CRIMEA OF THE CENTURY?
After a pretty good winter games, Russia faces the hangover - trouble in their backyard that threatens to turn into conflict with the West, and perhaps, even, war. Famously, the Crimea belonged to Russia (in the former USSR) until as the stories have it in the 1950s a drunken Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine within the same system, a tactical blunder to be sure. As we have seen in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Balkans, and even, Quebec and Scotland, seccesionism has an ugly side. Civil wars happen when one group claims to speak for the majority, but leaves a sizable minority out of the equation. In this case, that Russian-speaking minority is based mainly in the Crimea, and is strategically located near the Black Sea Fleet, not a thing Russia is every likely to let go of easily (Russia has long fought to secure its access to that body of water). The revolution in Ukraine appears to have unseated a flunky and a bit of a despot with expensive tastes, but it has also unleashed explosive forces that could, however unlikely this sounds, drag us into a new world war, 100 years after the first one. After all, if Russia were to fight to protect its Russian Crimean community, where would NATO stand in relation to our friend, Ukraine? Doubtless, de-escalation would follow escalation but hot heads could prevail. Or, as in Georgia a few years ago, things sputtered after a few firework displays of nationalism. The problem for those of us who care about the Ukrainian people and their self-determination is that Ukraine is, like many remapped places, complex and not easily divisible. Nikita's shoe may bang down once again.