Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't Shoot . . . Sanction

Let's see now . . . Vladimir Putin couldn't wait until May 25 for a scheduled referendum that probably would have paved a peaceful and fairly acceptable way for the Crimean Peninsula to leave Ukraine and return to Mother Russia, its home for much of modern history. For reasons unclear, Putin decided to strong arm his way in with a show of military force to back a puppet Crimean Premier who obligingly rushed a vote with predictable results.

A solid majority of  residents of Crimea are ethnic Russians who speak Russian. Most of the minority Tatars and Ukrainians refused to vote as a protest of the Russian power play. The vote was overwhelmingly pro-Russia. Surprise! The process of incorporating the peninsula into the Russian Federation has begun.

It is unlikely that Ukraine will make any military response. Crimea has provided bases for Russia's Black Sea Fleet for
200 years. A recent estimate put the force at 24 warships, two submarines, and 16,000 sailors and marines. On top of that, Russia has sent several thousand more troops, with insignia removed, into the peninsula since its power play started. Ukraine has nothing in the area to match that sort of strength. Taking on Russia in a full-scale attack along its lengthy border to the north would be suicidal.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama informed the world that if what has happened were to happen, Russia would face "serious consequences." Lots of people, apparently including Putin, aren't taking that message very seriously. So far, the consequences have been freezing bank accounts of a few dozen individuals who promoted the Crimean spectacle. The U.S. seized some assets, the European Union froze more.

What more-serious actions are likely to take place? Not many. The parties involved are entirely too much involved in the world of business to take a dive into the world of war. They depend on each other.

Nearly two thirds of Russian exports are gas and oil, and about half of that is sold to European Union countries. France has lucrative contracts to build Russian ships. Germans have some $22 billion invested in assets within Russia. British bankers profit handsomely by serving as a financial center away from home for Russian billionaires.  The unhealthiest U.S. symbol, the Golden Arches, appears across the Russian landscape, as do other American corporate logos.

It looks like a classic standoff. It probably will stay that way unless the few observers who think Putin has lost his mind are right. Could it be world leaders finally will act with wisdom rather than playground bravado that in the past has escalated into wars bringing misery to millions? Lets hope they continue to fire off sanctions, not missiles.


Tom Sightings said...

I think at this point it's what we call a fait accompli.

Alan G said...

Regardless of how we choose to interpret or analyze the actions and reactions surrounding the Crimea crisis, for many of us it is pretty much a "Déjà vu" moment if you lived through the Cold War. These type events have always been disconcerting because supposition and logic will never bring peace of mind or define an outcome. The game has begun and now it "will" play out to its unknown conclusion.

PiedType said...

I'm afraid Crimea is only the beginning. Putin wants to restore the glory of the Russian empire. Apparently he's figured out that if he keeps taking back little pieces one at a time, no one will move to stop him. (Georgia wasn't worth starting a war over; Crimea isn't worth it. Etc.) Certainly our leaders waving their fingers and declaring there will be "costs" and "consequences" is not going to keep him awake nights.

Dick Klade said...

Sadly, Pied, more Putin land grabs could be in the future. That course of action would not be rational. It ultimately would lead to a war with the West, which Russia could not win. However, it would not be the first time an over-reaching dictator turned into a madman. said...

Kazakhstan among other places is at risk. Half the pop of K is Russian, and unlike the Baltic states K is not a NATO partner.

Marc Leavitt said...


Take a look at my poem, "The dogs of war: 1914." It was inspired by Putin.




Kay said...

I just got back from Vietnam and saw how the country appears to be faring. I thought we were supposed to have been saving them from communism. That was why so many of our young men were sent there to fight. What I saw was a country that appears to be doing well and also quite capitalist as well.

I'm hoping and hoping we use sanctions and stay out of another conflict.