Ukraine: who to read, what to believe?

by Chris Bertram on March 3, 2014

As a non-expert, I find myself scouring the various news columns and op-eds trying to work out what’s true and false about the situation in the Ukraine, who to believe, what to trust. It isn’t easy, given that the two “sides” (or is that three or four) fail to sort themselves neatly into the mental maps we all have to organize this kind of thing. One such map, beloved of the “decent left” tries to fit everything into a 1938. That’s tempting, but then who is Hitler, who are the Nazis, who are the Sudeten Germans? Things don’t quite line up. And then there’s the narrative of the plucky little insurrectionists against their post-Soviet overlords: Hungary 56, Prague 68? But once again, people aren’t fitting neatly into the little boxes. Then think of those crises, Hungary in particular, or the East German revolt. How many Western leftists tried to read them (and misread them) through the glass of Soviet opposition to Nazism? During the Balkan wars of the 90s my own imaginary had plucky multi-ethnic Bosnia as the incarnation of liberal republicanism, resisting the ethnic tyranny of the Serbs. But there were plenty of of leftists who saw things in terms of the dastardly German-collaborating (and backed) Croats with their Ustaše past, versus the Serbian partisans. One friend from Northern Ireland said on Facebook that a relative had told him that the key to understanding any conflict was to work out who are the “Protestants” and who are the “Catholics”. I can’t think that’s going to help here (or in Syria for that matter): we all get trapped by these heuristics.

Reading Christopher Clarke’s The Sleepwalkers last night, I came across a discussion (I’ve only just started the book) of Serbia’s Foreign Minister Milovanovic and his predicament in the crisis of 1908: a moderate and pragmatist trapped by the rhetoric of the more extreme nationalists, who could and would denounce any compromise with the enemies of the people. Hard not to think or parallels with Vitali Klitschko and the other opposition leaders who cut a deal with Yanukovych but couldn’t make it stick with the Euromaidan for fear of being howled down as traitors themselves. Presumably they saw that running Yanukovych out of town on the day after the deal would be certain to get a nasty reaction from Putin, but what else could they do? And now here we are, with the Russians in the Crimea, the rouble plummeting and the prospect of a new cold war, with everyone apparently fated to play their allotted roles. Meanwhile, the hapless John Kerry tells us – with no self-awareness whatsoever – that, in the 21st century, you can’t invade foreign countries on trumped-up charges.

For what it’s worth I found Mark Ames useful, Paul Mason insightful and Timothy Snyder propagandistic. And here’s Ben Judah on why Russia no longer fears the West. With my political philosopher hat on, I can say that just states find ways to integrate their citizens across ethnic and linguistic divides, that the boundaries set by history should not be sacrosanct, but that people shouldn’t try to change them by force of arms. Political philosophy will not have much impact on how this all turns out.

{ 293 comments }

1

bob mcmanus 03.03.14 at 1:28 pm

It has been tough to find unbiased and reasonable accounts, even talking as one who has various biases. Billmon tweeted much of my position. Part of the problem is that there is a lot going on around the Ukraine and its issues, and a lot of history, from the Tatars to Libya and Syria. There are also a lot of people with direct interests and connections, and I can’t completely blame them for taking a side.

Stephen Cohen has been on tv a lot, and he is pretty fair. I suppose everyone will drop links, but I am trying to give my objective finds.

Jack Matlock …I don’t know who he is, I have just been googling and liked it.

2

CC 03.03.14 at 2:08 pm

Fwiw, I found myself having the same problem, so I’ve been putting together a list of everything useful I could find that others might also find useful over here: http://www.plurk.com/p/jryncg

It helps to remember that not all of Crimea considers itself Ukrainian first and Crimean second with Russian third. Many Crimeans can only speak Russian fluently and many of the protesters in Kiev & particularly the political parties of an EU bent don’t like the idea of having so much Russian influence over their country, so when filming the events, they speak Ukrainian, and a lot of the Crimeans get their tv from Russia where the ex-President Yanukovych was portrayed as an innocent man besieged by violent radical protesters, neo-nazis, and claimed that the only reason the West & EU were portraying the protesters in a nice light was because they were mad at Yanukovych for rejecting their financial bailout proposal in favor of Russia’s. Never mind that the reason he did so was because the EU’s package would have uncovered all of his $70 billion+ embezzlement including his $225 million mansion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_HN3yZVKP9g

The claims that this means Putin is invading is a little ignorant of the full situation at hand, since the places where Putin put the Russian soldiers were initially shared with Russia for Black Sea fleet purposes, and indeed Sevastopol is almost completely Russian, and the newly elected Crimean rulers *ASKED* Russia to protect them given the previous chaos in Kiev. Add in that a few of Ukraine’s far right wing parties are neonazis (yes, neonazis) and that the newly established EU-favorable government has not been able to get all of the outspoken protesters to relinquish their illegal guns, and many of the neonazis have tried to kill anyone they consider communist (or Russian enough to look suspect…) and Russia’s stance of protecting anyone who considers themselves of Russian origins internationally; and you have a perfect reason for Putin and the Night Wolves (his motorcycle gang, again, I’m serious) to go to Sevastopol (where, again, they have a treaty to BE) without counting it as an invasion.

Yatsenyuk (the newly elected EU-favorable PM, whom Putin and Yanukovych — the ex-Pres who embezzled upwards of $70 and fled the country — portray as an illegal upstart who forcefully took power using gang tactics, chaos, and the revolt) wants a One Ukraine, including Crimea, and doesn’t respect the Crimean government appeals for Russian intervention, but he also doesn’t want to kick the Russians out by force (since that would be suicide for everyone involved). It should also be noted that as of Monday Morning, the Russian soldiers aren’t firing on anyone, don’t have live ammo, and continue to claim that they are only there to protect the Crimeans; they also refuse to identify themselves as Russian (and there are also incognito Israeli soldiers & Turkish Tatars — the Turkish Tatars are Muslim and were kicked out of Crimea during the USSR’s reign, so while they only comprise 12% of the population, they are fiercely opposed to going back to Russia, the Israeli have extra reason to prevent the right-wing neonazi rise obviously, though they too support the EU-favorable government) but there are literally parades celebrating Russia’s help in Crimea, even if not everyone there agrees on Russian intervention some welcome it. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/sns-rt-us-ukraine-crisis-balaclava-20140301,0,3758528.story

Yanukovych also wants Russian restraint in Crimea, but he asked for their escort to get back into power as President — which is not possible outside of Crimea where there are too many who would like him dead for that whole mansion and embezzlement thing (no matter how much he claims all the theft was the rebels’ doing, they recovered more than enough documents to show proof of his actions, and Interpol is involved, so asap they’re hoping to have him tried for the theft + mass murder of ordering firing on the peaceful protesters).

I find it annoying that a few too many U.S. papers BOTHER mentioning these facts and instead go into hyperbole about how this is the biggest test of presidency that Obama has ever faced. Truth told, it’s got little to do with Obama’s reaction one way or another, and I think if they stopped treating Americans as idiots, Americans would understand the facts just fine.

Sorry for the TL;DR! Hope that helps!
- CC

3

Cheryl Rofer 03.03.14 at 2:14 pm

Jack Matlock was US ambassador to the Soviet Union while it was breaking up in the late 1980s.

I have spent some time in Estonia and Kazakhstan on nuclear matters. I do not know as much about Ukraine, but there are commonalities across the former Soviet space.

I urge you to take another look at Snyder. IMHO, he is one of the few getting it right. Very little has been written about World War II in the region between Germany and the Soviet Union. It doesn’t fit into the common western wisdom about World War II, and it has immense reverberations today. Snyder understands that.

FWIW, I’ve collected links here and here. Some of them are my writing, most are from others.

4

Corey Robin 03.03.14 at 2:17 pm

I also thought Ames’s piece was useful. Cuts through a lot of the BS.

5

Cheryl Rofer 03.03.14 at 2:25 pm

Agree on Ames. Anatol Lieven also knows this part of the world well.

6

Doug M. 03.03.14 at 2:27 pm

The bit from _Sleepwalkers_ that I found particularly relevant was the discussion of how official Russia stubbornly refused to believe (in the face of steadily accumulating evidence to the contrary) that Belgrade had anything to do with the assassination of the Archduke. They deplored it as an “anarchist” act, but insisted that it was the work of a small group of local malcontents with no connection to Serbia whatsoever. This led them logically to the conclusion that Austria was using the murder as a pretext for an unprovoked assault against blameless Serbia.

Similarly, official Russia today seems to have convinced itself that Yanukovych’s fall was driven by foreign intrigues and that the new government is dominated by “fascists”. If you accept those beliefs, then their current actions follow plausibly.

Doug M.

7

William Timberman 03.03.14 at 2:37 pm

If only the U.S. administration tinkerers were as candid about their own ignorance as the commenters here are about ours, we might begin to get somewhere. John Kerry and Victoria Nuland reminded me of the two plumbers in Brazil, swooping in with their wrenches and obsolete blueprints, all eagerness and can-do, only to discover that blimey, ‘ey’ve gone metric again.

Laugh, cry, it makes very little difference which you choose. With any luck, the pieces in the Ukraine will swirl about a bit, then re-orient themselves on their own. With the amount of stupid now being pumped in from all sides, though, who knows?

8

Query 03.03.14 at 3:09 pm

The Lieven piece is clear and level-headed. As for deciphering internal Ukrainian politics, and the various factional motivations, I’ve found this post particularly useful.

http://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/ukraine-1-yanukovichs-end-is-a-beginning/

9

Vanya 03.03.14 at 3:14 pm

I like Ames on the FSU because he tends to be very cynical about people’s professed ideological motivations or historical rationalizations and more focused on their likely material or careerist motivations. Your mileage may vary. I think Snyder is an excellent historian, and like many historians is perhaps too eager to extrapolate the past into the present.

10

Adrian Kelleher 03.03.14 at 3:17 pm

While it’s unwise to fund and encourage a popular revolution in a country that’s host to a major Russian naval base, neither is it reasonable to see the whole affair as US-orchestrated. No amount of foreign money or organisation would have been sufficient to achieve the level of discipline the protestors showed.

The right-wing media in the US has been as casual with the national interest as ever, not that the obsession with appearing “strong” is restricted to conservatives. Exactly as with Georgia, it wrote cheques it wasn’t willing to fulfil. The vigour, certainty and unilateral decisiveness of Victoria Nuland’s bugged “Fuck the EU” phone call has evaporated. Will there be soul-searching in Washington now? A change in philosophy, or a new restraint? There’s no sign of those things so far.

Notable in its spectacular stupidity was CFR editor Gideon Rose’s appearance on the Colbert Report (brief excerpt here; geo-restricted full interview here). Making the error of trying to be funny while sitting in the straight man’s chair, he seemed to think he was addressing an audience of small children. His analysis is of absolutely no use to anyone and Colbert crushed him without him even noticing.

Elements descended from fascism and communism aren’t insignificant but they’re in no way representative either. On the contrary, the gap between Ukrainian nationalists and Russophiles is much much smaller than is often portrayed. Whichever side starts shooting first loses.

Yanukovych probably understood this but succumbed to pressure and is gone. Putin understands this and enforced among his troops a so-far impressive degree of discipline. The Ukrainian parliament, desperate to distance itself from its prior subordination to Yanukovych, made a mistake in attempting to abolish Russian as an official language. This gave Putin the opening he was looking for.

He’s only succeeded in partially-reversing a broader defeat, however. He can only consolidate his gains so long as Ukraine doesn’t go down the route of Georgia.

Russia will be looking for a diplomatic solution, perhaps one that enforces Ukrainian neutrality or other limits on its sovereignty. In pressuring Ukraine, it’ll be willing to sit outside those army bases in Crimea for as long as it takes. The inmates are the best sort of hostages — ones the hostage takers don’t need to take any responsibility for.

11

P O'Neill 03.03.14 at 3:21 pm

It won’t help with the political philosophy or the ethnic nuances, and it will be the most boringly titled document you might ever read but the 2011 IMF Ukraine: Ex Post Evaluation of Exceptional Access Under the 2008 Stand-By Arrangement is going to matter a lot in how things play out economically. The rump G8 has effectively put it up to the IMF to negotiate a massive loan before any other economic aid comes, but that will have to overcome the IMF view that their last loan didn’t work out very well with politics being the major reason why.

12

Matt 03.03.14 at 3:21 pm

The Ames piece is pretty good, though with him, it’s always important to remember that he’s not one to let truth get in the way of a good story. So, caution is always needed. I also thought this piece by Matlock was good, though I don’t have a strong personal sense of his reliability. I thought the Snyder piece was okay, but seriously under-selling the problems on his preferred side.

To my mind, one thing to keep in mind is that the idea that interactions (political, market, etc.) can be positive-sum isn’t very common in former Soviet space. So, people assume that anything that’s good for someone else must be bad for them. This is especially common, I think, with people in Putin’s class. Seeing that this is an important part of the mindset helps explain a lot of otherwise irrational seeming moves, I think.

13

Alex K. 03.03.14 at 3:24 pm

“the country’s population is deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-western sentiments” – Lieven

I did not expect such simplistic arguments from Lieven. Millions of educated Russians – I would say most of Russia’s best and brightest – are unquestionably pro-Western; so are Ukraine’s best and brightest, regardless of ethnicity or language.

14

Adrian Kelleher 03.03.14 at 3:26 pm

I should have written that Putin “can only consolidate his gains satisfactorily” so long as Ukraine doesn’t go down the route of Georgia. It’s achievable either way but Putin will try to evade the diplomatic costs of enforced partition.

15

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 3:28 pm

“The Ames piece is pretty good, though with him, it’s always important to remember that he’s not one to let truth get in the way of a good story..”

Yeah, as a non specialist I wouldnt read him as I wouldnt know what was true, what was politcally motivated,what was hyperbole and what was plain wrong.
There are better journalists, analysts and people out there than Mark Ames (imo) Also Cheryl Rofer’s blog is very interesting fwiw

16

Doug M. 03.03.14 at 3:36 pm

Wow, Mark Ames was kind of making sense there. That was unexpected.

He does get one thing wrong-ish: Ukraine’s current, post-Maidan government includes two separate groups of right-wing populist nationalists, Svoboda and Pravy Sektor. They’re pretty distinct and shouldn’t be lumped together. Svoboda is an organized political party that’s been around for years. They’re cut from much the same cloth as similar parties in western and central Europe (France’s National Front , Hungary’s Jobbik) and are pretty openly anti-Semitic and xenophobic. Pravy Sektor is a popular, populist movement that’s only just become a formal party. They’re not anti-Semitic (their leader has gone out of his way to reject it, including making overtures to Ukraine’s small Jewish community) but they’re more confrontational generally; Pravy Sektor provided a lot of the street-level shock troops for the Maidan protests.

Are they “fascists”? Well, they’re both right-wing nationalist groups. They’re a minority in the current coalition government, but Pravy Sektor in particular is a minority with a bullet — they’re currently punching well above their weight.

Doug M.

17

Anderson 03.03.14 at 3:48 pm

I think one should be very slow to dismiss anything by Snyder as “propagandistic.”

… Not to go off on Clark’s brief for the Central Powers disguised as a history book, *ahem*, but:

“how official Russia stubbornly refused to believe (in the face of steadily accumulating evidence to the contrary) that Belgrade had anything to do with the assassination of the Archduke”

What evidence “steadily accumulated” in the month of July? And as even Clark has to admit, Austria had a history of trumping up charges that turned out to be bogus.

The best evidence continues to be that there was a conspiracy involving some rogue army officers, some of whom had participated in murdering the Serbian king and queen a few years earlier. If that = “Belgrade” then okay, but metonymy is particularly confusing here. Regardless, Austria didn’t give a rat’s ass about the unpopular archduke and his déclassé wife getting killed; it was all about seizing an excuse to wipe Serbia off the map. Russia wasn’t blind about that; they correctly perceived the big picture, however elusive some of the details.

18

Alex K. 03.03.14 at 3:50 pm

Ames mostly gets the protesters’ motivations right. Unfortunately he does not mention the reasons why many Russian-speaking Ukrainians are not eager to join Russia.

For one, Ukraine is phasing out conscription but Russia seems to be extending it. Since army service tends to be like jail time in post-Soviet states, it’s a huge difference not only to young men, but also to parents of boys aged, say, 14-18. Not all observers realize the cost of avoiding conscription to middle-class families in Russia.

19

Z 03.03.14 at 3:52 pm

FWIW, my own heuristic since since Tymoshenko’s clash with Viktor Yuschenko in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution has been to assume that all sides are pretty much as bad as their opponents suggest (All Yanukovych and his party are about is stuffing their pocket, most of the opposition to them is utterly corrupt and power hungry as well, neither Euromaïdan supporters nor its opponents can achieve a majority without their respective frankly disturbing violent extremes, Russia wants to prove it military rules its sphere of influence, the EU is only in it for the money and the US is only in it to humiliate Russia and the EU). It amounts to a pretty depressing picture but it has had mild predictive power.

Also, for the first time in my life, I am actually scared by geopolitical developments.

20

Sasha Clarkson 03.03.14 at 3:56 pm

I think you’re right Chris, that it isn’t just two sides. There are at least four. And many individuals, families and even regions don’t want to chooses sides. Many in Ukraine would like to have it both ways if possible – or any way which gives them prospects for a better life. This, and in many cases the hope of a chance to emigrate westward, was part of the perceived lure of the proposed EU deal. (Imagine the Daily Mail headlines!)

Your reference to the “Euromaidan” pinpoints one of the problems. The protesters in Maidan Nezalezhnosti have been seen to dictate events. Some bloggers and commentators were urging them to keep up the pressure. But these protesters are dominated by Nationalists from Galicia, not by native Kievans, most of whom are keeping their heads down. Klitchko was shouted down by those whose party got significantly less votes than his own, but who were undoubtedly better organised. While the “provisional government” in Kiev is seen to allow itself to be dictated to by a nationally unrepresentative and militant street-faction, it cannot have perceived legitimacy in much of the rest of the country. Hence any attempt by the new Kievan leadership to assert control is bound to provoke resentment, resistance and appeals to Russia.

A “government of national unity” in Ukraine is probably not possible anyway at the moment, and can certainly not be formed in Kiev under present conditions. Yet those in control of Kiev are not in a position to take control elsewhere, because those outsiders who encouraged them are not prepared to help them with anything but rhetoric. So their position is at best an unstable stalemate which they cannot win. This was always predictable. “Everything’s right if you win. Stupid to fail. Unforgivable.” as Toranaga said in Clavell’s Shogun But nor can Russia win, except regionally. I do have some sympathy for all their predicaments. Neither side really wanted to be where they are today. This situation arose because of Yanukovich’s extraordinary hubris and incompetence. He, at least, is gone: even his supporters will mostly be shedding only crocodile tears.

Doug M – I think the Russians are realistic about Yanukovich. They may use him for propaganda purposes, but they certainly don’t want him back!

http://rt.com/news/yanukovich-failure-ukraine-crisis-264/

21

Cheryl Rofer 03.03.14 at 4:05 pm

Duck of Minerva is providing a lot of commentary on Ukraine.

22

Anarcissie 03.03.14 at 4:08 pm

Cheryl Rofer 03.03.14 at 2:14 pm @ 3 — If this is the Snyder who writes for the New York Review of Books, he seems like a propagandist to me, so much so that I began to wonder if the NYRB were being funded by the CIA or someone like that, an American version of Encounter. I recalled someone writing for them back in the day was also fond of pushing NATO to the borders of the (ex?) Soviet Union as soon as possible, the sort of thing which could have no beneficial result for anyone but fans of war and imperialism, and is an important ingredient in the present situation.

Once nationalism and other tribal passions become involved, it is going to be very difficult to find any report from a conflict which is based on facts and reason, since the Cause is always more important than mere factuality. We are observing fundamental trooping-primate instincts here. Often, the results are disastrous, as when socialist parties across Europe chose to abandon their principles and support national and imperial interests to get World War 1 going.

23

Anderson 03.03.14 at 4:12 pm

I wonder if Putin isn’t providing the best impetus for the Ukrainian factions to cooperate, whereas a wait-and-see approach might have let them squabble and fail of their own accord.

24

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 4:20 pm

This Charles King dude seems to know his stuff

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/opinion/crimea-the-tinderbox.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

though really, its an interesting article

25

Adrian Kelleher 03.03.14 at 4:21 pm

@Anderson

I’d say Putin is anxious to maintain political unity of some sort in Ukraine. The meekness of the Ukrainian military in the face of Russia’s occupation of Crimea illustrates the inertness of the country as a united polity. In contrast, the incredible heroism of the Maidan protestors (as shown on the video linked to in Ames’ piece) shows that some of the individual factions possess profound cohesion.

26

Anderson 03.03.14 at 4:30 pm

“Putin is anxious to maintain political unity of some sort in Ukraine”

You lose me at the bolded part. Political unity of a gov’t friendly to the EU and less so to Russia seems pretty obviously not something Putin is the least eager for.

“The meekness of the Ukrainian military in the face of Russia’s occupation of Crimea illustrates the inertness of the country as a united polity.”

I’ve seen a defection or two reported, but the army is mobilizing, is it not? I don’t blame Ukraine for not having a quick-response team ready to oppose a sudden Russian invasion.

Agree that some of the *factions* possess cohesion, but it’s whether the factions can play well with one another that’s the $64,000 question here, isn’t it? I was merely making the routine observation that an external threat tends to quiet domestic disagreement.

27

Nick B 03.03.14 at 4:35 pm

Mark Galeotti’s take is typically interesting:
http://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/

28

erichwwk 03.03.14 at 4:42 pm

I too think it VERY important to make the effort to discriminate truth from “the haze of propaganda.” We are inching closer and closer to WWIII (or witnessing another major flare-up of WWI). As Winston Churchill wrote In his memoirs , preface p. xi] :

<blockquote cite=”One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once, ‘The Unnecessary War.’ There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle.”

"I urge you to take another look at Snyder. IMHO, he is one of the few getting it right. "
While I am not personally knowledgeable enough about Ukraine today to recognize bias and contribute directly to “sorting this out”, this is not the sense I get from those who know more about the Ukraine than I. Propagandist seems to be closer to their view of Snyder.
"Very little has been written about World War II in the region between Germany and the Soviet Union."

Actually there has, but this has been spun so much (the official version was developed by the Council of Foreign Relations, written by William Langer, and financed by the ) that one has to dig a bit. One of the books I find quite good is by the late titled . As Swomley writes in the Introduction :

Pp 1-2
My late father had essentially the same role as Chelsey (Bradley) Manning in Germany at age 23, training folks to intercept French and British military and civilian radio communications in the mid 1930’s. He later used his skills as a rocket engineer for the USArmy and USAF, and was involved indirectly [via “Team A”] in the US propaganda effort known as <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_Btitle=”Team B”. in the mid 1970s. I mention all this to give some sense of how sophisticated and well-funded propaganda efforts are. And of course the US is not alone in this. ALL nation states essentially rely on the ability to control information to rule. As Joseph Goebbels, the third Reich Propaganda Minister put it:

29

Bloix 03.03.14 at 4:48 pm

Josh Marshall on the Ben Judah article:

“This article in Politico by Ben Judah suggests Europe is corrupt, decadent, simply lacks the will to exact that price and that Putin knows that. That might be so. Clipping the oligarchs wings would mean vast sums lost for their suitors and protectors, most of whom don’t care who runs a chunk of land on the Black Sea. Still the piece reads less like reportage than a vaguely Spenglerian statement of rage and Western self-loathing.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/wapo_wsj_slam_obamas_response_putin

30

TM 03.03.14 at 4:49 pm

Two of Timothy Snyder’s books are directly concerned with Ukraine: Bloodlands and The Reconstruction of Nations. Both are concerned with the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its political succession, a topic that few have even heard about, and both are impressively researched and insightful (and also deeply depressing, especially Bloodlands).

He did seem to take a bit of a pro-nationalist stance in the latter book, applauding rather than just describing Ukrainian nationalism. I did find his blog posts at nybooks openly pro-nationalist. I am puzzled by that. Snyder should know better than anybody that any ethno-national definition of Ukrainian statehood is (1) based on historical myth, and (2) hotly contested.

31

erichwwk 03.03.14 at 4:51 pm

rest of post, the Goebell’s quote:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Winston Churchill cite from his book “The Gathering Storm” (searchable at amazon.com)

For those unfamiliar with John Swomley, an obit is here : http://bit.ly/199o0aC

The 1946 annual report of the Rockefeller Fnd has info on the CFR William Langley effort here; http://bit.ly/129y4r9

Wish there were a “preview” option, as these HTML codes are not what i am accustomed to, as the post reveals. Apologies for that. And thanks to CHRIS BERTRAM for starting the discussion. {this belonged way further up, glad it is of such interest, but I got interrupted.

