The latest edition of Sea Control covers the Crimean Crisis, too. In the show Matthew Hipple talks with three CIMSEC authors: Dave Blair, an active duty officer in the US Air Force and a PhD student at Georgetown University in International Relations; Przemek Krajewski (aka Viribus Unitis), a commercial director of a construction firm from Poland, which does business on the Crimean peninsula; and Robert Rasmussen, a graduate of the MA International Relations program at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, and the CAS Security Studies program with Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security & Counterterrorism.
The question about the driving force behind the Russian invasion into the Crimea is not so easy to answer as it seems. The port of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol is the only Russian warm-water naval port and is therefore of big importance for the Russian military. Despite of the assurance of the interim government in Kiev to follow all previous signed agreements with Russia, maybe Russian president Vladimir Putin wasn’t willing to undergo such risk. But it’s not just about the naval port, Sevastopol is only one piece in a bigger puzzle. Krajewski and Blair highlight the special historic status of the Ukraine for Russia, the identity of Russia and its position in the world, which defines its actions. Additionally, Rasmussen remarked that before 1991, Ukraine wasn’t really an independent state for the most part of its history.
The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. — Henry A. Kissinger, “How the Ukraine crisis ends“, Washington Post, 05.03.2014.
Russia observes International Relations through realistic glasses. Almost 25 years after the Cold War, Russia still seems to see NATO as a threat. According to Blair, Russia feels confronted by an approaching NATO, in which NATO is an aggregation of power of several powerful countries. The Crimean Crisis gives Russia once more the opportunity to show the world that NATO – despite its power – can’t act. In return, this gives the world a perception of the Russian power itself. Therefore, Krajewski thinks that Russia’s push to the Ukraine has a strong impact of the perspective of Eastern Europe countries on NATO’s capability. It was not a coincidence that Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland invoked NATO article 4 (consultation over military matters).
Blair thinks the Russo-Georgian war 2008 serves as a role model. But unfortunately for Russia, the residual Ukrainian troops acted differently than the Georgian troops 2008 and avoided the use of force. A good example of the strong message of a such non-violent tactic was demonstrated by the Ukranian air force Commander, Colonel Yuliy Mamchur with the march against armed Russian soldiers occupying his airbase in Belbek. Concerning Russia’s aims in the Ukraine, Rasmussen differentiates between a minimal and a maximal Russian scenario: In the minimalistic scenario, Russia will separate the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine and secure his naval port in Sevastopol, in a larger scenario, it could additionally overtake Eastern Ukraine or at least try to heavily influence politics in the Ukraine itself. Therefore, he thinks that the actions of the EU and the NATO are decisive in regard to how far Russia will go.
Other topics discussed in the show are Ukraine’s social and political struggle, the effect of cyberwar in the Ukraine and why Serbian fighters travels to the region to support the Russian troops. At the end of the show, the discussion partners try to look ahead to the possible development of the crisis. All in all, Sea Control #25 is another excellent and well balanced show.
Listen to episode #25 immediately
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The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.