Glen Ruffle: Ukraine update: seeing through the fog

Crimea is now Russian, as in, it belongs to Russia. It was largely Russian beforehand of course, but due to the absurdities of Communism, became Ukrainian. Now the mainly ethnic Russian population who live there are directly under the protection of Russian forces.

The Russian forces have employed a classic neutralising operation. They have moved into the Crimea in force, secured peace on the ground by preventing demonstrations and outbreaks of pro-Kyiv nationalism that would have acted as a flame to the tinder-box, and effectively disarmed the Ukrainian military there. Let us not forget - the Ukrainian military forces in the Crimea know personally many of the Russians, and the desire to fight is minimal. So far as everyone remains calm, there is no need for conflict.

However, the politicians in Kyiv, now predominantly nationalist and trying their hardest to drag the US and UK into a conflict against Russia, and trying their utmost to prove their credentials to the protestors who toppled Yanukovych, have been stating that Russia's actions are an act of war.

They are not.

If the Crimean people are being suppressed or forced against their will, then that is an act of war. Yet there is little in the way of anti-Russian sentiment, and, as such, so long as Kyiv can accept that Crimea has now changed hands, there is no need for violence.

The politicians in Kyiv, meanwhile, are largely there because they were the corrupt placemen of corrupt elections. Fearing for their own futures, they are seeking to outdo each other in nationalism, and are stoking a dangerous fire. To avoid escalations elsewhere, Kyiv needs to think very carefully about what they do. Reducing the first language of a large minority of the Ukrainian population to secondary status is blatantly aggressive and provocative. If Kyiv changes tune, everything can proceed far more smoothly – if Kyiv continues to stoke nationalist rhetoric, then Ukraine will find itself picking a fight with a partner far bigger and superior to itself, which will have already taken a large part of Ukraine's military forces. Kyiv's only hope would be to try and drag the US, UK and EU into the conflict; let us hope our politicians realise World War Three is not worth the territorial integrity of an already divided state.


It’s worth noting who is making threats as well. Russia has simply taken a piece of land that arguably already belonged to it, and ensured that resistance to Russian actions would be either impossible or involve the other side starting the aggression. The ‘conflict’ (let’s remember no shots have been fired), has involved strategic moves and limited strategic gains. It is NATO that hysterically stirred fear by claiming that Russia is risking Europe’s peace (are forces massing on the Latvian border? I think not). It is the desperate politicians of Kyiv who have talked of war.


America needs to pay close attention to China as well. China's 'The People Daily' has quietly supported Russia and accused the West of having a Cold War mentality. Putin responded by offering support following the terrorist attack at Kunming on a train. The wider implications are that, when China stirs up trouble regarding its own territorial disputes and claims, Russia is going to stand in support. China's claims on Japanese islands, Taiwan and Tibet are all going to be with Russian support now, and these issues really could pull America into a massive war. Taking action in the Crimea will demand action be taken against China as well, should things come to that, guaranteeing lose-lose situations for everyone involved.

US paper tiger

Obama's handling of the crisis reflects his abandonment of US leadership and his impotence in the world. Theoretically, America is a power to listen to, but after Iraq, Libya and Syria, moral authority is gone, and America realises that fighting a war for a piece of land in the Black Sea is simply not worth the effort, especially when the risks involved are so great.

America's threats have shown the level of commitment on offer: reviewing G8 participation, visa bans and Obama’s meaningless “there will be costs”. Meanwhile, John Kerry has been flapping around making hypocritical statements about invading other countries, while the facts remain unaltered: the world will continue to buy Russian oil and gas, and American companies will continue to need to invest in Russia.

The EU

The European Union needs to be analysed following the Ukraine crisis. Not only did Brussels get taken completely by surprise, but they also offered even less leadership than the US, prompting US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, to memorably sum the EU up with the phrase "F*** the EU", in preference of the UN.

What exactly are the millions that have gone into the EU's foreign policy and defence dreams doing? The European Defence Agency, with a total cost to taxpayers estimated at €27,700,000; the EU Institute for Security Studies, with a total cost to taxpayers estimated at €4,000,000; and the EU Satellite Centre, with a total cost to taxpayers estimated at €12,300,000; if Brussels’ muddled response has been anything to go by, they have all been left floundering in the face of Putin's actions. Money well spent? Hardly.

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