Friday, February 28, 2014

Putin Strikes Back

Say this about Valdmir Putin; he don't do things in half measures. 

Just days after riots and protests in Kiev ousted the democratically elected pro-Russian Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovych, dozens of armed men in military uniforms seized government buildings and the airport in the capital of Ukraine's strategic Crimea region. No one seen to know who these men are but as they had raised the Russian flag over the government buildings they sized, it doesn't take much to guess. 

It feels as though after getting struck going nothing due to the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Putin is making up for lost time. In scrambling Russian fighter jets, granting asylum to Viktor Yanukovych and tacitly backing the takeover by local Russians of Crimean government buildings, he has all but thrown down the gauntlet to the new government in Kiev. Honestly I think he shouldn't have bothered because sooner or later Ukraine will have to go back to the Russian's orbit. 

The simple fact is this; Yanukovych did the only thing he could when he took the deal with Russia.

The economic deal offered by the West required him to undertake economic reforms in Ukraine that would have put Ukraine in recession for years. Russia offered him a deal that did not require political suicide. Would the West now offer better terms to the new fledgling administration of Ukraine?

Maybe but I doubt how much better it could be.

I doubt it because how are the Americans and the European Union (EU) going to come to the financial rescue of Ukraine when they can barely support the economies like Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain? Yes, I know the IMF (International Monetary Fund) already said it was "ready to respond" to Ukraine's bid for financial assistance and the EU has publicly said it was considering emergency loans for the country but where is the money going to come from? Ukraine will need US$35 billion over the next two years just to avoid default. Can you imagine US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel going to their people saying that they are going to give US$35 billion to Ukraine? I can't. And this US$35 billion amount is if the Russian don't do anything else! Russia can put a choke hold on the Ukrainian economy anytime they want to because Ukraine depends heavily on Russia's gas and primary resources.

However in a way I also do understand why President Putin scrambled jets and ok the takeover of the government buildings because...what could the West do? If Russia really go after the military option in Crimea, they would have a large segment of the population (some reports says up to 80%) behind them and with a large military facility anchored in Sebastopol, the Russian would have immediate support from local forces. I sincerely doubt NATO will take any military action to support the so-called new government (because most of them are part of the government that lost the last Ukrainian elections to Yanukovych) in Kiev in such a conflict.

President Putin's moves on Ukraine may seen rash and heavy-handed and it is also one that's carefully thought out. Unfortunately for the new fledgling administration of Ukraine, it is also one that's relatively safe.

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