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.

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New Arrival in Sevastopol

The USNS Pathfinder has followed in the wake of the USCGS Dallas and docked in Sevastopol. Has someone in the Bush administration given some thought to whether it’s such a good idea to stir up the Russian-speakers in that city? Oh, wait …

USCG Invades the Ukraine

Who knew the US Coast Guard was so unpopular?

This is actually part of a protest by Russian speakers in Sevastopol against a port visit by the USCGS Dallas. Russian Navy Blog has more photos and a video newscast from “RU Tube.” Enjoy.

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.