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Anderson 03.03.14 at 4:56 pm

Nick, thanks for that link – makes excellent sense.

33

mud man 03.03.14 at 4:58 pm

Also, for the first time in my life, I am actually scared by geopolitical developments.

You must be new here.

34

Adrian Kelleher 03.03.14 at 5:04 pm

@Anderson

Ukraine’s position wrt Russia is similar to that of Czechoslovakia in ’68 or Hungary in ’56. Western countries will cheer them on but won’t lift a finger to help.

Why would Putin want to change this situation? Right now it’s apparent that the Russian army could drive to Lviv with little difficulty. Actually doing so would commit Russia to holding Western Ukraine through raw military power, however, and seriously erode what support it has in the country at present.

An alternative is the breakup of Ukraine, but there is little positive for Putin in this either. Creating Russian enclaves implies creating Ukrainian nationalist enclaves also — ones with no Russian bases on their territory and not home to large populations friendly to Russia. This could only represent a net loss to Russia.

So long as Ukraine holds together it will be politically weak. Putin has already shown he’s willing to work with whoever’s in charge in Kiev as the deal with Tymoshenko resolving the 2009 gas crisis shows. Of course this is only true so long as it’s an obviously unequal relationship, but the point remains that a territorially united but politically divided Ukraine fulfils all of his ambitions with none of the costs.

35

JW Mason 03.03.14 at 5:20 pm

I appreciate the spirit of this post. I think this is the right way to be thinking (at least for those of us without expertise in the area.)

I especially like the two final points, which I think get at one of the fundamental contradictions here. On the one hand, there is nothing sacred about existing national borders. But on the other hand, there are good reasons why we should want to treat them as if they are sacred.

I wonder if we could acknowledge a similar contradiction on the preceding point. ” Just states find ways to integrate their citizens across ethnic and linguistic divides”: absolutely. But also: political legitimacy and democracy depend on some form of preexisting solidarity, on the state representing a community with some ties beyond being subject to that state.

36

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 5:32 pm

That Galeotti piece is good. And it’s true that Russia winding up with Crimea might actually be in Kyiv’s interest, and a drain on Russian resources. The Tatars will get screwed though.

As far as Snyder’s books goes. I don’t think it’s so much that he takes a “pro-nationalist” stance rather he just tries to understand where it came from and analyze it. This in contrast to many Western authors who just reflexively write “nationalism bad!” (except when done by Western countries) and leave it at that. Snyder certainly lays out all the dirty actions, the fascist nature and the brutal murders committed by the Bandera faction during WWII. He also writes about Soviet brutality, which to some people automatically implies that he’s “objectively pro-fascist”.

(Snyder’s books are sort of written for a popular audience, though with a scholarly bent. The actual nitty-gritty archival research for the Ukrainian first half of 20th century history that he relies on heavily is that of the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka who’s probably, at least IMO, #1 expert in the world on historical Ukrainian nationalism. It’s just the guy’s books are in Polish and Ukrainian (maybe Russian) so completely unknown in the West.)

37

Sebastian H 03.03.14 at 5:36 pm

Like lots of problems, just because it is a bad thing, even a really bad thing, doesn’t mean there is much we can do about it.

But on the other hand just because we can’t do anything about it doesn’t mean we should talk ourselves into pretending it isn’t a really bad thing. This definitely isn’t Russia intervening because it has the good of Ukrainians (even Russian speaking Ukrainians!!!) in mind.

This is a very bad development.

38

Dan Hardie 03.03.14 at 5:41 pm

This is by a good friend of mine, but he’s a genuine scholar of modern Ukrainian (and Russian, and Soviet) history, is a very honest man and thinks extremely clearly: worth reading.

39

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 5:49 pm

Other historians worth reading on the subject of Ukrainian history/nationalism are Paul Robert Magosci and Orest Subtelny. They’re more from the Ukrainian point of view. In my reading Magosci does sort of quickly skim over some the nastier things associated with Ukrainian nationalism, although only in relative terms (it’s still covered). Other’s reading may differ. Subtelny, part of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada I think, is more of a Western-oriented type, an Ukrainian “patriot” in some sense, but he definitely detests the whole Bandera faction and is probably more critical of them than many non-Ukrainian writers.

40

bianca steele 03.03.14 at 5:54 pm

To support JW Mason @ 35: There are lots of states that at some time in the past found ways to incorporate all their ethnic and linguistic groups into one entity. That doesn’t mean that now, in the age of the Internet and Twitter and satellite TV, any of us should be happy to see the same means being used now that were used, in some states, in the past.

41

Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 6:08 pm

I wonder if Putin . . .

It strikes me that Putin is the one rational actor in this drama, and the only thing that makes him unpredictable or unreliable is that he doesn’t know how to herd Ukrainian cats any better than anyone else.

42

bianca steele 03.03.14 at 6:17 pm

Also, I’m reading Central Europe, by Lonnie Johnson. I’m only up to the eighteenth century, it’s a textbook probably not meant to be read straight through, and those who worry that Snyder is CIA may not like this, I suppose, but it covers basically Prussia to the Dnieper and has a long chapter on developments after 1989.

43

Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 6:46 pm

JW Mason @ 35
bianca steele @ 40

I keep coming back to the demographic maps: much of Ukraine is an extremely unhappy place. One of the highest death rates in the world does not indicate a society in which solidarity is worth much against its kleptocracy.

Western Ukraine and, to some large extent, Crimea, are the exceptions to the general pattern of extreme demoralization and misery. They are the places, where the economy is not so terrible as to drive the population into rapid decline, from a combination of suicidal depression and inability to form families.

I appreciated very much the theme of the OP — the tendency to try to find familiar patterns and analogues in the past. I am going to suggest that Ukraine’s problems belong not to a past of nationalistic struggles, but to a future of globalizing kleptocracy. It’s not that borders are sacred or not sacred, but that borders, in a globalizing world, are negotiable in a new way, because the powers and purposes that make borders important are shifting. There are not just states, but super-national organizations, involved. And, among common people, loyalty to and interest in, a globalized culture, driving aspirations and ambition, competes with history and heritage, and wins.

44

Glen Tomkins 03.03.14 at 6:49 pm

Shooting the Moon

What worries me about the present situation is the analogy to the game of Hearts, which has this special rule that destabilizes strategy. Normally you try to avoid taking hearts or the Queen of Spades, because each one you take saddles you with points, and Hearts is like golf, low score wins. But, if you take every heart (one point each) and the Queen of Spades (13 points), you get zero points, and all of your opponents each get the maximum points, 26.

If Putin just takes a bit of Ukraine, the bit with all the pro-Russian voters, the reconfigured electorate plus the taking itself, means that what’s left of Ukraine asks to join NATO (and is allowed to join NATO — how would Obama be able to refuse?). Putin can’t take just a bit of Ukraine, he has to take the whole thing, because Ukraine joining NATO would be a true disaster for him. There’s no safe place for Putin to stop short of taking all of Ukraine, he can’t leave any rump Ukraine left to join NATO.

The status quo would have been like playing Hearts the way most hands go, not the best situation, you have to eat some points, but you play your cards to make the other players eat more. But taking bits of the Ukraine is like taking the Queen of Spades and its 13 points. At 13 points, you’ve already lost, because there are only 13 other points for any player to get stuck eating. You have no choice but to try to shoot the moon, take all the hearts.

Putin should have paid more attention to Pushkin. He thought he was playing the Marshal, but the card in his hand was actually the Dama Pik.

45

teraz kurwa my 03.03.14 at 6:58 pm

For anyone interested in going back further, Daniel Beauvois has written a lot on the relationship between the Polish landowning nobility, the Ukrainian peasantry, and the Russian state during the period between the Partitions and WWI in Ukraine west of the Dnieper. He’s also written some (strongly critical) stuff on the Poles’ concept of the kresy (borderlands), i.e. Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania which is directly relevant to understanding the current crisis.

46

Roger Chillingworth 03.03.14 at 7:07 pm

The ‘decent left’ makes me want to, firstly, barf, and secondly, call in the tanks.

47

Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 7:14 pm

Glen Tomkins @ 44

It does seem to me like Putin has been playing very carefully, as a man, aware of the point you make, who very much wants a counterparty which whom to negotiate a deal, that leaves Ukraine intact, but within a Russian sphere of influence.

The problem is that Putin cannot seem to find a counterparty, either Ukrainian or international, who is willing and able to make a deal.

The deal the Russians offered Yanukovych seemed very generous, way better for the Ukrainians than anything likely to be on offer from the vampires of the EU or the IMF, and, yet, the popular reaction was immediate and overwhelming.

48

Patrick C 03.03.14 at 7:14 pm

Practically, Russia isn’t going to tolerate anything but a very friendly regime in Ukraine. It is the Monroe Doctrine of the East.

49

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 7:19 pm

@44 Yes, that’s the scary part. If Putin knows his card games (and he should) then once you eat some hearts and the queen you might as well go for the whole thing. Which means that the Crimea thing is just a lede-in to a complete take over of Ukraine.

@48 See above. That’s the thing. If Putin takes just Crimea there is no way that there will ever be a “very friendly regime in Ukraine” unless it is put in there by Russian troops. Which means he might have to gamble for the whole thing.

These are the scarier scenarios, speculations. He might just back off after some face saving diplomacy, international peacekeepers to protect those oppressed Russians in Crimea and a willingness to hold a refrendum.

50

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 7:23 pm

@47 Bruce,

The problem is that Putin cannot seem to find a counterparty, either Ukrainian or international, who is willing and able to make a deal.

Tymoshenko’s people would be perfectly willing to make that deal. They have before and even if she herself wouldn’t do it (maybe a bit peeved about the prison thing) there’s folks in her party that would have had no problem dealing with Putin what so ever.

But now, after Crimea… even if they still were willing, they can’t. And if Putin in any way anticipated the sequence of moves, he would’ve known this. So there is a disturbing air of irrationality how he’s acted (unless, again, he’s aiming for the whole thing and this is just step 1)

51

Anderson 03.03.14 at 7:30 pm

“The deal the Russians offered Yanukovych seemed very generous, way better for the Ukrainians than anything likely to be on offer from the vampires of the EU or the IMF”

Those kindly Russians! How gauche of the Ukrainians to reject their gallant advances!

52

Anderson 03.03.14 at 7:31 pm

Bianca: okay, wishlisting that Central Europe book. Thanks for the pointer!

53

Patrick C 03.03.14 at 7:48 pm

@#49 notsneaky
I’m not sure taking Crimea reconfigures the electorate because Crimea was run as an autonomous republic.(They have a different prime minister than the rest of Ukraine, do Crimeans vote for Crimean PM and Ukrainian PM?)

54

Adrian Kelleher 03.03.14 at 7:53 pm

There have been occasions where the Western countries have actively cooperated with Russia in isolating and weakening countries like Ukraine.

A case in point is the Nordstream gas pipeline which Gerhard Schröder campaigned for while in office and where he’s currently board Chairman. As an examination of this map shows, Nordstream enables Russia to cut off individual customers rather than huge swathes of the continent at once as it did in 2009. The opening ceremony was a picture of friendship and cooperation — take a look at who was there, and who was absent.

But in a country like Ukraine, which pays in a mixture of cash and political influence, this has consequences very different from those in Western Europe that pay in hard cash. This was obvious to all (not least people in Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics) before construction ever started but it went ahead anyway.

55

Patrick C 03.03.14 at 7:54 pm

Or put another way. There is reason Putin went only into Crimea. The autonomous political organization of Crimea, the ostensible permission of the Crimean PM, and the preexisting treaties with Russia, give Putin a justification to move troops into Crimea. A justification that is much weaker than for the rest of Ukraine.

It seems possible that he went into Crimea, only, because that is the only bit of Ukraine that can be occupied *without* having to take the rest.

56

The Raven 03.03.14 at 8:02 pm

Thank you. I’ll be looking at these. Meantime, here are my still-preliminary thoughts on this and a few links.

I spent an hour online last night, discussing the geopolitics with a German-American, who is all for US intervention. She has a point: we don’t want Russian imperialism—and it probably is that—to go unchecked. Juan Cole points out that Turkey is surrounded by Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. After reading that, and thinking some more about it, I spent time looking at the Google Earth globe and imagining a giant Go board, stretching from the Ukraine to Indonesia.

I think we are back in the multipolar world, where great powers dream of empire and radicals dream of global federalism. I don’t think we get to withdraw from the game without dire consequences. And climate change is the game timer.

A few links
I think this 2005 essay on the Ukrainian natural gas industry is useful but, as with all writing on the area, treat with caution:
Ukraine vs Russia: Tales of pipelines and dependence,” “Jerome a Paris,” Dec 30, 2005.

A Canadian with a Ukrainian family who lives about 150 miles north of Crimea, and wishes that politics wasn’t interested in him: The Blog Fodder.

My second preliminary thoughts.

57

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 8:07 pm

@55 That’s really the “reason why Putin went into Crimea rather than some other part of Ukraine (like say Donetsk)”. It’s not really the “reason why Putin went into Crimea”, which is still a bit mysterious. Even if he gets Crimea, it means he’ll pretty much never again get a “friendly regime in Ukraine” which is a big cost.

@53 I wasn’t thinking about election results, but even there, it might reconfigure the electorate not by removing voters in Crimea, but by changing people’s minds in non-Crimea.

58

notsneaky 03.03.14 at 8:09 pm

On the Turks – they’re pretty hopping mad about it (for historical reasons and links with the Crimean Tatars). If they weren’t distracted by Syria and domestic troubles, they’d probably be contemplatin’ something on their own, regardless whether US/EU acts or not.

59

Patrick C 03.03.14 at 8:15 pm

@57

If occupying the Crimea doesn’t formally remove any voters from the electorate. (And I think it doesn’t because they already vote for Crimean PM not Ukrainian PM, although I’m not 100%) You have to lean pretty hard on this idea that moving troops into Crimea will turn pro-Russian Ukrainians(not in Crimea) into anti-Russian Ukrainians, if you’re going to argue that Putin’s move prevents a friendly regime in Ukraine.

Maybe it will change some people’s minds? But I doubt anyone knows at this point.

60

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.03.14 at 8:23 pm

Putin can’t take just a bit of Ukraine, he has to take the whole thing, because Ukraine joining NATO would be a true disaster for him.

It depends on how big a bit, doesn’t it. Russian media report that “representatives of Kherson, Nikolaev and Odessa appeal to the leadership of the Crimea, expressing their desire to be part of the autonomous republic if its powers will be enhanced by the results of the referendum”. And the referendum, apparently, “will raise the question of changing the autonomous status of Crimea to state status”. Odessa is in the South, but pretty much in the middle on the east-west line. It all depends on how many regions – or localities, for that matter – will join the Crimea referendum. And after the referendum, assuming some bits and pieces will vote to secede along with the Crimea, a real mess will ensue.

61

stevenjohnson 03.03.14 at 8:36 pm

Ames isn’t a hack propagandist but he is inadequate. He is honest enough to be able to point out where he stops short, which is personally admirable. Unfortunately political journalism isn’t about being a nice person but about understanding and sharing the understanding.

1. “The protesters are not “virtuous anti-Putin freedom fighters,” nor are they “Nazis and US puppets”

He basically quotes from writings about the Orange Revolution. It is useful to be reminded about the difference in the sizes of the crowds then and now, but Ames of course negelects the opportunity. He also neglects the opportunity to point out how nobody believed that somehow another Orange Revolution is going give the people some control over their “shitty lives,” for the good reason they did it once. It was a resounding failure for the simple reason that modern capitalism is not kind to the losers, however much their vanity deludes them into thinking they are entitled to be one of the winners. Their musty old retread daydream of nineteenth century nationalism was never going to work in the twentieth century.

2. “About Ukraine’s neo-fascists:”

The vacuity of the real slogans, the complete disunity on any positive program, the commitment solely to a negative proposition, the removal of Yanukovich (and damn the people who voted for the government,) is not the people united. Ames doesn’t point out the necessary consequence. Popular disunity is why hard core fascists and foreign hirelings have a power out of proportion to their numbers. Popular disunity is why they can rely on violence despite being a minority. Further, victory will swell their numbers and cow their opposition. The fascists are not united, not even Right Sector is a unitary force, but people power is now irrelevant.

And this refusal to acknowledge the role of neo-fascist violence means Ames has no argument to support his happy thought that the neo-fascists will somehow magically line up with the neoliberals. It is hard to judge definitively, but many cities and towns in the north and west seem to have already been seized by various neo-fascist forces. Klitscho has already been shouted down despite being more popular than they. Yatseniuk’s endoresement by Victoria Nuland is not going to count for much when negotiations for the spoils take place. They will not want to follow this guy into “hell” by committing “political suicide.”

The neo-fascists do not yet monopolize the remaining organs of state violence, but two of their chief leaders, Paruby and Yarosh, are in the Council for National Defense. And if reports are to be believed, intimidation of others, such as Interior Ministry, are well underway. The so-called interim government is already a gim-crack affair nominated by a purged Rada and paraded for approval to the shock troops of the uprising. No, it is crazy to blithely assume these people will go away. Especially since they have powerful foreign support. Yes, McCain’s chief of staff has taken money from Yanukovych, but Yanukovych was easily swindled…Haven’t you seen how he got taken for his house? He was rooked into paying a huge pile for that crap. But McCain embracing Tahnybok is what’s really important.

(It was not an accident or mysterious development for Yushchenko to support Bandera. Yushchenko was always a “Stalin was worse than Hitler” reactionary. And, refuting the Chabad rabbi with a genetic fallacy instead of an argument doesn’t explain how he’s convinced himself that this is some big propaganda point! This is one of Haaretz’ stories that isn’t getting big play outside of Israel. There are indeed tons of propaganda, but carping over this gram’s worth? Is he for real?)

3.”Everything you think you know about Ukraine is wrong.”

Yes, the demonstration that Tymoshenko is just another oligarch is absolutely correct. That’s yet another reason why her Fatherland party, and Yatseniuk and Arsen Avakov and Turchynov will not be able to effortlessly absorb the fascists. The worse problem here is that Ames refuses to consider the Ukrainian economic crisis. The amazing thing about Yanukovych is that his deal with Russia last November was probably the most principled and patriotic act he’d ever committed in his political, maybe even his only one. No wonder it was unforgivable!

The remaining oligarchs cannot agree to divvy up the shrinking pie any more than Yanukovych could take his slice without driving them away from the table. None of them are any more capable of wringing humane treatment from the capitalists of the EU or US than Yanukovych, even if they turn in desperation upon their paymasters. The crisis will drive events away from business as usual, just as it has been the whole time.

4.”4. Yanukovych was not fighting neoliberalism, the World Bank, or oligarchy — nor was he merely a tool of the Kremlin.”

He also, just as he did in the Orange Revolution, tried desperately to make a deal. The point Ames omits is that neo-fascist street fighters stopped that. The question is, what are they fighting for? Ames could just as well have said that Yanukovych wasn’t seriously fighting the uprising and that he wasn’t a bloodthirsty monster intent on drowning all resistance in blood or that he was completely lost how to resolve the crisis or that he was a coward. And all these things would have been true too. It is precisely because Ukraine is in an impasse that the old oligarchs, including Tymoshenko and Akmetov and Fyrtash, cannot resolve (as if they even cared to!) that makes the neo-fascists a chance to pose as the real change the loathesome Yushchenko lied about.

62

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 8:41 pm

The Galeotti link @27 is interesting. From it :

” There is no way round it, the most powerful weapon against the Kremlin is one targeting the elites on which it depends.
Putin is nowhere near as powerful at home, within the elite, as before. That’s not to say he has any clear rivals, or in imminent political danger, but any serious and sustained campaign to attack his elite supporters’ freedom to travel, invest, bank and shop abroad might well seriously affect this. “

Does anyone know – where does power lie within the Russian political system at the moment ? As in, when Putin is making a decison like this what’s the domestic (elite) context he’s playing within and where does he fall on the spectrum (from hawkish to..)? My impression from speaking to people from Russia over the decade is that he has quite a bit of support in Russia (among the population -from stabilising the country in the 00s etc) I dont know anything about this though .. but does this support still exist ?
In Galeotti’s hypothetical, where sanctions weaken Putin perhaps leading to him losing power, who takes his place ? Or at least what other factions are there that become strenghtened ?

63

The Raven 03.03.14 at 8:55 pm

One thought that stays with me: this is the Great Game, this is the Great Game all over again. And the last round of the Game ended in world war.

64

gastro george 03.03.14 at 8:55 pm

65

teraz kurwa my 03.03.14 at 9:00 pm

The Crimeans vote for both a Ukrainian and Crimean PM, sort of like the Scots in the UK. Losing them means a roughly 3 point net loss of support for the Eastern/Southern dominated more Russophone parties. Not decisive but not trivial in a fairly evenly divided country.

66

Igor Belanov 03.03.14 at 9:09 pm

#55

I agree. I think Crimea was the easiest place for Russia to take aggressive action, and the hope is that it will keep the new Ukrainian leadership in line with the threat that it might be extended to other areas in future. This is taking a gamble that it won’t simply entrench the existing hostility towards Russia for a very long time.

67

Patrick C 03.03.14 at 9:26 pm

#66
“This is taking a gamble that it won’t simply entrench the existing hostility towards Russia for a very long time.”

Maybe, although I think that hostility has a *really* long history and wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. I imagine annexing Western Ukraine when Stalin and Hitler carved up Poland in 1939 figures pretty on people’s justifications for hostility.

68

Alex K. 03.03.14 at 9:29 pm

@notsneaky
“But now, after Crimea… even if they still were willing [to make a deal with the Russians], they can’t. And if Putin in any way anticipated the sequence of moves, he would’ve known this. So there is a disturbing air of irrationality how he’s acted (unless, again, he’s aiming for the whole thing and this is just step 1)”

Putin’s actions were irrational only if he actually takes Crimea before he gets a favorable agreement with some representatives of Ukraine. But he only needs to threaten the annexation (or equivalent) of Crimea, not to actually take it:

What is the legitimacy of any Ukrainian vote while there are Russian boots on its ground?

Why would the Russian boots leave Ukraine before extracting a favorable agreement, given that they have plenty of pseudo-justifications for considering any non-favorable Ukrainian government as illegitimate?

How can the IMF, EU or the US provide any financial assistance to a government that is not legitimate and which has foreign troops on its territory?

So Putin will just park his troops in Crimea, he will threaten to, but will not actually take Crimea — until he get Ukraine to sign some anti-NATO and anti-EU agreement. And yes, after he gets his agreement, he will also get Crimea, via some easily predictable popular vote in the region. And if things escalate militarily, then he can go for taking the whole Eastern Ukraine.

You think Putin is playing card games, while he’s playing chess. And in chess, the threat is often stronger than the execution.

69

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.03.14 at 9:31 pm

The referendum date has been moved to March 30 now: 4 weeks left. It’s interesting what the Obama administration is going to do: keep denouncing Russia, or try to put in control some cool heads and subdue nationalists in Kiev. Because normalizing the situation would require some serious concessions and demonstration of good will.

70

Z 03.03.14 at 9:50 pm

I’m in total agreement with the assessment of Alex K 9:29pm. Putin has demonstrated, first by offering a better economic deal (better in the sense that paying protection money to the Mafia might be the better deal for your small business), then by sheer militarily power that Russia, not the EU or the US (neither of which seem to be in position to really do anything about the situation anyway), is calling the shot in the neighborhood. That’s not so different from the typical behavior of the US wrt to Honduras, Nicaragua or Venezuela, or France wrt to Chad or Côte-d’Ivoire or Australia wrt East Timor, BTW

So Putin will just park his troops in Crimea, he will threaten to, but will not actually take Crimea — until he get Ukraine to sign some anti-NATO and anti-EU agreement.

Yep. And a rational Ukrainian government with authority over its population would probably yield, but there is no such government un Ukraine, nor does it seem likely that one will emerge soon. And that’s why I’m scared.

71

JRLRC 03.03.14 at 9:56 pm

72

Anderson 03.03.14 at 9:57 pm

So the rational course of action is for Ukraine to acquiesce in the Russian seizure of the Crimea, and (by the same logic) of whatever other parts of Ukraine strike Russia’s fancy.

Rationality evidently isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

73

Z 03.03.14 at 10:24 pm

Anderson,
Do not mistake what I consider a correct cost/benefit analysis with an ethical endorsement. I prefaced my assessment of Russia’s deal as being the best one with a reference to paying Mafia protection money. I didn’t think it necessary to repeat the metaphor about Crimea, but if it needs to be spelled out, then why not? Faced with a vastly stronger hostile power which has popular support in Crimea, the less costly alternative for Ukraine seems to me to seek a diplomatic compromise with Russia (at the very least, I won’t blame Ukrainians if that is the path they follow, as their choices seem quite curtailed), just as the less costly alternative for a 6 year old is to hand out his lunch money to the 3 ten year old bullies. This does not mean that I approve the underlying system nor that I encourage 6 year old to enslave themselves permanently to anyone who asks.

