasonable to invade Ukraine as Ukraine would have essentially dirty bombed a neutral state allied with Russia;
D) I actually don't think a Svoboda/Right Sector defence ministry could persuade the armed forces to do it.
posted by jaduncan at 12:42 AM on March 14


All those neoliberal economic ties and global interdependence is supposed to make the 21st century a century where war is impossible outside of the odd Third World resource grab or minor proxy war. Major wars are not supposed to happen say the architects of the new century because we will all buy tonnes of shit from each other and our need for more toys will mean our greed will save us from war.

This was, exactly, the predominant theory in the years before the First World War.
posted by spaltavian at 5:27 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Surely the model is the pax Americana. The pre-WWI situation involved a balance of power, but NATO far outgun anyone else.
posted by jaduncan at 7:07 AM on March 14


I'm not saying the situation is actually analogous, just that the "gloabalism mandates great power peace" theroy has a losing track record. Hyperpower's record in that regard is mixed.
posted by spaltavian at 7:32 AM on March 14


In the 90s Thomas Friedman was pushing a "Golden Arches" theory based on the idea that no two countries that both had McDonald's restaurants had ever gone to war. Later, of course, Russia attacked Georgia and Israel further invaded Lebanon. Wikipedia indicates he now has some "Dell theory" that two countries which are both part of the global supply chain are unlikely to go to war against each other because of the costs to each from the resulting trade disruption.

I think these theories underestimate the extent to which global trade can be disruptive and harmful in specific locales and it unduly discounts those factors that have led to many past wars like nationalism and irredentism (to name just a couple).
posted by Area Man at 8:35 AM on March 14


Sudetenland II.
posted by clavdivs at 10:02 AM on March 14


Chessmaster Garry Kasparov On Countering Putin

Kasparov seems to think Putin is planning a full invasion of Ukraine.


Masha Gessen on Russia, Putin, and Pussy Riot


Audio archive and transcript are not up yet. According to Masha, Putin has the overwhelming support of the Russian people - only 6% do not support an invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin is taking over private media and shutting down opposition blogs and websites.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:04 AM on March 14


Journalist from Ukrainska Pravda is streaming from Crimea. Watch it while it lasts.
posted by Kabanos at 3:12 PM on March 14




The Coming War for Ukraine, John R. Schindler, The XX Committee, 14 March 2014
Needless to add, this scenario brings chills to me and to anyone who understands the stakes in what would immediately be the biggest European war since 1945.

Yet that invasion, with its terrible consequences, is what many in Ukraine now expect. That mood of resignation, and what a Russian invasion might look like, are elaborated well in a new piece in Novoye Vremya (The New Times), a Moscow newsmagazine that is a rare outlet for anti-Kremlin views in Russia. The article by Maksim Shveyts, titled “Kyiv: Expecting War,” follows in toto, with my analysis following.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:37 PM on March 14


West prepares sanctions as Russia presses on with Crimea takeover - "Dozens of Russians linked to Russia's gradual takeover of Crimea could face U.S. and EU travel bans and asset freezes on Monday, after six hours of crisis talks between Washington and Moscow ended with both sides still far apart. Moscow shipped more troops and armor into Crimea on Friday and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine in response to violence in Donetsk on Thursday night despite Western demands to pull back."

Crimea poll will be divorce at gunpoint - "Sunday's referendum is an illegitimate act by Russia"
On Sunday 2m people in Crimea will vote in a hastily arranged referendum on the future of the peninsula... Moscow assumes that with Russian speakers accounting for 60 per cent of Crimea's population, the likelihood of the territory opting to rejoin Russia must be high. Since the poll was called two weeks ago, Ukraine and Russia have been at loggerheads over its legitimacy...

International law provides no easy answers... However, there are three political arguments that can be deployed to explain why this weekend's Crimea referendum is a sham. First, voters will go to the polls under the barrel of a gun... Contrast this with Kosovo's declaration of independence. That came after nine years of diplomatic negotiation during which every effort was made to secure international agreement.

Second, Russian speakers living in Crimea cannot assert a right to secede on the grounds of persecution. In 1999 the Kosovars were ethnically cleansed by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president... the claim that Russian speakers in Crimea have been the victims of Ukrainian fascist thugs is patently a fiction.

Third, Russia's championing of Crimea's right to independence is highly inconsistent. Over the past decade, the Kremlin has brutally crushed the independence movement in Chechnya that seeks to break away from Russia. It has stubbornly backed President Bashar al-Assad on the principle that Syria's sovereignty must not be violated...

The likelihood is that Mr Putin will press ahead with the full absorption of Crimea into Russia over the next few weeks. But in the meantime it is important to be clear about what this weekend's poll is about. This is not a peaceful and consensual referendum akin to the one happening in Scotland. Instead, it is a figleaf for a forced territorial annexation – the first on the European landmass since the end of the second world war.
Germany loses its faith in Ostpolitik - "Putin is giving Berlin a good reason to be more assertive"
When Vladimir Putin began his bearhug of Crimea two weeks ago, a number of calculations will have been on his mind. One of them was that Germany, the biggest power in Europe, would probably do little more than protest at Russia's invasion of part of Ukraine. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany has been careful not to antagonise the Kremlin on foreign policy matters...

This week, however, Angela Merkel toughened Germany's line. In a speech to the Bundestag, she delivered the harshest critique of Russian foreign policy by any German chancellor in decades. Ms Merkel accused Russia of resorting to "the law of the jungle" in the Crimea crisis. She said that if Russia continued with its aggression, "we, the neighbouring states, would understand this as a threat to us".

Nor has she stopped there. One of the most striking features of the Ukraine crisis is how Ms Merkel has led Europe's response to Mr Putin's militarism. So often on international security issues, the European lead has been taken by the UK or France, the continent's two big defence powers. But on Ukraine, Ms Merkel has been centre stage, engaging in more telephone negotiation with Mr Putin than any other leader.

Ms Merkel's stance also indicates that Germany is willing to be a more assertive security player, casting aside its traditional reticence. In recent months a number of German leaders – including the head of state and the foreign and defence ministers – have said the country cannot sit on the sidelines when security challenges arise...

Ms Merkel's speech underscores just how much Mr Putin has miscalculated in his aggression towards Ukraine... whatever happens in Crimea, the new coolness between Berlin and Moscow will not fade quickly. Mr Putin has alienated Russia's most important European partner. He is not only frightening the west. He is unifying it.
The most serious crisis since the Cold War
The crisis in Ukraine was produced by two sets of blunders, neither emanating from Washington. The European Union's vacillations and — most significantly, of course — Russia's aggression created the problem... For years, the European Union has been ambivalent toward Ukraine, causing instability in that country and opposition from Russia. The union’s greatest source of power is the prospect of it offering membership. This magnet has transformed societies in southern and eastern Europe, creating stability, economic modernization and democracy. For that reason, it is a weapon that should be wielded strategically and seriously. In the case of Ukraine, it was not.

Ukraine is the most important ¬post-Soviet country that Russia seeks to dominate politically. If Europe wanted to help Ukraine move west, it should have planned a bold, generous and swift strategy of attraction. Instead, the European Union conducted lengthy, meandering negotiations with Kiev, eventually offering it an association agreement mostly filled with demands that the country make massive economic and political reforms before getting much in the way of access, trade or aid with Europe.

But let’s not persist in believing that Moscow’s moves have been strategically brilliant. Vladimir Putin must have watched with extreme frustration in February as a pro-Russian government was toppled and Ukraine was slipping from his grasp...

Since 1991, Russia has influenced Ukraine through pro-Russian politicians who were bribed by Moscow to listen to its diktats. That path is now blocked. Princeton professor Stephen Kotkin points out that in the last elections, in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, representing to some extent the pro-Russian forces, won Crimea by nearly a million votes, which is why he won the election overall. In other words, once you take Crimea out of Ukraine — which Putin has done — it becomes virtually impossible for a pro-Russian Ukrainian ever to win the presidency. Remember, Ukraine is divided but not in half. Without Crimea, only 15 percent of the population will be ethnic Russian.

In fact, the only hope that Russia will reverse course in Crimea comes precisely because Putin might realize that his only chance of maintaining influence in Ukraine is by having Crimea — with its large Russian majority — as part of that country.

Putin has also triggered a deep anti-Russian nationalism around his borders. There are 25 million ethnic Russians living outside Russia. Countries such as Kazakhstan, with significant Russian minorities, must wonder whether Putin could foment secessionist movements in their countries as well — and then use the Russian army to "protect" them. In any case, Russia has had to bribe countries with offers of cheap gas to join its "Eurasian Union." I suspect the cost to Moscow just went up.

Beyond the near abroad, Russia's relations with countries such as Poland and Hungary, once warming, are now tense and adversarial. NATO, which has been searching for a role in the post-Cold War era, has been given a new lease on life. Moscow will face some sanctions from Washington and, almost certainly, the European Union as well. In a rare break with Russia on the U.N. Security Council, China refused to condone Russia's moves in Crimea...

The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the Cold War... And it involves a great global principle: whether national boundaries can be changed by brute force. If it becomes acceptable to do so, what will happen in Asia, where there are dozens of contested boundaries — and several great powers that want to remake them?
Why Is Ukraine's Economy Such a Mess?
Ukraine has 45 million inhabitants, is the second-largest European country by land area (after the European parts of Russia and not counting the Asian parts of Turkey) and by all rights ought to be one of the continent's major economic powers... I was curious about the economic roots of this turmoil, so I talked to Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland is a new Liberal Party member of the Canadian Parliament representing downtown Toronto. She also grew up speaking Ukrainian. Her late mother was a child of Ukrainian refugees, born in a displaced-persons camp in Germany right after World War II and raised in Canada, who returned to Ukraine in the early 1990s to help craft the country's Constitution, among other things. Chrystia Freeland was in Ukraine in those days too, working as a stringer for several Western publications. She went on to a journalism career at the Financial Times, Globe and Mail, and Reuters, and wrote books on Russia's transition to capitalism and the rise of the global plutocracy. She spent last week in Ukraine, and wrote an essay on the political situation there for last Sunday's New York Times.

[...]

Why is the economy such a mess?

Because of very bad, kleptocratic governments. That is 90% of the reason. In terms of the economy, Ukraine only accomplished maybe half of the things that you need to do, when the Soviet Union collapsed and they moved to a market economy. They did do privatization. There are now a lot of private companies, and there is a market. It's important for us to remember that not so long ago even selling a pair of jeans was illegal.

But what they failed to do was build an effective rule of law and government institutions. Corruption, in the Yanukovych era at least, was absolutely rampant. And some important reforms of state finances haven't happened. In particular, energy prices are still subsidized. Of course, when you move to free-market prices that's a huge shock to the society. But Ukraine's failure to liberalize energy prices is part of the reason that it has this great dependency on Russia.

Having said all of that, and having been in Kyiv last week, I think there's a bit of an Italian phenomenon going on, where you actually have a highly educated, very entrepreneurial population, but because you had this incredibly corrupt state, a lot of the Ukrainian economy has gone underground. Walking through the streets of many Ukrainian cities — Kyiv, Lviv in Western Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk in the East — you feel yourself to be in a much more prosperous society than the official data reflect.

The official data is incredible. Poland on the one side and Russia on the other are both in the low twenty-thousands in GDP per capita, and Ukraine is officially at $7,298.

There is no doubt that Ukraine has fared much, much worse than Poland. That is a testament to how important government decisions are. These countries were not so far apart in 1991 when Ukraine became independent, and the Poles by and large have done the right things, and the Ukrainian government has not.

The sense I get is that pretty much every government since independence has had big issues with corruption, but under Yanukovych it went from being this thing that the government did on the side to the entire reason the government existed. Is that fair?

One of the founders of the Maidan movement is this former investigative journalist named Yegor Sobolev. He said what drove him crazy was you couldn't even call it corruption anymore. It was like a marauding horde. Corruption stopped being something that poorly paid government officials did on the side and became the main reason for the government's existence.

Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister who has been playing a very good and important role in Ukraine, said that before the Yanukovych regime fell he went into one meeting with Ukrainian officials and they laughed at him for having a regular watch. He said everyone in that room had a wristwatch worth $30,000. That's the sign of a really corrupt government.

With this new regime do you see potential for Ukraine moving in the right direction?

I think this government has a better chance than any previous Ukrainian government has had. A lot will depend of course on the presidential elections, and then there will be a need for new parliamentary elections. But so far it's a group of people who understand what they need to do. They've seen Central Europe and the Baltic republics walk that path. It's pretty clear what needs to be done.

What was quite impressive to me was that the government immediately took some steps last week to be more transparent and less entitled. All the ministries had these huge fleets of cars, and they cut them back to just one car per ministry. When Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, traveled to Brussels last week, he demonstratively flew commercial. These are gestures absolutely, but they symbolize something important.

Having said all of that, economic reform, urgent though it is for Ukraine, falls by the wayside when you're being invaded, and that is the state of the country right now.
posted by kliuless at 4:56 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


homunculus: “While the West Watches Crimea, Putin Cleans House in Moscow
It wasn't likely that I would ever forgive the refuse from the Ford administration that brought the world to this sorry state anyway, but I swear to God that no condemnation of them is severe enough. Instead of focusing on bringing Russia into the fold, their ridiculous, amateur maneuvering in Iraq and the Middle East wasted the best chance of a decent future for humanity. And for what? Money? When they already had more than they could ever spend? The world may yet burn to ashes because of it and I curse them for it.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:52 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


CBC Radio's Ideas replayed an excellent 2009 episode about the Ukrainian famine, but also added interviews about the current conflict. It gives some good perspectives about history has framed the Ukrainian mindframe towards both Russia and Europe. You can listen online or download.
posted by Kabanos at 6:55 AM on March 15




Ukraine could always threaten to blow up the Sarcophogus over Chernobyl if Russia doesn't step back. I mean sure its death for everyone, but so is a big war.

A) It wouldn't be death for everyone;
B) given that it isn't near Crimea (it's on the northern/Belorussian border) it would mostly kill Ukrainians and Belorussians;


And insects, microbes, and fungi.
posted by homunculus at 8:42 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Vladimir Underwood, Timothy Spyrou, The Cyprus Mail, 16 March 2014
Putin knows that the taking of the whole Ukraine, or just the Eastern regions with a sizeable Russian population, will invite harsher diplomatic and sanctions than are currently being discussed. He also knows that Russian middle class voters and oligarchs alike will be unhappy that their chances of greater prosperity would be limited as a result.

However, Putin potentially has five factors or cards that could bail him out of such a scenario, or at least tide him over until things calm down.

Who is the Bully?, Jack F. Matlock Jr, The Washington Post, 14 March 2014
Even after the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist, Gorbachev maintained that “the end of the Cold War is our common victory.” Yet the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:06 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


"Crisis stirs old fears for Ukraine’s Jews", David Filipov, Boston Globe, 16 March 2014
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:44 AM on March 16




Crimea has voted to join Russia by 93%, rather unsurprisingly.

(I think this is from an exit poll, however.)
posted by Thing at 11:58 AM on March 16




Sample ballot via the Interpreter
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:48 PM on March 16


NYT: Russia Could Still ‘Turn the U.S. Into Radioactive Dust,’ News Anchor in Moscow Reminds Viewers

Wow, I had no idea Russia still claims to have an actual Doomsday Machine. I hope it has been fully debugged.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:16 PM on March 16




Or, in more jokey style (and in English).
posted by Kabanos at 9:44 AM on March 17


Some snark-toned-but-serious observations: The Crimean Referendum to Join Russia Was an Unconstitutional Sham
posted by Going To Maine at 10:17 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I think a pretty big majority of Crimeans really do want to be part of Russia, though. Sure we can say they don't have that right but we should at least be realistic about the situation.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on March 17


But there's referendums, and then there's referendums. From Going To Maine's link:
Crimea avoided the yes/no dichotomy traditionally favoured by referendum organisers, and offered instead two options: Do you want to join Russia? Or do you want to make Crimea independent, by returning to the (abortive) constitution of 1992?
So you could vote for Crimea to join Russia or become independent. There was no option provided for staying with Ukraine.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:51 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


The referendum was indeed a farce.
posted by Justinian at 5:30 PM on March 17


So you could vote for Crimea to join Russia or become independent. There was no option provided for staying with Ukraine.

This is the interesting part, tho: The Goblin reports that 97% voted to join Russia - but the Russian Duma and Putin both accepted the decision of the Crimean people to become a sovereign and independent state.

They lost the election!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:10 PM on March 17


Russian propaganda over Crimea and the Ukraine: how does it work? (Link to March 17 article in the Guardian)
Vladimir Putin has put boots in the ground – over the airwaves, he is taking the west on a tour of the propagandist’s playbook
posted by dougzilla at 10:24 PM on March 17




This Week Crimea, Next Week Kyiv, John Fitzroy, Geopolitical Monitor, 18 March 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 3:31 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]








That AMA is very good. One interesting q & a:

How concerned are Ukrainian citizens about the possibility of fighting to hold/take back Crimea? Also, how much support is there for such action?


People understand it's not realistic. They are critisizing the government a lot for not supporting Ukrainian army which is locked there more. They are critisizing secret services for allowing this. But no one is actually calling to go fight russians.
posted by bukvich at 7:16 AM on March 18




I've this fantasy about Obama abandoning the CIA, NSA, etc. in their fight with congress by openly declaring that our intelligence community's focus on surveilling Americans left him blindsided by Russia's expansion into the Ukraine. Along with some choice facts like that the CIA and NSA produced more raw data on Keystone XL protestors than on Russian oligarchs.

Ain't happening sadly. John Brennan, etc. keep their jobs no matter how badly they fuck up because their performance is classified.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:10 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Claiming that NATO isn't hostile to Russia on a military level is at best dubious. Effectively forming a counterweight against Russia is NATO's primary strategic goal, and it's been projecting power into a lot more states than Russia has over the last decade.

TBH, if Ukraine did ever enter NATO I'd be wondering at what point Russia sticks nukes in Cuba again.
posted by jaduncan at 8:11 AM on March 18


I feel Cuba is too unstable already, and who knows what'll happen after either or both of the Castros die. I don't think even China would have his back if he decided to pull Cuban Missile Crisis 2: Nuclear Boogaloo.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:48 AM on March 18


True. It's almost like military expansion up to people's borders is often unwelcome or something.
posted by jaduncan at 8:55 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]




Could someone explain to me what the Republican/Conservative/Anti-Obama crowd suggest that Obama and State actually do differently? I hear a lot of about weakness, projecting power, all sorts of abstract things but I've yet to hear an actual policy. Is there a counter policy?
posted by cell divide at 11:39 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I hear a lot of about weakness, projecting power, all sorts of abstract things but I've yet to hear an actual policy. Is there a counter policy?

It seems like their counter-proposal is to Make It All Better, without any specifics, which is also their counter-proposal for the Affordable Care Act.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:43 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Could someone explain to me what the Republican/Conservative/Anti-Obama crowd suggest that Obama and State actually do differently?

Here's an op-ed by Mitt Romney in the WSJ (requires a login, which you can circumvent by searching for the title on Google News and clicking through) that blames the administration for its timing, rather than specifically for its actions:

Why, across the world, are America's hands so tied? A large part of the answer is our leader's terrible timing. In virtually every foreign-affairs crisis we have faced these past five years, there was a point when America had good choices and good options. There was a juncture when America had the potential to influence events. But we failed to act at the propitious point; that moment having passed, we were left without acceptable options.

What actions the administration should have taken at those "propitious point[s]" is left unmentioned.

Is there a counter policy?

Not a substantive one. Senator McCain released a statement yesterday essentially asking for stronger, broader sanctions and larger, quicker humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine; those are both questions of degree (of scale and of speed) rather than of policy, and that's fairly indicative of the specific proposals people have been making -- 'do the things you're doing, but better' rather than 'do different things.'
posted by cjelli at 11:59 AM on March 18


jaduncan, do the Ukrainians get a say which alliance or sphere they want to be part of? What's your opinion on how the Baltics feel, since they already have a border with Russia and a somewhat analogous history to Ukraine?

Gary Brecher has probably the most cynical take on all this yet: The War Nerd: Everything you know about Crimea is wrong(-er)

I'm actually of the opinion that even considering all the propaganda, possible ballot-stuffing, and the political rejection of figures like Crimean PM Aksyonov (who got 4% in last election), that Kyiv managing to put the fear into Yanukovych to the point where he fled made remaining in Ukraine unpalatable to a solid majority of Russian Crimeans, and the vote would have ended up this way even if held under nominal circumstances. I'm even of the opinion that loss of Crimean basing "rights" (yes, by treaty in their own territory) is not that great of a loss for Ukraine, who could barely afford a navy -- or much of an army for that matter -- to begin with. My concern is more what this signals for Russian choices and behavior in the future, especially given Putin's clear warning in his speech that he considers it of great importance to reunite all ethnic Russians under one national flag -- this despite olive branches to Crimean Tatars (sorry about Stalin! You can keep your language! Maybe you shouldn't live where people hate you!) and Kyiv as far as maybe he's not so keen to invade the eastern oblasts as they think.

In other words, he could have achieved this outcome the "right" or "polite" way, but chose a different way to get there, and the reasons for that are complex and as much about domestic politics as the horrendous provocation of offering to help Ukraine become more democratic -- especially as Russia chooses to shed press freedoms and other hallmarks of liberal, Western conceptions of democracy.
posted by dhartung at 12:01 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Russia gets their export dough from oil and gas. Oil is perfectly fungible so sanctioning Russian oil is impossible. You could oppose them by sanctioning all oil but nobody is proposing that. Their gas is piped to specific customers who could absolutely quit burning it but there would be sacrifices involved--less home heating, less electric power, &c--for the customers so that call is up to them. The United States imports nearly zero Russian natural gas. There are other potential sanction measures which spiegel international lists here.

What does the United States sell them? Corn? This really is more in UK, Germany and France's bailiwick as to who has got leverage.
posted by bukvich at 12:10 PM on March 18


What actions the administration should have taken at those "propitious point[s]" is left unmentioned.

I wrote this and then I thought, no, technically Romney does state what he thinks the administration should have done differently:

When protests in Ukraine grew and violence ensued, it was surely evident to people in the intelligence community—and to the White House—that President Putin might try to take advantage of the situation to capture Crimea, or more. That was the time to talk with our global allies about punishments and sanctions, to secure their solidarity, and to communicate these to the Russian president. These steps, plus assurances that we would not exclude Russia from its base in Sevastopol or threaten its influence in Kiev, might have dissuaded him from invasion.

The implicit assumption that the administration wasn't 'talk[ing] with our global allies' and 'communic[ating these ideas] to the Russian President' is, I think, false, as are several of this other views on the crisis so his 'alternatives' are basically:

1. We should have predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine earlier than we did, somehow, so we could do what we're already doing sooner.
2. We should have talked with our allies and with Russia. Rather than not doing that.
3. We should have planned on sanctioning Russia slightly earlier than the administration did.
4. We should have assured Russia that we didn't want to deprive them of its base in Sevastapol (never mind that depriving them of that wasn't realistically ever going to happen, given that they're paying Ukraine to lease it and Ukraine needs the money more than the port).
5. We should have assured Russia that we have no interest in reducing its influence in Ukraine, despite being interested in sanctioning them over their actions in Ukraine.

Or, in short, 'do what we were doing, but slightly earlier and better,' and that -- I stress -- "might have dissuaded [Putin] from invasion."
posted by cjelli at 12:26 PM on March 18


So it's just Monday-morning quarterbacking, then.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:31 PM on March 18


Monday-morning armchair quarterbacking, no less.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:32 PM on March 18


Is there a counter policy?

