Archive for March 2nd, 2014

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He who shoots first will lose – Crimea

March 2, 2014

Following on from yesterday’s post, as stated events are fluid and rapid in Crimea.

A lot of armed people not native to Crimea or Ukraine have arrived.  Some Russian military, some Russian mercenaries/private security company personnel.  Several thousand in all – though estimates seem to vary greatly as to the number from 2000 – 6000, aside from those already stationed at the Russian Black Sea Fleet complex.

Whatever the case, hardly enough to “fight” to annex Crimea with any guarantee of an easy victory if any determined resistance was to occur.

There are then the armed local militias both for and against the re-Russification of Crimea as a territory.

The Tatar community currently keeping its militia to patrolling the perimeters of their neighbourhoods – the pro-Russian militias roaming further afield.  How long that will last, who knows?

The newly installed pro-Russian Crimean Prime Minister (two days ago) has claimed he is now personally in charge of – and thus responsible for – all security personnel in Crimea, whilst appealing to Mr Putin for assistance “Understanding my responsibility for the life and security of citizens, I appeal to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea“.  The Kremlin response so far, we hear you, you will not be ignored, but little else.

Thus far the Ukrainian government is going to great lengths internally to insure the Ukrainian security and military apparatus do not rise to any acts of provocation.

In short, nobody wants to be the first to start shooting as the lesson from Georgia 2008 that is applicable to Crimea is if you shoot first, you lose.

@OdessaBlogger @Ukroblogger Agreed. Discipline is the key, for the military and any armed provocateurs.

Certainly that thought is something that needs to remain in the minds of all actors whilst frantic diplomacy occurs behind closed doors.

The Crimean referendum for greater autonomy has now been moved forward from 24th May to 30th March – this may perhaps calm matters by reducing the window of uncertainty – or increase unease and the attitude that “robust action” cannot wait.  A swift but fairly robust diplomatic solution to the current situation must be found and this is probably not that answer.

Whether The Kremlin is in any mood to listen, whether Mr Putin has temporarily lost his senses, what the ultimate desired outcome would be from annexing Crimea (de facto or de jure) is? – Well there are many scenarios that could run from that point onwards, all with making some sort of limited sense.  Strategy and contingency planning boiler rooms no doubt working overtime right now.  The reasons for not pursuing that path make far more sense to be frank.

However broader points for consideration for both Mr Putin and the guarantors of the Budapest Memorandum seem quite clear.

The first for Mr Putin and the Kremlin is that such a brazen disregard for its own part as guarantor in the Budapest Memorandum will make any such sovereignty guarantees it makes in the future exceptionally suspect for those it makes them to.  Few nations or national leaders will accept the Kremlin spin that its actions are actually meant to stabilise the Crimean situation.

Likewise, the same has to be said of the western powers.  Perceived inaction or weak responses will have the same detrimental outcome.

The overall result being that if both Russia and “the west” are still trying to make nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament a global priority – failing to act on the guarantees of security you give – or indeed becoming the aggressor – when a nation does surrender its nuclear arsenal voluntarily, gives them absolutely no incentive to believe you.  They are better off relying on themselves and their own nuclear defences rather than end up in a Ukrainian scenario where deeds do not match the words and promises.

The stakes are quite high for all concerned one way or another.  How to row back from the current situation with all managing to save face?  Or do one or more actors simply not care about that anymore ?

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