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Wat is Rusland se amptelike rede vir die inval van die Krim?

Wat is Rusland se amptelike rede vir die inval van die Krim?

Ek sukkel om Rusland se amptelike rede te vind vir die inval in die Krim -streek in die Oekraïne. As my geheue my reg dien, het hulle nie die rede halfpad deur die inval verander nie?


Destyds was daar geen rede vir die eenvoudige feit dat Rusland dit nie openlik gedoen het nie. Die Russiese troepe wat gebruik is om strategiese punte (insluitend die Krim -parlement) in die Krim -streek van die Oekraïne oor te neem, is ongemerk en word deur die plaaslike bevolking as "klein groen mannetjies" genoem.

Die amptelike Russiese lyn in hierdie tyd was dat die klein groen manne die plaaslike bevolking moet wees, en as hulle wapens Russies was, moes hulle dit gesteel het. Dit het die verhaal gebly totdat 'n referendum onder die militêre beheer van die Russiese troepe getoon het dat die plaaslike Krim lief was vir Rusland en wou aansluit.

Die betrokke referendum het op 16 Maart plaasgevind, en 'n maand daarna het Poetin toegegee dat Russiese spesiale magte gebruik is om toe te laat dat die referendum plaasvind.

Toe Donderdag uitgevra is oor die soldate wat algemeen bekend staan ​​as die groen mans, het Poetin erken dat hulle Russies is. Hy het gesê dat hulle teenwoordig was om die orde te handhaaf sodat die Krim tydens 'n referendum oor hul toekoms kon besluit.

'Ons wou geen tenks hê nie, geen nasionalistiese gevegseenhede of mense met 'n uiterste siening gewapen met outomatiese wapens nie,' het hy gesê. 'Natuurlik het Russiese soldate die Krim se selfverdedigingsmagte ondersteun.'


Rusland het die Oekraïne nie binnegeval weens die Amerikaanse 'swakheid' nie

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Een van die meer lewendige politieke gesprekspunte wat uit Washington te midde van Rusland se militêre inval in die Oekraïne kom, is dat die Russiese president, Vladimir Poetin, sulke uitlokkende optrede uitgevoer het omdat Obama nie sy "rooi lyn" op Sirië afgedwing het nie en met 'n bomaanval begin het. veldtog die afgelope herfs dui aan Poetin dat hy geen gevolge sal ondervind nie.

"Ek glo regtig dat wanneer Vladimir Poetin die wêreld rondkyk - sien wat in Sirië gebeur het toe die rooi lyn pienk geword het en die president nie opgetree het nie," het die Republikeinse senator John McCain aan CNN gesê: "Ek dink hy het moed gekry en hy tree op."

Die Wall Street JournalNet so, stel dit neer op "Westerse swakheid", met die argument "dit is nie toevallig dat Poetin homself in die Oekraïne beweer het nie lank nadat Obama op vernederende wyse teruggetrek het van sy 'rooi lyn' in Sirië."

Die waarheid is dat enigiemand wat eintlik glo dat Poetin militêre stappe in die Oekraïne gedoen het, omdat Obama van sy planne om Syrië onwettig te bombardeer, teruggehou het, niks weet van internasionale betrekkinge nie.

In die eerste plek, die mees onmiddellike parallel met Rusland se besetting van die Krim, die semi-outonome skiereiland van die Oekraïne, is Rusland se militêre optrede in 2008 in Georgië, 'n ander voormalige Sowjet-staat wat te ver na die weste neig vir die gemak van Moskou. Na gewelddadige skermutselings het die Russiese magte die separatistiese provinsies van Georgië, Suid -Ossetië en Abchazië, beset.

Dit het gebeur tydens die George W. Bush -administrasie, wat so gewillig was om militêre geweld te gebruik dat dit Irak binnegeval het op grond van voorwendsel en in stryd met die internasionale reg. As Moskou sy aanwysings sou neem op grond van Washington se bereidwilligheid om geweld te gebruik, sou dit beslis in Georgië teruggehou het uit vrees vir weerwraak van die Bush -administrasie.

Elke keer as die Verenigde State nie in die buiteland met geweld optree nie - 'n seldsaamheid, let op - u het politici en kenners wat huil oor Amerika se 'geloofwaardigheid' wat op die spel is. As ander lande sien hoe ons terugstaan, dink hulle: hulle is nie behoorlik bang vir die Amerikaanse mag nie, en daarom is hulle onbeperk in hul optrede.

Eintlik het die tegniese politieke wetenskapliteratuur die argument "geloofwaardigheid" grootliks laat rus. 'Daar is min bewyse wat die siening ondersteun dat lande se rekord vir die nakoming van verpligtinge hul geloofwaardigheid bepaal', skryf twee geleerdes wat die konsep bestudeer het.

"Die illusoriese oortuiging van Amerika se vermoë om buitelandse gebeure te vorm, te benut, te beïnvloed, te beheer, te beheer of te beheer, is wydverspreid in die buitelandse beleidsgemeenskap van Washington," skryf Micah Zenko, 'n genoot by die Council on Foreign Relations. 'Die direkte implikasie daarvan is dat dit altyd Amerika se skuld moet wees wanneer dit ook al gaan of elders op die verkeerde plek gaan.

Obama trek inderdaad dwaas 'n 'rooi lyn' vir die Siriese regime van Bashar al-Assad: as chemiese wapens in die burgeroorlog gebruik word, belowe hy, sou die VSA militêre mag in Sirië gebruik.

Maar toe dit lyk asof die rooi lyn oorskry is, bevind die president hom in 'n doos wat hy self gemaak het. Terwyl die administrasie begin voorberei het op oorlog, was Amerikaanse bondgenote nie ondersteunend nie, die Amerikaanse volk was sterk gekant, en dit het gelyk asof die Kongres nee sou stem.

Met ander woorde, as Obama sy belofte om Syrië te bombardeer, ondergaan het, sou die optrede geen internasionale legitimiteit en geen toestemming van die kongres gehad het nie. Volgens die internasionale reg sou dit 'n oorlogsmisdaad gewees het, wat die gebruik van geweld teen 'n ander staat verbied sonder die goedkeuring van die VN se Veiligheidsraad, of tensy dit 'n dreigende bedreiging voorkom.

Amerika se totale minagting van die internasionale reg gee aan ander magtige lande, soos Rusland, toestemming om dieselfde te optree.

"Die stappe wat Rusland geneem het, is 'n skending van die soewereiniteit van die Oekraïne, die territoriale integriteit van die Oekraïne en hulle is 'n skending van die internasionale reg," het president Obama gesê.

Dit is opmerklik dat dit presies die argument was wat Poetin gebruik het om Obama se plan om Sirië te bombardeer, teë te werk. Hy het selfs 'n Op-Ed in die New York Times waarsku dat sodanige optrede die Siriese soewereiniteit en internasionale reg sal skend.

Rusland het ook hierdie argument gebruik toe hy die Clinton -administrasie se militêre ingryping in die Balkan in 1999 gekant het. Serwië, 'n Russiese bondgenoot, het 'n separatistiese beweging in sy provinsie Kosovo gestuit en, onder die voorwendsel van die voorkoming van 'etniese suiwering', die Verenigde State het Serwië gebombardeer sonder die VN se toestemming en sonder die regverdiging van selfverdediging.

En natuurlik is daar die Amerikaanse inval in Irak, wat 'n voorbeeld is van die duidelikste oortreding van die internasionale reg. Dit pas by die beskrywing van wat 'n regter van die Neurenberg -tribunaal 'die hoogste internasionale misdaad' genoem het, wat slegs van ander oorlogsmisdade verskil, omdat dit die opgehoopte euwel van die geheel in sigself bevat.

As Amerika die internasionale reg as 'n roetine kwytraak, hoe kan dit dan omdraai en Rusland veroordeel vir sy eie onwettige militêre optrede?


Waarom Poetin die Krim geneem het?

