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The Ukraine Crisis
Falling into Putin’s Trap

Until now, stunned and appalled, the West has been merely reacting to the Kremlin’s moves, however belatedly or inadequately. But now, heading into the March 16 referendum, the liberal democracies seem prepared to accept the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli.

Published on: March 10, 2014
Lilia Shevtsova, an AI editorial board member, is senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
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  • bigfire

    Having done that, next stop Latavia.

    • Andrew Allison

      There’s a profound difference between Crimea and the Baltic States, namely that a majority of the citizens of the former wants to be part of Russia, whereas the Baltic States don’t.

      • That’s why Crimea goes first, and Latvia goes later.

  • Arkeygeezer

    Having done hat, the facts remain that the people of Crimea want Russian administration.

    Americans support the wishes of the people. We are not about to fight wars for propositions that do not have popular support.

    You get the popular support for opposing the “Russian invasion of Crimea”, and America will support you.

    If not “forgettaboutit” (Thats New Yorkease!)

    • El Gringo

      “the people of Crimea want Russian administration”

      As true a statement as this is, I don’t think that “what the people want” is much of factor in Russian policy.

  • Pete

    What’s with this posting? Is it amature hour now?

    How can it be said that the post Cold War order “was based on the premise that Russia and the West are not in the business of “containing” each other anymore, and that both support the principle of the territorial sovereignty of the independent states that emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union. Moscow began to destroy that order as early as its 2008 war with Georgia” with no mention of Kosovo and Serbia?

    Oh wait, Serbia was not part of the USSR so its territorial sovereignty could be violated by the likes of Slick Willie Clinton. Now I get it. The West can do what it wants but others can’t.. And I believe the record will show that the creation of that bastardized entity called Kosovo was done with extreme violence.and force. Have we see anything like that in the Crimea? I’m just asking.

    • El Gringo

      The counter argument here is that the Kosovo War had at least a thin veneer of humanitarianism under some kind of responsibility to protect and involved an international coalition whose aim was not territorial expansion.

      Russia was far more subtle in the 2008 Georgian conflict as it could claim similar excuses. This Ukranian episode, however, is visible to all and sundry as pure territorial expansion.

      • ShadrachSmith

        You err. It is a case of territorial recovery to preserve Russia’s ability to defend her southern borders. History is written by the winners, and right now Russian History books are being re-written to describe the province of Crimea: which Catherine the Great acquired for Russia, and Vlad the Great reacquired. It is a warm island with many ports, warm beaches and Russian vacation resorts.

        Foggy Bottom never saw that coming, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    • Andrew Allison

      Since you ask: the war with Georgia was instigated by Georgia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Georgian_war) and Russia was not involved in the Bosnian War (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_War).
      The fact is that tacit support by the West of a revolution in Ukraine provided Putin with an irresistible (in both senses) opportunity to annex Crimea, which he’s done.
      The analysis is spot-on.

  • AndrewO

    The West is beyond understanding the complex motivation behind the New World Order according to Putin. Tactically, Crimea is only the first move in a game of chess, where Russia can effectively anticipate every move of a West that hasn’t realized the game has changed and that the old rules no longer apply. But why is Russia doing this?

    Neo-imperialistic ultra-nationalism is only part of the picture. The other part is the delusional sense of moral superiority and the messianic vocation of a revived “Third Rome.” There is a reason Serbs are on the ground in Crimea at the same time that world Orthodox leaders gathered at the Phanar in Instanbul. What we are witnessing is Christian Orthodoxy making its geopolitical move against what it perceives is a thoroughly corrupt and decadent West. Apart from the fact that much of this decadence, social, moral, economic, military, was engineered behind the Iron Curtain, and promoted by KGB agents of influence, lo and behold, a former officer is in place to pick up the pieces.

    The fact that Russia perceives itself as morally superior while exempting itself from following the rules that govern the moral behavior it purports to uphold demonstrates the deep cynicism and hypocrisy behind its delusion.

  • Thirdsyphon

    Nobody has “fallen into Putin’s trap” here but Putin. What the article calls the “law of unintended consequences” is in fact the working out of an entirely foreseeable backlash against Russia’s intervention that was, in fact, foreseen by many observers.

    If Putin’s goal was to increase Russia’s long-term influence over Ukraine, he hasn’t simply failed – his actions have had the exact opposite effect of what he intended.

    • Andrew Allison

      The “backlash” amounts to the proverbial bucket of warn spit. Putin has taken advantage of an opportunity to illustrate the powerlessness of the West. The EU is paralyzed by Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, the US by a spineless administration. Putin’s goal was to increase Russia’s influence over the world, and he has succeeded.

    • ShadrachSmith

      What if his goal is to control Crimea for national security purposes? How did he do by that standard?

      • Thirdsyphon

        By that standard, I’d say the jury is still out. The status of Russia’s naval base was never in question, but depending on how the situation in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine develops, it’s very possible that Russia will be forced to permanently increase its commitment of military resources to the Crimean Peninsula in order to provide enhanced security for its newly appointed puppet state there.

        Military resources being finite, this means that those troops won’t be available to Putin if they’re needed elsewhere. . . and that’s a best case scenario for Russia, since it assumes that the rest of Ukraine will stay quiet.

        Another wild card is the amount of long-term damage that this adventure will inflict on the Russian economy, which will be yet another source of stress on Moscow’s budget.

        • ShadrachSmith

          Re: The status of Russia’s naval base was never in question,

          Apparently the Russian General Staff was of a different opinion, apparently their opinion was different enough from yours that they talked Putin into going to war.

          You are repeating the Foggy Bottom theories about why Putin won’t invade. With all due respect, Foggy Bottom got that part wrong.

  • Andrew Allison

    Best thing I’ve read on the subject. The intro says it all.

  • Rascalndear

    Excellent. Thanks!

  • ShadrachSmith

    Talk about torturing a simple situation.

    Black Sea Hegemony is a key Russian national security goal. Crimea is the key to the Black Sea, and the Ukrainian revolution made Russia feel insecure about its Crimean ports, Therefore Putin took Crimea back from Ukraine.

    While it is obvious that Crimea is important enough to Russian national security for Russia to go to war to get it, it is equally obvious that Crimea is not important enough for any other major power to go to war about.

    The current question is if China is going to take Taiwan next.

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  • Lada Hirnyj

    You neglected to consider the reasons for Putin’s drop in popularity during the last elections, the many large demonstrations voicing discontent with the entrenched corruption, disregard for human rights & demand for democratic rights. This muzzled need still exists & may still affect Putin’s stronghold. That & islamic discontent within the Russian Federation & outside.

  • Andrew Allison
  • observer125

    Judge me not on what I say, but what I do.

    A report elsewhere notes that at the end of Feb., Russian politicians were drafting legislation that would enable Russia to accept breakaway regions of other countries without the consent of the country from which they are seceding. It would require only a referendum of the people on the territory in favor of becoming part of Russia and the passage of a law in Russia accepting the new constituent. The changes were proposed Feb. 28 and the pro-Kremlin legislators who offered them specifically cited the situation in Ukraine in explaining their proposal.

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