Russia has just about completed its annexation of Crimea, which for the last 60 years was a part of the Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers and sailors are leaving -- along with 1000s of civililans -- or taking the oath of fealty to Mother Russia and changing the badges on their uniforms. There are long lineups for Russian passports. And the azure and gold Ukrainian flag has been everywhere replaced by the Russian tricolour.
We should be neither surprised nor overly disappointed. As Walt explained three weeks ago, the Crimea's historical, political and ethnic ties to Russia are older and stronger than with Ukraine. In "Another Anschluss in Crimea", veteran Commie-watcher Eric Margolis says "Crimea was detached from the Russian Republic in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev after a drunken dinner and given as a grand (but then empty) gesture to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic."
Mr. Margolis goes on to call the annexation of Crimea "the first step in President Vladimir Putin’s slow, patient rebuilding of some of the former Soviet Union," about which no Western leaders should be surprised. Indeed. What worries Walt is: how much further will Putin go?
Will he, for instance, invade the eastern Ukraine? As my post of March 1st points out, the Ukraine in divided by the Dniepr River, not just geographically but by ethnicity, language and even religion. Thanks to decades of Soviet misrule and a long history before that, the eastern part of country is predominantly Russian. Will Putin claim a "responsibility to protect" the Russians of eastern Ukraine as he did with those of the Crimea and, only a few years earlier, Georgia?
And if he does, who will stand on the side of the Ukrainians? So far the "leaders of the free world" have embarrassed themselves with their idle threats of "serious consequences" which so far have amounted to no more than feeble sanctions against a few mid-level individuals, who will no longer be allowed to travel to the USA or western Europe. "Ooo. Ooo. That really hurts!" See "Putin: 'Are you talkin' to me?!'"
Eric Margolis says "the western allies have committed the same error over Ukraine that they did over Czechoslovakia in the mid-1930’s: extending security guarantees they could not possibly fulfill. As of now, it looks like Putin’s gambit over Crimea will work and there is nothing the West can do about it but huff, puff and impose mutually negative economic sanctions."
We are witnessing yet another example of the ineptitude and failure of American foreign policy. Margolis again: "Washington’s pot-calls-kettle black denunciations of the Crimea referendum ring hollow given the blatantly rigged votes coming up in US-dominated Egypt and Afghanistan." The Prez has again shown himself a master of dissembling, compromise and appeasement. "We'll hold your coat," he says to the Ukrainian prime minister, and "we're standing behind you." Sotto voce he adds, "...until your nose bleeds."
Mr. Margolis writes: "By moving twelve F-16 fighters to Poland and warships to the Black Sea, a Russian 'lake', Washington has provided enough military forces to spark a war but not to win it. Anyway, the very clever Putin knows it’s all bluff. He holds the high cards. Moreover, too few in Washington are asking what earthly interests the US has in Ukraine? About as much as Russia has in Nebraska.
"Yet the bankrupt US is to lend $1 billion to the anti-Russian Kiev leadership and risk war in a foolish challenge to Russia in a region where it has nothing to be gained. Except, of course, for the US neocons who have played a key role in engineering the coup in Kiev and this crisis. They want to see Russia punished for supporting Syria and the Palestinians."
Walt's guess -- and that's all it is -- is that there will be no further invasion of Ukraine. Putin will content himself with recapturing what really is a part of Russia, with a bit more sabre-rattling and demonstrations of military might to put the wind further up the feckless Westerners. If I'm wrong (lifetime pct .989), pray God help the Ukrainians, because no-one else is going to.
Note from Ed.: Thanks to Agent 6 for the link to the Margolis piece.