Die beslaglegging van die Russiese president Vladimir Poetin op die Krim -skiereiland vroeg in 2014 uit die Oekraïne was die mees gevolglike besluit van sy 16 jaar aan bewind. Deur die gebied van 'n buurland met geweld te annekseer, het Poetin die aannames waarop die Europese orde na die Koue Oorlog berus het, in 'n enkele slag omvergewerp.

Die vraag waarom Poetin hierdie stap geneem het, is van meer as historiese belang. Om sy motiewe vir die besetting en anneksering van die Krim te verstaan, is van kardinale belang om te bepaal of hy in die toekoms soortgelyke keuses sal maak - byvoorbeeld om troepe te stuur om etniese Russe in die Baltiese state te "bevry" - net soos dit belangrik is om te bepaal watter maatreëls die Weste kan doen neem om sulke optrede af te skrik.

Drie aanneemlike interpretasies van Poetin se stap het na vore gekom. Die eerste - noem dit "Poetin as verdediger" - is dat die Krim -operasie 'n reaksie was op die bedreiging van die verdere uitbreiding van die NAVO langs die westelike grens van Rusland. Deur hierdie logika het Poetin die skiereiland in beslag geneem om twee gevaarlike moontlikhede te voorkom: eerstens dat die nuwe regering van die Oekraïne by die NAVO kan aansluit, en tweedens dat Kiev Rusland se Swartsee-vloot van sy jarelange basis in Sewastopol kan uitsit.

'N Tweede interpretasie - noem dit "Poetin as imperialisties" - lei die anneksasie van die Krim uit as deel van 'n Russiese projek om die voormalige gebiede van die Sowjetunie geleidelik te herower. Poetin het nooit die verlies aan Russiese aansien wat aan die einde van die Koue Oorlog gevolg het, aanvaar nie, volgens hierdie argument, en hy is vasbeslote om dit te herstel, deels deur die grens van Rusland uit te brei.

'N Derde verduideliking - "Poetin as improvisator" - verwerp sulke breër ontwerpe en stel die anneksasie voor as 'n haastig verwagte reaksie op die onvoorsiene val van die Oekraïense president Viktor Janoekowitsj. Die besetting en anneksasie van die Krim was volgens hierdie siening 'n impulsiewe besluit waarin Poetin gestruikel het eerder as die noukeurige stap van 'n strateeg met geopolitieke ambisies.

Die afgelope twee jaar het Poetin blykbaar al drie interpretasies ondersteun. Hy het voorgestel dat die Oekraïne se toetreding tot die NAVO ondraaglik sou gewees het en het ook beweer dat die geskiedenis van die Krim die gebied '' 'n onafskeidbare deel van Rusland '' gemaak het na die verbrokkeling van die Sowjetunie. Tog het Poetin my ook tydens 'n onthaal in Sochi in Oktober 2015 vir my gesê dat die operasie om die skiereiland in beslag te neem, "spontaan" was en dat dit glad nie vooraf beplan is nie. (Poetin se ander verduidelikings vir die ingryping-dat hy beveel het om die Russiese bevolking van die Krim te beskerm teen Oekraïense nasionaliste en om die Krim se reg op selfbeskikking te respekteer-moet minder ernstig opgeneem word, aangesien die nasionalistiese bedreiging op die Krim grootliks uitgevind is en sedert Poetin het die meeste van sy vorige 14 jaar aan bewind min belangstelling in selfbeskikking vir die skiereiland getoon.)

So, wat was die anneksasie - 'n reaksie op die uitbreiding van die NAVO, 'n daad van keiserlike aggressie of 'n onvoorspelbare reaksie op 'n onverwagte krisis? Die waarheid kan elemente van meer as een teorie behels, en sommige van die besonderhede bly onbekend. Tog, inligting wat die afgelope twee jaar opgeduik het en insigte uit onlangse onderhoude in Moskou, dui op 'n paar belangrike gevolgtrekkings: Poetin se beslaglegging op die Krim blyk 'n geïmproviseerde gok te wees, wat onder druk ontwikkel is, wat veroorsaak is deur die vrees om die strategiese belangrike punt van Rusland te verloor. vlootbasis in Sevastopol.

Die uitbreiding van die NAVO bly 'n seer punt vir Russiese leiers, en sommige in die Kremlin droom beslis daarvan om die verlore grootsheid van Rusland te herstel. Die chaotiese wyse waarop die operasie in die Krim ontvou het, weerspreek egter enige gesamentlike plan vir territoriale revanche. Alhoewel dit aanvanklik gerusstellend kan lyk, bied dit in werklikheid 'n formidabele uitdaging vir Westerse amptenare: in Poetin moet hulle 'n leier in die gesig staar wat al hoe meer geneig is tot riskante dobbelary en om korttermyn-taktiese voordele te behaal, met min oënskynlike kommer oor langtermyn. strategie.

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Kyk eers na die idee dat Poetin beveel het dat Krim in beslag geneem moet word om die militêre omsingeling van die NAVO deur Rusland te voorkom. Dit is duidelik dat die uitbreiding van die NAVO sonder meer as pogings om Rusland te integreer, die verhouding tussen Moskou en die Weste die afgelope twee dekades gehelp het, net soos dit bekend is dat Rusland se leiers vasbeslote is om te verhoed dat Oekraïne 'n NAVO -lid word. Maar dit beteken nie dat die verset teen NAVO se uitbreiding Poetin in hierdie geval gemotiveer het nie.

Die grootste probleem met die teorie dat Poetin die Krim in beslag geneem het om te keer dat Oekraïne by die NAVO aansluit, is dat Oekraïne nie op pad was na NAVO -lidmaatskap toe Poetin toeslaan nie. In 2010, om die betrekkinge met Rusland te verbeter, het die Yanukovych -regering 'n wet uitgevaardig wat Oekraïne belet om deel te neem aan enige militêre blok. In die daaropvolgende jare het Kiev eerder 'n vennootskap met die alliansie aangegaan, deelgeneem aan 'n paar van sy militêre oefeninge en 'n skip bygedra tot die NAVO -antipiraatbedrywighede - 'n uitkoms wat Rusland blykbaar aanvaar het. Toe Poetin, wat die ingryping in Maart 2014 regverdig, beweer dat hy 'verklarings van Kiëf gehoor het dat Oekraïne binnekort by die NAVO aansluit', het hy 'n belangrike detail uitgesluit: al die onlangse openbare verklarings van die Oekraïense politici het eers gekom nadat Russiese troepe het reeds in die Krim verskyn.

Selfs as Oekraïense amptenare wou aansluit by die NAVO na Janukowitsj se afdanking, was die alliansie nie op die punt om die land binne te laat nie. Poetin het daardie stryd reeds op 'n NAVO -beraad in 2008 gewen, toe die alliansie gekies het om nie verder te gaan met Oekraïens of Georgies nie lidmaatskap. Britse, Franse en Duitse amptenare het aangevoer dat die twee lande te onstabiel bly om op die pad van toetreding tot die alliansie geplaas te word en dat dit Moskou ook onnodig sal verset. Alhoewel die NAVO nie die uiteindelike toetreding van die Oekraïne uitgesluit het nie, het die Duitse kanselier, Angela Merkel, gekant gebly teen praktiese stappe in die rigting, en die Amerikaanse president, Barack Obama, het, anders as sy voorganger, George W. Bush, geen stappe gedoen om Kiev se lidmaatskap te bevorder nie. Wat meer is, in Oktober 2013, enkele maande voor Rusland se anneksasie van die Krim, het Anders Fogh Rasmussen, sekretaris-generaal van die NAVO, onomwonde aangekondig dat Oekraïne nie by die alliansie sal aansluit in 2014. Daar was min rede om te verwag dat dit binnekort sou verander.

