Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Fear Itself: Ukraine Edition

    The single most important thing Barack Obama needs to do about Ukraine is not to panic. The single most important thing anyone else in the United States can do about Ukraine is not to panic Barack Obama. Developments in the Crimea are extremely dangerous, and that's exactly why everybody needs to calm down.

    I have no idea whether or not Obama is handling this situation well or badly. Neither does anybody else who's not party to what he's telling other international leaders on private lines. How Obama is handling things is about what he's saying to people like Angela Merkel and about how those people responding. I don't think there will be any way to measure his success or failure for a while.

    On the other hand, it's clear from the other side of the planet that Vladimir Putin has panicked and committed himself when he shouldn't have. There is virtually no endgame in which Russia doesn't lose more than this stupid adventure was worth. There are many endgames where things spiral out of control because Putin continues to panic or is too afraid of losing face to do what's in his own self-interest. He's dangerously unpredictable right now, and that is more than bad enough. What we really don't need right now is another nervous world leader scared to lose face. That's a recipe for a  spasm of pointless bloodshed that will leave scars on that region for a generation.

    Of course, the American news media is essentially an industry of panic. So your TV is full of panicky or opportunistic people shouting loudly that Obama should panic right now. They're saying that Obama has to do something, by which they mean look like he's doing something. They complain that Obama is not tough enough, by which they mean that he does not act tough enough. Again, I have no idea how tough Obama is or isn't being behind closed doors. What I do know is that acting tough is seldom a sign of actually being tough. And acting tough because other people call you weak is absolutely a confession of weakness.

    I don't know anything about the Ukraine situation. But some things are obvious:

    1. There is not a military solution to this, and any military intervention will make things worse. The point is to keep the violence from expanding. And fighting a top-five military power on its own borders is not winnable; any "victory" would cost far more than it would be worth. It just can't be done.

    Anyone demanding that Obama "get tough" by flexing military muscle needs to go to their quiet corner, get their binky, and soothe themselves for a while.

    2. What's already happened cannot be reversed quickly.  Obviously, our preferred fantasy outcome is that the Russian troops just pack up and go back to Russia quietly, cleaning up their litter as they go. But that's just a fantasy. They may eventually leave peacefully. They will not immediately leave peacefully. Getting them out without bloodshed will take some time. Attempting to get them out by force won't be quick either, and there's no way to predict how it would go.

    Anyone demanding, in essence, that Obama make this never have happened is simply freaking out, and should be disregarded.

    3. No Russian leader is going to pull back an invasion force because the President of the United States tells him to. It doesn't matter who that President is. I mean, that's just crazy talk. This is not about us.

    4. There is no workable solution to this that doesn't leave Russia access to its naval facilities in Crimea. Even if you, like me, know approximately zero about Russian history, you know that access to a warm-water port has been one of Russia's key strategic goals for centuries. That didn't change in the last six months, and it's not going to change in the next six months either. Putin's panicky invasion is at least partly a response to fear of losing key Black Sea bases, and that's a totally reasonable fear that he has acted on foolishly and unreasonably.

    If this ends with the Russians backing out but keeping their naval bases, that is the best case scenario. Those bases are their only legitimate strategic goal. If you hear people complaining that Obama is "too soft" because this ends with the Russians keeping their main Crimean base, those people are out of their minds. If this ends with the Russians only in those naval bases, that would be the best outcome imaginable.

    5. There is no military situation that panicking will not make worse.

    Not panicking is not itself the solution. Obama can't turn this around simply through the force of his personal calm. But he can't do anything positive if he doesn't stay calm. This problem demands a cool head and a steady hand. Flipping out and getting emotional will only invite disaster.


    Excellent post, Doc, but I'll take exception with one bit:

    I don't think there will be any way to measure his success or failure for a while.

    There are some ways that we will be able to measure his failure, but let's hope none of them manifest.

    Amen. And good point.

    And acting tough because other people call you weak is absolutely a confession of weakness.

    You know, after the Lewinski Affair, I came to believe that every president-elect should go through intensive therapy. Maybe a few years of it, before, during, and perhaps after it. It was so clear that Clinton didn't know himself in any depth.

    This quote makes me think that every president-elect should be required go through an intensive course in Shakespeare, who speaks so well (don't ask me where) about the pitfalls of leaders wielding power and coming to terms with the limits of their power.

    Acting out scenes should be an integral part of it.

    Does anyone need the skills of an actor more than the leader of a country?

    Hm. I thought I had learned the thing about fake toughness from my all-boys high school, but I'm sure Shakespeare developed my thinking.

    Politicians certainly need acting skills. But ... well, not every actor ends up a leader I'd vote for.

    Oh it is excellent to have a giant's  strength  but to use it like a giant is tyrannous.

    I agree that panic on the part of the president is the last thing we want to see -- and regardless of what folks to his right are saying.  In the interim, I'm trying to get a handle on this whole thing, and that includes a refresher on things like the history of the Crimean peninsula.  

