A new Crimean War? Vladimir Putin, Peter the Great & the quest for a warm-water port

We’ve written about the complex situation in the Ukraine, how it’s not just a simple Europe vs. Russia global political conflict.

Ukraine is in trouble financially. So another axis for analysis, for example, is that “Europe” is offering a deeply neoliberal (privatized, austerity) deal to “help” them out of trouble, while Russia is offering a different kind of corruption, and more money.

There are also ethnic tensions between a Russian-speaking, Russia-aligned southeast and a Ukrainian-speaking, non-Russian (or anti-Russian) northwest. Much of that anti-Russian northwest, for example, fought with the Nazis against the Red Army.

During the “Orange Revolution” of 2004, for example, the electoral map looked like this:

2004 Election results in Ukraine (source)

2004 Election results in Ukraine (source)

Yanukovych, as near as I can tell, is in Russia at the moment. For great context on this many-sided conflict, do read these good pieces by Mark Ames. He lays it out as well as anyone I’ve seen:

Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong
Pierre Omidyar co-funded Ukraine revolution groups with US government, documents show

The first is a good lay-of-the-land overview, and the second details the way the U.S. is involved with the unrest in western Ukraine.

News from the Crimean Peninsula

Now comes the Crimea, Putin’s declaration that the Ukrainian internal conflict threatens “Russian interests” there, and his decision to send in (more) troops. First, what’s the latest? And second, what’s special about the Crimean peninsula?

The following is from Juan Cole at Informed Comment. Dr. Cole is a go-to guy for not just news, but informed analysis as well. Here’s his take on Putin and troops in Crimea (my paragraphing and slight editing):

A New Crimean War? (Update: Stuff’s Getting Real)

Tensions have continued to build in Ukraine’s Crimea since I wrote about it a few days ago. On Saturday, The Russian parliament authorized President Valdimir Putin to send troops into Ukraine to defend Russian Interests. A pro-Russian premier has been installed in the Crimean autonomous region, who may call a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

On Friday, shadowy armed men, apparently pro-Russian, began patrolling Crimea’s airports. The interim Ukraine government, meanwhile, is charging that Russian troops are trying to take control of the peninsula (where ethnic Russians now predominate, though it had earlier been a Turkic, Muslim area).

I had written:

The Russian-speaking population of the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine is upset by the popular movement in the west of the country that has overthrown president Viktor Yanukovych and is said to be forming militias. On some government buildings, Ukrainian flags have been replaced by Russian ones. Sevastopol is an important Black Sea port of call for Russian naval vessels, and Moscow has a base there.

Of all the ways in which Russian President Vladimir Putin will see the revolution in the Ukraine as dangerous to Russian interests, the potential loss of Crimea as a Russian ‘near abroad’ is among the more serious. Crimea was given to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev (himself Ukrainian) in the 1950s, but more Russians think they have a claim on Crimea than think they have a claim on Chechnya.

US national security adviser Susan Rice has already warned Russia against sending troops into the Ukraine. But what about the sailors at the base in Crimea? They’re already there. …

The apparent move by Putin to secure control of the Crimean Peninsula for Russia has a Ukrainian context. Crimea is an “autonomous parliamentary republic” within Ukraine, not a province or region tied in the normal way to the Ukrainian government. According to Dr. Cole, it was given to Ukraine in the Soviet days by Khrushchev, but it retained, and retains, a considerable degree of independence. Here’s how Wikipedia describes Ukraine:

Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea) and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital and largest city and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement.

That’s the Ukrainian context. This could split Ukraine, either along roughly the lines shown in the map above, or by splitting Crimea from the rest. Or both. Or neither. It’s all up in the air right now.

But the Crimean Peninsula has a Russian context as well (note the status of Sevastopol above), which goes back to before Peter the Great.

The Crimean Peninsula, Peter the Great, and a Russian warm-water port

There’s a simple fact about Russia. It’s been doomed by geography to never be a great European naval power, because of one thing. For almost the entirety of its history, it had no warm-water port and no access to the Mediterranean. The Russians have been trying to correct that problem since before the time of Peter the Great, and Peter, builder of the Russian Empire, put the attempt into overdrive (again, my paragraphing):

Portrait of Russian Tsar Peter I the Great by Godfrey Kneller (1698).

Portrait of Russian Tsar Peter I the Great
by Godfrey Kneller (1698).

To improve his nation’s position on the seas, Peter sought to gain more maritime outlets. His only outlet at the time was the White Sea [click to see how far north this is] at Arkhangelsk.

The Baltic Sea was at the time controlled by Sweden in the north, while the Black Sea was controlled by the Ottoman Empire in the south. Peter attempted to acquire control of the Black Sea; to do so he would have to expel the Tatars from the surrounding areas.

As part of an agreement with Poland which ceded Kiev to Russia, Peter was forced to wage war against the Crimean Khan and against the Khan’s overlord, the Ottoman Sultan. Peter’s primary objective became the capture of the Ottoman fortress of Azov, near the Don River [and near Crimea on the Black Sea]. In the summer of 1695 Peter organized the Azov campaigns to take the fortress, but his attempts ended in failure.

Peter returned to Moscow in November of that year and began building a large navy. He launched about thirty ships against the Ottomans in 1696, capturing Azov in July of that year. On 12 September 1698, Peter officially founded the first Russian Navy base, Taganrog.

Thus began more than a century of conflict with the Ottoman Empire over control of the Black Sea. According to Dr. Cole, the famous (because of Tennyson) Crimean War in the 1850s almost resulted in Russian control of Istanbul (former Constantinople at the mouth of the Dardanelles, the entrance to the Mediterranean), but ultimately the Turks and their allies won and forced a treaty that halted the Russian advance.

This is the other context for Putin’s crackdown in the Crimean Peninsula. Dr. Cole remembers his history (my emphasis and paragraphing). Do click through; there’s much I’m not quoting, with maps:

As in the 1850s, Russia is claiming as its sphere of influence a territory in eastern Europe (Ukraine today, Romania and other Balkan lands in the 1850s). As in the 1850s, the West has an interest in seeing Russian power blocked from that part of Europe … As in the 1850s, one flash point in this geopolitical struggle is Crimea and its Russian naval facilities. … As in the 1850s, the West worries about Russian hegemony in the Middle East …

The parallels are hardly exact. But the place of a major Black Sea port in contests between Atlantic powers and Russia has remained a stable feature of geopolitics for over a century and a half.

Again, this is just the bones of Dr. Cole’s insight. The piece is a great read.

I strongly suspect that the Crimean warm-water port is a prize no Russian tsar, or emperor, or president will ever let go without a fight. Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine because Ukraine was also Russian (and because Khrushchev was Ukrainian). But Crimea is and was both different and special. It looks like Putin, like a century of Russians before him, is taking it back. What will the Ukrainians, whoever that is these days, do?

But more to the point for us, what will Obama and the U.S. do? Putin has called their bluster and their bluff. I’m almost certain we won’t invade (I hope). But there are many roads to entanglement, and many who want us to take them. Stay tuned.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Bruce

    $TOP the NerObamanable FucKerry of this neo-Nazi Nuland quest for LEBEN$RAUM!

  • Duke Woolworth

    He has short supply lines and cultural Russian allies in the area.

  • wearing out my F key

    That is exactly right. We’re all for self determination, as long as the people determine to do exactly what we want them to do. Let freedom reign!

  • wearing out my F key

    Are elections only legitimate once Victoria Nuland checks off on the candidates?

  • Charles Spencer King

    Here’s my plan:

    Throughout history where religion and or ethnicity clash with geographic borders and governments on a map there is bound to be conflict. Northern Ireland, Bosnia Herzegovina, India – Pakistan etc, My take is Russia can’t be stopped in Ukraine, and then what is next? I’d be awfully nervous if I lived in a former part of the USSR right now. How could Russia turn this from a negative into a positive? Quite easy actually in fact they could lead by example if they chose to. Lets look at a 2004 political map to illustrate my point.

