GeoPolitical Forecasts

Forecasts of international political events

Tag Archives: Putin

Will Russia invade Ukraine?

Yes.

I’ve been delaying making a forecast because there’s so much information, and so few reliable guidelines for interpreting it. Putin has been deliberately sending mixed signals: on one hand, he says he won’t invade east Ukraine, on the other, he emphasizes his legal grounds for invasion and he’s massing troops on the border. He seems to be trying to signal his intentions without having to pay the price of signaling his intentions. For example, if he announces that he’s going to invade Ukraine, the ruble will fall, Russian stocks will drop, and he’ll get endless phone calls from Western political leaders. If he states that he’s not going to invade Ukraine, he doesn’t have to deal with all that until the invasion actually happens, but Western governments will be aware of the troop movements and his statements about the illegitimacy of the current Ukrainian government, Yanukovych’s request for an invasion, and his claims of concern about the safety of Ukrainians who are ethnically Russian.

Putin wants Ukraine returned to the Russian sphere of influence. He’s willing to use military force to accomplish it, but he would rather negotiate. Since Yanukovych was forced out of power, he’s been very clear that he wants Yanukovych restored, but the US and EU have essentially ignored his statements and made offers that don’t restore Yanukovych or bring Ukraine back under Russian sway some other way. If he announces that he’s willing to use military force to get what he wants, he would have to deal with economic and political turmoil while the negotiations proceeded. I believe his current course of action is an effort to get the negotiations without the turmoil. I don’t believe he will get the response he wants, which means that he will invade.

In 2007, Putin made a speech at the Munich Conference on Security Policy[1] that could have been titled “Why I Fear and Distrust the West”. Nothing that has happened since has made him more trusting. In Ukraine, a Western-sponsored agreement that would have eased Yanukovych out of power was discarded within hours. Yanukovych fled and was stripped of the presidency in a way that clearly violated the Ukrainian consitution. From Russia’s point of view, it was a Western-backed coup.[2] Subsequent discussions between Russia and the West haven’t done anything to restore Russian trust.[3] Restoring Yanukovych would restore Russian influence in Ukraine without requiring Russia to rely on assurances from the West, and unlike other ways of doing this, Yanukovych has some claim to legitimacy.

On the Western side, there’s been no effort to address Russia’s concerns. None of the proposals that John Kerry has made that have been reported in the news media have done have made any concession to Putin’s objections to the current government in Ukraine. There have been no proposals for an alternative government that excluded Yanukovych but addressed Putin’s concerns. The current government wants to join NATO and prefers the European Union to Putin’s Eurasian Union. This is unacceptable to Russia.

For political reasons, I don’t believe Western negotiators can make proposals that address Putin’s concerns. While Yanukovych has some supporters in Ukraine, the opposition to him is sufficiently widespread and intense that I don’t think he could return to the presidency unless preceded by Russian tanks. The current government depends on Yanukovych’s opponents for support and can’t negotiate his return. The US and EU have very little choice but to support the current government in Ukraine. Domestic politics here in the US make it impossible for Obama to accept Yanukovych’s return and extremely difficult to make proposals that would be seen by Congress as rewarding Russian aggression. The EU and NATO represent a mix of countries with different domestic political situations, but in aggregate their hands are also somewhat tied in terms of the proposals they can make or support.

Being naive in military matters, I thought at one point that Putin’s biggest concern was the naval bases in Crimea and that he would be satisfied with control of Crimea. But military analysts say that the naval bases aren’t all that important.[4] So Putin is seemingly willing to use military force in Ukraine for political reasons, without being driven by concerns about military strategy.

Currently, Moscow is claiming that Kiev is unable to maintain civil order in Ukraine and talking about it’s “duty” to protect Russian citizens in neighboring countries. The West is not doing anything to meet Russia’s concerns about the government in Kiev. Putin doesn’t trust the West, blames it for the current crisis, and wants Ukraine back in its sphere of influence. And Russia is willing to use its military forces. So I think the odds are better than 50/50 that there will be Russian forces in eastern Ukraine in the next couple of weeks.

