I have been reading about the unrest in Ukraine since the situation melted down fast about five days ago when Russian troops entered the Crimean Peninsula, and regrettably, most of my news sources are from the West (which I understand, from other contexts, portray a very different story than other parts of the world). I don’t have much to add to the discussion since I am not familiar with Ukrainian politics except for the latest events, but I do sense that most of the reporting is in the same old “lazy” style of western journalism: which is to try to shape the story to fit a western context. Ukraine is not a Western Nation; it was until 1991 a part of the Soviet Union. “Democracy” as we understand in the Western context probably never existed in Ukraine. Further, the ethnic differences as well as what country people there see themselves as a part of is not something that can be understood easily. Even what the word ‘nation’ means to people over there may be different from the west.
So in times like this, the best way to understand the situation is through self-interest. What would we personally pay if the conflict fails to be resolved in a favorable manner to us, and how does it affect our economies?
Like I said before I don’t have much to say in terms of trying to answer these questions. However, I feel that the likelihood of a major armed conflict is unlikely. Both the EU and the US, which would supply the military resources against Russia should a major conflict erupt, simply do not have the economic resources nor the political will to sustain fighting. Even now the response to an obviously aggressive military maneuver is ‘wimpy’ to say the least; restricting only to not attending a conference and tip-toeing around possible economic sanctions. In that regard, I don’t think WW3 will be a consequence of this situation. On this note, I do have a few things to say.
Many people try to give an analogy to the current situation with that of Nazi Germany in 1938, and that a policy of appeasement failed to stop Hitler nor WW2. I find the situation to be different. First, the geography is quite different. Western Europe has existed as a collection of relatively small (geographically) states, but these states are nonetheless are highly culturally distinct, economically viable, and highly recognizable internationally. Further, this situation has persisted for the better part of the last two thousand years and is recognized as the status quo. Thus, what Hitler tried to do was impossible: even if he had succeeded militarily, there was no way a unified Europe was going to last, since the desire is for Europe to be separated. However, the geographical situation in Ukraine is different. First, it is outside of the European Union or the United States’ “yard”, as Ukraine strictly lies within the traditional Soviet sphere of influence. Further, the treaties and territorial claims were negotiated during the nadir of Russia’s modern history. It is reasonable, as other countries have done (such as China), to view such situations as unfair and later attempt to reclaim territory that is rightfully and traditionally theirs. I believe when the the dust settles, this will emerge as a sufficient counterweight to the situation to diffuse any threat of major international conflict.