In my post ‘Put your hands up for Ukraine’ I “suggested” Russia had interests in Ukraine. Recent events, I’m ashamed to say, put this historian in his place. Half a millenium of Russian history is about finding ice-free harbours for military and economic interest. We should have known they would not accept loss of guaranteed control over Sevastopol. Yet when Russian troops took over the Crimean-airfields last week, I was as shocked as anyone else. I also suggested in my previous post that Putin may have a plan for making Russia stronger at others expense. The military build-up in the last decade does suggest this. What we are seeing today is not a planned part of that expanse; that is the good news. The bad news is that, planned or not, what is happening makes whatever is planned more likely, more feasible. The million dollar question is, how confident is Putin? Will he still castle his King before going on the assault, or did he maneuver enough to start trading pieces for space and position? The answer depends for a part on what the opponent is doing. America and Europe hardly have the best position to commence an all-out assault. However they still may be in the best position they are going to see in a long time. Also they are watching the opposition.
The US ambassador to the UN said it nicely. It is a time to let cooler heads prevail. Perhaps that is what differentiates this time from WWII, there are more women involved, at least on this side. Perhaps they are less likely to issue declarations of war. But then this is a misrepresentation of what happened in 1939.
Cooler heads would suggest that the west and Ukraine give up Crimea and give Russia what it almost wants most (a sea port), while denying it what it really wants (an excuse to do more damage, invade Poland and Ukraine, conquer Berlin and Strasburg to force Europe out of the war before America can enter it).
It is important that Kiev does not try to take back Crimea. The situation there is ambivalent to say the least. Instead Non-Russian ethnic natives from Crimea should be allowed to leave for Ukraine. This is no small sacrifice for them but it beats a second Crimean war with strides. Economic sanctions should be used both against the peninsula as Russia. If only Crimea is taken Russia has to station expensive occupation-forces on the land which have to be for the most part fed by plane.
The Ethnic-Russian-Crimean people seem concerned about democracy. They want independence from Ukraine as well as Russia. I don’t think they will get everything they want, certainly not democracy. Russia is not in the business of exporting democracy. It doesn’t have enough of it at home to start giving it away for free. Gay people should leave the peninsula as well, if they are sensible. Russian paratroopers do not take sensitivity trainings, they take DE-sensitivity trainings, guess who they’d like to provide the assistance? Putin does not understand the subtle distinction between ‘gay’ and ‘pedophile’.
The mean threat for peace is now centered on the Ukrainian military complexes and ships that are being besieged but who refuse to surrender their weapons. If it comes to blows these will suffer punitive casualties for doing what is within their internationally recognized right. Russia then would have a charge to answer for.
Even if the situation in Crimea were to be defused things in the world have permanently changed now. The chess-game will likely continue and probably at some point pieces will be exchanged. We will probably(hopefully) be able to keep it non-nuclear, just as we kept WWII gas-free (on the battlefield). Yet make no mistake, this war, if it comes will be the worst yet, they always are. The world and the internet will never be the same again because of it. Part of the war will be fought by computers and some of these will be autonomous and on the battlefield. On the one extreme part of the war will be hand-to-hand, on the other extreme swarms of quad-copters will surround a battalion and mop it up while man is still thinking on how to resist.
With this changed reality it is increasingly unclear whether all participants still share the same reality. Some that talked to mr. Putin seem to doubt this, though he may be feinting this to make them uncertain. In any case we should all be very worried of such a development in any person who can condemn the world to hardship with the words:
“On my signal, release hell!”