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softwareNerd

Ukraine

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The current revolution in Ukraine has taken a turn away from Russia and toward Europe, with the President fleeing the capital and being voted out by parliament. Russia could still use its army to squash the rebels, but with much less legitimacy, except by claiming to protect the ethnic Russians in eastern half of Ukraine. 

 

The President did come to power via a democratic election, but the political split of the country is pretty obvious in this map showing which parties won in different areas. So, perhaps the most practical resolution is for the country to split into two, while allowing free movement of citizens and property across the two newly-formed countries.

 

I'd be happy to see the whole country spin out of Putin's grasp, but if a split will save lives that's better. perhaps Russia will keep its army out if it can retain a buffer-state, albeit a thinner one, between it and Europe.

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What is ironic is that a border with the EU would be great for Russia economically, and I can't think of a single scenario in which it could hurt their security or sovereignty in any way. They're a nuclear superpower. The only thing that would hurt them is a hostile buffer: which Putin is creating through his own actions, by obstructing the Ukraine's joining of the EU and alienating its people.

 

And I understand why he's so desperate to prevent that: the closer liberal democracy creeps to their doorstep, the more Russians' eyes open to the fact that they could have it too.

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Nicky, whereas I agree in principle that any move toward liberal democracy is better than Ukrainian co-dependence on Putin's Russia, it is premature to assume Ukraine has the institutions to survive the transition to greater independence. The European Union could find they've adopted another Greece. Corruption is still a norm for many Eastern European states. We can be optimistic. Yet, I will reserve any expectations for improved quality of living standards. Economically, the Ukrainian state is in worse shape now than the immediate days following the Orange Revolution. Any instability could result in ethnic clashes. The EU couldn't stop that. My limited understanding of the crisis is, they have severe unemployment, and the typical ethnic finger pointing is the easy answer. If Russian officials aren't bleeding the people, their own Ukrainian officials will do it. A blow against Putinism doesn't necessarily mean a gain for anyone. Although, I enjoy a sense of guilty satisfaction whenever I hear of any dictator suffering a setback.

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An old (2002) but very readable paper by Anders Aslund gives his view of how Ukraine evolved up to that point. In summary, a few oligarchs were in control. The government did bring in reforms but slower than most post-communist states. However, rivalry between oligarchs, and an impending financial crisis, made more reforms possible. Along the way, a fair amount of institutional clean-up took place: in government processes, in reducing the power of the security services, and in allowing small businesses to be founded. Relative to many other ex-communist states, Ukraine may seem backward, but there's good reason to be optimistic that they're on the right path. Further, the Western-leaning factions and oligarchs have shown more willingness to open things up. So, their current ascendancy is good news.
 
Aslund also has an article that described recent events, up to just before the President's fleeing.

Added: Interesting "slide-show" PDF from a Berkeley professor.

Edited by softwareNerd

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I'm surprised to see the U.S. public reaction to Russia taking control of Crimea. Anecdotal evidence, but even my middle-of-road friends think Obama is doing less than he should, and not being tough enough.

 

Nevertheless, from a longer-term perspective, I cannot see how Putin can come out a winner from all this. The four possibilities seem to be as follow:

 

  1. Russia withdraws from Crimea after some months in some type of face-saving way, perhaps with Crimea gaining some more autonomy
  2. Russia controls Crimea for years to come, and the rest of Ukraine comes to some political power-sharing between East and West
  3. Russia takes control of some or all of Eastern Ukraine
  4. Russia takes control of all of Ukraine

 

The first option means a return to status quo, but likely with a less monolithic government: a net win for good guys. Perhaps it will also mean new east-west tensions in Ukraine.

 

The way I see it, from the layman's perspective, is that #2 is the most likely option. Strategically, it changes little for anyone anywhere. it gives the west one more barb it can berate Putin with. If played right, it could catalyze Western Europe to reduce its reliance on Russian energy imports. 

 

Taking control of Eastern Ukraine would mean that Western Ukraine has a huge incentive to move into the arms of the EU. If that ends up with Eastern Ukraine moving into NATO some years hence, this will be another step in the squeeze that has been going on for many years now, with NATO creeping closer to Russia.

 

Taking control of all of Ukraine sounds like a costly answer for Russia. He would not have the figment of an argument for doing so, and he would have to bog his troops down. Not at all good for anyone living in Ukraine, but -- over a decade or so -- it will cost Putin.

 

Again, as a layman on this topic, it seems to me that the people who have taken control in Ukraine need to come to a solution that accommodates politicians from across the country -- East and West. It is odd, and worrying, that -- shortly after taking control -- they would pass a law that reduces the importance of the Russian language in officialdom. That stinks of nationalism. What they need is just the opposite. I think the ball is mostly in their court, not Putin's.  

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Putin's expansionism is a bigger issue than just Crimea. There needs to be a much tougher reaction from the West than there was during the Georgia invasion, if it is to end in Crimea or even Eastern Ukraine. Obviously, it can't be the full out political and economic isolation of Russia (because holding something back leaves them an incentive to not escalate further), but it needs to be painful.

Russia isn't as important as they seem to think they are. A demonstration of that, by cutting down on trade (through various means, it doesn't have to be overt sanctions, it can be tariffs and regulatory roadblocks - God knows every western government has the power to obliterate trade using whatever excuse they feel like using) might go a long way towards reigning in their ambitions.

And, above all, there needs to be a long term solution to the European reliance on Russian energy. The EU bureaucrats need to figure out which is more offensive to their sensitive taste buds: being Putin's lapdog, or fracking and nuclear energy. Same with the US: the federal gov. has the power to singlehandedly bring down the price of oil by a good chunk, and devastate both Putin and Iran's ability to fund their ambitions, just by supporting oil production and infrastructure on US soil.

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Couldn't agree more. Germany closed the doors to nukes by policy and -- via regulations -- to fracking. In the U.S., the president stops the Keystone pipeline while Kerry talks about Global Warming being a top foreign policy issue.  It is all too easy for people to look outward for villains, and Putin enjoys the part anyway. U.S. and European voters should start berating themselves, for their own stupidity. More likely, some white guy will shoot some black guy, and the news channels will forget that Crimea exists. Europe will go back to worrying about Greece. 

 

If Putin sits in Crimea, even if voters yawn it off, I hope their leaders and governments do something more vis-a-vis Russia. At the very least, I  hope that NATO's border states  -- Poland and the Baltics -- would be slightly more worried. As an outsider, it seems crazy that so many European countries rely on Russian imports for over 50% of their natural gas. Some, like Lithuania, get 100% from Russia! It seems that energy resources are Russia's main source of power, and that is where the west needs to focus its efforts.

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Putin enjoys the moral high ground. As long as his troops stay in western Ukraine, he can rightly claim to be protecting the lives and interests of ethnic russians. That Western European countries would do anything to jeapordize a couple hundred billion euros of trade per year is laughable. To suggest that Obama would become a fracking or nuclear supporter within his lifetime is dreaming. As long as Russia is tending to the interests of ethnic russians and we do not see Russia invading Poland, Western European nations and the US should butt out.

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I don't have too much hope that western Europe will do very much, but I would not discount action on the margin.

 

Regardless, Putin has no moral high-ground. His own rule is illegitimate. No action he takes has any moral ground, high or otherwise.

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Be careful when speaking in absolutes.

 

No action he takes has any moral ground, high or otherwise.

 

An immoral man governing illigitimately may still occassionally take virtuous and moral action.

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An immoral man governing illigitimately may still occassionally take virtuous and moral action.

Nope. That's the "stopped clock" fallacy... saying it is right twice a day. Putin's actions are not moral, even when they are coincident with what a moral person would do. I'm happy Putin gave Snowden asylum; but, this was not a moral act on his part.

As for the act itself, there too, the threat to ethnic Russian in Ukraine is mostly fiction. And, when it comes to Crimea, it is non-existent. So, Putin's actions do not even coincide with what is right.

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Putin enjoys the moral high ground. As long as his troops stay in western Ukraine, he can rightly claim to be protecting the lives and interests of ethnic russians. That Western European countries would do anything to jeapordize a couple hundred billion euros of trade per year is laughable. To suggest that Obama would become a fracking or nuclear supporter within his lifetime is dreaming. As long as Russia is tending to the interests of ethnic russians and we do not see Russia invading Poland, Western European nations and the US should butt out.

 

Does't every single dictator in the modern era and on claim to be protecting some ethnic group or equivalent? 

 

I am going to avoid using obvious analogies because they are overused. 

Edited by Hairnet

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Hat's off to bravery: a Russian TV host on RT says she thinks military force is not the answer, and that she cannot defend Russia's actions.

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Nope. That's the "stopped clock" fallacy... saying it is right twice a day. Putin's actions are not moral, even when they are coincident with what a moral person would do. I'm happy Putin gave Snowden asylum; but, this was not a moral act on his part.

As for the act itself, there too, the threat to ethnic Russian in Ukraine is mostly fiction. And, when it comes to Crimea, it is non-existent. So, Putin's actions do not even coincide with what is right.

 

It is remarkable how one can accuse another of a fallacy while committing it in that act. Yours is exactly the "clock stopped fallacy" because you hold a fixed position on all moral actions of Putin regardless of their individual merits. You are sure to be right twice a day. Cheers.

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Does't every single dictator in the modern era and on claim to be protecting some ethnic group or equivalent? 

 

Yes.

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Yours is exactly the "clock stopped fallacy" because you hold a fixed position on all moral actions of Putin regardless of their individual merits.

Though I obviously disagree, I do like the way a concrete topic, like Ukraine, can lead one to think about more general and abstract ideas in areas like logic. Edited by softwareNerd

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Putin enjoys the moral high ground. As long as his troops stay in western Ukraine, he can rightly claim to be protecting the lives and interests of ethnic russians.

Protecting them from what? The imaginary nazis his propaganda machine made up? Edited by Nicky

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Protecting them from what? The imaginary nazis his propaganda machine made up?

 

The "oranges" actually.  Worse since they represent westernization in his mind. 

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Protecting them from what? The imaginary nazis his propaganda machine made up?

 

When I say, "protecting the interests of ethnic russians", I do not mean their objective interests. I am referring to their perceived interests. They are getting what they want. They may rue the day, but they should get exactly the government they deserve.

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When I say, "protecting the interests of ethnic russians", I do not mean their objective interests. I am referring to their perceived interests. They are getting what they want. They may rue the day, but they should get exactly the government they deserve.

What about when you said "protecting the lives of ethnic Russians"? What do you mean by that?

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It's likely that this crisis will blow over in the usual way. Diplomats will intervene, closed door deals will be made. Putin will win at the end of the day. He demonstrates his force of will over his subjects in every manner of a 21st century Czarist-autocrat. Perhaps even a bit of nostalgia for the 19th century, with examples including Cossacks publicly flogging misbehaved youths, imprisonment for political challengers, covert assassinations of journalists and ex-patriot dissenters. The latest, the occupation of Crimea, is perhaps the most startling for American, but only because of our amnesia regarding history.

What to do? It may be just as well to appease Putin for the moment. Economic sanctions will be difficult for Russia's trading partners, but that, too, is a price liberal nations should be willing to accept. Ukraine's nationalists have already been dying for their cause, and the Western nations only talk about it. It is good that our President speaks in firm tones, but his actions aren't taken seriously. Gun-boat diplomacy will have little effect against a nation as armed with nuclear weapons as Russia is. If Putin did not take the actions of militarizing the Black Sea Fleet, and all of Crimea for that matter, his Russian constituents would think he's going soft. Our President acted the same way in Panama in 1989. Closed door deals were negotiated, foreign outrage subsided, and everyone went back to business as usual. It's too bad for the Ukrainian people. If they are to be "annexed" into greater Russia, and I think of this as a worst case, it will be the new Russian police state under Putinism, until it collapses from stagnation and corruption, as the Soviet empire did.

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What is ironic is that a border with the EU would be great for Russia economically, and I can't think of a single scenario in which it could hurt their security or sovereignty in any way. They're a nuclear superpower. The only thing that would hurt them is a hostile buffer: which Putin is creating through his own actions, by obstructing the Ukraine's joining of the EU and alienating its people.

 

And I understand why he's so desperate to prevent that: the closer liberal democracy creeps to their doorstep, the more Russians' eyes open to the fact that they could have it too.

 

 

I'm surprised to see the U.S. public reaction to Russia taking control of Crimea. Anecdotal evidence, but even my middle-of-road friends think Obama is doing less than he should, and not being tough enough.

