Ukraine and Crimea, Part II up to the present crisis.
In Part I, we saw that Ukraine translated as “borderlands” and indeed over the years, most of its neighbors have encroached on its borders numerous times. In the twentieth century, the Ukraine was absorbed into the Soviet Union as a Soviet Socialistic Republic. Today, in the Eastern Ukraine, the side bordering with Russia, there is a majority of ethnic Russians. They are presumed to be pro Yanukovych, and indeed, he is presumed to be “hiding out” in the East.
As a result of W.W. II, Stalin drove many of the muslim Tatars out of Crimea, ostensibly because of their sympathy to the Nazis. Following the collapse of The Soviet Union, Crimean Tartars started returning to their homeland. Crimea joined the new Ukraine, albeit as noted, with a large degree of autonomy. In 2008, Russia was accused of giving a sizable number of Russian passports to Crimeans. In the 2004 election, the vast majority of Crimeans voted for Viktor Yanukovych. Following the overthrow of Yanukovych, several anti-Russian measures were taken by the new Ukraine; Russian was no longer one of its official languages. Ukrainian was declared the sole language of the country to the dismay of ethnic Russians in the East Ukraine and Crimea. Ethnic Ukrainians make up only about 12% of the population in Crimea with ethnic Russians and Tatars forming a solid majority. Several clashes between Ukranian and pro-Yanukovych protesters in Simferopol, the latter largely ethnic Russians and Tartars, led to demands for succession from the Ukraine. The Crimean Parliament called for a vote on whether to secede. This election was to take place in just two weeks. Russia, with a large military presence in Crimea has challenged the overthrow of Yanukovych and supported the secessionist calls
Russia has maintained a Naval Base in Crimea for its Black Sea Fleet and in 2010, the then Parliament voted to extend the lease to Russia until 2042. Russian forces were already in the Crimea as part of an agreement between the Ukraine and Russia. Reportedly Russia was allowed to have up to twenty-five thousand military there. On February 28, Russian military moved to occupy the airports and other strategic locations. The Ukrainian transition government called this an “invasion.” Russia denied this charge, and cited their agreement with Crimea allowing their military to be present. They also cited the need to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea. On March 1, the Russian parliament authorized the use of force in the Ukraine. Subsequently, there were reports of Ukranian ships being blockaded in the Harbor of Sevastopol. The U.S. And Europe called for a Security Council Meeting on the Ukrainian situation amidst individual calls for Russia to back down or face diplomatic repercussions. Several key Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, criticized President Obama for not taking a tougher stance in the early hours of the crisis. Stock markets in Russia and Europe took immediate hits, followed by the United States markets, which opened later. Meanwhile, on March 5, Russia’s Putin seemed to be trying to deescalate the crisis by stating that force would only be used as a last resort. On this news, market in Russia and Europe, followed by the United States markets rallied. And here we have it.
McCain, who urged Obama to take direct military action in the Libya crisis, and who comes from a military family himself, famously taken prisoner in Viet Nam, is rapidly sounding like a Senator who has never met a conflict that he didn’t want us to get involved in. Republicans, rather than “rallying around the President,” are trying to score political points for the next election. The fact is that there is no military solution available to us and diplomacy, including possible sanctions, perhaps stretches the limit of our capability in this situation. And it is proving successful. For example Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany recently joined our voice in declaring any moves by Russia to annex Crimea as unlawful and a violation of international law as well as the Ukranian Constitution. Meanwhile, it is important to provide an escape path that allows Putin to save face and at the same time protect Russia’s legitimate interests in the region. Sanctions can work two ways and Europe especially would be harmed if Russian Oil shipments were interrupted. It might be noted here that in the Ukraine, oligarchs control about 40% of the economy. This is quite a bit more than even the Russian oligarchs control in their economy. So, if the movements in the world stock markets are any indication, there are powerful interests in the Ukraine that would be jeopardized if the crisis widens.