Skip to comments.William Varettoni: A primer on Crimea's road to ruin
Posted on 03/03/2014 12:10:41 PM PST by BlueDragon
The crisis in Crimea has been many years in the making, and made it ripe for the taking.
To paint Russian leadership as reactionary, ham-fisted hardliners is to ignore a decade of methodical deployment of soft power techniques, patient construction of fifth columns, and the massive incentives Russia has not to blow the place up.
Focus on Russias military is misdirection; it is absolutely important, but the real benefit to brinkmanship is to make other outcomes seem downright reasonable.
In light of recent setbacks, two potential outcomes are both reasonable (when compared to the extremes of military conflict and secession) and advantageous for Russia:
1) a Crimean peninsula that is fully autonomous within the Ukrainian state (it already has semi-autonomy) and functions in practice like a British Hong Kong for Russia, and
2) a Ukrainian state that is more federalist across all regions (which makes a fast and massive shift into Europes orbit decidedly less likely).
The article continues on with further analysis & detail, and at the bottom a link provided to a pdf file;
Unlike in the rest of Ukraine, Russian and Russia-influenced media saturates Crimeas broadcast and print media. In addition to the media, Russia has promoted soft power through the use of civil society groups, sympathetic politicians, cultural organizations, and youth movements that celebrate a common Russian identity.
While the amount of disinformation floating around Crimea is truly breathtaking, three narratives are of particular importance because Crimeans have been hearing them for years on end.
The first is that Kyiv does a terrible job of governing, and Crimeas lack of economic development is because of Kyivs mismanagement.
In Crimeas semi-autonomy, the local ruling politicians have quite a bit of power (which is parlayed into economic rents), but very little accountability because they are ultimately beholden to Kyiv.
This narrative is convincing because, one must admit, Kyiv has not been a bastion of stability and strength in leadership. The second is the idea that Kyiv and the pro-Western forces are going to oppress ethnic Russians and force them to give up their language.
When one of the first moves of the new Ukrainian government was to demote Russian language, it played right into the hands of this narrative. The third is the most dangerous, and it is fake. Crimean media and politicians have for years on end been raising concern that radicalized Crimean Tatars will engage in Islamic terrorism.
Civil violence is often central to shifts in power. In the West we are primed to root for protests because they depose bad leaders. But to Crimeans, Kyiv might well be that bad leader.
If Crimea is going to pull away from Kyivs control to full autonomy, some violence will likely be involved. Paid protests, with a bit of violence at the margins, have been commonplace in Crimea; so there is tested infrastructure for civil unrest. Prompting small groups of young men to make poor decisions is not terribly difficult to engineer. And if Ukrainian police draw blood while enforcing order, you now have a galvanizing event. And once the violence starts, deployment of Russian peacekeepers already in Crimea starts to gain legitimacy at the margins.
Deeper background on Crimean instability is available in this 2011 2011 analysis in the Washington Quarterly.
William Varettoni is a former Ukraine and NATO analyst with the U.S. Department of States Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His Ph.D .dissertation is focused on security and instability in Crimea, and incorporates research conducted as a Fulbright Scholar in Crimea. William served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The views expressed are the authors own, and rely exclusively on research conducted as a private citizen.
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