I have been lurking on the forum for a few months now picking up hints for CMANO.
Having followed the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning i have a point to make.
The general consensus is that Putin is entirely in the wrong and the west should do what it takes to contain him/Russia.
To play devils advocate,
Putin sees that the west/NATO is expanding eastwards, something it promised that it would not do, and if Ukraine joins Nato then over half the western Russian border has a potentially hostile force butting up to it.
Well, "The West" is just a vague term now describing a bunch of states within a geographical area, who have a similar way of life and outlook. It's not an organisation, and there's no membership. It's really a subjective term, though is commonly shared. It has also changed its meaning over time, so now includes nations like Poland or the Czech Republic, once on the east side of the Iron Curtain. Indeed many people would now mean it to include Australia, NZ or Singapore.
NATO (which is a voluntary member-based organisation) has already turned down an application from Georgia, partly mindful of Russian sensibilities, and Ukraine has never even applied.
Russia and Europe have had a tumultuous history with both France and Germany invading and almost taking Moscow.
Sure, but remember those jumped-up little corporals who gave Russia such a hard time ALSO gave the other nations of Europe a hard time as well, as they used their cults of personality and vast armies to briefly create new empires, killing many millions in the process. Moscow managed to avoid occupation on both occasions, though at great cost; many European capitals did not.
Those struggles can be regarded as coming out of the earlier imperial, feudal and religious struggles that have plagued Eurasia since before written history. Very much the era of hard power when the few controlled the many. Nevertheless those other nations seem to have got over that and now peacefully cooperate pretty well. Why should Russia be any different?
To a Russian, why is Nato any different than European powers of the past?
Because it's an entirely voluntary alliance made up of many independent states, now all democracies. It is not an empire in any sense, has no mandate to grab territory, no sovereignty of its own, no means to enact laws or control people. Even external interventions require the unanimous agreement of all members. It was set up as a defensive alliance (to counter Stalin's expansionism), and its only external operations have been as a response to massive human rights violations where earlier diplomatic efforts failed. It is utterly unlike any European Power from the Age of Empires. While its function is hard power, the queue to join is very much due to soft power (or fear of someone else's hard power ).
I know Nato is a defensive force but that is not what Putin saw when he watched Libya get bombed back into the stone ages.
Err... Libya didn't get bombed into the stone age, at least not by NATO. When the Arab Spring reached Libya protestors took to the streets wanting democracy. The response included firing RPGs into unarmed protestors. It escalated into major human rights violations throughout the country, and a civil war began. The UN agreed a no-fly zone, and NATO participated. They used precision munitions on C&C installations and other military assets, and the collateral damage is regarded as pretty low.
The part of Libya that most resembled stone-age destruction was the town of Misrata, as Ghadaffi's artillery wrecked the place before being pushed back. Libya is still riven with problems as many militias remain and control enclaves, Islamsists are trying to gain influence, and the usual corruption and mismanagement is everywhere to some extent. Nevertheless most observers see the situation as far less bad than under Ghadaffi, and there is still a lot of optimism for a better future.
So, why didn't Russia offer to help the no-fly zone? Logisitics, or a wish for Ghadaffi to remain in power?
The stationing of US interceptor missiles near the Russian border (targeted at Russian ICBM/IRBM missiles?) and US bases to the West south and East.
Would not a Russian think that maybe the US is the next power to try and take Moscow?
If you mean the ABM system designed to deal with any threat by Iran, the US responded to Russia's concerns by cancelling the site originally meant be in Poland and replaced with a much more limited system. Or do you mean something else?
The US has not had a good reputation for its dealings with other countries in the last decade and I have the impression as do many others that i speak to, that they would rather bomb first and maybe ask questions later.
Very true, but that's almost entirely due to one specific action by one internationally unpopular leader (and an equally unpopular ally) - the Iraq invasion.
Note that the biggest critics of that invasion were NATO members; there was a major falling out between the US and France, Germany strongly objected too, and Turkey refused to allow US forces to invade Iraq from their territory (turning down a large pot of money in the process). Well, they're now all in a position to say "told ya so!"
The stated reason of tackling WMDs was nonsense, the legality of the invasion is still contentious, and most people will agree it was just a really bad idea based on sheer hubris. It seems Russia was quite happy to sit back and watch NATO squabble and the US & UK get themselves into a lot of trouble there.
