This weekend completed the invasion of the Crimea Peninsula by Russian forces, which Vladimir Putin described as necessary in order to protect ethnic Russians, who were at risk of discrimination by the new Ukrainian interim government.
While President Obama reportedly spent 90 minutes on the phone with the Russian president and Secretary of State John Kerry made the talk show tour on Sunday, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who some consider the most powerful woman on the globe, made concrete proposal to Putin. During the conversation, according to the Moscow Times, Putin agreed to a “Contact Group” under the auspices of the Organization of Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) to facilitate dialogue on the Crimea. There are 57 member countries in the OSCE.
During the phone call, Chancellor Merkel also accused Russia of violating the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, in which Russia committed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the Treaty on the Black Sea Fleet from 1997.
Putin replied that Russia’s actions to date had been “entirely appropriate,” as events in Ukraine had put the lives of Russian citizens and the Russian-speaking population in danger, a statement on the Kremlin website said. Moscow Times
Despite warnings by Western leaders and apparent solidarity among seven of the G8 members, Putin has basically ignored all pleas to respect the sovereignty of the Ukraine. The Russian parliament gave unrestricted authority to Putin to deploy troops inside the Ukraine.
Why Putin ignores the West
Josh Cohen a former US State Department official who manage economic reform projects in the former Soviet Union, published an opinion post in the Moscow Times that lays out four crucial points that were missed by the West. He predicts that Putin will seize Donetsk and Kharkiv in the Eastern Ukraine next.
First the Ukraine is the birthplace of Russian civilization and a close Slavic brother. An independent Ukraine aligned with the West is an anathema to Putin Cohen says. He states that this is best demonstrated by a conversation Putin had with former President George Bush in 2008.
“You don’t understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.”
How do you combat that kind of world view? Foreign Minister Lavrov also says that Russia has a right to take this action and that it is the West that is being strong handed and should think of the Ukrainians first. The West does not buy any of Putin’s arguments says Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, the West grossly underestimated Russia’s humiliation of NATO’s expansion toward the East and Russia’s borders. This expansion included East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Baltic States.
An alignment of the Ukraine with the West would make Russia just a regular country. As long as the Ukraine is within the Russian camp, Russia is still an empire, which an expansionist Russia was throughout history. Russia certainly does not want to be a regular country and for that reason it will always attempt to keep the Ukraine within its orbit.
Putin knows that there is little the US or NATO can do to stop Russia, neither can the Ukraine, whose Armed Forces lack the training or equipment. Essentially no one knows the loyalty of Ukraine’s military.
As outlined in a SOFREP report, Putin has economic and political leverage from influencing natural gas supply, Russia has a vested interest in maintaining close ties and influence in Ukraine and the Crimea in pursuit of regional security. According to experts, Ukraine is “central to Russia’s defensibility.
In addition to economic and political leverage from influencing natural gas supply, Russia has a vested interest in maintaining close ties and influence in Ukraine and the Crimea in pursuit of regional security. According to experts, Ukraine is “central to Russia’s defensibility. The two countries share a long border, and Moscow is located only some 480 kilometers (about 300 miles) from Ukrainian territory–a stretch of land that is flat, easily traversed, and thus difficult to defend. If some power were to block the Ukraine-Kazakh gap, Russia would be cut off from the Caucasus, its defensible southern border.”
To Putin and Russia the current events are a no brainer. The Ukraine is essential to Russia’s defence and Josh Cohen believes that by next weekend we may very well see Russian troops patrolling Donetsk and Kharkiv and that the won’t be leaving anytime soon.
Unfortunately there have been a lot of warnings by the West, without any real ammunition to do much of substance that may stop Putin. Angela Merkel appears to have yielded at least one positive result with the involvement of the OSCE. It would appear that the best result would be achieved with a direct dialogue between the Ukrainian government and Russia. Until then Putin will continue on this course, because he can.