Nearly 160 years ago, there was a Crimean war. No one remembers it today save for historians and a few kids who have to study Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, in school.
However, a second one is in the offing now with one of the old players — Mother Russia — back in the game while the other oldies, France and the UK, watch from the sidelines, at least for now.
So now Moscow’s performance is under scrutiny as closely as its figure skating champion Adelina Sotnikova’s was at the Sochi Olympics after she annexed favourite Yuna Kim’s gold.
The plot was simple at the beginning. Once upon a time there was a Soviet Union and Ukraine was part of it. Then the cookie crumbled and Ukraine became independent. But old habits die hard and Ukrainians sought to join another bloc, the European Union. This was where Russian President Vladimir Putin, with his dream of making Russia a super power, stepped in.
Putin beckoned Ukraine to join the Moscow-led union he had blueprinted but when his man in Kiev, Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, tried to follow his piper’s call, Ukrainians rose up in revolt and deposed Yanukovych.
In revenge, Putin engineered a referendum in the Crimean peninsula and voters said bye Ukraine and aye to joining Russia.
As Ukraine tries to hold on to runaway Crimea, the EU and US have thrown their weight behind Kiev in the tug of war. But the response has been weak, with lots of calls and consultations but in deed just a few travel bans and asset freeze for some two dozen Russian and pro-Russia Ukrainian officials.
Putin remains undeterred, which is not surprising, given the wild upsurge in his popularity at home after Crimea “returns” to Russians. Muscovites have always regarded the peninsula as their own, resenting the decision in 1954 by the then Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev to hand it over to Ukraine.
So what’s to happen now? US President Barack Obama has threatened Russia with international isolation and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted at its expulsion from the G8 but it may not be easy to do all this. Russia remains the largest exporter of oil and gas to the European Union and sanctions could result in Moscow switching off supplies.
Russia also has enormous foreign investment from the West. Last year, it was the third most popular destination for foreign investment after the US and China. As the EU and US try to impose sanctions, it has countered with a tit-for-tat ban on some US officials and politicians. In Asia, at least two of Russia’s peers in the five-member BRICS are unlikely to support sanctions. China and India have in the past withstood Western pressure to join the boycott of Iran; they are not likely to join the US against Russia now, even though Michelle Obama has been visiting China.
Pro-US nay-sayers predict Crimea’s reunification euphoria will be shortlived. The judgment is based on the five-day war in Georgia in 2008 when Russia clashed with Georgia, supporting Georgian enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which strove to secede.
Six years later, the breakaway enclaves are calling themselves independent states. Though they have been recognised by only a few countries, Georgia has not been able to win them back.
True they mean a drain on the Russian exchequer as Moscow has to keep up doles and the presence of troops. But then a war to wrest away Crimea from Russia would be costly for the opponents as well.
The US, likely to be the lead actor if there is an anti-Putin war, would have to think twice about squandering money and lives, especially after its misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American public is reluctant to fight another war not its own, which led to Obama’s failure to launch strikes against Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad. The same reluctance could prevail over Crimea as well.
Besides, Obama’s term ends in 2016 but Putin’s continues till 2018.
So any reconciliation has to be between Russia and Ukraine. While the Ukrainian military is puny against the Russian army, Ukraine has leverage in the form of Russian-owned property in Ukraine, including major energy assets. The Ukrainian government has indicated it could seize these.
Russian gas reaches Europe via pipelines running through Ukraine. Though Moscow built a second pipeline to bypass Ukraine and planned to bolster it with a second, it would be operational only from 2015.
The best solution would be for Ukraine and Russia to talk this over. EU mediation in the past boomeranged by triggering the upheavals in Ukraine. US interference is also suspect, especially after the leaking of a phone conversation between two US diplomats which showed them taking considerable interest in who would be in Ukraine’s new government after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych.
With regular skeletons tumbling out of the Obama administration’s cupboard, it has to be also wondered if the US interest in Ukraine is solely to uphold democracy or goes deeper. Could it be with an eye to securing the gas pipeline corridor and the gas reserves in the Black Sea that are up for grabs?
View more random threads:
- urdu - Intakhabi nataij pehlay say tey shuda...
- Jalsa gah kay bahar aisay manazir jo kay...
- urdu - Hanif Abbasi ko saza-e-mout honi...
- urdu - Altaf Hussain kay naam paigham
- Follwing Great Men
- urdu - Ibrasaam Elahi nay kar'kunoon ko PTI...
- urdu - patwarion kay leay special
- Pakistan Tehrike Insaf aur Jamat-e-Islami...
- urdu - hakomat ko lay dobain gey