The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Scenarios for Ukraine’s Future

With the new Ukrainian government taking charge, the Crimea warning that it may leave the Ukraine and that it does not recognize the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government, and the new government asking the West and the IMF for aid in paying 17 billion dollars of debts it’s worth considering what the future may hold.

Largely Peaceful Partition

The Crimea was given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954.  The majority of the population is Russian, and it is already an autonomous region.  The Speaker of Parliament has spoken of the possibility of leaving Ukraine.  One suspects that if it does, it will quickly be reabsorbed back into Russia.  There are many in Crimea who don’t want this, including the Crimean Tatars and a Ukranian speaking minority, but they are the minority.

Civil War

On the other hand, Kiev may not be willing to let Crimea go.  The armed forces have pledged their loyalty to the new order.

Russian Intervention

Russia has been very generous with passports to people of Russian extraction.  They could easily use the same justification they did for their war with Georgia (protecting our citizens) and intervene to enable the partition.  Ukraine’s army may be less of a joke than Georgia’s, but if NATO doesn’t intervene, the outcome isn’t really in doubt.  This intervention could just be for the Crimea, or Russia might want to peel off the parts of eastern Ukraine in which the population still mostly speaks Russian and supports Russia.  From a strategic point of view, Russia needs room on its western border in case of any war.  Ukraine holding all its current territory and essentially or actually part of NATO is simply not acceptable.

The Long Game

Why bother intervening?  Let the rebels have their day, and their government. Let them get their money from the EU and from the IMF.  That money will come with conditions, those conditions will be “reform”, and reform, these days, never means good things for ordinary people.  The economy may improve briefly, but it will not improve in the long run.

Ukrainians admire and envy Poland’s success and believe that if only they were facing West rather than East, that would  be them, but they are two very different countries.  Poland has very low levels of inequality, Ukraine has some of the highest inequality in the world and an economy controlled by rich and powerful oligarchs.  Europe loves oligarchs, so does the US and the IMF, and the oligarchs removed their support from the old government.  The West isn’t going to allow the new government to take away the oligarchs money, power and control over the Ukrainian economy.

Ukraine can try to run a housing bubble for as long as the West is willing to give them free money, but they will not gain long-term prosperity from integration with the EU.  Their fate is more likely to be Greece, or Spain, or Portugal, than it is to be Poland.

Russia won’t give up Sevastapol.  But if an agreement is reached letting them keep using it, well, let the Ukrainians have their Europe centered government, for however long it lats. It  didn’t last long before, it probably won’t this time.

Most of this is a guessing game about what Putin is thinking, because the decision is his.  The Crimea won’t declare independence if they don’t know for sure that Russia has their back, and obviously the decision to intervene militarily is Putin’s.  The West may be willing to help the Ukrainians with money, with weapons, and so on, but they aren’t going to get into a direct war with Russia over it.

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A Few Words on the Ukraine


The Golden Rule: Why Bankers Are In Charge


  1. markfromireland

    Russia won’t give up Sevastapol. But if an agreement is reached letting them keep using it, well, let the Ukrainians have their Europe centered government, for however long it lats. It didn’t last long before, it probably won’t this time.

    Sevastopol is in the Crimea which as you point out above they’re likely to fight to keep. I don’t see them entering into any negotiations about the Crimea. I suppose it’s possible that they might negotiate, and it’s just about possible so long as you believe in covering every conceivable option that they might negotiate over Odessa1. But Sevastopol which is where the Black Sea Fleet is headquartered as well as being its home port? I don’t see it particularly as the Ukranian fleet is homed there.

    They might be more likely to negotiate about Odessa but frankly I don’t see why the hell they should and more importantly neither do any of my Russian contacts. All of whom are seething. Putin is a nationalist I don’t see him taking this lying down. He also by all accounts believes strongly in the concept of retribution.

    General Point:

    Westerners talk about the Ukraine being split along ethnic lines this is NOT how the Russians see it. Russians divide the place up by cultural affiliation so from a Russian POV a rational split of the Ukraine as a whole would give them around 2/3 (Russian-speaking). Russian at a guess (from what I’ve seen) accounts for between 2/3 of all media, education and business use.



    1 Odessa also has special status for the BSF but it’s Sevastopol that’s key. Odessa is a vital economic hub rather than a military although the military facilities are important and designed in such a way that they can easily be expanded. It’s important when discussing Odessa to realise that there are actually three ports. There’s the Port of Odessa itself. Then there’s the oil terminal facilities at Port Yuzhne finally there’s Port Illichivsk which is a bit to the South West.

    Minor proofing correction: “for however long it lats” should be for “however long it lasts“.

  2. markfromireland

    @ Peter Hoffman February 24, 2014

    If you go here:

    You’ll see that Kiev city hall has a lovely big poster of Stephan Bandera the Nazi collaborator who organised the genocide in the Ukraine under German auspices of Jews and Poles. The blue and yellow posters to either side are of Svoboda the Ukrainian fascist party.


  3. markfromireland

    Final point anent American involvement in all of this – the US has spent US$5 Billion according to Victoria Nuland – the American official coordinating the current American attempt to replace the Ukrainian government with its henchmen (see: and see also: ). This is not new. Far from it, this is merely the end-game of a consistent American effort to hive off the Ukraine from Russia that began under Zbigniew Brzezinski who was Carter’s National Security Advisor .

