World View: Russia Declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea

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 ashot 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 bein disarray. So far, it’s avoiding any strong militaryoverreaction that would provide Russia with an excuse for a furthermilitary invasion, perhaps into eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea.However, the government warned Sunday it was on the brink of disasterand called up military reservists to counter Russia’s threat toUkraine.

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

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

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

We will never see ‘Maidan’ with their black smoke and burned tireshere. I responsibly promise that Crimea by May will be calm,quiet, friendly. People of all nationalities will live herehappily.

This last paragraph is actually pretty funny. Aksyonov has absolutelyno clue whether Crimea will be “calm, quiet, friendly.” Nonational leader at any time or place in history can be sure ofavoiding widespread anti-government demonstrations that might resultin “black smoke and burned tires.” A government can use violence andtorture to suppress demonstrations for a time, but even that doesn’talways work (as we see every day in Syria). Sooner or later thepressure cooker explodes.

As I’ve written dozens of times, it’s a basic principle ofGenerational Dynamics that even in a dictatorship, major policies andevents are determined by masses of people, entire generations ofpeople, and not by politicians. What politicians say or do isirrelevant, except insofar as their actions reflect the attitudes ofthe people that they represent, and so politicians can neither causenor prevent the great events of history. So Aksyonov’s claims aretotally meaningless.

There have been many comparisons of today’s situation in Ukraineto Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, when Russia annexed twoGeorgian provinces in much the same way that Russia is nowannexing Crimea.

But there was something noteworthy about the Georgian war that rarelygets 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 thatthere isn’t much visceral hatred between Georgians andRussians. The Georgians are furious that the Russians areoccupying Georgian territory, but there’s no genocidal furybetween these two ethnic groups.

What’s also become clear, however, is that there is plenty ofgenocidal fury between Georgians and Ossetians. These two ethnicgroups really hate each other, and either of them would gladlyexterminate the other.

Those relationships turned out to be the deciding factors in whatfollowed after the war ended. Russia and Georgia, both OrthodoxChristian nations, have gotten along pretty well since then, whileMuslim South Ossetia effectively joined North Ossetia to become part ofRussia’s North Caucasus provinces. North and South Ossetia get alongwell with Chechnya, Dagestan, and Russia’s other North Caucasusprovinces, even though the Muslim Caucasians as a whole and the ethnicRussians exhibit mutual vitriolic hatred almost on a daily basis.

Likewise, the future of Ukraine is going to be determined by therelationships between the ethnic groups. There have been signs ofhatred between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians at the governmentlevel. The new Kiev government voted to ban Russian as an officiallanguage in the country, while the government in Moscow has beenreferring to the Kiev government as “Nazis.” But so far, I have notdiscerned a great deal of hatred at the level of ordinary Ukrainiansand Russians (though it’s early and it may simply not have shownitself yet).

If there were only ethnic Russians and a few ethnic Ukrainians inCrimea, then the hopes and dreams of Aksyonov for a “calm, quiet,friendly” future might actually have a chance. But that’s notwhat you have.

You have two million ethnic Russians and 300,000 Muslim ethnic Tatarsliving in Crimea. Russia’s dictator Josef Stalin in 1944 deported200,000 Tatars from Crimea, where they had lived for centuries, tocentral Asia, accusing them of collaborating with the Nazis. It wasonly in the 1980s and 1990s that the Tatars returned in large numbersto Crimea, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union andUkraine’s independence. The Tatars are scared to death of being underthe control of the Russians again, and so they’re aligning themselveswith the government in Kiev. And the references in Moscow to “Nazis”in Ukraine strike a very deep chord in the Tatar psyche. There is noway 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 someof the possible strategic consequences of the Russian conquest ofCrimea:

  • 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 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 itseast coast Monday, with a range of 500 km. This was the second suchlaunch recently. On Thursday, North Korea fired four Scud missilesfrom the same area. According to South Korea’s Defense Ministry, themissile firings are a reaction to the annual South Korean/U.S. jointmilitary exercises, and they’re a violation of U.N. SecurityCouncil resolutions that ban use of ballistic missile technology.According to a South Korean spokesman:

“North Korea is taking a two-faced approach, showingthe reconciliatory peace gesture on the surface, while launchingprovocations on the other hand,” the spokesman said in abriefing. “We sound a serious warning to North Korea, urging it tostop provocations.

In light of the border trespassing and short-range missilelaunches, South Korean and U.S. forces have stepped up theirsurveillance status to closely watch the North Korean military’slatest moves. We are ready to strike back ifprovoked.”

A North Korean statement blamed the U.S.:

The United States is stepping up militaryprovocations, going against the tide of peace and eased tension onthe Korean Peninsula. The U.S. does not welcome improvedinter-Korean ties and is conducting all forms of maneuvers tointensify confrontations between the two Koreas.

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

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