Russia’s rise to great power status and beyond can be traced back to the defeat of Ottoman arms in 1789, and with it came the prize of Sebastopol, on which work began on a base from where the then monarch Catherine hoped to project her empire’s naval power.
In 1855 when Britain and France fought alongside the Sultan, it was to seize control of this Black Sea naval base.
That was of course the Crimean War.
This was a conflict that shocked Czar Nicholas the second because it was a clear message to Moscow that Russia was outside the European realm.
And so it has always been.
Today, Ukraine has been engulfed in a wave of protests following the decision by President Victor Yanakovich not to apply for European Union membership, and stay instead close to Russia, the country from whom Ukranian nationalists have always sought to be free.
There is even talk that the country could split along ethnic language lines, namely Russian and non Russian speakers who form the majority of the country.
No doubt Ukraine nationalists may have something to say about that.
And in the background there is that ardent student of Russian history, Vladimir Putin, who already holds a 100- year lease on the naval base in the Crimea and who is also aiming to once again to project Russia as a great power.
You wouldn’t be suggesting that Russia will step in to crush the protests would you? On the eve of the Winter Olympics?
Seriously, a joint initiative by Russia and the European Union to resolve the crisis peacefully might not be a bad thing. Standing back to see how things develop could lead to civil war which will certainly lead to a Russian intervention. As you point out Russia has huge interest in the region which the EU has to respect. Some creative diplomacy is required to bring Ukraine closer to the West without damaging Russia’s interests. Solomon-like statesmanship, if you like. Not sure Merkel and Ashton are up to it!
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Trouble is the EU and Russia have entrenched points of view. And of course there’s Ukranian nationalists and Crimean Tartars.
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