The White House’s plan, I assume, is to hope that Putin will be satisfied with this little bit of muscle-flexing and agree to talks on the disposition of the country rather than take parts of it by force. The goal is probably partition: If the choice is between letting eastern Ukraine and Crimea leave and a major war that Russia will have much more interest in prosecuting than the EU will, why not try to secure Russian acquiescence in letting western Ukraine go and call it a day? The Russians aren’t waiting around on their end of this:
There was a draft law debated to this effect in the Russian State Duma. Now, this announcement on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page:
“Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Simferopol urgently requested to take all necessary steps to start issuing Russian passports to members of the “Berkut” fighting force.”
In other words, Russia is now urging the nationalization of Yanukovych’s riot police.
Why is this important? Before Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 they issued passports to ethnic Russians.
At now, the Russian State Duma is discussing a draft law for adding a new subject of the Russian Federation, i.e. Crimea. In other words, Russia is taking many steps that it took before invading Georgia. This looks to be an attempt to annex Crimea.
Well, from their point of view, Russia’s gotta annex something, as Charles Krauthammer writes today:
Henry Kissinger once pointed out that since Peter the Great, Russia had been expanding at the rate of one Belgium per year. All undone, of course, by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Russian president Vladimir Putin called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”
Putin’s mission is restoration. First, restore traditional Russian despotism by dismantling its nascent democracy. And then, having created iron-fisted “stability,” march.
Use the 2008 war with Georgia to detach two of its provinces, returning them to the bosom of mother Russia (by way of Potemkin independence). Then late last year, pressure Ukraine to reject a long-negotiated deal for association with the European Union, to draw Ukraine into Putin’s planned “Eurasian Union” as the core of a new Russian mini-empire.
Turns out, however, Ukraine had other ideas. It overthrew Moscow’s man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych, and turned to the West. But the West — the EU and America — had no idea what to do.
Russia does. Moscow denounces the overthrow as the illegal work of fascist bandits, refuses to recognize the new government created by parliament, withholds all economic assistance, and, in a highly provocative escalation, mobilizes its military forces on the Ukrainian border.
The response? The EU dithers and Barack Obama slumbers. After near-total silence during the first three months of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom, Obama said on camera last week that, in his view, Ukraine is no “Cold War chessboard.”
Unfortunately, this is exactly what it is for Putin. He wants Ukraine back.
And John Kerry is ready to help make that happen: “Russia is ready to help Ukraine as it seeks to stave off economic collapse, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday after talking with his Russian counterpart,” as an article that combines typically Orwellian Kerry-speak with equally haughty tones of Agence France-Presse:
Kerry told reporters at the State Department that “the primary focus of everybody should be on the creation of a stable transitioning process that allows Ukrainians to be able to make their choice in a free and fair election, while we all work to help stabilize the economy.”
“That’s in Russia’s interests, in the United States’ interests, in the world’s interests,” Kerry added, after talks with his Colombian counterpart Maria Holguin.
“We do not want to get caught up in the historical, or the more current tensions over associations’ agreements or NATO or other kinds of things,” he urged, in a side swipe at Moscow which has sought to stop the former Soviet satellite moving closer to the European Union.
“There’s a place for that down the road, if Ukrainians want to have that debate. But we do not believe that should be part of what is happening now.”
Funny, I don’t Vlad’s worrying all that much about Messrs. Kerry and Obama think “should be part of what is happening now” in the Ukraine.
Oh, and on a related note, if you’re looking for wall-to-wall, flood-the-zone, 24/7 cable news on the latest geopolitical developments in this volatile part of the world, NBC’s cable news channel has you covered:
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) February 28, 2014
As Twitchy notes, “Thank you, Ronan Farrow, for shining a spotlight on the issues that matter. You’ve clearly earned every ounce of that Cronkite Award.”
Oh and by the way, look who was proven right once again: “Flashback: Stupid Woman Offers Up ‘Strange’ Scenario of Russia Invading Ukraine.”
Update: In contrast to Sarah Palin’s prescience five years ago, This. Is. CNN.