West waxes laws and norms as Russia absorbs Crimea

Posted Mar 19, 2014 by Bradley Axmith
The U.S. and Europe are trying to contain Russian revanchism in Crimea by suspending G8 participation and warning of further costs while Putin's star soars again.
Gene Thorp/The Washington Post
War looms in Eastern Europe and amid calls from the French to expel Russia from the G8 for its annexation of the Crimea, contradictory statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel reveal European geopolitical disunity and the extent to which Moscow's behavioural freedom in central Eurasia demands a sober political response, according to analysts.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with the de facto leaders of the Crimea and Sevastopol, welcoming the Black Sea peninsula under Moscow's control after a referendum reportedly returned a 97 percent vote to join the Russian Federation was held on Sunday.
”Crimea is part of our common heritage and a key factor of stability in the region. This strategic territory should be under strong, stable sovereignty, which in effect can only be Russian,” Putin told the Russian Duma.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said following the declaration, “This action — the results of the referendum and the attempt to annex a region of Ukraine — will never be recognized by the United States and the international community.”
“Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Mr. Putin added.
Russia's support of Crimea's secession from Ukraine and subsequent accession into Russia follows weeks of turmoil caused by the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's handling of protests in the capital where almost 100 civilians perished, eventually leading to his flight from the country.
Mr. Putin has blamed the west for supporting the “extremists” that staged the confrontation and even orchestrated some of the killings.
Russia has yet to recognize the provisional government that formed in the wake of Yanukovich's ouster, calling them radical “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-semites.” Moscow refuses to accept any dialogue with Kiev.
Putin stressed that Ukraine still has no legitimate authority, pointing to the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party's participation in the provisional government. "There is still no legitimate executive power in Ukraine. There is no one to talk with," said Putin.
Ukraine announced it was mobilizing a 40,000-strong national guard to protect against further Russian incursion into its eastern territory, where pro-Russian sentiment dominates and provides a intervention pretext for Russian forces amassed just beyond Ukrainian borders to protect ethnic Russians.
Mr. Putin has said he does not intend any incursions into other regions of Ukraine, reiterating a pledge not to divide it, rather righting the “historical injustice” perpetrated by former Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev when he signed the Crimea over to Ukraine in 1954 when both entities were within the USSR.
Crimean history is a bloody one however, and even with its absorption into the Russian Federation the continued presence of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers stranded at their bases and surrounded by an ostensibly Crimean security force.
Mr. Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the BBC, “Ukrainian soldiers remaining in Crimea need to make a choice — they could join the Crimean forces which would become part of the Russian army or “be free to leave the peninsula.”
Crimean authorities have declared the Ukrainian military presence illegal, encouraging soldiers to abandon all arms and leave their stations. Some have deserted but many remain complicating an increasingly tense situation, where Kiev has authorized its Crimean forces to defend themselves with force.
According to Ukrainian military sources, one of their army bases in the Crimean capital Simferopol
One of the armed masked men who call themselves members of Ukraine's disbanded elite Berkut rio...
One of the armed masked men who call themselves members of Ukraine's disbanded elite Berkut riot police force aims his rifle at a checkpoint under Russian national and naval flags on a Ukraine highway on February 28, 2014
Viktor Drachev, AFP/File
was attacked yesterday “by unknown forces, fully equipped,” resulting in one fatality, a junior officer shot and killed by sniper fire.
Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia of a war crime in this matter, but demonstrating the military balance, earlier today pro-Russian forces entered the Black Sea headquarters of the Ukrainian navy and hoisted the Russian flag without incident.
Sanctions remain as the only tool left to level against Russia and Russian businessmen, but the “land grab” as Vice-president Joe Biden is calling it, seems likely to be a fait accompli.
The U.S. and European Union issued travel bans and asset freezes on Russian leaders and individuals leading the Crimean secession, though further increasing the pressure on Moscow comes at a cost to painful for European electorates. Russia supplies 40% of Germany's gas needs for example, while 60 percent of Russian state income is derived from energy exports illustrating the interdependence of the Euro-Russian relationship.
France has threatened to cancel the sale of two Mistral class warships to Russia, but only if Britain will impose sanctions on Russian business interests in the London financial sector. Prime Minister David Cameron has warned Russia that they risk further costs and consequences but has not called for any action against Russian money in the UK in line with the French encouragement.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy symbolically canceled a diplomatic trip to Moscow out of protest to the Crimean annexation.
Chancellor Angela Merkel along with the other big seven have suspended their partnership in the Sochi G8 summit, but remain committed to the format itself, meaning the fallout from Crimea will take some time to analyse.
For one, the last election that secured a victory for Viktor Yanukovich gave him 500,000 votes over the pro-Europe opposition that now leads the provisional government. In that same poll, Crimea voted for Yanukovich's Party of Regions by a million, meaning an electoral swing now favours a western orientation for Ukraine on the whole but a potentially disquieting scenario for ethnic Russians in the East and for regional stability.
In 1783 Russia annexed the Crimea after a gradual political and religious infiltration of the peninsula as part of a strategy to arrest the growth of a Muslim encirclement. The US was a babe on the world scene, France was weakened by it's support there and Great Britain was licking its wounds. The Black Sea peninsula was not a priority then.
The current Crimea operation can be viewed as a component, together with the war against Georgia in 2008,
A Russian tank lumbers through the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in Georgia  2008.
A Russian tank lumbers through the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in Georgia, 2008.
Yana Amelina
of a Russian strategy to gain some breathing space — this time — from an encircling NATO.
Mr. Putin complained that, "In the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed a line, a red line."
Despite the U.S. moving some F15s to Poland and Lithuania, not much can be achieved by a military confrontation. Mr. Putin has achieved a new popularity and need not push any more. According to some analysts, the West will have to accept observers in Eastern Ukraine as the only face-saving measure available.