    I have to say that of everything I've read thus far, I am most impressed with this op-ed by Charles King in yesterday's Times.  After asserting that the most important thing for the U.S. and its European allies to do at this point is to do what they can to prevent an escalation of violence, he then articulates concern over the manner in which Putin has framed Russia's duty to defend, all Russian-speaking peoples, whether inside or outside of Russia.  He writes:

    European and American officials must be clear on the reasons why the international community should band together to condemn Russian actions. It is not because of the violation of national sovereignty — a concept imperfectly defended by Americans and Europeans in recent years — but because Mr. Putin’s reserving the right to protect the “Russian-speaking population” of Ukraine is an affront to the basis of international order. Not even the alleged ultranationalists who Mr. Putin claims now control the Ukrainian government have tried to export their uprising to Ukrainian speakers in Poland, Moldova, or Romania, or indeed Russia itself. It is Mr. Putin who has made ethnic nationalism a defining element of foreign policy.

    So, it's not Crimea per se, and for all of the reasons you state in your piece, but at least to King the problem is whether Putin means what he says in defining Russia's role in any nation (e.g. Poland and Belarus) with large ethnic Russian minorities.

    Though I'm loathe to make this comparison ever...

    It's a little too reminiscent of a certain someone's saying he needed to protect all them German ethnics/speakers outside of Germany proper.

    I hear you, but the problem with the analogy is, of course, that it becomes the focus and undermines what seems to be an extraordinary statement by Putin, standing alone -- with potentially disastrous consequences for independent nations in Eastern Europe.


    I think the closer disturbing analogy with with the Balkans in the 1990s. For example, the need to protect fellow Serbians/Croats/fill in ethnicity in Bosnia.

    Did that include Milwaukee at the time? (I don't recall he whose name must not be mentioned saying that, but, who knows....)

    That was the reasoning behind the annexation of the Sudetenland, as I recall.

    My MIL's family came from a German-speaking section of Romania, which I'm sure made them a target.

    Yes! AA and her family were the point of the spear defending Milwaukee for Poland against German aggression. I see you haven't forgotten your history.

    Hillary wasn't as shy as you. Though did use your word reminiscent .


    While others' thoughts tinkered on the edges of invoking Godwin's Law in response to your comment, I'd like to be brutally honest with you about the thoughts that popped into my mind after I read it. I really truly hope you can take my sharing it as I mean it, without animosity, just for comparison purposes. I thought about how in 1954 Krushchev gave Crimea to the Ukraine, and how 6 years earlier, the U.N. decided to give a part of Palestine to the Jews.

    My observation wasn't made with any intention of making any such comparison that might implicate Godwin's Law -- although I could understand how folks might go there of course.   But Godwin's Law cannot cancel out a whole line of analysis because of the existence of that law, i.e. the implications of asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over Russian speaking folks countries other than Russia does not become insulated from discussion because of the existence of Godwin's Law.  

    And no need to apologize for what popped into your mind.  Lots of stuff has happened with regard to nations in general and Crimea and of course the Middle East in particular.  And fwiw, I often talk about my Dad's side of the family, but Mom's side comes from Drohobycz, about 100 kilometers south of Lvov.  

    Mom's side comes from Drohobycz,

    My mother's entire side comes from Wola Wielka, pretty close by youse (150 km)

    We prolly share genes, though our ancestors would no doubt dispute that any sort of thing like that ever happened.  blush

    Ya never know what happened back in the day!

    We probably can't imagine the half of it, with Lviv being a sorta NYC of medieval and Renaissance times.

    Did they work in his Chocolate Factory?

    I'm pretty sure there wasn't much chocolate around there at the time, just potatoes and cabbage and more potatoes and cabbage. wink

    I guess "Willy Wonka and the Cabbage Patch" didn't have the same ring.

    Further thoughts on cabbage....

    Bslev's kosher great-bubbie probably made the same pickled veggies that my Catholic great-grandma did, and furthermore, so did lotsa Russian and German great grandmas. The area has a lot of languages, and language is usually like a gold standard of ethnic I.D., but with cuisine, which is often a pretty strong marker, too, there are remarkable similarities spread across a huge area. Unlike with say, China.

    Jump to this quote from this New Republic piece, which could be re-titled "What the heck is Ukraine, anyways?" (and includes youthful Ukrainian opinion on that along the lines of "we dunno yet for sure.")

    ...Ukraine the country has existed for only brief spurts. In the nineteenth century, as nationalism spread through Europe, Ukrainian language and culture—as well as the new idea of independence—became fashionable in Ukrainian cities. Before that, the area was a fluid mix of languages and ethnicities. The Ukrainians, southwestern Slavs who escaped Tatar rule in the Middle Ages, developed independently of the Russians. (Their language, for instance, was heavily influenced by Polish, and their religious affiliation was, for a long time, partly Catholic.) Then it was absorbed into the creeping sprawl of the Russian empire.

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, though, Ukrainian speakers were mixed throughout the country, and the language divide was more socioeconomic than geographic. For the most part, the Ukrainian speakers were the peasants, and the Russian speakers were the city dwellers, a blend of Russians, Tatars, and Jews. When industrialization came to the region, those who worked in the new factories were also mostly Russian.

    To this day, language in Ukraine follows these same socioeconomic lines, rather than the east-west axis. A map produced by The New York Times, for instance, represents Ukrainian in orange and Russian in blue, and announces that it depicts a simple split between the speakers of these languages. And yet, the fault line is hard to see: There are heavily orange dapples in the west, and intense blue spots in Crimea and Donetsk, but most of the rest is a brackish mingling of the two. It would take a very talented surgeon to carve the two languages apart—or a charlatan to claim it can be done....

