Understanding the Crimean Crisis
From the first glance, many can assume that the situation between Ukraine and Russia is going to be just another footnote in history and have a mild influence at best in our world. After all, it’s just a squabble between a country not many cares about and a superpower, surely it cannot affect the international world that much, can it? Truth be told, the conflict in Ukraine may determine whether or not NATO can be taken seriously ever again by the international community and if the Russian Federation’s growth can be halted.
First, let’s summarize the background of the crisis: the people of Ukraine has been pushing for deeper integration with the European Union for long term stability of their democracy and government. Yanukovych, the then elected president of Ukraine, promised that he will bring closer ties to the European Union. Of course, Russia offered Yanukovych what seems to be a better deal to him, and Yanukoyvch went back on his deal to ally with Russia. This did not make the pro-European Union voters happy; the angry protesters took to the streets and demanded Yanukovych’s resignation. In response, Yanukoych’s government passed anti-protest and pressured the police forces to be more violent toward the protesters. This all culminated into Ukraine undergoing a full-scale revolution, removing Yanukovych and having the government break off from Russia’s grasp.
However, the distaste for Russia wasn’t unanimous, a large number of Ukraine’s population are part of the Communist Party, a political party that is loyal to Russia. As well Crimea itself is more loyal to Russia than Ukraine, voting to secede from the country and be absorbed into the Russian Federation. Responding to Crimea’s plea and for their own self-interest, Russia intervened with their military to secure Crimea as their own, although they call it ‘defending Russian citizens’.
So, why is this important to us Americans when this seems like a mild conflict over at east Europe? It’s important because this is essentially turning into a proxy war between the Western & Eastern powers. And right now, the Russians are flexing their muscles and playing a game of chicken in an attempt to humiliate NATO and paint it as being useless, something the Western power cannot allow. While many scenarios can be thought of, these three scenario are the most likely:
1. Russia continues to play chicken and rely on NATO’s reluctance in sending their countrymen to possibly die in Ukraine to ‘assist’ the ‘legitimate’ government in Ukraine to take back the country from a ‘coup’. If NATO refuses to help, then they may not ever going to be taken seriously with many members seriously doubting the military alliance’s competence and reliance, weakening itself from uncertainty. This will give Russia more confidence to do the same thing in the future.
2. To avoid another South Ossetia-like crisis, NATO calls Russia’s bluff and pledges support to Ukraine, sending in military forces as a way to deter Russia’s aggression. Putin, of course, is a smart man, and backs off. He would still however, absorb Crimea as a consolation prize as the populace in Crimea is overwhelmingly pro-Russian and pro-integration into Russia. This would reinforce NATO’s reputation as a powerful military alliance that Russia cannot mess with, looking almighty impressive to the international world.
3. Russia only garrisons their forces into Crimea for the sake of the Russian citizens and lets Crimea & Ukraine solve their issues by themselves. This is the most unlikely of the three, but the international organizations such as UN are pushing for a more diplomatic issue without military force. It is also the most optimistic.
The final decider will be NATO and the stance they take, if they decide to be appeasing and willing to do what Russia wish, the Russian Federation will grow stronger while creating instability and doubt in NATO. If they call the bluff, they can consolidate themselves to be powerful contenders that can stop Russia’s growth while risking a small war. Whatever happens, the next events in Ukraine will decide the power dynamics between the Western and Eastern countries.