74

Anderson 03.03.14 at 10:28 pm

Z, I concur that a compromise is a good idea, but big-picture, if Russia is going to act like a mobster state, it needs to be treated as a mobster state.

(Written in painful awareness that the U.S. by that logic deserves repercussions it hasn’t suffered.)

75

teraz kurwa my 03.03.14 at 10:30 pm

A perfectly rational Ukrainian government might yield Crimea and the Donbass in return for something big – say EU membership and formal NATO guarantees of the rest of its territory. A perfectly rational Ukrainian government might give a no-NATO guarantee in return for massive Russian and European aid, debt write-offs and a formal Russian acceptance of the status-quo ante in Crimea. The agreement you’re proposing as rational is about as rational for the parties making up the current Ukrainian government as the Dems giving up Obamacare for a short term debt ceiling hike, i.e. not really. Except for the fact that instead of just the economy collapsing they’re faced with war as well. It’s lose everything without violence or roll the dice and hope that we keep something at the price of violence.

The comparison with Venezuela is instructive – imagine a future where the US has suffered a collapse and the relative power of Brazil and the US is reversed. What should Venezuela do if threatened by the US?

76

Z 03.03.14 at 10:32 pm

if Russia is going to act like a mobster state, it needs to be treated as a mobster state. (Written in painful awareness that the U.S. by that logic deserves repercussions it hasn’t suffered.)

Yes, I think you’ll find broad argument on that. The obvious problem is that the community of powerful nations has not done a lot in favor or establishing a framework to deal with mobster states (more accurately, has done a lot to prevent such a framework to emerge). In the meantime, this is worrying as hell.

77

The Raven 03.03.14 at 10:33 pm

Alex K@68. Not chess. Go.

78

Alex K. 03.03.14 at 10:42 pm

“Rationality evidently isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

As opposed to what? Losing the entire country — or starting World War III?

Besides, if I am correct, Russia will not give Ukraine the easy out of just renouncing Crimea — Putin just wants Russian and Ukrainian soldiers to keep staring at each other, for as long as possible, without a bullet fired, until he gets his pro-Russia agreement.

There were recent reports of Russia denying as nonsense the claims that they gave Ukrainian soldiers an ultimatum for surrendering. I think this fits rather well into my story.

Of course, “rationality” would look quite different if those claiming to be Ukraine’s political friends would not be ready concede Ukraine to the Russian sphere of influence before Putin finishes his sentence. But that’s not the political reality, and Putin knows it.

(I’m not implying that risking WW III is the wise choice for Western governments — just that Putin has a correct assessment of the situation. The Mafia wins.)

79

roy belmont 03.03.14 at 10:46 pm

Nice to see the otherwise erudite commenters of CT get off that “It’s all about the distinct language groups” or whatever that time-wasting crap was. Even if it’s mostly just been replaced by adolescent board-gamesmanship.
The Russian identity began in Kiev over a millenium ago. Mere history now, and long gone too.
Origin stories are a meaningless thing outside the Biblical Middle East, of course, but still. You’d think there’d be some vestigial emotional or spiritual regard for that in Russia.
Ray McGovern was on DemocracyNow! today completely and calmly owning Snyder and his pseudo-rationality b.s. newspeak, and its nudge-nudge contextual lacunae.
I’d set the link but I have zero confidence in the eccentric unique CT html.
http://www.democracynow.org/2014/3/3/who_is_provoking_the_unrest_in#

From the near-lunar distance of my personal here it looks a lot like neo-feudalism spasming toward war.
These contemporary dukes and earls having no fixed tangible geographical seat in a tangible kingdom, but their vain ambitions having real effects just the same. Extra super increasingly scarily real.
Real peasants driven to the slaughter of one another, real conquests of real territory and wealth. Real destruction of human promise in the service of ambitious delusion.
Also Chernobyl? 28 years ago. Old enough to remember that? Approximately 80 miles from Kiev.
Wormwood. It’s what it means.
A significant component, the third seal of the seven, in the psychedelic end-times nightmare of John the Revelator:
“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter…”

80

Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 10:48 pm

The Raven @ 63

The Great Game was played out by a kleptocracy dominated by a superannuated feudal elite, and increasingly obsolete political and social structures associated with that elite and its historic claims. They had worked out an elaborate balance of power game, which served a reactionary purpose: to retard or channel the progress of new political and economic forces, which might otherwise challenge and overthrow their hold on political power.

It all went wrong, ultimately, but it’s worth attending to how it all went wrong. The modern nation-state, supported by mass allegiance and participation in politics, was growing inside the shell of the older structure of dynasties ruling polyglot empires, whose inhabitants were rivals for local privilege bestowed on notables, not mass representative democracy, and as the nation-state grew it added a vitality and power to empire, that imperial systems, in the decrepitude of its political structures, including the international state system, could not handle.

After 1870, the armies and navies swelled in numbers and industrialized firepower. The tragic comic opera of the Crimean War, where the powers competed to demonstrate their logistical incapacity to support very modest professional forces was replaced by the marshalling of conscript millions. The military command structures lagged badly, and the political control structures lagged very badly behind. In Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and even in an odd way, Austria and Hungary, national ambition for mass participation in politics and for modernity in all things focused resources and political attention on preparation for war, expanding the scope beyond anything the old feudal aristocracy desired for its dynastic conflicts. The nation-in-arms, that innovation of the French Revolution, which almost carried all before it, before being quashed by a resilient reaction, was reborn and National Spirit wanted war, without, of course, understanding what war is. The Great War, in detail, was an accident: a consequence of that lag in the military and political control structures, which left the elite bystanders at their own auto-da-fe, fueled by a sudden unexpected clash of mass armies fielded by a nationalism and modernity, which could not be contained.

In our own era, I think we can see parallels, but in many ways they are parallels reflected in a mirror — everything in reverse. We have, again, a kleptocracy in charge, but not one hoary with age and tradition, jealous of its legitimacy, but a kleptocracy practically new-born, careless in its greed and giddy to disregard its own foundation, confident that it may float free of the muddy earth, on a global financial and digital cloud. I’m not sure how to characterize mass participation in politics — the uprisings in such culturally disparate places as Thailand, Venezuela, Bosnia, Egypt and Ukraine, or the somewhat quieter despair of Spain or Greece. I don’t see much desire for war, as a vindication of national spirit. If WWI was carried in on a flood tide of modernity destroying older structures, we are witnessing today an ebb tide.

There’s no vitality, eager to be unleashed in common effort. If anything, I think it may be despair at privation, at seeing the promise of a share in modernity and a measure of prosperity for the common man slipping away, carried away by resource constraints and the kleptocrats. Much of the Ukraine is the abandoned, collapsed shell of a once developed economy, and inside, a developing world economy is trying to get organized. They are kind of going backwards, as the abundance of energy — natural gas being prominent — recedes, their agricultural abundance requires few hands and their industrial capacity proves obsolete and irrelevant.

The First World War resulted in the collapse of Empires and some unfortunate experiments in mass participation politics. I find it hard to believe that Ukraine will overthrow its kleptocrats; it seems too easy to forget that the kleptocrats are the problem, and too hard to find credible substitutes. So, what will follow? More experiments in kleptocratic government, weaning the masses from resource consumption?

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Glen Tomkins 03.03.14 at 10:55 pm

@47
Ukraine intact and in the Russian sphere was the status quo ante. The agreement they had before Putin broke it was that Ukraine couldn’t join NATO and Crimea would be an autonomous region within Ukraine, that allowed Russian forces on several bases within Crimea.

He doesn’t need a counterparty to get the status quo ante back. I can’t imagine that Ukraine would be allowed into NATO after Putin had sent his army back into its bases in the Ukraine, and otherwise backed down.

That’s my point, I can see how he might go back to the status quo ante, and I can see how he might go forward and take all of Ukraine, but just sitting pat doesn’t seem very viable.

Troika, semyorka, Dama Pik; and then you have no course of action left but to blow your brains out.

82

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 11:08 pm

Well this is something of an interesting answer to my question above about elite networks in Russia :

http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/International%20Affairs/2012/88_1/88_1ledeneva.pdf

Kind of similar to the Chinese quanxi (??) system ? Is this type of elite network ruling structure regionalised ?

83

JW Mason 03.03.14 at 11:13 pm

Thanks to McManus for the Matlock link. Very helpful. I particularly liked these comments from a Russian correspondent. I admit it may be because they confirm my own priors. For instance:

“I sometimes think that Americans have benefited from democratic institutions so long (even if they are under assault by the political elite with gerrymandering and anonymous donations), that they don’t grasp the institutional framework that has to be in place for a democratic revolution actually to work.”

It sometimes seems to be assumed in these discussions that liberal democracy is the natural state of humanity and the political problem is simply removing dictators and making sure the constitution has the right provisions. When in fact the real work is not the negative task of toppling autocrats but the positive task of building up the structures of solidarity, trust and collective action that the state rests upon. That project is hard to see through the news, which is all about the political superstructure.

84

JW Mason 03.03.14 at 11:22 pm

So I agree with Bruce Wilder’s statement of the problem but I don’t think one should stop there. The tide is ebbing and flowing, comrade.

In particular, I don’t think we should group all the current movements that are using the common tactic of mass occupations of public space. What’s happening in Turkey is very different from what’s happening in Thailand or Venezuela. Yes, the world is full of kelptocratic elites. It’s also full of experiments in new forms of solidarity and collective self-government — more so than in quite a while, I think. You just have to look harder to see them.

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Bruce Wilder 03.03.14 at 11:24 pm

Glen Tomkins @ 80: The agreement they had before Putin broke it . . .

At the risk of notsneaky foaming at the mouth, I will offer the possibility that, from Putin’s point-of-view, Putin was not the one breaking the previous agreement. And, I’m not convinced that fully-informed disinterested observers would not confirm Putin in that judgment. Putin is acting, I think, as if he believes it is the West that has broken the agreement, and he wants to show the EU, the U.S., as well as the Ukrainians in Kyiv the consequences, in a measured way, in the hope that they will come to their senses. He expects to be able to come to another agreement, though he may bargain hard to keep Crimea as recompense for his troubles. I cannot imagine that he wants even a slice of eastern Ukraine.

I still think he would like the Europeans to offer some hard cash, in the spirit of, “you broke it, you bought it” — disguised, of course, as a “rescue” of Ukraine. Either the Troika will come to Kyiv, total up the tab, and decide it ain’t worth it, and abandon Ukraine to the Russians in the end, on Russian terms, or the Europeans will decide they need Russian gas, and fashion their usual punishing “rescue package” to destroy Ukraine’s remaining institutional structure, but this time, rescuing Gazprom and Russian banks, instead of French and German banks. Putin will wait patiently for the next cycle of Ukraine’s political struggle against its kleptocrats, which, if the European-sponsored reforms are onerous enough, may well be more favorable to the Russians.

The Europeans may surprise, I suppose. I haven’t forgotten Cyprus, and I’m sure Putin hasn’t either. They could topple Ukraine’s plutocrats, and use the proceeds to soften the austerity. They’d still have to pay Gazprom and the Russian banks something, I would think.

And, Putin may surprise, too. If he doesn’t want to bargain all that much, he’ll follow up his adventure in real estate in Crimea with moves on Odessa. If you want to rule Ukraine without occupying it, you take Odessa.

86

Ronan(rf) 03.03.14 at 11:32 pm

@82 – that quote supports the “making sure the constitution has the right provisions” argument though, which is part of ‘building an institutional framework.’ (Of course no one thinks all you need to do is make sure ‘the constitution has the right provisions’ and democracy will flourish, but that’s part of it. Afaict most people who work in this area *are also generally not optimists* when it comes to authoritarian regimes becoming stable democracies (at least not initially) as most of the case studies dont support optimism (afaik) ) Most *would* support ‘building up the structures of solidarity, trust and collective action’, but that also rests on having constitutional protections – for example to form unions, protect civil society organisations etc (and these exist anyway in developing countries, the difficulty is making them effective – if there arent avenues to being heard in government, or laws/norms etc restraining business/the government, so on and so forth, they become marginalised)

Of course if one took the opinion that economic growth matters first and then ‘building democracy’ second then this wouldnt matter as much. (which is the mainstream approach afaik because building representative government is difficult)

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Alex K. 03.03.14 at 11:38 pm

“It sometimes seems to be assumed in these discussions that liberal democracy is the natural state of humanity and the political problem is simply removing dictators and making sure the constitution has the right provisions. When in fact the real work is not the negative task of toppling autocrats but the positive task of building up the structures of solidarity, trust and collective action that the state rests upon.”

I would say you’re drawing the wrong conclusion from the governmental structure of Russia. There is plenty of solidarity in support of Putin-style nationalism hence plenty of popular support for his authoritarianism.

The challenge is precisely to engineer the support for a constitution that severely limits the abuse of governmental power.

I agree that many Americans (and others) are naive to think that the norms that make their governments not abusive are part of a natural law — instead, the norms are the cultural inheritance of liberalism. But I seem to draw to opposite political conclusion than you do from this fact. (i.e. I think the solution is a constitution with strong barriers to the abuse of government power)

88

Glen Tomkins 03.04.14 at 12:11 am

@84,

Sure, no doubt the vampire squids of Western capitalism are pretty alienating. Ukrainian public opinion would probably have shifted Russia’s way because of them.

So why invade the Crimea? How does that help Ukrainian opinion shift away from the EU? How is that not the biggest impediment to Ukrainian opinion shifting towards Russia?

What was the crisis for Russia? Why did they have to act now, and militarily, when economics would have, given a few months or years, won it for them? Why not just wait for Ukraine to come back to Russia on the rebound from EU fiscal and financial devastation? I think it’s unlikely that the EU or IMF or World Bank or whatever, would have given the new Ukrainian regime a better deal, and thus permanently bound Ukraine to the West. Those folks are stuck in their religion, free market fundamentalism, and they lack the imagination to refrain from imposing the same austerian destruction on Ukraine they are imposing on EU countries. And it’s not as if NATO would have admitted Ukraine in the absence of Russia taking a bit of Ukraine, even if the new regime in Kiev had asked for that. Military realignment wasn’t in the cards, this was just a fiscal matter, until Putin decided to make military realignment possible.

Putin went from a card game involving loan deals that he was going to win conventionally, into a military alignment game he can only win by shooting the moon.

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Anarcissie 03.04.14 at 12:34 am

Glen Tomkins 03.04.14 at 12:11 am @ 87:
‘Sure, no doubt the vampire squids of Western capitalism are pretty alienating. Ukrainian public opinion would probably have shifted Russia’s way because of them.

So why invade the Crimea? How does that help Ukrainian opinion shift away from the EU? How is that not the biggest impediment to Ukrainian opinion shifting towards Russia? …’

My guess would be that Mr. P does not think he is engaged in a Ukrainian popularity contest.

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Bruce Wilder 03.04.14 at 12:51 am

So why invade the Crimea? How does that help Ukrainian opinion shift away from the EU?

That’s the stick. Russia offered a very, very juicy carrot ($15 billion credit and a subsidy on the gas price) and that was rejected. If you don’t take the carrot, you get the stick. Every jackass finds that out. (Remember the Polish PM explaining to the Maidan leadership: you take the deal, or you’re dead. These are not the brightest bulbs, geopolitically; you have to use small words and speak slowly.)

Why did they have to act now, and militarily, when economics would have, given a few months or years, won it for them?

I expect that Putin, rather conspiratorially perhaps, imagines that the U.S. or U.S. interests engineered the protests and the collapse of Yanukovych. (Nuland certainly made it sound like it.) In Putin’s mind, the U.S. broke the agreement on the territorial integrity of Ukraine by acting to take Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence. He’s responding decisively to what he regards as blatant and aggressive Western provocation.

The collapse of Yanukovych effectively removed Russia from the negotiating table, and Russia cannot allow itself to seem superfluous, even for a moment. If the deal between the protestors and Yanukovych brokered by the EU had been made to stick, then Russia would have remained patient, because they were still participating, and still respected.

Because the Yanukovych bridge collapsed, the Russians needed to make it very clear to the other parties, particularly to the EU and the U.S., but most especially, it appears, to the Ukrainians, that Ukraine doesn’t get to choose the West over the East. No matter what, Russia must be negotiated with. And, neither the EU, nor Ukraine nor the U.S. is in a position of strength, even though it may appear, with the collapse of Yanukovych, that Russia isn’t either.

Crimea is a low-risk move for Russia. The locals, except for the Tartars and linguistic Ukrainians, are amenable. Russia has bases in place, so there’s no risk of exposing the logistical or operational shortcomings of Russia’s naval or military organization. Crimea, by Ukrainian standards, is prosperous and stable. And, Crimea is historically Russian.

I think that Russia wants to be negotiated with, on the basis that Ukraine remains within its sphere of influence. It wins in the long run for sure, only if that remains true in the short run.

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Bruce Wilder 03.04.14 at 12:57 am

Alex K. @ 86

Putin’s authoritarianism has been a solution to the problem of oligarchic abuse of power, which is far more acute a problem in the Russian context than abuse of power by the state. Putin is popular, because he’s delivered a decade of improving living standards — he makes the oligarchs share.

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bob mcmanus 03.04.14 at 1:03 am

What was the crisis for Russia? Why did they have to act now, and militarily, when economics would have, given a few months or years, won it for them?

Syria is still very much on for US and Sauds.

1) There are reports of a Turkish plane (Tatars) headed for the Crimea and turning back. I think if Putin hadn’t taken the Crimea, it would have been taken from him. In hours or days. He would have his ships, but refueling and resupply would be at the mercy of Maidan/Kiev. He would not shell his own port, at least not without drastic consequences.

2) I think the idea, and it still on, is to tie up Putin and especially the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea/Ukraine. I think chem weapons were a cover, that the real thing that kept Obama from attacking Syria was the Black Sea Fleet.

Watch for another “provocation from Assad” this spring/summer.

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notsneaky 03.04.14 at 1:11 am

@84

To the extent that that’s what Putin/Russian state TV actually says, of course I don’t disagree. I’m even willing to be convinced that that’s what Putin actually believes.

“Fully informed disinterested observes”? That’s another story.

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Alex K. 03.04.14 at 1:19 am

“Putin’s authoritarianism has been a solution to the problem of oligarchic abuse of power”

Putin’s authoritarianism has been a shift of power from one set of oligarchs to another set — the set that does Putin’s bidding. I agree that Putin is good at propaganda: whether he finds archaeological treasures in the deep sea, rides white horses bare-chested, or pretends to help the people.

And of course, the oligarchs became oligarchs precisely because they abused state power, as their great wealth was made at the interface of the state with the private sector.

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Glen Tomkins 03.04.14 at 1:36 am

@88,

What sort of contest does he imagine he is engaged in?

He didn’t need to send troops into Crimea to secure it for his Black Sea Fleet, or for any other military purpose. You don’t have to have your troops sitting on a piece of ground in order to control it. As long as his army can roll over Ukraine’s, as it can now, the Crimea is absolutely secure for Russia. He added nothing to that security by sending in ground troops to sit on the Crimea.

What that move has done, is to make it possible, where it was not possible before, for Ukraine to ask to be admitted to NATO, and to make it impossible, for at least as long as there is a crisis and this matter has any public attention at all in the US, for the US to refuse NATO membership to Ukraine. After a few years of western military aid, Ukraine’s army will no longer be so easy to roll over, and the Crimea will no longer be secure for Russia — quite aside from the NATO commitment to go to war should Russian tanks ever roll.

Public opinion in Ukraine very definitely matters, unless Putin intends to shoot the moon and not let there be any rump Ukraine with any Ukrainian public opinion.

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bob mcmanus 03.04.14 at 1:43 am

As long as his army can roll over Ukraine’s, as it can now, the Crimea is absolutely secure for Russia. He added nothing to that security by sending in ground troops to sit on the Crimea.

Oh hell, if we were talking today after military action with hundreds or thousands of casualties, the global conversation would be a little different, wouldn’t it?

The point was holding the Crimea without firing a shot.

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LFC 03.04.14 at 1:47 am

From the OP:
Meanwhile, the hapless John Kerry tells us – with no self-awareness whatsoever – that, in the 21st century, you can’t invade foreign countries on trumped-up charges.
Sure, Kerry probably lacks self-awareness, and yes, the U.S. record is hypocritical on this (see esp G.W. Bush), but hypocrisy should not and does not disqualify a state (govt) from affirming the basic norms of intl society, one of which is, yes, that you can’t invade countries on flimsy charges (or indeed, as a general rule, at all). Does that tell us what to do here from a policy standpoint? No, since not every norm violation requires the same one-size-fits-all response.

And this at the end of the OP:

With my political philosopher hat on, I can say that just states find ways to integrate their citizens across ethnic and linguistic divides, that the boundaries set by history should not be sacrosanct, but that people shouldn’t try to change them by force of arms.

“People shouldn’t try to change them by force of arms” is basically what Kerry is saying, istm. So on this point Kerry and C. Bertram agree.

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shah8 03.04.14 at 2:03 am

1) The Ukraine hasn’t got any money, before or after the coup.

2) There isn’t any practicality to actually *owning* the Ukraine, from anyone’s viewpoint. Any peasant still there is just a peasant to be robbed and raped at will.

3) So why did the coup matter, and matter to Russia? Why did Russia take the Crimea?

I think Russia, Putin among other decisionmakers, has the viewpoint that the West seized the Ukraine because of it’s ability to sign treaties and change other international understandings. Such potential authority that’s not rested on any particular continuity from previous practices, or operating from rational and transparent political/policy motives…well, that’s authority that can be misused to Russia’s detriment. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Changes in the status of the Crimea and the naval bases there. Or emplaced difficulty against Russia supplying their arm forces in Crimea.

So first things first. Deny the new Ukrainian government the ability to decide things in Crimea without Russia’s consent. Putin’s done that. What’s next? I think that Putin will hold Crimea, make noises about wanting to make deals, and simply wait out the money clock, since the new Ukrainian leaders can’t make any other deal while their sovereignty is in question. At some point, whatever’s left of the actual federal level Ukrainian bureaucracy will boot out the coup leaders and agrees to hold new elections, pronto. Russians leave Crimea. Betcha the new elections, if it’s free at all, will be crazy.

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shah8 03.04.14 at 2:05 am

Also, I think that Russia does not have to win the propaganda war. It simply has to slow consensus until time does its work.

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notsneaky 03.04.14 at 2:08 am

You don’t have to have your troops sitting on a piece of ground in order to control it.

But it does help in preventing a country from joining NATO until it “solves its internal problems”. Which may be what Putin is playing for, if anything concrete. Another Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia that nobody knows what to do with so it just sits there.

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Bruce Wilder 03.04.14 at 2:12 am

Glen Tomkins @ 94

One of the unfortunate aspects of human nature is that people of an authoritarian mind-set have somewhat distorted ideas about how to “persuade” others to cooperate. Putin probably imagines that he is doing what he has to, to dissuade the U.S. from offering Ukraine NATO membership, something he imagines was in the works all along, and would happen in the absence of strong Russian action.

The U.S. and its European allies could take the hint. I don’t know that they will. They certainly do not have to respond as you assert that they will. It may be in character, but there’s nothing compelling the West to provoke Russia further. Nothing Putin has done forces them to the response you have outlined, unless their own psychological limitations are even more severe than Putin’s.

In other contexts, the world has seen that U.S. foreign policy is significantly handicapped by failures of imagination and empathy similar in magnitude to those afflicting Putin. The U.S. negotiated a suspension of N. Korean nuclear weapons development in exchange for some very modest quantities of basic foodstuffs. John McCain and company attacked the agreement vociferously and it broke down over U.S. inability to keep its promises. (That the U.S. is an unreliable ally or sponsor is not part of the American self-image, but . . . ) Just the other day, I saw a panel on one of the cable news programs, discussing the latest UN report on N Korean prison camp atrocities, complain that they couldn’t think of any good options for persuading N Korea to behave better. Feeding the N Koreans, to relieve the pressure on a repressive regime from the threat of famine, couldn’t even be conceived of, as a foreign policy option.

I think a more realistic assessment at this point is that the U.S. cannot really make a credible promise to either Ukraine or Russia, and this limits the range of negotiable options.

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Anarcissie 03.04.14 at 2:20 am

Glen Tomkins 03.04.14 at 1:36 am @ 94:
‘What sort of contest does he imagine he is engaged in?…’

Why, a contest of force — not only potential force, but a unmistakable commitment to use it.