Natuurlik sou Poetin anders kon glo. Maar as dit die geval was, sou hy waarskynlik die kwessie met Westerse leiers bespreek het. Dit lyk asof hy dit nie gedoen het nie, ten minste nie met Obama nie, volgens Michael McFaul, wat as president se spesiale assistent in Rusland gedien het van 2009 tot 2012 en as die Amerikaanse ambassadeur in Moskou van 2012 tot vroeg in 2014. Gedurende daardie tydperk was McFaul was teenwoordig vir almal behalwe een van die vergaderings tussen Obama en Poetin of Dmitri Medvedev, wat as president van Rusland gedien het van 2008 tot 2012 terwyl hy in Washington dien, het McFaul ook geluister na al die telefoongesprekke wat Obama met óf die Russiese leier gehad het. In 'n toespraak verlede jaar het McFaul gesê dat hy nie 'een keer kon onthou dat die kwessie van NAVO -uitbreiding ter sprake gekom het' tydens enige van die uitruilings nie.

As Poetin se doel was om die militêre omsingeling van Rusland te voorkom, was sy aggressie in die Oekraïne 'n geweldige mislukking, want dit het presies die teenoorgestelde uitkoms opgelewer. Die NAVO het sy teenwoordigheid in Oos-Europa verdiep sedert die ingryping van Moskou, grotendeels om dit wat dit as 'n verhoogde Russiese bedreiging beskou, te versterk en 'n vinnige reaksiemag van 4000 troepe te skep wat tussen Bulgarye, Estland, Letland, Litaue, Pole en Roemenië sal draai. vier oorlogskepe in die Swart See gestasioneer het. In Februarie het die Withuis planne onthul om meer as viervoudige Amerikaanse militêre uitgawes in Europa te viervoudig.

Verlede Januarie het ek 'n bron na aan Oleg Belaventsev, die bevelvoerder van die Russiese militêre operasie in die Krim, gevra of Russiese amptenare bekommerd was oor die Oekraïne wat by die NAVO aangesluit het in die maande wat die ingryping voorafgaan. 'Hulle was nie bang dat Oekraïne by die NAVO sou aansluit nie,' het die bron geantwoord. 'Maar hulle was beslis bekommerd dat die Oekraïners die [Russiese] huurkontrak op [die vlootbasis in] Sevastopol sou kanselleer en die Swart See -vloot sou uitskop.

Dit lyk aanneemlik, aangesien die Swartsee -vloot van deurslaggewende belang is vir Rusland se vermoë om krag in die Swart- en Middellandse See te projekteer en omdat baie van die opposisieleiers van die Oekraïne Yanukovych gekritiseer het omdat hy die huurooreenkoms van Moskou op die basis verleng het. Maar as Poetin die belangrikste bekommernis was om die basis te beveilig, is die raaisel waarom hy so 'n riskante strategie gekies het. Met 'n kontingent van ongeveer 20.000 goed bewapende troepe in die Krim en 'n meestal pro-Russiese bevolking op die skiereiland, sou dit vir die Oekraïne moeilik gewees het om Rusland uit Sevastopol te verdryf, en in die verlede het Moskou altyd maniere gevind om sy belange te beskerm in die streek sonder geweld te gebruik. Byvoeging van die gebied - ten koste van internasionale isolasie, ekonomiese sanksies, die herlewing van die NAVO en die vervreemding van die grootste deel van die Oekraïense bevolking - lyk na 'n uiterste reaksie op 'n hanteerbare bedreiging. Voor die operasie in die Krim kon Poetin se besluite oor die algemeen gerasionaliseer word in terme van koste en voordele, maar sedertdien was sy buitelandse beleidsberekening moeiliker om te ontsyfer.

IMPERIALE WAARDE?

Vir diegene wat Poetin as 'n imperialis beskou, is die bewegings van Rusland in die Krim maklik om te verduidelik. Poetin beskryf immers die ineenstorting van die Sowjetunie as 'die grootste geopolitieke katastrofe van die eeu', en beweer dat 'Oekraïne nie eens 'n staat' is nie, en 'n geskiedenis van inmenging het in lande aan die periferie van Rusland. In 2008, dieselfde jaar wat Russiese tenks in Georgië ingeloop het om die separatistiese enklawe van Abchazië en Suid -Ossetië te beskerm, het Russiese amptenare na bewering Russiese paspoorte aan die Krim -inwoners versprei, wat 'n skynbare voorwendsel vir 'n inval in hul verdediging geskep het.

Ander, meer spesifieke tekens toon ook dat Moskou besig was om voor te berei om die Krim in beslag te neem in die ses maande voor Janukowitsj se val. Vladislav Surkov, 'n senior Poetin -adviseur, het Kiev en Simferopol, die hoofstad van die Krim, herhaaldelik in die herfs en winter van 2013–14 besoek, deels om die bou van 'n brug oor die Kerchstraat te bevorder om die suide van Rusland en die Krim te verbind - 'n noodsaaklike vervoerskakel in geval van anneksasie. Ongeveer dieselfde tyd is spanne van die Russiese polisie en geheime diensbeamptes in Kiëf gesien.

Intussen het Vladimir Konstantinov, die voorsitter van die Krim -parlement, gereeld na Moskou gereis. Op een so 'n besoek, in Desember 2013, ontmoet hy volgens die Russiese joernalis Mikhail Zygar Nikolai Patrushev, die sekretaris van die Russiese Veiligheidsraad en die hoogste veiligheidsbeampte van die Kremlin. Volgens die verslag van Zygar was Patrushev 'aangenaam verras' om van Konstantinov te verneem dat die Krim gereed sou wees om na Rusland te gaan as Janoekowitsj omvergewerp word. Net voor Rusland se ingryping was Konstantinov terug in Moskou en vergader hy met senior amptenare.

Ander bewyse dui ook op 'n jarelange Russiese komplot om die skiereiland te bekom. Volgens die koerant in Februarie 2014 Novaya Gazeta, 'n memorandum versprei in die Russiese uitvoerende gesag wat die anneksasie van die Krim en ander dele van Oos -Oekraïne voorstel as Janoekowitsj val. As Janoekowitsj weg is, sou die memorandum voorstel dat Oekraïne in westelike en oostelike dele sou verdeel en die EU die weste sou verswelg. Moskou sal vinnig referendum oor die kwessie van Russiese anneksasie in die pro-Russiese streke in die ooste van die land moet bevorder.

Maar by nadere ondersoek hou die teorie dat Poetin lankal van plan was om die Krim in te neem, nie heeltemal by nie. Oorweeg Surkov se gereelde reise na die skiereiland. Wat die Poetin -adviseur tydens die besoeke met plaaslike leiers bespreek het, is onbekend. As Surkov hom egter voorberei op die anneksasie van die streek, lyk die volgende stap van Poetin bisar. In plaas daarvan om Surkov na Simferopol te stuur om toesig te hou oor Rusland se ingryping, het Poetin hom einde Februarie van die saak afgehaal. Zygar het voorgestel dat Surkov se werklike opdrag in die Oekraïne nie was om voor te berei op die anneksasie van die Krim nie, maar om Janoekowitsj aan die bewind te hou - 'n taak waarby hy misluk het, tot groot misnoeë van Poetin. Wat die polisie en geheime diensspanne in Kiev betref, sou hul rol waarskynlik die personeel van Janoekowitsj adviseer oor hoe om protesoptogte in die hoofstad teen die regering te vermy, sou hulle eerder daarheen gestuur gewees het.

Baie besonderhede wat aanvanklik dui op noukeurige Russiese voorbereiding, dui eintlik op die afwesigheid van 'n plan wat lank gehou is. Byvoorbeeld, as Moskou werklik beplan het om die Krim te annekseer, sou dit nie bloot 'n brug oor die Kerchstraat met Oekraïense amptenare bespreek het nie; dit sou 'n gebou gehad het. In plaas daarvan het die onderhandelinge meer as tien jaar ingesluip, en tussen 2010, toe Janoekowitsj en Medvedev ooreengekom het om die brug te bou, en 2014, het Rusland dit nie eens reggekry om 'n lewensvatbaarheidstudie vir die projek te voltooi nie.