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After writing the first draft of this, I checked for recent news of Ukraine, and discovered that The Daily Beast is reporting that Russia has special ops forces in Ukraine.[5]

1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html
2. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/02/crimea-crisis-russia-ukraine-cold-war
3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/12/why-washington-and-moscow-keep-talking-past-each-other/?wprss=rss_politics
4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russias-prize-in-crimea-resonates-in-history-but-has-little-strategic-benefit-for-navy/2014 /03/13/39bcc6a2-a9df-11e3-b61e-8051b8b52d06_story.html?tid=hpModule_949fa2b e-8691-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394
5. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/15/russian-commandos-invade-ukraine.html

Putin and Western double standards

This is not an analysis of Russian foreign policy, or an attempt to argue for or against any actions that Putin has taken. It’s fairly clear that Putin doesn’t trust the US/EU/NATO, and this is a list of specific facts and interpretations of those facts that would lead him to distrust the West and accuse it of applying double standards. I’m not evaluating the truth of his claims, only trying to understand his viewpoint. If I can’t understand his viewpoint, I can’t make predictions about his actions. Understanding his viewpoint necessarily means being able to express it in a way that he would agree with. Obviously, this is my attempt to understand and express his viewpoint, not his expression of his viewpoint. I’m pretty sure that I don’t completely understand his viewpoint and am not likely to express it entirely correctly. If you see where I’ve made an error, or if I’ve left something out, feel free to let me know.

On 4 March, Putin named three examples of what he considers Western double standards: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya[1]. I’ll start with those.

1. Afghanistan

The US-led military action in Afghanistan wasn’t authorized by the UN Security Council.[2] The UN Charter requires the US and other signatories to settle differences peacefully, except when they are defending themselves. A bombing campaign that culminates in the overthrow of a government is not part of the usual definition of self-defense. Under the US constitution, a treaty becomes the law of the land when the US ratifies it. A more limited definition of self-defense that excludes bombing and regime overthrow implies that the US broke both US and international law.

2. Iraq

I think Putin would agree with Kofi Annan’s summary of the legality of the Iraq invasion. Quoting Wikipedia, ‘Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the Charter point of view, it was illegal.”‘[3]

Russia supplied arms to Saddam Hussein and probably helped him get rid of his WMD after the First Iraq War.[4] If Iraq was not an ally, it was certainly an important relationship.

3. Libya

The UN resolution authorizing the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya also authorized protection of civilians by any means except a “foreign occupation force”. The military coalition acting in Libya eventually put special operations troops in the country.[5]

In this case, I can quote Putin: “When the entire so-called civilized community falls upon a small country with all its might, destroys infrastructure created over generations — I don’t know, is that good or not?”[6] And on the killing of Gaddafi: “Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos, who were not supposed to be there, brought in so-called opposition and militants. And killed him without trial.”[7] (There are a number of other quotes along the same line from Putin in the articles cited.)

Libya was an important ally for Russia, possibly the most important of its allies in North Africa and the Middle East.[8]

4. NATO expansion

When West Germany was planning to reunite with East Germany, Gorbachev told US Secretary of State James Baker that “any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.”[9] The next day, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Gorbachev ‘”naturally NATO could not expand its territory” into East Germany.’ The West German FM told the Soviet FM “for us, it stands firm: NATO will not expand itself to the East.” Gorbachev made no deal with Baker and the West Germans could only speak for themselves. Nevertheless, Gorbachev understandably thought that they had an agreement not to allow NATO expansion. He later complained that he had been trapped.

From Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy:

I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. Where are these guarantees?[10]

From a 2010 interview Putin gave Kammersant Daily (via RIA Novosti):

At time of the withdrawal from East Europe, the NATO secretary general promised the USSR it could be confident that NATO would not expand over its current boundaries.

And where is it? I asked them [NATO officials] about this. They have nothing to say. They deceived us in the rudest way.[11]

5. Kosovo

In 2008, Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia. Serbia’s Constitutional Court ruled the declaration illegal and its National Assembly voted it null and void.[12] The Russian government called on the UN and NATO to take steps to prevent Kosovo independence, “including the annulling of the decisions of Pristina’s self-governing organs and the taking of tough administrative measures against them.”[13] Putin said that “Europe has double standards on territory issues and small states do not feel safe in the world arena.”[14] Serbia was a Russian ally and remains close. Whether or not Kosovo’s independence violates international law is a matter of controversy.

6. Georgia

Eduard Shevardnadze, who had been the Soviet Union’s Foreign Minister, was Georgia’s president until 2003. He gradually lost support and his political party split up.[15] After an election that many viewed as fraudulent, mass demonstrations forced Shevardnadze to resign. NGOs partially funded by foreign sources were important in organizing the demonstrations. When Saakashvili was voted in as president, Georgia turned away from Russia and became a Western ally, seeking NATO membership.

7. Ukraine

Ukraine in 2004 experienced an Orange Revolution similar to Georgia’s Rose Revolution. Election fraud, followed by demonstrations partially organized by groups trained and funded in part by Westerners, led to a new government oriented to the West, along with talk of joining NATO.[16]

8. Ukraine again (Maidan)

(In describing right wing groups and government actions, I’m limiting myself to the things I believe Russia objects to. I’m not giving a complete or accurate description of groups or government actions.)

One of the organizers of the Maidan is the Svoboda party. In the past, it’s leader has made anti-semitic statements, and has used derogatory terms for Russians. The party’s original name was “Social-National Party of Ukraine”, a reference to National Socialism. The party honors Stepan Bandera, who many Ukrainians view as a Nazi collaborator. The party has eliminated racist statements from its platform, but it still contains statements many would consider discriminatory against non-Ukrainians.[17]

Right Sector emerged as an important part of the later, more violent Maidan protests. During the protests its leaders encouraged the production of Molotov cocktails and bombs, and it claims to have an arsenal of weapons. It claims to reject the more racist beliefs of many Svoboda members, but it uses neo-Nazi imagery and rejects multiculturalism.[18]

Right Sector and Svoboda were among the nationalist groups that dominated the Maidan self-defense units. These were the units that provided security for the Kiev parliament after the police disappeared. Under the protection of these units, Ukraine’s parliament removed Yanukovych from the presidency without following the constitutionally mandated procedure for an impeachment, in a vote that lacked the constitutionally mandated super-majority needed to remove a president.[19] The parliament voted to repeal the law that allowed Russian to be declared an official language, although the acting president didn’t sign it and it didn’t become law. Five of Svoboda’s members are part of the current government in Kiev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the toppling of Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, in the capital Kiev an “anti-constitutional coup and a military seizure of power”.[20]

The Russian foreign minister said the interim government in Kiev was “not independent because it depends to a great extent on the radical nationalists who seized power by force of arms”.

Right Sector, the main radical group, was “calling the tune” in Kiev, he said, and using “terror and intimidation” as its methods.[21]

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Quoting the Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy:

Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

And with which results?

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations.[10]

In the 2010 interview with Kommersant Daily, Putin said his speech was still relevant.[11]

Update: This was edited on 8/3/14 to add more quotes from Putin and replace my summary of his views with quotes from his Munich speech.

1. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/03/analysis-us-russia-relations-drop-new-low-2014367738365747.html
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Afghanistan_(2001-present)#Legal_basis_for_war
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War#Preparations_for_Iraq_war
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War
5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1973
6. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-russia-putin-libya-idUSTRE73P4L9201104266. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-russia-putin-libya-idUSTRE73P4L9201104266. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-russia-putin-libya-idUSTRE73P4L920110426
7. http://rt.com/news/putin-mccain-gaddafi-nuts-879
8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya-Russia_relations
9. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/opinion/30sarotte.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
10. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html
11. http://en.ria.ru/russia/20100830/160392617.html
12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_status_of_Kosovo#Prior_opinions
13. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/world/europe/17iht-17reax2.10118559.html
14. http://english.sina.com/world/p/1/2008/0214/145836.html
15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Revolution#Fragmentation_of_the_political_elite
16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Revolution#Involvement_of_outside_forces
17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svoboda_(political_party)#Allegations_of_xenophobia_and_racism
18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_Sector
19. https://gpforecasts.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/yanukovychs-removal-was-unconstitutional
20. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26436575
21. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26495378

Crimean forecast

Players, in order of influence.

