Snyder: Russian intervention could inspire Beijing

 It should go without saying that an attempt to seize Ukrainian territory would be a disaster in the short run, ruining Russian credibility around the world and likely starting a major war. In the long term, such an action, even if it were to succeed, would set a rather troubling precedent — for Russia itself.

Beijing pays attention to Ukraine because it has a major stake in Ukrainian agricultural territories. It will likely note the developing Russian doctrine on the flexibility of Russia’s external borders. China also has a stake in eastern Siberia. It needs fresh water, hydrocarbons, mineral resources such as copper and zinc, and fertile soil for its farmers. The Chinese economic relationship with eastern Siberia is a colonial one: China buys raw materials and sells finished goods. Beijing actually invests more in eastern Siberia than does Moscow. No one knows the exact number of Chinese citizens in eastern Siberia — in part because the last Russian census declined to count them — but it certainly dwarfs the number of Russians in Crimea, and is expected by Russian analysts to increase significantly with time.

It seems rather risky for Russia to develop, on its own border, a challenge to the basic premise of territorial sovereignty. Beijing and Moscow currently enjoy good relations, and Chinese leaders are too sophisticated to consider open threats to eastern Siberia. But down the road, as demographic pressures mount and Russian resources beckon, a Russian doctrine of the ethnic adjustments of Russian borders could provide Beijing with a useful model.

Timothy Snyder is an American historian and Professor of History at Yale University.

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Ukrainian Policy note: More on the Chinese demographic issue in Siberia can be read in Will China Colonize and Incorporate Siberia? by Richard Rousseau and in China Doesn’t Back Russia’s Invasion Of Crimea — And That’s A Big Problem For Putin featured in Business Insider. Here is an excerpt from the latter:

Mr Walden says the Chinese have never forgiven Russia for seizing East Siberia under the Tsars, the “lost territories”. They want their property back, and they are getting it back by ethnic resettlement across the Amur and the frontier regions, much as Mexico is retaking California and Texas by the Reconquista of migration.

The population of far Eastern Siberia has collapsed to 6.3m from over 8 million twenty years ago, leaving ghost towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia has failed to make a go of its Eastern venture. With a national fertility rate of 1.4, chronic alcoholism, and a population expected to shrink by 30m to barely more than 110m by 2050 — according to UN demographers, not Mr Putin’s officials — the nation must inexorably recede towards its European bastion of Old Muscovy. The question is how fast, and how peacefully.

Timtchenko: The West’s Deadly Illusion of a Divided Nation

The problem is that much of the media’s referenced information is coming from the outdated 2010 presidential elections or even from the 2004 Orange Revolution data. Understandably, this is majorly explained by the available data that the media looks at. For example, Western scholarly political science research on Ukraine can be characterized by four distinct peaks since the 1980’s: the first peak was in 1994 and can be explained by the interest in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union; the second was in 1999 and is explained by Kuchma’s economic reforms and the signing of the PCA agreement in 1996 (which came into force in 1998); 2005 was the third because of the Orange Revolution; and the fourth peak was in 2009, explained by the unexpected turnabout of Yanukovych’s presidency. Yet, little scholarly work has been done on Ukraine since then. During the past 6 months – the picture has dramatically changed. As for the past two months – the harsh division is simply not there anymore.

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Verstyuk: Borrowing from Russia to pay Russia

If Ukraine starts paying Russia for gas using Russian money, it will ultimately enter into a vicious circle that will lead to Moscow fully engaging in Ukrainian policy, said Yurchyshyn of Razumkov Center.

Given the heavy-handed politics contained in the Russian borrowing conditions – the bailout package is also contingent on quarterly reviews – the Ukrainian government now has more reasons to contact the IMF or the European Union and ask for an alternative financial assistance package.

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Motyl: A Russian Threat to Ukraine?

Imagine two possible scenarios: (1) a full-scale invasion of all, most, or much of Ukraine and (2) a limited invasion of one or two provinces of Ukraine. In both instances, the point would presumably be annexation, occupation, or longer-term control…(full article)

In this article, Alexander J. Motyl examines the political implications and consequences of Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The article gives a revealing overview of what could potentially happen in this oft spoken scenario. Of note, of course, are the absolute negatives to such a scenario:

what would the international consequences of a large-scale invasion be? Remember: such a move would mean a crass and blatant violation of every single international norm regarding state behavior. Ukraine poses no threat to Russia. It possesses no weapons of mass destruction and houses no anti-Russian terrorists. An invasion would be just that—an invasion, a blatant aggression, an imperialist land-grab. In violating United Nations norms, the Helsinki Final Act, the standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and every other postwar accord, Russia would be declaring itself a rogue state. Its ability to play a great-power role as an international mediator would be shot. Its relations with China, Turkey, Europe, and the United States would go into nosedive. A cold war would be likely. North Korea might cheer, and the some on the American left might develop elaborate pro-imperialist justifications, but most of the world would condemn Russia. The rogue state would inevitably become a pariah state.

Read more at Alexander J. Motyl’s blog