Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crisis in the Crimea

Today’s background briefing on the crisis in the Ukraine comes to us from Spengler, aka David Goldman.

When the Arab Spring was washing over North Africa Spengler offered down-to-earth analysis that turned out to be far more accurate than most. He has a refreshing way of cutting through the bull.

Spengler opens with a prediction of what will most likely happen in the Ukraine:

There isn’t going to be a war over Ukraine. There isn’t even going to be a crisis over Ukraine. We will perform our ritual war-dance and excoriate the Evil Emperor, and the result would be the same if we had sung “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” on a road trip to Kalamazoo. Worry about something really scary, like Iran.

For those who have not been following the crisis closely, Spengler also offers a quick sketch of that troubled nation:

Ukraine isn’t a country: it’s a Frankenstein monster composed of pieces of dead empires, stitched together by Stalin. It has never had a government in the Western sense of the term after the collapse of the Soviet Union gave it independence, just the equivalent of the family offices for one predatory oligarch after another–including the “Gas Princess,” Yulia Tymoshenko. It has a per capital income of $3,300 per year, about the same as Egypt and Syria, and less than a tenth of the European average. The whole market capitalization of its stock exchange is worth less than the Disney Company. It’s a basket case that claims to need $35 billion to survive the next two years. Money talks and bullshit walks. Who wants to ask the American taxpayer for $35 billion for Ukraine, one of the most corrupt economies on earth? How about $5 billion? Secretary of State Kerry is talking about $1 billion in loan guarantees, and the Europeans are talking a similar amount. That’s not diplomacy. It’s a clown show.

Not very encouraging.

Spengler is not very impressed by the leadership shown by any of the political leaders:

Putin bungled things badly: he thought a bailout would solve the problem. That blew up in his face. The West bungled things badly: it has a $35 billion bill on its desk and no intention of paying it. John McCain went to Maidan in December and said the American people were with the Ukrainian demonstrators. He meant in spirit, not in their capacity as taxpayers. The Ukrainian opposition didn’t bungle so much as take a collective bungee jump without a cord. Just what do they propose to do now?

As for the events unfolding in the Crimea, Spengler writes:

As for the Crimea: Did anyone seriously think that Vladimir Putin would let the main port of Russia’s Black Sea fleet fall into unfriendly hands? Russia will take the Crimea, and the strategic consequences will be nil. We couldn’t have a strategic confrontation if we wanted it. How would we get troops or ships into the Black Sea area in the first place in order to have a confrontation? Perhaps the Belgiums will send in their army instead. I suppose we need to denounce the Russians for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

No comments: