With a power vacuum and what looks to be a long struggle to see who will rule in Kiev, the Associated Press reports today on the possibility of the Ukraine being split in two. Though supposedly ousted in a coup, President Viktor Yanukovych is still refusing to step down. His base of support is in the Russian-speaking-east and Yanukovych is calling for militias from that area to “uphold order.”
The country’s western regions, angered by corruption in Yanukovych’s government, want to be closer to the European Union and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities. Eastern Ukraine, which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output, favors closer ties with Russia and has largely supported the president. The three-month protest movement was prompted by the president’s decision to abort an agreement with the EU in favor of a deal with Moscow.
There is also the matter of outside forces. It is not just that the people of Eastern Ukraine feel closer to Russia. Russia also has more at stake than just history if Ukraine falls into the sphere of the European Union. Energy and industrial ties and a major Russian naval base are all in play. Not to mention Russia feeling Western creep and Putin’s fear of losing face and the loss of his grip on power that is sure to come with it.
To those familiar with Russian history, a warning/news article released by The Voice of Russia Saturday morning will sound more than a little ominous: “Moscow calls on Ukraine’s authorities to ensure safety for Russians and compatriots.”
Moscow calls on Ukraine’s authorities and forces attempting to control Kiev and western Ukrainian regions to ensure safety for Russians and compatriots, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Konstantin Dolgov, said on Saturday, commenting on the attack on a bus, which carried Belarusian tourists, in Ukraine’s Rovno region on February. The bus driver, a citizen of the Russian Federation, was seriously wounded in the attack.
In Soviet-speak that could reliably to be translated into “We are going to invade your country under a phony pretense.”
Other signs of a potential civil war that Putin will fight with either Russian troops or by proxy:
[I]n the east, centered on Kharkiv, the Moscow-backed Ukrainian Front that I informed you of three weeks ago, is arming the population and preparing for war.
And now the Russian Foreign Ministry has made its position clear in a new press release on its website – the new government in Kyiv is illegitimate and it’s the West’s fault. This is a remarkably rough diplomatic message. It cannot be construed as anything less than a threat to an independent Ukraine. The full text follows …
“About a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister S.V. Lavrov and the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France”
Putin’s defiance is bold and almost certainly will be backed up by action.
During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney described Putin as America’s top geopolitical foe in the world. Obama and his media mocked the Republican for his “80’s vision of foreign policy.”
What a difference reality makes.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC