Russia Needs a Plan B in Ukraine
Published: August 7, 2014 (Issue # 1823)
"It would be good if we could learn to see at least one step ahead," President Vladimir Putin said recently in a speech on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. He could have said much the same thing about the current crisis in Ukraine.
It would, in fact, be interesting to know how many steps ahead both of the sides involved in this conflict have planned. Recklessly posturing, both parties in this game of brinksmanship seem to have lost control and are headed for the edge of the cliff. Do the two major players even have a Plan B, a backup option, if their initial plans fail or if their goal turns out to have been misguided?
For now, the West's main leverage against Moscow is tighter sanctions. Their goal? "The cessation of Russia's efforts to destabilize Ukraine." It is probable that a complete halt to any aid for separatists in the southeast would be considered a sufficient concession to prevent new sanctions.
But what would be the next step? If these demands are met, will the current sanctions be lifted? Most likely not, and then Crimea will be the next issue up for discussion. How does the West plan to carry out the return of the peninsula to Ukraine, on a purely practical level?
Should Moscow receive any security guarantees in return for handing back Crimea, or will its experience mirror that of Saddam Hussein in his exit from Kuwait? Where should Russia's Black Sea Fleet go? What should be done about the referendum that has already taken place in Crimea?
And of course the March referendum was just the latest: A vote in the early '90s produced very similar, pro-Russian results. Should both referendums be simply annulled as "illegitimate" and inconsistent with the Ukrainian constitution? Or should a new referendum be held in five years to test the validity of the previous one? Or 10 years? Or even right now, under the control of numerous international observers, as was done in Kosovo?
Of course such questions seem absurd today, but this is what a "situational analysis" is, when the consideration of even the most unlikely scenarios reveals both sides' potential, their resources, and their strengths and vulnerabilities. The ideal result is an appropriate evaluation of the current situation.
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