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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Putin Takes Crimea. Next Up: Alaska.

Posted by on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Why not? They were there first.

Putin has done it: He's pounced on a country in very delicate condition after overthrowing a rotten oligarch, created the illusion of a popular mandate, engineered a vote that wasn't a vote, forced roughly 2 million people into his open arms, and nobody could stop him.

In retrospect, the quote from our man in Kiev, in his post just after President Yanukovych was ousted back in February, is especially bitter: "The price for victory was very high."

And now that Putin has made the Russian-speakers in Crimea "safe," let's see what happens to the rest of the population. So far, one Ukrainian serviceman has been killed and another injured when armed men—and a truck bearing a Russian flag—stormed a military base.


Comments (21) RSS

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The Russians sold Alaska to the US fair and square. We have the receipt.
Posted by Alden on March 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM · Report this
Personally, I'm conflicted about how far the West should go to punish Putin. There are many mutually beneficial business relationships between Russia and the EU and between Russia and the US. Severing them would do great harm to the Russian economy, but would hurt our side almost as much. How many American jobs should we be willing to sacrifice in order to protect Ukraine from Russian imperialism?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on March 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM · Report this
cressona 3
Yes, everything Putin has done with Crimea is rotten, but there's a world of difference between Russia invading Crimea and Russia invading eastern Ukraine--a distinction that we in the USA with our own problems would have a hard time appreciating. Crimea was historically part of Russia; it's a major base of their naval operations; it's a peninsula that has some geographic separation from the rest of Ukraine; and it doesn't have much of an economy of its own--oh, and as illegitimate as that referendum was, probably most of the Crimean population wants to be part of Russia.

Ukraine can continue to be Ukraine without Crimea. Now, if Russia seizes on some fake provocation to decide occupy eastern Ukraine, that's a different story. And the United States and the EU need to get their act together and not let multinational corporations' bottom lines be the arbiter of everything and put together a real economic deterrent that will convey to the Russians in no uncertain that there will be economic consequences if they try to split Ukraine.
Posted by cressona on March 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM · Report this
Maybe Sarah Palin will see the invasion from her house.
Posted by GermanSausage on March 18, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Gordon Werner 5
We should respond by helping the Ukraine out economically and helping expedite their desired entry into the EU (unless that's actually a punishment)
Posted by Gordon Werner on March 18, 2014 at 11:21 AM · Report this
I will say, its encouraging that they felt the need to stage a referendum. On the other hand, they didn't bother to concoct plausible results so that's maybe kind of like they were scratching their nose with their middle finger.
Posted by Alden on March 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM · Report this
cressona 7
Some perspective on Crimea from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times from a couple weeks ago:
Russia has just driven Ukraine into the West’s orbit and acquired a long-term headache. Russia is already pouring billions of dollars into the bits of Georgia and Moldova that it pilfered, and now it’ll have to subsidize Crimea (which depends on Ukraine for water and electricity).

Putin’s other problem: If Crimea becomes independent, its pro-Russian population will no longer vote in Ukrainian elections. The upshot would be Ukraine skewing even more to the West.

So yes, let Putin have Crimea. It was a foregone conclusion anyway. And yes, we can afford to have a little faux in our outrage over Crimea. My worry now is whether the West can convey to Russia that the next line they cross really is the red line. And it's not so much Obama and our dysfunctional government I'm worried about, it's Angela Merkel and the EU. Russia's economic ties with the EU are multiples greater than its economic ties with the United States.
Posted by cressona on March 18, 2014 at 11:30 AM · Report this
JonnoN 8
Can we give @2 a little "troll" tag so everyone knows he's talking out his ass?
Posted by JonnoN on March 18, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
@8 Which part of what I said was wrong?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on March 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
venomlash 10
@3: They've already marched into parts of Eastern Ukraine. They stormed a refinery or gas processing town a few days ago.
Posted by venomlash on March 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM · Report this
cressona 11
Venomlash @10, true enough. That incursion was seemingly to secure gas supplies to Crimea, so there's still the possibility that the Russians will stop there and it's not the harbinger of Russian troops marching into Donetsk and Kharkiv and Odessa. Even then, it raises the question, if the Russians want to stop at Crimea, do they now want to redraw the Crimean border with Ukraine?

The Ukrainians are in such a touchy situation because eventually there has to be some Russian provocation for which they cannot turn the other cheek. They can't just let the Russians keep establishing facts on the ground. But then, the moment the Ukrainians fight back, that gives the Russians the excuse they need to advance just as far as they want to--if advancing is what they want.
Posted by cressona on March 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 12
Putin would invade Lithuania and the Baltic states, if anything.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
This is why I helped arm and train the First Nations peoples of the Yukon and BC - in case of a Russian invasion.
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM · Report this
What is it with dictators and their sham elections? Why can't they ever with satisfied with results in the low 70's or 80's? Why does it always have to be 90+%? 93% of the Crimean voters "voted" 93% in favor of joining Russia. Bashar Assad won Syria's election in 2007 with 97% of the vote...
Posted by LetV on March 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM · Report this
cressona 15
For anyone interested in learning more about the rich history of some of these seemingly remote places, this recently published book about Odessa comes to mind:
Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dr…

To make a long story short, Russia has nowhere near the cultural or historical claim on a city like Odessa that it does on Crimea.
Posted by cressona on March 18, 2014 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Frank Blethen's vodka distiller 16
@14 They're both rank amateurs. The Great Leader of North Korea Kim Jung Un received %100 of the vote.
Posted by Frank Blethen's vodka distiller on March 18, 2014 at 4:47 PM · Report this
sperifera 17
Poland should seize Kaliningrad, then we can call it even.
Posted by sperifera on March 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM · Report this
I think the Alaska Native population might dispute that the Russians were there first.
Posted by CPN on March 18, 2014 at 5:41 PM · Report this
This is shitty journalism. No context. NATO? Warsaw? Like the US is in any position to judge this sort of imperialism? The constitution Paul Bremer wrote for Iraq is less credible than the Crimea secession vote...
Posted by Upchuck on March 18, 2014 at 6:18 PM · Report this
@3 The idea that Crimea was a part of Russia is a nonsensical justification of Putin's invasion. Ukraine as an autonomous entity came into existence at the end of World War 1. A 30+ year difference with Crimea. If the fact that Russia controlled Crimea for hundreds of years is a good excuse, then Russia can lay claim to central Poland, all the Stans except Afghanistan and Pakistan, Finland, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Baltics. Which is why those nations, especially Poland and the Baltics, are so worried.
Posted by Daniel Francis on March 18, 2014 at 8:15 PM · Report this
@20 as long as the US doesn't have their NGO's foment street revolts to overthrow their governments - giving Putin his pretext - and if the citizens don't then vote to join Russia, I think Poland and the Baltic states have nothing to worry about. But if we really wanted to ease Russia's concerns over her neighbors, we could also consider keeping the promise we made during the breakup of the USSR to not further extend NATO closer to Russia's borders encompassing its former states
Posted by Upchuck on March 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM · Report this

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