World View: Henry Kissinger Says Vladimir Putin Wants a Way Out

This morning's key headlines from

  • Henry Kissinger says that Vladimir Putin wants a way out
  • Crimea's parliament votes to secede from Ukraine and join Russia
  • United States and European Union apply sanctions
  • India charges Kashmiri students with sedition for cheering Pakistan at cricket

Henry Kissinger says that Vladimir Putin wants a way out

Henry Kissinger is the most brilliant geopolitical analyst that I've seen in my lifetime, so what he says, even when counter-intuitive, is likely to be correct. He was interviewed on TV by Charlie Rose on Thursday, and said the following:

"No Russian I've ever met finds it easy, or even possible, to consider Ukraine a totally separate country. It was part of Russia for 300 years. The history of Russia and Ukraine have been intertwined for several hundred years before that. So the evolution of Ukraine is a matter that moves all Russians."

As I described yesterday, Russia is claiming that there are no Russian troops in Crimea, and that the Russian-speaking troop-like people are really local militias over which Russia has no control.

As I said, this is a blatant lie, as many reporters have spoken to Russian soldiers in Crimea who SAY that they're Russian soldiers. According to some estimates there are 16,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea.

Kissinger says that lying about the soldiers is cynical, but it's a good sign, because it provides a way for Russia to back down. Russia's president Vladimir Putin is going to suffer a major loss of prestige over the Ukraine crisis, no matter how it turns out, according to Kissinger, and Putin knows this. So far, Putin has done what he was forced to do. But now, since he's said that there are no Russian soldiers in Crimea, he doesn't have to issue a public order for the Russian soldiers to evacuate. Instead, he can just allow them to melt into the population. Although Putin will suffer some loss of prestige from this outcome, it's not as bad as other scenarios, according to Kissinger.

Kissinger also commented on Thursday's hour-long phone call between president Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Kissinger said that he's always advised presidents he's worked for not to talk to other heads of state, unless their staffs had done a lot of preparation in advance. "There's a danger when you put two egos together, and they talk unprepared. If they disagree about something, then to whom will they be able to appeal to get a resolution?"

Crimea's parliament votes to secede from Ukraine and join Russia

Just when everyone was hoping that events in Ukraine were beginning to settle down, they took a dangerous new turn early on Thursday when the Parliament of the Autonomous State of Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine and become part of Russia. There will be a referendum on March 16 with two questions:

  • Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia?
  • Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea in 1992, leaving it as part of Ukraine?
The question that receives more "yes" votes will be considered the "will of the people."

The interim government in Kiev immediately said the vote was unconstitutional, since regional governments can't vote to secede from the nation. According to acting president Oleksandr Turchynov:

"This will be a farce, this will be falsification, this will be a crime against the state, which was organized by the military of the Russian Federation."

Any attempt for Crimea to secede from Ukraine would be rejected by Kiev, and might trigger a violent confrontation between federal forces and regional forces, the latter supported by the Russians.

Most commentators are predicting that because of the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea, the choice to secede and join Russia will win the referendum. However, a BBC reporter in Sevastopol said on air that he'd spoken to a lot of ordinary people who said that they want Russia's protection, and they want Kiev to protect their rights, but they don't want to become part of Russia. He said that it's far from certain that the secession side will win the referendum. Kyiv Post

United States and European Union apply sanctions

The sanctions that the United States and the European Union imposed on Russia on Thursday were pretty meaningless. Certain meetings have been canceled, certain individuals won't be allowed to travel to certain places, and so forth. It was all pretty symbolic.

What's interesting is that an emergency European Union summit on Ukraine that had been going on for several days would have ended on Thursday with no sanctions imposed whatsoever, if it hadn't been for the Crimean Parliament vote for secession. Leaders of EU member nations that had rejected sanctions because they would just inflame the issue further changed their minds, and the talk of the secession referendum ended up galvanizing Europe's response. The symbolic sanctions were approved, along with a statement that said that trade sanctions would be employed if Russia escalated further. (No one seriously believes that the EU would ever apply trade sanctions to Russia, since Russia would retaliate, with devastating results to both sides.) CNN

India charges Kashmiri students with sedition for cheering Pakistan at cricket

A group of Kashmiri students in an Indian university were charged with sedition on Sunday when they cheered for Pakistan at a big Pakistan-India cricket match, and then celebrated when Pakistan won. The sedition charges, which might have resulted in 3-year prison terms, were dropped on Tuesday, but other charges of "disrupting communal harmony" and "causing damage to public property" are still being investigate. However, the students have all been suspended as a "precautionary measure" for their own safety, and have been sent home. The suspension affects all 67 students in the Kashmiri community, since no one was willing to identify the specific few students who had

The suspended students are saying that the damage to property was done by the Indian team supporters, who vandalized their rooms. These charges are not being investigated. Hindustan Times (India) and Tribune (Pakistan) and BBC

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