|Doesn't seem like much to talk about|
There are talks of economic sanctions. The US has few ties with Russia, but then the sudden sell-off of over $100 billion in government bonds by Russia and China did raise some concerns. I suppose this was in response to the hit the ruble took these past few weeks as Russia made its move to annex Crimea.
Russia has a strong emotional stake in the Crimea, and you might even say a cultural stake in the peninsula. It has long been a popular Russian tourist destination and over the last two centuries numerous Russians have settled in the Crimea, essentially taking over the peninsula. So, it came as little surprise that over 95% of "Crimeans" voted to secede from the Ukraine and become part of the Russian federation. However, the Crimean Tatar community, which has a much longer relation to the peninsula, sat out the vote.
What is surprising is the brazen way in which Vladimir Putin orchestrated this move, inspiring awe by some American politicians, former Mayor Giuliani, while scorn from others, our dear Senator McCain. No sooner does the ash settle from the protests in Kiev than Putin sends in military forces to back the breakaway "republic" of Crimea, which had stormed the local parliament, and immediately put this "independence" referendum on the table. The West didn't even have a week to relish its political victory in Kiev before all attention turned to Simferopol.
I suppose if you wanted an American equivalent it would be Texas, which we seized from Mexico about the same time, and has recently expressed secessionist thoughts of its own, although I doubt it wants to return to Mexico. Crimea became as heavily Russified as Texas became "Americanized," although with a distinct southern pecan flavor.
|Putin striking his best John Wayne pose|
The Russian president continues to use the thin guise of democratic government to impose his autocratic control over the nation. Given the emotional chord Crimea has with most Russians, he is able to get away with it. Even the last Soviet premier Gorbacev praised the move, and he is normally a very sharp critic of Putin. Fact of the matter is that most Russians see all of the Ukraine as an extension of themselves, which is similarly steeped in literary references, notably Gogol's Taras Bulba. Gogol was born in the Ukraine, but like many Ukrainians had mixed blood and swore his allegiance to Russia.
If history has taught us anything, it is best to keep Russia at arm's length, at least politically. We don't need to ratchet the current crisis into a full blown Cold War, but at the same time it is important to send Mr. Putin a message that the US will not sit idly by while he pushes at his boundaries, "protecting" the rights of Russian minorities in other countries, especially with other ethnic Russian enclaves now contemplating similar referendums like the one we saw in the Crimea.
It is also important to differentiate between the autocratic government in Moscow and the Russian people, who are being whipped into an emotional frenzy much like George Bush was successfully able to do with Americans in the wake of 911 and carry out unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Obama has kept a cool head, unlike his Republican adversaries and is targeting sanctions rather than lowering a wall in relations with Russia. However, I'm sure his patience will be sorely tested in the months ahead, as he stages the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, using Russian transport corridors, which had previously been negotiated.
Meanwhile, Mackie will have to plan his trip to Yalta for some other time.