I know, I know, I was supposed to get back and post again a few days after my March 10th post, but I got busy and did not find the time. Sorry about the comments being closed for the past few days, I forgot to change the setting for the comments. You should be able to post now, though the only comments I have received so far are spam, obvious spam at that. No, I do not want a super support bra or a vacation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
I guess I am just not on the radar for Russian Information Services or their hired commenters.
I said a couple of weeks ago I would discuss what the US and the rest of the world could do in response to the situation in Crimea and I will do my best. Here goes. There are three possible responses to Russia:
- Military action. Limited or full scale military action by the US, EU, NATO, and/or UN is possible, but highly unlikely. Even arming rebels inside Crimea is a bad idea. No one wants to go to war and I shudder at what an escalation would bring. Of course this may be the only option left if Russia moves into other territories, especially ones in NATO or with NATO alliances.
- Dialogue. I am all for talking things out and meeting on common ground to work out an agreement, but talk does not hold a lot of water if there is nothing there to back it up. Putin does not fear The West. Talking is not going to go very far with him. I applaud that both the US and the EU have kept talking with Russian and Crimea, but I don’t hold much faith that dialogue alone will work.
- Sanctions and freezing assets. Though many people disagree, past experience has taught us that implementing sanctions and freezing assets do produce results. It does not faze countries to send troops into other countries to fight wars, but it hurts deep for politicians when political and financial coinage is damaged. Sanctions, especially financial, tend to hurt everyone, even the guy on the street. Russia is already feeling the sting in their stock market, banks, and commerce. Trade relations have suffered. Customers are leaving and finding other sources of products. Investors are leaving and calling in their debts. Russia’s economy is already on shaky ground, long term sanctions could do some real damage and cause unrest in even the most sheepish of citizens. Now Russia’s credit rating is about to take a hit with credit outlooks going negative (it is already a rating of BBB, that is below Mexico).
- Losing credibility. This is not so much something other countries can do as much as it is the result of crisis, but it hurts just the same. Russia has already been thrown out of the G8 (thought this can also be in the sanctions category) and is facing some stern looks from other countries such as China. This can turn around for even more economic problems as well as a host of political difficulties.
I am not sure Putin really thought out this situation very well. Yes, he is getting a big show of strength and independence for the short term over what is really a minor victory, but at a great cost for the future. Problems are already arising, Crimea is already suffering from a lack of power and water, which by the way it gets from the Ukraine, and food and medical shortages will not be far behind. It seems Crimea was very dependent on the Ukraine and help from Russia is slow at best and will be small once it does arrive.
A side note on the Ukraine-Crimea power and water problem, Ukrainian officials have stated that the shortages are not political vengeance for what happened but are instead mechanical problems and scheduled maintenance. I am not going to give an opinion on the truthfulness of the statement from Ukraine as I am not privy to the information, but that is a valid “sanction” and a show of power. It is probable that the Ukraine will jack up the prices and discontinue government subsidies that make the power and water so cheap, but I doubt they will cut Crimea off completely as that could do damage to their perception as the underdog in the crisis. But really Crimea, what did you expect, business as usual? Biting the hand that feeds you usually results in that hand holding back the food and throwing accusations will not help matters. I am aware that Russian soldiers were their with their guns and you only had two possible choices in the referendum that lead to Russian annexation anyway, but a plead for help and true independence would have gotten you a lot further.
I have a bad feeling about the future of Crimea and Russia, shortages, high prices, and the probably ethnic cleansing will bring about armed conflict within Crimea and could spill over into Russia. I hate to say this, but I see Russia getting into another Afghanistan situation in the near future, something Russia and Putin (who only just now reversed a slide in popularity and confidence in his own country thanks to state-owned reporting on the Sochi Olympics that curiously left out everything that went wrong, even the opening ceremony).