Notes on Crimea

The most important thing about Crimea is that Crimea is not that important.  What does it have?  Some beaches that are nice enough if you’ve never seen Hawaii.  A few natural resources.  The Russian Black Sea fleet, their key to projecting power in the Mediterranean, if you forget about Istanbul being in the way.

Putin’s seizing of Crimea is a crime, of course, and one that should be protested, but it’s a curious one – like a mugger who holds you at gunpoint, but is only interested in taking a lucky penny.  In fact, Ukraine is better off without Crimea – it’s poor and full of ethnic minorities suspicious of their central government.  Plus Ukraine no longer has to pay maintenance on the Ukrainian fleet which turned out to be even more useless than the Russian Black Sea fleet.  Crimea was only in Ukraine in the first place because Khrushchev put it there.  Why?  Nobody knows, but then nobody knows why Khrushchev did anything he did.

But isn’t Crimea like the Sudetenland – Russia’s first step to global domination that will end up with the reconquest of Alaska and the annexation of San Francisco’s Russian Hill?  Not really.  First, the Sudetenland was actually useful.  Second, Germany was an economic powerhouse.  And most importantly, the Russians have somehow saddled themselves with nationalism – an ideology even less appealing to the rest of the world than fascism.  The Nazis said most of the rest of the world was fit only to serve Germany, but still managed to get allies in France, Italy, Eastern Europe – even Japan.  Who are Russia’s friends?  Belarus, Serbia, and half of Syria.

This is not to say that Putin has no ambitions.  If you’re a non-NATO country bordering Russia, you should probably Finlandize now and save yourself the trouble.   But on the list of things the West should be worried about, this is pretty low.

What should the administration do?  Formal protests, some sanctions, maybe toss Ukraine some money, have a couple of exercises defending the Baltic states against unspecified aggressors – basically nothing.  Luckily, gridlock and a sputtering economy means that the United States now has doing nothing down to a fine art.

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2 Responses to “Notes on Crimea”

  1. Rick Says:

    Isn’t there some Bayesian analysis you should be doing because I really don’t see how this is helping us find out what happened to MH370.

    😉

  2. Scott Locklin Says:

    Having the advantage over virtually everyone of having spent two weeks on vacation there: it’s the most patriotically Russian place I’ve ever visited. People would get angry with you for speaking Ukrainian, and it’s littered with monuments to Russia’s prior empires, Soviet and Tsarist. Also: the Russian troops were always there; I saw hundreds, maybe thousands, driving around in troop carriers on the coastal highways.

    Kruschev was Ukrainian, and like everyone else, loved their little slice of beachfront paradise.

    Two more reasons Ukraine is better off without Crimea: fewer voters for the party of regions, and NATO can’t make treaties with countries which host the bases of non-NATO countries. So, as long as they lay claim to Crimea, NATO is a non-starter. Not that I think they should be in NATO. I think East Ukraine is pretty much Russia as well.

    Of course, Ukrainians are nuts, same as the Georgians, so they’re not going to let go of their claims easily. I fear the idiots in our Foreign Policy establishment turning this situation into the Guns of August. They seem that stupid.

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