The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

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The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:52 am

So no one is talking about Ukraine here, and I figure I'd start.

It is almost as amusing to watch the sheer awkwardness in the discussion of the Ukraine crisis in the West as it is to watch the Soviet-style displays of martial patriotism on Russian media. The West appears to no longer have adequate language for discussing real-world events, and everything that's being said has a distinctly recycled feel about it. Nobody seems to know not just what to do, but even what to [i]say[/i] anymore.

So here are my observations so far, to get things started.

1) Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a direct consequence of the US foreign policy under Obama. There is a direct line from his trumped-up attempt at a "reset" through his abandonment of missile defence deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic for fear of aggravating Russia, through the US outsourcing the management of Syria crisis to Russia to the Russian confidence that invasion of Ukraine could be done with little consequence. Anyone who followed the US foreign policy could easily predict the non-reaction we are currently witnessing, and I recall pointing out the immediate growth of Russia's martial confidence in response to Obama backing out of the missile defense plan as they conducted military exercises that simulated a tactical nuclear weapon-enhanced attack on Poland.

2) Invasion of Ukraine exposes the utter uselessness of international guarantees of any kind. Let us remember that in 1994, shortly after its declaration of independence, Ukraine gave up world's third largest nuclear weapons (of which it had more than Britain, France and China put together) in exchange for international pledges to respect its territorial integrity as codified in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances - pledges to which Russia was a party and is now a violator. The inability and unwillingness of the "international community" to do anything meaningful in response to the violation of these pledges will have ramifications going far beyond Ukraine (say, for the Middle Eastern "peace process" in which international guarantees are the only carrot offered to Israel in exchange for costly sacrifices that undermine its ability to defend itself by itself).

3) Those who followed the Russian media in the early days of the crisis could not help noticing how big a deal was made of the fact that the Ukrainian army is not battleworthy, which promised a safe and easy adventure for the Russian troops that was as easy as the victory in Georgia and completely unlike the bitter fighting in Chechnya. Founded in 1992, the brand new Ukrainian army was large and well-equipped, but it degraded over time because of consistent prioritizing of economic and social concerns over defense. Nuclear weapons were given away for promises of safety, the best conventional weapons systems were sold abroad, the army was changed from draft-based "people's army" to "professional" contract army in order to downsize the expenses, virtually no military construction took place and defense expenses were kept to a bare minimum. Fighting morale and training quality has also degraded, because really, why bother? Who in our progressive day and age was going to invade a European country? The result is that a resource-rich country of 40 million people is exposed as utterly incapable of defending itself- a feature which Ukraine shares with quite a few Western countries which have come to take their safety for granted and to see defense spending as unnecessary drain on their economies. Anyone who thinks that there is no longer a realistic chance that Belgium or Sweden will one day need to defend their territory by force of arms, should take note of what happened in Crimea. (It is also worth noting that the Russian invasion came mere days after the US announced defense cuts meant to downsize the American army to the smallest it's been since World war II).

4) Having eschewed the "hard power" in favor of "soft power", the West has left itself with only two tools of influence of world affairs: verbal admonitions and economic sanctions. Which left it with no way of confronting a country that doesn't give a damn about "world opinion" and has enough economic clout that it cannot be meaningfully sanctioned. This, too, will have ramifications far beyond the current crisis, because one who is determined to avoid "hard power" confrontation at all costs will necessarily see escalating costs of such avoidance over time. If Russia can occupy Crimea, there is no reason why it couldn't do the same to the rest of the Ukraine, or to Lithuania. Or to Poland and Finland. After all, just like Crimea was never Ukrainian, there never was a Ukraine, or a Poland, until modernity. Kiev was the original Russian capital, well before Moscow was constructed. Vilnus, Warsaw and Helsinki were all parts of the Russian empire in recent past. There is no reason why China couldn't occupy Taiwan, too. Eventually, the line will have to be drawn, but the costs of buying time will have been paid.

5) It is creepy to what degree the Crimean anschluss is a farcical post-modern replay of the Nazi German territorial claims in the 1930-s. The same rationalization for the grab (they are our people in culture and language), the same global inaction supported by the same reasoning. The same trademark ideological backflip when "progressives" talking breathlessly about the important of everyone conforming to international law suddenly turn tribalists justifying non-enforcement of their own yesterday's demands by the fact that it's not their own country that's being invaded. The same isolationist rhetorics from those who genuinely cannot see an inch beyond their own noses, or borders. The same small people with small minds and oversized ego talking about how the only true test for whether or not their country should get involved is by whether or not they would feel it warranted to send their first-born child to fight and die in that war - knowing full well that no war, up to and including the one which can erase their own house off the face of the earth, will ever pass that test. Following the Western debate on Ukraine one realizes very clearly why World war II couldn't be nipped in the bud.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:38 am

What I would like to see, I think, is a delving into why and how this is different from the US invasion of Iraq.

Not that I am in disagreement with your statements about the general impotence of the international community; rather I feel that selective application of that critique doesn't move us very far toward correct analysis and solutions.

When the outcry is against violations of international law committed by our own country (whether that be the US or Israel), we tend to ascribe different motivations and different implications. Perhaps there is no unifying causation here (or unifying mentality) but I think it would be useful to look for one.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:49 am

Jnyusa wrote:What I would like to see, I think, is a delving into why and how this is different from the US invasion of Iraq.


That's what you would like to see?

Thank you for illustrating my point about inability to have a conversation about ongoing real-life events.

Not that I am in disagreement with your statements about the general impotence of the international community; rather I feel that selective application of that critique doesn't move us very far toward correct analysis and solutions.

Is it truly necessary to so urgently drown the discussion in navel-gazing exercises in relativism? Is it that awkward a subject?

When the outcry is against violations of international law committed by our own country (whether that be the US or Israel), we tend to ascribe different motivations and different implications. Perhaps there is no unifying causation here (or unifying mentality) but I think it would be useful to look for one.

The unifying causation is in the differences. "International law" is, was and will be a sham, ever since the Russian Empire came up with the idea of the Hague peace conference because it hadn't the money to keep up with the Habsburgs in modernizing their artillery.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:02 am

And your post, too, is an object lesson in the fact that selective outrage is preferred to rights-reasoned principles or any discussion of how to make them work.

I do not condone Russia's behavior (before that trope shows up again), but it is a more compelling argument, I think, to say that Russia felt empowered by our behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan than to say they felt empowered by Pres Obama's neglecting to place missiles next door to Red Square. Do you remember Turkey/Cuba 1960?

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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Cerin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:14 am

My understanding is that there was a rather large Neo-con presence in Ukraine fomenting the trouble. They've been furious over the diplomatic solution to the Iran problem (as their well-known goal over time has been regime change in several countries), which wouldn't have been attained without Putin, so they have every reason to try to undermine the relationship that Pres. Obama has worked so hard to cultivate with him. Most pieces I've read have felt that the comparison with Nazis is wildly hyperbolic. Can there be any doubt that we would have responded aggressively had our interests been threatened in the way Russia's were, with some kind of similar incident? I don't doubt it for half a second.

I have not read enough to discuss the issue at Storyteller's level of detail, so I will not be able to defend this viewpoint, but I did want to insert a basic awareness of an alternate interpretation of events into the discussion.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:03 pm

Jnyusa wrote:And your post, too, is an object lesson in the fact that selective outrage is preferred to rights-reasoned principles or any discussion of how to make them work.

"Selective outrage"? I'm quite consistent in what outrages me, thank you very much.

If you were seriously inclined to analyse why and how the Russian takeover of Crimea is different from the US invasion of Iraq, I would be all for that, but you don't actually seek to analyze. Your very next comment after the call for analysis indicated preoccupation not with the Russian invasion per se, but with the nature of the "outcry". Hence my observation that your post just further illustrated the kind of cognitive egocentrism that renders Western intelligentsia unable to think in any kind of clear terms about ongoing real-life events.

A genuine analysis, by the way, would need to begin with the differences between 2014 Ukraine and Saddam's Iraq. You're welcome to begin.

I do not condone Russia's behavior (before that trope shows up again), but it is a more compelling argument, I think, to say that Russia felt empowered by our behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan than to say they felt empowered by Pres Obama's neglecting to place missiles next door to Red Square.

Why is it a more compelling argument, pray tell, and for whom?

Among the Russian opposition, the parallels being drawn are not to Iraq or Afghanistan or 1960-s Cuba but rather to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Invading friendly states that threaten to switch camps under the pretext of popular solidarity is a classic Soviet pattern of behavior. Putin did not need Bush to set an example of how to invade a country; he needed Obama to broadcast to him that it was safe to act Soviet Union-like again.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:05 pm

Cerin wrote:My understanding is that there was a rather large Neo-con presence in Ukraine fomenting the trouble.

Oh my. I'm telling that tomorrow to every Russian-speaking person I know.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Frelga » Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:21 pm

Cerin wrote:My understanding is that there was a rather large Neo-con presence in Ukraine fomenting the trouble. They've been furious over the diplomatic solution to the Iran problem (as their well-known goal over time has been regime change in several countries), which wouldn't have been attained without Putin, so they have every reason to try to undermine the relationship that Pres. Obama has worked so hard to cultivate with him. Most pieces I've read have felt that the comparison with Nazis is wildly hyperbolic. Can there be any doubt that we would have responded aggressively had our interests been threatened in the way Russia's were, with some kind of similar incident? I don't doubt it for half a second.


That is so mind-bogglingly incorrect that once I again I am left not knowing where to even begin.

Jn, as Story said, the list of why this is different from the invasion of Iraq is long, and I might (or might not) have time later in the day to write down the first twenty or so points. And why is this even relevant? What, because the US was wrong to invade Iraq, every other country gets one "free invasion" pass?
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sat Mar 15, 2014 8:18 pm

Cerin wrote:My understanding is that there was a rather large Neo-con presence in Ukraine fomenting the trouble.


Not neo-cons, but there is a right-wing faction that has aligned itself with Russia and wants Crimean independence (or autonomy). That demand is part of the chaos.

Frelga wrote:And why is this even relevant? What, because the US was wrong to invade Iraq, every other country gets one "free invasion" pass?


Other countries may see it that way. This is Russia's version of the Monroe Doctrine. (That's actually a better analogy than Iraq. The previous invasion of Georgia is probably closer in spirit to our invasion of Iraq insofar as there were fatuous claims of military threat.)

Countries without military supremacy use the term "imbalance justified offense" to explain terrorist acts to achieve their ends. I don't accept any of these justifications but to say they exist and flourish because of US liberalism is silly. How on earth would US missiles in Poland have stopped an attempt at regime change in the Ukraine?

I understand Storyteller to be saying that WE caused this crisis. Specifically President Obama caused this crisis. But I don't believe he is suggesting that we could have bombed Crimea from Poland, is he? The purported psychological causation that he describes is quite thin, in my opinion. I do not find it convincing. Not even a little bit.

A better analysis, in my opinion, would look at Russia's relations with immediate neighbors, previously its stans and its satellites, as one consistent and continuous policy in which a military option has always been preserved. That would begin the story in 1990, when George Bush I was president.

If it's the impotence of the international community that we are interested in, the why and the wherefore of that, then take into account their impotence relative to all the nuclear powers since 1946.

Both of these issues - the post-Soviet neighborhood and the evolution of multilateral consensus - have persistent and defining themes that can be discussed.

I'm not saying that we should excuse Russia because they're no worse than us. I'm saying that the logic of the opening argument is thin and selective. It doesn't contribute to an understanding of dynamics in the Ukraine or what we could plausibly do about them.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:49 pm

Jnyusa wrote:Other countries may see it that way. This is Russia's version of the Monroe Doctrine. (That's actually a better analogy than Iraq. The previous invasion of Georgia is probably closer in spirit to our invasion of Iraq insofar as there were fatuous claims of military threat.)

I don't suppose I could ask you for some supporting evidence from actual Russian discourse here? Because following said discourse I see completely different reasoning being applied.

Countries without military supremacy use the term "imbalance justified offense" to explain terrorist acts to achieve their ends. I don't accept any of these justifications but to say they exist and flourish because of US liberalism is silly. How on earth would US missiles in Poland have stopped an attempt at regime change in the Ukraine?

Is it really so hard to figure out? You love analysis. A good place to start is why Russia was so outraged at missile defense being deployed on its borders. Note: not why you thought it was. Why it actually was.

I understand Storyteller to be saying that WE caused this crisis. Specifically President Obama caused this crisis. But I don't believe he is suggesting that we could have bombed Crimea from Poland, is he? The purported psychological causation that he describes is quite thin, in my opinion. I do not find it convincing. Not even a little bit.

You don't find it convincing... on the basis of knowledge of the way that Obama's policy decisions were interpreted in Russia? Or on the basis of it not fitting your preconceived notions? My problem with you is that you manage to "analyze" the subject of analysis completely out of the picture here. Not a single reference to actual discourse inside Russia so far.

A better analysis, in my opinion, would look at Russia's relations with immediate neighbors, previously its stans and its satellites, as one consistent and continuous policy in which a military option has always been preserved.

Which would prompt the question of why Russia felt safe putting that option into use now and in Ukraine instead of earlier and elsewhere. Which would require the analysis of the forces that held it in check prior to 2014. Which is where we have to begin to analyse the impact of Obama's foreign policy and the way Russia interpreted his actions. Neither of which you are willing to do, it seems.

If it's the impotence of the international community that we are interested in, the why and the wherefore of that, then take into account their impotence relative to all the nuclear powers since 1946.

It's pretty easy to demonstrate the differences, too.

I'm not saying that we should excuse Russia because they're no worse than us. I'm saying that the logic of the opening argument is thin and selective. It doesn't contribute to an understanding of dynamics in the Ukraine or what we could plausibly do about them.

To contribute to an understanding of dynamics in Ukraine one needs to actually know how Russia thinks, not project one's own reasoning onto them.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:32 am

I can only refer to what I have read in public sources about Russia's public statements. I don't have secret knowledge of the Russian psyche. Obviously you and Frelga would be infinitely better at that kind of analysis than I would be.

What they have said in public is that the Ukrainian president was removed from office illegally, which it appears he was, and that the ensuing riots within Ukraine were a threat to the ethnic Russian population within Ukraine and Crimea. They are also a threat to regional political stability and presumably a threat to Russia's mercantile interests in the region.

Even if Putin had some secret reason for not wanting US missiles in Poland, the obvious reason would be good enough all by itself, don't you think? I accept that there may be secret machinations going on in Moscow but I don't find it credible that they have Pres Obama as their focus. I think their focus is to keep the old Eastern Bloc countries within Russia's mercantile sway and within its military 'protection.' In other words, they view commerce and defense with the Eastern Bloc in the same way as we view commerce and defense within Central and South America.

If you look at the places where Russia has been involved militarily since 1990, in response to demands for self-determination by regions previously under its control, one of the first explanations that leaps to mind is the oldest and dullest explanation, pre-dating even communism, and appearing in every textbook of my childhood education: Russia needs an ice-free port. They are not going to sit still for unrest along the Black Sea. Their military responsiveness will be particularly fierce in that region.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Cerin » Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:51 am

Storyteller wrote:Which would prompt the question of why Russia felt safe putting that option into use now and in Ukraine instead of earlier and elsewhere

Where, earilier and elsewhere, are you proposing that Russia withheld a use of force because they didn't feel safe using such a strategy?
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:19 am

Cerin wrote:
Storyteller wrote:Which would prompt the question of why Russia felt safe putting that option into use now and in Ukraine instead of earlier and elsewhere

Where, earilier and elsewhere, are you proposing that Russia withheld a use of force because they didn't feel safe using such a strategy?

The original Ukrainian Orange Revolution, for one.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:45 am

Jnyusa wrote:I can only refer to what I have read in public sources about Russia's public statements. I don't have secret knowledge of the Russian psyche. Obviously you and Frelga would be infinitely better at that kind of analysis than I would be.

Public sources would work, if they include actual Russian ones.

What they have said in public is that the Ukrainian president was removed from office illegally, which it appears he was, and that the ensuing riots within Ukraine were a threat to the ethnic Russian population within Ukraine and Crimea. They are also a threat to regional political stability and presumably a threat to Russia's mercantile interests in the region.

They also said that they will not tolerate Ukraine joining any Western organization or alliance, be it NATO or EU.

