Before making this post, I want to tell my readers that I’m still working on the Putin & Caucasus post, but it’s taking longer than I thought, and it’s going to be a long post. There’s no way I can cut that down.
With that said, I’d like to address the reasons why Putin wrote the letter that he did. Here’s the letter: http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/727287
The gist of it is that Putin does not want to subsidize Ukraine’s FTA with the EU. Russia has reliable partners for natural gas trade, such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. With these countries, Russia can conclude contracts, and ensure that said contracts are honored. Poland also seems to have been paying, but there might be tensions in that aspect, so signing a deal with Germany and Poland would work. What about Ukraine?
A good chunk of natural gas between Russia and Europe goes through Ukraine. Thus, as a transit country, Ukraine can try to demand that Russia must give them a hefty discount, or else the gas won’t make it to the EU countries. Additionally, the EU is trying to put pressure on Russia to ensure that Ukraine gets said discounts, because EU doesn’t want to pay for Ukraine’s gas, since doing so would ensure that Eurosceptics are given a healthy boost, due to facing austerity while paying Ukraine’s debt.
As thus, the question becomes: “who pays for Ukraine’s gas?” Russia and the EU are pointing fingers at each other, and restating a “NO U” argument, i.e. “you should pay,” “no, you should pay,” nah, you should,” “nope, it’s you!”
Putin’s alternative solution is to simply bypass Ukraine altogether through various transit routes. With Ukraine out of the picture, Russia can supply the EU with gas, without the “NO U” argument. Why’s the EU opposed to this? On the surface it looks just like Russia’s removing a troublesome country from a natural gas route.
An in depth analysis shows Geopolitics at play, as usual. Ukraine is on the verge of a break up, and this is why Federalization is the only way out. Currently the pro-Russian areas amount to 88,834 square kilometers, featuring 8 administrative units, and having a population of 19.3 million. The pro-Orange Revolution 2.0 regions have 83,622 square kilometers, feature 12 administrative units, and have a population of 18.1 million, with the remaining five being the swing states. It’s the pro-Russian productive East versus the pro-Orange Revolution not so productive West. Here’s the economic data: http://darussophile.com/2014/02/everything-is-annihilated-the-split-of-ukraine-on-the-basis-of-economic-data-important-text/
Thus if Russia can simply stop supplying gas to Ukraine, aside from the gas that Ukraine already paid for, or will pay for in the future, the East would rise, and either form their own country, or join the Russian Federation, while the economically impoverished West would be dumped on the EU, headed for austerity, radicalism and disaster. The EU is simply trying to avoid that situation, which the EU, ironically, helped start by supporting Euromaidan.
These events are also compounded by analytical news, like this piece: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/11/uk-ukraine-crisis-strategy-analysis-idUKBREA3A0FQ20140411
“With military action to protect non-NATO states effectively ruled out, current and former officials say sanctions and isolation provide the best – and perhaps only – way to pressure Moscow. Ramping up the pressure on the rich and powerful around President Vladimir Putin, they say, might in time push him towards a much more conciliatory approach.
But that, they concede, could prove a long game, and some both in and outside government worry that a more isolated Russia may simply become both more nationalist and self-sufficient. Putting Putin under more pressure, they worry, may give him even more incentive to take a populist, more aggressive approach.
Ultimately, Moscow’s commitment to rebuild the former USSR as its own unilateral sphere of influence may outstrip the determination of Washington and its European allies to stop it.”
Let’s read that again: “Ultimately, Moscow’s commitment to rebuild the former USSR as its own unilateral sphere of influence may outstrip the determination of Washington and its European allies to stop it.” Translation: “Euromaidan 2.0 was a failure in more ways than one.” The realization is finally settling into place.
Donnelly offered useful advice: “Either we stand up to it or we let it happen. So far the response has been totally inadequate.” He’s right. Thus far, the response has been inadequate. The Russians laughed off the sanctions, the West has failed to affect more than five percent of Russia’s economy, (let’s not forget that Russia has quite a bit of reserves, and that sanctions have backfired thus far,) and it’s a revival of the post-Ossetian War situation with massive popular support in Russia. The West has two choices: recognize Russia’s own sphere of influence, (outside of NATO & EU members,) or it is going to escalate quite a bit, to a point where EU can no longer afford the escalation. As the article concedes:
“When it comes to pushing back Russia’s actions in the former Soviet Union, there is no strategy and there is no appetite.” The Baltics are the sole exception to the rule since they’re NATO and EU members. One could argue that Putin caught the US/EU with their pants down. But that’s also incorrect, since the US/EU contributed to the situation, by openly supporting Orange Revolution 2.0. Putin didn’t start the crisis; he simply benefited from it. As the article notes:
“There may be little Western states can do to stop Moscow reabsorbing into the Russian Federation three breakaway statelets its military already occupies – Moldova’s Transdniestria region and Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Nor is there political will to stop Russia going further if truly determined to do so. The only true red line, some say, is that attacking the NATO member Baltic states would trigger NATO’s self defence clause and a wider war with the alliance and its nuclear super power the United States.”
And the Baltics are simply not worth a war with the West for Russia, any more than Ukraine is worth facing crippling sanctions for the West. What would Russia’s sphere of influence look like? Virtually the same as it already looks like, with the Ukrainian and TransDneisterian additions. And if Crimea’s not worth fighting for, is TransDneister? That wasn’t a serious question, but for those who want to know more about the TD situation: http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/transdniestria-in-context-of-ukraine/
Additionally, in the commentary to Mark Nesop’s Blog, http://marknesop.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/just-wait-a-friedman-then-youll-see/, Yalensis posted a video produced by Vice News: https://www.youtube.com/embed/wetleAB1XmY
In the video, there’s a rooftop interview in Donetsk, 3:10-4:48. In the interview, the guy says that they want a referendum by May 11th. They’re not alone, since Lugansk and Kharkov are also going for a referendum. Could this be next month’s annexation by Russia? If so, Russia would end up with five out of the original ten pro-Russian regions by June, since Russia already annexed Crimea and Sevastopol. Another alternative is that they could take the Abkhaz route, and have their own country where Kharkov can serve as a capital of a country that’s part of the Custom’s Union. This new country could become the place that the remaining five or ten regions join, kind of like a Velvet Divorce.