...and the same is probably true for the whole Ukraine...
Relatively to my expectations, Russia remained incredibly calm and peaceful in the wake of the new Ukrainian "revolution". Putin et al. may try to keep their Olympic-inspired image of the saints; or they are just too upset about Yanukovitch's inability to protect his country from chaos; or they know or believe that the more patience they will display, the better for them.
At any rate, in August 1968, Leonid Brezhnev didn't hesitate to invade Czechoslovakia where no violent and no major illegal events were taking place. In fact, even the new leaders were elected according to all the laws and regulations, including all the details. Czechoslovakia wasn't even planning to join the NATO imminently. It was just trying to switch to a more relaxed, diluted version of socialism, especially when it comes to purely internal affairs. Before the age of communism, Czechoslovakia has never belonged to the Russian military sphere of influence. There were virtually no Russians living in Czechoslovakia.
On the other hand, the events in Ukraine have been and still are violent. Ukraine has always been a part of the Russian military sphere of influence and dozens of percent of the Ukranian population are ethnic Russians. Russia itself is threatened. The bandite-controlled parliament in Kiev has already stripped Russian citizens from their previous right to use Russian as the 2nd official language in regions where their percentage is high enough. Putin and Medvedev are sitting calmly (update: were sitting calmly when I was writing this blog post). Can it continue?
Well, some military units are already moving near the Ukrainian border and around the port Sevastopol in Crimea, the largest Russian port in the Black Sea that nominally belongs to Ukraine and that Russia has rented for several decades. Some officials in Russia talk about a "smaller Russian contingent" that could help in "calming the situation". Except for Sevastopol, the only Russian-used port in the Black Sea is Novorossiysk that is used to export grains and whose depth is probably insufficient for the largest Russian naval vessels.
Nikita Khruschev who was half-Russian, half-Ukrainian "donated" Crimea including Sevastopol to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1950s, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the incorporation of (a big part of the present) Ukraine to the Russian Empire. It was a formality, of course, things were still decided in Moscow.
Such details began to matter in the early 1990s when Ukraine declared independence. It's been independent, indeed, and the enhanced degree of chaos and hostility in Ukraine may arguably be linked to this independence of any foreign moderating forces.
The sovereignty and independence of the Ukrainian territory is a matter of international law and treaties. However, there are different degrees of independence and different "layers" have a different status. Let me offer you an analogy.
You may possess a piece of land in Manhattan but being allowed to build a skyscraper over there may be a different thing – you may share the right to decide about these things with some external authorities. If you wanted to prevent airplanes from flying above your land and to shoot the violators down, you would need an even higher degree of sovereignty.
It's similar with the independence of smaller countries, too. Czechia became a kingdom about 1,000 years ago while the royal status of the leaders became hereditary in 1212 through the Golden Bull of Sicily. The document was signed by a greater geopolitical authority, in this case the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The Czech crown often belonged to the Habsburgs or other "foreigners" but the autonomy or sovereignty in everyday life and even every-annual issues was real.
This didn't extend and couldn't extend to some issues that arise at longer timescales and longer length scales, using some physics jargon. I really mean geopolitical issues. When it came to threats for the "whole civilization", like the attempts of the Turks to conquer Europe, everyone in the Czech Kingdom was too small a lord. We just had to fight because more global, long-distance, long-term, civilization-related, geopolitical issues were at stake. The emperor said we had to fight against the Turks so we did fight. It wasn't up to us to decide.
My general perspective on the question of power is that laws that can't or won't be enforced are pretty much meaningless. Whoever is defending rules that can't work or laws that can't be enforced (because no one with a sufficient power has a sufficient interest to do so) are unrealistic believers in utopias. They are silly people living in a virtual world whose lack of realism may nevertheless endanger the real world. Even if the Czech or other folks decided to stand against "our civilization" in questions that are considered existential for the civilization, we would probably be shown the "right" direction in some way.
As you may expect, my point is that the geopolitical layer of Ukraine hasn't really become "independent" in 1991. The independence was only allowed because the new political arrangement was acceptable for the main powers. Geopolitically, Ukraine became a buffer zone between the NATO and Russia. That was an improvement for NATO so NATO agreed, of course. It was a partial loss for Russia but Russia was feeling weak at that time so it didn't have the self-confidence, aggressiveness, and strength to oppose the developments. Boris Yeltsin became the president in June 1991; in August 1991, Ukraine declared independence.
Everyday and local questions on the economy and other things would be decided in Kiev (or in more regional centers). But Ukraine's long-term layer remained in the possession of Russia. Ukraine remained a part of "military Russia" on the geopolitical maps in the Kremlin. Russian leaders had to accept that they won't be "permanently present" on the Ukrainian territory but the understanding has always been that "they may be present there" in a sufficiently critical situation. This is particularly the case of Crimea and the port in Sevastapol that is rather important for Russia.
Since the early 1990s, Moscow became used to the fact that economic and other policies of Ukraine are determined in Kiev – or across Ukraine (I mean the whole electorate) – not in Moscow or the whole Russia. But no one has been getting used to the fact that Ukraine should be recolored as a "hostile territory" on the Kremlin's geopolitical maps because it has never happened. And if there were any risk of that happening, of course that Russia would probably have to be interested – or concerned.
