Archive | March, 2014

Stakes over Crimea seem to get bigger than assumed before

8 Mar
Lavrov and Kerry

During the last few days turmoil around Crimea has left Ukraine’s domestic orbit and became a key object of dispute among world higher politicians. Acquired by Ukraine in the early 1950s Crimean peninsula has turned out to be a slow-ticking time bomb for a young Ukrainian state in the 21st century. Fierce battles of the Second World War held in numerous spots of Crimea turned it from a peaceful region of coastal resorts and vast vineyard of inland terrains to a model land of Soviet postwar ideology remaining strong enough up to the present day.

In contrast to an evenly inhabited by ethnic groups of Russians, Tatars and Ukrainians peninsula in a pre-war time of early 40s, Autonomous Republic of Crimea accounted for 5 times bigger population (around 2.2 million) just after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. As a part of its glorious past this region of Ukraine has inherited operational fleet in Sevastopol as well as scattered all over the peninsula military bases governed by the Ministry of Defense of Russian Federation. Therefore active patrolling local Ukrainian military bases by invasive Russian troops for the last 10 days was not considered as an aggressive occupation by most of Crimean inhabitants. It became rather a big surprise gradually turning into a deep anxiety about their nearest future.

The worries of Crimean people in particular and all Ukrainians in general are understandable. Even relatively harmless presence of Russian troops made highest Washington officials be constantly in touch with their Moscow colleagues as well as other world leaders. The U.S. president Barak Obama took a firm stand on Thursday by criticizing Russia’s intervention in Crimea in a speech given in the White House. He also pointed out a global scale of Ukraine’s conflict by calling it a “threat to international peace and security.” The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s reaction came out a day later in a phone call with Obama: “Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law.” 

Firm concerns expressed by American president lined up in accordance with previous statements of high European politicians including German chancellor Angela Merkel saying Putin has detached from the current reality. Taking into account political engagement of West and East in ongoing civil war in Syria and nuclear programme of Iran the international importance of Crimean conflict automatically grew bigger beyond previous boundaries. Barak Obama even called this conflict the “worst crisis in U.S.-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War”. So a question occurs: what level of magnitude the conflict is going to reach, in case one of the opposing sides loses its temper and makes the first shot?

Another mind bothering issue appears to be extremely nonproductive negotiations between world leaders over Crimean situation. Long phone conversations between Putin and Obama as well as personal meetings with EU representatives do not only reduce tensions, but on the contrary lead to a broader confrontation. The self-proclaimed Crimean government’s decision on referendum for joining Russia was met as an acute violation of international law by president administration of the United States. Unprecedentedly hasty aspirations of Putin’s backed separatists to cut ties with official Kyiv resulted in Obama’s ordering economic sanctions, visa bans and asset freezes addressing those responsible for stirring the political climate in Ukraine. What a huge disappointment followed next day on Friday, when Russian foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov aggressively stated with an uncovered menace that such measures would hit America as a boomerang eventually.

We also have to keep in mind that current instability in Eastern Europe is a good occasion for both American and Russian governments to withdraw their own citizens’ attention from financial and social problems and strengthen their national prestige by using Ukraine’s road map. The evidence of trying to keep the region unstable is the fact of Russian invaders refusing OSCE representatives to cross the border for making some sort of international assessment of the conflict in spite of recent Moscow-issued permits to do so. It seems like both major counterparts of the conflict are decisively waiting for the moment of anyone from minor players (regularly soldiers, so called “self-defense troops” or even some civil persons) will get shot/injured/kidnapped in order to build up a confrontation even further.  

Moscow officials still do not recognize Kyiv authorities as legitimate and even dare to ridicule EU advices to sit down for a discussion with them. This fact together with unprecedented disregard of Budapest memorandum on Ukraine’s integrity from year 1994 and first movements of Russian troops up north from Crimea show apparent eagerness of Moscow for further control over continental Ukraine. Today’s statement of American chief general Martin Dempsey regarding readiness of U.S. military to back up their NATO allies in case of Ukraine’s unrest growing bigger unfortunately lays down a solid pathway for conflict enlargement and turning it into an actual war.