Putin might, for some reason, imagine that the US — or someone — has been spending billions of dollars and even inserting personnel into Ukraine for some far-fetched purpose like bringing it into NATO by whatever means were necessary including a coup. If Putin wants to be the big dog in Russia, he’s got to answer it. It’s like a couple of hard guys in a bad neighborhood letting each other know what they’re carrying and how they feel about things, like their turf.

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PGD 03.04.14 at 2:21 am

but hypocrisy should not and does not disqualify a state (govt) from affirming the basic norms of intl society, one of which is, yes, that you can’t invade countries on flimsy charges (or indeed, as a general rule, at all).

well, yes, actually it kind of does, especially when that country does not act through the United Nations and has a record of using ‘rogue state’ type charges to expand its own power and influence. Four out of the past five U.S. presidents have invaded foreign countries with no U.N. support and not even a flimsy self-defense justification (not even counting Iraq I here). Affirming norms is a very tricky thing that takes an impartial judge to do well.

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Glen Tomkins 03.04.14 at 2:24 am

@89,

Well, Yanukovych had to skedaddle from Kiev before, and that did nothing to weaken Russia’s position. The Maidan people did Putin a favor by getting rid of an ineffective client for him. I imagine that Yanukovych has failed Putin for the last time, as my nephew melodramatically puts it when doing his impression of a super-villain.

Russia still has all sorts of effective hooks on Ukraine, despite having weakened all of them, for no corresponding gain, by sending troops into the Crimea . There are plenty of Ukrainian voters and politicians who are somewhat to very Russophile, and somewhat to very EUphobic. There’s the need for cheap gas, and cheap credit, and the difficulty securing either anywhere else. There’s fear of a Russian army that could roll over the Ukrainian army, and not much prospect of any other armed forces riding to the rescue.

So their client Yanukovych is discredited. Big deal. No great loss. Yanukovych hardly embodies Russian interests in the Ukraine. Those interests do not fall and rise with the failed client. The Russians still have their hooks.

They invade Crimea, and all of their hooks are blunted. They shrink to its minimal possible, dead-ender, size the faction of Ukrainian voters willing to vote for Russophile politicians. Any gas or loan carrots Putin can offer now cannot be so readily accepted by any Ukrainian politician of any conviction, because of the PR hit they would take for advocating deals with invaders.

Perhaps worst of all for Russia, resorting to military force, but stopping with just a bit, just the Crimea, takes fear of Russian military might off the table. They’ve shot that cannon. If the meaning of occupying the Crimea is, “Do exactly what I want, or the tanks roll into Kiev next.”, then the govt of Ukraine has already had the stark choice laid out for it. It does what Putin wants, and marches ever further into submission, or it rolls the dice on evening the military odds. Why wouldn’t they seek NATO membership?

Putin has worked himself into a position in which there isn’t much leeway he can afford to give the new regime in Kiev. Every day they don’t submit, abjectly, to whatever Putin wants, the credibility of his military superiority weakens, as invading the Crimea seems more the limit of what he dares to do with that superiority.

And what does he want of the new govt, that they take Yanukovych back as President? The people in charge in Kiev couldn’t deliver on that if they tried. Only Russian tanks entering Kiev can do that now. Has he even asked for anything else, except that ‘the legitimate govt of Ukraine be restored”? The very much short of that he will be able to get from Kiev with anything short of tanks, weakens the threat of those Russian tanks. Even if Kiev wanted to give in abjectly, how would they do that?

Invading the Crimea makes no sense at all unless Putin intends to send the tanks into Kiev. That hardly proves that his intention. Sending troops into the Crimea may simply make no sense. We’ve seen that before, as in the US invading Iraq. This Putin misadventure differs from Dubya’s, though, in being much more likely to trigger further misadventures. Those who could mostly just got the hell out of the US’s way in its hare-brained scheme in Iraq. What Putin is engaged in threatens all the former Soviet republics and Pact members, who may feel they can’t get out of the way.

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shah8 03.04.14 at 2:31 am

Glen Tomkins, that doesn’t really make any sense. You say Russia will do this, will fail to get what they want because they did that…

but what do you think Russia policy aims are? Means and ends, you know.

106

LFC 03.04.14 at 3:19 am

PGD @103
well, yes, actually it kind of does, especially when that country does not act through the United Nations and has a record of using ‘rogue state’ type charges to expand its own power and influence. Four out of the past five U.S. presidents have invaded foreign countries with no U.N. support and not even a flimsy self-defense justification (not even counting Iraq I here). Affirming norms is a very tricky thing that takes an impartial judge to do well.

(a) Iraq I shdn’t be counted anyway, b.c that had UN sanction/approval etc.

(b) It’s bad luck in a way for Russia, I suppose, that it’s a continental power, so when it acts thuggishly in its neighborhood the repercussions are felt by lots of countries and to some extent across Europe. Whereas, e.g., when the U.S. went into Panama in ’89 and toppled Noriega, the repercussions were not felt as widely, partly b.c of the U.S.’s ‘insular’ location between oceans. It may not be ‘fair,’ but geography matters — not to the moral/legal equities but in practical terms.

(c) I don’t agree that affirming norms requires an impartial judge. But we’ll agree to disagree on that, I guess. (At the same time, ways might/shd be found to indicate that Russia does legitimately have special interests in its neighborhood, w the proviso that attempts to further those interests not take the form seen here.)

107

Patrick C 03.04.14 at 3:39 am

#100
“You don’t have to have your troops sitting on a piece of ground in order to control it.

But it does help in preventing a country from joining NATO until it “solves its internal problems”. Which may be what Putin is playing for, if anything concrete. Another Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia that nobody knows what to do with so it just sits there.”

The Crimean independence referendum is on Mar 30. If it passes, as expected, Russia gets their puppet state for their naval bases, but it ceases to prevent NATO membership(by your logic) as Ukraine’s territorial integrity is no longer being violated due to Crimea no longer being Ukrainian territory.

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john c. halasz 03.04.14 at 4:21 am

“(a) Iraq I shdn’t be counted anyway, b.c that had UN sanction/approval etc.”

Umm… No, not really. (DYRCC?)

Besides which one can readily see why such presumed norms of “international law” might provoke the assertion of countervailing normative conceptions. Because “norms” don’t necessarily trump power relations, (aside from the question of who or what is to enforce a norm), and because power relations will always, however hypocritically, throw up their own respective norms.

109

LFC 03.04.14 at 4:21 am

due to Crimea no longer being Ukrainian territory

Well that would partly depend on what the reaction is to the independence referendum. Could end up like S Ossetia (recognized by virtually no one, maybe 4 countries or so(?)) or could end up like Kosovo (recognized by some, not by others). Of course if Ukraine decided to recognize/accept Crimea’s departure in some way, then, yes, it would no longer be Ukrainian territory. (Btw I think NATO would be quite foolish to invite Ukraine in, regardless of the circumstances, and I’m not aware there’s all that much support for it in Ukraine; is there?)

110

LFC 03.04.14 at 4:30 am

@john c halasz
Umm… No, not really. (DYRCC?)

I don’t know what DYRCC is exactly (googled it to no avail), but are you saying that the first Gulf War (’90/’91) did not have UN sanction? Because that’s not my recollection at all.

And I noted the quotation marks around “international law” (nice touch). I notice you don’t put quotation marks around “philosophy” or “economics,” do you? Anyway, late here, in a bad mood, turning off computer for now.

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Matt 03.04.14 at 4:39 am

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_678

If that’s not UN approval for Gulf War I I’d be interested to read why not. I was in elementary school at the time so I didn’t follow the debate like I did for later wars.

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john c. halasz 03.04.14 at 4:56 am

LFC:

I took your reference to be the second more recent “Gulf War”, as that is in more recent and relevant memory. (DYRCC- do you recall correctly). The problem with international law “” is what exactly is its enforcement power, since all systems of law require coercive enforcement to be effective.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.04.14 at 5:46 am

Crimea, by Ukrainian standards, is prosperous and stable. And, Crimea is historically Russian.

Crimea is heavily dependent on the mainland for its food, water, and electricity; it’s hardly prosperous. And it’s only “historically Russian” if history goes back to the USSR, which implemented a basically colonial policy of deporting the Tatars and forcibly settling Russians there.

114

The Raven 03.04.14 at 6:06 am

I’ve gathered up my thoughts on the new great game at http://adviceunasked.blogspot.com/2014/03/ukraine-great-game-v20.html. I am vaguely wondering if Hilary Clinton is going to step forward as one of the great states, er, people (I’m sorry, it just doesn’t have the ring of “statesmen”) of the new world of old powers.

115

Patrick C 03.04.14 at 6:11 am

#113
“And it’s only “historically Russian” if history goes back to the USSR, which implemented a basically colonial policy of deporting the Tatars and forcibly settling Russians there.”

Catherine the Great annexed Crimea from the Ottomans in 1783.

116

Alex K--- 03.04.14 at 8:28 am

I used to post as “Alex K.” with a shameless link to my blog. However there is another poster going by “Alex K.” Although I largely agree with his/her posts, I’ve changed my “K.” to “K—” to avoid confusion.

@teraz kurwa my: “Daniel Beauvois has written a lot on the relationship between the Polish landowning nobility, the Ukrainian peasantry, and the Russian state during the period between the Partitions and WWI in Ukraine west of the Dnieper. He’s also written some (strongly critical) stuff on the Poles’ concept of the kresy (borderlands), i.e. Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania which is directly relevant to understanding the current crisis.”

My understanding is that the Russian imperial government sought to empower the peasantry of the Lithuanian-Polish borderlands and of Poland proper vis-a-vis the Polish (i.e. Polish-speaking, Catholic) landowners. The serfs were emancipated on better terms in Poland than in Russia proper. But I must admit that I don’t know much about West Coast Ukraine (the present-day Zhitomir, Vinnitsa, Kirovohrad obasts plus part of Kyiv oblast). Beauvois’ books have been translated into Russian, Ukrainian and Polish and have been much discussed by local academics.

@notsneaky: “On the Turks – they’re pretty hopping mad about it (for historical reasons and links with the Crimean Tatars).” The had better proceed very carefully. At the moment, most Russians don’t seem to support a war with Ukraine and even Putin’s propaganda cannot change that. However Turkey coming out in support of the Crimean Tatars will be spun as a replay of the Ottomans supporting the predatory Crimean Khanate, which had sent millions of Slavic captives to slave markets of Constantinople by the time it was finally destroyed in 1783.

117

florin poenaru 03.04.14 at 9:00 am

118

Ze Kraggash 03.04.14 at 9:05 am

Here’s my take, if anyone cares: there was a revolution in Kiev (or a coup d’etat, if you prefer), and they overthrew the elected government. What normally follows is some sort of a civil war (or at least a purge of the ruling party and suppression of its base), because the new government needs to take control of the territory; the rebels already assigned a couple of oligarchs as the new governors of two eastern provinces. During a civil war both factions will (normally) look for foreign assistance. The rebels who control the capital are sponsored by the US and EU, while eastern loyalists are sponsored by Russia. But – Russia or no Russia – the rebels don’t control the eastern and southern provinces. It’s their decision now: to fight (seems hopeless, because: Russia), to appease the east/south by offering to share power, or to accept a secession. Secession seems like the most likely outcome, the only question is the demarcation line. Here, the rebels need to be very careful: if they (or their regional allies) use violence against loyalists, that’s all the pretext that Russia needs, to intervene. Very unstable situation.

119

Ronan(rf) 03.04.14 at 12:50 pm

“Besides which one can readily see why such presumed norms of “international law” might provoke the assertion of countervailing normative conceptions. “

This is backwards though I think; in that I can see why the the assertion of presumed norms of regional speheres of influence should provoke ountervailing normative conceptions such as international law.

120

Jerry Vinokurov 03.04.14 at 2:03 pm

Catherine the Great annexed Crimea from the Ottomans in 1783.

By that standard, Ukraine is historically Russian too, and North Taunton is part of Minehead.

121

Cahokia 03.04.14 at 4:48 pm

“Today’s performance, though, put all that speculation to rest. Merkel was absolutely right: Putin has lost it. Unfortunately, it makes him that much harder to deal with. …

Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: Serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can’t talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. Ukraine needs elections, but you can’t have elections because there is already a president. And no elections will be valid given that there is terrorism in the streets of Ukraine. And how are you going to let just anyone run for president? What if some nationalist punk just pops out like a jack-in-the-box? An anti-Semite? Look at how peaceful the Crimea is, probably thanks to those guys with guns holding it down. Who are they, by the way? Speaking of instability, did you know that the mayor of Dniepropetrovsk is a thief? He cheated “our oligarch, [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich” of millions. Just pocketed them! Yanukovich has no political future, I’ve told him that. He didn’t fulfill his obligations as leader of the country. I’ve told him that. Mr. Putin, what mistakes did Yanukovich make as president? You know, I can’t answer that. Not because I don’t know the answer, but because it just wouldn’t be right of me to say. Did you know they burned someone alive in Kiev? Just like that? Is that what you call a manifestation of democracy? Mr. Putin, what about the snipers in Kiev who were firing on civilians? Who gave them orders to shoot? Those were provocateurs. Didn’t you read the reports? They were open source reports. So I don’t know what happened there. It’s unclear. But did you see the bullets piercing the shields of the Berkut [special police]. That was obvious. As for who gave the order to shoot, I don’t know. Yanukovich didn’t give that order. He told me. I only know what Yanukovich told me. And I told him, don’t do it. You’ll bring chaos to your city. And he did it, and they toppled him. Look at that bacchanalia. The American political technologists they did their work well. And this isn’t the first time they’ve done this in Ukraine, no. Sometimes, I get the feeling that these people…these people in America. They are sitting there, in their laboratory, and doing experiments, like on rats. You’re not listening to me. I’ve already said, that yesterday, I met with three colleagues. Colleagues, you’re not listening. It’s not that Yanukovich said he’s not going to sign the agreement with Europe. What he said was that, based on the content of the agreement, having examined it, he did not like it. We have problems. We have a lot of problems in Russia. But they’re not as bad as in Ukraine. The Secretary of State. Well. The Secretary of State is not the ultimate authority, is he?

And so on, for about an hour. And much of that, by the way, is direct quotes. …”

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116852/merkel-was-right-putins-lost-his-mind-press-conference

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Anderson 03.04.14 at 4:56 pm

121: ha, I was just reading that (and linking to it). Julia Ioffe is awesome.

123

Zamfir 03.04.14 at 5:06 pm

Take away the sarcasm, and that strikes me as a reasonable view of the situation. Just a different one than we’re used to. As Merkel said, a different world. Doesn’t mean he’s mad, and I am fairly sure that’s not what she meant.

There is an American tendency to dismiss the whole world as crazy nutters, if they oppose the US.

124

Ronan(rf) 03.04.14 at 5:18 pm

I don’t think we should ascribe madness to Putin. Here’s another little bit on the Russian elite structure

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/04/how-might-sanctions-affect-russia/

which seems to look something like – an alliance between the Church and security services on one side (ie in western parlance ‘the social democrats’) and economic internationalists on the other (‘the neo-liberals’) with Putin in the middle drifting between them, as of late drifting towards the secureligocrats. (ie social demoracts, in our parlance)
Now of course I know nought about this, but Putin seems a canny dude. Perhaps he’s misjudged here, or has been pressured into a bad move, or perhaps it will be pulled off, but he ain’t no madman.
Does anyone know about the alliance between the Church and security services ? How deep and strong is it ?

125

Anderson 03.04.14 at 5:52 pm

I of course don’t think Putin is crazy, per se, but there are two things needed for decision-making: rationality and adequate information. Ioffe again:

For the last few years, it has become something like conventional knowledge in Moscow journalistic circles that Putin was no longer getting good information, that he was surrounded by yes-men who created for him a parallel informational universe. “They’re beginning to believe their own propaganda,” Gleb Pavlovsky told me when I was in Moscow in December. Pavlovsky had been a close advisor to the early Putin, helping him win his first presidential election in 2000. (When, in 2011, Putin decided to return for a third term as president, Pavlovsky declared the old Putin dead.)

126

Anarcissie 03.04.14 at 6:05 pm

What exactly in Putin’s remarks is supposed to be crazy? I’m not getting it.

127

Patrick C 03.04.14 at 6:06 pm

“Catherine the Great annexed Crimea from the Ottomans in 1783.

By that standard, Ukraine is historically Russian too, and North Taunton is part of Minehead.”

I’m not sure what other standard to use. Certainly, the Russian history in Crimea doesn’t start in the Soviet Union, as was suggested in #113.

But there is a strong case to make that Eastern Ukraine is historically Russian. More accurately, it was an autonomous Russian vassal, with autonomy reduced to a nub by the early 1700s.

Western Ukraine certainly wouldn’t fit that standard, though. Having been Polish, and Austrian, throughout the 1600s,1700s, & 1800s. It only passed to the USSR in WW1(the Austrian part) and then WW2(the Polish part)

128

Adrian Kelleher 03.04.14 at 6:12 pm

@Anarcissie

Well for one thing the idea that Crimean volunteer militia are responsible for the occupation is pretty wacky when you consider scenes like this.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.04.14 at 6:26 pm

I’m not sure what other standard to use. Certainly, the Russian history in Crimea doesn’t start in the Soviet Union, as was suggested in #113.

But there is a strong case to make that Eastern Ukraine is historically Russian. More accurately, it was an autonomous Russian vassal, with autonomy reduced to a nub by the early 1700s.

No, of course not. But even going back as recently as 100 years ago, Russians were still a minority in Crimea. Just because Crimea was a Russian possession didn’t make it “historically Russian,” any more than having been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire makes the Czech Republic “historically Austrian.” Painting Crimea as “historically Russian” is only possible if you take a very limited view of history that ignores the essentially colonialist character of both the Russian Empire and the USSR with respect to its non-Russian territories.

130

Igor Belanov 03.04.14 at 6:56 pm

@ 129

If ‘historical’ ethnicity is what matters, then we shouldn’t complain if Merkel sends the Bundeswehr into Ostpreussen. She might hesitate a bit more before occupying Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad though.

131

Anderson 03.04.14 at 7:03 pm

Great Britain is historically Welsh. OUT, Anglo-Saxon occupiers!

132

Anarcissie 03.04.14 at 7:06 pm

Adrian Kelleher 03.04.14 at 6:12 pm @ 128 — Lying or misrepresenting or filtering the facts in order to make oneself look better is hardly ‘crazy’. Indeed, among politicians it’s standard operating procedure.

As I understand the situation, Crimea is predominantly Russian. Given the violent change of regime in Kyiv, and the extreme nationalism of some of the regime changers, who appear to be explicitly anti-Russian (as an ethnicity as well as a state) it doesn’t seem far-fetched that a number of Crimeans might have organized some sort of militia, which the Russian state will no doubt be happy to assist.

Jerry Vinokurov 03.04.14 at 6:26 pm @ 129 — As I recall, Lenin was a big fan of Ukrainian nationality.

133

Matt 03.04.14 at 7:08 pm

Painting Crimea as “historically Russian” is only possible if you take a very limited view of history that ignores the essentially colonialist character of both the Russian Empire

True, of course, but it’s not as if Crimean Tatars had been there from time immemorial, either. There were just another remnant of the Golden Horde, after all, and so full of “colonialist character” themselves. There really are very few “clean” historical claims to territory anywhere.

134

David Coombs 03.04.14 at 7:26 pm

By analogy, then, is North America historically European? I don’t think you have to believe in historically clean claims to territory to object to that statement.

There are actually Tatars left in Crimea now–about 12 percent of the population according to the NYT, which is a considerably higher proportion than remains of Native Americans in the U.S.–and they are not thrilled by the prospect of Russia regaining sovereignty over them.

135

TM 03.04.14 at 7:31 pm

“Western Ukraine certainly wouldn’t fit that standard, though. Having been Polish, and Austrian, throughout the 1600s,1700s, & 1800s. It only passed to the USSR in WW1(the Austrian part) and then WW2(the Polish part)”

It’s even more complicated. Galicia was part of the Austrian empire until WW I but the other parts of present day Ukraine were part of the Russian empire since at least 1815, but when Poland was created in 1918, it included most of Belarus and Western Ukraine.

136

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.04.14 at 7:41 pm

Crimea became Russian (i.e. a part of the Russian state) in 1783 in exactly the same sense as Hawaii became American in 1959. It then became Soviet, and then, recently, Ukrainian.

Or is it not Ukrainian because so few ethnic Ukrainians live there? Tell me.

137

Jerry Vinokurov 03.04.14 at 9:20 pm

There really are very few “clean” historical claims to territory anywhere.

Well, yes, that’s exactly my point. Who, historically, possessed a particular piece of land is pretty useless when it comes to establishing who should possess it now. But describing Crimea as “historically Russian” makes it sound like this was something that “naturally” belongs to Russia and a state of affairs in which it doesn’t is somehow abnormal. My objection is to a phrasing that, to me, appears to naturalize a situation in which Russia is somehow entitled either to full control of its former colonial possessions, or entitled to interfere there, on behalf of “historically Russian” interests.

138

The Temporary Name 03.04.14 at 9:25 pm

Historical claims will probably take a back seat to grievances held in living memory.

139

Igor Belanov 03.04.14 at 9:25 pm

Apart from experiences during the Stalinist era, why would Tatars be so worried about being part of Russia rather than Ukraine? They already have their own republic within Russia.

140

TM 03.04.14 at 9:47 pm

My classical radio station has been playing music from Ukrainian, also Polish and Finnish composers, explicitly mentioning the Ukraine crisis. I hope Putin doesn’t get wind of it ;-)

141

Anderson 03.04.14 at 10:16 pm

140: well, seems that if they played historically Russian music, paratroops might seize the radio station, so good call there.

142

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 10:18 pm

Apart from experiences during the Stalinist era, why would Tatars be so worried about being part of Russia rather than Ukraine? They already have their own republic within Russia.

Probably best to ask them. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty clear they are.

Mostly just speculatin’ but it probably has to do with different factions within the Tatars, and the government of the Russian Tatarstan being controlled by some local oligarchs. There were historically several Tatar states/entities and that might play a role. The Russian Tatarstan was the Khanate of Kazan I think, and part of Russia going much further back than Crimean Tatar state. Also there is some separatist feeling in Tatarstan although not Chechnya level. I’ve also seen some rumblings from Russian speakers in Crimea who claim that the Tatars who are now returning to Crimea are not “real Tatars” but “some Uzbeks” who just want to take previously-Tatar-now-Russian land. Finally, you’d probably like to live in your “ancestral land” if given a chance, so the existence of Tatarstan within Russia is beside the point.

143

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 10:21 pm

Or to put it more succinctly, there’s Volga Tatars and there’s Crimean Tatars (there’s a whole bunch of other smaller groups too) and they’re not the same thing.

144

TM 03.04.14 at 10:39 pm

141: they did play some Tchaikovsky as well. Which paratroops are you alluding to now?

145

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 10:42 pm

Well Tchaikovsky was Russian-Ukrainian-French, so still fits sort of.

146

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.04.14 at 10:44 pm

Crimean Tatars returning from Central Asia have been clashing with people who live there now, most of whom happen to be Russians. There’s a tension, that’s a fact. Presumably, their hope is that Ukrainian nationalists’ Russophobia would come handy.

But that’s a gamble. In Russian Federation they may not get their fields and gardens back, but they would definitely be left alone to practice their religion and whatnot. Nationalist Ukraine will most likely attempt to Ukrainianize them. I’ve seen Ukrainian opinion polls where the question “should Crimea be Ukrainianized” was answered Yes by (IIRC) a significant majority.

147

TM 03.04.14 at 10:46 pm

I guess Igor’s point is that if Tatar minority rights are respected in Russia (don’t know to what extent that is the case), why wouldn’t they in Crimea if Crimea becomes Russian.

Related question, I know Russia is called a “federation” but how much autonomy do the republics actually have? (At least found a map at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subdivisions_of_Russia)

148

Anderson 03.04.14 at 11:06 pm

Tchaikovsky would be in all sorts of trouble in Russia nowadays.

” I’ve seen Ukrainian opinion polls where the question “should Crimea be Ukrainianized” was answered Yes by (IIRC) a significant majority.”

One would think those poll respondents had ethnic Russians in mind more than Tatars.

149

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 11:44 pm

I guess Igor’s point is that if Tatar minority rights are respected in Russia (don’t know to what extent that is the case), why wouldn’t they in Crimea if Crimea becomes Russian.

Probably because there’s no (not as much) bone of contention – land, former property, influence in any government, historical grievances (though Stalin repressed the Volga Tatars too) – between Russians and Volga Tatars in Tatarstan like there is between Russian speakers and Crimean Tatars in Crimea. It also depends on what exactly you mean by “rights”.

150

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 11:44 pm

I guess Igor’s point is that if Tatar minority rights are respected in Russia (don’t know to what extent that is the case), why wouldn’t they in Crimea if Crimea becomes Russian.

