Monday, March 10, 2014

Ukraine: Short Talking Points

This is a short summary of what I believe to be Russia's motivations, with a bit of analysis and commentary. For an extended discussion, see my post Ukraine: The Great Game, v2.0.

Russian motivations

  1. It's about natural gas: Russia sells and Europe buys. The Soviet natural gas industry began in Ukraine, and it is still a hub of the trade. Russia wants to control that hub and Europe would like to deny them that control.
  2. It's also about Russia's centuries-old desire to become a naval power in the Mediterranean.
  3. And, finally, it's about influence in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia: with Crimea in Russian hands and Syria and Iran Russian allies, Turkey is surrounded.

On the geopolitics

We seem to have returned to a 19th century multipolar world. That period ended in global war and we must work to avoid a similar outcome.

Ethnic conflict and morality in Ukraine

Ukrainians do not deserve to be ground between Russia and the EU. The Tatars in Crimea do not deserve further punishment for the crime of being in the way of Russian ambitions. A just settlement of conflicts in the region would forbid both these things.


sglover said...

I've been to Ukraine three times over the last dozen years. I was in Sevastopol, Odessa and Kiev about 18 months ago. I communicate a couple of times a month with people I know there. This doesn't qualify me as an expert by any means. But I'll tell you this: The overwhelming majority of "news" coverage that Americans get is the purest, most ignorant horseshit. The U.S. should keep the hell out and shut up, if only because 1) we have a lot less leverage there than our Beltway Caesars seem to think, and 2) we don't know what we're doing.

Raven Onthill said...

I think we know that US international reporting is of very poor quality. But, so? I'm not relying on US sources, except on gross matters like troop movements.

Are we prepared to "keep out and shut up" no matter what crimes Russia or the Ukrainian fascists commit in the area? I don't think that's a tenable position. Should that come to pass, I hope the USA will at least speak out. And I think the whole world ignores the updated and equipped-with-gas-jets version of the Great Game at our peril; the last round of the Game ended in World War I, and climate change adds a new urgency to its resolution.

Raven Onthill said...

I do also hope that the State Department at least has a better understanding of the geopolitics of the area. I agree that our politico, especially the saber-rattlers, are out of touch and the saber-rattlers in particular over-estimate US power.

sglover said...

"Are we prepared to 'keep out and shut up' no matter what crimes Russia or the Ukrainian fascists commit in the area?"

OK, but you're speaking about possible futures, and if we confine "doing something" to platitudes and humanitarian aid, we agree.

However, I have been appalled by the idiocy and ignorant self-righteousness I've seen coming from American elites before, during and after the installation of the provisional government in Kiev. That, combined with everything I have seen from American "statesmen" over the last dozen years (at least) tells me that they simply **cannot** be trusted. At all. To do anything.

I don't know of any other advice for incompetents acting in bad faith than keep the hell out and shut up.

A parting thought: I'd also like to believe that at least somebody in the State Department has some idea of what's going on in the region. And then I recall that the likes of Victoria Nuland has been and is in a fairly responsible position in that sphere. Comforting? How she ever got beyond third-tier visa reviewer is a mystery.