Dat 'n dokument so spekulatief soos die memo vir anneksasie wat onthul is deur Novaya Gazeta minder as 'n maand voor die operasie in omloop was, dui intussen daarop dat Poetin nie 'n konkrete plan teen Februarie 2014 aanvaar het nie. En waarom was Patrushev, 'n senior amptenaar en na verneem word een van die sterkste ondersteuners van die ingryping in die Oekraïne, 'verbaas' om te hoor dat die Krim -elite die anneksasie sou goedkeur? As die Kremlin 'n besetting oorweeg het, sou Patrushev teen die tyd van sy ontmoeting met Konstantinov in Desember 2013 intelligensieverslae daaroor gesien het.

Trouens, tot kort voordat dit gebeur het, blyk dit dat Poetin nie verwag het dat Janoekowitsj van die bewind sou val nie. As hy dit gedoen het, sou hy waarskynlik 'n voorwendsel gevind het om die uitbetaling van 'n lening van $ 3 miljard wat Rusland aan die Janoekowitsj -regering in Desember 2013 beloof het, uit te stel. Soos die politieke konsultant en die voormalige amptenaar van die Kremlin Aleksei Tsjesnakof vir my gesê het: 'Dit is nie Poetin se styl om sulke geskenke te maak nie.'

VLUG DIT

Die duidelikste bewys teen 'n konsekwente plan vir territoriale uitbreiding is die chaotiese manier waarop die Krim -ingryping ontvou het. Alhoewel die militêre komponent van die operasie seepglad verloop het, het die politieke aspekte daarvan soms 'n byna farciese gebrek aan voorbereiding getoon.

Poetin het gesê dat hy die eerste keer op 23 Februarie opdrag gegee het aan hulpverleners om te begin werk aan die terugkeer van die Krim na Rusland, nadat Janoekowitsj uit Kiev gevlug het. Volgens die bron naby Belaventsev, die bevelvoerder van die Krim -operasie, het Moskou op 18 Februarie Russiese spesiale magte in die suidelike hawestad Novorossiysk en by die Swart See -vloot in Sevastopol op die hoogte gebring, terwyl geweld opgevlam het tussen polisie en betogers teen die regering in Kiev. Twee dae later, op 20 Februarie, het Russiese troepe 'n bevel van Poetin ontvang om Oekraïense militêre installasies in die Krim te blokkeer en te verhoed dat bloedvergieting tussen pro-Russiese en pro-Kiev groepe wat op die skiereiland protesteer. Maar hulle het dit eers 23 Februarie begin doen, twee dae nadat Janoekowitsj Kiëf verlaat het. Met ander woorde, die vroegste stappe in die operasie was voorlopig: Poetin sou die missie kon afskakel as die ooreenkoms wat Janoekowitsj op 21 Februarie met opposisieleiers en EU -ministers van buitelandse sake onderteken het om vroeë verkiesings te hou, vasgeval het.

Volgens die bron het Belaventsev op 22 Februarie in die Krim aangekom. Belaventsev, 'n jarelange assistent van die Russiese minister van verdediging, Sergei Shoigu, was onbekend met die politieke toneel van die Krim, en nadat hy die plaaslike bevolking geraadpleeg het, het hy die huidige premier, 'n ongewilde Janoekowitsj -aanstelling, oorreed om af te tree. Om hom te vervang, het Belaventsev 'n bejaarde kommunis gekies, Leonid Grach, wat sedert die Sowjet -era in Moskou bekend was.

Wat Belaventsev nie geweet het nie, was dat Grach die meeste van die Krim se makelaars deur die jare vervreem het - 'n oorsig wat Konstantinov, die leier van die Krim -parlement, aan Belaventsev duidelik gemaak het nadat hy Grach reeds die pos aangebied het. Tot sy verleentheid moes Belaventsev Grach bel om die aanbod van die premier slegs 'n dag nadat hy dit gemaak het, te herroep. Belaventsev het hom as hoof van die streeksregering tot Sergei Aksyonov gewend, 'n plaaslike pro-Russiese sakeman en voormalige bokser wat onder die plaaslike mense bekend was onder die bynaam 'Goblin'.

Nog meer verrassend, in die daaropvolgende dae blyk dit dat die Kremlin nie weet wat hy met die Krim wil doen nie. Op 27 Februarie het die streek se parlement gestem om 'n referendum op 25 Mei te hou om inwoners te vra of hulle saamstem dat die Krim ''n selfonderhoudende staat en. . . is deel van die Oekraïne op grond van verdrae en ooreenkomste ” - met ander woorde, of hulle gedink het dat die streek groter outonomie moet hê, maar in die Oekraïne moet bly. 'N Week na die aanvang van die operasie het Poetin nog nie besluit oor anneksasie nie.

Op 1 Maart het die parlement op die Krim die referendum van 25 Mei tot 30 Maart herskeduleer. Daarna, op 6 Maart, het die afgevaardigdes die datum met nog twee weke verhef, en hierdie keer herskryf hulle die referendumvraag om te vra of inwoners die vereniging van die Krim ondersteun met Rusland in plaas van of hulle outonomie in die Oekraïne ondersteun.

Waarom het Poetin die standpunt van die referendum van outonomie tot anneksasie verhoog? Een rede was druk van pro-Russiese Krim-leiers, waaronder Konstantinov, wat bang was om in 'n semi-erkende statelet soos Abchazië of Suid-Ossetië te beland, wat deur die Oekraïne en die Weste vermy is en te klein is om ekonomies te floreer. Belangriker nog, nadat hy Russiese magte op die hele skiereiland ontplooi het, was Poetin vasgevang. Om eenvoudig terug te trek, deur die Oekraïense troepe toe te laat om die Krim terug te neem en Moskou se ondersteuners daar te vervolg, sou hom ondraaglik swak laat lyk het, en na die terugkeer van die Oekraïense beheer sou Kiev heel moontlik die huur van Rusland op die vlootbasis in Sevastopol kanselleer. Die enigste manier waarop Rusland veilig uit die Krim sou kon trek, sou gewees het as die Weste 'n uiteindelike stemming vir die Krim se outonomie as wettig erken het en die Oekraïense regering oortuig het om dit te respekteer. Westerse leiers, woedend oor die inval van Rusland, het duidelik gemaak dat hulle niks van die aard sou doen nie.

Dit sou gevaarlik gewees het dat Moskou slegs outonomie op die skiereiland sonder Westerse steun sou ondersteun, aangesien Rusland die Krim se pro-Russiese regering sou moes verdedig teen enige poging van Kiev om die 22 000 Oekraïense troepe wat daar gestasioneer was te gebruik om die orde te herstel. As Rusland daarteenoor sou verkies om die Oekraïense magte te verdryf en die gebied te verdedig teen 'n teenoffensief, sou dit in die Weste byna soveel vyandigheid veroorsaak het as wat dit die beheer oor die gebied sou neem. Teen 4 Maart, sonder om 'n lewensvatbare uitgangstrategie te vind, het die Kremlin op anneksie besluit.

OP S'ENGAGE, ET PUIS. . .

Al hierdie improvisasie maak dit moeilik om Rusland se ingryping in die Krim as deel van 'n sistematiese ekspansionistiese projek te beskou. Enige halfbevoegde imperialis sou na die inval geweet het wie hy as die plaaslike satrap sou aanstel en sou reeds gekies het of inwoners 'n referendum oor outonomie of anneksasie sou aanbied. En 'n vasberade revanchist sou seker gemaak het om 'n brug na die teikengebied te bou, eerder as om tien jaar in vrugtelose besprekings te verkwis.

Dit wil nie sê dat daar nie faksies in die Kremlin is met keiserlike aptyt nie. Poetin self kan sulke impulse deel. Dit is eweneens waar dat die leiers van Rusland 'n afsku van die uitbreiding van die NAVO het en dit as 'n retoriese byeenkoms gebruik. Sulke aptyt en kommer het egter nie tot 'n samehangende plan vir 'n inval in die Krim gelei nie. Tot kort voordat Poetin se kommando's toeslaan, was die Kremlin besig met gebeure in Kiev.

