Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you will be aware of the escalating tensions in Ukraine, especially Crimea. The European Union and United States are trying their best to get Russia to back out of Crimea whereas Vladimir Putin has put his foot down, and even in the face of threatened sanctions, has refused to back down.
We all probably can guess why the West did not want the Yanukovych government to continue in Ukraine. Instead of accepting the EU offer, he was going to turn to Russia’s help, which Putin was glad to offer, on a seemingly no-strings-attached basis. Cue protests, and with the West backing the protesters while the Government did not back down, it all turned ugly. Irrespective of who was responsible, the fact remains that shots were fired, people were killed, and Yanukovych fled his own country.
This is where it all gets interesting. Putin, in a bid to protect Russian speaking people in Ukraine, sent in forces to occupy Crimea, where the majority of the people stay. It was a bloodless coup, with buildings and governments seats occupied by the armed forces without a single shot being fired. Typically, you could hear remonstrations from the United States of how this was an act of aggression and how it was not right. Even keeping aside the hypocrisy of a country that invaded countries and killed thousands of people just so that they could get access to some oil, the fact that this was all done without any resistance from the locals is an indicator that perhaps the residents of Crimea no longer connect with Ukraine.
But what does Vladimir Putin have to gain by occupying Crimea? What is his end game? Does he plan to eventually take over Ukraine? That would be a foolish attempt, as it would no doubt turn into a bloody war where the European and American forces would get involved against Russia. Putin knows that is something his country cannot afford.
Does he want to annex Crimea? The referendum that was held yesterday showed that over 95% Crimeans wanted to join the Russian Federation. One needs to remember that Crimea was originally part of Russia, until it was gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by head of USSR Nikita Khrushchev, who was himself an Ukranian. Independent Ukraine kept Crimea but it was given an autonomous status.
Vladimir Putin is a son of the cold war Russia, and by his own admission, he feels the disbanding of the USSR was the single greatest loss in history. His intentions are quite clear: he wants Russia to be influential in world politics again, and therefore, is working on Russia’s “Sphere of Influence”. Of course, it is not as if he intends to re-create the USSR, but he certainly wants Russia to be a major player in Eastern Europe, as was the case in the past.
And perhaps, he’s learnt a lesson from the war against Georgia. While there were territorial gains, it did not bode well for Russia’s economy, and this time it was more a political maneuver than an act of aggression.
There is no right or wrong, when it comes to politics. The West certainly has nothing to blame or no moral high ground to take, after it stood back and let the Americans decimate countries. But for the sake of the people in Ukraine, we can only hope that whatever happens, it is resolved without any further deaths to innocent people.