Probably because there’s no (not as much) bone of contention – land, former property, influence in any government, historical grievances (though Stalin repressed the Volga Tatars too) – between Russians and Volga Tatars in Tatarstan like there is between Russian speakers and Crimean Tatars in Crimea. It also depends on what exactly you mean by “rights”.

151

notsneaky 03.04.14 at 11:50 pm

Related question, I know Russia is called a “federation” but how much autonomy do the republics actually have?

My understanding is that it can be quite a lot actually, depending on particular circumstances. The Chechen Republic is more or less independent, regardless of what Russian government says. Kadyrov pretends to be subject to Putin, and Putin pretends that Kadyrov’s not pretending. And it works for both of them. Of course that arrangement was established at very high cost to both. Other republics are pretty more closely tied to Moscow for economic and strategic reasons. Overall it’s a bit of Finlandization kind of agreement. You (“you” often being some local strongman, Yakunovych style) have a lot of leeway in managing your internal affairs as long as you strictly adhere to Moscow on overall foreign policy, mixed in with a regular mafia type set up of kickbacks and “taxes” and letting the central guys “get their beaks wet”.

152

Suzanne 03.05.14 at 5:39 am

‘I think one should be very slow to dismiss anything by Snyder as “propagandistic.”’

Why? Although he does seem to have (finally) dropped the golden toilets bit.

153

Alex K--- 03.05.14 at 9:10 am

In pre-1917 Russian, “Tatar” was a generic name for various Turkic-speaking ethnic groups. The Azeris were called “Transcaucasian Tatars”, the Khakas were “Abakan Tatars”, the Kumyks were “Daghestani Tatars”, the Karachaevs were “Mountain Tatars” and so on.

As part of the Russian Federation, Tatarstan enjoys a great degree of autonomy. But Volga Tatars make up 53% of its population and Russians about 40%, and Volga Tatars are Russia’s largest ethnic minority. Plus, Tatarstan’s strategic location in the heart of the country on the Volga river.

154

mab 03.05.14 at 12:26 pm

On the ethnic make-up of Crimea:
According to official statistics, in 1795 the population of Crimea was 4.3% Russian. By 1939 it had grown to 49.6% Russian. Then during the war Stalin deported all the Germans (4.5%) and Hitler deported and killed all the Jews (5.8%). In 1944 Stalin deported the Crimean Tatars (19.4%), the Bulgarians (1.4%), Armenians (1.1%) and Greeks (1.8%). So in 1944, Russians made up 75% of the population. Now they are 58.3% of the population, but they are the minority in 9 districts of Crimea.

The Crimean Tatars began to come back after the break-up of the USSR, and they are different culturally from the Tatarstan Tatars. Why are they against the Russians? Because the Russians just invaded with territorial claims. It’s Moscow calling (regardless of the name of the state).

There used to be more decentralization in the federation before Putin started appointing local leaders, but there are several “categories” of constituent units, which confer different levels of independence. But there is probably much less deviation than, say, among US states (except on language policy; some “republics” like Tatarstan have more than one state language). But in general, the mandate of the federal govt is broader than in the US, covering, for example, education and health care.

In response to other posts: There is no evidence that the majority of demonstrators or government in Kiev are “nationalists” in the pejorative sense. None. And, by the way, Russia is not exactly free of Neo-Nazis, nationalists, and fascists. It is standard practice in Moscow to take particular care on April 20 (Hitler’s birthday), especially if you are dark-skinned or obviously foreign.

Here in Moscow I get most of my news from Ekho Moskvy. I highly recommend it: http://www.echo.msk.ru. Huge variety of opinions (probably more or less clear if you use google translate), and priceless photos and videos.

A lot of people here in Russia think Putin has lost it, particularly after his chat with journalists yesterday. Putin is generally a phenomenal public speaker. His Q&A sessions with the public go on for over 4 hours, and he speaks in perfect, long, coherent sentences, never digressing, with facts and figures at the tip of his tongue. Yesterday he was all over the place, as Joffe has entertainingly conveyed. That scared people, especially because, well, why did he do this?

I mean, there is no evidence of the Russian population being in danger. That is the ostensible reason to invade. The Russians have a lease for the Black Sea Fleet until 2042. No one questioned that last week. What was the urgency? Why couldn’t they work to support-maintain-re-establish their interests over time? What have they achieved? They desperately need foreign investment, their economy is limping along. They need their markets for gas and oil in Europe in order to survive. They’ve undone the good the Olympics did their reputation and certainly harmed their own economy, at least for the short run and maybe for longer. Why would you spend $50 billion on the Games and say a gazillion times that finally the world will see the true Russia — modern, civilized, advanced — and then undo all that with an invasion? And instead of a “buffer state” to the south, they have created at least 22 million enemies. I just glanced over to the Ekho Moskvy site and see that the Ukrainian parliament has now asked to join NATO – something that wasn’t even under discussion last week and something that NATO itself had discouraged a couple of years ago. That’s why people think he’s lost it – he has taken actions that give him the exact opposite of what he wanted.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.05.14 at 12:31 pm

Anderson, 148:

One would think those poll respondents had ethnic Russians in mind more than Tatars.

The share of Yes in the poll seems a bit too high for that: 75%. In another poll only 44% (in 2008) said Ukrainian was their only mother tongue; for 55% it’s either Russian or both Ukrainian and Russian. Different respondents probably had different things in mind.

Nevertheless, since forced assimilation is in the cards, it’s hard to imagine how future (hypothetical) ethnic-nationalist western-Ukraine-dominated governments could tolerate a significant Muslim minority. Even if nationalists do indeed kick the Moskali’s ass first. So, like I said, it’s a gamble: could be a short-term win and long-term disaster.

Here’s the poll: http://www.uceps.org/eng/poll.php?poll_id=401

156

Ronan(rf) 03.05.14 at 12:41 pm

It would make sense that even ethnic Russians within Ukraine would want Crimea to remain part of Ukraine, if for no other reason than Crimean full autonomy/amalgamation with Russia is going to undermine ‘ethnic Russian political movements’ in Ukraine (ie remove a large voting bloc for ethnic Russian parties – obviously the politics and society is more complex than this, but in the most general terms why would the majority of Ukranians not want Crimea to remain part of the country ? If thats what you’re arguing..)

157

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.05.14 at 1:03 pm

I don’t think (thank god) most people in the east/south are interested in any ethnic political movements. Even the ethnic tension between Tatars and Russians in Crimea is coincidental: it’s really a question of property, compensating the victims of Stalin’s population transfer. The western part, otoh, does have a fair share of martyr complex sufferers.

158

mab 03.05.14 at 1:09 pm

@155
Nevertheless, since forced assimilation is in the cards, it’s hard to imagine how future (hypothetical) ethnic-nationalist western-Ukraine-dominated governments could tolerate a significant Muslim minority.

Of course it must be noted that there is absolutely no evidence that “forced assimilation” is in the cards. And my guess is the local Tatar community knows more about what is likely to happen than you.

159

mab 03.05.14 at 1:14 pm

This is from the NYT: In Madrid, Mr. Lavrov insisted that “self-defense forces” in Crimea were not under Russia’s control.

This is one of many videos where the officer says he is from Russia specifically he identifies himself as a “Russian military.” And he uses the word that means “Russia the country” not “Russia the ethnic group.”
http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/varfolomeev/1272200-echo/

160

Ronan(rf) 03.05.14 at 1:25 pm

@157 – that seems fair, but it doesn’t have to be an ethnic political movement per second , more these demographics vote for party X, party X will lose this much support if Crimea leaves Ukraine. Do people vote along ethnic/regional grounds to some degree ? If if not for ethnic reasons ?

161

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.05.14 at 3:18 pm

Of course it must be noted that there is absolutely no evidence that “forced assimilation” is in the cards.

The recent attempt to repeal of the language law?

And my guess is the local Tatar community knows more about what is likely to happen than you.

Maybe they do, but am I not entitled to have an opinion? And my guess is, a west-dominated government that is very likely to be more nationalistic than the recent Yushchenko’s one that declared Stepan Bandera a Hero of Ukraine cannot to be good for them, for obvious reasons.

162

Alex K. 03.05.14 at 4:06 pm

Now that the EU agreed in principle to provide 15 billion of aid to Ukraine, it seems that I underestimated the resolve of the EU to help Ukraine. So I was wrong on that point. Whoever was responsible for approving such a deal deserves a round of applause.

The only way Putin’s moves made sense was as an attempt to keep Ukraine unstable, thereby scaring away any possible financial aid and thus forcing a deal with Russia. I think I was right about that and it’s likely that EU decision makers saw it too, and acted accordingly.

Now that Putin’s bluff was called, what will he do? Will he double down and try to provoke even further destabilization? Or will he settle for a face-saving toothless agreement?

Let’s hope it’s the later.

163

Ronan(rf) 03.05.14 at 4:24 pm

Afaik, the EU’s initial deals with Ukraine have to be seen in the context of trying to incentivise Ukranian political and economic reform (prerequisites to any hypothetical accession to the EU) so there was never going to be (as laid out by a few people above) some overly generous agreement/aid package or an attack on Ukranian oligarchs and redistribution of wealth (impossible) The Russians could offer better terms because they dont care about the reform part, and arent tied to demanding it institutionally.

This seems to be just an aid package to stabilise the country. My assumption would be the EU and NATO have very little interest in closer relations (at least through formal institutions) with Ukraine for the forseeable future (?) considering Russia’s response.
So this is good for Putin, no ? He gets the west to help fund stability while also making it clear that there’s no medium term possibility of Ukraine ‘moving west’ ?
Or am I off kilter .. ?

164

Ronan(rf) 03.05.14 at 4:26 pm

Isn’t it a mistake to look at Putins actions through a West/East frame rather than a regional one ? (ie Putin’s primary audiences were domestic and regional – and of course in the west but perhaps not in the main part)

165

mab 03.05.14 at 4:43 pm

@161 Of course you have a right to your opinion. The thing is, the language law was one mark against the parliament, but a mark for the gov’t (who vetoed it). But then you have evidence to the opposite: the flashmob organized on Friday so that a bunch of Ukrainians in the West spoke Russian and a bunch of Russians in the East spoke Ukrainian; the video of the mayor of Lvov speaking Russian to his Russian compatriots to assure them of good will; the endless list of Russian writers making statements along the lines of “we’re fine”; the vast number of Russian language schools in the country (as opposed to zero Ukrainian schools in Russia); the vast majority of media — books, radio, television — in Russian as opposed to Ukrainian; the fact that for years language hasn’t been much of an issue (read any Russian correspondents now in Ukraine). So one law that didn’t pass against the backdrop of perfectly fine ethnic and language relations? No examples in the last week of anyone having any trouble. (Russians have just invaded. If this was a time for people to insist their neighbors speak Ukrainian — this is it.) But nothing like that seems to have happened. So while you have the right to your opinion that “forced assimilation” is likely, you haven’t backed it up convincingly.

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mab 03.05.14 at 4:53 pm

Oh, you all might not know this.
About 17% of the population of Ukraine is Russian.

Then this is from Wikipedia:
According to a 2007 country-wide survey by the Institute of Sociology, only 0.5% of the respondents describe as belonging to a group that faces discrimination by language.

According to the Institute of Sociology surveys conducted yearly between 1995 and 2005, the percentage of respondents who have encountered cases of ethnic-based discrimination against Russians during the preceding year has consistently been low (mostly in single digits), with no noticeable difference when compared with the number of incidents directed against any other nation, including the Ukrainians and the Jews. According to the 2007 Comparative Survey of Ukraine and Europe only 0.1% of Ukrainian residents consider themselves belonging to a group which is discriminated by nationality.

By 2007, 20% of pupils in public schools studied in Russian classes. Some regions such as Rivne Oblast have no schools with Russian only instruction left, but only Russian classes provided in the mixed Russian-Ukrainian schools. As of May, 2007, only seven schools with Russian as the main language of instruction are left in Kiev, with 17 more mixed language schools totaling 8,000 pupils, with the rest of the pupils attending the schools with Ukrainian being the only language of instruction. Among the latter pupils, 45,700 (or 18% of the total) study the Russian language as a separate subject in the largely Russophone Ukrainian capital, although an estimated 70 percent of Ukraine’s population nationwide consider that Russian should be taught at secondary schools along with Ukrainian.

That might give you some perspective.

167

Harold 03.05.14 at 5:07 pm

The neo-con idea of “incentivizing” countries through monetary aid strikes me as deeply wrong. Of course our academics and influential foreign policy “wonks” would never question something so potentially rewarding to their careers and pocket books. They have been “incentivized”!

I am not saying we shouldn’t provide aid, but aid that is really aid to our own big corporations (and corporate universities) is not really aid but bribery.

It is obscene that we are “aiding” the corporate and academic oligarchs here and abroad while forcing elderly widows on fixed incomes to “downsize” into single rooms because of Federal housing cutbacks. Why not go the whole way and move them into camps or just shoot them? http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/loss-federal-rent-aid-force-eldery-tenants-smaller-apartments-article-1.1709694

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bob mcmanus 03.05.14 at 5:29 pm

163, 164: Yeah the EU aid deal comes with the full panoply of IMF economic reforms: agricultural privatization, capital inflows, market prices of natural gas, slashes to pensions and the welfare state.

Frankly, Putin can let the Ukrainians enjoy Greek-style austerity for a while and then offer a better deal and a new referendum.

Maybe. Usually the vampires and leeches want to make your debt-serfdom permanent and irrevocable.

169

Harold 03.05.14 at 6:33 pm

In the meantime Cargill and ADM, who have bought up vast tracts in the Ukraine, will be flooding the world with GMO wheat and herbicide resistant super-weeds.

170

Harold 03.05.14 at 6:33 pm

But that’s progress.

171

Bruce Wilder 03.05.14 at 6:52 pm

an attack on Ukrainian oligarchs and redistribution of wealth (impossible)

Solving the problem is always impossible.

172

Ronan(rf) 03.05.14 at 7:31 pm

Impossible to resolve in the short term, through outside intervention without serious political reform would be my qualification.

173

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.05.14 at 7:45 pm

Mab 166, but I was talking about a hypothetical future nationalist government influenced by svoboda, pravy sektor, and similar movements. Not about the current situation. A hypothetical government that will help Crimea Tatars to reclaim their property, which, I believe, is their main motivation for teaming up with the new regime in Kiev (I could be completely wrong, of course). You may believe that such a government is unlikely, and I hope you’re right, but I don’t see how you can deny that it’s at least a possibly. It’s a possibility because the Yushchenko’s regime (that made Bandera a national hero) was already influenced by nationalists, and now they are much stronger (is it controversial?).

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 2:13 am

I wanted to all the way back up to the first post by bob mcmanus.

On another site I frequent, there’s a Syrian fellow who has been talking about this quite a bit, though it does not seem to have immediate (day-to-day) impact on this situation. Yet clearly there are connections here. Can anybody drop me on a pile of information here? I’ve yet to start reading the links in earnest – too much reading while I’m nursing a minor headache still.

Time to go listen to the stolen EU conversation.

175

mab 03.06.14 at 8:25 am

@173
Is a strongly nationalistic government that suppresses the status of Russians in Ukraine possible? I don’t see any indication that it is likely. I have not found any indication of greater discrimination of Russians under Yushchenko. I haven’t seen it in the last week.

Besides, Russia is making claims about discrimination, violence, threats to life and property happening now, while no one can find any evidence of that (and the Russian troops seem unwilling to let independent observers into Crimea — the UN envoy got detained and turned back).

I think the Crimean Tatars began to return just before the dissolution of the USSR. They have been living under the Ukrainian government — and under 4 presidents, including the “nationalist” Yushchenko — for about 25 years. The fact that they want to continue to live under the Ukrainian government suggests to me that they trust it and don’t feel that a danger might appear in the future.

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Anarcissie 03.06.14 at 3:34 pm

I suspect Putin’s talk of Russians being oppressed is mostly just talk, of a sort which is more or less traditional in his situation. Indeed, given that some extreme Ukrainian nationalists were reportedly talking about expelling or exterminating Russians and Jews, the temptation to use so hallowed an instrument must have been irresistible.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.06.14 at 3:53 pm

Mab

Besides, Russia is making claims about discrimination, violence, threats…

But I’m not associated with the Russian government, so what’s the point? Besides, I don’t think your summary is accurate: they claim that (what they regard as) the recent fascist putsch in Kiev and the absence of a legitimate government make the situation dangerous. You can agree or disagree with the premise, but that’s a different claim.

The fact that they want to continue to live under the Ukrainian government suggests to me that they trust it and don’t feel that a danger might appear in the future.

This is not a meaningful statement. Their attitude could change tomorrow – in fact I believe it’s changed somewhat already, after the visit of Tatarstan’s president – and what are you going to say then?

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stevenjohnson 03.06.14 at 5:01 pm

Re the “useful” Ames: I didn’t bother commenting on his inflammatory nonsense about the real Fascists being the snipers. The kind of trash who fall for that are capable neither of common sense nor common decency. The mildest effort at an objective look at the situation showed Yanukovych personally was trying to avoid violence and make a deal. But the irony of history is such that Ames, like a blind pig finding an acorn, may have stumbled upon something.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZEgJ0oo3OA8

Just as the Nuland revelations have been, are and will be ignored by the propagandists, so will this.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 5:47 pm

Reading Ames’ piece, once you get past the opening the only thing that seems blatantly wrong now is precisely his reading of the snipers as allied with Yanukovych – the Estonian minister said that the snipers were firing on people from both sides, and being allied with one of the opposition groups. And that is easily understood as Ames admits in the opening sentences that he has been out of the country for a while – a lot of people have probably read that one wrong.

Incidentally, the Nuland leaks also dovetail with Ames’ argument that US organization won’t direct the outcome of the revolution. It has been fascinating to see the difference between the directly forceful Russian response, which might actually get results, and the frantic US attempts to marshal a respectable opposition into a smooth transition for the people. Similar goals (of course with different avatars) but different methods.

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Chaz 03.07.14 at 1:48 am

@179 Bullshit. The Estonian minister said in the leaked phone call that he heard a rumor that the snipers were hired by the opposition and fired on both sides. The source of the rumor is some lady who called him on the phone whom he doesn’t even know. Estonia is a country of 1 million people, they do not have an army of intelligence agents to investigate this stuff.

And if you will look at the videos and photos from the standoff you will see that the snipers were set up on a hill intermingled with other police. And of course there are tons of doctors’ accounts of protesters/rioters killed by precision shots, and zippo about the same for Berkut men.

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notsneaky 03.07.14 at 1:56 am

Their attitude could change tomorrow – in fact I believe it’s changed somewhat already, after the visit of Tatarstan’s president – and what are you going to say then?

…and it could change on Saturday. Or Monday. Or in July. So? This is a weak way of saying “I’m wrong today, but hey! I could be right “tomorrow””.

Their attitude has not “changed after the visit of Tatarstan’s presiden”t. As discussed above, why should it? If anything, the Crimean Tatars have made it even more clearer where they’re standing. And it ain’t with Putin:

http://qha.com.ua/message-from-mustafa-cemilev-130688en.html

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notsneaky 03.07.14 at 1:59 am

Anybody who thinks that the snipers were really hired by the protesters is a complete idiot and that’s all that can really be said about that. Mossad orchestrating 9/11 attacks conspiracy websites are over that way —–>

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Ed Herdman 03.07.14 at 3:44 am

@ Chaz

Yeah, I admit you’re right. Reportedly the doctor being named actually said that she had no way of determining ballistic issues and didn’t have access to dead troops / police – basically denying everything attributed to her. It’s not unreasonable to think she’s under pressure, but her comments didn’t seem fabricated.

The part of this that doesn’t jive is that the EU would be trying to trash the groups they support, unless this is just really a ways of discrediting the US as being more visible – yeah that’s some crazy conspiracy stuff. Whatever the case, Paet clearly didn’t have the story down exactly right.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.07.14 at 1:05 pm

…and it could change on Saturday. Or Monday. Or in July. So? This is a weak way of saying “I’m wrong today, but hey! I could be right “tomorrow””.

I meant that ‘they want it, therefore they trust it’ is meaningless, tautological. Ukrainian nationalist idea can’t attract them, so there must be some other reasons. Mab didn’t suggest any.

I understand that for you and Mab the reason is obvious: you view this as a struggle between Putin’s evil empire and benevolent (if imperfect) western institutions. But not everybody feels this way. Besides, you consistently choose to ignore or gloss over some well known facts; see here, for example, written by an American professor, published by CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/06/opinion/speedie-ukraine-far-right/

185

dax 03.07.14 at 2:17 pm

The narrative as I understand it is that the US, and particularly Obama, still peeved by the Snowden affair, and the Russian refusal to kowtow to American dictates, invested money via the Baltics to overthrowing the legitimate state government in the Ukraine, which was a Russian ally. (The Ukraine government was certainly corrupt, but probably no more than the US.)

186

Andrew F. 03.07.14 at 4:08 pm

So, the referendum will occur in 9 days, and then things will get really interesting.

Just for fun, Possibility A:

Crimean Government insists that Ukrainian forces depart (their presence prevents Crimean independence from becoming new status quo).

(Branch 1) Ukrainian forces refuse:

Russian forces, solicitous to the pleas for help from their powerless Crimean friend, either:

(i) tighten blockade around Ukrainian forces, increasing pressure and hoping for capitulation without violence, or

(ii) deliver an ultimatum.

(Branch 2)

Ukrainian forces depart, with some perhaps defecting.

Russian Black Sea Fleet forces continue occupation, which will soon be formalized in agreement between Russia and Crimea.

Branch 2 consequences: Crimean “independence” new status quo; Ukrainian integration into NATO accelerated; other Eastern European states ask for, and receive, increased NATO presence, development, and exercises; intelligence cooperation against Russia increases; possible negative G8 and economic consequences for Russia; also a net positive for China.

Branch 2 is certainly the most probable, viewing the situation from a considerable distance. But the Ukrainians may roll the dice, hoping that Putin’s wish to avoid an escalation that could imperil his entire venture will enable them to hold out in their bases with the occasional supply run while the Ukrainian Government and its friends pursue a better settlement.

Meanwhile, a US guided missile destroyer, part of a larger naval group deployed to the Med, is en route to the Black Sea for scheduled exercises with Romania and Bulgaria.

Incidentally, I’ve been impressed with the scale of Russian propaganda. Some of the stories spun by them have even managed to make their way into The Guardian.

187

Anarcissie 03.07.14 at 4:32 pm

Russian propaganda has been getting a lot of help. For instance, one could hardly hope for better than the overt association of Ukrainian nationalism with fascism and Naziism, or an American proconsul with neocon associations cursing the EU for being insufficiently aggressive. And that’s just the recent stuff.

In the matter of snipers, I would ask, ‘Who benefits?’

188

notsneaky 03.07.14 at 5:02 pm

In the matter of snipers, I would ask, ‘Who benefits?’

The mothers, fathers, sons, daughters of the killed of course! Would you have said something as stupid and callous about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing? After all, the death of those four little girls did “benefit” the Civil Right movement, in a way roughly analogous to how the protesters “benefited” from having their friends and relatives killed.

189

Anarcissie 03.07.14 at 5:09 pm

Oh, I see; we can’t ask certain questions.

190

Chaz 03.07.14 at 10:23 pm

Who benefits? The idea is that shooting protesters will cause the other protesters to get scared and leave. The regime benefits. This is how it has always been, from the Riot Act to the Pinkertons to Tienanmen Square. Usually works, this time it didn’t.

191

Anarcissie 03.08.14 at 12:21 am

Chaz 03.07.14 at 10:23 pm @ 189:
Who benefits? The idea is that shooting protesters will cause the other protesters to get scared and leave.

That seems like a pretty dumb idea for the authorities. If the people who want the protesters to leave are the government, they have much more practical and less inflammatory means of achieving that end than snipers. If we want to compare this to the Birmingham church bombing, as notsneaky does, I presume in order to frighten me off, it’s like saying the municipal and state authorities bombed the church. Not impossible, but most improbable, and certainly not in their interests either as politicians or as segregationists. (As it turned out, the bombing was carried out by Ku Klux Klan terrorists, and the authorities were not involved (except that J. Edgar Hoover sort of protected the Klan by suppressing information which identified the perpetrators.))

Sniping is an act of terrorism which could be expected, even by the fairly simple-minded, to rile up the opponents of the regime and play very badly both at home and abroad, thus destabilizing the situation and legitimating revolutionary violence, thus leading to overthrow of the existing government, which is exactly what happened. Now, who would want that to happen? Poor old incompetent, corrupt Yanukovych?

