World View: Russia Prepares to Annex Ukraine's Crimea – and More

World View: Russia Prepares to Annex Ukraine's Crimea – and More

This morning’s key headlines from

  • At Far East end of Russia, Putin upgrades the Pacific Fleet
  • Russia prepares to annex Crimea and invade Ukraine
  • Panicked Crimeans line up to withdraw cash from banks
  • Slovakia becomes the fourth euro zone country in deflation

At Far East end of Russia, Putin upgrades the Pacific Fleet

After years of neglect, Russia is upgrading and building up itsPacific fleet, president Vladimir Putin focuses on building up itseastern Siberian and Far East regions. During his December 12Presidential Address, Putin said:

“This is our national priority for the entire 21stcentury. … I am confident that Russia’s reorientation toward thePacific Ocean and the dynamic development in all our easternterritories will not only open up new economic opportunities andnew horizons, but also provide additional instruments for anactive foreign policy”

Moscow is becoming increasingly concerned about Russia’s Far East,where population has fallen 50% since the 1990s, allowing migrantsfrom China to repopulate the region.

In addition to building new logistics vessels, oilers and transportships to provide logistical support for extended operations of thePacific Fleet in distant seas, Russia is also seeking otherfacilities, pursuing negotiations with Vietnam to lease the naval basein Cam Ranh Bay.

Starting on March 28, Russia will participate in the Komodo 2014multilateral joint exercise, focusing on naval cooperationcapabilities in disaster relief. It will involve 28 warships and4,000 personnel from all ten ASEAN members as well as Russia,Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and theUnited States. (The ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia,Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.)

What’s notable about this joint exercise is that it will involvecountries with overlapping maritime disputes, including the following:

  • India and Pakistan dispute the boundary in Sir Creek estuary at the mouth of the Rann of Kutch in the Arabian Sea.
  • India has maritime boundary claims against Bangladesh.
  • Indonesia has maritime frontier issues with Timor-Leste, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Palau and Vietnam.
  • ASEAN member states Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei contest Chinese claims over the Spratly Islands.
  • The Philippines dispute China’s assertion of sovereignty over Scarborough Reef.
  • China also occupies some of the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam.
  • Russia and Japan contest the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories.
  • China has territorial disputes with India and Japan.

This is occurring as the United States’ military begins to pivot 60%of its forces into the Pacific. Jamestown

Russia prepares to annex Crimea and invade Ukraine

The outcome of Sunday’s Crimea referendum on seceding from Ukraine andjoining the Russian Federation as an independent republic seems now tobe a foregone conclusion. Russia’s parliament is rushing a specialconstitutional amendment to legalize the annexation of Crimea, andit’s expected to be enacted within a day or two. There are Ukrainiansoldiers in Crimea, but their bases have all been blocked by Russianforces. Anyone who advocates voting against the referendum risksarrest or being beaten up. Independent media in Moscow have been shutdown or restricted.

On March 4, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin stated that “Russia doesnot contemplate the possibility of annexing Crimea,” but today itappears that Putin is contemplating more than Crimea, as all signsindicate that Russia is going beyond Crimea. Russia is increasinglyon a war footing, with a big military buildup along Russia’s borderwith Ukraine. According to a Ukrainian official in Kiev,

“[Russian forces include] over 80,000 personnel, up to270 tanks, 180 armored vehicles, 380 artillery systems, 18multiple-launch missile systems, 140 combat aircraft, 90 combathelicopters and 19 warships and cutters. …

Critical is the situation not only in Crimea, but along the entirenorth-eastern frontier. In fact, Russian troop units are two orthree hours of travel from Kiev.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that the only way out of thecrisis is through diplomacy. Jamestown and Daily Mail (London)

Panicked Crimeans line up to withdraw cash from banks

Crimean banks have imposed a withdrawal limit of about $150 per day.Customers are forming long lines to withdraw cash while they can,before Sunday’s referendum. CNBC/AP

Slovakia becomes the fourth euro zone country in deflation

Slovakia, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus are now in deflation.

Consumer prices in Slovakia fell 0.1% in February, on a monthly andyearly basis. According to a central bank official, the fall inprices is caused by low food prices and low demand.

In Portugal, prices fell by a monthly 0.3% after a 1.4% drop inJanuary. In Greece and Cyprus price declines are above 1%.

Other Eurozone peripheral countries remain on the cusp of fallingprices, with annual consumer inflation running at just 0.1% in Spain,0.2% in Ireland and 0.5% in Italy. Cihan (Turkey) and EuroIntelligence

Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail