Russia Rushin’ To Crimea

Let’s see, if I remember correctly, it was US President Ronald Reagan who invaded the island of Grenada under the pretext of immediate danger to US students studying there.  Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia under the flag of protecting Germans there.  Vladimir Putin’s saddling up his armored columns to protect the Russians in the Crimea, “endangered” by the civil unrest in the Ukraine, should come as small surprise, therefore.  Perhaps surprise is not the right word: opportunity to burnish the tarnished display of force and violence is surely appropriate.

In all places and times the movement of the armed might of the powerful against those with small means of defense offends our sense of justice and proportionality.  Today, in the Crimea and Ukraine fear of disaster is high because so many people are involved, with thousands locked into opposing beliefs and loyalties.  The several months long standoff in Kiev has created a very combustible citizenry, as we have all seen. The Russian speakers in the Crimea — home of an enormous Russian naval base– who were given Russian passports not so long ago have loyalties which can hardly be called divided.  How events may ricochet if Russia imposes martial law in this uneasy province of the Ukraine is anyone’s guess.  What isn’t a guess is that blood will flow.

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — As Russian armed forces effectively seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the Russian Parliament granted President Vladimir V. Putin the authority he sought to use military force in response to the deepening instability in Ukraine.

The authorization cited a threat to the lives of Russian citizens and soldiers stationed in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, and provided a blunt answer to President Obama, who on Friday pointedly warned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

Even before Mr. Putin’s statement in Moscow, scores of heavily armed soldiers had tightened their grip on the Crimean capital, Simferopol, surrounding government buildings, shuttering the airport, and blocking streets, where they deployed early Friday. NY Times

A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA

A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA

The rumors on Saturday that the previous Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, recently released from prison, may be going to Moscow to talk to Putin is a) unverified, b) might be helpful in coming to a less violent backing down, and c) might sell out her now radicalized former supporters in the Ukraine.

The US Congress is almost surely going to bollocks up whatever hopes of calming down remain [and here.]  If only the right wingers of both countries could square off somewhere removed from the rest of us — say Siberia or the high plains of North Dakota– and have at it….

For a good overview of some of the possibles, see Talking Points Memo.

Unquestionably, we’ve got a dangerous and unpredictable situation unfolding in Ukraine – and a taste of the reinforcing mix of authoritarian tendencies and aggressive behavior that has persistently characterized Russia through the eras of autocracy to totalitarianism and on to the present one of pseudo-democracy. That said, we shouldn’t be blind to the downsides of the current situation for Russia.  read on…

What Josh Marshall doesn’t get into, as most commentators don’t, in his discussion of the strategic and power implications, is the people themselves and what they will suffer — from changed governments, police forces, propaganda outlets, access to resources to injury, imprisonment and death.

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