As Poetin die grootste bekommernis van Moskou oor Sevastopol was, dui dit op verskeie belangrike punte. Eerstens sou die rampspoedige wending in die betrekkinge tussen Rusland en die Weste die afgelope twee jaar vermy gewees het as Oekraïense amptenare, sowel as opposisieleiers en hul Westerse ondersteuners, konsekwent belowe het om die ooreenkoms wat die huurkontrak van Rusland op die basis verleng het, te respekteer 2040's. Hierdie ooreenkoms was beslis baie ongewild in die Oekraïne. Maar as Oekraïners geweet het dat die alternatief die verlies van die Krim en 'n bloedige oorlog in die ooste van die land sou wees, sou hulle moontlik genadig gewees het vir die verontwaardiging om die magte van 'n buitelandse mag aan te bied.

Dit dui daarop dat Poetin die afgelope jare gewillig geword het om groot strategiese risiko's te neem om skynbaar beperkte en hanteerbare bedreigings vir Russiese belange teen te werk. Deur spesiale magte in die Krim in te span sonder om te beplan vir die politieke toekoms van die streek, het Poetin getoon dat hy nie net 'n improvisator is nie, maar ook 'n dobbelaar. Inderdaad, aangemoedig deur die hoë binnelandse goedkeuringsgraderings wat sy onderneming verseker het, het Poetin steeds die dobbelsteen gegooi, die pro-Russiese separatiste in Donetsk en Luhansk ondersteun, bombardemente teen regerings in Sirië gebombardeer en 'n konfrontasie met Turkye eskaleer oor die neerlaag van 'n Russiese oorlogsvliegtuig in November.

Die belangrikheid van Sevastopol in die geval van Rusland se ingryping in die Krim toon aan dat Rusland se belangrikste strategiese bates, soos Poetin, akkuraat moet identifiseer as die Weste sy bewegings in toekomstige krisisse wil voorspel. Die Baltiese state bevat geen Russiese basisse wat 'n soortgelyke ingryping kan uitnooi nie. In Sirië is die hawe van Tartus - Rusland se enigste voorpos in die Middellandse See - waarskynlik te klein en swak toegerus om veel te maak, hoewel die Russiese weermag planne het om dit uit te brei. 'N Groter bedreiging kan ontstaan ​​as Turkye probeer om die Turkse Straat, wat die Swart- en Middellandse See verbind, met Russiese skepe te sluit. Ingevolge die Montreux -konvensie van 1936 het Turkye die reg om deur hierdie seestraat te weier om militêre vaartuie uit lande waarmee dit oorlog voer of 'n dreigende gevaar van konflik het. As Ankara hierdie stap sou neem, sou dit dit baie moeiliker maak vir Rusland om militêre operasies in die Middellandse See en die Midde -Ooste te ondersteun, soos sy onlangse ingryping in Sirië, en dit kan 'n woedende en moontlik buite verhouding Russiese reaksie veroorsaak. Dat beide Poetin en die Turkse president Recep Tayyip Erdogan internasionaal sterk moet verskyn om binnelandse politieke redes, maak die teenstrydigheid tussen hulle kommerwekkend, daarom moet Westerse leiers aan Ankara duidelik maak dat hulle nie sal ondersteun om die strate te sluit as die spanning tussen Rusland en Turkye verder toeneem nie.

Poetin se onlangse voorliefde vir weddenskappe met 'n hoë inset kan vir Westerse leiers selfs moeiliker wees as 'n beleid van konsekwente ekspansionisme. Daar kan 'n rasionele imperialis vervat word, maar die gepaste reaksie op 'n dobbelaar wat vinnig besluite neem op grond van korttermynfaktore, is minder duidelik. In beide die Krim en Sirië het Poetin probeer om verrassing uit te buit, en vinnig probeer om feite op die grond te verander voordat die Weste hom kon keer. Deur moedig op krisisse te reageer, skep hy nuwes vir Rusland en die wêreld.


Russiese magte brei beheer uit oor die Krim

SEVASTOPOL, Oekraïne-Die beleërde regering in Kiëf het Maandagaand gesê dat Russiese magte die opstand tussen die twee nasies dramaties eskaleer het deur die weermag en vloot van die Oekraïne in die Krim 'n stomp ultimatum te gee: trou aan die nuwe pro-Rusland-leierskap in die streek te belowe of gedwing te word deur Rusland in te dien.

'N Woordvoerder van die Russiese Swartsee -vloot, wat in die Krim -hawe Sevastopol geleë is, ontken dat 'n dreigement gemaak is, en die Russiese ministerie van verdediging het die beskuldiging "volslae onsin" genoem. Maar terwyl Russiese troepe en oorlogskepe die Oekraïense veiligheidsinstallasies op die hele outonome Krim -skiereiland omring het, was dit duidelik dat Oekraïense magte 'n dreigende bedreiging in die gesig staar.

Early Tuesday, in a sign that he might be trying to diffuse tensions, or that he has accomplished what he wants in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops conducting military exercises near Ukraine in Western Russia to return to their bases, according to Russian news agencies. The military exercises were scheduled to end today.

The standoff in Crimea continued.

There were several reports that a pro-Russian fighter who had taken control of an air base in Crimea fired a warning shot into the air Tuesday as Ukrainian soldiers returned to demand their jobs back at the Belbek airport.

A Ukrainian Defense Ministry official alleged that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander had set a deadline of 5 a.m. Tuesday — 10 p.m. Monday Eastern time — for Ukrainian forces to capitulate, according to the Interfax-Ukrainian news agency. There were no immediate reports of activity after the deadline passed.

The stepped-up Russian troop movements came two days after Russia’s parliament approved the use of force to protect the country’s citizens and military sites in Crimea, a region with deep ties to Russia. The actions on Monday triggered a cascade of condemnation from European and American officials, who vowed that Russia would face consequences if it did not pull back its soldiers.

President Obama said Moscow was “on the wrong side of history” and threatened “a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its status in the world.”

Here in the deep-water harbor at Sevastopol, a Ukrainian naval command ship was confronted Monday evening by four tugboats flying Russian colors and was boxed in by a Russian minesweeper. Other Russian warships appeared at the mouth of the harbor to block an escape to the sea. A nearby Ukrainian naval station flew a Russian flag.

As the anxious wives of officers on the Ukrainian ship watched from shore, its crew rushed about in what appeared to be an attempt to repel potential boarders. The sailors — who carried side arms and military assault rifles — fixed mattresses to the railings, uncoiled fire hoses and brought firefighting equipment on deck.

On Monday night, the Russian Black Sea Fleet ordered the crew members to lay down their arms and leave the ships, according to the UNIAN news agency, quoting a Ukrainian military source.

Ukrainian officials expressed fears that the tensions could lead to violence overnight, which could give Russia reason to justify military action.

“Provocations with killing of three to four Russian soldiers are planned on the territory of Crimea tonight,” said Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Velichkovych, the ministry’s press service reported. Speaking to the Russians, Velichkovych said: “We call on you to come to your senses. We call on you to stop.”

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said Monday that he had been in communication with Ukraine’s military commanders in Crimea and that they assured him they would not yield to the Russians, according to the UNN news agency of Ukraine.

Western diplomats pressed Russia to pull back. In an interview with the BBC, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was in Kiev, said the Russian intervention in Crimea has produced “a very tense and dangerous situation” that amounts to Europe’s “biggest crisis” in the 21st century.

“The world cannot just allow this to happen,” said Hague, whose American counterpart, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, was due in Kiev on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister ­Laurent Fabius said the European Union would have an emergency summit Thursday and take action against Russia if it has not sent troops back to their barracks in the Crimea by then.

But the Western threats appeared to have made little impact on Russia by Monday night. Speaking in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov justified the Russian troop deployment as necessary to protect Russians living in Crimea “until the normalization of the political situation” in Ukraine, where months of protests led to the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

Russian forces, already in control of much of Crimea, took possession of a ferry terminal in Kerch, in the eastern part of the peninsula just across a strait from Russian territory, according to reports from the area. The terminal serves as a departure point for many ships headed to Russia and could be used to send more Russian troops into Crimea.

