These four posts are thrown together without having been composed to flow into a single narrative. I am putting them here as a matter of convenience.
No, Russia is not stupid enough to invade and occupy Ukraine. Probably not Crimea. Many Crimeans such as the Tatars have bad memories of the Russians. Businesses don’t want the Russians screwing up their operations and markets. Many have longed for the freedoms that seem to have been won by Kiev, and won’t want to cast their lot with Putin, who looks like a smarter but no more liberal version of Yanukovich.
This time the liberal Washington Post is closer to right than you are. Here is a list of reasons why Russia should be very careful. And, after bluffing for all they are worth, probably in the end, will prove to be cautious.
My bet is that the Russians remain encamped for several months, during which they come up with a Saarland-style referendum for the people themselves. Hundreds of Jimmy Carter look-alikes from the US, EU, China and Japan to ensure the integrity of the process. And Putin will lose.
Some hotheads from Western Ukraine would be just as happy to see the East decamp, and seem to be working to drive them out. If they succeed, it could come apart on linguistic lines. I don’t think it will, but you never know.
In the last few months, even the east became thoroughly disgusted with Yanukovych. He can’t come back. But as long has he is in Russia, Putin doesn’t have anybody else. The major eastern oligarchs such as Firtich and Akhmetov have been backing away from Yanukovych for some time. I believe it is much more in their interest to be part of a more liberal Ukraine than subject their fortunes to the Russians. That’s the way they have been talking, and I believe it.
The GDP of the east approaches twice that of the west. That is where the coal, steel, chemical industry and heavy manufacturing are located. For the west to dismiss them would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.
That said, the westerners just rescinded Yanukovych’s language law. He gave each province (oblast) the right to choose which languages they would allow. This in turn overturned a 2004 (or so) law by his predecessor Yuchenko, very unpopular in the east, that made Ukrainian the sole language of instruction. What the west has done is not return to balance, but rather go back to a law which is prejudicial to the east. Not a smart political move.
The leaders who are emerging, Yatsenyuk and Klitchko, are men of the center. I am sure they will try to hold the country together. Tyahnybok of the nationalist party Svoboda, the furthest to the political right (geographic left) seems to be pushed to the sidelines. He scrapped hard to assure himself at least three major position in the cabinet. I hope that the centrists demanded and got quite a few concessions.
There is such confusion that the situation is hard to call. The one constant through all of this has been the reserve and level-headedness of the Ukrainian people. We can pray that they maintain it. If so, they will quietly face down Mr. Putin and save their country, both its political boundaries and its emergent democracy.
Crimea’s main business is tourism. They had the Soviet Union’s best beaches. They have mountains, a “grand canyon,” botanical gardens, Greek ruins and vineyards.
Most tourists are Ukrainian; second come Russians. They mostly arrive by train, and the trains of course travel through Ukraine.
This is the beginning of the summer booking season. I can only imagine that 1,000 Russian troops are having a dramatic impact on bookings by those supposed Russophile hotel owners. Let’s see how it works out.
My bet is that there will be increasing numbers of peaceful protests, like Maidan, like Kent State. Shouts to the soldiers to go home. Flowers stuck in gun barrels. And… they can’t shoot and the can’t make them go away. It will be awkward.
If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
That was Yanukovych’s problem. He had his riot police, the Berkut, and he had the small-town hoods, the titushki, whom he could bus in to cause trouble. Neither were at all well trained for the job at hand, pacifying Maidan, and Yanukovych was too out of touch even to know what was needed. Yanukovych lost, despite having by far the greater firepower.
Now in rushes Putin. What does he have? An army. What does he use? The army. Once again, not the right tool for the job, just the only one he has.
Once the civilians realize that Russians aren’t going to shoot them, they will show the same contempt for Russian soliders that the Maidan demonstrators did for the militia thugs. Putin has few options. One which might have served him, restraint, is no longer among them.