The current blowout began because Ukraine and the EU were on the verge of signing a major trade agreement. Russia attempted -successfully- to bribe the Yanukovich government with $15bn in loans to thwart said agreement, to which the nationalistic Ukrainian public responsed with pro-EU protests and demands for the government to quit. In a sense, this is a confrontation over the borders of the European Union :)

Even if Putin had some secret reason for not wanting US missiles in Poland, the obvious reason would be good enough all by itself, don't you think? I accept that there may be secret machinations going on in Moscow but I don't find it credible that they have Pres Obama as their focus. I think their focus is to keep the old Eastern Bloc countries within Russia's mercantile sway and within its military 'protection.' In other words, they view commerce and defense with the Eastern Bloc in the same way as we view commerce and defense within Central and South America.

Obama is not their focus at all. The US is the obstacle they have to account to when putting their machinations into practice, and Obama has done his utmost to remove the US as said obstacle from Russian calculations.

We'll see more of it soon enough. They are already talking about "protecting" the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine. The interesting part will begin when the ethnic Russian population of the Baltic states comes into focus.

If you look at the places where Russia has been involved militarily since 1990, in response to demands for self-determination by regions previously under its control, one of the first explanations that leaps to mind is the oldest and dullest explanation, pre-dating even communism, and appearing in every textbook of my childhood education: Russia needs an ice-free port.

Well of course. And the "unrest by the Black Sea" is not the reason but the excuse. Russia also wants to solidify its grip on the EU, and they find it pretty inconvenient that the biggest pipes have to be run through an independent state they can't fully control.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:55 am

Storyteller wrote:The original Ukrainian Orange Revolution, for one.


At a glance? There were no widespread riots and no accompanying movement for Crimean Independence.

It might also be related to an intense preoccupation with Chechnya during that time period. Again by analogy, I suspect that the US would have taken a firmer policy toward Saudi Arabia during the 1973 oil embargo if we had not been breathing so hard from Vietnam. Military actions cost money, and the Russian economy isn't nearly as robust as ours is.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Cenedril_Gildinaur » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:57 am

I wonder if the choice to use the word "anschluss" could be considered biased language to set the tone of the argument?
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:31 am

Cenedril_Gildinaur wrote:I wonder if the choice to use the word "anschluss" could be considered biased language to set the tone of the argument?

Let it be considered :)
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:41 am

Storyteller wrote:In a sense, this is a confrontation over the borders of the European Union.


I find this rationale much more credible.

It is also a thorn, though, that pre-dates the Obama Administration, being part of the larger question as to what the relationship between NATO and the EU is going to be in a post-Warsaw Pact world.

One of the questions I ask my European students to discuss is: Where does "Europe" end - politically, economically, psychologically? They can hardly answer this for themselves, and in my opinion it is a very tough question to answer. If all 36 countries that are in the EU and/or desire to acceed do end up as part of the European Union, our definition of "Europe" will be quite different from what it had been in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will include predominantly Slavic countries and predominantly Moslem countries, while excluding from monetary unification the definitive Empire of Great Britain whose currency once ruled the world.

I can't speak to Russian psychology with regard to "Europe," but the weak answer that comes from my students is: Europe still ends at the Carpathians ... sort of. If that is the soft consensus, it would make Ukraine and Georgia hot spots for Russia, obviously. They have already lost the Baltic. The accession of Turkey makes it thinkable that other Moslem populations, such as Chechnya if independent, would want to acceed.

It is hard for me to imagine that US sabre-rattling and/or shoving NATO down Russian throats would make for a softer transition, so I generally support Pres Obama's approach with regard to Russia, but people coming from a different ideology will see this differently.

Storyteller wrote:Russia also wants to solidify its grip on the EU, and they find it pretty inconvenient that the biggest pipes have to be run through an independent state they can't fully control.


I would probably phrase this differently. I would say that Russia does not want to lose access to EU markets, and it does not want its own former markets (product and resource markets) in the Baltic, Balkans, and Black Sea regions to become exclusively satellites of the EU. The obvious cure for that is to build economic 'gravity' in Russia itself, but economic development is a challenge requiring decades, not days. It is a rare superpower, I think, who would forego military intervention if it thought that time could be bought that way.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:45 am

Jnyusa wrote:
Storyteller wrote:The original Ukrainian Orange Revolution, for one.


At a glance? There were no widespread riots

Umm there were...

and no accompanying movement for Crimean Independence.

There isn't one now. What you're seeing is not an independence movement by any definition.

