Events in Ukraine and Crimea are difficult for Americans to understand.
There are three books which help explain some of the historical and contemporary issues. Begin with Orlando Figes’sThe Crimean War, A History. One of the consequences of the Russian 1856 military defeat was that it halted the Russian expansion to the West and South and encouraged expansion to the East.
The second book is Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, Europe between Hitler and Stalin. The Yale scholar graphically describes what Stalin did to Ukraine in the 1930s and 1940s. He executed large numbers of land holders; he had a planned starvation of millions; and he deported several million to Siberia. In addition in Crimea he deported the entire Tartar nation to Siberia. When Hitler and Stalin divided Poland, Stalin shot Ukrainians in Poland. He also shot large numbers of Polish families in Ukraine. Stalin shot, starved, or deported a substantial percentage of the Ukrainian population.
The third book is Russians by Gregory Feifer, published by Twelve Hachette Book Group. Feifer is a former Moscow based US correspondent. He gives a very clear description of the hidden Russia today with its massive criminal political organization, poverty, lack of rule of law, inefficiencies, and delayed future. It is a sobering view of how Russia functions today.
The key issue is how far does Putin want to go to re-establish economic, political, and military hegemony over former Soviet states? In addition to annexing Crimea, does he want to annex the eastern majority Russian speaking part of Ukraine? Will Russia repeat history and will sanctions force Russia from expanding economic and political influence to the West and encourage it to expand to the East?
The Russian currency and stock market have fallen, even before there were any sanctions placed on it. What is self-evident is that Russia is dependent upon export of oil and natural gas. Will that critical hard currency income be reduced over time with increased US oil and natural gas production?
Is Crimea a war or peace issue militarily?
These three books give us a better understanding of the Ukrainian critical issues.