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February 24, 2014

Russia Claims Ukraine in a State of "Armed Mutiny"

Mutiny against whom? Russia would like us to take this to mean that Ukraine has risen up in arms against their duly-elected (?) government, and so any group claiming to be the "government" is illegitimate and should not be recognized.

But what it really sounds like is that Ukraine is in "mutiny" against Russian control-- and Russia has no right to control the Ukraine, even if they claim that Ukraine is part of their "family."

Russian PM Medvedev said:

“If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government."

Yulia Tymoschenko has been released from jail after being held for two and a half years on charges generally called "trumped up" and "political." While this recent jailing seems corrupt and, well, Soviet, a writer at the Daily Beast says that prior charges of corruption had merit.

While it's great that she has been released from jail, I'm not sure she's the best candidate to lead the opposition forces.

Tymoshenko was not universally welcomed by the protesters. Many point the finger at her for the chaos of the post Orange revolution years in Ukraine and accuse her of corruption while in power.

“We’re afraid of experiencing a repetition of Julia’s first attempt to lead the government a decade ago. Of course, she can say all those nice things but actions speak louder than words. Everybody at the top enriched themselves and all we got was nothing,” explained one protester.

Her run as Prime Minister occurred at a bad time -- 2007-2010, just as the global credit meltdown was occurring, and persisting -- and her term is generally thought to have been a failure. She lost an election for President in 2010 to Yanukovich, the current "president," who may not be so currently president any longer.

From the Hot Air link (first link of the post):

Meanwhile, the new government in Kyiv has transferred presidential power to the speaker of the parliament until elections can be held in May. They have issued an arrest warrant for deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, who tried to flee the country but was stopped by alert border guards. Activists want him tried for mass murder after 82 protesters died in shootings by police last week...

The most important thing to Russia seems to be the Crimea -- which sports a warm-water port on the Black Sea, and is over 55% Russian by ethnicity. Crimea is part of Ukraine, and the part Russia seems most determined to hold on to. Ethnic Russians in Crimea are girding themselves to fight their own counter-revolution to remain under the Russian heel.

[W]hen the forces of the revolution took over the national parliament on Friday, pledging to rid Ukraine of Russian influence and integrate with Europe, the people of Crimea panicked. Some began to form militias, others sent distress calls to the Kremlin. And if the officers of the Berkut riot police are now despised throughout the rest of the country for killing dozens of protesters in Kiev this week, they were welcomed in Crimea as heroes.

For Ukraine’s revolutionary leaders, that presents an urgent problem. In a matter of days, their sympathizers managed to seize nearly the entire country, including some of the most staunchly pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine. But they have made barely any headway on the Crimean peninsula. On the contrary, the revolution has given the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea their best chance ever to break away from Kiev’s rule and come back under the control of Russia. “An opportunity like this has never come along,” says Tatyana Yermakova, the head of the Russian Community of Sevastopol, a civil-society group in Crimea.

Although one quarter of Crimea's populace are Ukrainian, I think the best option here is to either cede Crimea to Russia, or, more likely, permit the fiction that Crimea is now an "independent state" which just happens to host one of Russia's biggest naval ports and 25,000 Russian troops.

There would be some ethnic sorting after such a partition -- Russia-identifying Ukrainians would tend to move towards a Russia-controlled Crimean satrapy, and ethnic Ukrainians would tend to move away from Crimea to a Ukrainian-controlled Ukraine.

It is better than war. Russia recently fought a war to keep a key part of Georgia:

Though the Kremlin has not yet responded to her plea for help, Russia used a similar appeal as a pretext for the land invasion of South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, in 2008. That August, Russia claimed that the people of South Ossetia were at risk of genocide when the Georgian military tried to take control of the rebel region by force. Russia responded by sending in its tanks, and after a weeklong war, it seized a fifth of Georgia’s territory, including all of South Ossetia.

And, of course, neither NATO nor the EU nor Obama is going to war with Russia over the Crimea. Any impulse for "toughness" must be tempered by this obvious fact-- very few people would support any kind of US action against Russia in Crimea. So, we can't really pretend that there is some 100%-win solution out there, if only we had the guts for it.

I don't see any way Ukraine keeps Crimea, if Russia wants to take it away. What I see is an invasion, and lots of dead Ukrainians, and Russia holding on to the Crimea -- and, given that they've already invaded one part of Ukraine, I see them maybe invading the whole of it.

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posted by Ace at 10:50 AM

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