There is a referendum on the sixteenth of March to determine what the voters of Crimea prefer for their future. Of course it appears Russia has control of the site of these elections and likely will interfere in their elections. It is also likely many Russians in Crimea would vote to become part of Russia anyway. It is even more likely they would want to have some autonomy from any somewhat anti-Russian government in Ukraine.
I have blogged a bit about this evolving situation. Here are some links to my posts earlier on throughout this crisis:
Russian troops are on the Russian borderlands just off of Ukraine’s Eastern border and North of the Crimean Peninsula. What role they will play under every set of circumstances is not clear. There are also many reports of increasing violence in the protests in Eastern Ukraine. So it is in that context that I am posting this:
It may be time for a new point of view. For me some things have not changed, America does have an interest in preserving international law – but that seldom is less clear and compelling over other interests than it is here. The Ukraine government is becoming legitimate but it is not clearly legitimate and was less so when the crisis started so its legal rights are less clear. In addition, Crimea is vital to Russian interest and the natural gas pipelines are vital to Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. So people are not inclined to be held back when real arguments can be made that they are not under valid restrictions.
Things have evolved since I began posting. The strategies employed by all so far seem to have prevented war thus far. But as specified above Russian tanks and troops are at the border of Ukraine and Crimea is voting in a referendum on its status vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine on the 16th. What will happen next?
The West and Russia have generally denounced each of the two claiming heads of government and regimes as not legitimate. The USA seems to insist on Russian withdrawal from Crimea and denounces the referendum. However, the US Congress has stalled even the billion dollars in aid to Ukraine. We have deployed resources in the region but I neither condemn nor endorse that use of resources. I also understand the reticence of Congress. This is not an easy situation.
I recently wrote eslewhere that “One useful mental exercise for any crisis is to imagine what one might do, urge and agitate for if one were a pure dictator over a country such as has never existed perhaps and could truly do what ever one wishes.” I think that is right, and one often sees that there are no easy solutions.
In that case and acting for your country what might you do? For many of us around the world we could leave this to Russia and Ukraine. But is that realistic for the EU or even for the USA?
In that abstract sense of a mental exercise I believe I would have decided long ago that Russia must keep Crimea if Ukraine goes free of her real authority and the Crimean majority supports it. I don’t think we can move troops into the region but perhaps we could bend a few rules to help the populist militia feel and be more authentic even helping lots of hunters flying into Ukraine from the west and leaving their weapons behind. Ukraine will have to offer Russia very generous pipeline concession, in the short term at least. I thin we should urge them to extend full pardon for regime members choosing to go into Russia and whom Russia accepts. I would urge Ukraine to set up a relocation authority for Ukrainians in Crimea to come North and Russians in Ukraine to go to Crimea if they choose. I would support Poland and Romania in creating treaties, trade assurances and cultural missions. I would seek to explain how the law is full of messy issues in this case.
Somehow the US seems to be in a position where it must assure top level Russian officials that invasion of the rest of Ukraine would provoke serious repercussions over time and I would increase military aid to countries West and South of Ukraine. Would that work out well? I cannot be sure.
It may be that what is happening now is better. However, it does not feel good. Pushing Ukraine to harsh rhetoric, calling for Russia to quit breaking the law with no explanation of the complexities and not getting Ukraine aid are all depressingly undesirable to my view. Would you care to discuss some options? Do you believe war is possible — and can it spread — and when?
I feel far from where I would like to see things going right now. Blog posts like this by private parties are risky and thankless enough. But there is no reason to pretend that our system does not rely on such media. These discussions have always gone on. In a sense they are a political dead-end for someone in my position more often than not. But they do provide a a part of the public discourse for which the USA has always been known. So I feel compelled to blog here. I also hope for a bteer result than can be reasonably expected.