    Obviously there are several glaring problems in just drawing a line for a new border on a map. Therefore it is impossible to please both sides completely or the residents. The blue area on the map Russia wishes minimally to reclaim, yet that would make Ukraine landlocked and that is also unacceptable. Thus the first step is to draw the proposed line ( keeping in mind something is better than nothing as Russia is by far stronger and more capable than Ukraine). In other words you can kiss Crimea goodbye. Realistically you can also kiss the light blue area goodbye, and all of the land to the east of it. Finally we can also wave goodbye to the 67.13 zone. This leaves us with the 66.56 zone that borders the Black Sea. Odessa is a jewel and as it is 62% Ukrainian it should stay Ukrainian. Therefore the red line represents the new Ukrainian border. The twist here and what I am suggesting is for Ukraine to sell, trade or give Moldova the land on the far west of the map, The new Moldova is the pink border. The reason for this is mainly that Moldova is also landlocked and should not be, it is also part of the European Union and Ukraine is not. The European Union’s poorest member (Moldova) would have substantial economic benefits by this as would the EU, and therefore the EU should float the loans to make this happen. Thus the EU kills two birds with one stone, Moldova improves financially, and the Ukraine economy gets its boost from Moldova and needs less from the EU. Sure its a subtle difference, yet its a hedge. This also brings more global pressure on Russia to be content with what it just received with the shake of its iron hand.

    Now that the line is drawn (without a war) there is to be a transition period of 18 months for residents wishing to leave and should do so unimpeded. Property and even businesses could be swapped or traded between the 51.32 zone and the western 66.56 zones. Both areas are similar. There would have to be a special commission on both the Russian side and Ukrainian sides and perhaps even a third party mediator for disputes and to insure price gauging is at a minimum. The same type of commissions could be used between Moldova and Ukraine. While this is not perfect, it would be a way Russia and Putin could be seen as builders ranter than simply conquistadors.

    Religion and ethnicity are not going to change anytime soon. There needs to be more than fighting a war that is not winnable, or starting World War 3. Lines on a map are still lines on a map, yet someone needs to make these lines or redefine them with religion, culture and ethnicity in mind. Sure you can sing Kum Ba Yah and sing We Are The World, but that is just not reality, though it is a very noble goal.

  • Mark_in_MN

    I suspect your right about Sochi, if docking a warship is even all that feasible. But Novorossiysk has a navel station that Russia was building or enhancing in anticipation of the end of the lease of the base at Sebastopol, which was to be up in 2017, but was apparently extended within the last few years. On maps, at least, there appears to be a good sized bay there, too.

    Which is to say, I doubt this move in the the Crimea or the belligerence toward the Ukraine is really related to access to a good “warm water” port.

  • MyrddinWilt

    The referendum will be stolen so it has no meaning. Putin’s ballot fraud in the Parliamentary election is well documented and the opposition was not permitted to challenge him properly in the Presidential.

    They can hold all the fake ballots they like but they mean nothing and change nothing.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Its a question of draft and how steeply the land falls into the sea and whether there is shelter for ships.

    It might be possible to dock a warship at Sochi but being able to refit it is something else entirely. Sevastopol is one of the worlds best natural harbors, as good as Hong Kong. But the land it is on is next to useless for agriculture.

  • mackenzie wunderlich

    my uncle recently got
    a nearly new black Volkswagen Touareg SUV by working off of a pc… blog link
    B­i­g­4­1­.­ℂ­o­m

  • 2karmanot

    The ghost of Prince Potemkin walks anew.

  • FLL

    Glad to help.

  • perljammer

    Thank you for that link! The article is fascinating, with a lot of quotes and attributions to the various players who were on the scene. This is really what I was looking for, and I genuinely appreciate your taking the trouble to draw it to my attention.