1. Vladimir Putin
2. Kiev (the government in Kiev)
3. Ukraine’s population
4. Crimea’s population
5. US/EU
6. Simferopol (the government of autonomous Crimea)
7. Victor Yanukovych

The critical relationship is the one between Putin, Kiev, and Ukraine’s population. Putin is angry because he feels that relationship has been disrupted by interference from the West. Crimea’s future will be decided by negotiations between Putin and Kiev, but Kiev’s ability to negotiate is constrained by the amount of support it has among the population, specifically by the support it has in eastern and southern Ukraine. At the moment it doesn’t matter whether or not opposition to Kiev in eastern Ukraine is due to Russian propaganda or not. What matters is that the opposition exists and weakens Kiev. Without a good post-Yanukovych opinion survey of the country, it’s impossible to know how strong the opposition is. What is known is that there have been sizable protests against the Kievian government, so significant opposition does exist.[2] On the other hand, there’s nothing like a foreign invasion to unite the population of a country behind its government.

Everyone else is playing a supporting role. The US and EU have together offered loans that may exceed the $15 billion that Putin originally offered Yanukovych.[3] That gets them in the game, but it’s not clear how united they are. Former Soviet Bloc countries feel threatened by Russia’s moves, [4] but western Europe needs Russian gas, oil, and metals and Russian trade.[5] British PM David Cameron reportedly will not support trade sanctions against Russia or ban Russian involvement in British financial markets; London’s City needs Russian money. In order to provide a united front, the US and the EU may have to go with a least-common-denominator response that doesn’t hurt anyone’s economic interests, which would be a weak response.

The previous Simferopol government was voted out and a new government voted in as mystery soldiers guarded the Crimean parliament building. The soldier’s identities are a secret; everyone except Russia has figured out that they are Russian. Observers described the parliamentary session as irregular and possibly influenced by the presence of the soldiers.[6][7][8] In fairness, this somewhat mirrors the parliamentary proceedings at Kiev that occurred while the right-wing Maidan self-defense forces guarded the parliament building, along with the constitutional irregularity of the vote that removed Yanukovych. The difference is that Kiev could back out of its new relationship with the US/EU and return to the old status quo with Russia, while Putin would make it very difficult for Simferopol to back out of its new relationship with Russia.

There’s a story from the time of the Orange Revolution about a meeting between Kuchma, Yanukovych, a group of pro-Yanukovych supporters from Donetsk, and government security officials.[9] Over the course of the meeting it became obvious to everyone that Yanukovych was not going to be inaugurated as president, but Yanukovych was the last to accept this. Afterwards he publicly accused Kuchma of betrayal. Now Yanukovych is in the same position. He’s the only person in the room, metaphorically speaking, who hasn’t grasped that he’s never going to be president again. Even Putin, his protector, feels no sympathy for him and doesn’t see a political future for him.[10] Yanukovych’s role at this point is legitimizing the occupation of Crimea and a possible invasion of eastern Ukraine[11] while being largely ignored by his Russian hosts,[12] and once again complaining about being betrayed. To the Victor belong the spiels.

Policy Position

Greater Russian influence/greater Western influence

1. Putin
2. Yanukovych
3. Simferopol
4. Crimea’s population
6. Ukraine’s population
6. Kiev
7. US/EU

Putin wants Ukraine to be part of his Customs Union, and he doesn’t want NATO anywhere near his Crimean military bases. Yanukovych’s only hope for recovering the presidency, however delusional that hope is, is for Putin to force Ukraine to take him back. The Simferopol government was created to ensure Russian influence. A poll in February showed 41% of Crimeans favoring a union between Ukraine and Russia.[13] That was based on a small sample, but probably a larger percentage would favor the less extreme position of closer Russian ties, or the presence of a “protective” Russian force with Crimea’s status left undefined. Ukraine’s population is divided between patriotic Ukrainians who want closer Russian ties, and patriotic Ukrainians who want closer Western ties. Kiev has indicated that it wants to pursue EU membership. The US/EU wants everyone to have closer ties to the US/EU.

