Matt Payne and Mike Jasinski on Russian Annexation of Crimea

Following my posting yesterday of a summary of Andrei Movchan’s piece, “What Happens With Russia After The Seizure of Crimea,” my friends and colleagues Matt Payne (associate professor of history, Emory University) and Mike Jasinski (assistant professor of political science, University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh), had an interesting exchange on Facebook about the piece and the Crimean crisis in general.  Both are way more well-read than I am and both are experts in the field of the relationship of the Russian state with non-Russian ethnic groups inside the Federation and in the “near-abroad”.

Jasinski – on the Movchan piece: I think it’s overly alarmist, to say the least. Sanctions of this kind would cut both ways. I think this is an application of the Iran sanctions model to Russia, but Iran is already pretty isolated.  Not mention that if Crimea is such a half-bandit basketcase, you’d think Ukraine would jump at the opportunity to be rid of it.

Payne: There’s an argument that Ukraine should dump it(the Crimea), Mike. It was clearly added to Ukraine to offset the recently conquered West Ukraine which Khrushchev knew was not exactly pro-Soviet. The Crimean population was a very different kettle of fish. Now for people who think this was just a symbolic gift, remember Khrushchev had vague ideas about democratization. He knew what he was doing. And of course, the Crimean population has provided the tipping point at least twice for the pro-Muscovite faction since independence–the Donbas and Khar’khiv alone couldn’t do it. So the real question is why is Putin giving up his Trojan Horse and in-built 5th column, not why would the Ukrainians want it? I think it is based not on aggression but despair (ala Nicholas I or Alexander III). He does believe a real revolution has happened in Kiev and that a new, more nationalist Ukrainian identity is coalescing (and why wouldn’t he–similar process occurred in Georgia). This is Brezhnevian–try to stop the revolution abroad before it gets to the homeland (Prague Spring). I read Putin as being almost apocalyptic in his world view not the cynical realpolitik guy he has been portrayed as. Of course, could be wrong. There is, also, the reasoning of the Croatians in Krajina or the Serbs in Bosnia–you want the territory but figure you can ethnically cleanse the territory. The Russian hysteria over refugees points to this fear (which, of course is being manipulated). And lest you think a Western ally couldn’t get away with that, well the Kossovars have pretty much done so in Kosovo, the Croatians in Krajina, and the Shia in Baghdad (with the active collusion of the occupying Western powers), so recent history is not good here. Of course, the Russians are pretty good at ethnic cleansing, too (in Abkhazia and Ossetia). I’d hate to be a Crimean Tatar if the Russian annex the place.

I think this article makes a lot of good points. I see no benefit for Russia in taking over any of these economic basket case areas. It’s only the sort of thing you do if you are desperate.

Jasinski: Well, Putin just met with the leader of the Crimean Tatars (or they had a phone conversation), and it was basically a promise of immunity/autonomy/protection in exchange for their neutrality in the referendum. Which about makes sense, from both of their perspectives. The Tatars sit this one out and still come out ahead in terms of their level of autonomy over what they had in Ukraine. As to Putin, I’m not sure this is Brezhnevan. Instead, it’s an apportionment of the spoils, the final redrawing of spheres of influence. Medvedev wrote on his facebook page that Russia wants Ukraine as a partner, not as someone who always wants a handout. I read that as willingness to let EU and US assume responsibility for Ukraine’s finances, in return for allowing Russia to retrieve the Crimea. We’ll see if the US and the EU are up to the task of footing the bill. Or policing the Ukrainian nationalists, especially they discover the meaning of the phrase “IMF conditionality”.

Payne: Well Mike, the new government is already pushing “austerity”. I’m guessing the Sloboda bully boys won’t like that. It’s a Revolutionary government and a highly unstable one at that. Ukraine is an economic basket case and I don’t see the US and EU (i.e, Germany) ponying up $35 bn.

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