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Chess Game over Crimea

K. P. Fabian
March 20, 2014 Russia has won the chess game. President Putin played well. he other side consisting o! the !ledgling go"ernment in Kie", President #bama, and the $uropean %nion could ha"e played a better game. here was a signi!icant !ailure on the part o! #bama, his ad"isers such as &mbassador 'amantha Power, the $uropean %nion, and the rest o! the (est in understanding the ground realities and grasping the big picture. For e)ample, #bama and e"en *erman +hancellor &ngela Mer,el, seem to ha"e belie"ed that Russia was not serious about anne)ing +rimea and that by threatening dire conse-uences Putin could be made to change his course. Part o! the reason !or (est.s !ailure lies in their habit o! ignoring history. he Russian /lac, 'ea Fleet at 'e"astopol was established by Prince Potem,in in 1012. his is the only warm water base that Russia has. he 1330 treaty between Russia and %,raine di"ided the !leet between them, 11.04 !or Russia and 11.24 !or %,raine5 Russia was gi"en the right to use the port o! 'e"astopol !or 20 years. 6n 2003, %,raine sent out signals that the treaty would not be e)tended when it e)pires in 2010. Finally, an agreement was made in 2010 to e)tend the treaty by 27 years in 2010 with a pro"ision !or an additional 7 years ta,ing it to 2040. &!ter the collapse o! the 'o"iet %nion, the (est started to draw into 8& # and $% the neighbours o! Russia. For Russia, its security is threatened i! there is no bu!!er between it and the (est. hat was the reason !or the neutrali9ation o! Finland a!ter (orld (ar 2. (hen *ermany was united in 1330 there was an agreement among the !our !ormer occupying powers :%', %''R;R%''6&, %K and France< that !oreign troops :meaning 8& #< would not be stationed in the !ormer $ast *ermany. his pro"ision was later "iolated by 8& #. (hen the 'o"iet %nion collapsed, the %' had the option to wor, with Russia to put an end to the mindless arms race. 6nstead, the %' chose to e)tract concessions



!rom a wea, Russia and to surround it by e)panding 8& # eastward. 'imilarly, when the $% also e)panded eastward, Russia !elt threatened. (hen %,raine was about to sign an agreement with $%, Russia inter"ened, o!!ered a loan o! =17 billion to dissuade Kie" !rom going ahead with the agreement. President >anu,o"ych decided not to sign the agreement to which there was much opposition !rom eastern %,raine, his political base. $ncouraged by the $% and %', those %,rainians who wanted to get closer to !ormer started an agitation and about 10 were ,illed. here are reports that the pro?$% agitators were responsible !or the ,illing in part at least. he $% sent a group o! !oreign ministers :France, *ermany and Poland< to Kie" and an agreement was signed on February 21 !or !orming a new go"ernment, changing the constitution to reduce the powers o! the president, and to ad"ance the presidential election. here was an e)pectation that the crisis was resol"ed. he day a!ter the signing o! the agreement President >anu,o"ych disappeared. o

materiali9e, days later in Russia, the Parliament sac,ed the President and an interim go"ernment was put in place. he action by the Parliament was illegal and Putin is right in not recogni9ing the new go"ernment in Kie". he procedure :article 111< !or impeachment o! the President was not !ollowed. he !irst ma@or error made by the (est was in encouraging the pro?$% %,rainians to wal, out o! the February 21 agreement to which Russia too was a party. Putin came to the conclusion that the (est had a plan to ta,e %,raine into $% and later to 8& #, a!!ecting Russia.s security and its hold on 'e"astopol. (e do not ,now why the February 21 agreement was sabotaged and who did it. here is some e"idence suggesting that the %' was behind the sabotage and that the $% was !or implementing the agreement. 6t will be recalled that the %' had to apologi9e to $% a!ter a >ou ube brought out that the %' &ssistant 'ecretary o! 'tate 8uland had used e)pleti"es against $% in her con"ersation with her &mbassador in Kie". 6n any case, Aoice o! &merica carried a statement !rom Bepartment o! 'tate on February 21st itsel! about the !ragility o! the agreement adding that it would be di!!icult to Csell. it to the people. o go bac, to history, +rimea was trans!erred to %,raine by Khrushche" in 1374 against much opposition in Russia and +rimea. he decision was ta,en in a casual manner. Khrushche" had wor,ed in the mines in %,raine and married a %,rainian. De rose up in the +ommunist Party o! %,raine to be its First 'ecretary, a position he held when (orld (ar 2 bro,e out. 6n short, it was an emoti"e decision. he occasion chosen was the 200th



anni"ersary o! the reaty o! Pereiasla"l signed in 1E74 when %,raine sought and was gi"en the protection o! Musco"y. 6t must be noted that 71.74 o! the population in +rimea is Russian and they ha"e had serious complaints against the treatment meted out to them by Kie". here ha"e been mo"es in the early 1330s !or holding a re!erendum on @oining Russia. 6t was not politically !easible !or Putin to ha"e turned a dea! ear to the Russians in +rimea. 6n !act, he was glad to a"ail o! the opportunity to stop the encroachment o! the (est to his neighbourhood. he (est should ha"e seen the big picture and ,ept ali"e the compromise reached on February 21. here is another interesting point that needs to be noted about (est.s play. (hen Russia sent in its armed men !rom across the border and dressed them up in uni!orms C!or the protection o! the Russians in +rimea., it was put out by (ashington that #bama had o!!ered Ca !ace?sa"ing !ormula. to Putin by o!!ering to send international obser"ers to +rimea to ta,e care o! the sa!ety o! the Russians. 'uch a reading o! the situation shows considerable ignorance. Putin was in no need o! any !ace?sa"ing !ormula. De had decided on what to do and was determined to ta,e his plan to its logical conclusion. &s the (est has no means o! pre"enting the secession o! +rimea they should not ha"e held out threats against Russia publicly ma,ing it e"en more di!!icult !or Putin to change course. he ban on tra"el to (est by listed indi"iduals and !ree9ing o! their assets will not hurt much. (e do not ,now how Putin might react. De ignored the sanctions and the tough warnings and went ahead with anne)ation as was e)pected. he (est will be compelled by their own threats to impose serious economic sanctions. Russia might retaliate against (estern companies, !or e)ample, $))on Mobile is acti"e in Russia and there are E,000 *erman companies in Russia. (hen it comes to applying sanctions, Russia is so di!!erent !rom 6ra- or 6ran. he !act o! the matter is that the (est cannot apply sanctions that will hurt Russia without getting hurt in retaliation. Putin can retaliate by imposing sanctions on (estern companies wor,ing in Russia and increasing pressure on the eastern parts o! %,raine with si9able Russian population. 6t is on the cards that e"entually a compromise might be wor,ed out with the (est ta,ing bac, the sanctions against Russia with an underta,ing that it will not destabili9e %,raine by inter"ening in its east.



Perhaps, President #bama erred in tal,ing at length with President Putin. Principals should lea"e it to their assistants and come in only when there are still pending issues or when the two sides are close to an agreement. #bama should ha"e reali9ed that Putin could not ha"e a!!orded to gi"e the impression that he was bac,ing down under pressure. 'ome o! President #bama.s ad"isors such as 'amantha Power were under wrong impression that Russia would be as passi"e as it was when the (est dismantled 'erbia to create an independent Koso"o in the 1330s. *eopolitics has changed much since then. 6s +rimea the beginning o! a process o! Russian e)pansionF here is a demand !rom a part o! Molda"ia to @oin Russia. 'imilar demands might come !rom eastern %,raine too. %nless (est plays the game better than it has done so !ar, +rimea will be the !irst with more to !ollow. (hat is re-uired is a comprehensi"e dialogue between Russia and the (est on the -uestion o! the e)pansion o! $% and 8& #. 6s the leadership in the (est able and willing !or such a dialogueF (e do not ,now.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.