You may say 500 times that Ukraine has the "right" to recolor itself on the geopolitical maps. You may rationalize this opinion by some frameworks to define the international law or the morality. But what's more important is that regardless of all these justifications and rationalizations, the leaders of Russia were elected to care about such issues. And if they feel that some existential geopolitical interests of their country are at stake if there is no action, they will obviously act.
Look at the map at the top and think about a "raid on Moscow" led from the West. Right now, it's over 1,000 kilometers from the nearest large cities that belong to NATO. If you included Ukraine into NATO and allowed NATO military on the whole Ukrainian territory, the distance would drop to 500 km or so. Of course, if you think about raids on Rostov, Voronezh, or Volgograd (previously Stalingrad) that are close to the Ukrainian border, the changes will be even more extreme.
So you may say things like "the Ukrainian people have the right to vote (so far the vote only took place with the guns of a few thousand mostly fascist unemployed radicals in the street) to be a part of NATO". But a more important insight is that "if Russians feel existentially threatened, they may be reasonably expected to choose an intervention that has chances to minimize the losses".
Does Russia have the right for such interventions in Crimea – and perhaps the rest of Ukraine? (Just to be sure, think about an analogous question: Would the U.S. have the right to invade Mexico that would be planning to join the Iranian Islamic Republic?) According to the international law, it probably doesn't. But the international law is only respected if the price one pays for that is "tolerable" – essentially smaller than the price one would pay for violating it. Even though Russia mostly loves to respect the international law, if it finds out that the violation of the law will do less harm to the interests it finds more essential, it will probably violate the international law. It should be understandable.
There is no God who enforces the international law and the U.N. is largely toothless. (Laws really make sense at the national level only because the governments have sufficient, credible enforcement mechanisms.) Russia – and any other rational country (in the West or elsewhere) – views the international law as something else than a dogma. It is a collection of rules that shouldn't be violated but if one plans to violate some of them, one should still think what will happen after it, how strong the opposition or response will be. And if the expected response (which includes a certain loss of credibility or a damaged ethical profile) is much more acceptable than whatever we mitigate by violating the international law, we will probably violate the law.
Ironically, Barack Obama is Nobel Peace Prize winner. I think that his administration has done much more than any other U.S. administration since the fall of communism to revive the outdated thinking we used to know in the Cold War. (But I know it's not just him. Before I came to the U.S., I was sort of thinking that everyone agreed that the Cold War was over and Russia was essentially a democratic, free country, a country on the same side as the West. You may imagine how surprised I was when I began to experience the opinions of actual Americans.) And I think that the main cause behind this obsession is an ideological one. But this time, the ideologically blinded left-wingers are the Americans, not the Russians.
Obama and pals are trying to force Russia to accept the losses whatever they are. Russia will pay dearly if it intervenes, and so on. What does it mean? Will Obama really declare war to Russia? I doubt it (I doubt that even a full-fledged trade war would take place) – and I think that the leaders of Russia also doubt it which is (if my guess is right) a reason why the intervention in Ukraine may be more likely than they try to suggest now.
But if Obama will start a serious (world) war against Russia, will he be innocent? I don't think so. I think he would clearly be the main culprit. People like him significantly helped to ignite the mess in Ukraine, suggesting that the Ukrainians may even have the right to choose where they belong geopolitically. But Ukraine's color on the geopolitical maps isn't just up to the Ukrainian people. This color influences – and threatens the security – of others, in this case Russia. The politicians in the Kremlin (and not the voters in Lviv or the demonstrators in Kiev) are the main folks in the region who actually work with these maps because they mean something for them, they may do something with them. So of course that the provocation of the Ukrainian people by telling them (effectively) "you may choose to become enemies of Russia if you wish" was an intervention into the geopolitical aspects of Ukrainian affairs, aspects that are important for Russia. It is an implicit attack against Russia (and Russian people) – and I tend to agree with those who say that this has always been the main point of the Western folks' meddling in the Ukrainian affairs, anyway. Such an intervention, however "just verbal" or "just financial", may be making a Russian intervention likely. But such a Russian intervention would still be just an "internal affair" of the "Greater Geopolitical Russia" that Obama shouldn't react to. If he reacts by starting a war between "real global powers", it's his decision. If things go bad, it's his fault. If people start to die, it's his crime.
Quite generally, Obama – and much of the politically correct media-political complex of the contemporary West – is the kind of "peaceful" guy who loves to hurt his opponents by libels, media campaigns, attacks behind the scenes, intimidation of the type "you are not nice", and so on. Indeed, I wouldn't be able to hide how much I despise people who are doing things like that, people with this kind of "character". But these things are attacks, too. They are hurting the people, too. They are often annoying, humiliating, degrading, threatening, and harmful. It is absolutely normal if people react to such things physically. Just because these attacks look "unphysical" doesn't mean that they can't become the beginnings – and causes – of wars. If George Soros is behind the attempts to recolor Ukraine on the geopolitical maps, he may be using U.S. dollar banknotes instead of Kalashnikovs. But he is still fighting a geopolitical war.
So I urge the Obama administration to stop blackmailing Russia in this way because I find this talk scary at the global level – and this elevation of the problem to a global problem must be blamed on Obama and the West's anti-Russian propaganda machine. The rallies in Kiev were unpleasant but they were signs of a very local disorder in a poor, not too important country. If someone tries to promote these rallies to events that should dramatically shift the geopolitical balances (and such geopolitical shifts can rarely be done peacefully), it is him or her who should be considered responsible for the possible negative geopolitical consequences.