Beyond the Cusp

March 26, 2014

The Unspoken Winners in the Ukraine and Crimea

The news is loaded with claims, depending on your sources, that the Ukraine was robbed of land and their main naval port, the Crimean citizens were denied a fair vote, the United States has lost all credibility, and Russia is facing debilitating sanctions. None of these reported truths are quite as valid as they are being represented. Let’s take each in turn starting with the United States. President Obama did not lose any credibility from the events in the Ukraine and Crimea as he had none to lose. Russian President Putin would not have moved to take the Crimean Peninsula if he thought there was any possibility it would have caused a military faceoff with the United States as both sides are fully aware that such a situation does not serve either nations’ future. The fact that Putin waited until well into President Obama’s second term and after watching Obama’s total lack of gravitas and credibility starting with his leading from behind in Libya through the waffling on every change of direction and presidents in Egypt, the disaster in Benghazi of the assassination of the American Ambassador and three other American citizens, through to the timid, feckless and insipid enforcement and the retrenching backing off of his Red Lines repeatedly concerning Syrian Dictator Bashir Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Putin likely concluded after pwning President Obama, having to school him on what it takes to be a world leader, over the continuing disaster where the world witnessed the shrinking of an American President as Obama was unable to hold his position against Assad appearing beyond simply weak as he displayed a complete lack of backbone, pride or self-confidence despite being Commander in Chief over the most powerful military force possibly in the history of the world. The United States was simply once again confirmed that its President was all promises and no delivery, something which had been displayed and proven repeatedly to such an extent that of the promise used by President Obama as his original campaign slogan of “Hope and Change” had been proven to be Hopeless Change which had compromised the credibility of the United States for as long as President Obama occupies the White House. After that, well, we will need to see who wins the Presidency in 2016 and take the measure of the next American President.


Putin sending Russian troops into the Crimean Peninsula was a no brainer. The Crimean Peninsula was populated largely by Russians who had been injected by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as a means to pacify the area including the Ukraine. Russian President Putin was claiming an area which was more Russian than it was Ukrainian in attitude and majority population. The revolt which removed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was perceived correctly by Russian President Putin as a move against a strong ally of Russia and the loss of an exclusive trading partner. Even that was not sufficient motivation but was a mitigating factor which may have tipped the scales in addition to the threat the coup in the Ukraine possibly posed to the Russian sole warm water port in Sevastopol located in southern Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. Russia also was fully aware, as should have other nations with an emphasis on the United States Administration, but their being clueless on any foreign policy matter is completely unsurprising, that under a treaty between Russia and both Crimea and the Ukraine they had legal rights to protect their access to the Sevastopol port using military forces and even setting up bases and using existing facilities if the need presented itself. Further, it is actually credible that the semi-autonomous Crimean governance had requested Russian intervention as they may have felt threatened by the change of government from a pro-Russian and friendly to the majority Russian population in Crimean populace to a Western leaning government which desired a complete break from Russia and was expected to present a problematic future for the residents of the Crimea. The final reason that Russia had little to fear from the Western nations mainly due to once they had taken complete and militarily uncontestable control of the entire Crimean Peninsula that there would be little Western nations could do to pursue removing the Russian presence. The possibility that any European nation would risk jeopardizing their gas supplies which the Russians could easily have reduced or completely cut off was absolutely nil. This was enforced even further by the fact that since World War II most European nations have cut their military forces back to the point where they are nothing more than an internal security force capable of handling many potential emergencies which are completely contained within their borders or to send small forces to troublesome hot spots, as the French did with Mali and the Central African Republic, thus were unlikely to enter any confrontation with the Russians over the Crimea. Russia held all the cards and as long as Russian President Putin remains satisfied with annexing the Crimean Peninsula and goes no further in reconstituting the former Soviet sphere of influence, then this entire affair should blow over and the current status quo will become the new normal.


The Crimean population also has gained exactly what they likely desired as soon as their man in Kiev was removed and anti-Russian-pro-Western influences took control in Kiev. They feel more secure as a Russian province and, as noted above, as long as Russians simply settle for annexing the Crimean Peninsula then there will likely be no further problems. The primary immediate unresolved situation would be concerning the use of the port at Sevastopol by the Ukrainian navy going forward. This should be worked out between the Russians and the new leaders in the Ukraine after their upcoming elections. As long as President Putin permits the Ukrainian Navy use of the port as stipulated in the agreement by which both nations had previously shared the port, then this should not become an issue. Still, it might be prudent to watch this and lend any assistance necessary to extend the provisions of that treaty into the future. The Ukraine also gained something because with the predominantly Russian aligned population of Crimea no longer voting in Ukrainian elections, the possibility of another pro-Russian President being elected to sit at the top of the government in Kiev has become remote. This allows the Ukrainian pro-Western political forces to now have the majority they desired and as long as the path to open relations with the European Union is not impinged by the Russians, then they should realize their ambitions. The question remains as to whether they will also seek at least acceptance of relations with Russia and the two sides can work to resolve any future problems. That begs the question as to what might rear itself and challenge the hope for a peaceful coexistence between the Russians and the new Ukrainian governance.


The one item which could pose a threat to peaceable relations would be the two main natural gas pipelines which pass through the Ukraine on into Europe which also provide much of the Ukrainian energy supplies. Russia could cut off or minimize the flow of natural gas through these pipelines restricting the flow to the two more northern pipelines which do not pass through the Ukraine. Such a move might have further ramifications during winter months should European demand be greater than what the northern pipelines are capable of supplying. Needless to point out but should Russia disable the pipelines which transverse the Ukraine then the Ukraine would need to find an alternative supplier of natural gas or other compatible fuels. The best hopes would be for the Russians and the future leaders of the Ukraine to meet at the earliest possible time and work through the renormalization of relations and renegotiate or confirm the stipulations of current treaties and arrangements to their mutual satisfaction. Hopefully the fears that Russian President Putin is formulating plans by which to reassert Russian hegemony over the former Soviet Warsaw Pact nations in an effort to reverse the end of the Soviet Union are unfounded. These fears have some validity when one considers what Putin’s statement concerning that collapse where he stated, “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.” Responding to that possibility the Polish Government took the unprecedented step of calling up their reserve forces and placed them into an immediate training regimen as a preparation for what has to be the Polish government’s worst fears, a repeat, at least from the Russian side, of the events which triggered World War II. Let us all hope that the Polish reservists get to return home at the earliest possible moment and the driving trepidation which drove their call-up prove to be unnecessary and remain unfulfilled.


Beyond the Cusp


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.


    Comment by OyiaBrown — March 26, 2014 @ 5:02 AM | Reply

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