Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crimea And Punishment

Within three short weeks, Crimea has undergone several seismic lurches:  (1) from RussophileYanukovychian Ukraine to (2) Maidan-revolutionary Ukraine to (3) occupation by balaklava-adorned Russophone soldiers (adorned fashion-appropriately, as the eponymous city of Balaklava (now part of Sevastopol) was located in Crimea) to (4) "independent" Crimean republic.  Next, Vladimir Putin announded on March 19, 2014, Crimea will be annexed by Russia.  What has the rest of the world done so far on Crimea?  Aside from humiliation, it has achieved little else.  This crisis seems tailor-made to illustrate the Russian maxim "о человеке судят по его поступкам."

Nevertheless, annexation of Crimea will have both immediate and longer-term consequences for Russia regardless of how the global community eventually reacts.  The first and foremost of these will be to turn the Ukraine decisively towards Europe and the West.  Without Crimea's dependable reservoir of pro-Russian voters, Russia has suddenly given the Ukraine a durable political majority of pro-European citizens.  This may lead to European Union membership in the short term, and quite possibly NATO membership after that.  Perhaps more worrying for Russia are the precedents it has now set in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Crimea, which may encourage constituent parts of Russia to struggle more vigorously to achieve independence for themselves.  If might makes right, then the acquisition of might becomes a more important goal for Russian regions like Chechnya.  Russia has won Crimea in the short-term.  It must hope that in the fullness of time its victory does not prove Pyrrhic.