Ukrainian news media reported that a representative of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet also called on members of Ukraine’s Aviation Brigade at an air base in Belbek to denounce the Ukrainian government’s authority and swear allegiance to the new Crimean government. By nightfall, the Ukrainian aviators were still on their base.

In the capital, Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, urged the West to provide political and economic support as the Kiev stock market dropped a record 12 percent and the Ukrainian hryvnia fell to new lows against the dollar and euro. The crisis also caused the Moscow market to fall 10 percent and the Russian ruble to dive.

Yatsenyuk stressed that Crimea remained part of Ukraine, but he conceded that there were “for today, no military options on the table.”

Obama administration officials said Russia now has 6,000 troops in Crimea. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said Monday that 16,000 additional Russian troops had been deployed to Crimea in the past six days. Military experts estimate that the size of the Ukrainian military in Crimea is about 30,000, but many of those are support staff.

Ukraine’s military, at an estimated 130,000 troops, is a considerably larger force than the small and poorly armed Georgian military that the Russians were able to intimidate in 2008, when those two countries went to war over breakaway territory.

But while Ukrainian troops have held firm and refused to open their gates, they are in an increasingly precarious position, “with no way out and no one to rescue them,” a specialist on military affairs in Eurasia said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is prohibited by his employer from talking to the news media without permission.

“The Russian troops surrounding them are clearly well-trained special forces, well-disciplined enough that they managed to box up the Ukrainian forces without firing a shot,” the specialist said.

But some military experts said that despite appearances, they doubt that Russia is eager for a fight that might carry a steep price. Even in eastern Ukraine, where Russian is the predominant language, an incursion by Moscow could unify the divided country, said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Va.

“They are certainly more pro-Russian and Russian speaking” in the east, he said, “but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a Ukrainian national identity, especially when they are attacked. It is hard to imagine a course of action on the part of Russia that could have done more to unify Ukraine than what has been done.”

The Ukrainian military has no obvious fault lines, no ethnic or regional differences, that might make it vulnerable to defection and dissension.

At the same time, individual loyalties are unknown. If Yanukovych were to appoint himself head of a government in exile, he might be able to call in old favors from among officers. Like other institutions in Ukraine, the military has been beset by corruption, which could mean officers might be beholden to people other than their superiors.

In Sevastopol, a Ukrainian admiral who defected to the side of the pro-
Russian Crimean government tried to persuade his fellow officers in a meeting Monday morning to join him. They refused.

As they did in Sunday’s standoff at a Ukrainian army base in Perevalne, armed Russian troops, demonstrating who was in charge, posted guards at the gates of the Ukraine naval station in Sevastopol as Ukrainian marines appeared to be trapped inside the base.

Englund reported from Kiev. Kathy Lally in Moscow and Greg Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.


Ukraine crisis: Why is Crimea so important to Russia?

With the peninsula seemingly now under complete Russian control, we take a look at why President Vladimir Putin has targeted the region - and what the rest of the world should be doing about it.

Why is Crimea so important to Russia?

Crimea is strategically important as a base for the Russian navy. The Black Sea Fleet has been based on the peninsula since it was founded by Prince Potemkin in 1783. The fleet’s strategic position helped Russia defeat Georgia in the South Ossetia war in 2008, and remains crucial to Russian security interests in the region.

What can Russia hope to gain in Crimea?

Crimea still has a 60 per cent Russian population. Relations have been tense between Russia and Ukraine since the peninsula formally became part of Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Last week Russia’s upper house of parliament approved the use of force in Crimea, and the country has since demanded Ukrainian forces in the region surrender.

Is anyone obligated to defend the region?

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance was signed in 1994 by Ukraine, the United States, Britain and Russia, to protect Ukraine’s territory and sovereignty after its soviet nuclear weapons were removed. However, it is a diplomatic document rather than a formal treaty and its legality is complex. It is said to morally oblige signatories to intervene in the event that Ukraine is threatened, but it cannot be enforced.

Will Nato act?

Ukraine is not one of the 28 member countries, however Nato officials warned they would back the “inviolability of [Ukraine’s] frontiers”.

Will the United Nations act?

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is likely to block any UN mission to the region. The council met in a closed doors emergency session last Friday, and this week secretary general Ban Ki-moon called on Russia to "refrain from any acts that could further escalate the situation".

What about the world’s only superpower?

President Obama warned Russia that there would be serious “costs” to any Russian military intervention in Ukraine. However, after failing to intervene in Syria and facing gridlock in Congress, it is unlikely that Obama would be willing to sacrifice the political capital to stage an intervention before the mid-term elections this November.


What does Russia want with Ukraine?

The two countries have been intertwined for more than 1,000 years, not all of it peaceful by any means.

Russia sees the Ukraine as highly strategic – due to Ukraine’s coast it gives Russian ships access to the Black Sea and a warm water port along its Western borders.

It is also important for Russia as it tries to hang on to its “sphere of influence” with countries on its Western borders after the collapse of the Soviet Union and many of its former satellite countries allying themselves with the West in general and the European Union specifically.

Ukraine is also strategic for transit routes for its natural gas pipelines to the west. Losing control of the country would mean losing control of much needed revenue.

Ukraine, particularly the eastern parts, are home to an estimated 7.5million ethnic Russians.

The country is also prized for its fertile plains and rich, dark soil with Ukraine often referred to as “the breadbasket of Europe”.


Where Ukrainians Are Preparing for All-Out War With Russia

A dried-up canal running from Ukraine into Russian-occupied Crimea is emerging as one of Europe’s main flash points.

KALANCHAK, Ukraine — A makeshift dam of sand and clay, covered with patches of grass, blocks one of Europe’s great canals. Beyond it, swans drift in the trickle of water that remains. A duck slides into a wall of reeds below the bare, concrete banks.

This quiet spot just north of Crimea may not look like much. But some Ukrainians fear it could be the thing that ignites an all-out war with Russia.

“Putin could send his troops in here at any moment,” said Olha Lomonosova, 38, explaining why she had packed a getaway suitcase this year at her home upstream. “He needs water.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered some of the troops he had massed on Ukraine’s border this spring to pull back last month, but as many as 80,000 remain within striking distance, and many Ukrainians believe that the threat of a new invasion remains. A prime reason is the 250-mile-long Northern Crimean Canal linking Crimea with Ukraine’s Dnieper River: the main source of water for Crimea until Mr. Putin annexed it in 2014 and Ukraine, in a secret operation, hastily built the dam to block the canal’s flow.

Now, the fertile plain through which the canal runs in southern Ukraine’s Kherson Region has emerged as one of Europe’s main geopolitical flash points. The tensions over the canal spiked in recent months after a drought worsened Crimea’s water crisis, the risk of escalation rising along with the temperature of Mr. Putin’s showdown with the West.

High-powered television transmitters have gone up just over the border in Crimea, beaming the Kremlin’s narrative into Ukrainian-controlled territory. At the canal’s source, huge Soviet-era letters announce “Northern Crimean Canal” in Russian, but they are now painted blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The canal is a concrete symbol of the ties that once bound Russia and Ukraine — and of Ukraine’s fundamental challenge of extricating itself from its Soviet past. Water continues to flow through the canal for 57 miles inside Ukraine before the dam cuts off the flow to Crimea, irrigating a land of melon fields and peach orchards where Russian is widely spoken even as a Ukrainian identity is being formed.

A shared Soviet past with Russia still evokes nostalgia among some older Ukrainians, and the Kremlin’s propaganda effort has not let up in the hope that pro-Russian attitudes will one day undo Kyiv’s pivot toward the West. But that nostalgia — along with lingering skepticism of the West’s motives and of the government in Kyiv — is not enough to allay the fears of many over a new war with Russia.

