Weighing in on the Crisis in Ukraine

The explosive regional divide in Ukraine between the pro-European Union west and the pro-Russian east and Crimean regions that caused Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country to Russia is only widening.

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Russia has pushed troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine, with the future possibility of either an indefinite presence or outright military invasion into Ukraine to restore Yanukovych to power.

Over the past week, as events in Ukraine have intensified, the 1World community hotly debated who was responsible for the growing tensions in East Ukraine, Odessa and Crimea. According to the 1World survey, 56% thought that Russia was provoking the tension, 30% thought the new government and their rush to create new legislations was at fault, 8% thought people in these regions are overreacting, and 6% said they didn’t know who was at fault.

Vladimir Putin and Russia play a major factor in the development of the Ukrainian unrest and a push for Crimean independence from Ukraine is much more likely with Russia’s visible presence. Ukraine heavyweight and resistance leader, Vitali Klitschko, has given orders to mobilize troops against Russia, but one of the warships has already defected to the Russian side.

The remnants of the Ukrainian Parliament have demanded that Yanukovych and other government officials stand trial for their part in the mass killings of the protesters, but Yanukovych has denounced the protestors under the protection of Putin.

In voting since March 1, among 1World voters responding to the question, “What you think about Russian troops entering Ukraine?”, 34% said it was the right decision, 62% said they opposed the war, and 4% said they didn’t care.

And, in the past three weeks of voting, 41 percent said they believe the unrest in Ukraine would escalate into civil war, while 59 percent said they thought it would be avoided.

Add your voice to the growing debate by voting here.

What does Russia have to gain from Crimean independence? The Crimean portion of Ukraine is hardly self-sufficient—most of its power and food come from the mainland and the region gets very little rainfall, which essentially makes the region a negative asset. A bid for Crimean independence would make certain that Crimea would ultimately fail and quite possibly annex to Russia.

Since Feb. 24, based on more than 2,700 votes, 68 percent of 1World voters said they Crimea remain a part of Ukraine, while a quarter say the region should separate with the change of government. Five percent said they didn’t know, and 2 percent said they didn’t care.

See the map for a look at how voters in Russia and Eastern Europe voted on the issue:

1World Crimea vote map1

1World Crimea map close

If Russia pushes further into Ukraine, it will only be to see how far they can go before any direct action is taken. Putin may be aggressive, but he is also smart, and he knows that none of the superpowers wants to begin a full-fledged military conflict. Unfortunately, Putin has a better poker face than the rest of the table at the G8.

After President Obama has failed to enforce multiple political ‘red lines’ in situations like Syria, the bark of the G8’s top dog has proven to be much worse than its bite. To top it off, United States troop morale is quite low after the deterioration of the political situation in Iraq, and the troops shuffling home from a long tour in Afghanistan probably weren’t looking forward to another urban warfare redeployment.

Regardless, someone needs to do something or we may face an age of neo-imperialism. If Russia manages to successfully annex Crimea without repercussion, it will bolster other nations to solve their territorial disputes without global oversight.

 

About the Author

Chris Wawra is currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2011 with a degree in Anthropology and is currently working as Content Manager for 1WorldOnline. Chris also enjoys mountain biking, dance, and other fitness activities.

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3 Comments

  1. Russia needs, but has very limited, year-round access to the oceans, much of which is only available to them through the Black Sea (which doesn’t freeze up all winter). For this reason, they simply cannot afford to lose what amounts to effective control over the Crimean Independent Region, because they desperately need to control their continued free access to the Black Sea ports there, particularly Sevastopol, their major naval and merchant marine base, located in Crimea. They are forced to do this for good military and geopolitical reasons that will not change. The Crimea Independent Region knows this, as does the Ukrainian leadership. If they really push the issue, Russia will HAVE to respond strongly, probably militarily, and Crimea is in a position to go either way. However, half their population is ethnically and linguistically Russian, and they would likely side with Russia. In addition, the military naval units there are more likely to declare for Russia (as one ship apparently just did) because the Russians are the ones who trained and equipped those units, and Russia is far more financially able to continue supporting naval and maritime units (including the port cities/bases themselves) than is the Ukraine. Thus, the most likely outcome of further pushing, is probably that the Crimea, which is already an independent state within Ukraine, would declare their total independence from Ukraine, and become an independent country, but an ally of Russia, continuing the maritime and naval relationships they already have with Russia, more or less intact. This would superficially please all concerned, and would be an easily accepted sop for the EU and the USA, and it would be easy for Russia to justify military intervention in order to “Save the Russian citizens and ethnic Russians living there.” Since that is the easiest solution that would let everyone but Ukrainian “radicals” save face, it is probably the most likely outcome. At this point, Putin knows he can simply sit back and wait for everyone to realize it, and the longer he appears to avoid further, especially military, intervention, the better he will look to the world. The only thing likely to upset the applecart at this point, would be some kind of unpredictable border incident, especially a shooting incident with either Ukrainian or Russian troop casualties (or both), which could force everyone into a more widespread military confrontation. If that occurs, Putin will certainly blame the incident on “hot-headed radical elements within the Ukrainian military,” and use it to justify moving in militarily with just enough force to “help the Crimea achieve its desired independence,” using the need to protect Russians living in Crimea as an over-riding humanitarian rationale. He still comes out of it looking like a good, strong, but morally decent and justified, international leader, who is just helping prevent genocide and the subjugation of Crimeans, who “are just seeking their independence on the world stage.” Amazing, huh? How does the USA fit in here? We don’t. We don’t count.

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