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Why is Crimea Such a Great Crisis? It Shouldn’t Be.

2014 March 20
by Ian Welsh

Really, I don’t understand why Crimea rejoining Russia is such a big deal.  While the referendum is dubious, it does seem that the majority of the population generally prefers to be part of Russia.  There have been almost zero casualties, and the Russian troops were mostly welcomed by the population.

Compare this to Kosovo, where there was ethnic cleansing on both sides, a major bombing campaign by the West which killed Serbs and so on. Or Iraq, or Libya, or Syria, or Chechnya, or South Sudan.  In all of those places there was a pile of violence, a lot of people died, got tortured, raped and lost their homes.  All of those, by any rational measure, are greater crises than Russia taking back a region which belonged to it for hundreds of years, whose population wants to go back.

Yes, yes, Munich, blah, blah.  Russia is not strong enough to start a conventional WWIII and win.  They are not insane enough to start a nuclear war.

The correct response to Crimea would be to say “well, it looks like they really do want to leave, they’re yours.”

If you don’t want Western Ukraine to go, then send in a NATO force and/or discuss formal partition of the Ukraine with the Western part immediately joining NATO. If you’re not willing to do that, then shut up.

This crisis is being made a crisis because of a hysterical over-reaction. The US and the EU thought they’d won this round, and moved the Ukraine back into their column. Putin didn’t accept that, and the West is freaking out over behaviour that is less egregious and killing far fewer people than wars that the US has been involved in for over a decade, and which is a cleaner break-off than Kosovo was.

As for setting a precedent, the precedent has been set already: in Kosovo, in South Sudan, in Eritrea and so on.  National borders are not inviolable if the population doesn’t want to stay in them, and can make their point militarily or has an ally who can make the point militarily.


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27 Responses
  1. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 20, 2014

    Why is Crimea Such a Great Crisis? It shouldn’t be. Ian

    Couldn’t agree more. This is about NATO (actually the U.S.) and its encirclement of Russia.
    It’s difficult (from an objective view) to fault Russia for resisting/objecting.
    As the old adage goes; put the shoe on the other foot. This is the west’s biggest failing; the inability to see from another perspective.
    But then, when their whole objective is to have a one sided vision, who can be surprised at the response?
    Putin is an astute player; he’s a master at this form of chess; and America is coming up very short…

  2. March 20, 2014

    There are at least two levels of response in The Free World (ha) to the Crimea Thing: on the one hand, hysteria and belligerence for public consumption; on the other, a more or less placid acknowledgement and acceptance of Russian national and security interest in re-claiming Crimea.

    The belligerence and hysteria for public consumption reaches absurdist levels in some of the statements out of Washington and London. Whether this is playing well with the groundlings, I don’t know. But the hysterics seem to be playing well enough in the CIS and RF — where Putin is seen as manfully standing up to these Bullies of the West and where his popularity is huge and growing.

    The relative quiet in Berlin in the telling factor.

  3. David Kowalski permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I can even make a case that the peaceful annexation of the Crimea is a good thing. Sadat could make peace after his armed forces made a decent showing in the 1973 war with Israel. After the breakup of the old Soviet Union and the loss of some of its influence on Eastern Europe, Russia can settle down into a peaceful relationship with the US and EU if they act adult about Crimea.

  4. March 20, 2014

    “While the referendum is dubious,” Dubious, you say? According to our government and media the referendum was a total sham and utterly illegal under international law.

    I guess they missed the part in the United Nations where its purpose in part is the right of people to “self determination.” Apparently we support that only when it is our soldiers guarding the self determination, because we didn’t have any problems with military oversight of elections in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  5. John permalink
    March 20, 2014

    The Crimea and the bad Russkis are also a better topic for the sheep than wealth inequality and global warming. Our corporate lords and master do know what is best for public consumption. Keep the rubes confused and its easy to keep on stealing.

  6. Dan H permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I think John’s got it. The axis around which our modernity spins… hacking at the branches instead of the root.

  7. David Kowalski permalink
    March 20, 2014

    John, I get much better response to climate change than to global warming. Every time it snows, people (and probably the oil companies) say global warming is a sham. Bad weather, on the other hand, works for snow, hurricanes and all the other immediate term problems. My brother is a smart guy but he listens to the “conservative” propaganda on TV and the radio. Global warming is a turn off. Climate change is a winner with him.