  • FLL

    There is a claim made by the Soviet government of 1990 and Putin’s government later (which is repeated on this thread, of course—LOL), that during the negotiations for Soviet withdrawal from East Germany in 1990, the U.S. made some promise not to expand NATO eastward. There are various versions of the conversations between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, but please do not let anyone tell you that limits on NATO’s expansion was mentioned anywhere in written documentation or in any of the extensive treaties signed during 1990 regarding Soviet withdrawal from East Germany. Here is an excerpt from an article by the Centre for Research on Globalization, “NATOS’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?” (link here):

    The year 1990 was one of major negotiations. Washington, Moscow, London, Bonn, Paris, Warsaw, East Berlin and many others were at odds over German unity, comprehensive European disarmament and a new charter of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Soviets insisted that everything be documented in writing, even when all that was at issue was the fate of Soviet military cemeteries in East Germany. However, the numerous agreements and treaties of the day contained not a single word about NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

    For this reason, the West argues, Moscow has no cause for complaint today. After all, the West did not sign anything regarding NATO expansion to the east.

  • FLL

    The reason you cannot find written documentation mentioning NATO limits is because it doesn’t exist. The piece Bill makes reference to is an opinion piece, and the author is referring to conversations (verbal only) between then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze. There are different versions of those conversations, but one thing is certain: NATO limits were nowhere mentioned in the written documentation or any of the treaties that were signed. Here are two excerpts from an article by the Centre for Research on Globalization, “NATOS’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?” (link here):

    The year 1990 was one of major negotiations. Washington, Moscow, London, Bonn, Paris, Warsaw, East Berlin and many others were at odds over German unity, comprehensive European disarmament and a new charter of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Soviets insisted that everything be documented in writing, even when all that was at issue was the fate of Soviet military cemeteries in East Germany. However, the numerous agreements and treaties of the day contained not a single word about NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

    For this reason, the West argues, Moscow has no cause for complaint
    today. After all, the West did not sign anything regarding NATO
    expansion to the east.

    I hope this article helps. Let me know if there are problems with the link. It works for me.

  • Mark_in_MN

    Not to mention that Sebastopol isn’t the only port Russia has on the Black Sea. There is Novorossiysk, which is actually in Russian territory. There is also Sochi on the Black Sea, but it’s current harbor appears from Google Maps to be small and not particularly a shipping center, much less a military one.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Why do your ask? According to the Counterpunch article no treaty was involved. If you want to question the author about whether or not there was a treaty track him down on the internet and do it. “Jeffrey Sommers is Associate Professor of Political Economy & Public Policy in, and Senior Fellow at the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is also Visiting Faculty at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. He is co-editor & contributing author to The Contradictions of Austerity: the Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model.”

  • Bill_Perdue

    The danger is that Obama, Kerry and Merkel et al won’t be able to control the fascists they promoted just as Von Papen and Hindenburg, who thought Hitler was a pushover, were unable to control him.

    Fascists are everywhere and always provocateurs. It’s how they grow,

  • Ford Prefect

    What, are you 14 or something? Who says anyone deserves a pass? Enough with this childish pissing contest of yours.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    With Putin its always intentional and malevolent. Putin is acting like an 8th grader. Can you name one treaty obligation that Putin has honored?
    We don’t owe Putin any passes.
    Putin will misbehave in increasing measure until people stand him down. We will have to go strong against him to force him down.

  • perljammer

    Bill, can you cite the name of the treaty or other agreement signed by Bush and Gorbachev, that enumerated the NATO limits you and the Counterpunch article describe? Even a rough date would be helpful. I have searched and cannot find anything, and I’d really like to read up on this.

  • NMRon

    Anyone who thinks Russia won’t fight to keep their warm water ports secure is insane.