What are you talking about? Rand Paul seems to have some CLEAR and EXCELLENT solutions! (can you smell the hamburger on my breath?). From his article in TIME:
1) Build KXL.
"I would support immediate construction of the Keystone Pipeline."

2) No money for Ukraine.
"We should also suspend American loans and aid to Ukraine because currently these could have the counterproductive effect of rewarding Russia. Ukraine owes so much money to Russia that America would essentially be borrowing from China to give to Russia."

3) No money for Europe. But they should get some missiles.
"I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it."

4) Stop doing so much.
"Like Dwight Eisenhower, I believe the U.S. can actually be stronger by doing less."

5) Make me the President, dammit.
"But let me be clear: If I were President, I wouldn’t let Vladimir Putin get away with it."
posted by Kabanos at 12:43 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Oil is perfectly fungible so sanctioning Russian oil is impossible.

Incorrect, as Iran found out.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:51 PM on March 18


To expand more, we can make it impossible for them to export it, or receive revenue for exported oil, unless they smuggle it or sell it to those who ignore the sanctions (at a steep discount.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:56 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Incorrect, as Iran found out.

How, in this situation, would you avoid the Russian SC veto?
posted by jaduncan at 1:09 PM on March 18


To repeat what I said above, I think this is a coherent criticism of the administration's struggle to define a policy (and while it's too harsh to say that getting consensus (i.e. from most of the EU/NATO) is their "policy" it's clearly of great importance to them):
You don't make a deal with a mindset. You make a deal with rational actors faced with contradictory courses of action. The Simes piece is fairly accurate in its assessment, as I see it: "We are not clearly defining what is important to us."

Right now the mistake seems to be objecting legalistically (and easily labeled hypocritically) to the takeover of Crimea, which is for all practical purposes a done deal and off the table as far as Moscow is concerned -- and not something that Crimeans (in any 51-97% majority you want to estimate) are actually asking us to do. It's probably Pyrrhic to champion Kyiv here -- especially a notional Kyiv that really really wants an unwilling Crimea back, which again is probably not realistic even if there are nationalists who believe it -- given that we're basically asking for something that can't be given (or asked for). I mean, if Kyiv wants Crimea back they're going to have to ask the Crimeans to come back. So we're left with an actual range of achievable options which might include e.g. safe passage for those UKR troops who wish to leave Crimea (many are locals regardless of affiliation) and, ideally, a negotiated portion of their kit, like maybe the nicer corvettes in port or some armored cavalry; and should probably include something like political guarantees for the Donbas region that Moscow can go along with. And tension-reducers that will let Poland and the Baltics take a deep breath.

Those are actual goals and I haven't seen much of any of that in either the administration or its critics.
posted by dhartung at 1:12 PM on March 18


In other words, he could have achieved this outcome the "right" or "polite" way, but chose a different way to get there, and the reasons for that are complex and as much about domestic politics as the horrendous provocation of offering to help Ukraine become more democratic -- especially as Russia chooses to shed press freedoms and other hallmarks of liberal, Western conceptions of democracy.

Yes, there's a lot of national dick size issue stuff here. Putin couldn't have been clearer about that today. Do I think Ukraine are to blame? No. I think NATO offering membership meant that this would have happened sooner or later though, and there's a very obvious game being played where spheres of influence are being created and moved. IMHO it is not such a bad thing if the world is made safer by an acceptance that it's not a very good idea to continually geopolitically humiliate a major military power. Compared to that, what Ukraine and Georgia wish to do is comparatively unimportant.

Again, I certainly don't recall the US being super relaxed about Cuba's desire to align with Russia in the past.
posted by jaduncan at 1:16 PM on March 18


Is there a counter policy?

Former Putin advisor Illarionov may sound a bit different that US conservatives (due to a more Russian style), but his message seems to essentially match theirs: Don't necessarily go to war, but certainly prepare wholeheartedly for war. [original Russian]

That, along with influencing the energy market this way or that, seem to be the two major policy planks of conservatives. Both are kind of broad and unfocussed, address only the medium to longer term, and are in general insufficient, IMO.
posted by Kabanos at 1:35 PM on March 18


My question is: what happens when Putin starts pushing over the borders of Crimea? Will the US and Europe allow Putin to annex eastern Ukraine? What about Kyiv itself, which, after all, Putin considers the "motherland" of Russian cities?
posted by shivohum at 1:44 PM on March 18


So, does Western-leaning Ukraine get any benefit from the loss of Crimea in terms of electoral politics? Would this give the presidency to "Orange" politicians in a reliable way? My guess is not in any substantial way, but I guess it mattters how close these elections are and what the Russian-speaking turnout has been.
posted by spaltavian at 1:45 PM on March 18


Well, yes, but then Khrushchev backed down, the nuclear missiles were removed from Cuba, and the US and USSR embarked on what became a prologue to detente with the Test Ban Treaty.

I think NATO offering membership

This has not happened. Currently NATO and Ukraine participate in a joint arrangement known as the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which is actually functional nearly identical to the NATO-Russia Commission.

The agreement that Yanukovych rejected in December was with the EU, not NATO. (Yes, the Tymoshenko government had pursued a Membership Action Plan for NATO, which NATO turned down in 2008. But after the 2010 election Yanukovych was in power and pursued a "non-bloc status".) Note that there are EU members who are not interested in NATO membership, including Ireland and Finland. The protests were about EU association, not NATO membership.

Just now: Ukrainian PM says country 'not seeking membership of NATO'.
posted by dhartung at 1:47 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Yes, I'm aware that the agreement was with the EU.

I'm referring to the commitment in the 2009 NATO Strasbourg/Kehl Summit Declaration, which specifically stated that Ukraine and Georgia will eventually be members. Considering that NATO had previously committed not to move too far east, it's very striking that the two countries bordering Russia were told it was only a matter of time before membership was offered.
posted by jaduncan at 2:00 PM on March 18


Specifically, at [29]:
Stability and successful political and economic reform in Ukraine and Georgia are important to Euro-Atlantic security. At Bucharest we agreed that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO and we reaffirm all elements of that decision as well as the decisions taken by our Ministers of Foreign Affairs last December. We are maximising our advice, assistance and support for their reform efforts in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and NATO-Georgia Commission, which play a central role in supervising the process set in hand at the Bucharest Summit. We welcome in particular the planned reinforcement of NATO’s Information and Liaison Offices in Kyiv and Tbilisi. Without prejudice to further decisions which must be taken about MAP, the development of Annual National Programmes will help Georgia and Ukraine in advancing their reforms. The annual review of these programmes will allow us to continue to closely monitor Georgia and Ukraine’s progress on reforms related to their aspirations for NATO membership. We also welcome the valuable contributions made by both countries to NATO’s operations.
Seen in that context, it's fairly obvious that NATO wishes to get right up to Russia's borders.
posted by jaduncan at 2:03 PM on March 18




spaltavian: It's quite possibly a significant shift in terms of future elections. Crimea's population is about 2M, Ukraine's 45M, so about 4-5% -- but it looks like even in the 2010 election that might not have been enough to flip the result, as there was a 70% preference for Yanukovych in Crimea (call it around 700K votes), and would have without the Crimean vote simply resulted in 11.7M for him and 11.1M for Tymoshenko. (Yanukovych's power base was out of Luhans'k.) On the other hand, of course, without the issue of Crimea implicitly on the table, and thus significantly less aggressive pressure from Russia....

But you can see that even without the 2M Crimeans, Ukraine remains deeply divided politically. It's very possible that the end result of this will be a division of the country, perhaps in a federative sense, or perhaps as two or more sovereign polities (not counting Crimea). The thing about the east is that it's full of Ukrainians (ethnically, linguistically, and politically) as well as Russians (same three).

OK, jaduncan, but again after 2010 those applications were pulled by the Yanukovych government. That was then. This is now. And right now Ukraine is not interested, even the new pro-EU government is not interested, so they seem to be taking your advice here. But what if Ukraine feels the need, as a sovereign state may, for alliance partners? Where can it go? Which body is exercising a sphere of influence over Ukraine?
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


OK, jaduncan, but again after 2010 those applications were pulled by the Yanukovych government. That was then. This is now. And right now Ukraine is not interested, even the new pro-EU government is not interested, so they seem to be taking your advice here. But what if Ukraine feels the need, as a sovereign state may, for alliance partners? Where can it go? Which body is exercising a sphere of influence over Ukraine?

For better or worse, Ukraine is not in a good place for non-Russian military alliances, and should probably follow the lead of Finland by being economically EU linked but studiously militarily neutral. I'd also point out that it would very much suit the new government to say they aren't interested right now, given that they are involved in a PR war with Moscow where they are accused of being backed by the West.

The irritating thing is that Ukraine should be valuable to both Russia and NATO as a buffer state, which is why it was quite spectacuarly stupid of NATO to dump Moscow into a world where they had a distinct possibility of NATO forward bases 700 miles from Moscow and in the same state as a major Russian base. It's also one of Russia's big trading partners, and it might have made more sense to be a bit more subtle than offering membership to the last colour revolution government and then being surprised when Moscow was then horrified by any prospect of a government that might say yes to the still extended offer of NATO membership.
posted by jaduncan at 2:16 PM on March 18


Seen in that context, it's fairly obvious that NATO wishes to get right up to Russia's borders.

Yes, but wasn't that done after and partially in response to the Russian invasion of Georgia? The obvious lesson I take is that Russia reserves the right to invade any country it borders on a whim and NATO membership is the only thing that will preserve the independence of those countries which border Russia. Was Russia trying to signal to the west that NATO had to be expanded to Russia's borders because if not there was no way to prevent the forcible reformation of the Soviet Union?

I don't actually think NATO membership makes sense for either Ukraine or Georgia, but this whole thesis that the west provoked Russia seems to go too far in downplaying Russia's own aggressiveness.
posted by Area Man at 2:21 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Yes, but wasn't that done after and partially in response to the Russian invasion of Georgia? The obvious lesson I take is that Russia reserves the right to invade any country it borders on a whim and NATO membership is the only thing that will preserve the independence of those countries which border Russia. Was Russia trying to signal to the west that NATO had to be expanded to Russia's borders because if not there was no way to prevent the forcible reformation of the Soviet Union?

It was. Georgia was pushing hard for a MAP well before that point though. I was actually there before and for the 2008 war, and there's stuff I'm afraid I can't talk publicly about. I will say that Georgia was actually extremely aggressive in the runup to war, and Russia was repeatedly asking the US to help calm the situation for around a year beforehand.

Context for Georgia was that Misha made an election manifesto commitment to return both territories to full Georgian control before the end of that term of office and then made a large increase in the defence budget. Georgia then did things like arresting bandit gangs on the Abkhaz border (they considered themselves the Abhkaz customs post) and threatening to shoot Russian peacekeepers during the previously agreed joint patrols. There was a lot of Western influence in Misha's time, and oddly enough McCain's foreign policy advisor (Randy Scheunemann) was on the Georgian payroll. It was actually being around the Georgian power structure during that period which made me much more sympathetic to the Russian side. It was Misha that did a lot of the driving of events, and he was getting a lot of neocon support in that. Enough that his people appeared to think he'd get military backing if it came to it, oddly enough. I did try to make the point that NATO were unlikely to break a 50 year+ policy of not shooting Russians to protect an aggressive move by Tbilisi.
posted by jaduncan at 2:29 PM on March 18


The thing about those Georgian provocations is that they occurred within Georgia's borders. I agree the Georgian leadership wasn't responsible or reasonable and McCain and his people have done horrible work encouraging people to take aggressive stances that won't be backed up by the West, but let's not pretend Russia didn't have agency. Russia always the option of deciding that Georgia was actually a sovereign state with actual borders. Russian aggressiveness is not just some reaction forced upon it by its neighbors and the west.
posted by Area Man at 2:38 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


The whole thing was insane. Their military plans were insanely poor, and resulted in the Georgian army not being hammered primarily on the basis that Russia didn't want to fully invade rather than any actual quality. I have pictures somewhere of lines and lines of Georgians in unarmoured transports on the Gori highway that were taken as I drove past in the other lane and reflected that I'd be able to tell if Russia wanted to invade because the military was too incompetent to space the trucks out and had them in a densely packed straight line that begged any competent pilot to bomb the front and the back of the line and then fly up and down killing things all day a la Iraq's retreat from Kuwait. It came across very much as a military misadventure driven by someone who bit off more than he could chew, and the people on the planning committee did not offer a more reassuring viewpoint.

