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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

An expanionist Russia « Previous | |Next »
March 2, 2014

Putin's Russia has taken over Crimea which is a major part of Ukraine, a neighbouring sovereign state. Russian forces have gained control of Crimea, which looks as if it will vote to secede from Ukraine.

If the big fear is that Moscow is planning a full-scale annexation of Crimea, with its majority ethnic Russian population, it may also be the case that Russia may primarily trying to secure its naval base and to destabilize the Ukrainian government.

RowsonMCrimea.jpg Martin Rowson

This is Russia's response to three months of protest, with 82 people being killed in clashes with riot police and thugs deployed by Viktor Yanukovych's corrupt authoritarian regime; a response to a classic popular revolution that was pro-Europe in orientation. The opposition demonstrators in Kiev were ordinary citizens who were fed up with the corruption and misrule of President Viktor Yanukovych and his clique, and who were opposed to the country's slide into an outright dictatorship.

It was a bottom-up revolution. The Euromaidan ‘protesters were armed with little more than homemade shields, rubbish helmets and molotov cocktails. The Euromaidan protests appear to have been essentially pro-democratic, pro-European and multicultural whilst including far-right nationalists and neo-fascists.

The trigger appears to have been the enormous Russian political and economic pressure on Ukraine, combined with the pro-Russian policies of Yanukovych, and his grotesque corruption, coupled to Ukraine's inequality, economic stagnation and poverty.

Now there is an interim government with new presidential elections in May. Ukraine is facing default on its various debts and the transitional government has to deal with only two major problems in new Ukraine: (1) the Kremlin-backed separatism and (2) the economic crisis.

Ukrainians are deeply divided about European integration largely along an axis between the largely Russian-speaking east and south and the traditionally nationalist western Ukraine.

Ukraine's economy is in a mess as it was beggared by the neoliberal shock therapy and mass privatisation of the post-Soviet years. The country does not have the resources to pay for a major economic change programme. The interim president has said that a return to the path of European integration is his priority. This means that the EU needs to set out the conditions Ukraine would have to meet in order to become a member of the Union. Some of those conditions would involve significant economic reform and loans for austerity, as part of a German-led drive to open up Ukraine for western companies.

It is highly unlikely that the US, Britain or France will respond militarily to Russia's invasion of Crimea and Crimea's secession. NATO likewise, rhetoric notwithstanding. Ukraine is not a member of an expansionist NATO, and Russia is very resistant to Nato's undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called "post-Soviet space".

Putin's post-Soviet Russian nationalism sees the borderline states ---Moldova, Armenia, Belarus Georgia--- as being within Russia's sphere of interest/influence in eastern Europe and a part of Russia's planned economic integration in the post-Soviet space. Russia lost an empire and the vacuum is being filled by Putin's geopolitical project, which is the creation of an Eurasian Union. Russia sees Ukraine, given its strategically important location, as the lynchpin to establishing its Eurasian Union. Without at least parts of Ukraine integrated into the Customs Union (a single market bloc) Putin's Eurasian Union won’t really work.

If the ostensible purpose of Putin's new integration project for Eurasia is economic, then its primary objective is geopolitical to be achieved in large part by economic means with Russia ruling supreme. A crucial question in relation to the concept of regional hegemony, in the form of a Eurasian economic union, is whether the wider public in post-Soviet countries, where opposition to Russian domination, and a sense of grievance and injustice, remain strong, will passively accept Putin's scenario.

Memories of the seven-decade experiment in totalitarianism that was imposed on them by Russia are bound to resurface and the wider public would be understandably be wary of an economic union becoming a vehicle for the reduction of their political sovereignty by the Kremlin.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:28 PM | | Comments (15)


I was in Kiev in sept last year as tensions were rising in the populace. The people were tired of the corrupt nature of the presidency, and are reluctant to realign with mother Russia. There was such extraordinarily sad oppression under Russian control that I can understand that reluctance. I hope those in Crimea do get to choose, freely.

Against this, hasn't there been a fair bit of conjecture as to the role of the West in a destabilisation of the Ukraine in the cause of pro western regime change to further isolate Russia?

I am waiting for Abbott + Co to denounce Russian aggression, to suggest that NATO flex its military muscle to protect Ukraine, and to call Putin a wimp.

"The people were tired of the corrupt nature of the presidency, and are reluctant to realign with mother Russia. "

Very true. Every poll in Ukraine since independence has also shown a majority of Ukrainians against Nato membership.

" It was a bottom-up revolution."

This liberationist mass action of civil disobedience against President Viktor Yanukovych included significant neo-fascist elements that have since been partly integrated into the new interim government and state bureaucracy.

The far right parties in Ukraine have a popular support.

A big fault line in Ukraine is between those who are pro-EU and anti-Kremlin, and those who are anti-EU and pro-Kremlin.

"The fear is that Moscow is planning a full-scale annexation of Crimea, with its majority ethnic Russian population."

It could be a ‘soft annexation’ which gives Russia de facto control over Crimea.

Russia pulls political, economic, and military levers to exploit ethnic conflicts in countries that used to be in its orbit. The goal is to leverage these tensions so as to gain influence in former Soviet states, while preventing these countries from moving closer to the West.

Russia will retain control of Crimea and a pro-western government will govern Ukraine.

Many countries are nervous about the many "people rising up" incidents around the world. Russia has deep pockets and so does China. It will be a different world if they decided they are like minded.

Peter S, NATO isn't quite EU in the scheme of things. Nor have Ukrainians fared well historically in dealings of a military nature.

The US concedes that Russia has “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula”.

What now?

"What now?"

Putin could aim to wreck Ukraine economically – to disable it as a genuinely independent state.

very true.

But NATO since the end of the cold war has been expanding ever further eastwards. President Clinton pushed to expand the Nato alliance to the very borders of Russia. It has been angling over the years to draw Ukraine into Nato.

That shows Nato is not interested in co-operation with Russia. I am sure that Putin sees what Nato is up to in terms of geopolitical strategy.

The Kiev provisional government will be replaced by a "European Austerity" model and result in a government of technocrats from the west. This will be more efficient than the plutocracy that has been thrown out, sure. Look at Greece. And whatever happens in the thermidor. "blame Putin" will be the cry.

Russia has stopped the chaos and death. Good on them. Lots of media speculation as to why they have moved in is rubbish/story stirring. I think the USless country should keep its mouth shut about whats right and wrong.
Lets just sit back and watch Russia do what the UN pretends to do.