  • FLL

    Who can blame him? Shooting 80 protesters dead? And now this violence in Kharkiv (see below) with pro-Putin mobs dragging government bureaucrats out into the streets and beating them bloody? Who can blame him? I think maybe most of the world can blame him, and I don’t think most of the world is a bunch of “administration toadies.” Are you amused by all of this violence and death? Will you be further amused by ethnic cleansing in eastern Ukraine? Your rhetoric is sounding creepier by the day. No one admires people who are as amused by such things as you apparently are.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdEhWgqTCYU

  • FLL

    These are now extreme circumstances. Please, please watch this video of pro-Kremlin mobs storming the government buildings in the eastern city of Kharkiv, dragging the government workers out and beating them bloody. What crime have these government workers committed for which they are being beaten by the mob? Simply working for the new government in Kiev. I’m begging you. Please, please watch the video below, filmed yesterday in Kharkiv. The world needs to prevent the possibility of the mass murder of Ukrainians and stop this madness now. We have Bosnia in the 1990s as a precedent. No excuses this time around.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdEhWgqTCYU

  • Bill_Perdue

    It’s amazing how many characters from Dr Srangelove have popped up in this discussion. And how many of them are in DC.

    You only have to listen to thier voices to detect the Doublethink: “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process…”

    The break up of the USSR was based on assurances the NATO would not be introduced into Russian or CIS regions. ( http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/28/dr-strangelove-over-ukraine/ ) Those promises have been broken several times, in the Baltic States, with US and NATO aid to Georgians expansionists and now in the Crimea. Putin can appeal to the nationalism of Russians who feel backed up against a wall. And ion DC and Democrat/Republican circles the right is salivating at the thought of doing just that.

    Neither off a perspective for change what would help workers in the Ukraine, Russia or in the NATO countries. The only real solution to the current crisis can only be found in the Ukraine and it centers around the formation of a workers party to protect Ukrainians from the depredations of Russian gangster capitalists and US/EU vampire banksters.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Exactly.

    The role of the right – Democrats, especially Dixiecrats and Republicans- in this discussion is to foment war hysteria. They’re salivating at the prospect of reliving their glory days during the cold war. Fortunately few are paying attention to the Dr. Strangeloves in DC and elsewhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzddAYYDZkk

    The Obama regime is making a big mistake sending Kerry to Kiev to meddle.

    Still there remains a real possibility of regional war because the Ukrainian government was toppled in an Obama /Merkel inspired fascist putsch. And such a war could easily spread if anyone does something stupid or makes a mistake. Fortunately all the nukes were taken from the Ukraine and sent back to Russia years ago.

    Still these are dangerous times. When I made my first attempt to go college I was in a University of Colorado class on Greek history in the early winter of 1962 when a jet flew over fairly low over the campus, thundering and making the windows rattle. There was only one smallish AFB in Denver and no airfield in Boulder. We all looked up, there were several gasps and other signs of alarm and one poor woman wet herself.

    This is beginning to feel like that.

  • wearing out my F key

    Ya know, Gaius did a post about this last week which I thought was pretty good. The three points he made were :
    1. The E.U. (Western) offer of alliance is a deeply neoliberal one.
    2. The West is one of the progenitors of the crisis.
    3. If Ukraine splits, Russia will be aligned with the more viable half.
    That explains everything pretty well. Much better than a lot of reporting which has made it sound like this is world war III. If crimea goes to Russia, that makes sense. If Ukraine goes to the EU, that … Well, that doesn’t make as much sense, but that’s their prerogative. Whatever. Don’t we have any of our own problems to deal with?

  • wearing out my F key

    Why would I mind? What is our interest there anyhow? We spend 5 billon dollars on this ‘revolution’, so there must be some reason, but I don’t know what it would be.

  • wearing out my F key

    Well, the Crimean parliament is writing the secession referendum right now. The people can vote on it by maybe as early as the end of the month. So they can decide what they want for themselves… But it looks like they want to be part of russia to me.

  • Ford Prefect

    Your logic is fine between a group of 8th graders, but among nation-states? Hostilities aren’t always intentional. Besides that, there are some in positions of power that share your view that they can go around creating overt acts of war without facing any reaction (see: Victoria “pottymouth” Nuland). That’s a very dangerous mentality and one that frequently has led to conflict.

    You say international law no longer exists because Russia abrogated a treaty somewhere. Okay then. So it’s all just chaos from here on out. And you think war can be avoided because the Rooskies will surrender in the face of a naval blockade and everyone will maintain perfect fire discipline? Just because numbnuts like John McNasty say so? LOL.