    I get the same response with other people. And this from somebody who was turned off by the chicken s*** name change from liberal to progressive. Climate change is not only easier to understand but it’s more accurate for the people living in the lower 48.

  8. Ken Hoop permalink
    March 20, 2014

    Hillary was practically as bellicose as Kristol on this one. Not that there’s much difference between a neolib and a neocon.

    Since I mention, Kristol, the neocons actually supported neolib hitting Serbia and helping
    Islam at the time. It was a tradeoff to lessen pressure on Israel, also the old animus against the
    Russian-Serbian Orthodox axis.
    Speaking of which in part, there is Putin’s aid for Christian Arabs via Assad’s friendly Baathist regime. If that wasn’t enough, Israeli leadership admitted it considers Assad/Hezbollah/Shia
    Iran a more dangerous enemy than militant Sunni jihad just now.
    Which kind of explains why Kristol and Michael Rubin and Max Boot are trying their best to reinvigorate the Cold War these past few days.

  9. 555-1234 permalink
    March 20, 2014

    Not that there’s much difference between a neolib and a neocon.

    Uh…”neoconservative” is a rebranding of “neoliberal”, which presumably originated because the frothing right-wing USian set consider “liberal” a cuss word.

  10. Ken Hoop permalink
    March 20, 2014

    Some of the crowd were Trotskyites early in their careers, when Vietnam rather than
    the Mideast was the focus. Used to call them “dawks.” Doves on Vietnam.

  11. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I would call this a must see video from Democracy Now;
    http://www.democracynow.org/2014/3/20/fmr_us_ambassador_behind_crimea_crisis?autostart=true

    Jack Matlock was the former ambassador to Moscow. This is very enlightening to say the least.
    America isn’t only playing a very dangerous game; they are playing a very stupid game.
    I swear, we have lost our sanity.

  12. March 21, 2014

    “This crisis is being made a crisis because of a hysterical over-reaction.”

    After watching some of the MSM news reports on this, it’s not hard to see how their slanted, pro-Western views on this are aiding some of that hysteria, mainly through omissions of facts rather than anything else.

  13. stirling permalink
    March 21, 2014

    people victim

  14. March 21, 2014

    Re: Jack Matlock:

    He has a highly nuanced view of what is going on, as you can imagine. He is not down with the actions and propaganda flourishes of either the US/EU or Russia, but he seems quite a bit more incensed about Russian behavior and propaganda in this instance than he is about the EU/US, in part because Russia has actually taken territory whereas the EU/US hasn’t. Not yet anyway.

    Matlock for the WaPo: The U.S. has treated Russia like a loser since the end of the Cold War.

    Matlock’s blog: Here & Now

    Also check out Jack Goldstone whose work on 4th Generation Revolution was apparently very popular on the Maidan.

    Goldstone’s blog: New Population Bomb

  15. March 21, 2014

    And I agree, the people of Ukraine are the victims of these power plays.

  16. scruff permalink
    March 21, 2014

    As I pulled my car up at home today, and I heard on NPR about how France had offered to sell fighter jets to Eastern European countries to help bolster NATO power in the face of Russia’s recent actions, it occurred to me that I might be making the mistake of thinking that this hysterical over-reaction is strategic rather than genuine. Is it possible that the “we are always right and honorable” American exceptionalism of the Obama administration (et al) is actually their true perspective?

  17. March 21, 2014

    scruff:

    …Is it possible that the “we are always right and honorable” American exceptionalism of the Obama administration (et al) is actually their true perspective?

    Personally, I think America is now just clapping harder.

  18. March 21, 2014

    Crimea is a “crisis” because the US is probing the ground to see if it can’t replace Russia as western Europe’s main source of natural gas. The idea is that if Russia can be coerced into embargoing western Europe, then the US steps in with new supplies of fracked natural gas.

  19. David Kowalski permalink
    March 22, 2014

    Russia has a long history of dealing with different ethnic groups. The name Russia came from Viking traders who were working in the area, establishing towns as trading posts, etc. The tatars are from tartars and are descendants of the mongols who conquered Russia in the early 1200’s. Tartary is another word for China. Peter the great hired German craftsmen and engineers to help him modernize Russia. They settled on the Volga and voila, we had the Volga Germans.