Still, the main problem was not for Russia or the coalition forces, but for the Iraqi people who have swapped a cruel, murderous despot for sectarian, venal leaders who preside over recurring bouts of religious-inspired violence. Frying pan to fire. Only Kurdistan seems to have benefitted so far.
I think the west meddling in Ukraine was Putins last straw and he had to act.
So, the EU signing a voluntary trade agreement with Ukraine is somehow meddling? The same agreement that many other countries have also chosen to do? How so? Even Russian ally Serbia is intending to join following its previous arch-rival Croatia, and the low-level mess that is Kosovo will probably be resolved if it eventually joins too. When hard power is the response to soft power, you know there's a real problem somewhere.
Remember the EU is also an entirely voluntary organisation, made up of member states. It's basically a club with many benefits of membership, such as free trade, freedom of movement, equality of citizens irrespective of ethnicity, and economic support. It has conditions of membership, such as accountability, transparency of government and responsible(-ish! ) financial management. Any member state is free to leave if they don't like the conditions, though so far none have. Indeed there's a queue to join, and many other aspirants. Prior to joining they can sign trade agreements with the EU, with some immediate benefits. It's very much a "soft power" organisation, as there's no compulsion or coercion. It's attractive to many people with aspirations of a better life.
Recently, Ukraine negotiated such a trade deal, but the president (Yanukovych) then decided to cancel it. Ukraine was already in dire financial states due to many years of corruption and bad government, and to many Ukrainians this was the last straw. Protests arose in Kiev and elsewhere, and evolved into the Euromaidan movement. It's support was diverse, ranging from hard left to hard right, but mostly driven by a vast throng of ordinary people who just aspired to a better future. Their pressure eventually persuaded Yanukovych to flee, after a last-ditch attempt to salvage his position by Berkut snipers shooting the protestors. He was offically removed as president by the existing parliament (as they're entitled to do under the constitution), and elections were planned for later in the year. An interim president took over the job 'til then. Well, we know what happened next.
So, why did Putin act? Was he preempting NATO tanks rolling into Red Square and the ethnic cleansing of Russians in Simferopol?
Well, nonsense! NATO has shrunk in recent years, partly due to the recent financial crisis, and partly due to its larger members being stung by that non-NATO intervention that didn't go to plan. NATO was certainly not expecting to deploy in its eastern member states until Putin acted. Ethnic cleansing of Russians in Crimea did not happen, nor showed any signs of happening. People there (as elsewhere in Ukraine) suffered the effects of the many years of mismanagement by Kiev, not rampaging fascists.
So at what point did this become an "ethnic" issue rather than one of people vs. bad government? Part of that answer must come from outside Ukraine, as the mainstream Russian media started to refer to the Kiev protestors and EXISTING parliamentarians as Nazis. Sure, some hard-right people are there and should be regarded as a problem, but only a small minority with limited support. It's using a grain of truth to create a big lie. International law allows for interventions if human rights are being significantly abused, but that just didn't happen in Crimea. AFAIK the only Russian death was a protestor in Kiev. Fears of alleged fascists is not the same thing as actual fascists killing people. Plus, any such intervention does NOT include the right to annex.
If he does nothing he will lose his Black sea port, which he needs to curb potential US actions against Syria, his Ally.
The port was leased until 2042, long after he'll be in office, and there's no reason to suppose that wouldn't be extended thereafter. The loss of the port was absolutely not an issue at this time. Indeed if this annexation is eventually reversed, the current action will have most jeopardised its future. If your tenant kicks you out and steals the house, you might want not him to remain when you recover it. Any future legitimate referendum to join Russia may exclude the port area, just like how the UK retains bases in Cyprus or the US in Cuba.
He also will appear weak in the eyes of the world and more importantly, Russians.
He had to do something to send a message and he did it in typical blunt Russian style.
I think you've hit the nail on the head there - his perception of what his role should be seems to entail repeatedly appearing to be tough and nationalistic, rather than fair and responsible. As mentioned earlier, the culture of his government seems to be much more 1914 than 2014.
< Message edited by guanotwozero -- 3/25/2014 7:20:53 PM >