Last week’s theatrical crisis in Ukraine has quickly transformed itself into a restaging of the Crimean War of 1853-56, when Russia fought the Ottoman Empire and its European allies over control of the strategic peninsula that juts into the Black Sea.
Russian victory in Crimea especially rocks the U.S., the EU and NATO because more than half of Ukraine including the rich, industrialized cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa, Mariupol and Melitopol is highly sympathetic to the Kremlin.
Russian speakers have stormed and occupied government facilities in Donetsk, where the City Council has denounced the Kiev government and called for a referendum “on the region’s status.” The day after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev, I am told, Crimea’s leaders agreed to secede from Ukraine and reawaken Crimea’s historical union with Russia.
Soon thereafter, popular Russian parliamentarians arrived in Crimea to cheering Russian speakers waving Russian flags.
Teams of agents from the Russian Ministry of the Interior arrived to register thousands of Crimean citizens who wanted Russian citizenship.
Soon 13 giant Russian military transports deployed at least 2,000 Russian troops around the city.
Putin topped the public relations blitz by telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Russia intervened to protect Ukraine from the “threat of ultranationalists” no doubt pointing to the fascist factions in Kiev such as Svoboda and the Right Sector.
Putin has assured Merkel that Russia aims to avoid a fragmented Ukraine and that restoring a legitimately elected government in Kiev is the way forward.