Friday, February 28, 2014

Why the Ukraine and Crimea Are More Complex Than TV Wants You to Believe

Russian nationalists appear to be staging a takeover of the Crimea Penninsula, or at least the Russian bits of it. But this is much more complicated than it looks.  The Crimean peninsula was conquered by Russia in the 18th century under Catherine the Great. Crimea wasn't part of the Ukraine until the 1950s, when Nikita Kruschev -- himself Ukrainian -- then head of the USSR, assigned Crimea to the Ukraine. This map shows the percentage of population that are native speakers of Ukrainian (orange) and Russian (blue) ...



Ethnic Russians make up the majority of Crimea’s population. Some, including retired navy officers and their families, clustered around the huge Russian naval bases there, have Russian citizenship. The peninsula’s nearly two million people includes 60% Russian speakers, as well as 12% who are Crimean Tatars, the original inhabitants of Crimea. 

Now, ethnic Russians and Tartars don't like how things are going in the Ukraine, so they're acting up -- violently.  And if we're going to start parceling out bits of land according to history ...
From about 1050 Crimea came under Turkic rule, later Mongol, and later Turkic again. From 1441 until the late 1700s it was a Muslim Khanate that became an Ottoman vassal state. In the late 1700s it was annexed by the Tsarist Russian Empire. By 1900 Crimean Tatars, previously the major population, had been reduced to half of residents. After the Soviet revolution they were reduced to a quarter. Then Stalin forcibly deported many of them to Central Asia. So Crimea was over the two centuries after its incorporation into the Russian Empire largely russified and its indigenous Muslim population swamped or displaced. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Tatars remained or have returned, but they are still a minority.
So whoever ends up owning Crimea, the odds favor them facing some kind of Islamic agitation.  

So here's the question. Do you think we should really get involved in this mess? My vote: Say "hell, no" and stay the hell out.

The problem is I see the same assholes idiots bad actors who agitated to get us into Iraq to stomp out Saddam's weapons of mass destruction now beating the drums for us to get involved in Ukraine. These fuckers dummies were so monumentally wrong on Iraq that they should never be allowed near politics or the media again.

Instead, they're running the show. Crazy world, eh?

The difference this time is that we shouldn't listen to them. We should be smart enough to know they don't have America's best interests at heart.

Aside from the potential waste of American lives and treasure, there are big risks from an extended conflict over Crimea. They include ...

1. Energy markets. Ukraine tensions can stoke energy-supply worries. Russia in 2006 and 2009 halted natural-gas exports to Ukraine, with the latter incident also serving to cut off supplies to Western European countries.

2. Grain markets. $17 billion of Ukraine's gross domestic product comes from agricultural exports. Ukraine is the world's third-biggest exporter of corn. Wheat is an even bigger part of Ukraine's agricultural exports, or can be when the crop isn't scorched by drought.

3. The potential damage to the Russian economy. War, what is good for? Absolutely nothing.

And if you're thinking this will boost gold, well, maybe. But it will also boost the U.S. dollar, too, as a safe-haven, so I think those balance out. 

And if you want to take a deeper look into Pandora's box, remember that ethnic Russians comprise about a third of Ukraine’s 46 million people. And they didn't just move there recently. Russian control over eastern Ukraine began in 1654, when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich intervened on behalf of an "insurrection" of Ukrainian Cossacks against the noble rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.Further regions of Ukraine were added to the Russian Empire in 1792 and 1795.

And the difference isn't just language. Ukraine is split geographically between a predominantly Russian east and a predominantly Ukrainian west, separated by the Dnieper River.

So, the potential for civil war in Ukraine can't be understated. And THAT should be the thing we really worry about. Because that's the kind of thing that could drag Europe into another big war.


  1. Google "Budapest Memorandum". Russia can't violate Ukrainian territorial integrity.

  2. Oh yeah, like that will stop Russian hot-heads in Crimea -- armed by Putin -- from starting something.