World View: Russia Declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea

This morning's key headlines from
  • Russia declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
  • Strategic consequences of Russia's conquest of Crimea
  • North Korea fires short-range missiles into the sea

Russia declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea

It appears that Russia has taken control of Crimea without firing a shot and is referring to it as the "Autonomous Republic of Crimea," presumably with the intention of making it a puppet state of Moscow.

Ukraine's government in Kiev is only a few days old and seems to be in disarray. So far, it's avoiding any strong military overreaction that would provide Russia with an excuse for a further military invasion, perhaps into eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea. However, the government warned Sunday it was on the brink of disaster and called up military reservists to counter Russia's threat to Ukraine.

Russia has appointed Sergey Aksyonov to prime minister of Crimea, and on Sunday he announced:

I believe that this day will go down in history of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as the day that all law enforcement agencies were established in the autonomy. We will prove that the Crimeans are capable of protecting themselves and ensure the safety and freedom of our citizens.


Today the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is formed as an independent, integral public authority. I am sure that all of us will prove that we did not just come into power and that we can give Crimeans what they expect from us.

We will never see 'Maidan' with their black smoke and burned tires here. I responsibly promise that Crimea by May will be calm, quiet, friendly. People of all nationalities will live here happily.

This last paragraph is actually pretty funny. Aksyonov has absolutely no clue whether Crimea will be "calm, quiet, friendly." No national leader at any time or place in history can be sure of avoiding widespread anti-government demonstrations that might result in "black smoke and burned tires." A government can use violence and torture to suppress demonstrations for a time, but even that doesn't always work (as we see every day in Syria). Sooner or later the pressure cooker explodes.

As I've written dozens of times, it's a basic principle of Generational Dynamics that even in a dictatorship, major policies and events are determined by masses of people, entire generations of people, and not by politicians. What politicians say or do is irrelevant, except insofar as their actions reflect the attitudes of the people that they represent, and so politicians can neither cause nor prevent the great events of history. So Aksyonov's claims are totally meaningless.

There have been many comparisons of today's situation in Ukraine to Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, when Russia annexed two Georgian provinces in much the same way that Russia is now annexing Crimea.

But there was something noteworthy about the Georgian war that rarely gets mentioned. Here's what I wrote in "Moscow Times: 'Russia Adds 2 New Countries to Its Map'" in 2008:

What's become clear in these three weeks is that there isn't much visceral hatred between Georgians and Russians. The Georgians are furious that the Russians are occupying Georgian territory, but there's no genocidal fury between these two ethnic groups.

What's also become clear, however, is that there is plenty of genocidal fury between Georgians and Ossetians. These two ethnic groups really hate each other, and either of them would gladly exterminate the other.

Those relationships turned out to be the deciding factors in what followed after the war ended. Russia and Georgia, both Orthodox Christian nations, have gotten along pretty well since then, while Muslim South Ossetia effectively joined North Ossetia to become part of Russia's North Caucasus provinces. North and South Ossetia get along well with Chechnya, Dagestan, and Russia's other North Caucasus provinces, even though the Muslim Caucasians as a whole and the ethnic Russians exhibit mutual vitriolic hatred almost on a daily basis.

Likewise, the future of Ukraine is going to be determined by the relationships between the ethnic groups. There have been signs of hatred between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians at the government level. The new Kiev government voted to ban Russian as an official language in the country, while the government in Moscow has been referring to the Kiev government as "Nazis." But so far, I have not discerned a great deal of hatred at the level of ordinary Ukrainians and Russians (though it's early and it may simply not have shown itself yet).

If there were only ethnic Russians and a few ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea, then the hopes and dreams of Aksyonov for a "calm, quiet, friendly" future might actually have a chance. But that's not what you have.

You have two million ethnic Russians and 300,000 Muslim ethnic Tatars living in Crimea. Russia's dictator Josef Stalin in 1944 deported 200,000 Tatars from Crimea, where they had lived for centuries, to central Asia, accusing them of collaborating with the Nazis. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that the Tatars returned in large numbers to Crimea, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence. The Tatars are scared to death of being under the control of the Russians again, and so they're aligning themselves with the government in Kiev. And the references in Moscow to "Nazis" in Ukraine strike a very deep chord in the Tatar psyche. There is no way that this relationship is going to be "calm, quiet and friendly." Russia Today and AFP

Strategic consequences of Russia's conquest of Crimea

One website reader (BronxZionist) has kindly provided a list of some of the possible strategic consequences of the Russian conquest of Crimea:

  • Putin won't be satisfied with just the Crimea and will also take the Ukrainian portion of the Donbas.
  • 300,000 Crimean Tatars will become refugees. Or perhaps they will just "radicalize" and join the jihad going on in the Caucasus.
  • 500,000 Ukrainians in Crimea will become refugees, putting a burden on Ukraine and the EU at a wonderfully wrong moment.
  • The above two will be aggravated if Putin seizes the Donbas [Ukraine's large easternmost province, bordering on Russia] as well, along with the Russians who will be under great pressure to abandon homes in Ukraine.
  • [Russia's president Vladimir] Putin will see there is nothing to hinder him in making demands in regards to Transnistria [in Moldova, along Ukraine's western border, another breakaway province occupied by Russian troops], whether it be recognition of its independence or outright annexation. That will of course further degrade the defensive situation in the rump of Ukraine.
  • Putin will see there is nothing to hinder him in whatever other demands he wishes to make in expanding his Eurasian Union, effectively recreating the Russian Empire. Or is that the Soviet Union?
  • The U.S. and U.K. will lose considerable diplomatic "face" over the Budapest Memorandum, much as the U.K. and France looked stupid and found themselves "forced" to declare war after the dissolution of Czechoslavakia and declaration of war on Poland in 1938 and 1939.
  • The fallout from that will be even more severe when it comes to getting countries to give up their WMD in exchange for "guarantees". That will go down especially well in Syria, which of course Putin will be in an even better position to supply.
  • The EU will lose standing for not bailing Ukraine out.
  • NATO will lose standing, particularly with the former Warsaw Pact countries, and more with the Baltic states who have Russian minorities to deal with.
  • Putin will gain a major victory overall, making it much easier for him to promise help to others who see that no one will stand up to him.
  • China will note the utter lack of resolve on the part of the U.S. and advance its claims in the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands.

North Korea fires short-range missiles into the sea

North Korea fired two short-range Scud missiles into the sea off its east coast Monday, with a range of 500 km. This was the second such launch recently. On Thursday, North Korea fired four Scud missiles from the same area. According to South Korea's Defense Ministry, the missile firings are a reaction to the annual South Korean/U.S. joint military exercises, and they're a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban use of ballistic missile technology. According to a South Korean spokesman:

"North Korea is taking a two-faced approach, showing the reconciliatory peace gesture on the surface, while launching provocations on the other hand," the spokesman said in a briefing. "We sound a serious warning to North Korea, urging it to stop provocations.


In light of the border trespassing and short-range missile launches, South Korean and U.S. forces have stepped up their surveillance status to closely watch the North Korean military's latest moves. We are ready to strike back if provoked."

A North Korean statement blamed the U.S.:

The United States is stepping up military provocations, going against the tide of peace and eased tension on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. does not welcome improved inter-Korean ties and is conducting all forms of maneuvers to intensify confrontations between the two Koreas.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. Yonhap (Seoul)

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