    I am partial to this whole line of thought having done a bit of geneaological research on mom's family, which suggests (also confirmed by oral history stories) that grandma was raised quite different culturally from grandpa, even though they came from the same town. Roman Catholic vs. Eastern Rite Catholic, literate peasant vs. illiterate peasant, the former telling Elllis Island that his "race or people?" was "Polish," the other telling Ellis Island her "race or people?" was "Ruthenian," while both were citizens of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and both spoke Polish only.  This has caused me to raise a very controversial heretical thought with current living relations on that side: "what the heck is Poland anyways?"

    In those maps I posted, you can see how Poland grew to a very large size, then shrank and grew. In one map, Ukraine seems to emerge from out of nowhere.

    Most Russian Jews came from Ukraine: Odessa and Kiev. It's in all the Sholom Aleichem stories. Then, of course, there was Lithuania and Galicia.

    Galicia, that's the one I wanna research more. (I just have this feel that the DNA in my bones is really Galician. wink) You wanna get real confused, check out the Ruthenian story--sheesh, talk about tangled webs leaders and their minions can weave, ends up with two kinds of Ruthenians, hating each other like Arabs vs. Israelis.

    Hehe. Yes, I will. Life's no good unless you have someone to hate.

    There was a great story at the very start of the Afghan invasion about the "last Jews of Kabul." There were two guys, one who had been there forever and a younger one, who had returned from Israel to convince the old guy to move there.

    All the others had left for Israel, mostly.

    The old guy would not. He had his own little synagogue of which he was the only member. The Taliban used to beat him to get him to convert, and he would not. He, ah, resisted every attempt to change him in any way.

    As you can imagine, after a while, great enmity grew between these two guys. They were in a tug of war. When asked why he didn't return to Israel, the young one said something like, "I was going to leave, but now this guy is my enemy, so I have to stay."


    So the legendary divide among Ashkenazi Jews is between those who came from Lithuania and those who came from Galicia. They are called Litvaks and Galitzianers. Litvaks are said to be highly learned (in Talmud, say) and rational, and the Galitzianers are said to be less learned and more emotional. Litvaks were a bit more upper class in a way, and Galitzianers were definitely peasant stock.

    So, speaking generally, the hasidim came out of Galicia in rebellion against what they considered to be traditional, Litvakian cold rationalism. They were our version of "ecstatics." Their founder was the Baal Shem Tov, or Keeper of the Good Name. They believed more in an non-rational, direct relationship with God that anyone (Jews, we're talking about) could experience regardless of how learned or not they were. Singing and dancing were big with many of them.

    To be fair, many Galitzianers were/are learned in Talmud. It's just that they make room for other, less rational approaches to God. Hard to describe, really. There's a lot written on it.

    One group, the Bratzlavers, who came from Ukraine I believe, have only had one rebbe, the first one. Nachman of Bratzlav, who was a religious genius, wrote many sort of Kafka-esque, allegorical stories that are still studied by his followers. While most hasidic groups have family dynasties, where the rebbe anoints a son or follower to take his place after he's gone or too old, the Bratzlavers still follow Nachman, who lived in the 1700s. They have his chair from which he used to address his followers and they say, "Better a dead rebbe who's alive, then a live rebbe is dead."

    I would say that Bruce and Ramona are real Galitzianers, while I'm more of a Litvak type, even though my folks don't hail from there. Nor were they very learned. Bruce can fool you only because he's a lawyer. Jolly and Resistance are Galitzianers, especially the latter. Jolly could be a Litvak, except that he's not serious enough.

    The film centers on the family of Tevye, a Jewish family living in the town of Anatevka, in Russian Empire, in 1905. Anatevka is broken into two sections: a small Orthodox Jewish section; and a larger Russian Orthodox Christian section. Tevye notes that, "We don't bother them, and so far, they don't bother us.

    I would say Tevye was a Galitzianer type.

    "The nucleus of Galicia lies within the modern regions of western Ukraine: Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk near the contemporary Ukrainian city of Halych. In the 18th century, territories that later became part of the modern Polish regions of Lesser Poland Voivodeship and Subcarpathian Voivodeship were added to Galicia. There is considerable overlap between Galicia and south-west Ruthenia..."

    Well, it looks like Bruce and AA are Galitzianers, too. And here comes Ruthenia!

    Do I get a $3000.00 hat with that?


    Protect your head? 

    Less flashy?  Blends right in   $25.00


    As to Poland, I get it that it has a hell of a lot more iterations as a nation than Ukraine, going way way way way further back. But even then, I still stand with the question which really can be applied to other nations in the area as well.

    I did take a Polish lit course in early in college, trying to understand my heritage and all. (Course started with Pan Tadeus, the national epic poem, ended with mid-20th century writers.) I kept the books on my shelves for years and re-read them later and added others,when I had more knowledge of surrounding cultures. My own revision after that: Poland's literature is very heavily derivative of Russian literature (and to be clear: that includes pre-Soviet, since 1800.) It's more like a regional variation than anything else. A strong variation, but still a variation. (Oddly, overall, I say it was less black, less bleak than Russian, more hopeful.)

    As I understand it, Godwin's involves upping the ante in one's analysis of a situation by likening it to Hitler's actions. But the likening has to be an elevating of the stakes. Here, the analogy is quite accurate on its face and doesn't have to entail the conclusion that Putin is the new Hitler, or that Putin has to be stopped in the same way that Hitler had to be stopped.

