The Ukraine Crisis And What It’s All About

The crisis in Ukraine has been hitting the headlines for several weeks and sadly many have died. Now we have the Russian’s being accused of ‘occupying’ parts of the Crimea, in particular around Simferopol. Ukraine is a divided nation, with a significant portion of the population in the eastern parts being of Russian origin. This fact alone has raised tensions, as they would rather be allied with Russia than the EU as you would expect.

Yanukovich Balancing Act

The trouble began when politicians started making overtures to Europe to join the Union, which naturally most western countries were for, in particular the United States, Britain, France and Germany. It was no doubt foreseen by many that once a member of the European Union, Ukraine would also join NATO, which would put western forces on the very border of Russia. This would be a strategic advantage for the west, but a nightmare for Russia.

A Man With A Dilemma

The Ukraine politicians, such as they are, are now issuing warnings to Russia and Vladimir Putin not to interfere in Ukrainian affairs. This warning is being echoed by the United States and others. Those currently in power in Ukraine are worried that the country will be split along ethnic lines, and the eastern part will become part of, or at least align, with its eastern neighbour.

Russian Black Sea Fleet

But why is Russia stepping into the game? I believe the answer lies in one thing, their huge naval base in Sevastopol. This Crimea city on the shores of the Black Sea is home to a large Russian fleet, and is their outlet into the Mediterranean Sea. They have only one other much smaller naval base within reach of the Med and that is in Syria, which is now also under threat.

Murmansk Northern Russia

Murmansk Northern Russia

Should Russia lose these two bases, which is likely if (a) Assad is crushed, and (b) the whole of Ukraine joins the EU, the Russian fleets will be banished to ports like Murmansk in the far north, or Vladivostok on the Pacific coast in the Russian Far East. Strategically, this would be a nightmare for Russia in the event of a flare-up of hostilities in the European theater.

In effect, this means that the Soviet Union has a lot riding on the outcome of the political battle being waged within Ukraine. The fact that 6,000 Russian troops are openly reported on the streets of Simferopol means they are not likely to give up trying to get the Crimea at least to join them.

Russia’s Two Navy Bases

This leaves politicians in a dilemma, for while no-one wants to see the country divided, there does seem little choice. Despite all the sabre-rattling, I doubt if any nation, east or west, will risk going to war over this issue and it seems that a political agreement is the only way forward. Of one thing we can be sure, the pro-Russian sector of the country will not want to align itself with Europe and vice versa, so everyone will be forced to accept the compromise of partition in the Ukraine.

Yanukovitch Ousted For Siding With Russia

The whole exercise is however fraught with danger, for tensions are high and it could take only a single shot to plunge the country into chaos and maybe even civil war. Whoever is responsible for negotiating a deal will have to tread very carefully, and both sides will have to be ready to compromise. Let us hope that ‘cool heads’ rule the day.

Roy.

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