192

roy belmont 03.08.14 at 2:08 am

In the matter of snipers, I would ask, ‘Who benefits?’
Trying to rise above the obscene and arrogant scumminess of the reply that most immediately forthcame that question:
It wrecked the agreed-upon peace-talking? The movement toward a tenuous but relatively more Ukrainian solution?
As opposed to the euphemism-saturated neo-liberal carrion feast we’re now supposed to be cheering on.
Snipers deployed with the same objectives as were in play in Venezuela right around the same time. Financed by the same players.
Create chaos, because we feed on chaos.
Rip the masks off dudes, you don’t have to keep pretending to be reasonable disinterested spectators.
Cop to your real position. Your real affinities.
It’ll be more fun in the long run.

193

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 3:32 am

“Who benefits?” might be overthinking the situation, here.

194

Anarcissie 03.08.14 at 3:51 am

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 3:32 am @ 193 — What? It just happened to happen?

Someone noted that the shooting showed expertise, based on the kind of wounds he or she observed. Another rumor, perhaps. In any case it’s not impossible that incompetent, corrupt Mr. Yanukovych employed a team of crack marksmen as assassins, but it doesn’t seem like his style. Maybe we can attribute them to Putin. No doubt the bright, new regime will soon arrest the perpetrators — or somebody — and then we’ll know.

195

notsneaky 03.08.14 at 4:10 am

Oh, I see; we can’t ask certain questions.

You can ask whatever questions you like. It’s just that some “questions” are not only in the “where is Obama’s *real* birth certificate” category, but also constitute a way of making some morally disgusting claims.

Look. You can have different opinions about the ethnic situation in Crimea. You can be more or less concerned about the presence of parties like Svoboda in Ukraine. And you can think that there’s not much the West can do here. Fine, I understand all that.

Where the problem starts is when people begin making up some wacky “blame the victim” crap, in order to rationalize their position. And that’s what this “maybe the protesters shot themselves on purpose, who knows, I’m just a guy asking questions” nonsense is.

If you’re walking down a street and you see some thug beating up on someone smaller and essentially helpless, you might not, understandably, jump in and try to take the guy on yourself. Especially if the guy has a knife or gun or something. But that does not give you an excuse to go around telling people, or even yourself, “well that person most likely deserved it, they’re probably some kind of a fascist, and anyway, they might have given those bruises to themselves”. At that point you’ve crossed a certain line.

(you do have an obligation to make some noise, yell for cops, or at least make sure the thug knows he’s being watched. That’s sort of what US diplomacy has been doing here so far. As they should)

196

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 4:44 am

Along those lines, “showed expertise” does not particularly count as evidence towards a false flag operation. People have been shooting rifles competently for a long time. (man, getting a strong sense of deja vu here.)

197

Anarcissie 03.08.14 at 5:34 am

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 4:44 am @ 196 — It’s true, ‘showed expertise’ is a thin thread. When I first read of it, I was under the impression that the writer was trying to use ‘expertise’ to assign responsibility to the (bad old) Ukrainian government. But then I thought the story had a certain redolence. (I had forgotten all about the Venezuela thing.) It didn’t seem to be in Yanukovych’s interests or character. Of course, he could be really, really dumb, or it could have been a rogue operation. But I think one wants to look around and consider things. In the Ukrainian mix we also have a state which has killed millions of people and invaded a couple of dozen countries not attacking it or threatening it, and this in recent years. Would its leadership balk at knocking off a few Ukrainians for the greater good? Just trying to apply a little common sense here.

As for false flag, I didn’t know the snipers had any flag besides their expertise.

198

roy belmont 03.08.14 at 5:45 am

morally disgusting claims
‘”A Venezuelan beauty queen and student demonstrator was fatally shot in the head during a political protest”
Eyewitnesses in the crowd she was in, from the side she was on, the neo-liberal sock-puppet parade side, placed the shooter behind them, not in front where the government was.
A doctor working in a clinic set up by and for the anti-gov. protesters in Kiev says she examined the victims of the sniper attack, which included 9 police. She said they were the same type wounds, same caliber, same kind of gun, in her opinion, same shooter.

“Morally disgusting claims” in the sense that they’re claims about morally disgusting things.
What kind of craven dishonorable scum-sucking swine would do that shit?
I think you know, is the thing.
Take the mask off, man. Reveal your true identity.
We can take it.
It still won’t be a fair fight, but it will be a hell of a lot more exciting.
And fun.

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stevenjohnson 03.08.14 at 6:30 pm

“Anybody who thinks that the snipers were really hired by the protesters is a complete idiot and that’s all that can really be said about that. Mossad orchestrating 9/11 attacks conspiracy websites are over that way —–>”

The quote above finishes its rancid dismissal of the concept of evidence with a straw man ad hominem. Even if I did think Mossad had something to do with 9/11, that would be irrelevant. But the interesting thing is the way the poster instantly perceived an opponent of neo-fascists in Ukraine as an opponent of Zionism, and promptly insinuated anti-Semitism. There is a certain logic if Zionism really is merely an unusual brand of fascism, though.

Pointless digression OT to 9/11.

[My belief, for what it's worth, is that US intelligence had informers and surveillance on (part of, as it turned out) an operation. Thinking they had it penetrated, with one of the guys even rooming with an FBI informant, they allowed it to proceed. I believe they wanted an event as pretext for war with Iraq, but it may be they simply wanted a more spectacular arrest "in the nick of time." I suspect the US intelligence may have been played, probably by Atta who bamboozled them with a meeting in Prague to lure them with a propaganda coup against Iraq. It didn't take a massive conspiracy, just a couple of orders, notably one squashing that memo from the person who was suspicious of the flight training. In the Western view of the world, ruthlessness is the winning strategy. After 9/11, the complete failure of ruthlessness meant it could never be admitted why the Atta operation was allowed so much rope.

There seems to have been a little leakage if it is true that some were discreetly warned away from planes, and others were planning stock market buys. Perhaps some Mossad people were deemed more worthy of protection and benefits than mere US nationals. But I can't imagine any other connection for Mossad. A bunch of Saudis and a few other Arab nationalities hijacked four planes, and those planes crashed into buildings, some of which collapsed due to the fires. I suppose this was more of an incident than the handful than expected, but they seem to have had little problem taking it in stride. ]

200

Andrew F. 03.08.14 at 10:14 pm

Anarcissie,

I’m unsure as to why you suppose that the riot police tasked with controlling and then “dispersing” the protests would not position snipers as part of their operations, especially given that they were heavily outnumbered and that some of the protesters were obviously quite violent (hurling Molotov cocktails goes a bit beyond peaceful expression).

I’m also unsure as to why anyone would suppose that Yanukovych, who had attempted to order the Ukrainian military to squash the protests, would be reluctant to position snipers.

Finally, live fire into a protest is not usually regarded as an effective means of ensuring additional participation by protesters.

As to the repetition of the standard narrative from Russian information ops, that the protests and the violence were both deliberately fomented by meddling Americans, come on. Really? It’s up there with Putin’s claim that the 30k+ Russian troops in Crimea are actually Crimean “self-defense” groups.

stevejohnson,

“Ruthlessness” isn’t a strategy, and the “Atta in Prague” story has been debunked by every reputable organizations to look into it.

201

Bruce Wilder 03.08.14 at 10:37 pm

the violence [was] deliberately fomented by meddling Americans, come on. Really?

And, this is implausible, how?

The United States has a long, and well-documented history of fomenting violence in service of regime change. It is not like there’s no precedent. American diplomats were caught discussing the composition of the new government, like they owned it, and Victoria Nuland claimed the U.S. had spent $5 billion over the last twenty years in Ukraine — that’s a lot of money.

As the title of the OP implied, it is hard to know who to believe. But, I don’t think there’s any basis for an a priori scorn for the idea that the U.S. and its European and NGO allies did not play a major role, with an eye on excluding the influence of its Russian rivals.

Nor do I see much basis for imagining that the deal likely to be on offer from the West is going to be materially better for the mass of Ukrainians than Russian assistance. Neither is likely to assist in deposing the oligarchs.

202

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 11:04 pm

The Nuland / Pyatt phonecall sounded more like some frustrated bureaucrats-cum-PR-handlers trying to shepherd things behind the scene. Now, I’m ready to say that the US handling of this affair can be criticized if it lead to essentially arming people doing the firing. But stating that we actually intended for there to be firing is a different claim.

I’m not at the point where I see the external players being responsible for the murders. Russia’s obvious stance seems to be that pushing soldiers into the area can help everybody else cool their jets; the U.S. stance is that “maybe we did learn from Iraq?” The EU is off doing the EU thing (which is what Nuland is frustrated with, of course). And actually how these various groups are trying to marshal support amongst their preferred avatars is a partially separate topic.

203

Andrew F. 03.08.14 at 11:45 pm

Bruce,

Seriously? Given that we are talking about the Ukraine, which is more plausible:

(A) Besieged riot police unit snipers defending an unpopular and incredibly corrupt leader open fire on unyielding, and in parts violent, groups of protesters, or

(B) US funds and encourages ultranationalist/fascist group to fire on protesters (the protesters that the US is supporting) in hopes of discrediting the Ukrainian government – the government against which massive numbers of protesters had turned out, in the face of violence, already?

The US has provided foreign aid to Ukraine, among many other countries, quite openly. See e.g. FY2013 Foreign Assistance – Ukraine.

The US has had the explicit goal for years of integrating Ukraine further into Europe. It has openly funded NGOs in the Ukraine, among other things. For obvious reasons the US has attempted to encourage the growth of democratic institutions in Eastern Europe.

But what I have never seen is evidence that the US encouraged protesters to throw Molotov cocktails, become violent, or fire upon other protesters, (or that the US encouraged riot police snipers to fire upon protesters). These assertions are quite literally part of a narrative flowing from Russian information operations. And yes, absent evidence for those assertions, given what we do know about the Ukraine, I think those assertions should be dismissed as propaganda.

As far as anti-corruption efforts in the Ukraine… I agree that it does seem that progress will be slow, but certainly the West is more likely to emphasize rule of law than Russia.

204

Bruce Wilder 03.09.14 at 12:16 am

I’m not interested in pushing a particular narrative line, least of all in pushing a narrative, which turns on the absence of evidence in circumstances in which the guilty parties have every means and incentive to deny and keep secret their sources and methods.

205

LFC 03.09.14 at 1:17 am

Andrew F @186

Branch 2 consequences: Crimean “independence” new status quo; Ukrainian integration into NATO accelerated; other Eastern European states ask for, and receive, increased NATO presence, development, and exercises; intelligence cooperation against Russia increases; possible negative G8 and economic consequences for Russia; also a net positive for China. (italics added)

However this plays out, bringing Ukraine into NATO would be a bad idea, imo. If Ukraine wants some kind of a security guarantee, it should be negotiated, if at all, outside the NATO framework. I suppose there is not too much point re-litigating NATO expansion, but my view is it was a mistake, and though I’m usually not a fan of T. Friedman I agree with his statement in a recent column:

I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was it at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

I’m not sure about the last clause, but I certainly agree w him that NATO expansion was dumb. Another way shd have been found to bring the Baltic and Central/East European countries into closer ties w the West.

206

Anarcissie 03.09.14 at 2:14 am

Andrew F. 03.08.14 at 10:14 pm @ 200 — I have had some experience with crowd control operations as practiced according to U.S. military doctrine. If one is trying to suppress disorder, one does not snipe randomly at a crowd. The desired order must flow outward from the authority, etc.

As I said, it is nevertheless certainly possible that incompetent, corrupt Mr. Yanukovych, or one of his subordinates, or someone in his entourage just out for fun, shot some demonstrators (with expertise). What got my whiskers twitching was the haste with which this event was converted into propaganda. Taking another event people are fond of recounting, 9/11, it was about 24 hours before the government and the boss media had processed and framed the story. Before that, one could actually get news and unfiltered observation on radio and television. Why? Because those in charge of the government and the boss media didn’t know what had happened and had not had time to confer with one another, come to a conclusion about the event, get the word from their higher-ups, and construct an official line. They hadn’t been given that line in advance, as they would have been if the event had been planned by their leaders. In the case of the recent events in Ukraine, if there was some shooting somewhere in crowds brought out by a popular uprising, it would be hard for those not in on the action to determine who was doing what to whom and spring instantly to their keyboards and microphones while the atrocity was still fresh and potent.

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stevenjohnson 03.09.14 at 8:22 pm

“stevejohnson,

‘Ruthlessness’ isn’t a strategy, and the “Atta in Prague” story has been debunked by every reputable organizations to look into it.”

Ruthlessness, compromise, passivity, yes you can loosely refer to these as different strategies. Nitpicking grammar is a sure sign of defeat. Except I suspect you really meant you don’t think the “Western view of the world” is Machiavellian but are quite sure it is the superior, nice one that (no doubt coincidentally,) fits with your own. As you wish, but I doubt this self-flattery helps you understand current events.

Or past ones. If I write that I suspect Atta bamboozled the US intelligence, the statement that “Atta in Prague” has been “discredited” is nonsense. If Atta really did have a meeting in Prague with Iraqi intelligence, then it would be a bamboozle or discredited.

The question is not whether the story is discredite, i.e., revealed to be a bamboozle, but whose bamboozle it was? If you think it was Atta (or one of his operational group,) then you agree with me. Or I agree with you, if you think it’s certain, personally I only think it’s a possibility.

If you think it was the US government, that’s a rational position since it was the US government that publicized the story in the first place. But if you think the US government makes this stuff up, then it doesn’t make any sense to dismiss 9/11 conspiracy theories out of hand. (I dismiss all theories involving planted explosives because I don’t believe the premise that the planes crashes and fires could not have brought the buildings down is correct, but special pleading.)

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stevenjohnson 03.09.14 at 8:24 pm

The correctly typed third sentence in the third paragraph reads: “If Atta really did have a meeting in Prague with Iraqi intelligence, then it would not be a bamboozle or discredited.”

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CityZen 03.09.14 at 9:08 pm

Stephen Walt offers a good, level headed summary assessment here:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/03/no_contest_ukraine_obama_putin

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Andrew F. 03.09.14 at 11:23 pm

LFC – I can understand the reasons for opposing NATO expansion, but imho the long-term benefits outweigh the likely costs. Russia of course is bothered by it, but I do not know of a more explicit and clear means of guaranteeing an Eastern European state’s security from Russian military intimidation than inclusion in NATO. I think that this guarantee is essential to enabling these states to develop as independent democracies, especially given Moscow’s long-standing view of the role of these states. And over the long term for Europe, and the US, I think that development is more important than Russia’s uneasiness.

Bruce – I was not accusing you of pushing any narrative at all – and I apologize if my words conveyed that impression. As to absence of evidence, it’s not simply that there is absence of evidence that the US deliberately fomented violence, it’s also that there is a lot of evidence for the hypothesis that the protests, Yanukovych’s failure to subdue them, and the escalating steps of violence that occurred, had nothing to do with the US.

Anarcissie – If one is trying to suppress disorder, one does not snipe randomly at a crowd. The desired order must flow outward from the authority, etc.

Who said anything about it being random?

As I said, it is nevertheless certainly possible that incompetent, corrupt Mr. Yanukovych, or one of his subordinates, or someone in his entourage just out for fun, shot some demonstrators (with expertise).

Are we watching the same things? You’ve seen stories like this from the BBC via Youtube?

Is the “expertise” of any of the shots meant to contrast with Yanukovych’s incompetence in your sentence?

What got my whiskers twitching was the haste with which this event was converted into propaganda. Taking another event people are fond of recounting, 9/11, it was about 24 hours before the government and the boss media had processed and framed the story. Before that, one could actually get news and unfiltered observation on radio and television.

I’m not sure what you think was filtered after 24 hours in the case of 9/11, but footage and news from the protests were available so quickly because there were media all over the events.

stevejohnson – The “Prague connection” was reported after 9/11. There is no evidence that anyone had ever mentioned it prior to the reports sent by the Czech government to the US after 9/11, apparently on the basis that someone in Prague had seen Atta’s face on television and recognized him.

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Anarcissie 03.10.14 at 12:47 am

Andrew F. 03.09.14 at 11:23 pm @ 210:
‘I’m not sure what you think was filtered after 24 hours in the case of 9/11, but footage and news from the protests were available so quickly because there were media all over the events.’

News is usually filtered and framed in order to present whatever narratives, dramatis personae, and meanings those who control the media wish to present. But right after 9/11, the New York City stations still broadcasting were carrying unedited, unfiltered, unscripted, live reporting from the scene and the streets. The difference was quite noticeable (to me, anyway). I’ll give one example. On one radio station, they interviewed a woman who had lived in London through the blitz of 1940 and was unimpressed by 9/11. ‘We had this every day,’ she remarked. ‘This, and worse.’ She was doubtless a product of the ‘London can take it’ school, which emphasized courage and fortitude on the part of the masses as well as the leadership. That kind of remark would not to be heard after the first day — subsequently the media focused on panic, fear, anger, sententiousness, and sanctimony, either because the media programmers and managers decided that was what the public wanted to hear, or because someone thought angry, fearful people would be easier to manipulate than stiff-upper-lip types. I could go on, but it will get tedious.

The lack of media coherence after 9/11 suggests to me that no one in the upper reaches of the government expected the attacks, hence in spite of my fondness for conspiracies I think I must leave that particular rat unhunted. Others seem to be carrying on for me, in any event.

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Andrew F. 03.10.14 at 1:27 am

Anarcissie,

I see what you’re saying, though my memory is quite different. I also don’t see the contradiction between resilience (as displayed by the London woman – though I’d be inclined to dismiss as silly her being “unimpressed” by nearly 3,000 people killed in the space of a few hours, especially since the casualty estimates at the time of her reaction were much, much higher) and anger. To my recollection, both were present. And at least based on the words and actions of British officers like Arthur Harris, the British response was hardly devoid of anger.

Incidentally, so far as you perceive a deliberate media framing in broadcasts post t+24hours, it is worth mentioning that for years, on the anniversary of 9/11, stations would rebroadcast the first several hours, sometimes the full day, of the coverage on that day.

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Chaz 03.10.14 at 1:36 am

So are you saying that after three months of violent protests with riot police armed with assault rifles and sniper rifles present, having some protesters actually get shot took you totally by surprise?

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Anarcissie 03.10.14 at 3:40 am

Andrew F. 03.10.14 at 1:27 am @ 212 –
According to Wikipedia, ‘Starting on 7 September 1940, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London.’ I think the British lady was understating her case. Of course, there was a difference in leadership and intention. The British leadership wanted the people to endure, persevere, and fight. The American leadership wanted to spread enough fear and panic to facilitate imperial adventures and internal surveillance, which duly occurred, and otherwise encouraged the people to go shopping.

Once an event has been properly framed and interpreted, once it has settled into public memory, a rerun of the initial chaos does not harm the settled interpretation, because now most people know what they are supposed to think.

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Ed Herdman 03.10.14 at 3:47 am

Opinio Juris recently conducted a flash symposium on the Ukraine. Interesting to note this:

“Secretary Kerry’s charge of aggression is accurate only under a classic interpretation of the international law on the use of force—one that the U.S. has moved away from steadily since 1999.”

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Andrew F. 03.10.14 at 4:06 am

Anarcissie – And on the worst day of German bombing somewhere around 1200 were killed. At the time of the London lady’s lack of impression, casualty estimates for 9/11 were in the range of 10 to 20 thousand. Nor, quite frankly, do I think it remotely reasonable to be “unimpressed” with the deaths of thousands on a single morning because one can recall worse occurring over the course of months and years during WW2.

As to how 9/11 settled into memory, for most it was seared on the first day.

The American leadership at the time was primarily focused on three things: ensuring that there was no fear or panic (the truncated “go shopping” comes from a larger sentence in which the general exhortation is to proceed with one’s life and not allow fear to alter it), preventing any additional attacks, and finding and destroying those responsible.

In any event, let’s return to Ukraine. I think Chaz puts the main point most succinctly.

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Andrew F. 03.10.14 at 4:17 am

Ed – Imho, that’s largely an absurd article, from the contention that the crisis in Crimea will somehow strengthen international law to its endorsement of Putin’s comparison of Russian intervention in Crimea to NATO intervention in Kosovo and Libya and the US invasion of Afghanistan.

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roger gathman 03.10.14 at 5:33 am

I think that one should pay more attention to who Crimea voted for for president in 2010 than to ambiguous censuses of Crimea’s ethnic composition. As far as I can tell, Crimea voted overwhelmingly for Yanukovych. The wikipedia map of the voting is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%94%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B3%D0%B8%D0%B9_%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80_2010_%D0%BF%D0%BE_%D0%BE%D0%BA%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%85-en.png
It seems to show that Yanukovych was the overwhelming favorite in Crimea, so much so that this was how he won the 2010 election. If this is so, I can imagine Crimeans aren’t happy about him being overthrown. I think one should watch out for polls taken after the overthrow to see how the referendum is going to go. Here’s one: http://www.dif.org.ua/en/events/ukrainieyu-ne-hochut.htm

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Anarcissie 03.10.14 at 5:49 am

‘Unimpressed’ is my description. At the time the interview occurred, a few hours after the attacks, nobody knew how many casualties there were.

I directly witnessed the attacks, and the building I was working in in those days was just three buildings over from the site. The reactions to the attacks were much more variegated and complex than anything purveyed in the boss media. In succeeding days, most of the working people I knew went about neither fuming nor shaking in their boots; they were more like those old-time Brits, kept calm, tried to get the job done and get back to some kind of normal. In this they certainly rose above the municipal and national leadership. On the other hand, death and disaster tourists descended on the scene and turned it into a kind of circus. And, of course, within a day or so, the propaganda factories, having received the official line, were belching.

Unlike 9/11, I know very little about Ukraine, but I suspect the media treatment is about as accurate. My interventions should be seen as a form of literary criticism.

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John Quiggin 03.10.14 at 7:26 am

Haven’t followed the thread, but it strikes me that Putin was probably hoping for more trouble in Eastern Ukraine than has actually emerged. The number of pro-Russian demonstrators is small enough that they can be represented (accurately or not, I don’t know) as Russian ‘tourists’ as in this NY Times article

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/world/europe/russias-hand-can-be-seen-in-the-protests.html?_r=0

and there have been big pro-unity demonstrations in places like Kharkiv.

Occupying Crimea at the cost of alienating Eastern Ukraine seems like a very bad deal for Putin.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.10.14 at 11:14 am

John Q @220 I wouldn’t trust any news outlet at the moment, BUT I must say, I was surprised that the Crimean dynamic seems to be heading so quickly towards Russian annexation.

To my mind, that means that Putin doesn’t think he can get any further in Ukraine (except possibly Donietsk) without a fight. A shooting war in Ukraine proper would be a real disaster for Russia’s plans and self-image. So, he’s grabbing what’s most strategically important, and abandoning the rest, at least for now.

Watch Donbass (Donietsk and Lugansk). Russia could occupy those areas without too much difficulty. If she does, then that’s a sign of weakness: that Putin’s given up elsewhere. If not, then Russia is playing a longer game, waiting for the new government to fracture, and perhaps for the effects of EU/IMF imposed austerity to change the political game. Then, when the dust has settled after the presidential elections, there might be a “charm offensive”.

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Ze Kraggash 03.10.14 at 11:21 am

It’s a little weird that snipers turned up and starting shooting both protesters and the police. The new government in Kiev understands that, and they now promote this theory:
http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2014/03/07/russia-ukraine-feud-over-sniper-carnage

Forensic evidence, in particular the similarity of the bullet wounds, led him [new Health Minister Oleh Musiy] and others to conclude that snipers were targeting both sides of the standoff at Maidan — and that the shootings were intended to generate a wave of revulsion so strong that it would topple Yanukovych and also justify a Russian invasion.

…which seems far more far-fetched (nonsensical even, to me at least) conspiracy theory than Paet’s. Just sayin’.

In any case, they have no problem with “shootings were intended to generate a wave of revulsion so strong that it would topple Yanukovych” part.

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Vanya 03.10.14 at 2:19 pm

Just because Crimea was a Russian possession didn’t make it “historically Russian,” any more than having been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire makes the Czech Republic “historically Austrian.”

That’s actually a horrible example. As a matter of fact Bohemia and Moravia are very much both “historically Austrian”, certainly as Austrian as other Habsburg crown lands like Carinthia and Styria (both of which had large Slavic population as of 1919). And more Austrian than Burgenland, which is “historically Hungarian” but part of modern Austria. Of course, until 1918 “Austrian” was a geographical or political designation, not an ethnic one. Just goes to show how fluid and suspect most historical claims really are, and how random modern borders are. Which is why opening Pandora’s box is a bad idea. Crimea arguably is “historically Russian”, the question is “so what?” It’s not Russian today.