    In other words America has been chipping away at the Ukraine since 1977. Writing in 1997 in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives (Amazon page for it is here: and it is IMO required reading) Brzezinski acknowledged this policy and explained the rationale which was that with the Ukraine Russia was an empire and to deny Russia imperial status all you needed to do was to force it to relinquish control of the Ukraine. To eliminate Russia as a threat to American hegemony you need to hive of The Ukraine and use it as a forward post against Russian resurgence.

    This is why the Americans have been exerting massive pressure on the European Commission and on European governments to bring the Ukraine into the North American/North Western European economic sphere. With the UKraine in the “Western” camp they can stymie Russian efforts to drag the Baltic Republics back into orbit around Russia. Without it that becomes far more difficult.

    Last point: A side issue but an important one to those of us who care about human rights. It hasn’t escaped anybody’s attention in Russia that many of these American officials are Jewish. Furthermore there are numerous reports circulating in Russia that Israeli ‘advisers’ were heavily involved in orchestrating this operation on the ground. In the Ukraine itself with its long history of vicious anti-Semitism the country’s Chief Rabbi has advised Kiev’s Jewish population to flee. If they do their choices are Israel or Russia. Either way expect life for Ukrainian and Russian Jews to become a lot harder.


  4. markfromireland

    Sorry proofing your own stuff is always a bad idea, for: “I don’t see it particularly as the Ukranian fleet is homed there” above please read:

    “I don’t see it particularly as the Ukranian fleet is also homed there”.

    The BSF isn’t keen on this arrangement for obvious reasons and the agreement was negotiated at a time when Russia was in a state of collapse. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Ukranian fleet was told to up anchor and get to hell out. The calculation being that they’ll be easy to track and sink anyway so why have them cluttering up what should be all-Russian facilities.


  5. Peter Hofmann

    Re Sewastpol – Russia has a valid treaty until 2042. No negotiations required.

  6. markfromireland

    Even fewer required if they simply seize the place and kick the Ukranian Navy out. Do you really think given the severe provocations they’ve experienced in the last few decades that they’ll waste even a picosecond on that treaty’s provisions?


  7. Peter Hofmann

    markfromireland: yes, they will. Unless they see a deathly threat, they don’t react to provocations in an emotional way.

  8. Peter Hofmann

    The olympic circle proved their sovereignty.

  9. Peter Hofmann

    the new face of capitalism

  10. markfromireland

    @ Peter Hofmann February 24, 2014 Except Peter that every single Russian officer I know whether they’re on the active or retired list and irrespective of rank or branch of service regards the Ukraine as:

    1: An intrinsic part of Russia.
    2: “A dagger pointed directly at Russia’s heart” – to quote one of the coldest and most calculating men I’ve ever met.

    You might sometimes get some of them to admit very reluctantly that Lviv is a Polish city to this day and that as it’s more trouble than it’s worth it might be just as well to get rid of the place and its environs. But the rest of the Ukraine? Nope.

    The olympic circle proved their sovereignty.

    How, exactly?

    the new face of capitalism



  11. I think—and I am not quite sure of this yet—that the Ukrainian natural gas industry and pipelines are too important to Russia and the EU for Ukraine to be allowed independence, and the topic might be better something like “The Intersection of Spheres of Influence: Ukraine.”

  12. Celsius 233

    An interesting interview with Prof. (ret) Stephen Cohen over at Electric Politics (George Kenney)

    Prof. Cohen’s been getting a lot of attention this last couple of weeks.

  13. markfromireland

    @ The Raven February 25, 2014 Good point – thank you.


  14. amspirnational

    Does Ukraine have a more problematic history with the rabbinical community than Russia per se? (I will not call it “anti-Semitism” unless it be conceded that rabbinicism has been anti-Host, since the Diaspora. Particularly when Israel makes hay of the term to steal more land.)

  15. mick

    “expect life for Ukrainian and Russian Jews to become a lot harder.”

    Not for SOME apparently. Our instigators behind this regime change operation Nuland Kagan & Pyatt are all prominent members of the tribe as are their local clients Tymoshenko and “Yats”.

    They aren´t going nowhere. Tymoshenko where just sitting comfortably among the Bandera Nazis yesterday, the little weasel “Yats” iks sculking around among his storm troopers and Nuland is on her way back to declare “mission accomplished”.

    If i where a member of a religious or tribal oriented or whatever, minority in Ukraine i would not be concerned so much about the Nazi freaks as my self proclaimed representatives…

  16. Jerome Armstrong

    The best scenario is for the oligarchs to be forced to become equalized, Ukraine to default on its debts, and start over with a transparent and clean government.

  17. Jerome Armstrong

    Amy Goodman had an informative interview a couple of days ago on Ukraine, the transcript, especially in regards to the role of the Right Sector, Timothy Snider’s remarks put their role in perspective:

    Klitschko, and Punch, are probably still the most likely leadership to come out of this. And a scenario of reform along the line of PIIGS is probably in line, but that’s obviously not the best outcome.

  18. neil

    nice analysis but you’re forgetting that russia has china and the middle east in its pockets

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