Ukraine minus Crimea has better chance of joining West
On all future questions about Ukraine's geo-political orientation it is worth bearing in mind that the pro-Western camp is now stronger than it was before. That adds a certain piquancy to the situation, doesn't it?
As Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk ponders President Putin's remarks today to what in Russia passes for a parliament, there is a paradox attending the de facto and soon to be de jure annexation of Crimea that cannot have escaped him.
For the record, Putin "informed" parliament that Crimea had made a formal request to join up with Russia. He has already signed a bill that will allow it to happen at some undetermined point in the future.
So much for the utterly predictable. What seems to have been overlooked in much of the commentary is that if Ukraine is to seek and get closer ties with the West, losing Crimea is a blessing in disguise.
Plainly, it will not be seen that way in Kiev, not yet at least. The brutal and illegal manner in which Putin has annexed Crimea understandably has everyone's blood boiling.
But when the situation calms down, which it will -- no-one has an interest in seeing the situation spiral out of control -- the great paradox at the heart of the dispute will come crashing into our consciousness.
For a Ukraine without Crimea has a far better chance of closer ties with the West than a Ukraine with Crimea.
Consider that every single opinion poll on the subject in recent years has shown steady majorities against joining NATO for example. As any Ukrainian sociologist will tell you, support or opposition to NATO in the country is tightly linked to ethno-linguistic identity and allegiance.
Russian speakers are overwhelmingly opposed, meaning that if a significant proportion of Ukraine's Russians fall off the electoral grid, the relative popularity of NATO will correspondingly rise.
We're using NATO as a proxy for pro-Western sentiment generally. Our view on the appropriate security apparatus for Ukraine actually corresponds closely to that of Henry Kissinger who has been arguing for years that Ukraine should be a neutral country.
No matter. It's not our decision or Henry Kissinger's. The Ukrainian people and they alone must make that call.
But on all future questions about Ukraine's geo-political orientation it is worth bearing in mind that the pro-Western camp is now stronger than it was before. That adds a certain piquancy to the situation, doesn't it?
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