    I think, though, there are some differences between an international body's actions and those of a dictator who unilaterally moves pieces around on his tabletop map.

    Plus the humanitarian issues involved...

    Hey Bruce... Putin Has a Bad Case of Gas . . .

    Using the excuse of "...reserving the right to protect the 'Russian-speaking population' of Ukraine..." is only a poor cover for Putin's actions.

    It's been proven over and over and over -- follow the money!

    enlarge the view


    Russia's footprint in Crimea is three-fold. Control their Naval base, protect the shipping lanes to and through the Bosphorus Strait, and have a southern launch point for troops to move north if need be to protect the pipelines and keep them in Russian control.

    U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin - NYT March 5, 2013



    Natasha, my wife and a friend to Dag, wrote a piece about this for Esquire.  I think it adds to the discussion.  She also, if you read the comments, seems to have poked a hornet's nest of European Ukrainian nationalists...


    According to a poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center, the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine has left Americans sharply and bitterly divided along ignorant and apathetic lines, with the nation’s citizenry evenly split between grossly misinformed and wholly indifferent factions.

    PS How does one become a "Top Commenter" at

    Not entirely sure... I think you have to get a lot of likes as their comments are all Facebook based.

    This is exactly how the algorithm works. Lots of likes on comments and a minumum number of comments =  top commenter. 

    I hope Natasha didn't have too bad a day after those comments came pouring in. Wow.

    Nah.  She looked them up and it became very clear that these were agenda driven.

    Oh please, "humanitarian catastrophe"? People buying airline tickets for Moscow is not a catastrophe. People getting killed en masse - whether the fighting in the streets recently or the deportation of Crimean Tatars in previous years, is.

    Russia moved Poland 100 miles to the west after WWII - made it easier to push against Germany & manage the Iron Curtain. So Ukraine inherited those territories, back when Ukraine was a pushover for Russia's agenda.

    But the U.S. has no right to prematurely attach itself to Poland’s deep-seeded hatred of Russia as motivation to spread its free world agenda.

    When Russia conspired with Germany to invade and cut apart Poland, and when Russia held up on the Warsaw outskirts to let the Polish resistance to get wiped out, that is what created the "deep-seeded hatred". That's only been since 1939 and 1945. Suck on it. Russia controlled Poland from 1945 to 1989 - oops, only 24 years ago - another little sticking point. Yes, the US has a right to prevent Russian aggression against Poland and other East European countries as it occasionally did in the Cold War. I'm quite alright with that little bit of "World's Policeman" that we used to play before our foreign policy became completely cynical & concerned with energy reserves.

    PS - should add the Russians' "Katyn forest massacre" and potentially Jaruzelski's clampdown on Solidarnosc - still debate whether the latter was forced by the Soviets.

    If you look at those historical maps on TPM, Poland was seriously kicking butt at one time. Crimea belonged to them if I'm reading them right.

    Nope, Crimea was about as Russian as a place can get, going back centuries. "Russia" basically giveth Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 and now maybe Russia changes her mind:

    Crimea: A Gift To Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point
    by Krishnadev Calamur,, Feb. 27, 2014

    In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Ukraine a gift: Crimea. At the time, it seemed like a routine move, but six decades later, that gift is having consequences for both countries.

    The transfer merited only a paragraph in Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper, on Feb. 27, 1954. The story was one long sentence and dense with detail. Here's what it said:

    "Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic, taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic ties between Crimea Province and the Ukraine Republic, and approving the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukraine Republic Supreme Soviet on the transfer of Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic."

    And with that, a region that had been part of Russia for centuries was "gifted" to Ukraine [....]

    Granted, Tatars have long been considered natives of Crimea, but back in the day most folks considered them to be just another kinda Russian.

    No, Tatars weren't considered Russians - they're definitely Turkic - and they ruled the Crimea for roughly 350 years before Russians hit their expansionist period under Catherine & 100 years earlier under Peter the Great, though Russians did have enclaves in earlier periods (as did the Genoese and Venetians). Russians moved in large populations in the 1930's as part of Stalin's massive population movements & social engineering.

    Yes I corrected myself below. Russian rule begins with Catherine the Great. I was sort of thinking along the lines of the way the 19th-century western educated would look at Tatars, as being one of those more exotic "Eastern" parts of Russian culture ( Gogol's Taras Bulba et. al.)

    Looks like Crimea basically became Russian along with Russia becoming a nation that the rest of the world paid attention to, when Catherine the Great crushed the Crimean Khanate.... following victories over the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish wars, and Russia colonised the vast territories of Novorossiya along the coasts of the Black and Azov Seas.

    This site claims Catherine called Crimea "the precious pearl of our crown," though I can't find that anywhere else.

    Here's some p.r. about the wonders and history of Tsar Nicholas II's personal vineyards/winery in Crimea, where he also had a little summer dacha built and  here's a Ukrainian blogger telling all about a little path he had built to take advantage of the Crimea's curatives.

    Yes, I misread the map, but it went right up to the Crimean border in 1600s and had a border with the Black Sea.

