Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stratfor: Likely Russian moves and U.S. countermoves

Friedman agrees with me that Russia's occupation and annexation of Crimea was more about appearing strong after it "lost" Ukraine to the West, rather than about gaining any strategic military or economic advantage there [emphasis mine]:

The fact was that Yanukovich refused to sign an agreement moving Ukraine closer to the European Union, the demonstrations took place, there was violence, and an openly pro-Western Ukrainian government was put in place. 

The Russians cannot simply allow this to stand. Not only does it create a new geopolitical reality, but in the longer term it also gives the appearance inside Russia that Putin is weaker than he seems and opens the door to instability and even fragmentation. Therefore, the Russians must respond. [...] 

The first step was simply making official what has been a reality. Crimea is within the Russian sphere of influence, and the military force Moscow has based in Crimea under treaties could assert control whenever it wished. That Sevastopol is a critical Russian naval base for operations in the Black and Mediterranean seas was not the key. A treaty protected that. But intervention in Crimea was a low-risk, low-cost action that would halt the appearance that Russia was hemorrhaging power. It made Russia appear as a bully in the West and a victor at home. That was precisely the image it wanted to project to compensate for its defeat.

By George Friedman
March 18, 2014 | Stratfor

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