    Cue Gen. Buck Turgidson….

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Russia isn’t going to attack Turkey. Russia has abrogated its treaty obligations, so there’s no need for Turkey to abide by its obligations.

  • Ford Prefect

    I’m not familiar with the law of the sea regarding transiting the Bospourus, but as a naval blockade, that would be an overt act of war. Still, as far as starting hostilities are concerned, that’s probably a favorite idea on the planners’ tables. Any shooting, however it starts, would invoke Article 5 and thusly involve all of NATO in the conflict. I can’t imagine Turkey engaging in hostilities without invoking Art 5. An accidental exchange of fire might give NATO the plausible deniability they would wish to have.

    Still, it’s a great way to start a war. The problem of course, is to keep it from escalating into something far larger.

  • 4th Turning

    The first Crimean War-very far-reaching consequences…
    Russia lost the war and with it the myth of Russian might, the legacy of 1812, was shattered.
    The shock of defeat forced Russia to adopt a programme of sweeping internal reforms and industrialisation under Tsar Alexander II, who came to throne in early 1855.

    Elsewhere, Russia’s defeat facilitated the unification of Germany under Prussian control

    The human cost was immense, 25,000 British, 100,000 French and up to a million Russians died, almost all of disease and neglect.
    (Bloodied linen shirts from the dead were shipped by the 5-600 lb. bale to New England to be
    processed into paper. It is said rivers ran red where this “cloth” was washed.)

    American disinterest in History, current events, etc.is unfortunate in crisis situations like this.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/crimea_01.shtml

    Am including a link to Germany’s 1938 invasion of Czechosovakia to “protect” ethnic Germans..

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/461770/Expert-likens-possible-Putin-action-on-Ukraine-to-Hitler-s-1938-move-on-Czechoslovakia

    .

  • Cervantes

    Err, Russia already has the Crimean warm water port. They have a naval base in Sebastopol. They didn’t have to invade, they were already there. They’re just keeping it.The issue isn’t the port, it’s the whole relationship among Russia, Ukraine (and other borderlands), and the West.

  • cole3244

    if we try to see things from the russian point of view and its security you can see why they would want access to the black sea and the crimea. the germans weren’t the only ones that have tried to invade russia from the west we sent a small force of marines in by way of siberia in the early 1900’s so russia’s paranoia is justified imo.

    there certainly must be a political solution to this problem without pushing russia into a corner so that putin has to react irrationally to defend his position.

    he is assuming the worst case scenario and there by trying to plug all the holes he sees in case that actually happens.

    most nations are not in a land locked situation like russia and we must see it from their perspective and not assume putin is automatically being unreasonable, he may just be reacting to a possible worst case scenario with the upheaval in the ukraine. he would not be doing his job as president if he left russia vulnerable if russia had to fight its way into a warm weather port.

    i don’t trust putin but i don’t trust most leaders of powerful nations ours included, we have a global interest in solving this problem rationally and not let it get out of control where military action could destabilize the region if not the world, that is not an option for anyone on either side of this dispute.

    there are hero’s and villains on both sides and we must be pragmatic enough to see this and react accordingly without animus towards one another.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    It’s warmer than ice.

  • http://americancannibal.org/ American Cannibal

    Hello? Dimitri? Yes, well, you know how we always talked about something going wrong with the bomb…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEB-OoUrNuk

  • FLL

    Putin has given the entire world the middle finger. Everyone. The U.S., Britain, France, the U.N.… absolutely everyone… with one exception. This excerpt is from a CNN report today (link here):

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said Putin had accepted a proposal to establish a “fact-finding mission” to Ukraine, possibly under the leadership of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and to start a political dialogue.

    If the German government can do some good in Ukraine, kudos to them. No reasonable observer need be offended that the German government can help solve a nasty problem that Putin created with his unilateral invasion of Crimea.

  • FLL

    4 million Ukrainians murdered by Stalin in the Holomodor during the early 1930s. (That is a conservative estimate accepted by all reputable historians as the minimum number. Many sources accept a higher number.)