    Andrew Higgins digs interestingly into the "Crimean Pearl in the Russian Crown" topic from the perspective of current boots-on-the-ground:

    Steeped in Bloody History, and Seeing a Chance to Rewrite It, New York Times, March 6

    SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — Drawing on his experiences as a young artillery officer in imperial Russia’s military during the 1853-56 Crimean War, Leo Tolstoy described in “Sevastopol Sketches” how a wounded Russian soldier whose leg had been amputated above the knee coped with agonizing pain.

    “The chief thing, your honor, is not to think,” Tolstoy’s amputee remarked, “If you don’t think, it is nothing much. It mostly all comes from thinking.” [....]

    Bombarded with reminders of the Crimean War, which involved a yearlong siege of the city, and World War II, when the city doggedly resisted Nazi forces until finally falling in July 1942, Sevastopol has never stopped thinking about wartime losses — and has never been able to cope with the amputation carried out in 1954 by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev [.....]

    When Ukraine became a separate independent nation at the end of 1991, however, Sevastopol — the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 18th century — began howling [....]

    Explaining the city’s agonies this week to a group of visitors, mostly Russians, to Sevastopol’s Crimean War museum, Irina Neverova, a guide, recounted how Britain, France, Turkey, Germany and others had over the centuries all tried and ultimately failed to loosen Russia’s grip [....]

    Not everyone here has been swept up by the tide of Russian patriotic fervor, but those who have not are keeping their heads down [....]

    Yeah, well, you know, if most of the people want to be with Russia, then they should be with Russia.

    How far back does a hatred have to go before we can legitimately called it "deep seeded"? I mean, a lot of Jews have hated Germany in a pretty deep seeded way, and that only goes back to WWII. Before that, they loved the place.

    For reasons that are unclear, I am never able to get to the Esquire comments, whether on this article or Charlie Pierces.   I click a thing that says "all comments" but nothing changes...any ideas?

    I just clicked on "Jump to Comments" (in red) at the end of the article and it took me there.

    Yeah, when I did that, I got another page with a button "all comments"and I hit that, and get the same page...Might try with a different browser...Do you get actual comments?

    There is virtually no endgame in which Russia doesn't lose more than this stupid adventure was worth.

    Sadly, I disagree. I say Russia ends up either annexing the Crimea or carving a puppet state out of eastern Ukraine. They will consider either result well worth the cost of antagonizing the West, which won't put up more than a few token sanctions in Ukraine's defense.

    To keep it limited and leave the West out of it: there's no scenario in which the bulk of Ukraine doesn't slip further out of their orbit.

    If (to use an extremely inexact analogy), the US decided to seize Vancouver by military force, there wouldn't be any appetizing military options for dislodging us. But we'd have much less influence with the rest of Canada. Which is the better outcome?

    Well, Vancover is nice, and the rest of Canada…

    Well, OK, Prince Edward Island on the other coast is also nice. What if we annexed both? Is that an option?

    Perhaps if we just built a big wall inside the Canadian border (for security reasons of course). I calculate that if we build it just 50 miles into Canadian territory, we can capture most of the choice properties--Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal. They can keep Winnipeg.

    The other half comes from our northern borders?


     I think Babeu ran into a little scandal a while back.

    I think Montreal might be a bit of a hornet's nest. I hear they speak French there. Thank you, no.

    You already tried that, in 1812.  Not only did you fail to achieve your objective, you riled up the Canadians so much that they put aside their hockey sticks, came down over the border, whupped your asses, and burned down your capitol.  Now you want to try it again?  Don't you learn anything from history?

    Uh, Major League Baseball and the NFL?

    Thanks to Sarah Palin, we at least know which of those upper-thingamajigs ain't Canadian provinces, and where Russia begins (where it stops might be in her purview too - is she the one who sang "Crimea River"?)

    I agree that Putin's invasion killed Russian-Ukrainian relations, but those relations were terminally ill in any case, so Putin had little to lose. Moreover, the Crimea is far more valuable to Russia than Vancouver would be to the US. It's the Russian navy's only warm-water port, populated by ethnic Russians and heavy with history.

    I don't believe he was ever in genuine danger of losing those Crimean bases.

    Nor do I believe that Russia did not have significant cards to play in an ongoing relationship with Ukraine. Even if the pendulum was temporarily shifting away, I doubt Ukraine would ever make the kind of sharp break with Russia that a military conflict creates.

    If this ends with the Russians only in those naval bases, that would be the best outcome imaginable.


    Who could ignore that the Russians have a lot invested in those bases.  If we know the end game; maybe we can remove Russian support of Assad of Syria for an exchange?. 

    Make a choice Putin you cant have both, choose one or the other.  

    Or does Russia really want to control the whole region and beyond ? 


     Why give him one thing at all, much less another.