It might also be related to an intense preoccupation with Chechnya during that time period.

It was a factor. But not the only factor. Russia had enough troops to spread around.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:51 am

Allow me to add one more tentative thought ...

It is my opinion that the EU will come apart at the seams. I think I might have gone into my reasons for thinking this once before at length, and I won't torture everyone again. But as a matter of principle I think that economic unifications of this sort are doomed to failure.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:56 am

Jnyusa wrote:
Storyteller wrote:In a sense, this is a confrontation over the borders of the European Union.


I find this rationale much more credible.

You're yet to explain why you don't find the other one credible...

It is hard for me to imagine that US sabre-rattling and/or shoving NATO down Russian throats would make for a softer transition, so I generally support Pres Obama's approach with regard to Russia, but people coming from a different ideology will see this differently.

What transition? Of what into what? I can't quite see how this paragraph fits with the rest of your post.

Storyteller wrote:I would probably phrase this differently. I would say that Russia does not want to lose access to EU markets, and it does not want its own former markets (product and resource markets) in the Baltic, Balkans, and Black Sea regions to become exclusively satellites of the EU. The obvious cure for that is to build economic 'gravity' in Russia itself, but economic development is a challenge requiring decades, not days. It is a rare superpower, I think, who would forego military intervention if it thought that time could be bought that way.

In other words, you would choose a more complicated description that would define out the plainly obvious- and often stated- Russian desire to control European politics through economic leverage.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:58 am

Storyteller wrote:There isn't one now. What you're seeing is not an independence movement by any definition.


Well, as I said, I can only go by what I read in the paper because I don't have more access than that to information. The media is presenting this as a Crimean War. A faction, or several factions, have demanded independence. Whether those factions are real or fabricated I can't judge. The conflict clearly did not start as a demand for Crimean independence but restoration of Crimean Autonomy is now one of the things on the table no matter who the president of Ukraine ends up being.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:03 am

Storyteller wrote:What transition? Of what into what? I can't quite see how this paragraph fits with the rest of your post.


Transition to a world in which the EU exists and the Soviet Union does not.

In other words, you would choose a more complicated description that would define out the plainly obvious- and often stated- Russian desire to control European politics through economic leverage.


Russia is in no position to control EU politics through economic leverage. I discount this entirely, in the same way that I discount "making the world safe for democracy" as a motivation for US adventurism.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:17 am

Storyteller wrote:Umm there were...[widespread riots]


Sorry, I missed this before.

Well, it may be so. Not everything that happens here in the US gets reported in the press either, particularly if it is unfavorable to the government.

If you are saying that that situation was the same as this one, and the only reason Russia did not send in troops was because George Bush was President in the US, I guess I would want some additional support for that opinion. Russian sources, naturally, saying they wanted to invade Ukraine but were afraid of George Bush.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:17 pm

Jnyusa wrote:
Storyteller wrote:What transition? Of what into what? I can't quite see how this paragraph fits with the rest of your post.


Transition to a world in which the EU exists and the Soviet Union does not.

In other words, you would choose a more complicated description that would define out the plainly obvious- and often stated- Russian desire to control European politics through economic leverage.


Russia is in no position to control EU politics through economic leverage. I discount this entirely, in the same way that I discount "making the world safe for democracy" as a motivation for US adventurism.

Again, on what basis? A country supplying 38% of EU total' natural gas consumption and up to 100% of natural gas requirements of quite a few individual EU members (30% for Germany, 49% for Austria, 76% for Greece, 100% for Finland, Slovakia and the Baltic states) is in a pretty good position to control EU politics through economic leverage, I'd say. Especially in winter. They are also sitting on a pile of cash they call the Stabilization Fund; not as big as China's, but they've got reserves.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Storyteller » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:43 pm

Jnyusa wrote:
Storyteller wrote:There isn't one now. What you're seeing is not an independence movement by any definition.


Well, as I said, I can only go by what I read in the paper because I don't have more access than that to information. The media is presenting this as a Crimean War. A faction, or several factions, have demanded independence. Whether those factions are real or fabricated I can't judge. The conflict clearly did not start as a demand for Crimean independence but restoration of Crimean Autonomy is now one of the things on the table no matter who the president of Ukraine ends up being.

