The Crimean Parliament has voted to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia. They plan a referendum on the issue for their citizens on March 16. Will the rest of Russia-leaning eastern Ukraine follow suit?
If Ukraine splits up, it might be easier for them to move forward. Since independence from the Soviet Union, they have been torn by those who want to look east and those who want to look west and have been somewhat immobilized.
Ukraine’s biggest problem is its horrific corruption and dominance by oligarchs, who function as feudal lords. If the western part splits off and joins Europe, they will have a chance of reducing that corruption to, say, Italian or Greek or New Jersey levels. The eastern part will remain a mini-Russia, a kleptocracy.
The big takeaway here, people, is that if you have nuclear weapons, don’t ever give them up for a meaningless piece of paper (that joke of a Budapest Memorandum).
On a more serious note, my main sentiment is that when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia’s power and prestige hit rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up. So I see Putin’s actions in the Crimea, like his actions in Georgia in 2008, as a “reversion to the mean.”
He knows he’s not going to get his whole empire of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact back, but he also knows he can get something without having to fight. Taking Crimea is a slam dunk, as taking the rest of eastern Ukraine probably is. Heading into western Ukraine means he’d have to fight the locals, who’d have help from us, and occupy them. Heading into Poland means he’d have to fight NATO. I doubt Putin’s eyes are bigger than his tummy.
Of all the aggressive actions Putin could take, I see the Crimea as the most logical and least threatening to our interests. If you did a word cloud for Russia, “warm water port” would appear very prominently. Of all the world’s territory technically outside Russia right now, I can’t think of anything more deeply tied to them, more arguably theirs, than the Crimea.