     The one thing we can know with strong confidence about the situation in Ukraine is that there is no reason to believe that we can believe "our' news sources and leaders anymore than we can believe their's. But so what? This time, we got the goods on them. They be some serious liars and they been caught 'red' handed. That's our signal from on high to let the white horse out of the barn and to saddle up. Well, it could be. From on high, I mean.
    I mean, who's gonna deny it, Putin and some of his highest officials have been caught blatantly lying about why they are shootin'. That will not stand.
    Time for us to do some flexin'. The duty's been thrust upon us once again. But why keep it limited when we got more big sticks than you could shake a stick at? Like those ingrate secessionist Scotts would say, Ey Jamie, you're thrright you're thrright, and you're never throng.
     Putin lied. That brakes it. We shouldn't have to put up with their liers too.
     But what's this really all about anyway? Are we really going to go to the trouble of choosing sides and then justifying the choice? It seems like we are going to get around to everybody eventually anyway, what difference does it make where we start. I say to hell with all of them.  We can start them on that trip ourselves at the push of a button and probably should, they are a sort of defective in one way or another, so let's just get on with it. But let's think through our plan of action first.
     First, cut the charades. Russians showed themselves to be a pretty tough bunch not that long ago and they just got a new movie of Stalingrad to get there dander all patriotically up their nose and sanctions sure aint gonna do diddly against them because, for one thing, no significant sanctions are going to happen. Face it, Those Europeans we been carrying for years have all turned a little Frenchy anyway and they don't like getting cold and they don't like higher gas prices any more than I do and they want some place to off-load their cheese or whatever it is that they produce. So, that frog aint jumpin'. And putting U.S. ground troops into Ukraine, much less Russia? That is so 20th century. That's how thousands upon thousands, ... upon thousands, of people die. We cant even afford all the bagpipes and medals and flag drapes and stuff that we would need. Sixty years of never winning, [well yea, there was Grenada, I'll give you that one] means we gotta think out of the box since we can't expect those who came home in a box to do it for us. Plus, we got election coming up. We always have elections coming up.
     Air power is probably not the way to go either, them Ruskies have got some pretty good air defenses, missiles and an airforce of their own. Especially some good missiles, the ones we are always afraid that those folks we can now bomb and drone with impunity will get from them. Let our air force continue to fly the friendly skies.
     But not to worry, we have the capability of taking it instantly to a higher level, right out of the fucking atmosphere, man, that's how high we can take it. They sure look cool going up. I remember being told that those bad boys layin' dormant in underground silos, wastin' away for so long now, have multiple targeting re-entry vehicles that can hit within four yards of their target. Now with a fifty megaton bomb that might seem like over-kill [yeah boy!!!] at first blush but really, being even more accurate than a drone fired missile will insure that we don't kill the wrong people, won't it? And what's the use of having a wild card you never lay down. The world is busy forgetting who's da boss, time for a Minute Man reminder. That'll wake their dead ass up, well, the ones sleeping fifty or so miles away will probably wake up. And the rest? Like I said, to hell with 'em, they aint 'Mericans, that's their main fault but that's enough. It's best they are put out of their misery and be done with it.
     I'll go see Stalingrad, I heard it's a great movie where the heroes give their all and it's all for the love of a sweet woman, how cool is that? And then I'll think I understand what it was like. How cool is that? Live and learn, I always say. Especially 'live'. But let's be realistic, it's not for everybody.

    Darn it Lulu you're scaring the heck out of us. What you describe could be the beginning of the Apocalypse. 

    Very good read BTW 

    Those Europeans we been carrying for years have all turned a little Frenchy anyway

    A long time ago, Britain and France were at war. During one battle, the French captured a British Colonel. They took him to their headquarters, and the French General began to question him. Finally, as an afterthought, the French General asked, "Why do you British officers all wear red coats? Don't you know the red material makes you easier targets for us to shoot at?"
    In his casual, matter-of-fact, way, the officer informed the General that the reason British officers wear red coats is so that if they are wounded, the blood won't show, and the men they are leading won't panic.

    And that is why, from that day forward, all French Army officers wear brown trousers.

    You might be surprised to find out what old Henry has to say over @ WaPo.

    Pretty good commentary.

    Godwin it! Here I go. Like Kissinger said, its the result that counts. I figure that there is some threshold number of deaths a person is responsible for beyond which they cannot improve their rating on the all-time monster list. It could be in the millions and even if that high would still easily put Kissinger right up there with the little nazi prick. I know lots of people want to judge with hard data, gross numbers and such, but come on, everyone is 'equally in' when they are in the hall of fame.
     You were right to guess that his analysis and recommendations would be towards my way of thinking, if that actually is what you meant, but to hear it from Kissinger just reminds me of how I feel about him and part of that is that my feelings are connected in a way to one of the two monsters while I just have knowledge of the other. In the case of the long dead prick, I only know that he was a monster. In the case of the undead prick, I feel that he is a monster. He had his days of pulling levers, he got his results, and now he plays wise man and dares to remind that it is results that count.

    Well I guessed right on two counts. wink (Not that I am the one to be lauded, as this is something that is not that hard when the opiner communicates clearly.)


    I'm humored by Russia's "freedom" fights in new territories it occupies.

    Nikita's gift is 1 part of history - ethnic cleansing of original inhabitants is another. Of course Tatars in Crimea were roughly what Turks are in Turkmenistan. Was the Turkic wave of migration different than Peter & Catherine's wars to find a warm port (along with grabbing other territory from the Caucusus to Kamchatka)?

    I do agree that Russian speakers in east Ukraine count for something, though the current debate seems this "jewel of Russia", not ethnic Russian Ukrainian rights in the east. Somehow stroking Russian colonialist vanity doesn't seem a proper end-goal, though may be necessary as a tactic. France considered Algeria not just a colony but an integral part of France - after 150 years, that attitude had to change in a hurry, though left 1 million Algerians dead to get to that point.

    A pretty good commentary, Doc, that more or less supports your view, but gives some credence to MW's as well.

    See the Fred Kaplan quote, in particular.