For one, independence is not what's being demanded. What's being demanded is acquisition of Crimea by another state. Closest historical precedent being the 1930-s anschluss of Austria (that word just keeps cropping up, sorry C_G). The option of independent Crimea will not even be given on the ballot.

Secondly, there isn't a movement in any sense familiar from the history of national liberation movements. There's Crimea's Russian majority that's been sitting home for 25 years, doing nothing of significance except occasional protests at hesitant Ukrainization. And there's the "little green men" as they were dubbed by the locals, currently 30 000 troops in uniform with weapons and armored vehicles but without identification, cleverly disowned by Putin as "Crimean self-defense forces" - after all, it's easy to confuse the West, just blow in a little bit of smoke and the high-minded intellectuals from the Western Left will do all the necessary confusing from there - but showing clear signs of special forces-level training and coordination. These little green men fanned out of the Russian Navy bases at Sevastopol, disarmed the hapless Ukrainian army in the region and took over. Claiming to be local, they move around in trucks with Russian license plates and, when pressed to produce documents in situations which brute force won't resolve, occasionally show Russian army IDs.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:53 pm

Storyteller wrote:Again, on what basis? A country supplying 38% of EU total' natural gas consumption ...etc.


Then I will repeat to you what Israeli political scientists say to me about Arab oil: they can't drink it, they have to sell it.

Buyers and sellers are always mutually dependent, and the country selling closest to its resource base is almost always the one at a disadvantage. There isn't a chance, in my humble opinion, that energy alone gives Russia hegemony over the EU, any more than energy alone gives the Saudis hegemony over the US.

One indicator of the power of an economy vis à vis other economies is the extent to which their currency is held as a reserve currency by other countries. Even the former stans don't hold rubles as their reserve currency. Whereas euros are on their way to equaling if not replacing the US dollar as the premier reserve currency, even in oil markets. This makes Russia trade-dependent by comparison with Europe, more vulnerable to Europe finding another seller than Europe is vulnerable to Russia withholding energy supplies. Europe can buy energy elsewhere if necessary, and it is only a few countries in Europe that would have to scramble to do this if Russian oil and gas were cut off. Whereas the Russian ruble would tank and her economy would likely collapse (again) if such a large export market died.

I know that the energy superpower status of Russia has been much discussed in this context and in the larger context of global energy policy. But I think you over-rate its strength as a lever in the short-term political positions of the EU. It puts Russia at the table in a way she would not otherwise be, but it doesn't launch her over the heads of everyone else.

What I have read with regard to Russian oil power in this crisis is that the Ukraine would be stuck without Russian oil imports. That is a different kind of leverage, and one that makes more sense. Ukraine is already behind on its payments for oil and does not have a large enough market to attract investors in domestic development of substitutes. If Russia cut off oil to the Ukraine for a short period of time - a quick stick across the knuckles - it would hurt the Ukraine a lot more than it hurts Russia. That threat is credible. Whether the EU and the US could come to the rescue with short-term loans to allow Ukraine to buy elsewhere, just to make a point at the expense of Russia ... doubtful. I am thinking it is doubtful we would do this. Not because we're too liberal to do it but because we can't afford it. (It is being discussed in Europe, btw, but what I've read is not optimistic.)

What's being demanded is acquisition of Crimea by another state.


Please label this "interpretation and prediction." If there is indeed a Russian ethnic majority in Crimea that would rather be an autonomous region of Russia than a non-autonomous region of Ukraine, then self-determination is an issue. I only have your word for it that the Russian majority "sits at home" and doesn't care, whereas the media accounts are not so dismissive. Crimea did have autonomy in the past, from the little I've read about it.

Don't put me in the position of sounding like I defend a Russian invasion! Your original post blamed all of this on President Obama, you have not retracted that theme, and that is the theme I am responding to. Your subsequent elaborations have only ramped up how awful your sources say the Russians are. Well, when were the Russians not awful to their neighbors? That does not make events in Crimea the fault of President Obama that I can see, unless you really are arguing that we could have bombed Crimea from Poland if only we had missiles there.

... just blow in a little bit of smoke and the high-minded intellectuals from the Western Left will do all the necessary confusing from there ...


