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Understanding Russia’s Interests

There’s an interesting article originating in RIA Novosti and sponsored by Foreign Affairs that explains Russia’s actions in Ukraine:

Before talking about the consequences and the cost of the Russian intervention, one has to make it clear that, under the circumstances, Russia had no choice. It was not that, as the West claims, Russia wanted to subject Ukraine. First, that country saw a violent coup which toppled the legitimately elected president. The people who took his place, instead of setting about to consolidate the country, acted on the ‘woe to the vanquished’ principle. In this case, the ‘vanquished’ were thought to be the Russian-speaking population of the country’s south-east. Thus, the Supreme Rada voted to repeal of the law on languages that granted regional status to the Russian language (acting president Oleksandr Turchynov has now vetoed the move, but it was too late) and launched a lustration procedure with regard to them. The newly appointed Minister of Education, Serhiy Kvit, a nationalist, lost no time in declaring his intention to rewrite history and ban all the textbooks that children used under the previous government. There is a danger that West Ukrainian nationalism might become the official state ideology.

If you’re not familiar with the term “lustration procedure”, it’s a government procedure limiting the role of certain officials, presumably those with unwanted views, from participation in government. Officials from the American South were subject to lustration following the American Civil War. In post-World War II Germany lustration procedures were put in place. Many Eastern European countries had lustration procedures after the fall of communism.

Second, the course elected by the new authorities posed a serious threat to Russian interests in the whole country. This was not only because the new authorities might renounce Yanukovych’s obligations to Moscow (credit, debts for gas, the Kharkov Accords). The new Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said he was ready to sign an association agreement with the European Union at any moment, ignoring Moscow’s position. For Russia, that would spell a total loss of economic ties with Ukraine and the future loss of Sebastopol as the base of the Black Sea Fleet, as Ukraine would turn into a kind of cordon sanitaire.

and then, of course, there was the loss of face by Russia. Read the whole thing.

None of the foregoing excuses the Russians’ actions, of course, but it should provide more understanding of why they’re doing what they are. It’s not simply aggression on Putin’s part and Russia would have done what it has whatever the Obama Administration did. They were motivated. They didn’t need to be emboldened.

As I’ve been saying since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s move was a foregone conclusion, our interests in Ukraine are not as pressing as Russia’s, and the tactical options open to us are quite limited. Under the Montreux Convention Turkey controls entry and exit to/from the Black Sea so we can’t just move ships there (where they would have restricted freedom of movement and be vulnerable to attack from land-based defenses anyway). The EU, which depends on Russia for a quarter of its energy needs, is unlikely to go along with economic sanctions, restrictions on travel by Russians is unlikely to have much effect other than showing that we’re doing something, and so on.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. Stonetools says:

    I’m watching Dick Cheney on Face The Nation telling us that Putins moves are “unacceptable ” and saying that we need to take action. Paul Ryan thinks we need to green light the Keystone pipeline and “revitalize our energy sector”. Some real genius advice from the Republicans here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    As I watched the talking heads programs this morning, I could only laugh. I turned to my wife and said “Talk about timely. I’ve just written a post rejecting that view.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Russia’s move was a foregone conclusion, our interests in Ukraine are not as pressing as Russia’s, and the tactical options open to us are quite limited. Under the Montreux Convention Turkey controls entry and exit to/from the Black Sea so we can’t just move ships there (where they would have restricted freedom of movement and be vulnerable to attack from land-based defenses anyway). The EU, which depends on Russia for a quarter of its energy needs, is unlikely to go along with economic sanctions, restrictions on travel by Russians is unlikely to have much effect other than showing that we’re doing something, and so on.

    None of which will dissuade the Hawks from their rhetorical excesses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, and Dave? You couldn’t be more wrong. It’s all because of (insert your favorite rationale) Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Stonetools says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Ted Cruz us explained that Putin is acting as he does because if five years of Obama weakness. He tells us we need to be tough- in unspecified ways of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Stonetools:

    It’s always dick size with Republicans. “If only his dick was bigger!” “This only happened because of a lack of penis!”

    What this says about Ronald Reagan who allowed the murder of 241 Marines and whose greatest conquest was Granada, or George W. Bush who you may recall was POTUS when a bunch of terrorists carried out the deadliest attack on the US since Pearl Harbor, I’ll leave to others.

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  7. Anderson says:

    under the circumstances, Russia had no choice

    This is nonsense, propagandistic nonsense. Russia had plenty of options short of OCCUPYING CRIMEA.

    I am disappointed to to see this blog losing its collective mind over this issue. There is a very large difference between “war with Russia is not justified here” and “Putin had no choice but to invade.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. anjin-san says:

    Maybe Cheney can share with us how the strong Bush administration chased the Russians out of Georgia.

    Or not…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0