Importance of the outcome to the players

1. Crimea’s population
2. Putin
3. Simferopol
4. Kiev
5. Ukraine’s population
6. US/EU
7. Yanukovych

I think its obvious that the question of Crimea’s ties to Russia and the West matters more to Crimeans than to anyone else. As the person who created the crisis, Putin has as much at stake as any other single individual. In fact, you could make the argument that he should be in the top spot. (But I think the outcome’s effect on many Crimeans outweighs its effect on a single Putin.) You can view Simferopol as a government created in response to voter demand for closer Russian ties, or as a government created to provide political cover for Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, but either way Simferopol has a lot at stake in close ties to Russia. Kiev’s ability to negotiate with Putin and their success or failure in maintaining Ukraine’s borders will have a big effect on how they are viewed by the Ukrainian population. The Ukrainian population in turn will be affected the direction Kiev goes in order to resolve the crisis. Everyone in the first to fifth slot would be willing to fight over the crisis if they had to. The US/EU would not be willing. I think Yanukovych would be happy to see a war that restored him to power, but I don’t think he cares as much about who exerts influence in Ukraine as he does about the lost cause of Yanukovychian ascendancy.

Resolve/Flexibility

1. Putin
2. Simferopol
3. Crimea’s population
4. Kiev
5. Ukraine’s population
6. US/EU
7. Yanukovych

It doesn’t seem to be Putin’s style to use phrases like “red line”, but he’s been strongly signaling his unhappiness with US/EU actions in Ukraine, and the signals have gotten stronger in the days since the invasion of Crimea. From Putin’s point of view, this is the last in a long series of interference in other governments, broken promises, and violations of international law by the West. George H. W. Bush promised Russian that we wouldn’t expand NATO into the former Soviet area, and Clinton ignored that promise and NATO expanded to Russia’s borders. Prior to 2003, Russia had an ally in Georgia. The Rose Revolution put paid to that, mostly due to the collapse of support for Shevardnadze, but partly due to organizing by NGOs that received some of their funding from the west.[14] The Orange Revolution the next year in the Ukraine deprived Putin’s favored candidate of the presidency, again with some support from the West.[15] Prior to 2011, Russia had an ally in Libya. It abstained from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution establishing a no-fly zone in Libya because it was promised that NATO wouldn’t go beyond its mandate.[16] There was mission creep and NATO ended up doing more than enforcing a no-fly zone. The end result is that Russia no longer has an ally in Libya. Since Putin became president in Russia, the West has redrawn Serbia’s borders to create the independent country of Kosovo.[17] Serbia had been a Russian ally, although it is now headed toward membership in the EU.

In this case, Russia has the military resources to prevent growing US/NATO influence in the Crimea where Russia has crucial military bases. It also supplies desperately needed gas and trade for the rest of Ukraine. He’s going to do whatever is necessary to prevent further threat to Russia’s interests, and he doesn’t trust us. Of all the players, he’s the least flexible. He doesn’t need an independent Crimea or a more autonomous one, but he does need one that is free of US/NATO influence.

The Simferopol government was created to create political cover for Russia’s military occupation of Crimea. More long term, it was created to maintain Russia’s political influence in Crimea and prevent an increase of Western influence. Crimea’s population includes many people who are resolved to strengthen ties with Russia, although this resolve probably isn’t as strong overall as the Simferopol government’s resolve. Kiev is determined to reestablish control over Crimea, but it has a lot of other problems to deal with and limited resources. Ukraine’s population mostly resents the Russian invasion, but they’re willing to allow a substantial amount of Russian influence. The US and EU are limited to providing financial support for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. As I mentioned above, its going to be hard for the US and EU to unite behind sanctions. Financial support will be more sustainable and have more effect, but that means that US/EU has to accept whatever Kiev can negotiate. Yanukovych will take whatever he can get.