    About that "striking contrast not just between German and US press reaction but the different historical metaphors they're employing. "

    What I find striking is how infused with an eastern European perspective the US press and left blogosphere reactions are.  Not that I haven't noticed it before but I am honestly surprised at how few mentions there are of other historical metaphors.

    The first ones that came to my mind when I heard Russia had taken over Crimea were The Great Game and, of course, The Crimean War (Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale, etc.) Then I remembered reading a few years ago that there was a New Great Game afoot courtesy of the previous administration so I looked it up and was surprised to learn that as recently as 2012:

    "The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks."[8]

    This is described as part of a noopolitik strategy to replace the Realpolitik of the old Great Game.

    Noopolitics is an informational strategy of manipulating international processes through the forming in general public by means of mass media of positive or negative attitude to external or internal policy of a state of block of states to create a positive or negative image of ideas and promulgated moral values. (Baichik A.V., Nikonov S.B. Noopolitik as global information strategy // Vestnik St.Petersburg University, Ser. 9. 2012. Issue I p. 207-213) Noopolitik differs from realpolitik. Although realpolitik is commonly equated with hard power, and seemingly noopolitik with soft power, both are broader in their embodiment of a form of organization. Specifically, realpolitik is not limited to hard power and coercion, but embodies a hierarchical form of organization. Likewise, noopolitik is not limited to reliance on knowledge and soft power, but embodies a networked form of organization.

    Could this be the Western interference that Putin was using to justify his own counter-interference?


    Maybe...I don't know.

    Circles within circles within...

    Just on a personal note, when I lived in Paris I found the street name Boulevard Sebastopol very romantic. Reminiscent of the Great Game and all that you mention.

    And, as chance would have it, a young, pretty bartender at an Italian restaurant where I have lunch is from Sebastopol. And at another one, another young Ukranian.

    I think it's a WWII perspective...the last "great" war that we fought and won and believed in. We weren't in the Crimean War that I'm aware of.

    I thought there was something to the WWI analogy, however.

    And, as chance would have it, a young, pretty bartender at an Italian restaurant where I have lunch is from Sebastopol. And at another one, another young Ukranian.


    I don't have time to go back through the archive, but did you not, relatively recently, make mention of (wait for it....) a wife?


    Heh. Yes, to whom I'm devoted.

    You'll notice that I go there to eat lunch and really (wait for it...) for the food.

    That said, she is pretty and I was captured by her exotic-ish origins.

    Gave me a chance to brush up my Russian, too.

    Digging deeper, aren't I?

    Well then, how about this?

    The person who is most often behind the bar is a fire plug of a middle-aged Italian man and father of god knows how many.

    The second most oftener bartender is a former right-winger from Chile, former because he's seen the error of his ways.

    Very nice guy.

    Am out yet?


    Jimmy Carter would like a word with you...

    Fracking is no longer off-topic for this thread; from the NYT for Thursday's print "U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin":

    ....The crisis has accelerated a State Department initiative to export American natural gas to Europe as a lever against Russia, which supplies 60 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas and has a history of cutting off the supply during conflicts. This week, Gazprom, Russia’s state-run natural gas company, said it would no longer provide gas at a discount rate to Ukraine, a move reminiscent of more serious Russian cutoffs of natural gas to Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe in 2006, 2008 and 2009....

    Note: quite some map they got to go with the story...

    Ah yes... As I wrote in a reply to Bslev up thread...

    I read that piece earlier that you've linked... And Putin's whole line of crap about protecting Russians is just that, a line of crap.

    Follow the money!

    Russia's footprint in Crimea is three-fold. Control their Naval base, protect the shipping lanes to and through the Bosphorus Strait, and have a southern launch point for troops to move north if need be to protect the pipelines and keep them in Russian control.




    Iz lyk spiderweb allover country, pipelines.

    The maps do make the "what would the U.S. do if there were similarly anarchic transitional periods in Mexico or Canada?" comparisons a bit more sensible. (And even in stable transitions, new treaties and deals are such a drag to have to do, when only a few  decades ago you only need send a communique and it was obeyed on the spot, toot suite.)

    From the New York Times' archives, but maybe a bit fresher in Putin's memories:

    Russia Gas Line Explosions Scare Europe

    By Andrew E. Kramer, Jan. 26, 2006

    MOSCOW, Jan. 25 — Saboteurs who bombed two natural gas pipelines high in the Caucasus Mountains this week, by one estimate sending a gas fireball nearly 600 feet into the sky, paralyzed Georgia and sent a message straight to Western Europe, which depends on Russian natural gas.

    The Russian authorities are calling the strike a terrorist attack [....]

    Georgian officials, upset over what they contended were unexplained delays in fixing the sabotaged pipeline, cautioned that Europe should look at their unheated capital, Tbilisi, before becoming more reliant on Russia.

    "The lesson that all of Europe should draw is the importance of alternative corridors of energy and of not being dependent on one source of energy, especially from a country such as Russia," George Arveladze, presidential chief of staff in Georgia, said Tuesday in an interview. Georgia and another former Soviet republic, Armenia, draw gas from the damaged pipelines.

    All this is proving an embarrassment for the Kremlin, because the problems have coincided with Russia's turn in the presidency of the Group of 8 industrial countries and Russia's pushing a theme of energy security [....]

