And in the Crimea …

Differing takes on what’s been going on in Sevastopol. Russian Navy Blog has an account (translated from Russian) of street protests and harassment when the Coasties from the USCGS Dallas went ashore during their recent port visit. 

Meanwhile, the Kiev Post takes a look at the ethnic politics in the city, finds calm amongst the citizenry but lots of potential for discord. The article really highlights how dependent Sevastopol is, economically, on the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. I can’t help but think that that implies a lot of sympathy for the Russians even amongst local Ukrainian speakers.

Elsewhere in the Post, US-based analyst Roman Kupchinsky notes that the Ukrainians have a difficult balancing act to perform, both short- and long-term. He sees the Crimea as a potential flash point:

The prevalent speculation in Ukraine and in the West is that “liberating” the Crimean Peninsula’s Russian population will be the next pretext for Russia to expand its grip on the post Soviet space and gobble up Ukraine.

It is a scenario which needs to be carefully examined since it is feasible, but not probable, in the short run. 

He recommends not antagonizing the Russians as NATO support is by no means certain.

I wonder again, what genius thought it was a good idea for the Dallas and the Pathfinder to visit Sevastopol at this moment, and why.

Treading on the Bear’s Turf

Thomas Barnett isn’t happy about the idea of quickly re-arming Georgia, or of allying the US with it:

This is Russia’s border we’re taking about here. Think carefully about the next steps and the “inviolable” U.S. strategic interests you’re casually picking up, because those can quickly get our people dead.

China’s Stake

Robert Farley:

Territorial integrity is a value that Russia really shouldn’t have expected China to have a sense of humor about.

Read the whole thing.

Putin: Americans Were in Combat Zone

Maybe. He says perhaps to influence the election to one candidate’s benefit. Take with a large grain of salt. Note also how he responds to the question late in this CNN interview about guaranteeing other border states against Russian attack.

UPDATE: See also this backgrounder from The Economist. Money quote:

After years of cultivating xenophobic sentiment and persuading Russians that they face an enemy, the Kremlin had prepared the population psychologically for war. That, says Boris Dubin, a sociologist, is why Russia’s propaganda fell on fertile ground. In the public mind, he claims, the cause of the war is to be found in “America’s expansionist plans and desire to establish control over Russia’s neighbours.”

China Steps Up

Folks like Thomas Barnett who’ve been wondering when and whether the Chinese would take a stand for international order just got their answer:

China and several Central Asian nations rebuffed Russia’s hopes of international support for its actions in Georgia, issuing a statement Thursday denouncing the use of force and calling for the respect of every country’s territorial integrity.

Not a call the Chinese necessarily needed to make, and not one you’d have expected from their prior willingness to play footsie with Putin. Galrahn sees an opening for a deal:

Russia needs the west to accept the independence of two breakaway provinces pretty bad right now, too bad there is no government for the west to recognize. Good news for Russia though, serious cooperation in regards to Iran while they stand up a couple of democratic governments could go a long way towards Russia achieving its objectives. Democracy doesn’t happen over night, if Russia sets up a couple democracies, which could take a year, and works with the west over that time period towards stopping Iranian nuclear development, I’d say there is a good bargain for both sides to be made.

“Democratic” is a pretty unrealistic hope, but the rest could be possible.

Addendum: Could the Chinese government’s attitude stem in some small part from seeing how its citizens reacted to Team USA in the Olympics? There were several occasions, the women’s soccer semi-final and the men’s basketball final most notably, when it was like our men and women were playing a home game.

Naval Activity in the Black Sea

This is ominous:

Apparently after returning to port on August 23rd, the Moskva went back to sea today sailing from Sevastopol to Novorossiisk. Why? The article details some new events off the coast of Georgia.

What events?

Navy Times is reporting that the USS McFaul (DDG 74) has dropped anchor in the Georgian port of Batumi.

Hat to Galrahn at Information Dissemination. Keep checking with him for the latest.

Ivan, Meet Butch

Did the Russians blow up a train in Georgia this past Sunday?

Russian Air Force Oopsies

Apparently the Russians turned in a less-than-impressive performance in the air, despite the non-formidable opposition.

Experts Talking Past Each Other

Thomas Barnett turns in a less-than-stellar response to an Edward Luttwak op-ed on the long-term meaning of the Georgia/Russia conflict, reading Luttwak as advocating a rallying behind the former republics regardless of the practicalities. Needless to say, Barnett doesn’t agree:

Go ahead and let Georgia declare war between NATO and Russia. Now, any half-wit small-country leader gets to audition for the role of Archduke Ferdinand.

Pithy, and I daresay it’s a useful caution. Only trouble is that Luttwak was trying to say something more limited, and rather different, than what Barnett thinks he was, namely that NATO remains first and foremost a military alliance:

If Ukraine is allowed to enter Nato, all other members must be ready to send their troops to defend its borders — an outlandish notion for most of them. Yet to refuse Ukraine’s admission now would inevitably hand it over to Russian hegemony.

The decision on whether to confront Russia is an enormously tough one. But that decision will have to be made. It means that Europe’s holiday from serious geopolitics is over.

As an observation, I think that’s pretty much indisputable.

Midasize It!

Someone needs a catalytic converter …