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Overall, it’s clear that the Crimean crisis is going to be resolved when Putin thinks it’s resolved. He has the most influence of any player, the outcome is more important to him than almost anyone else, the players on his side of the policy divide are mostly located in Crimea while the players on the other side of the divide are mostly elsewhere, he’s more determined than anyone else to get what he wants, and the most determined players are on his side.

In contrast, the only player less likely to have an effect on the outcome of the crisis than the US/EU is Yanukovych. While they’re at the middle of the pack in terms of influence, Ukraine/Crimea isn’t as important to the US/EU as is it is to most of the other players, and their resolve is weak. Russia has military bases in Crimea and operational control. Anything that the US/NATO could counter with is far away, and they’re not willing to use military force anyway.

Since Putin’s goal is more Russian influence in Ukraine and less Western influence, the sudden outpouring of assistance for Ukraine from the US/EU is probably viewed as more Western interference that destabilizes the country. Stability for Putin would be the old status quo with a Russian-oriented government and no Western interference. The more US/EU influence grows in Ukraine, the greater the chances of Putin splitting Crimea off from Ukraine and setting up a client state. This was the strategy he pursued in Abkhazia and South Ossetia when Georgia turned away from Russia and towards the EU and NATO, and he had less at stake in those two areas than he does in Crimea. Giving up influence in Ukraine and tightening control in Crimea is probably not his ideal solution, but it sets up a strong barrier to further Western encroachment, much more clearly marked and defended than the older more porous barrier at the border between the EU and Ukraine. Even with the Ukrainians and Tartars, Crimea as a separate political unit is going to be less susceptible to Western influence than Ukraine intact with the old provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

But splitting Crimea off from Ukraine doesn’t mean the end of Russian influence in Ukraine. Even with the resentment the move would create, Ukraine still needs Russian gas and Russian trade. Being at odds with Russia means that Ukraine will pay substantially more for gas, and a large part of eastern Ukraine’s economy depends on Russian trade. The oligarchs aren’t going to be happy at the loss of revenue, and eastern voters aren’t going to be happy about the loss of jobs. The economic harm that Western sanctions would do to Russia are minor compared to the economic harm that Russian sanctions would do to Ukraine. Sanctions themselves probably aren’t necessary. Just raising the price of gas and creating bureaucratic barriers to trade would cause a lot of pain. And language and cultural ties between Russia and Ukraine make it easy for Russia to create news reports that influence many Ukrainians’ thinking. Just as western Ukraine will always be open to Western influence, eastern Ukraine will always be open to Russian influence.

Looking at Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia ensured that it had strong bonds with the populations and effective control of the areas. People in both areas were offered Russian citizenship and many of them welcomed it. This gave Russia a clear indication of the support it would receive from people in the two areas. Russia subsidized the government of South Ossetia, controlled the security forces, and staffed the local governments with Russians or natives who had worked for the Russian government in similar positions.[18] Abkhazia exercises more autonomy, but Russia supplies a quarter of its budget, is funding a massive infrastructure buildup, and pays the pensions.[19]

In Transnistria, the economy is not self-sufficient and Russia subsidizes the government through a bizarre arrangement that saddles Moldova with Transnistria’s unpaid natural gas debts.[20] Russia also helps pay pensions and subsidizes other government services. It is probably subsidizing Transnistria’s army and KGB. Many of Transnistria’s people are Russian citizens and Russia fast-tracks citizenship applications.[21] Russia has never officially recognized Transnistria, but Russian troops keep Moldova from reasserting control.

Russia is issuing passports to members of the disbanded Berkut, the anti-riot police accused of shooting Maidan protesters.[21] It has made it easier for Crimeans to get Russian citizenship.[23] Russia has neutralized the Ukrainian military in Crimea, pinning it to its bases. Simferopol has announced that it is setting up its own law enforcement and security agencies.[24] It earlier reported that it was setting up its own defense ministry.[25] Russia has announced that the Crimean government is running a $1 billion deficit,[26] and indicated that it would be preparing a financial aid package to cover the deficit. And Russia is launching a new $3 billion bridge project to be built between Russia and Crimea.