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Andrew F. 03.10.14 at 2:51 pm

Anarcissie, I don’t want to derail the thread with 9/11, but a few hours after the attack casualty estimates were based on workday occupancy of WTC1 and WTC2, which resulted in a wide range of possible figures, with the upper bounds as I indicated. I’d also say that the attitudes of people working, those who were engaged in an actual task, were frequently resilient and focused; but behind it, and when not working, there were also frantic calls to see if everyone was all right, to tell everyone else that you’re okay (of course calls were impossible for a time); there were people on the streets in the days after who would burst into tears, and then receive a hug from a stranger (an odd sight in NYC). I suspect our differences here lie mostly in how we perceived the later coverage, and not how we perceived actual reactions.

John,

I agree, though Sasha may be correct about the long term. Of course, the prospect of a Russian occupation of parts of eastern Ukraine may also have been planned as the expensive decoy, designed to make other options look more palatable, in the selection of possibilities Russia showed to the West. Compared to that, perhaps an autonomous or annexed Crimea doesn’t look quite as bad.

Ze,

Perhaps this kind of propaganda war is inevitable in recently closed, still highly corrupt societies. The best selling narratives are those that imply a coordinated conspiracy by powerful actors screened from open view, whose presence must be guessed based upon scattered clues, like an airplane crash that must be pieced together from a sudden spike in obituaries but little more.

It’s possible that either one is correct, but the more obvious one is that there were violent, militant groups within the protests, and that these groups fired on police; and there were outnumbered, heavily armed riot police, some of whom were killed, captured, or wounded, who fired upon protesters.

Between the photographs of female protesters who look like they could be on the way to the mall, except for the fact that they’re preparing a tray of Molotov cocktails, the videos of the Berkut and the more militant protesters, and the more reliable journalistic accounts, the only thing that would be shocking about all of this is an absence of anyone being shot, as Chaz said above.

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Patrick C 03.10.14 at 8:49 pm

@220

“Occupying Crimea at the cost of alienating Eastern Ukraine seems like a very bad deal for Putin.”

Only if Putin was likely to make progress in Eastern Ukraine if he hadn’t alienated them. If Ukraine was going to join the EU, then Eastern Ukraine would be outside of Putin’s reach for the foreseeable future anyway.

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roger gathman 03.10.14 at 10:12 pm

i’ve read, now, a couple of articles about how Putin lost along lines like John Quiggins. In my own opinion, this is about ‘cooling the mark’ – ie making sure the world community, ie rednecks in the US, don’t get too upset about things. If Putin ‘lost’, then some negotiation that leaves Crimea an autonomous part of Russia will look like a victory for the forces of brightness and good. I’m all for avoiding a stupid, years long confrontation, and so I’m happy with that assessment, but I don’t think it is true. I think that Putin got pretty much what he, or – to depersonalize this a little – the ruling establishment in Russia wanted. Do they want another depressed coal mining area? I think it is a pretty good trade to concede that grudgingly to the tender mercies of austerity destined Ukraine. Getting palmy Sebastapol in exchange.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.10.14 at 10:14 pm

Vanya’s comment about the Slavic populations of Styria and Carinthia prompts me to a little digression from the reliability of news sources. If you look at the surnames in modern Austria, (as well as the faces), you will soon realise how ethnically diverse, (in European terms) the origins of her people are.

Even if you don’t understand German (in this case Vienna dialect), you might get enough of the gist of the late Georg Kreisler’s Telefonbuchpolka to find it rather amusing! (All of his friends are on the “V” page, and he reads the list to music – it’s only a slight exaggeration!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d0fh6JiArU

On a more serious note, “Pandora’s Box” has, of course, been wide-open for the last quarter century, after having been shut in Europe since WWII. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical earthquake, spawning huge aftershocks, including the present crisis as its latest. Who knows what’s next? The Iron Curtain artificially protected the prosperity and stability of the Western Europe and the EU – largely at the expense of the former Warsaw Pact. Expansion has stressed the EU: whether to breaking point or not remains to be seen. Some US commentators seem either dismissive or blissfully unaware of the EU’s internal difficulties and would like the EU to be an agent of neoliberal Western (ie proxy US) expansion. John McCain’s speech in Kiev was incredibly naive: “The future of Ukraine is in the European Union” he said, despite such a future not even being on offer. But this commentary from the NYT by Thomas Friedman is even more naive, and on many levels:

“A wise Putin … would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/opinion/friedman-why-putin-doesnt-respect-us.html

Meanwhile, while people like Friedman fantasise about an alternative universe, the UK is planning a referendum.

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John Quiggin 03.10.14 at 10:51 pm

As regards the strategic importance of Sevastopol etc, isn’t this just the naval base for which Russia had a long-term lease anyway? Was there ever a threat to the lease? It seems clear that, if the new Ukrainian government had tried to revoke it, they would have had no support from anyone (see Kerry’s statements on legitimate Russian interests). So, I’m really not seeing what Putin has gained, either from his whole strategy of trying to keep Ukraine in Russia’s orbit or from the seizure of Crimea.

Admittedly, if Putin gets diplomatic recognition for the annexation of Crimea, it will be a win, but how likely is that? The psot-1945 history of such actions is that “facts on the ground” don’t secure recognition even when they persist for decades (eg Indonesia and East Timor)

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The Temporary Name 03.10.14 at 11:39 pm

That’s a pretty hefty chunk of land to grab.

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roger gathman 03.10.14 at 11:57 pm

I’m not sure he needs a win in terms of international recognition – if the Chinese recognize it, which I think they would, that would probably suffice for the nonce. But in my opinion, this is more like the Ossetian scenario, in which annexation is traded for “autonomous” status. Crimea will thus become a sort of protectorate, like Puerto Rico is to the US.
Of course, the winners and losers here are the high stakes people whose lives will still be deluxe no matter what. The point Mark Ames makes is the most important but overlooked one: the majority of the people in the Ukraine and Crimea, no matter what happens, will continue to witness a socio-economic decay that will degrade their life styles even more, and nobody will care. Sorta like the majority of people in the US, come to that. Politics at this level is simply a game played by the powerful who need something to occupy their time, rather like the Kings and Emperors that used to engage in wars in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe.

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 12:24 am

like Puerto Rico is to the US

Apart from the bases Crimea has a whole lot of real estate on the water with a warmer climate than almost anywhere in Russia. Were I an oligarch I’d want a piece of that.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.11.14 at 12:30 am

Remember that there are Ukrainian navy ships in Crimea too. 20 years ago, they might have defected to Russia, but now it’s a new generation of officers and men. If there were any question of Ukraine joining NATO, Putin has now ensured that there will be no NATO ships in a Russian Crimea. Also, Russia will gain total control over the Kerch Strait, the narrow entrance to the sea of Azov. At the moment Russian ships pay a toll to Ukraine. This little sea is the route between the Black Sea and the river Don which is connected to the Volga, and hence Moscow, St Petersburg, the Caspian, the White Sea, and the Baltic.

When Crimea has been secured, and perhaps after Ukrainian elections, the focus will move to Donbass. Then the serious negotiations will start with Russian money on the table too. “Do they want another depressed coal mining area?” Yes, but it’s not depressed, and it’s not just coal, it’s steel.* This area is part of a fairly integrated region which straddles both sides of the border, and includes the major Russian city (and engineering centre) of Rostov on Don.

*You can blame the Welsh (or at least, one Welshman) for all of this: Donietsk was originally called Yuzovka, after John Hughes of Merthyr Tydfil, who founded the mining and steel industries there in the late 19th century. Coal and steel are only a memory in Merthyr, but very much alive here!

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Abbe Faria 03.11.14 at 12:59 am

It think that’s right; who’s arguing about Chechnya or Abkhazia or Ossetia or Transnistrian? There isn’t a united front, the NYT has Ben Judah publishing incredible attacks on the UK like this, which gives you some idea of divisions in the west.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html

Maybe Putin can be compared to Blair in Iraq, he sincerely thinks he’s doing the right thing and this isn’t just cynical geopolitics. He’s got a stronger case than most western interventions. There was a western sponsored coup. Troops are entitled to be there. He was invited by the elected president. Crimea was Russian in the not too distant past. The unelected government deposed the one voted for by Crimea, was passing laws against Russian speakers and is allied to Fascists. There is likely a majority in the Crimea for joining Russia.

On the other hand, he’s possibly the most geopolitically savvy leader in the world, given his ex-KGB background and impact on Russia, he has been very successful in the past – particularly when compared to western interventions. I think he might just be much smarter than any of us and can see things we don’t.

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Harold 03.11.14 at 1:18 am

Gathman @ 230 They need something to occupy their time and fill their pocket books. http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/27/a-shadow-us-foreign-policy/

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LFC 03.11.14 at 1:22 am

Sasha Clarkson @227:
I’m not ordinarily a fan of Friedman’s, but it’s worth noting, as I did earlier, that in that same column he criticizes NATO expansion in the ’90s.

JQ @228:
Admittedly, if Putin gets diplomatic recognition for the annexation of Crimea, it will be a win, but how likely is that?
My guess is that it wd make more sense for P. if Crimea seceded by referendum and declared independence rather than for him to formally annex it. The act of secession itself is not — at least according to Eric Posner — unlawful under int’l law (though this may be debatable and it will no doubt violate the Ukrainian const. fwiw), but (a) the circumstances of the referendum, with Russian soldiers in place, will be dubious, and more importantly (b) the resulting state is unlikely to be widely recognized, mainly for political reasons but also, perhaps, w/ some legal overlay (i.e. does it meet the criteria for statehood?). Or, to put it differently, those who don’t recognize an independent Crimea for political reasons probably will be able to construct plausible if not necessarily entirely airtight legal arguments to support the political decision.

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LFC 03.11.14 at 1:29 am

Abbe Faria @233
He’s got a stronger case than most western interventions.

Strictly in terms of int’l law, Putin has *no* convincing legal case for sending Russian soldiers into Ukraine. He was “invited” by a president who had fled the capital, and a country in some turmoil or chaos — whether through popular uprising, coup or whatever — does not thereby lose its sovereign right not to be invaded. (Which is not to deny, of course, that a fair # of Western interventions have also been illegal under intl law.)

Now, when it comes to a secession vote, things apparently get a bit more complicated from the legal standpt (see my comment above).

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Abbe Faria 03.11.14 at 1:29 am

Would secession be easier than annexation? I genuinely don’t know. I imagine would be easier to not recognise Crimea as a state and attack it individually, than to not recognise Russia. Secession just helps your enemies discriminate a bit more. I suppose N. Cyprus and Turkey is a good example.

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LFC 03.11.14 at 1:57 am

Would secession be easier than annexation?

In one sense it doesn’t matter: few countries are likely to recognize (1) an annexation or (2) a (self-declared) independent state that would result from a secession/independence referendum or (3) a merger that wd result from a referendum that voted to merge w Russia.

However, if what Putin is after is some legal case — and he may in fact not give tuppence about that — then he wd prefer the referendum route, since there is apparently an argument to be made that the referendum (resulting in either independence or merger w Russia [depending on how it's worded I suppose]), even under these circumstances, is not illegal. But, as i said, it’s prob debatable, like quite a few questions of intl law. By contrast, outright annexation is cut-and-dried: annexation = conquest = illegal. India did it w Goa, but that was special, b.c colonialism (Portugal). (I’m not aware of other cases of annexation in recent decades being viewed as legal/legitimate.)

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John Quiggin 03.11.14 at 2:49 am

“no NATO ships in a Russian Crimea”

But, given the leases, how was that ever going to happen, except with Russian permission? Were there any serious moves to revoke the leases?

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Abbe Faria 03.11.14 at 3:27 am

@ LFC. I think that is obviously arguable based on whether the government has been lawfully removed. Clearly there’s also treaty rights and the Crimean governments authority for the troops being there. Why don’t you count Chechnya / Abkhazia / Ossetia as annexations?

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Alex K--- 03.11.14 at 5:31 am

Abbe Faria: “ere isn’t a united front, the NYT has Ben Judah publishing incredible attacks on the UK like this, which gives you some idea of divisions in the west.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html

What’s unusual is, perhaps, the tone; the content is consistent with what Ben Judah has been saying all along – he is a Russia specialist. He must have gotten some details wrong, but anyone who knows anything about big Russian business will agree with the message.

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John Quiggin 03.11.14 at 6:32 am

“if the Chinese recognize it, which I think they would”

I would have thought the opposite. If there is one thing the Chinese have always pushed in the UN and elsewhere it’s the principle of non-interference in internal affairs. I imagine they are enjoying some schadenfreude at the way the precedents set by the US and UK in Iraq have come back to bite them, but I’d be very surprise if they endorsed what has been sold as a humanitarian intervention to defend the rights of an ethnic minority.

It seems to me that the precedents of Abkhazia, Transnistria and so on are spot-on. China hasn’t recognized any of these. Russia can hold on to Crimea for 10 years, 20 years or longer, and maybe buy recognition from Nauru and Tuvalu, but it won’t get legal recognition from anyone who matters.

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Soru 03.11.14 at 7:55 am

Surely, to the Chinese, a Russian annexation of the Crimea is precisely the sort of internal affair which should be non-interfered with?

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Chaz 03.11.14 at 8:48 am

The discussion seems to have moved on from snipers but I want to mention that when I was reading the Guardian’s live feed (I think a couple days before the shootings started), they mentioned an encounter between a journalist and two opposition fighters. The opposition guys said they were taking rifles to the top of an opposition-controlled building to snipe police if necessary. That’s just an anecdotal encounter with two guys but it suggests that there were a few snipers among the opposition and they were not CIA or FSB or whatever. Personally, my working guess is that there were a bunch of police snipers shooting advancing protesters, and a handful of opposition snipers shooting police. So no surprise that some police were shot.

I doubt there was a “third force”; anything’s possible but the evidence is very thin. I’m not surprised that the police and activists were shot by the “same caliber bullets”. Bullets are well standardized and this could be just the standard Warsaw Pact rifle ammo (which would be identical to civilian rifle ammo too). None of the reports I’ve seen actually say specifically what caliber or bullet type they’re talking about. If someone specifies that it’s some unusual high caliber rifle bullet then I’ll reconsider (idiot journalists talking about “powerful sniper rifles” emphatically does not count). A popular source for this stuff is the activist’s head doctor, now health minister, talking about what some bullet wounds looked like. She’s not a person with any background in police investigations or even trauma surgery I think, and I think she’s just totally unqualified to be making these assessments. Finally, the fact that some nonviolent bystander protesters were shot (seemingly intentionally) is hard to explain, but it could be that some police snipers mistook them for violent protesters or were killing indiscriminately.

@218 Yes, the majority of Crimeans voted for Yanukovich, but so did majorities in lots of mainland provinces. Doesn’t mean they want to secede from Ukraine. An opinion poll near the end of 2013 (I think this is on the Monkey Cage somewhere) showed that a solid majority of Crimeans wanted to preserve autonomy within Ukraine, with the second biggest group wanting independence and transfer to Russia third.

@239 The Russian base lease only covers part of Sevastopol and part of the harbors. The Ukrainian navy also has docks and ships in Sevastopol (not nearly as many as Russia). These are now under siege by the Russian forces.

@243 No, according to Chinese doctrine the “Kievan fascists” and “danger to Russians in Crimea” would be strictly internal Ukrainian matters just like the danger to Tibetans in Tibet is an internal Chinese matter.

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Chaz 03.11.14 at 8:52 am

Also, Crimea has only about 4% of Ukraine’s population. It is useful to the Party of Regions/Communist block but it is not their main stronghold.

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Soru 03.11.14 at 9:19 am

@244: I suspect you may be overlooking exactly _how_ Tibet became an internal Chinese matter…

No doubt there are factions in the leadership and they will be avoiding unnecessary early commitment. But everything so far from china has been focusing or criticism of Obama and the EU; there is no sign they take Putin’s humanitarian rhetoric seriously enough to bother objecting to it.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.11.14 at 11:39 am

AF@223: Good link, and dead right I think. The de-facto UK economic policy for some time by our ruling class is that it’s better to steal a living than earn it. And it’s the City wot does it. I suspect that this has been a prime cause of the de-industrialisation of the rest of Britain. I see the City as an inoperable cancer, slowly destroying our body economic, but whose removal might kill the patient. I would welcome the thoughts of an expert like JQ on this in a separate blog.

Back to Crimea. JQ’s point about the leases is a very valid one. But events there have moved fast, and it may be that Putin has been caught behind the loop by local radicals he now feels bound to support. Also, I’m sure that events in Kiev were more than a spontaneous uprising. Refusal to sign an agreement with the EU would not normally bring a government down. Admittedly, Yanukovich was as incompetent and venial as it is possible for a president to be. But I think the right militants had already made their plans. Just because they are now being used as propaganda by Russia, does not mean that they are a figment of the imagination. The BBC reported nightly busloads of activists going from L’viv to Kiev to act as the vanguard of the protesters. So what happened in Kiev was rather like a 19th century American filibuster. According to Russian propaganda, these groups are now armed, and are making their presence felt in the South-East of Ukraine. True or not (I don’t know), it’s certainly plausible, given the nature and ideology of a significant proportion of the nationalists. So the Russian news reports might well have inspired/provoked Crimean pro-Russian activists to jump the gun and suck Putin in. He may be clever, but he’s not Master Of The Universe.

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Andrew F. 03.11.14 at 11:40 am

@Abbe – On the other hand, he’s possibly the most geopolitically savvy leader in the world, given his ex-KGB background and impact on Russia, he has been very successful in the past – particularly when compared to western interventions. I think he might just be much smarter than any of us and can see things we don’t.

I don’t entirely agree. Putin’s approach to Russian security interests in Ukraine is driven, imho, more by a calcified narrative of what Russia should be, and what the signifiers of its power and security are, than by a rational analysis of where Ukraine really fits into a security analysis vis-a-vis Russia.

In other words, Putin has uncritically accepted a security analysis of Ukraine that was passed down to him. He, and many others, have incorporated Russian control over Ukraine into their concept of what a dignified, restored, powerful Russia looks like; Putin’s campaigns elsewhere, his insistence that oligarchs reduce foreign holdings, his aggressive formation of relationships to counterbalance the United States, these are all part of a vision: from the ashes of the Soviet Union, from the embarrassments of the 1990s, a new glory with old roots.

For Putin, this type of narrative must be very hard to resist, especially given the role for himself in it. The strong savior of Russia, the elite keeper of the flame, who also happens to a billionaire many times over (and growing!).

Perhaps most importantly, this narrative provides cover for the more selfish reasons he has in keeping Russia as insulated as possible from the influence of Western governments.

The problem with the old narrative is that it fails to take into account certain key factors:
(1) No one in Europe poses a military threat to Russia, and so the importance of Ukraine in a security sense has diminished.
(2) International trade and business are critically important, and Russian progress domestically will depend heavily on Russian economic progress.
(3) Russia cannot afford to spark additional counter-formations against itself.

Within the national strategy that he has selected, his moves in connection with Ukraine make sense. He quietly achieved complete dominance over Crimea, and in effect, simultaneously, conducted razvedka of the likely international consequences of invading eastern regions Ukraine.

All of this might play well for Putin domestically in the short-term, but depending on the bite of any sanctions to follow, he may find this to be a hollow victory.

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Vanya 03.11.14 at 1:44 pm

@243 – seems to me that interfering in another country to defend “co-ethnics” is not a principle China finds very appealing. Korea has valid historical claims on parts of North-east China, and many Korean ethnics live there. Outer Mongolia has claims on inner Mongolia, Kazakhstan could justify intervention in Xinjiang, etc. None of those scenarios are particularly likely, granted, but China certainly has more to gain from the status quo than from any questioning of current national borders.

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Andrew F. 03.11.14 at 1:55 pm

@Chaz – The discussion seems to have moved on from snipers but I want to mention that when I was reading the Guardian’s live feed (I think a couple days before the shootings started), they mentioned an encounter between a journalist and two opposition fighters. The opposition guys said they were taking rifles to the top of an opposition-controlled building to snipe police if necessary. That’s just an anecdotal encounter with two guys but it suggests that there were a few snipers among the opposition and they were not CIA or FSB or whatever.

Agreed. Also, the BBC report I linked @210 contains footage of what appears to be a protester firing on police from The Ukraine Hotel. See also this article, fwiw, from Deutsche Welle, which discusses allegations that protesters (or police) sniped from the building.

In the BBC footage, the apparent protester is wearing a green hardhat, and firing while standing in, perhaps even slightly out of, the window frame. While it’s possible that he needed to be so close to the window to get line of sight to his target, it could also indicate: (1) he is someone who can perhaps operate a rifle competently, but has no training as a sniper, or (2) it was a disinformation operation.

Given the control that the protesters had over the hotel, the second possibility seems unlikely. The first, however, fits quite well with the explanation that the shooter was in fact a protester.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.11.14 at 3:00 pm

Here’s an interesting, very cynical, view from a pro-Kremlin Al Jazeera pundit, Alexander Nekrassov. His view on Crimean secession is that it’s “…. probably not what Moscow needs at the moment …”

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/president-putin-sarcasm-201438125725290349.html

Thanks to this blog I’ve been inspired to order Ben Judah’s book Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin which has excellent reviews.

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roger gathman 03.11.14 at 3:26 pm

It seems to me that gameplanning the reactions of nations on the basis of coherence and consistency does not exactly work out. China is much like the US in having invaded and subdued various places in its sphere. I mean, the US has never been shy about using its military might to either invade or threaten nations, and on the basis of that logic, one would imagine they would be silent about Putin, but they aren’t. The Chinese so far seem to be turning a deaf ear to the US and are refusing to consider sanctions. The leadership doesn’t care about international precedents the way they would if China was ruled by political science graduate students. China is one of the states that recognized south ossetia, one of the few, I dont see the problem with Crimea.

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Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 03.11.14 at 3:41 pm

Annexation is a nasty word. If the pro-Russian side wins the referendum on Sunday, that’ll amount to Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. As far as I know there is no international law against this sort of secession, of a well-demarcated territory, by referendum. Independent Crimea will then ask the Russian Federation to accept it as a constituent entity. If they agree, Crimea joins the federation. Doesn’t really sound like annexation. Now, if the referendum is a sham, then of course it’s a different story. We’ll see.

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LFC 03.11.14 at 3:41 pm

roger gathman @252
China is one of the states that recognized south ossetia, one of the few, I dont see the problem with Crimea.
No, China has not recognized South Ossetia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_recognition_of_Abkhazia_and_South_Ossetia

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LFC 03.11.14 at 3:50 pm

Abbe Faria @240
Why don’t you count Chechnya / Abkhazia / Ossetia as annexations?
I don’t count them because they’re not annexations. Chechnya is a part of the RF with an armed separatist mvt w which Russia has fought two quite brutal wars in recent years. Abkhazia and Ossetia have not been annexed.
“Annexation … is the permanent acquisition and incorporation of some territorial entity into another geo-political entity”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation

the Crimean governments authority for the troops being there.
Irrelevant.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.11.14 at 10:30 pm

Annexation or not annexation? Humans love these legalistic word games. The difference so far as Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia is concerned is that between formal marriage, and cohabitation with a joint mortgage – polygamous obviously.

Coincidentally, bride-stealing used to be common in these parts: but, remembering Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, even that was more complicated than you might think.

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Abbe Faria 03.11.14 at 10:58 pm

“Irrelevant.”

No. The Ukrainian constitution explicitly gives the Autonomous Republic of Crimea that right.

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Chaz 03.11.14 at 11:46 pm

@257: “No. The Ukrainian constitution explicitly gives the Autonomous Republic of Crimea that right [to invite foreign soldiers to occupy it].”

What the what? I just read through Title X of the Ukrainian constitution, just to be confident that I was correct in saying that that is a false claim you have made up from whole cloth.

And besides, the Crimean Verkovna Rada was stormed by a large and heavily armed group of disguised Russian soldiers, is currently under the occupation of those same soldiers, and is has been forcibly excluding a large fraction of its own members (all the non-Russian ones) from entering or voting ever since. All acts it has passed since those soldiers entered are obviously illegitimate, even aside from their being blatantly unconstitutional.

http://president.gov.ua/en/content/chapter10.html

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Abbe Faria 03.12.14 at 12:22 am

Russia has a treaty right to base troops in Crimea. Crimea has autonomy. Point 7 of Article 138 give Crimea competence for protection of legal order and public security; further point 10 allows declaration of states of emergency, point 3 allows control of state property and point 2 the holding of referenda.

Could you argue? Yes, but Article 137 gives presumptive legitimacy and allows nonconformity to be challenged through supension by the President of Ukraine with a simultaneous appeal to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. The new president was unconsitutionally appointed, but even ignoring that no such suspension/referal has occurred.

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Chaz 03.12.14 at 1:24 am

“Russia has a treaty right to base troops in Crimea.”

At specifically identified sites I’m pretty sure. Definitely not in the parliament building and on Ukrainian bases.

“Crimea has autonomy.”

