As Rus­sia claims Crimea, West strug­gles amidst threat of a new Cold War

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Rus­sian troops were pour­ing in to be­siege Ukrainian bases.

With his­toric emo­tional and strate­gic ties to Crimea, Rus­sia did not need a sec­ond in­vi­ta­tion to cre­ate a pre­text – pro­tect­ing its eth­nic Rus­sians. Af­ter all, this is the same Crimea that Rus­sia deemed wor­thy of sac­ri­fic­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of troops to safe­guard in a bloody war against an al­liance of Euro­pean and Ot­toman forces in the 1850’s.

Putin is an op­por­tunist and knows that a chance to re­claim Crimea does not come ev­ery day.

Yet the eth­nic pre­text in Ukraine is the same one that saw the West stand vir­tu­ally idle in 2008 when Putin in­vaded Ge­or­gia to pro­tect its cit­i­zens, thou­sands of whom Rus­sia had pro­vided pass­ports, and prac­ti­cally an­nexed the break-way prov­inces of South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia.

The cri­sis over Crimea has many more twists and turns. The Rus­sia par­lia­ment has al­ready promised to help their “broth­ers” with their na­tion­al­ist wishes if they for­mally re­quest this as part of the up­com­ing ref­er­en­dum.

Such a uni­lat­eral an­nex­a­tion is in vi­o­la­tion of the Ukrainian con­sti­tu­tion, Rus­sian treaties with Kiev and in­ter­na­tional law and is un­likely to be recog­nised but is Rus­sia re­ally de­terred? It has long cal­cu­lated and pre­sup­posed Western re­ac­tion and po­si­tion­ing and lim­its of any reper­cus­sions. Threats of sanc­tions, visa re­stric­tions etc is too pre­dictable and do not carry enough sub­stance.

In­deed as Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov warned, any sanc­tions would cer­tainly have a “boomerang ef­fect” on the West. For a start, Ukraine al­ready owes mil­lions in gas pay­ments to Gazprom. In 2009, a two week Rus­sian sus­pen­sion of gas sup­plies to Ukraine and in turn to the rest of Europe via tran­sit pipe­lines crip­pled the Ukrainian pop­u­la­tion and coun­tries that re­lied on Rus­sian gas. All be­cause Rus­sia wanted to hike tran­sit fees and ex­tend the lease of its Black Sea Fleet and en­sure that Ukraine re­mained in its sphere of in­flu­ence.

Western rhetoric, in par­tic­u­lar of the Unites States and its Pres­i­dent Bar­rack Obama, how­ever strong in na­ture, has be­come too pre­dictable. War of words will not solve any cri­sis that turns into a war of guns.

The US has tried to “re­set” ties with Moscow in re­cent years but Moscow has pur­sued its na­tional in­ter­ests first and has not hes­i­tated to take ac­tion that alien­ates Wash­ing­ton.

This could not be truer of Syria. Obama has tip-toed, re­peated the same rhetoric against Bashar al-As­sad and has drawn and re­drawn “red lines” for 3 over years. Rus­sia on the other hand, did not hes­i­tate to go neck-deep in the con­flict to pro­tect its strate­gic in­ter­ests in Syria and the Mediter­ranean.

Rus­sia has sin­gle-hand­edly propped the Syr­ian regime and has done it with lit­tle re­gard to Western or re­gional pres­sure. A lack of US mus­cle and more im­por­tantly a united Western stand in Syria has led to a dis­jointed for­eign pol­icy and an even more dis­jointed op­po­si­tion move­ment.

Now in Ukraine, the West has to find a united po­si­tion quickly. Western goals of seek­ing a diplo­matic so­lu­tion and con­tin­u­ing di­a­logue would cer­tainly make Rus­sia “smile” as they re­cently stated. Af­ter all, it just buys more time. Be­fore the West fin­ishes dis­cussing Crimea, it may long have be­come a de facto part of Rus­sia.

Any pol­icy of ap­pease­ment is cer­tainly go­ing to back-fire. Western al­lies or Ukraini­ans do not have the ap­petite to fight Rus­sia mil­i­tar­ily so if sanc­tions and po­lit­i­cal pacts do not have the de­sired ef­fect, will the cri­sis stop at Crimea? How about most of East­ern Ukraine which is proRus­sian and has been the sub­ject of many protests?

Pro­tect­ing its cit­i­zens be­comes a tem­plate in which Rus­sia pol­icy can be re­peated for its ben­e­fit.

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