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The Ukraine, Crimea, and the Demands of Russia
The Ukraine is on the brink of a disaster and war under the fist of Russia's Putin. Russia has seized and annexed Crimea, where Russia has its only warm water port. This move could be clearly expected during the previous week as the Ukrainian government turned pro-West once again. Now, Russia demands the Ukrainian military surrender or face war. The Ukrainian government has said that the annexation of the Crimea is in fact, an act of war without conflict.
The Ukraine has always been considered to be only a province or territory by Russia because until the 1990's, it was part of the Soviet Union. Putin is from the old school but employs limited democratic markets, much like how China allows Hong Kong to be freer than other parts of China due to the British heritage and legacy before it was given back to China in 1990's. The Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for NATO's protection from Russia and Russia agreed to acknowledge that the Ukraine was a "country", with its own government in 1994. Putin never liked this and always knew the Ukraine was vital to Mother Russia. Putin wants to restore the old Soviet Union before it was dismantled. He is in a position to seize this once again under force, just as he did with Georgia in 2008 under the pretext of protecting Russian citizens living in the Ukraine.
What should the West, or more specifically, America, do?
Militarily, not much can be done. A show of force by US naval forces in the Black Sea would raise tension and may provoke. Poland is part of NATO, but this is also a former country under the suppression of the Soviet Union for decades. Germany has offered a fact finding mission to clarify the situation there. We all know what the outcome will be. Since military action is out of the question, the West could isolate and hurt Russia with economic weapons, whatever and wherever, they are in the financial centers of the world. President Obama has said he will not attend the G8 or G20 conferences, Putin could care less about this. Deep inside, i suspect he really thinks Obama is a real wimp, and so far, Obama has allowed this to occur. The Syrian fiasco surely has led many nations to think this way of Obama, where a redline was crossed and Obama sought to weasel his way out via Russia's President Putin. Then there is Iran. Negotiating with a wily country that seems to out fox Obama, stalls, deceives, yet, manages to get sanctions lifted for the exchange of an illusory nuclear agreement.
The Ukrainian leader wants the West to enter more strongly. But, because the Ukraine requires a loan of $30 billion to bail out of the financial ruin it is now in, few countries are willing to provide even half of that. Two weeks ago, Russian and the Ukraine had agreed on an economic package that would allow the country to break even from debt, however, this meant the Ukraine would, in effect, become a territory of Russia via economic ties. The people and opposition did not want this and this lit the match to the current situation. Events spiraled to where they are now at amazing speed. Seized documents after the President of Ukraine fled into exile showed sinister plans: Mr Yanukovych had drawn up a large-scale "anti-terrorist" operation involving 22,000 security forces to "cleanse" protesters from Kiev as the crisis escalated. Codenamed "Operation Wave", the carefully planned assault envisaged shutting down Kiev, switching off opposition TV channels and leading crowds of demonstrators into a "trap" set by the security forces to "clean out" the main protest camp on the capital's Independence Square.
If the West wants to save the Ukraine, they must provide at least $15 billion in loans to them and offer military assistance, whether token or not, to them to counter Putin. This must be done before Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine with the 150,000 troops near the border. Once Russian troops enter the Ukraine and seize Kiev and other cities, the West's counter will be far much harder. Putin knows the West wastes considerable time to agree on an plan of action, Putin simply has to give the order. A civil war will begin should Russian troops cross the border.
A possible result, that may be agreeable with Putin is a split Ukraine. Much of the population that is close to Poland or Europe, want complete independence and be part of Europe. Much of the population that borders Russia feels they still are part of Russia. The country is split is 50\50. An election in May could resolve this if war does not explode. That was the original plan before Putin seized the Crimea and threatened to invade it.
In 1919, the Ukraine was on fire with the Russian Civil War. The French sent tanks and troops to the area to take control over from the German soldiers, who had surrendered. Once this was done, The French found a fast moving, explosive, war on their hands with the Bolsheviks who wanted the area. After a few months, France evacuated.
History seems to repeat all the time.