I can't really talk more about this outside of MeMail.
posted by jaduncan at 2:38 PM on March 18


I am assuming Russia didn't actually feel threatened by the inept Georgian military or even the planned increase in military spending.

And as long as we are talking about Finland as a model, it is important to remember that Finnish Independence didn't just rest on neutrality. They had to fight in the 30s and 40s to keep their independence and had enough of a military even during the Cold War that the Soviets knew an invasion wouldn't be cheap or easy. I don't think Ukraine can become some sort of demilitarized border country. It needs to continue to have enough tanks and soldiers and guns that Russia knows an invasion would be horribly violent and difficult.
posted by Area Man at 2:44 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


The thing about those Georgian provocations is that they occurred within Georgia's borders.

Ish. Georgia had signed the the Sochi agreement/Dagomys Agreements/Дагомысские соглашения, ceasefire agreements which specifically agreed that Georgia would not undertake aggressive actions against those territories and that Russian-Georgian joint patrols would protect their borders.
"a Russian brokered agreement in 1993, the Agreement on a ceasefire in Abkhazia and On a Mechanism To Ensure Its Observance, allowed for a moratorium on the use of force, the withdrawal of conflicting parties from the warzone within fifteen days, establishing a Russian-Georgian-Abkhaz control group to monitor the ceasefire, the return of the Abkhazian parliament to Sukhumi, the placement of UN observers in the territory, and the resumption of talks to settle the dispute. In August of the same year UNOMIG was put in place as the UN monitoring force. The truce was violated on September 27 as Abkhaz forces seized Sukhumi and declared victory. The pro-Georgian forces then withdrew to Tbilisi, as Georgia joined the CIS and changed Russia's stance towards Georgia's on the matter.
A further Agreement on a Cease-fire and Separation of Forces, also known as the 1994 Moscow Agreement, was agreed the following year."

"Russia brokered a ceasefire and negotiated the Agreement in 1992. The agreement primarily established a cease-fire between both the Georgian and South Ossetian forces, but it also defined a zone of conflict around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and established a security corridor along the border of the as yet unrecognized South Ossetian territories. The Agreement also created a Joint Control Commission and a peacekeeping body, the Joint Peacekeeping Forces group (JPKF). The JPKF was put under Russian command and was composed of peacekeepers from Georgia, Russia, and North Ossetia (as the separatist South Ossetian government was still unrecognized; South Ossetian peacekeepers, however, served in the North Ossetian contingent). In addition, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did agree to monitor the ceasefire and to facilitate negotiations."
You can call repeatedly arresting the officials of those territories and promising to revoke the agreement by forcibly regaining the territories as something within the borders, but I would argue that the Abhkaz, Ossetians and Russians may have still seen that as a breach of security commitments given by Georgia (and, indeed, they did).
posted by jaduncan at 2:45 PM on March 18


I am assuming Russia didn't actually feel threatened by the inept Georgian military or even the planned increase in military spending.

No. Did the Abkhaz and South Ossetians? Very much yes. The increase also wasn't only planned, which is why Georgia had the ability to drop area denial weapons on Tskhinvali.
posted by jaduncan at 2:46 PM on March 18


That's a good point. It is a little funny today, however, to imagine that Russia was outraged Georgia would violate a international agreement. The guaranties provided in the Budapest Memorandum haven't meant much to the Russian government.
posted by Area Man at 2:50 PM on March 18


Oh, I'm not suggesting that the Russians are angels here. The 92/93 agreements were quite Moscow driven after the rebels had been Russian supported.

I'm just suggesting that one can see why Russia could end up with the view that NATO was aggressively pushing up to Russian borders, and given that context it's easier to see why heavy political backing of any anti-Russian political force could be seen as part of a broader attempt to neuter Russia (I would agree with this, YMMV).

I think it's also fair to say Russia were a bit put out when Georgians shot all the Russians they were on joint patrol with at the start of the war, especially given that every violation up until that point had been met with a studious lack of the use of force by Russian peacekeepers even when Georgia was making incursions into the ceasefire zones and arresting police/customs officials. The boot is of course rather on the other foot in Ukraine, but I think there's a broad context for both conflicts which is not as simplistic as innocent new pro-Western governments being crushed by a cruel Russian state.
posted by jaduncan at 3:00 PM on March 18


I'm just suggesting that one can see why Russia could end up with the view that NATO was aggressively pushing up to Russian borders, and given that context it's easier to see why heavy political backing of any anti-Russian political force could be seen as part of a broader attempt to neuter Russia (I would agree with this, YMMV).

I do agree with this, I just also think it makes to consider why the West would believe Russian needed to be neutered and why countries bordering Russia would want to belong to NATO. The aggression goes both ways and Russia has a rich tradition of being an expansive and aggressive power that needs a certain amount of neutering.
posted by Area Man at 3:06 PM on March 18


So, does Western-leaning Ukraine get any benefit from the loss of Crimea in terms of electoral politics? Would this give the presidency to "Orange" politicians in a reliable way? My guess is not in any substantial way, but I guess it mattters how close these elections are and what the Russian-speaking turnout has been.

If we want to subtract Crimea from the final run-off of the last Presidential election, Yanukovich would have lost 3.92% of his support, while Tymoshenko would have lost 0.9%. This would have put them at almost a 50/50 split, though Yanukovich would still be ahead by a hair. Not a situation you would like to occur later this year, if we're hoping for stability in the country.

I'll have to look to see if there are any polls regarding support for all the 2014 parties/candidates to see if there might be any effect in the 2014 elections.
posted by Kabanos at 3:07 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I do agree with this, I just also think it makes to consider why the West would believe Russian needed to be neutered and why countries bordering Russia would want to belong to NATO. The aggression goes both ways and Russia has a rich tradition of being an expansive and aggressive power that needs a certain amount of neutering.

Sure. But that obvious and repeated attempt to neuter probably comes at the cost of a certain amount of pushback, and explains why pushing back is quite so domestically popular for Putin. I think that the long term effect of attempting to fight Russian influence everywhere is both an acknowledgement that the great game hasn't finished and the likelihood of increased Russian intransigence. It's not only Russia that is recreating the Cold War here, and I think there could and should be a more positive settlement for everyone concerned.
posted by jaduncan at 3:22 PM on March 18


I'm actually of the opinion that [...] the vote would have ended up this way even if held under nominal circumstances.

Polls had the support in Crimea for joining Russia at around 35-40% as recently as February (in the case of this one 41%, when Yanukovych was well on the way to being kicked out.)
posted by sfenders at 3:30 PM on March 18


still following reddit on what's going on...
Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch Fourteen)

and kasparov on what to do; here's his op-ed's over the weekend:
For deterrence to work, Putin must know that the U.S. administration has the means and the will to follow through with the harshest sanctions. Otherwise it could end up as another "red-line moment" that exposes President Obama's tough talk as empty rhetoric.

Dump Russia from the international institutions Putin abuses. Target the finances of his allies and expose their companies as the global criminal enterprises they are. Take a close look at what America and Europe get from Russia — oil, gas, Afghan supply lines, space launches — and develop substitutions for them. If Putin’s Russia proceeds as a rogue nation, there is the "Iran 1979" option, freezing the hundreds of billions of dollars of Russia's vaunted cash reserves.
echoed by the FT; easier said than done of course: "Berlin should impose tougher penalties against Russia, even if it would hurt the German economy."

-German trade with Russia
-German economic activity in Russia

fwiw, it looks like cutting off iran's banks from SWIFT two years ago is what eventually got them to the table; it'd be a so-called 'nuclear option' at least: SWIFT, a Banking Network, Agrees to Expel Iranian Banks
A global communication network vital to the banking industry announced on Thursday that it was expelling as many as 30 Iranian financial institutions — including the Central Bank — crippling their ability to conduct international business and further isolating the country from the world economy.

The network, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, took the action to comply with European Union sanctions on Iranian banks, which were enacted in response to Iran's disputed nuclear energy program.

It is the first time that Swift, a consortium based in Belgium and subject to European Union laws, has taken such a drastic step, which severs a crucial conduit for Iran to electronically repatriate billions of dollars' worth of earnings from the sale of oil and other exports.
i guess i'd also add that just having ukraine as a 'success story' à la finland/baltics/poland in the EU (in or out of NATO) is well within the ukrainian people's control now -- with assistance -- and might be the best outcome if a long term project, short of a 'maidan' in moscow's red square; Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's acting president, has said: "What the Kremlin is most afraid of is a democratic, European, successful and prosperous Ukraine which we are today building... this is the real motive for their aggression."

also btw brecher references bulgakov, but besides lem, ukraine also has babel to draw on on what life was like under the KGB...
posted by kliuless at 5:24 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I'd like to thank everyone involved in this great discussion, which I'm depending on more than on the usual news sources for updates and analysis. Keep it coming!
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


> Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch Fourteen)

Ugh, that orange-haired woman makes me so angry. How can you pledge your allegiance to Christian Russia while talking about Russian boots stepping on your enemies' faces? Didn't you live through the harsh bureaucratic numbness of the Soviet Union? Didn't your grandparents fight in the war?

How can so many of my countrymen and women behave this way?

How will we ever have lasting peace when we have so much hate and prejudice stewing inside of us?
posted by archagon at 6:00 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I thought her performance in Donetsk, while more understated, was stronger. There was no character arc here, just inflamed passion and flaming hair.
posted by Kabanos at 9:12 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Speech bits:
ON THE WEST'S RESPONSE TO RUSSIA'S TAKEOVER OF CRIMEA

"What do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They tell us that we are violating the norms of international law. First of all, it's good that they at least remember that international law exists, and thanks for that. Better late than never."

"We hear from the United States and Europe that Kosovo was again some kind of special case. But what then, in the opinion of our colleagues, makes it exceptional? It turns out that during the conflict in Kosovo there were many human victims. What is this? A judicial legal argument?"

ON THE WEST'S IGNORING OF RUSSIA'S INTERESTS

"They have constantly tried to drive us into a corner for our independent stance, for defending it, for calling things by their proper names and not being hypocritical. But there are limits. And in the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed a line. They have behaved rudely, irresponsibly and unprofessionally."

"If you push a spring too hard, at some point it will spring back. You always need to remember this."

ON UKRAINE'S DESIRE TO JOIN NATO

"By the way, we don't have anything against cooperation with NATO, nothing at all. We are against having the military alliance ... behaving as the master of the house outside our fence, next to our home or on our historical territory. You know, I simply cannot imagine that we would go to Sevastopol as guests of NATO sailors. Most of them, by the way, are nice guys, but better for them to visit us as guests in Sevastopol than for us to visit them."
Yeah. This was such a predictable speech, and is and will be massively popular with Russians. It's hard for them to be clearer about what they want. The spring analogy literally could not be clearer about this, and I could have written this speech a month ago. The reason it's going down so well is because it actually genuinely reflects Russian opinion, and frankly has been coming for at least 5 years. The fact that so many people are surprised by it is genuinely surprising; IMO it's Russia's coming out as much as the Olympics were and will very much cement Putin's popularity.