    80 protestors shot dead on the orders of Yanukovych in 2014.

    Never Forget.

    “People who have been on Maidan and died here are heroes. Heroes will never die. They will always be with us. They will be our inspiration.”

  • FLL

    “Obama & Co. started this war…”

    That’s just a delusional statement. You may be making yourself feel better for whatever odd reasons, but you are not increasing your credibility.

  • FLL

    The Russian ethnic majority in Crimea (just over 50%) certainly wants to be part of Russian, and Russia certainly wants Crimea to be part of Russia for both ethnic and strategic reasons, and you have concluded that this is a “problem solved.” Your tone is smug regarding the 24% and 12% of the population that is Ukrainian and Tatar, respectively, because conditions may become so hostile that they are forced to relocate. However, I agree with you that the international community has accepted the fact that Crimea (“given” to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 in a dubious move) will be part of Russia again.

    Now that you and I agree on the end result for Crimea, I would like to recycle your phrase, “problem solved,” because Putin has unilaterally sent troops in to invade Ukrainian territory, given Ukraine an irrefutable argument for seeking military cooperation. Your phrase, recycled:

    Ukraine wants to be part of NATO. NATO wants Ukraine to be part of NATO. Problem solved.

    Don’t like it, “wearing out my F key”? Then take your F key and shove it somewhere discreet.

  • caphillprof

    It’s also suggested that the Crimea is the San Diego of Russia, that it is where many retired Russion military live.

  • bicyclemark

    Just add Crimea to the list; Abkhasia, South Ossetia, Nogorno-Karabak, Transinistra, why not one more sort of Russian frozen conflict-unrecognized territory in the world.

  • perljammer

    You say “Crimea wants to be part of Russia” as if the people who live there are of one mind. I’ll wager that the 24% of the population who are Ukranian and the 12% who are Muslim Tatars would probably disagree.

    A poll conducted in 2011 found that 73% of the people in Crimea consider Ukraine as their “motherland”. I think there is a big difference between wanting closer ties with Russia than with Europe, and wanting to be “part of Russia”.

  • nicho

    The US has already picked a side. Obama & Co. started this war and sided with the anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, neo-Nazis. As far as I can see, Putin is protecting his interests. Who can blame him — except international lawbreaker Obama. Only administration toadies claim otherwise.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    All the more reason to see if the Turks will come to the aid of the Turkish Tatar minority in Crimea by shutting off the Bosporus to Russian military traffic until the leave the Crimea. That would remove any strategic importance of the Crimea to Russia. Obviously, there would be heavy costs to Turkey for doing so, but it would end it very quickly.

  • SL Abrin

    Oh yeah. Germans. I bet the Ukrainians can’t wait to see them…again.

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    I’ve gone for a swim in the Black Sea while in Odessa (Chernoye More) and also while in Istanbul (Kara Deniz) and I can report that there’s nothing “warm” about it. But I understand the strategic value of a port on the Black Sea.

    Turkey controls access to the Mediterranean.

    Turkey is still pissed at being denied entry to the EU, mostly because of racism – they’d be the 2nd largest population in the EU and the racists in the EU don’t want that many Muslims.

    Turkey is also an ally of the US. The geopolitics of this is going to be interesting.

    Regardless, Russia, without Crimea, already has ports on the Black Sea.

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com Elijah Shalis

    The Ukrainians fought with the Nazis by day and against them by night. It is important to remember that over 8 million Ukrainians were killed by Stalin. Russia ethnically cleansed Ukraine.

  • Indigo

    I don’t see a reason for the US to pick a side in this quarrel. Crimea? Ukraine? Russia? It’s starting to look more and more like one of those endless Black Sea squabbles that destabilize the entire region. We have no direct interest in the matter and we are not the Global Police. If the German EU wants the western Ukraine, let them use their own military to hold it.

  • wearing out my F key

    Crimea wants to be part of Russia, Russia wants Crimea to be part of Russia. Problem solved.

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