As I write this, the last votes are being counted in the Crimean referendum. Just what is going on is a bit mystifying. Consider this:
-there was an 80 percent voter turnout and the vote was 95% in favour of joining Russia.
-only 58% of Crimean residents are ethnic Russians and 12% are Tatar Muslims who oppose joining Russia. Did the Tatars not vote?
The ballot question was rigged, the two options were to join Russia or become an independent state. There was no option to remain part of the Ukraine.
There is something fishy about all this. At first I thought this mess in the Ukraine was a call to democracy as opposed to going back to the old Soviet style regime. An alignment with Europe more so than an alignment with Russia. Is not the Crimean referendum democracy? Should the west condemn a democratic referendum?
Putin has been described as an old school Soviet man who wants to restore Russian fear and respect in the world, as in the time of the 'Cold War'.
Yes, the old Ukrainian leader was corrupt and was skimming money for his own personal opulent lifestyle, but who exactly was behind the up-risings. During WWII many Ukrainians joined the Germans to fight the hated communist Russians. They became Nazis. It is a heritage that many in the Ukraine kept to this day. There are numerous ultra right wing groups in the Ukraine and they go by various names but many are what we would call 'Neo-Nazis'. In fact, it was these people who were on the font lines of the violence a few weeks ago. Is it these people that Putin is referring to when he says he wants to protect ethnic Russians in the Ukraine? Is his concern legitimate? Would there be a regime of ethnic cleansing if the new leadership were to have their way? Actually, it is probably the far right interests that control the new government right now. Could Putin actually be justified in his actions? The referendum might suggest this is true.
Add to this, the power plays between Russia, the west, Europe, and the fact that 70% of Europe's gas and oil flow through Ukrainian pipelines. Add to this Obama's weakness or perceived weakness on foreign policy. Add to this egos.
If it all comes to violence once again, it will be many ordinary people who will die to satisfy the machinations of a few world leaders. What else is new? Some of my family's ancestors were Ukrainians and I am glad they got out when they did. At that time they were running away from both the Nazis AND the communist Russians. There will be many more running to the west if it comes to war once again.