It's why I also think that the belief that Putin would get dumped by the oligarchs in the case of sanctions is a bit of a misreading of the situation. The last person to go to the mat with the Kremlin was Khodorkovsky, and both he and Yukos got stomped into the ground with sudden investigations over 1990s tax. Everyone in Russia is aware that the oligarchy are thieves, so there's not much sympathy when they lose. Right now it's the Kremlin who can do pretty much what they wish in domestic politics.
posted by jaduncan at 7:41 AM on March 19


Interview with Information Resistance leader Dmitry Tymchuk: “Nobody has engaged in information security in Ukraine” (Translation of Kyiv Post article).

I don't think Tymchuk's Facebook posts have been mentioned yet in this thread, but they have provided some good info over the past month regarding military operations etc. The man certainly has his strong opinions as well.
posted by Kabanos at 11:30 AM on March 19


Vladimir Putin, International Lawyer, an annotation, by Eric Posner, of Putin's recent speech. Summed up:
In other words, we did not act illegally but if we did, you did first. The subtext, I think, is that the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:32 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


"I learned it by watching you!"
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:38 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Ukraine Plans to Pull Military From Crimea, Conceding Loss
SEVASTOPOL, Crimea — Bowing to the reality of the Russian military occupation of Crimea a day after Russia announced it was annexing the disputed peninsula, the Ukrainian government said on Wednesday that it had drawn up plans to evacuate all of its military personnel and their families and was prepared to relocate as many as 25,000 of them to mainland Ukraine.
posted by rosswald at 12:42 PM on March 19


In other words, we did not act illegally but if we did, you did first. The subtext, I think, is that the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it.

Subtext?
posted by jaduncan at 12:47 PM on March 19




Estonia joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on 29 March 2004, and was a former Warsaw Pact member state.

If there is indeed desire within the Russian executive leadership and the Duma... we are looking at a move against NATO.

The organization will either falter, or we are looking at the start of a global war.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:18 PM on March 19


Russia is just talking shit to try to change the subject. They won't attack Estonia. They havn't even attacked the other parts of Ukraine.
posted by humanfont at 1:41 PM on March 19


(R.e. Estonia) Well, they are right about one thing - it's crazy to try to force an ethnic minority to speak some prescribed language. If they speak Russian let them speak Russian.

But yeah, considering the source it just sounds like a pretext for more annexation. I don't see how they'd get away with that one though.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:42 PM on March 19


If there is indeed desire within the Russian executive leadership and the Duma... we are looking at a move against NATO.

There will not be a desire for that. A desire to move the news agenda and cause a few local problems for the people acting against them in NATO, maybe.
posted by jaduncan at 3:15 PM on March 19


They certainly don't mind it if the Estonians get nervous and others get distracted, but I don't think an invasion of Estonia is in the works.
posted by Area Man at 3:26 PM on March 19


They certainly don't mind it if the Estonians get nervous and others get distracted, but I don't think an invasion of Estonia is in the works.

Why on earth not? Putin hasn't clued in he's in for years of slow, strangling economic warfare over Ukraine - he's not prepared to combat that. He is prepared to call NATO's bluff to humiliate them by invading Estonia, in which we'd find out whether NATO is bluffing or not.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:00 PM on March 19


years of slow, strangling economic warfare over Ukraine

Oh, I wish.

I think you may be overestimating the attention span of the EU and US politicians involved, or at least their willpower to hold out against their business interests. When Russia went into Georgia, there was about 2 seconds of outrage and then everyone went back to business as usual. Putin is counting on the same reaction now.

I would love to be wrong about this, but I predict Russia will be given a pass for this for the same reason China was given a pass after Tiananmen Square: the cost of not doing business with them is too high. In politics, matters of principle always lose out to economic advantage. Always.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:39 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Even if you believe Putin to be some sort of power-hungry dictator, he's not going to incite nuclear war with NATO. No dictator wants to die. It makes zero sense.
posted by archagon at 6:16 PM on March 19


Also, barring someone insane coming to power, I am convinced there will never be another world war for conquest. The worst we'll have is these one-off land grabs.
posted by archagon at 6:28 PM on March 19


Estonia, the Kuriles, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland... little one-off land-grabs. Correcting history's mistakes, that's all. Not like the West will do anything about it. Hell, their extreme right wing still considers Alaska to be rightfully Russian.

Bolstering Estonia with NATO forces now would head that mess off, which looks to be what's happening.

And as for the shortsightedness of the NATO democracies - Iran, Korea and Cuba may have opinions. The only economic chip Russia has to play is their oil and gas reserves - which the US can match or beat at the moment, and which Europe is working relentlessly to undercut with renewables.

I think this is an opportunity the EU and the US has been waiting for - to remove Russia as a world and regional power of any significance. Modern day Ottomans. Once China figures out that's the plan, they'll be on board as well.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:59 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


I think this is an opportunity the EU and the US has been waiting for - to remove Russia as a world and regional power of any significance.

Contain, sure. I think that there's literally nothing you could do to remove Russia as a regional power, but I also think that fundamentally misreads Merkel at the very least. The West have their group of Cold Warriors, but also their group of people who wish to build a deeper relationship with Russia.

Aside from the lack of uniform desire to massively limit Russia, it's still almost in the not even wrong category - as discussed above, for countries like Georgia, Armenia or the stans the sheer size of Russia as a trading and diplomatic partner will always make them a big power. Add a still-working military and it's hard to see how they could be ignored.
posted by jaduncan at 7:57 PM on March 19


Bonus Svoboda:
The acting chief executive of Ukraine's state broadcaster has been forced to sign a resignation letter - by MPs who broke into his office.

The group of men, from the far-right Svoboda party, were angry with Oleksandr Panteleymonov's decision to broadcast a ceremony from the Kremlin on Tuesday.

It showed Russian President Putin signing a bill to make Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia.

The MPs filmed themselves beating Mr Panteleymonov over the head until he gave in to their demands.
posted by jaduncan at 8:08 PM on March 19


Let us be clear... the only way to remove Russia as a regional and global power is environmental degradation. Continued, sustained, environmental degradation in Texas, in the Dakotas, and elsewhere.

Pollution of ground water sources, increased CO2 emissions.

Let us be clear.

At what cost? What is acceptable?
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:33 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]






I'm actually wondering what's going to happen in the Ukranian presidential (and, in a while, the Rada) election. MPs exist for the Crimea area, and Ukraine claims that the territory is still theirs. It's very hard to have a nationwide vote, but also hard to say that the election is legitimate if the views of an entire sector of the country are not even polled.
posted by jaduncan at 3:33 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Thats an interesting question jaduncan. I suppose they could designate those 10 MPs as "in exile" or something, but that would in no way solve how they might be elected. Are there any precedents in other parts of the world where there are occupied or contested territories?
posted by Kabanos at 6:04 AM on March 20




Cautious optimism, or, What would Ronald Reagan have done (or could have done) in the situation surrounding Crimea.
Not nearly as bad as the title would suggest – actually some interesting analysis here.
posted by Kabanos at 7:28 AM on March 20


Azerbaijan wants to regain Nagorno-Karabakh, sez President Ilzham Aliev.

I did not even know that there was a disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, let alone where it is in the world. So I guess I apologize to anyone I scoffed at for not knowing where Crimea is.
posted by Kabanos at 8:53 AM on March 20


Sanctions for everybody:

MOSCOW, March 20. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has imposed reciprocal sanctions against a number of American officials and lawmakers, the diplomatic service said in a statement on Thursday.

“In response to sanctions announced by US administration on March 17 against several Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as punitive measures for backing the Crimean referendum, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states about imposing reciprocal sanctions against the same number of American officials and lawmakers,” the diplomatic service said. “We have repeatedly warned that applying sanctions is a double-edged issue and would hit as a boomerang the USA itself. It is unacceptable and counterproductive to speak with our country in this way, as Washington could find out many times,” the Foreign Ministry noted. “However, the American side, as it seems, continues pinning faith on efficiency of such methods taken from the arsenal of the past, and does not want to admit the obvious: Crimeans have democratically and in full compliance with international law and the UN Charter voted for the reunification with Russia, which respects and accepts this choice. Such a decision can be pleasant or not, but this refers to reality that should be faced.”

“There cannot be any doubts: on every hostile step we will respond in an adequate way,” the ministry stressed.

The black list includes:
-Caroline Atkinson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor -for International Economics;
-Daniel Pfeiffer, Assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications;
-Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication for to the President;
-Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader;
-John Boehner, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives;
-Robert Menendez, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations;
-Mary Landrieu, senator;
-John McCain, senator;
-Daniel Coats, senator.

posted by cjelli at 9:42 AM on March 20


Via Politico:
Responding to American sanctions of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the Russian government announced its own list Thursday, in an indication of how the Kremlin views who holds the power in Washington...At this point, the impact of the sanctions isn’t at all clear —the Russians that the American sanctions targeted, according to administration officials, had holdings in international accounts that can be impeded or frozen. That does not seem to be the case for the nine Americans in Putin’s sights.
posted by cjelli at 9:45 AM on March 20


Advisors, legislators, and Ben Rhodes.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:18 AM on March 20


Because so many Americans have monetary/security holdings in Russia, and want to travel there. ZING.

I would travel to Russia, but even before Crimea, I've been worried too much about crime and infrastructure to consider visiting.
posted by Atreides at 12:08 PM on March 20


> Are there any precedents in other parts of the world where there are occupied or contested territories?

Yes. The legislature in Taiwan (self-designated "Republic of China") for decades had members representing every province in China, because the rulers in Peking/Beijing were officially considered bandit occupiers who would be rightfully ejected at the proper time. Meanwhile, the good citizens of Chungking/Chongqing and Shanghai were being lawfully represented by their lawful representatives in Taipei. Ukraine could certainly take the same path, but it's gets silly after a while.
posted by languagehat at 12:17 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


languagehat: that works better when you don't require direct elections and it's just KMT appointment for area X. Moldova appear to just set up the voting booths outside Transnistria and have terrible turnout, although I wonder if in both countries the local FSB rezident wouldn't just organise a handy few busloads of visiting voters to switch the election to whoever is close in the polls and Moscow-friendly. I'd be tempted to do that if I was running their local team.

There's not so long to sort it out either; the presidential election is on May 25th. The bit that gives me pause is that Article 103 of the Ukranian constitution requires that "the President of Ukraine shall be elected by the citizens of Ukraine for a five-year period on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot." It's going to be very easy to challenge the result in court on the basis that equal access cannot exist when one set of voters must travel past a militarised front line to get to a voting booth.
posted by jaduncan at 2:00 PM on March 20




So are there any soldiers from other NATO countries stationed in Estonia? I ask not so much because those troops would make military difference but rather because their presence would add some weight to the NATO promise in the same way that U.S. soldiers stationed behind the DMZ give credibility to the alliance with South Korea.
posted by Area Man at 2:30 PM on March 20




Area Man, I don't think Estonia/the Baltics have been considered as the same tripwire situation, and as far as I know there are no permanent NATO infantry/cavalry units there (apart from an annual joint exercise with all the Baltics), but NATO members do take turns on the Baltic Air Patrol so there are always NATO air units stationed there (which are now doubled or something like that -- but as it happened this crisis occurred during the US "turn"), and due to the Russian-based cyberattacks a few years ago I am pretty certain they have NATO cyberwarfare people in country to advise/liaise. Other than that you're going to have mostly civilian and HQ types.

I don't think this alliance needs more credibility, really, and whatever pressure the allies felt to act in Ukraine was tempered by the very limited terms of what had been promised.

Mostly I don't think that Putin is actually planning any invasion, certainly not of NATO. I've said before I think his goal is destabilization and delegitimization of these governments, which has been largely successful with Georgia and Moldova. There's something cruel about taking away part of a country and showing the impotence of the government to effectively defend itself that eats away at a nation's soul, I should think.
posted by dhartung at 1:07 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Japan gives Kyiv 10 billion loan for the reconstruction of sewage systems.

I'm no expert, but this seems like a lot for a sewage system. Is there a reason why Japan would need to be somewhat cagey in how it offers financial support to Ukraine?
posted by Kabanos at 7:07 AM on March 21


Ukraine signs deal with European Union
Ukraine sealed a deal Friday to draw closer politically to the European Union, firmly looking to the West for guidance and support even as Russia pulled the contested Crimean peninsula eastward.