“There’s normal people over there,” Serhiy Pashchenko, 62, trimming pink-flowering peach trees, said of Russia, recalling that he was working on a construction project in Moscow when the conflict broke out in 2014. “But there’s a government over there that does not recognize us as a people.”

In Crimea, after a major drought last year, the water shortage has become so dire that Russian officials have started to evoke the specter of mass death — though warnings of humanitarian catastrophe are contradicted by Russian officials’ assurances that even tourists to Crimea will not go thirsty.

Blocking the canal, a senior official in the de facto Russian government controlling Crimea said in February, represented “an attempt to destroy us as a people, an attempt at mass murder and genocide.” Moscow has pledged to spend $670 million to address the water shortage, but this year reservoirs have been running dry and water is being rationed.

Ukrainian officials are unmoved. Under the Geneva Convention, they say, it is Russia’s responsibility as an occupying power to provide water, and they add that sufficient underground aquifers exist to provide for the population. The Kremlin says that Crimea willfully joined Russia in 2014, aided by Russian troops, after the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv nearly every government in the world still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine.

“No water for Crimea until de-occupation,” said Anton Korynevych, the representative for Crimea of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, spelling out government policy. “Period.”

Mr. Zelensky checked Ukrainian troops’ readiness in a visit to the trenches at the Crimean border last month. Even though Russian troops are withdrawing, he warned, Ukraine must be prepared for them to return at “any moment.” In Washington, senior American officials believe that an incursion to secure the water supply remains a real threat, though the costs and difficulty of such a move appear to have been sufficient to dissuade Russia for now.

About 10,000 young people from across the Soviet Union helped build the canal, a marvel of engineering that drops about an inch in elevation every mile for the first 129 miles so that gravity keeps the water flowing. Sappers and archaeologists led the way, said the canal’s resident historian, Volodymyr Sklyarov they cleared World War II ordnance and the occasional trove of ancient Scythian treasure.

The canal even has its own anthem, still framed on the wall of the canal’s headquarters. “We built the canal in peace, along with the whole great and powerful country,” the words go. “Keep it, as dear as your breath, for your children and grandchildren!”

But when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, a senior aide in the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Senchenko, organized the damming of the canal as a way to strike back. Before the canal’s annual springtime opening, he directed workers to pile up a pyramid of bags of sand and clay near the border with Crimea. And he had them put up a sign saying they were installing a flow-measurement mechanism, to put Russian intelligence on the wrong track.

He is convinced that blocking the canal was the right decision because it imposed costs on Moscow, much as military resistance would have.

“In order to cause as much damage to the Russian Federation as was caused by seven years of blocking the canal, tens of thousands would need to have died at the front,” Mr. Senchenko said.

The temporary dam is still what holds back the water about 10 miles upstream from the Crimean border. Ukraine is building a more permanent dam right at the border with hatches that could allow the water flow to be restored if the government decided to do so, said the canal’s head, Serhiy Shevchenko. But those hatches are not yet operational, making it physically impossible for now to resume water delivery to Crimea, Mr. Shevchenko said.

The canal is a divisive issue on the ground, where some residents are influenced by what they see on Russian television.

Natalia Lada, a 58-year-old cafeteria director in the Black Sea beachside town of Khorly near Crimea, says she watches Russian television, even though it is “only propaganda against us,” because she finds it most convenient to receive. She says she has learned that Russia seems “ready for war, ready to conquer us,” perhaps just to win control of the nearby canal.

“If the question becomes, ‘It’s either water or peace,’ then peace is of course better,” Ms. Lada said. “Let’s give them water — why do we need war?”

Ukrainian officials say the reach of Russian television, particularly in the country’s border regions, is a security risk that has gone insufficiently addressed in seven years of war.

They say Russia has been erecting ever more powerful television transmitters in Crimea and separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine that direct signals into government-controlled Ukraine. Kyiv has been trying to counter that by erecting its own new transmitters, but the Russian signals are more powerful, officials acknowledge — a losing game of Whac-a-Mole on the airwaves.

“Filling all these holes is very hard, because their resources are greater,” said Serhiy Movchan, an official overseeing radio and television broadcasting in the regional capital of Kherson.

To hear Russian officials tell it, Ukraine’s leaders since 2014 have forced Russian speakers in the country to “renounce their identity or to face violence or death.” The reality is different in Kherson, where many residents still value some common bonds with Russia, including language — but want no part of a further military intervention by Mr. Putin.

A hill outside the city of Kakhovka, near the canal’s beginning, bears another reminder of historical ties to Russia: a towering Soviet monument of Communist revolutionaries with a horse-drawn machine gun, marking the fierce battles here in the Russian Civil War a century ago. Kyiv in 2019 demanded that the monument be taken down, calling it an “insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the Communist totalitarian regime.” The city refused, and the monument still stands, overlooking rusty, dismantled lampposts.

Tending her mother’s grave at an adjoining cemetery, Ms. Lomonosova, a gardener, and her father, Mikhail Lomonosov, 64, said they did not want the monument torn down.

They spoke Russian, described themselves as “little Russians,” and said they occasionally watched Russian television. But if Russian troops were to invade, Ms. Lomonosova was ready to flee, and Mr. Lomonosov was ready to fight against them.

“We may have a Russian last name, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” Ms. Lomonosova said. “Everyone has their own territory, though all have a shared past.”


Why Ukraine Is So Important to Putin

Putin's standoff over Ukraine boosted his popularity rating in Russia to 80%.   To maintain this popularity, he will continue to hold onto Ukraine despite the cost. Putin knows that NATO won't protect Ukraine since it is not a member, and that encourages him to continue to attack.

Ukraine, which provided the Soviet agricultural output, had been an important contributor to the former Soviet Union's economy.   It also supplied heavy industrial equipment and raw materials to industrial sites throughout the former USSR.  


Where Is Crimea?

Crimea is a peninsula in eastern Europe, located in the Black Sea. It is connected to Ukraine by a small strip of land in the north. The eastern shore of Crimea has a finger that almost touches Russia, and a goal of Russia is to build a bridge across the strait to connect itself to the land.

Recently, Russia has exerted their sovereignty over Crimea. While some other UN member states recognize Crimea as part of Russia, Ukraine also continues to claim the land as an integral part of the country. Most governments support Ukraine’s claim, as does the non-binding United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262.

Crimea on a map.


4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine

E ven a week ago, the idea of a Russian military intervention in Ukraine seemed farfetched if not totally alarmist. The risks involved were just too enormous for President Vladimir Putin and for the country he has ruled for 14 years. But the arrival of Russian troops in Crimea over the weekend has shown that he is not averse to reckless adventures, even ones that offer little gain. In the coming days and weeks, Putin will have to decide how far he is prepared to take this intervention and how much he is prepared to suffer for it. It is already clear, however, that he cannot emerge as the winner of this conflict, at least not when the damage is weighed against the gains. It will at best be a Pyrrhic victory, and at worst an utter catastrophe. Here’s why:

At home, this intervention looks to be the one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question to 1600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: &ldquoShould Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?&rdquo they asked. Only 15% said yes &ndash hardly a national consensus.

That seems astounding in light of all the brainwashing Russians have faced on the issue of Ukraine. For weeks, the Kremlin’s effective monopoly on television news has been sounding the alarm over Ukraine. Its revolution, they claimed, is the result of an American alliance with Nazis intended to weaken Russia. And still, nearly three quarters of the population oppose a Russian &ldquoreaction&rdquo of any kind, let alone a Russian military occupation like they are now watching unfold in Crimea. The 2008 invasion of Georgia had much broader support, because Georgia is not Ukraine. Ukraine is a nation of Slavs with deep cultural and historical ties to Russia. Most Russians have at least some family or friends living in Ukraine, and the idea of a fratricidal war between the two largest Slavic nations in the world evokes a kind of horror that no Kremlin whitewash can calm.

Indeed, Monday’s survey suggests that the influence of Putin’s television channels is breaking down. The blatant misinformation and demagoguery on Russian television coverage of Ukraine seems to have pushed Russians to go online for their information. And as for those who still have no Internet connection, they could simply have picked up the phone and called their panicked friends and relatives in Ukraine.

