William R Collier Jr
UPDATE FEB 28, 2014
There are now reports that Russian military, around 300 special forces troops in one instance, had seized control over Ukrainian airports in the Crimea and are surrounding Urkaine border control units in an apparent bid to seize the vital peninsula from the Ukraine. Some reports have come in stating that Ukraining units have retaken the airports, without incident, this as the ousted Ukraine President holds a defiant press confererence from inside Russia and in the Russian language.
Crimea has a majority ethnic Russian population, over 70%, and many ethnic Russians there wish to see Crimea become part of the Russian Federation.
So the use of military force or the veiled threat of military force is being used to expand Russia at the expense of the Ukraine.
The probability for Russian intervention in the Ukraine looms as the “Euro Maidan” groups, from the western regions of the Ukraine, seize control over the national government while President Viktor Yanukovych claimed that a coup has occured, this from his support base in the “Russian” east. In the east, after countless progroms against Ukrainians by the Soviets, many descendents of the Russian occupiers form an ethnic majority and are said to be more loyal to Russia, which occupied and ruled over the Ukraine for many decades, than to the Ukraine.
Sources have actually told me that members of the Ukraine military are worried about Russian intentions which center on an effort to get the Crimea back under Russian control, if not the eastern Ukraine and even the whole country. This fight is essentially orchestrated, some say, from the outside by Europeans on one side trying to secure that nation’s entrance into the Europen orbit as a bulwark against Russia and by Russia in a bid both to reclaim the lost empire and distract the Russian people from a looming economic crisis which would only be aggravated if the Ukraine became part of the Europen condominium being established in former Russian occupied eastern Europe.
The two sides had concluded a peace deal but this fell through as the national government essentially fell “en toto” to opposition forces. Police left the barricades and all officials friendly to the President vacated government facilities. The Interior Ministry (in charge of police) and the Defense Ministry essentially made statements of “neutrality” but evidently refused to take action against the protestors, which led to the collapse of the government.
From the eastern city of Kharkov, hold up with pro-Russian leaders, many of whom are ethnic Russians, and, ominously, actuall Russian parliament officials, the President has admitted that events in Kiev has resulted in “paralysis” and said that they are the cause of “destablization”.
Both the Russians, whose puppet the President is said to be, and the President’s supporters claim that the protestors are led and supported from outside by the European nations. In the Crimea, meanwhile, and more ominously, officials were reportedly meeting with Russian officials to discuss seceding from the Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation. The Crimea is a vital Black Sea peninsula and containes Sebastopol, a large seaport that was home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and now is home of the Ukrainian Navy. Urkaine would never give up the vital region without a fight.
This kind of talk and the language used could set the stage for a Quisling moment wherein the pro-Russian “puppet President” as he is derisively refered, requests Russian help to stablize the country, or, to be more blunt, restore the domination of the whole Ukraine to the descendents of her Russian conquerors. In that event the Urkainian military may not be able to offer effective resistance without help from abroad but some believe a Russian invasion would potentially trigger a European response, particularly from Poland and the Balkan states which were once under Russian occupation. A formal occupation by the Russians of the Ukraine may be the only way for Russia to avoid seeing a former colony become fully integrated with Europe and NATO.
The pro-Euro Ukrainians who are not of Russian descent are just as determined to align with Europe and remove all Russian influence over their nation. But the Russian descendents in the east occupy the Ukraines most powerful economic zones because the Russians during their former occupation located most industry and infrastructure in the east, leaving the western half of their colony more undeveloped. This long-term thinking on their part is now a factor: while ethnic Russians are a minority (around 18%) they predominate the entire economy and weild much more power than would seem possible for such a minority.
A simple splitting of the Ukraine is not in the offing, as far as the protestors are concerned. The radical Urkainian nationalists want to march into the east and “take it back” from the Russian nationals, who they view as merely the children of the oppressors. Russia may choose to foment the “independence” of the east, as it did in the Georgian war of late, giving up the less developed west but the Ukrainian nationalists want all of the Ukraine with no more economic dominance by the Russian minority.
If the radical nationalists gain the upper hand and Russia does not intervene this could lead to “ethnic cleansing” of ethnic Russians which would certainly draw a Russian response.
With his own timorous economy at stake, and no real effective military and even diplomatic check to stop him, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, is more likely than not very temped by a “military solution” to the “Ukraine question”, and this is likely to occur not long after the games are over in Sochi.
I have already had a tip that Russian “irregulars” have been planted in the east, centered on Kharkov and the Crimea. Ukraine military officials are also considering this possibility and may even now be mobilizing.