But the Verkhnovna Rada of Crimea and its executive officials are nevertheless fully subordinate to the Verkhovna Rada and President of Ukraine.

“Point 7 of Article 138 give Crimea competence for protection of legal order and public security;”

That plainly refers to its own police forces and does not imply authority to invite in foreign powers. Besides it is all restricted by Ukrainian law. If there is any law or executive decree or anything restricting Russian soldiers’ actions in Crimea (and I assume there is), or even just a customary assumption that that is a central government competence (but that’s getting common lawish I admit) then that takes precedence. And even with its own police forces, the AR Crimea does not have authority to block entry of central government officials or OSCE observers invited in by the central government.

“further point 10 allows declaration of states of emergency,”

But does not identify any special powers activated by such a state. Possibly those powers are identified somewhere in Ukrainian law, possibly there are none.

“point 3 allows control of state property”

Within Ukrainian law. And most of the spots Russkies are deployed (military bases, highways, airports) are not Autonomous Republic of Crimea property.

“and point 2 the holding of referenda.”

On matters within the Crimean Verkhovna Rada’s competence which explicitly does not include severing Crimea from Ukraine.

“Could you argue? Yes, but Article 137 gives presumptive legitimacy and allows nonconformity to be challenged through supension by the President of Ukraine with a simultaneous appeal to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. The new president was unconsitutionally appointed, but even ignoring that no such suspension/referal has occurred.”

That’s is only for regulatory powers (forestry, sanitation, etc.) of Article 137. The powers you mentioned above were under Article 138 and this procedure does not apply to them. There is no presumptive legitimacy.

Really most of these details are irrelevant. Under the constitution the Rada and President of Ukraine have final authority over Crimea, full stop. They can overrule anything and everything the Crimean Rada might do. They have clearly said that Russian soldiers are not allowed outside their bases and that there may be no referendum, and that’s all there is to it.

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CityZen 03.12.14 at 3:04 am

@248 – “No one in Europe poses a military threat to Russia, and so the importance of Ukraine in a security sense has diminished.”

I thought the US is in Europe via NATO, and jointly that does pose a potential threat (missile defence etc.).

Oh, but I see: the Russians are irrational in perceiving a threat at all, and don’t really have legitimate security interests vis-a-vis NATO, not really. On the other hand, per an earlier post @186, NATO’s expansion eastward is very rational and necessary because it protects against Russian aggression and “interference” and allows these eastern states to become secure democracies (even though, as it happens, the states that are democracies were established as such prior to NATO entry and NATO entry does not appear to be related with especially liberal and/or corruption free forms of democratic governance, e.g., Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, etc.).

So what it all apparently boils down to is: the Russkies are just plain irrational (paranoiac expansionist nationalist thugs, blah blah blah) and we’re the anointed bearers of Reason and all that’s good and proper …

262

CityZen 03.12.14 at 3:16 am

A further assessment in line with Stephen Walt’s (by former PM of Australia), without the emphasis in realism, here:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/03/ukraine-theres-no-way-out-unless-the-west-understands-its-past-mistakes

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Chaz 03.12.14 at 4:12 am

USA does not pose a threat to Russia. USA has no reason to attack Russia, certainly no reason to try to conquer any of its territory. Just because USA is militarily capable of attacking Russia does not mean it is a threat, any more than Britain is a threat to Portugal.

Now, back when the Soviet Union was around NATO was genuinely a big threat to Russian security. That’s because USA and Britain were committed to destroying communism (remember Britain actually invaded Russia during the Russian Revolution). But Putin doesn’t give a damn about communism, and without communism USA doesn’t give a damn about Russia. Or at least we wouldn’t if they didn’t keep attacking neighboring countries.

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lurker 03.12.14 at 7:46 am

‘NATO’s expansion eastward is very rational and necessary because it protects against Russian aggression and “interference”’ (CityZen)
The easterners certainly believe this, but Russians, who know they are no threat to anyone, and Americans a comfortable ocean away from Russia must know better.

265

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.12.14 at 9:19 am

That’s because USA and Britain were committed to destroying communism

They don’t care about the “communism” label as such: the US has been merrily cooperating with China for 40 years now. Russia wants to play a bigger role in the world (see Syria, for example), it has ambitions. The US wants to contain it, isolate it, limit its power. To bring it (its markets and resources) into the American sphere of influence, eventually. Under US domination. If Russia complies, then there is no military threat. If it refuses to comply and insists on playing a great power (or even the regional power), the threat is palpable. Because there can be only one, and in the End there will be only one. That’s the game.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.12.14 at 12:44 pm

Chaz: if I wanted official propaganda from any side, I’d go to their mouthpieces direct.

CityZen @262: Thanks for the link to Malcolm Fraser’s article: I’d forgotten about him. His post-office political evolution is very interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Fraser#Retirement

Here’s the latest Spiegel interview with Klitchko. He’s probably the most decent and honest of the opposition to Yanukovich, but I always felt he was a bit naive: now I think he’s been used and out-manouvered by less wholesome forces. I suspect his chances in the Presidential election are minimal and diminishing. Some of the asides in the interview are very revealing though, both about his own inner conflicts, and the general situation in Ukraine.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/vitali-klitschko-interview-about-crimea-and-russia-conflict-a-957830.html

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LFC 03.12.14 at 2:53 pm

lurker @264
CityZen was *not* endorsing that view (which was expressed by Andrew F. upthread) but simply characterizing it before proceeding to argue against it.

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LFC 03.12.14 at 2:54 pm

p.s. “describing” perhaps better than “characterizing”. whatever.

269

Andrew F. 03.12.14 at 3:28 pm

CityZen @261 – The additional nations that have joined, and that may join, NATO do not significantly enhance US military capabilities with respect to Russia. The small numbers of personnel and equipment present in these nations hardly constitutes an offensive threat. Nor do I see, at this point, how Russian domination of those nations significantly enhances the security of Russia. There are no armies poised to invade from Germany, and Europe today is not the Europe of the early 20th century.

Beyond the small points gained or lost on security, there is the question of the independence of these nations. Whereas membership in NATO is not viewed as leading to political domination by the US, the nations in question have a very different history with Russia. And while entry into NATO certainly does not magically transform a nation into a democratic state with rule of law and low corruption, entry into NATO does give a nation an opportunity to make progress in those areas with military security from Russian intimidation.

Putin, of course, just provided a steel-clad case for why such military security is important for these nations.

270

Anarcissie 03.12.14 at 4:06 pm

Andrew F. 03.12.14 at 3:28 pm @ 269 –
The urge to dominate and control others seems to exceed reason in many persons. Those who most strongly feel this urge and have the necessary talents, and do not have a taste for crime, tend to seek careers in government or in the management of important institutions, and form the leadership or ruling class of states. As a result, those who lead states, at least those states powerful enough to be actually sovereign, tend to behave more aggressively than reason requires. A good example of this behavior are the numerous invasions, wars, interventions, bombings, raids, assassinations, and so forth practiced in recent decades by the United States upon other states, parties, and individuals not attacking it or its citizens. The list is long and well-known. Thus, while it is not reasonable for the US/EU/NATO r.c. to provoke the Russian r.c. by encouraging a military adventure in Georgia or a coup in Ukraine, it is certainly consistent with past and current behavior and may be considered to have symbolic, if not practical, value, just as the billions piled up by American oligarchs cannot be spent on real things but are seen as markers of dominance, scores in the game. Likewise, the response of its targets may also exceed what would seem reasonable to ordinary people.

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Chaz 03.12.14 at 5:09 pm

@266,

If you’ve got a coherent theory of how Russia faces any security threats from Nato, any at all, then please go ahead and post it. Otherwise, go fuck yourself.

272

Igor Belanov 03.12.14 at 8:13 pm

Ukraine’s entry into NATO would be a complete disaster, and counterproductive even for Ukraine. Recent events have increased the tension enough, and given the political, economic and ethnic divisions within Ukraine the world would be immersed in yet another Cold War, but with an even greater chance of annihilation given that the boiling point would be situated on Russia’s border rather than running through Germany.
Russia would still be in a position to destabilise Crimea by non-military means, and the West would be forced to permanently bankroll the Ukrainian economy in an attempt to counter Russian economic influence and prevent socio-economic dislocation, a situation that might not go down well in other Eastern-European NATO members that do not receive the same treatment.

273

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.12.14 at 8:37 pm

coherent theory of how Russia faces any security threats from Nato

It’s not complicated. Interceptors in Poland, Czech republic, and (I think) Romania weaken its nuclear deterrent. That’s a security threat and a cause for arms race. They used to have the ABM treaty to avoid it, but the US ended it.

274

Ronan(rf) 03.12.14 at 9:00 pm

Of course Russia doesn’t face any real security threat from NATO (in terms of a threat of attack) but Russia does face the reality of being a declining power which is seeing its traditional ‘sphere of influence’ eroding. So a sensitive approach to NATO expansion and general encroachments into the region seems right. I don’t see what *this specific* situation really has to do with NATO though (in any meaningful way, of course as context it’s important)
Also it should be noted that NATO and EU expansion into Eastern Europe has been quite positive, and popular afaik.

275

The Temporary Name 03.12.14 at 9:16 pm

Of course Russia doesn’t face any real security threat from NATO (in terms of a threat of attack)

The mechanism with which Russia has justified its most recent military adventures is that Russian minorities are being oppressed. (Can someone tell me how much of that drives his popularity, if any, at home? The ability to be moderately belligerent might represent a good domestic policy tool: worked for others.) What happens when a sizable minority is being oppressed, scare quotes or no, in a NATO country?

The argument back is Latvia Lithuania Estonia I suppose, but they’re smallish potatoes even if one’s blocking the route to Kaliningrad.

276

Ronan(rf) 03.12.14 at 9:16 pm

“Oh, but I see: the Russians are irrational in perceiving a threat at all, and don’t really have legitimate security interests vis-a-vis NATO, not really.”

Yes, sure. But accepting this logic you have to accept the logic employed by the US to meddle in Latin America during the Cold War, where they assumed a sphere of influence and exaggerated/misjudged/whatever national security ‘threats.’
You can obviously say ‘this is how it is/how major powers behave’, but you don’t have to excuse the strategic thinking.
I think a lot of this has become very US centric. It’s not always about the US/EU ..

277

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.12.14 at 9:33 pm

Of course Russia doesn’t face any real security threat from NATO (in terms of a threat of attack)

Serbia was attacked. Libya was attacked. Russia is not facing a direct attack – bombing or invasion or a nuclear strike – for as long as it has effective nuclear deterrent. But if its deterrent is ever neutralized – which is far-fetched, but theoretically not impossible – it’ll face an attack, like everybody else.

278

Abbe Faria 03.12.14 at 9:51 pm

Russia sees the US breaking its treaty obligations and commencing an arms race, it has reason to worry about a missile shield. Russias deterent is adequate for now, but who knows in the future. If I were Russian I certainly wouldn’t try to make things easy for the US.

Indirect attacks through cutting the supply lines of Russian troops in Moldova, adding Ukraine to surveillance networks, and control of gas infrastructure are all reasons to be concerned. It wasn’t that long ago that Russia was facing off against NATO in Kosovo, since then Russia’s overflight and access have been completely wrecked.

279

Sasha Clarkson 03.12.14 at 9:52 pm

Chaz @271 For some reason I’m reminded of a story my mother told me about a recurring scene she sometimes witnessed as a child, in Bessarabka market, at the southern end of Khreschatik. Peasant women selling their wares would sometimes fall out: when they had exhausted their armoury of obscenities and were speechless with rage, the “winner” would be the one who first managed to turn her back, lift her skirt, and show her bare bottom.

I consider myself suitably admonished!

Seriously, I don’t expect even all rational people to share the same perspective: most of us have some prejudices: I certainly do. But this thread was started as an attempt to understand the nature of the news, why some sources may be more reliable than others, and why the complexities make it so difficult to categorise the issues. Even honest commentators can have opposite views.

Even if I totally agreed with the Russian actions and viewpoint, I wouldn’t insult the intelligence of other bloggers by quoting RT or Russian government websites and expecting others to believe that what was said was authoritative or true enough to decide an issue.

You quote Ukrainian regime sources as if they were the the only source of wisdom on this matter, and then by phrases like “and that’s all there is to it.”, try to coerce those with a different view to shut up. That’s not the way to convince people who aren’t already converted.

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erichwwk 03.12.14 at 9:53 pm

@ 2456 and “exactly _how_ Tibet became an internal Chinese matter…”

Is this what you are referring to? http://bit.ly/1lXyhfS

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Chaz 03.12.14 at 11:47 pm

@273, Yes, Nato has taken steps to mildly diminish Russia’s nuclear threat. These steps are almost totally ineffective but they are real. But, so what? Most countries don’t have nuclear weapons at all. Russia has no reason to nuke western Europe and not being able to annihilate other countries at will does not count as a threat to your own domestic security. Furthermore, there is nothing for USA or Germany to gain by attacking Russia, so no likelihood of war, so no threat. Would you say Canada needs a strategic nuclear deterrent against USA? If Ukraine regained nuclear weapons to deter Russia, is there any conceivable scenario where they’d actually be wise to fire them? I think not.

@275 “What happens when a sizable minority is being oppressed, scare quotes or no, in a NATO country?”

Then Russia complains loudly and in a rare case maybe they apply economic sanctions. They would not and should not be able to invade the country and impose their will, just like USA does not invade Russia when they mistreat gays, murder journalists, or whatever.

@277, Okay, first off, the Serbian and Libyan governments didn’t just get surprise attacked by evil Nato. They were murdering civilians en masse. But even if Putin does decide to start mass murdering his own civilians he will probably not face invasion for the obvious reason that Russia is a giant country with a large population and a large conventional military, plus the nuclear weapons of course. I guess if he goes for Holocaust levels of murder then all bets are off, but honestly, is being powerful enough to commit the Holocaust a legitimate national security need?

@278 Right, but even if Russian troops got kicked out of Moldova that’s not a threat to Russia’s security, it’s a threat to Russia’s ability to dominate Moldova. Adding Ukraine to surveillance networks doesn’t seem too important to me. Control of gas infrastructure in Ukraine, Slovakia, etc. is another one where you’re mixing up Russia’s internal matters with Russia’s domination of other countries. Those are not Russian pipelines, they are Ukrainian and Slovakian pipelines. The gas *sources* in Russia and pipelines in Russia are not under threat.

@279 Nice try, asshole, but you abandoned the high road when you called my opinion “official propaganda”. That is extremely offensive and “Go fuck yourself” is the only appropriate response. This is also why I threw in “asshole”, of course. A rude exchange is complemented by the use of rude words.

In case it’s not clear, I have never uttered any Nato propaganda or Ukrainian propaganda. What you are getting from me is 100% genuine Chaz propaganda. I believe the only source I have cited is the Guardian, which was not run by the Ukrainian government last I checked.

Oh, and I’m still waiting to hear about USA’s extremely menacing plots against Russian security. Personally I think we should annex St. Petersburg and force all Russians to speak Georgian, but Kamchatka and Esperanto are appealing as well.

282

Chaz 03.13.14 at 12:29 am

P.S. Sasha, I really liked some of your earlier posts in this thread and the earlier Ukraine thread, and I recognize that you’re more knowledgeable about Ukraine than me. I was just very offended by that propaganda line. I’d like to go back to talking seriously if you’re up for it. Of course I just called you an asshole so if you want to throw in a couple rude digs then I understand.

Or maybe you don’t have more to say. I don’t have much left to say myself. And I think comments are going to be closed on the thread soon, but I don’t know exactly how that works.

The one point I’m still trying to make is that while I recognize there are a bunch of old cold warriors in the USA establishment, I really don’t think there’s any chance of USA attacking Russia except after an extreme provocation, and even then it’s unlikely. The USA’s nuclear shield stuff isn’t meant to be aggressive (maybe it is for those cold warriors but not for most USAians), it’s just, hey, nukes are really scary and people want protection. I think that Russia is more secure than most countries of the world just because of its large population and the lack of any major reason for western powers to invade. I don’t think they should be worried about an attack from the west at all. And I think the most important part of security is just having good relations with your neighbors, and trying to increase your security through hostility as Russia is possibly doing now (along with China, Japan, North Korea, and of course Israel) is totally self-defeating.

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Abbe Faria 03.13.14 at 12:39 am

If you’re only looking for direct internal threats, the US is conducting exactly the same funding operations that lead to the coup in Ukraine in Russia. (And I’m not sure you should be, the US would take denial of access to Afghanistan very seriously, Moldova bothers Russia).

I know this thread will die as it drops off the front page and comments close, but I really hope the mods keep at least somewhere we can talk about this live.

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The Temporary Name 03.13.14 at 2:15 am

Then Russia complains loudly and in a rare case maybe they apply economic sanctions.

That was more or less my point. The diminution of Russia’s ability to project force can be perceived by them as a security threat in the unlikely event that there really is deep feeling for Russian minorities elsewhere, and in the more likely theatre in which force demonstrated elsewhere helps a regime look strong at home.

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roy belmont 03.13.14 at 2:40 am

“They were murdering civilians en masse”

And in the case of Russia – Pussy Riot!
Girls! With nice tits! Being put in jail!
Plus gays if you’re on that tip.
My God what does it take?
Can’t you people see how depraved our enemies are, always, every time?

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.13.14 at 7:25 am

Chaz:

Would you say Canada needs a strategic nuclear deterrent against USA?

But I did address this objection, see 265. If Russia agreed to enter the US sphere of influence, then indeed it wouldn’t need a nuclear deterrent. But it wants to be an independent regional (and even world) power, and so it certainly does need a nuclear deterrent.

You know: you can choose to obey the Mob, or you can organize your own Russian Mob, and then you’ll need guns to defend yourself against the Mob. And in this racket there are no cops or judges.

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mab 03.13.14 at 11:02 am

To whomever asked about the Russian fleet:
To the best of my knowledge nothing was said about the Russian lease or fleet by the new Ukrainian govt in the –what? — four days between their assuming power and the invasion. I don’t know if the opposition parties had raised the issue before.

BTW, for people who know: could the Russians have designed and implemented this invasion in 4-5 days? Don’t we assume this had been planned and ready to go?

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Anarcissie 03.13.14 at 1:44 pm

mab 03.13.14 at 11:02 am @ 287:
‘BTW, for people who know: could the Russians have designed and implemented this invasion in 4-5 days? Don’t we assume this had been planned and ready to go?’

The Russians would have had plans to invade and occupy Crimea since the beginning of time. One of the things generals do when they’re not actually fighting wars is plan military operations against every conceivable target. Given a reasonable supply of generals and staff, plans for every target on earth can be written, revised, and polished more or less continuously.

Actually organizing and performing an invasion, where one already has access and presence and will likely be unopposed, would take a few weeks. I’d guess, though, that the Russians have kept something ready to go for years — certainly since the last NATO adventure (2008),

But here’s a 1998 article from the Wilson Center mocking the Russians for being unable to keep NATO out of the Baltic states: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/151-russian-policy-nato-expansion-the-baltics . Maybe Putin and company read it.

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Chaz 03.13.14 at 4:43 pm

@286 So you did. Missed that one. I think a lot of American elites really did care a ton about communism, they were afraid of leftist movements in the US threatening their own class’s domination. Bigger deal in the fifties than now though. With China, and also Yugoslavia, I think they were so focused on the Soviet Union that they were willing to cut a deal with lesser powers just to divide the communist block. That’s the kind of thing Nixon would do, Kennedy or Reagan probably not. But I agree that there was and is a strong US domination tinge to it all also.

And I agree that the US government puts strong and illegitimate pressure on other countries to do things the “US way” (neoliberal capitalist domination). That’s a really big deal for countries that have an alternate vision like Cuba and Venezuela and Ecuador. For Russia though, Putin has never articulated a vision that deserves any sympathy IMO. Putinism is all the bad aspects of the Soviet Union with none of the good ones. His vision is different than the Heritage Foundation’s but it is equally terrible, so why should we cry for him? And I still do think that Russia’s big enough to resist US influence without much trouble. Their ability to give benevolent protection to their neighbors against neoliberal pillaging has diminished, but they don’t actually give that protection; they let the neoliberal pillaging go on and try to do their own bullying on top of it.

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CityZen 03.13.14 at 11:11 pm

Let’s suppose we accept NATO is the bona fide heritor of the Liberal-Kantian legacy in foreign affairs, a la M. Doyle, i.e., the democratic peace club in international relations (as many here presume is a given; “from Plato to Nato”, but with approval and without irony). Let’s further suppose Russia is a crumbling authoritarian empire, i.e., in the process of decolonization (not without basis in reality, of course). Even so, given the exceptionally messy and bloody history of Western decolonization (Algeria comes to mind as a representative case of especially tenacious colonial posseviness), it is wiser to ease Russia out where possible/feasible and rather unwise to force the process.

Once the Feb. 21 compromise agreement fell through (for whatever reason, each side blames the other), Russia, rightly or wrongly, lost a sense of capacity to influence (or if you like, control) the course of events. We went from easing out to forcing out (with a certain gleeful relish, I might add), and as Walt and many others have pointed out, a strong reaction by Russia should have surprised no one. Of course, some will doubt Russia could have been eased out at all, but that’s clearly at odds with much post-Soviet history; and they’ll also label as mere paranoia any claim to the effect that this forcing out was ultimately, in one way or another, underwritten by neocon elements in US foreign policy. Whether it’s moves in Crimea will prove ultimately advantageous to it remains to be seen (doubtful), and will in part depend on whether there’s a body count, etc. … but Russia’s reaction, in magnitude if not in detail, was clearly foreseeable and should have factored into prior (ex ante) calculations.

A last note along these lines: talk of Russian domination, intimidation, coercion, etc. of its neighbours is all well and good, but it tends to underplay the extent to which there are also genuine (otherwise normal) relations and mutual (and mutually beneficial) entanglements involved here, i.e., of a kind that cannot be dissolved overnight.

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CityZen 03.14.14 at 12:13 am

@266 – Spiegel Interview:

“SPIEGEL: Your UDAR party and Tymoshenko’s party are working together with the militant Right Sector and the right-wing nationalist Svoboda Party. That plays into Putin’s hands. Now he can talk about a “fascist movement.”

Klitschko: We are not working together. We joined forces in our fight against the regime, nothing more. We have different political agendas, different ideologies, different supporters.”

A fictional-imagined conversation between UDAR and Svoboda/Right Sector/et al: “Many thanks for your assistance gentlemen, we’ll take it from here.” “You’re welcome; and by all means, please do.” “Now, we understand a bit of austerity is in order, in due course; when that happens, let’s please take it easy shall we; we don’t we wish Greek style PR problems, after all.” “Oh yes, certainly.”

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CityZen 03.14.14 at 12:46 am

@269 – “And while entry into NATO certainly does not magically transform a nation into a democratic state with rule of law and low corruption, entry into NATO does give a nation an opportunity to make progress …”

In Bulgaria at least, today, this will sound like a sick joke, to most people.

I’ve been visiting there regularly over the past 2+ decades. At first, when I was presented with a litany of complaints – from a wide range of people, from taxi drivers to academics, about a wide range of problems, such as the severities of austerity, massive inequalities, corruption, etc. etc. – I would respond with similar bromides …”Don’t worry, things can only get better now that you’re in the EU” etc. etc.

Typical replies I’d hear were with humour: “We got the shock; we’re still waiting for the therapy.” … “Under communism, we were always [as in, forever] told: prosperity and brotherly love is just around the left corner. Now we are always told: prosperity and brotherly love is just around the right corner.”

For those young people who have not already left to work for exploitative wages in the west (literally causing a demographic implosion) there are, to say the least, limited options. Young women with (EU subsidized) economics or commerce degrees in hand, end up in porn. Young men end up in the (NATO subsidized) army.

And political “protest” reflects sheer desperation: Tunisia saw a single instance of self-immolation (that I’m aware of) that is credited with launching the Arab Spring; in Bulgaria, there has been a veritable epidemic of them, to little tangible effect.

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Chaz 03.14.14 at 1:24 am

I agree with all of that. The neocons are going to now declare victory and leave Ukraine to collapse. I think Congress has not even passed the $1b in energy aid Obama announced. And the EU will probably do its austerity thing and blow this opportunity.

There is going to be a big three (or maybe even four) way fight within the revolutionary coalition in the upcoming election, much fiercer than broader the fight between that coalition and the Party of Regions/Communist alliance. I bet UDAR and Fatherland are urgently hoping that they can declare the revolution successful and get the Maidan crowd to disperse well in advance of the election. Get those armed squads back home in front of the TV pronto. The Crimea crisis and implied threat of a wider Russian invasion is delaying that. I wonder if that is part of Putin’s plan: get Ukraine so riled up that they have a chaotic election and street violence, and the anti-Russian coalition is discredited.

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