The pact revives an agreement that Brussels offered the government in Kiev several months ago but that the then-president of Ukraine jettisoned at the last minute in favor of closer ties with Moscow.
[...]
EU membership is not actually on offer. But the agreement puts Ukraine squarely in the orbit of the EU, which pledged to sign it immediately as a riposte to Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

An economic deal between Kiev and Brussels, which formed part of the original pact, is being deferred until after Ukrainian elections in May. In a further dig at Moscow, the EU said it would sign similar political agreements with Georgia and Moldova, which Russia sees as also properly in its sphere of influence.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:53 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Mychailo Wynnyckyj from the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, reflecting on the past 120 days, posits that Ukrainians, through their "declaration of dignity" as manifested in the Maidan, have offered a unique contribution to the world’s civilizational development.
posted by Kabanos at 12:43 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Well, they wouldn't give up, long past the point where it looked like protests could achieve anything. It got incredibly violent. and they still kept coming out in the thousands - until suddenly, they won. It was amazing.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:58 PM on March 21




Well, they wouldn't give up, long past the point where it looked like protests could achieve anything. It got incredibly violent. and they still kept coming out in the thousands - until suddenly, they won. It was amazing.

They did it despite the West, who had pretty much consigned Ukraine to Yanukovych and the "Eurasian Union." Euromaidan forced the EU and Obama into supporting a free Ukraine.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:25 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


I had earlier been surprised to hear that Belarus was not supporting the actions of Russia in Crimea. My impression was that Lukashenko was very firmly under Putin's thumb. Here are a few pieces that shed a bit more light on the complexity of that relationship, in the context of recent events:

Belarus wants out.

Russia plays war in Belarus.

On the transfer of additional Russian aircraft to Belarus.

I'd appreciate any other analyses that people can direct me to.
posted by Kabanos at 10:00 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


> My impression was that Lukashenko was very firmly under Putin's thumb.

Lukashenko was never under Putin's thumb. He was around long before Putin (he came to power in 1994), and it was always a relationship of convenience; to quote your first link: "He has always been happy to be Russia’s ally, but only as the leader of a strong, independent state capable of steering its own course." As long as they could be good-buddy strongmen, sharing nostalgia for the lost Soviet Union, everything was hunky-dory, but if Putin's going to start acting like he's the boss of everybody, Lukashenko doesn't want any part of it. Putin really has screwed himself; now that the mailed fist has been exposed, nobody's going to believe in the mutual benefits of his Eurasian thing. Power not only corrupts, it renders its bearers increasingly cut off from the real world.

Thanks for the great links!
posted by languagehat at 7:52 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]




The Mafia Ruling Ukraine’s Mobs
Before and since Russia’s move to annex the Crimea, many who favor the pro-European government in Kiev have argued that these “bosses” might be provocateurs from Russia’s FSB intelligence service or Spetsnaz special forces infiltrated into Ukraine to orchestrate pro-Russian sentiment. But Berg, an organizer of the pro-Ukrainian rally last week where pro-Russian thugs stabbed a student to death, says there’s a different and in some ways more frightening explanation: the ominous hand of organized crime.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:42 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]




Stop The War Coalition: In the game of Great Power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia

Seriously, it's 1939 all over again.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:52 PM on March 23


Well, more like 1938, but otherwise I agree.

I'm getting chills over Russia maybe invading Ukraine, as I think that European leaders will stand by and do nothing substantial about it. I'm really ashamed by this.
posted by Thing at 5:10 PM on March 23


Some good analysis from former US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock, and from The Guardian. I don't think comparisons to World War 2 are really appropriate, except superficially.
posted by archagon at 5:21 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Because? There's not a dictator going around seizing bits of other countries with impunity?
posted by Thing at 5:25 PM on March 23


My understanding is that Hitler's plan was always to ultimately conquer Europe. I don't believe that's what Putin is trying to do. The Guardian article goes into some great detail about the goings-on in the Russian government; I highly suggest you give it a read.
posted by archagon at 7:03 PM on March 23


Archagon's links are a lot closer to reality than the vast majority I've read. I also think they are an excellent primer.
posted by jaduncan at 7:15 PM on March 23


Comparing Putin to Hitler and the Sudetenland is a weak rhetorical stunt that seems only to see seeds for a war. This situation seems much more like the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus or Israel settlement policy.
posted by humanfont at 7:22 PM on March 23


I wouldn't say Putin is like Hitler, but I do think Russia is like Germany: it turns out, once again, that a Great Power can treat its neighbours with impunity when the other Powers aren't willing to go to war. Furthermore, Russia's long game in the Middle East appears to be paying off: Assad has remained in power, and Syria's neighbours would be happier to have a Russian than an Iranian client state in their back yard. Russia will be able to moderate or inflame Iran's activities in the region, and it will necessarily have a seat in any Middle East negotiations. So now, as in the 1930s, one Power has manœuvered itself into a position of great leverage and the other Powers are reluctant or unable to interfere.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:50 PM on March 23


Oh, and look what's in today's Jerusalem Post: Cairo exploring entering a Russian-led free trade zone that would include Belarus and Kazakhstan.

It's a follow-up to this: Egyptian sources: Sisi is urgently seeking completion of new arms deal with Russia

The impetus for this is the US's tactical embargo on weapon sales to Egypt, just at the time when they need them to control revolutionaries in the Sinai peninsula and demonstrators in Tahrir Square. The embargo makes good domestic politics, but it's not going to change the Egyptian junta's mind about anything, and it's providing an opening for Russia to again become Egypt's great benefactor.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:02 PM on March 23


Interesting. It's a long way from Sisi making positive noises to actually signing anything but the arms deal though.
posted by jaduncan at 2:48 AM on March 24


I don't think comparisons to World War 2 are really appropriate, except superficially.

Agreed. It's a return to 18th and 19th century continental politics - who knew Putin was a steampunk?

They really didn't have economic warfare to the same degree during the Enlightenment, so it will be interesting how this plays out. Putin's strongest hand against the west, natural gas supply, was played in 2006. European infrastructure has been re-worked since then - gas can flow both ways along the pipeline, and Germany and Poland have been amassing vast natural gas stockpiles in the past half decade - they can keep Europe going without Russian gas long enough for American transatlantic exports to ramp up (due in the second half of 2015, but will likely accelerate) and reserves in the Mediterranean and East Africa to come online.

This is why we're seeing a slow rollout of sanctions. When the total embargo finally comes, Europe will be able to weather it for longer than Russia will due to preparations being put into play now.

The NATO powers are playing for keeps - Russia will either moderate and modernize their political system and come into closer alignment with Europe, or their economy will be systematically dismantled until they simply can't afford to play super-power anymore, and everything Putin and United Russia has done to extend prosperity to the average Russian will be undone.

The talk about how Russia's feelings were hurt when NATO put a stop to European genocide while Russia stood by and egged the Serbians on is ludicrous. If the Russians really for real feel that way, they need to be removed from the world stage, because they can't handle it. It's such a throwback to pre-20thC politics, next thing you know, Putin will be demanding marriage to one of Obama's daughters to bring their houses into alignment or something.

The "Both Sides Are Bad" narrative is pretty tired, and utterly overused on either side of the political spectrum.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:17 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


In the game of Great Power politics, if we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia. Source: Irish Times.

Shocking.
posted by rosswald at 5:29 AM on March 24




Kiev Woos Oligarchs, Bolstering East Against Putin
Noting the failure of pro-Kremlin activists to hold out after a takeover of the regional assembly building early this month that saw Russia's flag flown from the building for nearly a week, he concluded: "The Crimean model has now failed in the Donbass."

Weekend rallies demanding union with Russia drew only a few thousand and passed without incident ...
...
(Yatsenyuk) ran through a shopping list of policies designed to reassure Russian speakers, from ruling out NATO membership, to guaranteeing their language rights and pledging to disarm far-right and other militants.

One Western official described it as "everything we had been pleading for" to repair the rift in Ukraine and engage the east.
...
Perhaps most important for the eastern elite, however, was a promise of a constitution offering "decentralization," rather than "federalism" — seen as a recipe for regions breaking away.
...
For Denis, 35, a composer watching proceedings from across the square, the protesters were wrong to ignore Russia's flaws: "It is not about the economy," he said. "This is a fundamental question of freedom. Russia is a very authoritarian state."

His wife Svetlana, 29, said her criticism of Russia was not about ethnicity: "I have a Russian name. We speak Russian and Ukrainian," she said. "But I am a Ukrainian citizen."

Similar sentiments were voiced in dozens of conversations in the past week in Donetsk with people in colleges, shops, farms or the steelworks that sprawls into a city dotted by slag heaps and showpiece modern buildings.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:55 AM on March 24




Latest Joke from Odessa (via twitter):

“I stopped speaking Russian”
“Why? Afraid that Ukrainians will beat you?”
“No, that Russians will come to protect me”
posted by Kabanos at 11:04 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]




Here's an original-language version of Kabanos's joke, for those who might enjoy it:

- Фима ты таки знаешь, я стараюсь меньше говорить по-русски...
- Шо такое, ты боишься шо тебя побьют "бендеровцы"??
- Таки нет, я боюсь, шо потом придут "спасать" русские...
posted by languagehat at 12:31 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Uhhhhh. Partitioning Ukraine? Is this the 19th century?
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on March 24


Zhirinovsky was and remains a troll.
posted by jaduncan at 6:57 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]




This does not bode well - Ukrainian Right Sector leader shot in 'special forces' operation.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:54 AM on March 25


U.S. Scurries to Shore Up Spying on Russia
In Crimea, Russia May Have Gotten a Jump on West by Evading U.S. Eavesdropping


So these all seeing, all powerful panopticonurbanists can't find an airplane, couldn't predict Russia... what were they doing? Chasing the wrong brown people around sand dunes?
posted by infini at 6:15 AM on March 25


Serious question: is John Kerry really this stupid?

No, he's building the case against Russia with Europe - the Syrians are way behind in holding up their end of the bargain, and Assad is real unpopular with Europe. Kerry is reminding the EU of Russia's role in Syria - and putting Russia in a position where they have to pressure Assad to give up his WMDs or cement European opinion that Russia is a destabilizing rogue state that needs to be dealt with through unified sanctions.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:21 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Just sprinkling some Rest of the World pov...

Media wars: Why news is not a Western monopoly any more

According to former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, “In condemning Russian actions in Ukraine, the West has claimed once again it is speaking on behalf of the ‘international community’, ignoring the position taken by India and China. Russia can be said to be at loggerheads with the West on Ukraine, but not the ‘international community’ as a whole.”

The solution, says Sibal, is “alternative power centres” that can make the voice of the international community more inclusive. “Rising countries should build their own political, economic and security networks to sustain a multi-polar world in which the US and EU are unable to wield their enormous financial clout to impose their solutions to problems.”

You can add news networks to that list.


BRICS strongly back Putin on G20

The increasingly influential grouping said that all member-states equally determine the nature and character of G20 and that no individual state could ban the Russian president from attending the next summit.
posted by infini at 6:41 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Opinions, analysis, and points of view from non-US/EU/Russian sources definitely need to be heard. Your source is perhaps not the best messenger for that message though, as Russia & India Business Report is owned by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (100% owned by Russian Government), and seems to go to great pains to expose biases in Western media while ignoring those in Russian media. As a friendly alternative I'll offer up this opinion piece from the Indian Express which touches on India and China's reactions with regard to Crimea. I'm really not that familiar with good Indian or Chinese sources of news/analysis though; I'm sure more insightful stuff yet is out there. India's and particularly China's ongoing reactions and responses to this new Russian tack will be very interesting to watch, as they seem to have a lot of conflicting interests to balance.

