Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do I Understand the Roots of Russian Absorption of Crimea?

I normally try to avoid posting on things on which I don't know much. This is an exception, as I really don't know much about Russia, Ukraine or Crimea. Readers might comment to correct me, as this post is my trying to thing through the current news stories.
Do I have the chronology correct?
Recall that the Sochi winter Olympics took place between February 7 and February 27. It was a very expensive effort that involved President Putin's personal attention during its operation. Almost certainly intended to improve the image of Russia worldwide, its impact on global public opinion was dramatically reduced by the Euromaidan demonstrations.

Why Did the Russian Do What They Did?

A possible explanation of Russian actions here seems to me to be one of responses to rapid events of others.
  • The creation of an common market involving Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan would have both economic value to Russia and political value to Putin.
  • Were Ukraine to have links to both the EU and the CES it might have been a bridge between the two economic zones; the refusal of the EU to allow Ukraine to belong to both, had EU membership gone through, would have had the effects of  weakening the CES from what had been hoped by Putin; Russians might have feared the Ukraine would become a pro-NATO force on Russia's border.
  • The Russian counter offer to EU support was perhaps meant as a means to revise Ukrainian linkages weakening its approach to the EU and strengthening its linkages with Russia and the CES.
  • The fall of Yanukovych and his government was a significant defeat for Putin and the Russian initiative. It probably had not been predicted long in advance.
  • The aborted repeal of the law allowing Russian to be used as a regional language would probably have been perceived in Russia as a significant sign of anti-Russian animus on the part of the interim Ukrainian government.
  • The demonstrations of the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea illustrated a willingness in that area to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The area was important to Russia because it was the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, and because much of Russian exports moved through Crimean ports.
  • Putin encouraged the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its accession to Russia, accepting the costs in worsening relations with Ukraine, the EU, and the USA, because the move was popular in Russia, because it showed Russian power counteracting the apparent weakness in the loss of its ally in Kiev, and because it was consonant with his vision of Russia as a global economic and political power with deep historical roots.
The Russian government seems to have long term plans to improve the Russian economy and to assure Russian security by maintaining strength and preventing threats from rising in a region of influence, especially the adjoining countries.

However, the decisions made this month may have been tactical responses to the actions of others in Ukraine, Crimea, and the west.

Source: "This one map helps explain Ukraine’s protests", The Washington Post


John Daly said...

I quote from the EC website:

The Eastern Partnership is a policy initiative launched at the Prague Summit in May 2009. It aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union and its 6 Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

It strengthens bilateral relations between the EU and its Eastern European Partners and represents the Eastern dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy.....

The commitment to the Eastern Partnership initiative and its objectives was reaffirmed at the Warsaw Summit in 2011. Next Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Vilnius in November 2013.

John Daly said...

I quote from a Carnegie Europe report on the Eastern Partnership from last November:

The European Union’s (EU’s) relationship with Eastern Europe and the Caucasus is at a turning point. Russia’s increasingly assertive tactics have chipped away at the ties that bind the six Eastern Partnership countries to the EU, and the entire Eastern Partnership is on the verge of unraveling. To rescue its association with its Eastern partners, the EU must deliver more tangible results. Europe can be both geopolitical and committed to reform—but to strike the right balance, the EU must be more strategic.