So what about Russia’s nationalists? The war-drum thumping Liberal Democratic party, a right-wing puppet of the Kremlin, has been screaming for Russia to send in the tanks. On Feb. 28, as troops began appearing on the streets of Crimea, the leader of that party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was on the scene handing out wads of cash to a cheering crowd of locals in the city of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. &ldquoGive it to the women, the old maids, the pregnant, the lonely, the divorced,” he told the crowd from atop a chair. “Russia is rich. We’ll give everybody everything.” But in Monday’s survey, 82% of his party’s loyalists rejected any such generosity. Even the adherents of the Communist Party, who tend to feel entitled to all of Russia’s former Soviet domains, said with a broad majority &ndash 62% &ndash that Russia should not jump into Ukraine’s internal crisis.

That does not necessarily mean Putin will face an uprising at home. So far, the anti-war protests in Moscow have looked almost pathetically temperate. But sociologists have been saying for years that Putin’s core electorate is dwindling. What underpins his popularity &ndash roughly 60% approved of his rule before this crisis started &ndash is a total lack of viable alternatives to Putin’s rule. But this decision is sure to eat away at the passive mass of his supporters, especially in Russia’s biggest cities.

In Monday’s survey, 30% of respondents from Moscow and St. Petersburg said that Russia could see massive political protests of the kind that overthrew the Ukrainian government last month. Putin’s only means of forestalling that kind of unrest is to crack down hard and early. So on Feb. 28, Russia’s most prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny was put under house arrest less than six months after he won 30% of the vote in the Moscow mayoral race. Expect more of the same if the opposition to Putin’s intervention starts to find its voice.

The economic impact on Russia is already staggering. When markets opened on Monday morning, investors got their first chance to react to the Russian intervention in Ukraine over the weekend, and as a result, the key Russian stock indexes tanked by more than 10%. That amounts to almost $60 billion in stock value wiped out in the course of a day, more than Russia spent preparing for last month’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom, which accounts for roughly a quarter of Russian tax revenues, lost $15 billion in market value in one day &ndash incidentally the same amount of money Russia promised to the teetering regime in Ukraine in December and then revoked in January as the revolution took hold.

The value of the Russian currency meanwhile dropped against the dollar to its lowest point on record, and the Russian central bank spent $10 billion on the foreign exchange markets trying to prop it up. &ldquoThis has to fundamentally change the way investors and ratings agencies view Russia,&rdquo said Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank. At a time when Russia’s economic growth was already stagnating, &ldquoThis latest military adventure will increase capital flight, weaken Russian asset prices, slow investment and economic activity and growth. Western financial sanctions on Russia will hurt further,&rdquo Ash told the Wall Street Journal.

Even Russia’s closest allies want no part of this. The oil-rich state of Kazakhstan, the most important member of every regional alliance Russia has going in the former Soviet space, put out a damning statement on Monday, marking the first time its leaders have ever turned against Russia on such a major strategic issue: &ldquoKazakhstan expresses deep concern over the developments in Ukraine,&rdquo the Foreign Ministry said. &ldquoKazakhstan calls on all sides to stop the use of force in the resolution of this situation.&rdquo

What likely worries Russia’s neighbors most is the statement the Kremlin made on March 2, after Putin spoke on the phone with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. &ldquoVladimir Putin noted that in case of any escalation of violence against the Russian-speaking population of the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia would not be able to stay away and would resort to whatever measures are necessary in compliance with international law.&rdquo This sets a horrifying precedent for all of Russia’s neighbors.

Every single state in the former Soviet Union, from Central Asia to the Baltics, has a large Russian-speaking population, and this statement means that Russia reserves the right to invade when it feels that population is threatened. The natural reaction of any Russian ally in the region would be to seek security guarantees against becoming the next Ukraine. For countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, including Armenia, a stanch Russian ally, that would likely stir desires for a closer alliance with NATO and the European Union. For the countries of Central Asia, Russia’s traditional stomping ground on the geopolitical map of the world, that would mean strengthening ties with nearby China, including military ones.

China, which has long been Russia’s silent partner on all issues of global security from Syria to Iran, has also issued cautious statements regarding Russia’s actions in Ukraine. &ldquoIt is China&rsquos long-standing position not to interfere in others&rsquo internal affairs,&rdquo the Foreign Ministry reportedly said in a statement on Sunday. &ldquoWe respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.&rdquo

So in the course of one weekend, Putin has spooked all of the countries he wanted to include in his grand Eurasian Union, the bloc of nations he hoped would make Russia a regional power again. The only gung-ho participants in that alliance so far have been Kazakhstan (see above) and Belarus, which is known as Europe’s last dictatorship. Its leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has so far remained silent on the Russian intervention in Ukraine. But last week, Belarus recognized the legitimacy of the new revolutionary government in Kiev, marking a major break from Russia, which has condemned Ukraine’s new leaders as extremists and radicals. The Belarusian ambassador in Kiev even congratulated Ukraine’s new Foreign Minister on taking office and said he looks forward to working with him.

As for the impoverished nation of Armenia, a late-comer to Russia’s fledgling Eurasian alliance, it has also recognized the new government in Kiev while stopping short of any official condemnation of Putin’s intervention in Ukraine so far. But on Saturday, prominent politicians led an anti-Putin demonstration in the Armenia capital. &ldquoWe are not against Russia,&rdquo said the country’s former Minister of National Security David Shakhnazaryan. &ldquoWe are against the imperial policies of Putin and the Kremlin.&rdquo

Russia’s isolation from the West will deepen dramatically. In June, Putin was planning to welcome the leaders of the G8, a club of western powers (plus Japan), in the Russian resort city of Sochi. But on Sunday, all of them announced they had halted their preparations for attending the summit in protest at Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. So much for Putin’s hard-fought seat at the table with the leaders of the western world.

In recent years, one of Russia’s greatest points of contention with the West has been over NATO’s plans to build of a missile shield in Europe. Russia has seen this as a major threat to its security, as the shield could wipe out Russia’s ability to launch nuclear missiles at the West. The long-standing nuclear deterrent that has protected Russia from Western attacks for generations &ndash the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction, or MAD &ndash could thus be negated, Russia’s generals have warned. But after Russia decided to unilaterally invade its neighbor to the west this weekend, any remaining resistance to the missile shield project would be pushed aside by the renewed security concerns of various NATO members, primarily those in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Whatever hopes Russia had of forestalling the construction of the missile shield through diplomacy are now most likely lost.

No less worrying for Putin would be the economic sanctions the West is preparing in answer to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Depending on their intensity, those could cut off the ability of Russian companies and businessmen in getting western loans and trading with most of the world’s largest economies. Putin’s allies could also find it a lot more difficult to send their children to study in the West or to keep their assets in Western banks, as they now almost universally do. All of that raises the risk for Putin of a split in his inner circle and, potentially, even of a palace coup. There is hardly anything more important to Russia’s political elite than the security of their foreign assets, certainly not their loyalty to a leader who seems willing to put all of that at risk.

And what about the upside for Putin? There doesn’t seem to be much of it, at least not compared to the damage he stands to inflict on Russia and himself. But he does look set to accomplish a few things. For one, he demonstrates to the world that his red lines, unlike those of the White House, cannot be crossed.

If Ukraine’s revolutionary government moves ahead with their planned integration into the E.U. and possibly NATO, the military alliance that Russia sees as its main strategic threat would move right up to Russia’s western borders and, in Crimea, it would surround the Russian Black Sea fleet. That is a major red line for Putin and his generals.

By sending troops into Crimea and, potentially, into eastern Ukraine, Russia could secure a buffer around Russia’s strategic naval fleet and at its western border. For the military brass in Moscow, those are vital priorities, and their achievement is worth a great deal of sacrifice. Over the weekend, Putin’s actions showed that he is listening carefully to his generals. At the same time, he seems to be ignoring the outrage coming from pretty much everyone else.