Some interesting news from Russia, courtesy of the Czech news organizations iDNES and ČTK.
Apparently, Putin is searching for a legal basis for his move against the Ukraine and, very likely, for future aggressions. So it seems to me, anyway. And he may have chanced upon something any sea lawyer would love.
Per Czech news, the Russian press agency ITAR-TASS reported on April 10, 2014 that a group of Russian Duma members is demanding that Yuri Chaikov, Russia’s general procurator, open an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the USSR. The ultimate goal is apparently prosecution of the responsible parties, possibly even Mikhail Gorbachev. These politicians claim that the breakup was actually illegal since (1) 76% of those who had voted in a referendum had been for retaining the union, (2) Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Moldavia and Armenia had not taken part in the referendum, and (3) Soviet representatives had taken a number of illegal steps during the negotiations that ultimately resulted in the breakup of the USSR. The Duma members further note that the Soviet procurator’s office actually wanted to take legal action against Gorbachev in 1991 but was dissuaded by the Kremlin. Finally, they accuse Gorbachev of having created a top governmental organ after the August 1991 coup, for which there was no basis in the Soviet Constitution, noting further that it was this very organ which illegally recognized the independence of the Baltic republics.
I keep thinking of Putin’s statement that the breakup of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” If that was a serious statement, and I think it was, then this legal stratagem might be used to justify moves not just against the Ukraine but against any of the former Soviet republics.
Speaking of the Ukraine: the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has recently published a briefing paper on the Ukraine’s – and Russia’s – military dispositions following the Russian takeover of the Crimea. The paper offers four possible military scenarios available to Russia. It also reviews the geopolitical and economic realities in the region. Excellent and informative, if ominous, read.
Looking at the map and thinking about the general situation…
If I were Putin, I would now wait patiently and start making friendly noises, possibly even pay reparations to the Ukraine, until the Crimea becomes old news, like Benghazi. This would let Obama declare victory and continue reducing U.S. military capabilities in peace (figuratively speaking). And if I waited until after the 2016 elections, I might see another Obama type (like, for instance, Clinton) elected. If so, I’d roll into the Ukraine just after the results of the U.S. elections were announced and not stop until I reached the Dnieper.
On the other hand, if I were an Eastern European Slav, I might start thinking really hard about a defensive federation of the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainians, over and above NATO. That would create a 100 million-strong block of Slavic peoples who, by virtue of their location and their very long historical memories, would create a powerful stabilizing force that could face down threats from east – or west. If I felt very generous, I might in time invite the Hungarians and the Romanians to join, but that darn long memory of mine would not let me sleep well.
Nice thought; but I can’t see that happening, not now, certainly not with EU overlordship…