    Culturally, Russia is Orthodox rather than Catholic or Protestant because it was Christianized by the Byzantines. Most of its people are European but most of its land mass is Asian. The ‘stans, unlike the Ukraine, are probably safe because of their large Moslem populations. They not only don’t fit in but are more of a threat inside Russia than outside it.

    Crimea is mainly a crisis because some people see it as the first step in the resurgence of a revitalized Russian empire. That’s far from clear.

  20. March 23, 2014

    It’s shocking, indeed, that fascists have come into a European government, with the encouragement of US and Western European leaders. (If radical leftists had been in the vanguard in the maidan, Yanukovych would have been America’s “democratic” hero.)
    Also shocking is cluelessness fact that Russia would not be good with that, or with the loss of its only warm-water port.
    US foreign policy since the fall of the Soviet Union has been contemptuous of Russia. From Bush I through Obama, the US has pushed NATO to Russia’s borders, and moved to station “missile defenses” (designed to enable US first-strike capability) in Eastern Europe.—assuming Russia could do nothing about it.
    Well, today, in Crimea, Russia—which has every reason to reject the resurgent fascism at its door, and to suspect US/NATO plans for Ukraine and for its only warm-water port—can do something about it. It’s not something very nice, but nor is it a hundredth as destructive as what the United States has been doing, or certainly would do in the same circumstance.
    See detailed analysis of Ukraine events at: Charge of the Right Brigade:Ukraine and the Dynamics of Capitalist Insurrection

  21. markfromireland permalink
    March 23, 2014

    Ian,

    Why is Crimea Such a Great Crisis?

    A far more apposite question is:

    “For whom is Crimea a crisis?”

    mfi

  22. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 23, 2014

    Hmm, is Guantanamo America’s Crimea?
    The hypocrisy is stunning, as usual..

  23. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    March 24, 2014

    @ Celsius 233

    Short answer to simple question:

    No, Guantanamo is just one of America’s Gulags, hiding on Cuba, inaccessible to the reach of law.

  24. Celsius 233 permalink
    March 24, 2014

    @ T-Bear
    Yep, that’s a fact. I didn’t get it exactly right; it’s more like Guantanamo is Cuba’s Crimea.
    But your point is correct.

    But, another late-to-the-party-thought; all this hyperbolic shit coming from Washington isn’t for international consumption, but aimed squarely at the easily led, U.S. population.
    Putin must be (on the one hand, laughing his ass off) and on the other, not un-surprised at our unabashed double standard, also known as hypocrisy.
    I think he (Putin) also knows we’re pretty much “fucked” regarding anything resembling effective deterrence.
    The smart thing to do is obvious; but not apparent to hubristic tendencies…

  25. markfromireland permalink
    March 24, 2014

    @ Celsius 233 March 23, 2014

    The hypocrisy is stunning, as usual..

    So what? International politics – or “International Power Politics” if you prefer that phrase is amoral. Note the distinction please I said amoral not immoral. I suggest to you that your reaction to all that stuff about human rights, principles, democracy, and so on no matter who spouts it should be the same as Samuel Langhorne Clemens when faced with a politician talking about his honour:

    The more he talked of his honour, the more we counted the silver spoons.

    This is neither a good nor desirable state of affairs but given the nature of the beast it is realistic. I happen to agree with the late Robin Cook that a foreign policy should have an ethical dimension* or component:

    Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves.

    (you can read Cook’s full speech which is well worth it here)

    But I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. (As a side-note I got to know Robin Cook personally over a number of years and he was a howling shit. A very talented politician who did great good for his constituents and his country and who really did have ethical standards that he … sort of … tried to live up to, but in personal terms the man was a howling shit.) If you do read his speech I suggest you also read theMelian Dialogue.

    * He’s very often misquoted I’ve lost track of the number of times people have tried to tell me that Cook called for Britain to have an ‘ethical foreign policy’.

    mfi

  26. Ian Welsh permalink
    March 24, 2014

    People who do good, are often abominable people in person. It’s one of the reasons I keep emphasizing that whether you’d like to have a drink with someone is irrelevant.

  27. markfromireland permalink
    March 24, 2014

    No argument from me – it’s easier by far to accomplish evil if people like you personally.

    mfi

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