CRIMEA, STILL ADRIFT IN THE BLACK SEA

With the invasion of Crimea by Russia in February of 2014, and its annexation the following month, the Island has been literally cast adrift in the Black Sea.  Basic needs such as:  public safety; health care; education; utilities; banking; and necessary consumer products are only sparingly available, through either Russia or Ukraine.  Although Moscow has increased pensions, mostly for the retired Russian military, the value of the Ruble has been decimated, and inflation runs rampant.  Moreover, corruption and violence are worse today in Crimea, than they were under Ukraine.

Diameter Kenarov, a Bulgarian free-lance journalist, who covers the Balkans and the Black Sea region, provides an excellent summary of the current situation in Crimea, in an Op-Ed in the International New York Times, linked as follows:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/28/opinion/ending-crimeas-isolation.html?ref=international.

There is a certain distrust among the non-Russian people there, who prefer not to return to Russian control.  For some, this hatred goes back to the ethnic cleansing which Russia carried-out during Josef Stalin’s rule—particularly against the Tatars.  At the same time, Russia cited non-existent risks of violence against ethnic Russians when it invaded Crimea—just as it did in invading Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in (former Soviet) Georgia, in 2008.  In November, Ukraine nationalists and Tatars cut power lines to Crime, which blacked-out the entire Island for several days until it could be repaired.

With Russia’s economic problems, due to its heavy dependence upon the plummeting value of oil and gas exports, it cannot even begin to provide the vital services that the Crimean people need.  At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed all available financial resources toward his defense budget.  Putin just seems unwilling to approach the West to work-out an agreeable solution, since he seems to believe that any rapprochement would be a sign of weakness.

The U. S. and Europe, for their part, are also unwilling to consider a mutually agreeable solution; because, they seem to feel that removing the Crimean people from this dilemma would enable Putin to think that he can begin gradually reclaiming other former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe—perhaps starting with regions that have majority ethnic Russian populations.  The Balkans, and even Finland, are quite fearful about what could happen.

The solution, on both sides, appears to be continuing to treat the People of Crimea as pawns, rather than potentially lose the advantage in what appears, after almost two years, to be a current-day Mexican Standoff.  As we approached the end of 2013, everything with regard to East-vs.-West seemed reasonably calm, and somewhat friendly.  But this year, considering the situation, not only in Crimea, but also in Syria, one can easily think back to the days when both sides agreed to the Mutual Assured Destruction Treaty, so as not to blow-up the world in a Nuclear War.

I surely hope that’s not what it will take in Crimea!

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