 

Nevertheless, from a longer-term perspective, I cannot see how Putin can come out a winner from all this. The four possibilities seem to be as follow:

 

  1. Russia withdraws from Crimea after some months in some type of face-saving way, perhaps with Crimea gaining some more autonomy
  2. Russia controls Crimea for years to come, and the rest of Ukraine comes to some political power-sharing between East and West
  3. Russia takes control of some or all of Eastern Ukraine
  4. Russia takes control of all of Ukraine

 

The first option means a return to status quo, but likely with a less monolithic government: a net win for good guys. Perhaps it will also mean new east-west tensions in Ukraine.

 

The way I see it, from the layman's perspective, is that #2 is the most likely option. Strategically, it changes little for anyone anywhere. it gives the west one more barb it can berate Putin with. If played right, it could catalyze Western Europe to reduce its reliance on Russian energy imports. 

 

Taking control of Eastern Ukraine would mean that Western Ukraine has a huge incentive to move into the arms of the EU. If that ends up with Eastern Ukraine moving into NATO some years hence, this will be another step in the squeeze that has been going on for many years now, with NATO creeping closer to Russia.

 

Taking control of all of Ukraine sounds like a costly answer for Russia. He would not have the figment of an argument for doing so, and he would have to bog his troops down. Not at all good for anyone living in Ukraine, but -- over a decade or so -- it will cost Putin.

 

Again, as a layman on this topic, it seems to me that the people who have taken control in Ukraine need to come to a solution that accommodates politicians from across the country -- East and West. It is odd, and worrying, that -- shortly after taking control -- they would pass a law that reduces the importance of the Russian language in officialdom. That stinks of nationalism. What they need is just the opposite. I think the ball is mostly in their court, not Putin's.  

 

 

I think you both might be overlooking a grander geopolitical situation and just how important of a strategic military zone Crimea is. A vital missile shield is located in Crimea. If it falls into the hands of NATO, it will give the West a decisive military edge over Russia because, despite having nukes, Russia's military is outdated and would be ripe for a NATO offensive should the West decide to go to war.

 

Despite being declared as an imperialist by just about everyone, Putin acted in pre-emptive self-defense. By preventing Crimea from falling into the hands of NATO, he might be preventing a future world war.

 

Now, do I think Putin has any moral right to self-defense? Absolutely not. Would I like to see Russia as we know it removed from geopolitical relevance? Sure. However, you all must realize that if Russia fails to secure Crimea, you will have to be prepared to accept world war as a plausible consequence.

Edited by Reason_Being

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I think you both might be overlooking a grander geopolitical situation and just how important of a strategic military zone Crimea is.

I agree that Crimea is important to Russia's navy. Of the 4 possibilities I listed, the one I think most probably is...

 "#2 Russia controls Crimea for years to come, and the rest of Ukraine comes to some political power-sharing between East and West"

 

Just to be clear, I would not like to see NATO move militarily against Russia even if it takes Eastern Ukraine. I'd probably say the same if Russia takes all of Ukraine. 

 

Reactions ought to have a longer-term perspective: over a decade-long time-frame, Europe should reduce its dependence on Russia wherever there is a concentration, should reduce the price of natural resources, and should lessen Russia's legitimacy. 

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I agree that Crimea is important to Russia's navy. Of the 4 possibilities I listed, the one I think most probably is...

 "#2 Russia controls Crimea for years to come, and the rest of Ukraine comes to some political power-sharing between East and West"

 

Just to be clear, I would not like to see NATO move militarily against Russia even if it takes Eastern Ukraine. I'd probably say the same if Russia takes all of Ukraine. 

 

Reactions ought to have a longer-term perspective: over a decade-long time-frame, Europe should reduce its dependence on Russia wherever there is a concentration, should reduce the price of natural resources, and should lessen Russia's legitimacy. 

 

If Russia were to take all of Ukraine, I think it would not result in large scale war. The opposite would be true if NATO got a hold of Crimea.

 

Whether you would like to see NATO go to war with Russia is one thing. The reality is that they probably would is another. The stars would be aligned... Russia: a natural resource-rich country which is already an antagonist and which is at an enourmous military disadvantage. If NATO gets Crimea, I don't see Europe just leaving Russia alone and letting it gradually lose influence over Europe over the course of a decade. No, the west will seize the opportunity and a great spike in the price of natural resources will just be one of the consequences.

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Whether you would like to see NATO go to war with Russia is one thing. The reality is that they probably would is another.

Are you saying there is a chance that NATO will go to war with Russia over Crimea alone?

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