The issue with the G20 is interesting. I think any government is certainly free to decide if it wants to allow any foreign leader into the country. If Australia feels strongly about not having Putin pop by for a visit, I think it would fall to them to cancel/relocate the summit for that reason. They certainly can't kick Russia out of the G20 alone. I don't think it will come to banning Putin or canceling the summit though. This is probably just posturing from the Australian government to show that, while they will eventually let Putin in, he will not be welcome. No handshakes for you!
posted by Kabanos at 8:58 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Opinions, analysis, and points of view from non-US/EU/Russian sources definitely need to be heard.

AIO had an interesting piece on the impact of sanctions on the Russia/India and Russia/China relationships.
posted by jaduncan at 10:14 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


*ATO
posted by jaduncan at 10:24 AM on March 25






Kabanos, The Hindu is a well respected journal from Chennai. I've heard that Times of India has gone down in quality. Kolkata based journals have also always been respected, The Statesman leads. And The Indian Express has tended towards independent thinking, so much so that it always suffered from newsprint shortages during the Emergency of the 1970s. The weekly newsmagazine India Today is also a good read.

The Hindu's choice of article today on Russia, you'll note they balance the US/allies view with the BRICs view, little different from the Indian journalist writing in my previous links, and have selected a Russian journalist for their choice of article.

A little bit of background on Russia's relationships with India and China.

Fwiw, India has democratically elected communists to state leadership in its political history since Independence.

That Russia India Report might not be as much of a party pooper propaganda mouthpiece with paid shills as you may think, in that the Russians were always perceived as friends.
posted by infini at 12:16 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Or inasmuch as any news journal from any location is not a propaganda mouthpiece for its owners, funders, advertisers and government sponsors, no?
posted by infini at 12:19 PM on March 25


It will amuse me a lot if the biggest end result of this is that the EU actually puts some proper effort into going renewable.
posted by jaduncan at 1:30 PM on March 25


Ukraine: And the Winner Is . . . China. Artyom Lukin suggests that the Western push to “isolate” Russia may prove self-defeating by forcing a stronger Sino-Russian axis.

Sino–Russian Relations at the Start of the New Millennium in Central Asia and Beyond [pdf]. Niklas Swanström's in-depth analysis of the relationship between the two states. Though published earlier this year before the Crimean crisis, he recognizes that "the most important reasons for continued good, or at least acceptable, relations [between Russia and China] are external and not bilateral." And that future reasons for cooperation are "mostly connected to continued conflicts with the US and EU, and the decay of Russia’s and China’s relations with the West rather than any positive factors."

I found the discussion of the arms trade interesting too. While China has traditionally imported a crap load of arms from Russia, that amount has been decreasing lately as China's arms industry matures, and as it grows as an arms exporter itself, stealing some clients from Russia. With the US still the biggest arms exporter in the world, and India the biggest importer (mostly from Russia) the inter-connectedness of the arms trade ends up looking as complex and convoluted as energy trade. It had just gotten me wondering if the US would try to squeeze the Russian arms industry, when lo and behold...
posted by Kabanos at 2:36 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


There was just an article in the Times about India moving to lessen its reliance on Russian arms, though didn't arenas if they're gonna be turning the tap off any time soon.
posted by Atreides at 6:26 PM on March 25


The Last Time Russia Didn't Invade Ukraine. Bloomberg. 13 MAR 18, 2014. Marc Champion
In January 1919, Byli said, the Red Army proclaimed a new socialist government of Ukraine in Kharkiv, having just marched a large army across the border from Russia 25 miles away. When the existing government in Kiev demanded to know what was going on, Moscow answered:

“The military units of Soviet Russia that you have listed are not moving toward or close to the borders of Ukraine. There is no army of the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic in Ukraine.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:16 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]




Ukrainian babushkas have mobilized.

This is exactly the type of thing that makes me want to go and live in EE again.
posted by jaduncan at 10:08 AM on March 26




BABUSHKAS VS. DOLPHINS
posted by Kabanos at 3:53 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Putin Leaks
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:28 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


The ideology of the EuroMaidan Revolution - Serhiy Kvit, Ukraine minister of education.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:16 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: What Are the Global Implications of the Ukraine Crisis? Q&A with Eugene Rumer, Andrew S. Weiss, Ulrich Speck, Lina Khatib, George Perkovich, Douglas H. Paal.
posted by Kabanos at 9:58 AM on March 27


I thought this was interesting, as a reflection of the national mood. Or Putin's mood, which may be nearly the same thing: Russia Is Restarting Stalin's National Fitness Program
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:54 PM on March 27




My jaw, it is dropped. They should do a Nativity scene: Joseph (Stalin), Mother Russia, and baby Putin doing pushups in the manger.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:27 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


The Economist has no qualms about invoking the Sudetenland.
posted by infini at 11:24 PM on March 27


Published by the Russian Orthodox Church is a somewhat overenthusiastic claim. It would appear that the order in St. Sergius Monastery, Moscow owned a print shop who agreed to print it as a contract job for an external publisher.
posted by jaduncan at 11:59 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


jaduncan, for a moment there I thought you were referring to The Economist
posted by infini at 3:28 AM on March 28


Wow- Klitchko and UDAR party are supporting Poroshenko in his bid for the Presidency.
posted by Kabanos at 4:32 AM on March 29




homunculus: “Darth Vader wants to run for Ukrainian presidency
I… someone is actually going to put up nearly a quarter-million dollars so a guy in a Darth Vader costume can run for President of Ukraine? What a helluva world we live in.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:57 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


someone is actually going to put up nearly a quarter-million dollars so a guy in a Darth Vader costume can run for President of Ukraine? What a helluva world we live in.

In a presidential election it is a considerable benefit for the major party candidates for there to be many unimportant candidates splitting the protest vote.
posted by jaduncan at 7:42 AM on March 30


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has set out demands for a neutral and federal Ukraine, ahead of crisis talks with his US counterpart in Paris.

Kremlin-speak for partition of Ukraine along ethnic lines, at gunpoint; good luck for those who fall on the wrong side of a border.

Any Americans here who might have any shred of clout towards the government, I urge you to let them know that you won't accept John Kerry signing up for this. This is urgent -- the meeting is being held today.

I will do what I can to push our own Finnish government from it's recent shameful record of seeking to undermine sanctions against Putin's company, and for us to join Nato, pay our proper share of its dues, and stand with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine in opposition to Putin's quest to use Russian populations of Russia's neighbors as tools and excuses for land grabs and war.
posted by Anything at 8:50 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]








Akhmetov is now backing a Mykhailo Dobkin presidential run as the PoR candidate. Pushing an open separatist as candidate isn't going to help bring down the temperature. It's quite surprising to me, I thought PoR and Russia were going to wind things down in the east somewhat but it looks like we're set for fairly inflammatory speeches and rabble rousing.
posted by jaduncan at 12:46 PM on March 30


Oh, and Ukraine are still resting making Russia an official second language. IMHO not very smart, unless they are planning to trade that chip. As it is, it combines rather unhelpfully with the PoR news; there's probably quite a lot of mileage in speeches pointing out the formal lack of equality.
posted by jaduncan at 12:48 PM on March 30


Arkady Ostrovksy: Crimea Diary.
posted by Kabanos at 6:59 PM on March 30


Any Americans here who might have any shred of clout towards the government, I urge you to let them know that you won't accept John Kerry signing up for this.

I wouldn't worry about that - the US's goal with Russia is to integrate it as a prosperous, progressive and peaceful member of the European community. This means it must be destroyed as a superpower with a global reach and regional hegemony.

The threats against Estonia and Moldavia, the threats of genocide against the Crimean Tartars - hand-wrapped gifts to the Americans with a bow on top. Pretty much everyone in Europe is on board with sanctions, now, even if it means another recession.

Even China, who huffs and puffs constantly that the Western powers should mind their own beeswax has come out as being studiously impartial - considering Russia is an economic and military rival who occupies a large chunk of traditionally Chinese turf, and now they have an opportunity to buy black market oil at a steeeeep discount - I think we know where they actually stand.

Russia relents, or they go through an economic armageddon that will make them nostalgic for the Yeltsin years.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:23 PM on March 30


The man measured me up, realized that I was a native Russian speaker—I was born and raised in Moscow—and told me, “It will be fine.”

“What do you mean?” I asked him. “I hear Yanukovych has fled, and things could get violent.”

“Never mind,” he answered. “Now that the Sochi [Olympics] is over, we will sort them out,” he said with a smile, which made me highly uncomfortable. He didn’t specify who “them” was—he didn’t have to.

I have met men like this before, while reporting about the KGB and its long post-Soviet afterlife in today’s Russia. But there was something particularly nasty about those two. They spoke softly, in half-jokes that gave you goose bumps.
It's very lucky for Ostrovksy that FSB men are so famously loose lipped and prone to telling their plans to strangers whilst twirling their moustaches. I always find the ability of foreign correspondents to bump into somewhat stereotypical splash-of-colour locals so inspiring.
posted by jaduncan at 12:49 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


> It's very lucky for Ostrovksy that FSB men are so famously loose lipped and prone to telling their plans to strangers whilst twirling their moustaches. I always find the ability of foreign correspondents to bump into somewhat stereotypical splash-of-colour locals so inspiring.

Sometimes rote MeFi snark really makes me tired. If you mean that you think he made the whole thing up, just say so. And if you think "men like this" don't exist, or are uniformly tight-lipped and unwilling to say things like that to someone they assume is sympathetic, I guess we'll have to disagree.
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


I'll be clearer. I do indeed think that part was made up or greatly embellished. I think men like that exist, but the people I have been around are a lot more tightly lipped than that.
posted by jaduncan at 9:11 AM on March 31


Chechens offer weary welcome to new Crimean compatriots - Thomas Grove
Many Chechens say Kadyrov is slowly changing people's historical memory, often of painful events that many say are central to their identity.

In 1944, when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin deported almost the entire Chechen population, Russians dug up Chechen tombstones and used them as building blocks in the construction of roads and bridges.

The tombstones were later dug up by separatist leaders to create a monument to the deportation victims in central Grozny.

Now opposite Kadyrov's modern skyscrapers and a mosque which he boasts is the biggest in Europe, the stones have been gathered once again, this time to build a monument to Chechen soldiers who fought with Russia in the second separatist war.

"Our leaders are changing the way people think about their past, their traditions. We're easier to manipulate that way," said Milana, a teacher at an elementary school in Grozny.

Crimean Tatars, who were also deported under Stalin, have voiced fears that they could face a similar fate back in Russia. Russian policies, they say, could chip away at the Tatars' identity by curtailing their language, culture and religion.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:21 AM on March 31


> I think men like that exist, but the people I have been around are a lot more tightly lipped than that.

Are you a reporter? Because reporters are really good at getting people to talk. (They're not so good at figuring out what they're told means, or whether it's even in the ballpark of true, but that's a different issue.)
posted by languagehat at 12:39 PM on March 31


from 2008: The Guardian: Folly of the progressive fairytale - "Russia – rich, nationalist and authoritarian – has made a mockery of our leaders' pretensions. The west is no longer in charge."
Nothing is more misguided than talk of a new cold war. What we are seeing is the end of the post cold war era, and a renewal of geopolitical conflicts of the sort that occurred during the late 19th century. Their minds befogged by fashionable nonsense about globalisation, western leaders believe liberal democracy is spreading unstoppably. The reality is continuing political diversity. Republics, empires, liberal and illiberal democracies, and a wide variety of authoritarian regimes will be with us for the foreseeable future.
...
Right-thinking bien-pensants in all parties believe Russia would be more amenable to western interests if only it were more truly democratic. But Putin is wildly popular precisely because he is asserting Russian power against the west; if he were more accountable to public opinion he might be harder to deal with. Democracy has numerous advantages, but it is no guarantee of a reasonable foreign policy.
...
The stakes are even higher in Ukraine. Deeply divided and with a major Russian naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, the new state will surely be torn apart if an attempt is made to wrench it from Russia's sphere of influence. The country would become a battlefield, with the great powers irresistibly drawn in. Playing with Wilsonian notions of self-determination in these conditions is courting disaster.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:08 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


From the Congressional Research Service: Russian Political, Economic, and
Security Issues and U.S. Interests (pdf).

posted by Kabanos at 2:15 PM on March 31


Comparing Putin to Hitler and the Sudetenland is a weak rhetorical stunt that seems only to see seeds for a war...

I did not like saying it (sudentanland II) but it has relevance in as much as Vlad pocketing up some causus bellis'. I do like the "see seeds" though. Do expand on the Israeli policy though. Are you thinking Golan Heights opps syria, the left or west bank?
(no need to reply brother just funnin)

do ya like he with go after the Uzbeks?
posted by clavdivs at 2:28 PM on March 31


Russia relents, or they go through an economic armageddon that will make them nostalgic for the Yeltsin years.
posted by Slap*Happy

and who worked for boris in the spook dept.....yeh. They won't relent.
posted by clavdivs at 2:34 PM on March 31


Sudetenland is a bad historic analog for the crisis in Ukraine. Czechoslovakia had a military alliance with France and Britian, which the allies chose to betray. Sudetenland was an industrial and commercial center critical to the independence of Czechoslovakia. The Munich Agreement ratified and rewarded Hitler's agression. Hitler immediately ignored the agreement and faced no consequences. The allies failed to reinforce Poland and were caught offgaurd when it fell. Not to mention that the United States played no role in the crisis as it was in the midst of an isolationist furvor.
posted by humanfont at 5:28 PM on March 31






NATO and Russia after Crimea: From Failed Socialization to Renewed Containment (pdf).

Tomáš Karásek argues that it is not Sudetenland/The Munich Agreement that is the best analogy for Russia's recent actions, but rather Hitler's remilitarization of Rhineland in 1936:
Like Hitler eighty years ago, Putin is deliberately testing the limits of the system and wishes to use the resulting chaos and confusion to his advantage. This does not make him a totalitarian dictator, but it does warrant labelling Russia as a revisionist power.
He argues that, somewhat similar to post-WWI Germany, "indecisive victories are followed by hesitant socialization of the defeated side which in turn resorts to revisionist policies in an effort to return to its ‘rightful’ position." In his view view the Soviet Union suffered only a 'soft defeat' which failed to completely uproot the constitutive ideas of the previous regime. And post victory, "Russia was never treated with the respect of a defeated but still great power," and was not properly "socialized" into the new system.

His solution is containment, in a resolute but not antagonistic way, and then integration. Sounds good, but easier said than done!
posted by Kabanos at 7:49 AM on April 1 [4 favorites]


Putin's Brain - Alexander Dugin and the Philosophy Behind Putin's Invasion of Crimea (By Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn)
After the 1917 October Revolution and the civil war that followed, two million anti-Bolshevik Russians fled the country. From Sofia to Berlin and then Paris, some of these exiled Russian intellectuals worked to create an alternative to the Bolshevik project. One of those alternatives eventually became the Eurasianist ideology. Proponents of this idea posited that Russia’s Westernizers and Bolsheviks were both wrong: Westernizers for believing that Russia was a (lagging) part of European civilization and calling for democratic development; Bolsheviks for presuming that the whole country needed restructuring through class confrontation and a global revolution of the working class. ...

In 1921, the exiled thinkers Georges Florovsky, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, Petr Savitskii, and Petr Suvchinsky published a collection of articles titled Exodus to the East, which marked the official birth of the Eurasianist ideology. The book was centered on the idea that Russia’s geography is its fate and that there is nothing any ruler can do to unbind himself from the necessities of securing his lands. Given Russia’s vastness, they believed, its leaders must think imperially, consuming and assimilating dangerous populations on every border. Meanwhile, they regarded any form of democracy, open economy, local governance, or secular freedom as highly dangerous and unacceptable.

In that sense, Eurasianists considered Peter the Great -- who tried to Europeanize Russia in the eighteenth century -- an enemy and a traitor. Instead, they looked with favor on Tatar-Mongol rule, between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, when Genghis Khan’s empire had taught Russians crucial lessons about building a strong, centralized state and pyramid-like system of submission and control.
...
His earliest claim to fame was a 1991 pamphlet, “The War of the Continents,” in which he described an ongoing geopolitical struggle between the two types of global powers: land powers, or “Eternal Rome,” which are based on the principles of statehood, communality, idealism, and the superiority of the common good, and civilizations of the sea, or “Eternal Carthage,” which are based on individualism, trade, and materialism. In Dugin’s understanding, “Eternal Carthage,” was historically embodied by Athenian democracy and the Dutch and British Empires. Now, it is represented by the United States. “Eternal Rome” is embodied by Russia.
Eurasian Youth Union
Eurasian Youth Union (Russian: Евразийский союз молодёжи; ESM) is a Russian political organization, the youth wing of the Eurasia Party headed by Aleksandr Dugin. The organization has branches in several countries. The Government of Ukraine has branded the ESM as an extremist, anti-Ukrainian organization, convicted of a string of vandalism offenses and banned it in Ukraine.[1]
...
“ Our Union has one absolute enemy. It is the USA. This is the beginning and the end of our hatred.[3] ”
...
The other attack on Ukrainian targets was in Moscow, where several of ESM members trashed an exhibition devoted to the Holodomor, a term referring to the Ukrainian portion of the Soviet famine of 1932-1933, which is believed in Ukraine to have been a Stalinist genocide targeting Ukrainians.[7] Due to the relatively high profile of these attacks the Ukrainian police asked for assistance from Russia in finding people responsible for them, but no suspects have been apprehended yet.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:07 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]


"Pure Satanism": Alexander Dugin on Postmodernity in Western Society (w/ English subs)
OR - we transition into a conservative revolution. But then we'd have to go all the way and say that the entire program of enlightenment, and not just its postmodern outgrowths - ALL of it - is fundamentally and profoundly mistaken as the true conservative believes. Everything in religion is in fact good, and we must move back to our system of values, consciously, consecutively and intelligently ... having thrown to the dogs the program of modernity. Having also disposed of all endless cliches about development and technology, about democracy, admitting that all of it is terribly mistaken.
...
It reveals not our foolishness, but the very fact that we still have something sane, something healthy within us. The very fact that we are sick with archeo-modernity means that we are healthy. That we haven't rotted away entirely like the western society which has squandered its archaic values and went the way of an artificial subjectivity ("modernity" and "postmodernity")...
Aleksandr Dugin: Pussy Riot's Global Blackmail
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:28 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Czechoslovakia had a military alliance with France and Britian, which the allies chose to betray.

yes they did and the czechs had one with....Stalin. no one was going to defend that landlocked area.
Now some could use the anschloss (sic sp) or the austria thing as an example because hitler said he would honor what the austrians voted on (annexation or no annexation) but he did not wait for that vote did he.

but rather Hitler's remilitarization of Rhineland in 1936:

oh yes it is good anaolgy to some degree but that was a big, big gamble which worked for adolph as he said later that the only time he had a fear about his expnasion was the rhineland. France could have wiped him out in a matter of weeks. Putin is not in the same weak postion to gamble.
posted by clavdivs at 10:39 AM on April 1


Ousted Yanukovych 'Joins' Putin Administration.

"The illegal coup in Kiev put an experienced professional on the street. We reserve the right to rectify this violation of Mr. Yanukovych's fundamental right to employment."

"Among the animals at his new Rublyovskoye residence will be pheasants, peacocks and at least one ostrich, the property department official said."

Sort of cute, but a little scary that it's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility.
posted by Kabanos at 12:35 PM on April 1






Anne Applebaum: The Unwisdom of Crowds

: Why people-powered revolutions are overrated

The post-revolutionary moment is often more important than the revolution itself, for this is when the emotion of the mob has to be channeled rapidly—immediately—into legitimate institutions.

… Lawyers and a legislative process are needed, not “people power.” [They] need time, not euphoria.

Ukraine may not get that time.

posted by Kabanos at 9:59 AM on April 2


Project Syndicate:
Yuriko Koike: Japan’s Russian Dilemma
For Japanese leaders and citizens, President Vladimir Putin’s brutal annexation of Crimea was an unsurprising return to the normal paradigm of Russian history. Indeed, most Japanese regard the move as having been determined by some expansionist gene in Russia’s political DNA, rather than by Putin himself or the specifics of the Ukraine crisis.

Japan is particularly concerned with Russian expansionism, because it is the only G-7 country that currently has a territorial dispute with Russia, which has occupied its Northern Territories since the waning days of World War II. That occupation began between August 28 and September 5, 1945, when the Soviet Union hurriedly nullified the existing Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Treaty and invaded not only Japanese-occupied Manchuria, but also southern Sakhalin Island and the ancient Japanese territories of Etorofu Island, Kunashiri Island, Shikotan Island, and the Habomai Islands
Ivan Krastev: Putin's World
The West is now living in Putin’s world. It is there not because Putin is right, or even because he is stronger, but because he is taking the initiative. Putin is “wild” while the West is “wary.” While European and American leaders recognize that the world order is undergoing a dramatic change, they cannot quite grasp it. They remain overwhelmed by Putin’s transformation from CEO of Russia, Inc., into an ideology-fueled national leader who will stop at nothing to restore his country’s influence.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:57 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]




Not that I totally buy the Eurasianist thesis, but it does seem that Russia should be looking East. If was autocrat/semi-autocrat of Russia, I'd move the capital to Vladivostok and triangulate the Japanese and the Chinese full time.

Like the Turkish leaders decamping to Anakara, moving East may ironically make a more modern-Western Russia. Or they can just more closely follow the Chinese model. But relitigating the 20th century in Europe probably isn't going to lead to a resurgent Russia.
posted by spaltavian at 6:27 AM on April 3




Not that I totally buy the Eurasianist thesis, but it does seem that Russia should be looking East. If was autocrat/semi-autocrat of Russia, I'd move the capital to Vladivostok and triangulate the Japanese and the Chinese full time.

Sergey Karaganov (of the "Karaganov Doctorine") and Igor Makarov agree that Russia should focus more of its attention toward the East. They have published two reports about this goal under the title Toward the Great Ocean. Part one was published in 2012. Part two was just presented last month. They maintain their original opinions, but concede there is still much to be done to accomplish the pivot Eastward.

The Valdai Club website, where I came across all this, is worth exploring and has a lot of well-written articles from the Russian perspective.
posted by Kabanos at 8:23 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Why National Honor Trumps Rationality

Funny that Turchin's example of an ideological meme is Cato the Elder’s "Carthage must be destroyed", when upthread we had mention of Dugin's characterization of the US (and the West) as “Eternal Carthage”!
posted by Kabanos at 10:43 AM on April 3




Heh, I had a very confused moment of absolute astonishment at the Russian Patriarch.

The world made sense again after a quick check of the title. :/
posted by jaduncan at 9:53 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Omnivore: The Russians are coming
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Kings of War is back, and has: Negotiations over Ukraine: Solution or Disillusion?
During the last week, Russia has been building a large military presence making US intelligence fearing the worst for a while. President Putin then phoned president Obama and arranged a meeting between Russian foreign ministers Lavrov and Kerry.

The buildup and the phone call was perfectly timed to raise the pressure and to instil a sense of urgency in the West for a negotiated solution. The West, of course, came running to the negotiations because that’s what the West does in conflict management, it is in the bone marrow.

However, in the name of far-sightedness I have to pose the question, what on earth would a agreeable negotiated solution look like with Russia and what does the West have to gain from it? The first question got a more straightforward answer than the second.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:43 PM on April 5


News feed is reporting more "pro-Russian" takeovers in eastern Ukraine... Anyone know more?
posted by curious nu at 2:31 PM on April 6


No news on takeovers, but from the BBC: Ukraine: Pro-Russians storm offices in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv

A more gentle article, and well worth reading: Ukraine's paper-shredding activists
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:28 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


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