Please stop this. We are doing everything we can to get rid of this sort of kicking at the shins below the table.
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Frelga » Sun Mar 16, 2014 6:33 pm

I've scanned through this thread. My apologies if what I say has been addressed already, my online time is limited and I'd like to make sure a few things are put out there. Also, I can't find all the links to all the things I read anymore. Take my word for it or google for yourself.

Thing One - it's not about the West. It really isn't. Putin is, in effect, taking Russia 300 years back and staking on nationalism over integration into the global economy. His answer to the "oligarchs" who complained about the effect of sanctions was, "Don't invest in the West, invest at home." His closest advisers are ex-KGB buddies with no exposure to the international investments.

Thing Two - given Thing One, I don't see what Obama could have done that would have deterred Putin. No matter who is in the Oval Office, a direct military confrontation between US and Russia is not going to happen. If it did, it would be a Very Bad Thing for everyone. Same goes for Ukrainian nukes and the treaty on which Putin has reneged. Would they nuke Moscow now? Not only is it far too close, unlike flying the bomb across the Pacific, but Russia's response would probably wipe Ukraine off the map completely.

Thing Three - "the Crimean voters favor joining Russia" trope is bull. The election was conducted under the guns of Russian soldiers. The first thing Russia did after the invasion was occupy the TV station. Broadcasting from Ukraine was cut off and replaced with Russian channels. The only campaigning permitted was in favor of joining Russia.

Moreover, the ballot does not provide an option to vote for Crimea remaining a part of Ukraine
CBC News wrote:There are two questions on the referendum:

“Do you support reunifying Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?”
“Do you support the restoration of the 1992 Crimean constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?”

”The ballot actually doesn't give an option to stay in Ukraine," said CBC's Susan Ormiston, reporting from Simferopol in central Crimea. "The second option is to vote for an autonomous Crimea ... so the result is almost decidedly clear that this part of Ukraine will vote to go for Russia today."


Thing Four is Ukraine itself, but I don't have time now. I'll be back

P.S.: I would recommend watching videos by the Vice News crew, here: http://youtu.be/Y57vy4vWb-E
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby oldtoby » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:02 pm

There are two questions on the referendum:

“Do you support reunifying Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?”
“Do you support the restoration of the 1992 Crimean constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?”


I believe we call that the "Colbert ballot" now
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Re: The anschluss of Crimea and the illusion of soft power

Postby Jnyusa » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:13 pm

Frelga, thank you for that link. I only had time to listen to two of the dispatches so far but will try to listen to the rest tomorrow.

The autonomy issue confuses me. Autonomy is a formal political status, though there are probably as many variable legal provisions to that status as there are autonomous regions around the world. From the little history I've read, Crimea was once an autonomous region within Russia, then absorbed by Russia after WWII, then Autonomous within an independent Ukraine from 1992 to the present.

I had thought that the choices were to return to an Autonomous status within Russia versus integration into the Ukraine. But the ballot you showed makes the choice Autonomous within Ukraine versus integration into Russia. It seems to me, looking at this from afar, that Autonomy within Ukraine would be the more desirable choice for nearly everyone, even the Russian ethnic majority. Crimea would have significantly more self-determination under Autonomy than it would have if it were reabsorbed into Russia.

Why do you feel that everyone will vote for reunification with Russia? ... rather, it sounds as if you agree with the news person who expressed this opinion, and I am curious why. Is it only because of the monolithic Russian propaganda?

I'm also not sure why unification with Ukraine needs to appear on the ballot because Crimea never had that status before. It would be a new option, whereas these two options represent a choice between the two previous statuses. It wasn't my understanding that Europe wanted Crimea newly absorbed into the Ukraine, so it is confusing to me why the news person you quoted seemed to feel it improper to omit this choice.

In a different vein, you took the words from my mouth when you said 'nothing short of WWIII' (paraphrase) ... I do feel this is true where certain Russian interests are concerned. But I do think there are things the international community can do to bring pressure on Russia to move her toward more internationally acceptable behavior towards her old satellites. It can't be done overnight, though. If I can find time this week I'll express some casual opinions about our economic options.
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Also, I retract and apologize for my last comment to Storyteller because I realize that I do that too - stick in negative characterizations of the far right who are unrepresented here. I myself will work harder to not do this in the future. It will be nice if all of use can continue trying not to do it.
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