At this point, its obvious that Crimean-created defense and security forces will be sponsored by Russia and effectively under its control. Creating new Russian citizens in Crimea strengthens Russia’s claim that it is protecting Russian citizens, and the rate at which people take up citizenship when it is offered gives Russia a gauge of how much support it has in Crimea. Putin has begun the process of making Crimea financially dependent on Russia, both for its operating budget and for infrastructure improvement. The new bridge not only will facilitate the movement of troops between Russian and Crimea, but it will also strengthen Crimea’s trade ties with Russia. So the pieces of an Abkhazian or Transnistrian style client state are already falling into place.

Putin could declare Crimea to be an independent state, as he’s done with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or he could refuse to recognize its independence while ensuring that Ukraine can’t reclaim it, as he’s done with Transnistria and Moldova. Putin may have recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia not because their independence gave him any political advantage, but in retaliation for the West recognizing the independence of Kosovo.[18] In this case recognizing the independence of Crimea is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Formally recognizing Crimea would bring additional Western condemnation, and Crimea will be more dependent on Russia if its status is undefined.

At this point Ukraine can’t go back to a government headed by Yanukovych. Putin acknowledged this when he admitted that Yanukovych has no political future.[10] But he sees the protests that lead up to Yanukovych’s removal as part of a Western effort to destabilize and divide the country. In his own words, “I have told them a thousand times ‘Why are you splitting the country?'”[10] Putin has apparently decided that the 21 February pact that would have left Yanukovych in the presidency while reducing his powers is Russia’s minimum acceptable agreement; any less and he’s better off seizing control of Crimea. This is so important to Russia that Foreign Minister Lavrov announced at one point that he and US Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed that the pact should be enforced, forcing Kerry to deny that he had agreed to that.[27]

My forecast is that the US/EU will continue to offer financial help and other support for Kiev. Putin will see this as a reckless pursuit of influence in Ukraine and will refuse to negotiate a deal that doesn’t meet his minimal demands. He will solidify his control of Crimea, making it economically and militarily dependent of Russia. He will not declare Crimea independent of Ukraine, making Crimea even more dependent on Russia and allowing Putin to claim that he isn’t altering Ukraine’s borders.

1. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26359150
2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/04/ukraine-russia-protesters-donetsk-separate-by-force
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/world/europe/ukraine.html?_r=0
4. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/03/ukraine-crisis-us-europe-putin-crimea
5. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/world/europe/top-russians-face-sanctions-by-us-for-crimea-crisis.html
6. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/df16f698-a0a9-11e3-a72c-00144feab7de.html#axzz2v9SjHGgZ
7. http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/193292.html
8. http://euobserver.com/opinion/123339/
9. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/17/international/europe/17ukraine.html?pagewanted=print
10. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/putin-talks-tough-cools-tensions-over-ukraine
11. http://earlystart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/04/putin-russia-has-the-right-to-take-all-measures/?iref=allsearch
12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russian-troops-take-over-airports-in-crimea/2014/02/28/659fbec0-a082-11e3-a050-dc3322a94fa7_story.html
13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_autonomy_referendum,_2014
14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Revolution
15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Revolution#Involvement_of_outside_forces
16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_military_intervention_in_Libya
17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Georgian_war
18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Court_of_Justice_advisory_opinion_on_Kosovo’s_declaration_of_independence#Against_the_declaration
19. http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/05/28/abkhazia-comfortable-conflict-zone/g75v
20. http://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2013-05-16/aided-economy-characteristics-transnistrian-economic-model
21. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2014/0305/Is-Transnistria-the-ghost-of-Crimea-s-future-video
22. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/crimea-chaos-russia-issues-passports-ukraine-riot-police-disbanded-by-kievs-interim-government-1438447
23. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/03/the-creeping-annexation-of-crimea.html
24. http://en.ria.ru/world/20140306/188125702/Crimea-to-Set-Up-Own-Law-Enforcement-and-Security-Services.html
25. http://en.ria.ru/military_news/20140304/188084181/Crimea-to-Get-Its-Own-Defense-Ministry.html
26. http://en.ria.ru/world/20140303/188050336/Russia-Revitalizes-Project-to-Build-Bridge-to-Crimea.html
27. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26444747