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For everyone who is confused about how things have escalated so quickly between Russian and Ukraine, a reddit user named Nathan_Flomm has explained it pretty well, check it out below:

It started with Ukraine’s financial problems. Ukraine was trying to work out a deal with the IMF but Russia offered them a $15 billion bailout. The bailout included subsidies for oil. Ukraine does not have its own independent source for oil and actually depends on the Russia to provide it. You may be familiar with Russia turning off Ukraine’s supply of oil many times in the past. The majority of people in Ukraine wanted to work with the European Union however Russia’s influence on Ukraine (because of the bail out, and the oil subsidies, as well as threats to cut off all access to oil) made the Ukrainian government side with Russia as opposed to working out the trade deal with the European Union.

The people of Ukraine were extremely upset and protested. Eventually protests that were peaceful turned violent. Some of the protests where co-opted by Neo Nazi organizations, and other extremely right wing (and violent) individuals.

The government then made a series of anti-protest laws that were simply ridiculous. For example, simply protesting in front of a building and making it harder for people to enter that building can get you 6 years in prison. If you gather with a group and simply talk negatively about certain members of the government you can now get as much as 2 years in prison. The laws had the opposite effect and made the protestors even more violent.

Within a matter of days the laws were repealed and eventually the protesters successfully ousted the prime minister (who now has been seen in Moscow). The government started negotiating with the protestors. Progress and financial independence from Russia seemed inevitable. This made Putin very angry because this meant that Ukraine would switch their allegiance from Russia to the European Union and the IMF.

Putin wants to create a post communist Eurasian union which Kazakhstan and Belarus have already agreed to join. Many believe that this union is simply a disguise for combining all the post-communist countries into one huge organization resembling the USSR once again. This is the crux of the protesters argument.

Putin believes that even though he has gained support for this union in other post communist countries, the protests in Ukraine might remove some of the successes he has gained. Furthermore, this could potentially stop other post communist countries from joining the union, thus he is putting military pressure to ensure that the protests do not leak to other post communist Eastern European nations.

The WWIII aspect plays into this because Ukraine is requesting NATO support, which the US is part of, but this is not just limited to United States, Ukraine and Russia. NATO consists of 28 sovereign countries that have agreed to support each other militarily in case they are invaded. Many of those countries have other alliances which would increase the number of nations involved in any potential military intervention. The US has warned Russia as has have many other countries that their actions “have consequences”.

The question now is what will Russia do? If they don’t leave will NATO take military action against Russia? If so, will China support Russia? Pretty soon this could escalate to into war with 35+ countries engaging in military action.

Personally, I don’t think we’ll get there – but it is a real risk, and one that needs serious thought on how it can be avoided without Putin having to go back with his tail between his legs. If he can’t save face this can start another Cold War.

Here are a few other common questions:

1. Why the Crimean warm water port is important, but not the biggest reason.

That’s a fair point. Even though Crimea is Russia’s only current warm water port, it’s not the only choice Putin has. The opposition forces in Syria have offered the warm water port of Tartus to Russia if Putin helps them defeat the Assad regime.

If Russia agreed, the FSA would have the support they need to topple the pro-Syrian movement in a matter of weeks. This would disrupt current exports of crude oil from Syria to Russia temporarily, but there is no doubt it would be reinstated again by a new pro-Russian Syrian government.

So, while the Crimea port is currently Russia’s only warm water port it is not the only solution they have to remain a global power. By violating the Budapest treaty, Russia has given the new Ukrainian government a reason to cancel their lease agreement. If his actions were solely to secure a warm water port, invading Crimea doesn’t seem to be the best way to go about it.

2. Half of Ukraine is not pro-Russian. 14% are, and even though Crimea is 58% Russian only 23% favor joining Russia.

It is more of the 86% of people that don’t want to join the Russian-led Eurasian Union. That’s the reason why these protests started in the first place. 86% is an absolute majority and the government did exactly what 86% of the country opposed.

But, I thought half of Ukraine wants to get closer to Europe, the other half wants to get closer to Russia?

That’s incredibly misleading. While about only half want a to accept the European trade deal, only about 20% of Ukrainians actually feel that they should have closer ties to Russia. There are many that aren’t satisfied with either proposal, but they don’t want to be influenced by Russia.

The Russian military has been greeted pretty readily in Crimea because the territory was traditionally Russian and was given to Ukraine some 60 or so years back, meaning that the population living there is overwhelmingly Russian already.

Crimea is 58% Russian, yet only 23% favored joining Russia when polled last year

You are making it sound like 1/2 the country is loyal to Russia and half the country wants independence. That’s false. Less than a quarter of Ukrainians want closer ties to Russia.

To put this in perspective during the American Revolution there were about 500,000 Tories (British loyalists), and we had approximately 2,500,000 people colonized at that point. That’s 20% of the population that didn’t want America to be independent. Virtually the same number as we are seeing in Ukraine.

3. Russia exports both oil and gas both which flows through Ukraine and Belarus.

4. Yanukovych was the President, not the PM (my bad).

5. Ukraine is not part of NATO, but Poland and Lithuania are, and they have both enacted NATO provisions requiring the members to organize and discuss the matter. Furthermore, Putin is in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which obligates the US, and UK request assistance from the UN Security Council.

CartoonRussiaUkraine

So, how might it play out?:

  1. Easy sanctions from the EU & US will begin. Nothing serious. A pull out from G-8, and a bunch of posturing on TV, and the media.
  2. The Union Security Council will do nothing more than censure Russia.
  3. NATO’s leader right now is sympathetic to their cause. He will try to gain support. The US will make troop movements.
  4. China will be courted to make concessions. They will not partake.
  5. Sanctions get harder. Oil trade and assets for Russia are blocked.
  6. Putin leaves Ukraine.

Why? The economy in Russia is dangerously close to a stagnation. Russia won’t be able to survive without exporting their oil & gas. If assets are blocked they’ll have even harder time as they’ll be cash strapped.

  1. Ukraine & Russia extend the Crimea base lease and update terms. Ukraine gets $15B+ from the IMF (in addition to the $3B they already received from Putin).

 

We will keep updating this as it happens.