    Last summer the Federal Security Service, a successor agency of the Soviet-era K.G.B., said it had arrested 11 suspects in what it called a terrorist attack on a gas pipeline in Tatarstan, a Muslim region of Russia east of Moscow.

    A spokesman linked that attack to separatist movements in the North Caucasus, the area of southern Russia that includes Chechnya as well as North Ossetia, where the bombing on Sunday took place. Last year, saboteurs struck gas pipelines in Dagestan, also in the North Caucasus. Two years ago a bombing shut operations for several days along the same mountain route to Georgia that was hit Sunday.

    Other separatist conflicts have been simmering nearby. South Ossetia, a pro-Russian and Orthodox Christian enclave in Georgia, has carried out a low-level insurgency against Georgian authorities for a decade. The attacks occurred not far from the South Ossetian border [.....]

    Well, it looks now that Crimea "voted" to back to Russia.

    Appears that U.S. policy is pretty well decided; video:

    President Obama and Aide Speak on Ukraine

    By THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 6, 1:06 pm

    ...After President Obama’s brief statement, his aides took to the lectern and held a full news conference, delving into greater detail about United States sanctions against Russia and its allied Ukrainian officials....

    especially noted, as to the most current news:

    Mr. Carney also characterized as unconstitutional a proposed referendum that would allow Crimea to break from Ukraine and join Russia.


    Obama Says Referendum in Crimea Would Violate Law
    By David M. Herszenhorn and Alan Cowell, New York Times, 8 minutes ago
    As the pro-Russian authorities in Crimea pressed ahead on Thursday with measures to break away from Ukraine, President Obama said that their plans would “violate the Ukrainian Constitution and violate international law.”

    U.S. Imposes New Sanctions Over Crisis
    By Michael R. Gordon, Ellen Barry and Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, 50 minutes ago
    The State Department placed a ban on visas for people who have taken steps to undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity

    Insightful response by M.S. in The Economist's Democracy in America blog to the NYT op/ed What Putin Wants by Ruslan Pukhov:

    the endgame Mr Pukhov describes highlights the very things that, from an American or European perspective, are unacceptable about Russia's government. The risk is that Russia will turn Crimea into yet another "frozen conflict", like so many others that plague the former Soviet Union—Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and, of course, Chechnya. These are zones in which there is no clearly recognised legitimate authority, no rule of law and no enforcement of human rights. They are areas where it is impossible to draw clear lines between state, mafia and business. And this, in essence, is what the conflict in Ukraine is about: the desire of a large number of Ukrainians to leave behind that corrupt system of mafia-state governance, and enter the world of law-abiding liberal democracies, represented by America and the EU. 
    The Russian invasion of Crimea clearly isn't a one-off. As Daniel Nexon, a foreign-relations professor, argues in today's Washington Post, "Russia's political organization is fundamentally imperial in character." Russia has solved its regional governance challenges essentially by appointing local satraps to manage regional or ethnic sub-groups, deliver votes in national elections, and reap corrupt bonuses as a reward. This extends, moreover, to the way Russia handles foreign relations, using clients such as Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus to provide guarantees of security in exchange for dodgy lucrative deals. Russia is run by what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson would call "extractive political institutions," which grant political insiders monopoly benefits in exchange for propping up the regime. Meanwhile, Mr Putin has cemented his control by reviving a resentful ideology of ethno-religious nationalism.
    This poses a tricky problem for America and the EU. Autocratic states that stick to themselves are one thing. But Mr Putin's Russia has a penchant for turning bordering regions into extralegal no-man's-lands, ripe for criminal exploitation. He seized Crimea using troops without insignia; in his press conference yesterday he would not admit they were Russian. He has refused to recognise the new government in Kiev, creating a diplomatic vacuum that leaves him free to ignore international norms. He conjured a humanitarian crisis into being by claiming that hundreds of thousands of Russian refugees are fleeing Ukrainian oppression, though there is no proof that these refugees exist. It is par for the course for Mr Putin to decline to acknowledge that he has in fact taken over Crimea. Putin's Russia thrives on this sort of thing.
    But America and the EU don't. America and the EU are open societies, governed by the rule of law. Our political institutions guarantee to enforce the law in the territories where they are sovereign, or at least they aspire to do so. So these new extralegal "frozen conflict" zones are a problem. When Russia effectively controls Crimea without actually claiming sovereignty, it weakens the international order. Allowing Crimea to become Russia's bit in Ukraine's mouth, to yank whenever Mr Putin wants, is not a suitable solution.

    Yeah, that's good stuff, Emma, extremely thought-provoking....

    Anyone know why it's "the" Ukraine, or "the" Crimea?  Or, for that matter, "the" Sudan, "the" Hague?  We don't say "the Russia" or "the Turkey"...

    Blame Britannia, she invented the language.

    More seriously, most countries have the article with their full formal names, i.e., "The Russian Federation" or The People's Republic of China." The question may really be when do they get to drop the article, and why? I think there might be an answer in looking at the difference between how the word "America" is used and how the name "the U.S.A." is used. The first term is packed with a lot more meaning, or "iconography" as it were.

    I think the "the" implies a section or a region or a place with a specific function. "The steppes..." "The bayou..." "The North..." "The Hindu Kush..."

    With the USA, you need the article or it doesn't make sense: "The United States..."

    We do say "The Americas," though...which is sort of a region.

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