Russian Intervention in Ukraine 13: Knowing Me, Knowing You

Welcome to my first post in English on this blog, I’m normally blogging in Swedish, but due to popular demand, I will try for English a bit. I haven’t written in a while on Ukraine both because of work and that, at least I feel, I’ve already covered the essentials, but now things are moving again it is time to grip the pen again. 

So we have had a few important events these last days. Yesterday some people of some political conviction had some kind of referendum with some kind of no legitimacy. Of those people, 96,77% voted in favour of joining Russia in (as opposed to leaving Ukraine). Which is just below the support United Russia got in a twice-bombed-to-pieces Chechnya. Is the Kremlin loosing its attractiveness?

Following this referendum thing, the US came out with travel bans and asset freezes for ideologues and not businessmen (as Ben Judah put it). And they are not the ones who needs West for business. Vladislav Surkov for instance, only need the West for Tupac and sanctions are unlikely to hinder that.

The third of the current events – the Russian recognition of Crimea’s independence – is touching upon the big question, will Russia be content with leaving Crimea de facto-independent and use it to maintain a negative veto in Ukraine for the period to come, or will Russia go all-in and legally annex Crimea? Remember that a thing of independence is a pain forever, as I’ve wrote earlier.

Friendly pointers for voters.
Friendly pointers for voters (Stop Facism!)

There’s a general agreement among the pundits that option one is the sensible – to take a step back, keep the alternatives open and bargain – but then again, what speaks for option two is the forces and passions already put in motion (to put it in Tolstoyan terms). Tomorrow at 11 GMT we’ll see what Putin has to say for the parliament.

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. -Sun Tzu

I could have named the post after the quote above, but ABBA is of course better. The things is that the Russian leadership know their enemy – knowing you – very well and the West has so forth behaved according to their expectations. 

Russia have for a long time managed to play on and reinforce Western disunity, this time vividly exemplified by France delivering Mistrals in the crisis, Germany acting as a break on EU sanctions and the UK protecting the City of London.

The problem to find a strong response is further exemplified today with the sanctions when the Russian stock exchange ended their day with a 3,77% rise. The market seemed relieved that the ideologues and not the businessmen – who would make a real difference for the ruling elite – was targeted.

A few days ago David Cameron opened for the financially precarious, but for effect, needed move to go ahead with asset freezes regardless the problems it would pose for the European centre for dirty money City of London. If the Western response will continue to conform to Russia’s expectations, time will tell, but for the first weeks it seems that Russia’s call was not a bad one.

However, the Russian leadership forgot about the “knowing me”-part in Sun Tzu-phrase/ABBA-song. In the longer term, the actions in Crimea will even further exacerbate the two biggest security challenges for Russia; yes, by far exceeding potential NATO-expansion.

It’s the economy, stupid! The current events will not help the Russian economy who were running net losses even before the Crimean invasion even though the markets have not punished Russia too seriously so far. Above this, the Russian economy had already loomy prospects in a 10-years perspective with a failure to modernise to a knowledge-economy instead of one ovely dependent on natural resources. In the short run, subsidising Crimea will cost, but in the long run businesses, who like all people are risk averse, will have a lot less appetite for Russia, which will be detriment to Russia’s biggest problem.

…and the ethnicity, my clever friend! This point has been emphasised most strongly by Paul Goble, but Russia is a multicultural federation par excellence. A completion of the already ongoing shift from civic nationalism to ethnic nationalism – seen by e.g. Sobyanin, Rogozin and Navalny, but not Putin himself – will lead to the end of Russia’s influence in the greater region and potentially of Russia itself. Interstate/interregional security dilemmas has the potential to spread as brushfires and spiral and civic nationalism is a condition for the integriety of the Russian Federation.

And these are just few of the problems with not knowing oneself, or even worse, not caring.

Jag skulle vara väldigt tacksam om ni svenska läsare ger er syn på språket!

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