ANALYSIS The pictures unfolding on our television screens show well armed ‘professional’ troops patrolling the key sites of the Crimea. By all accounts, the atmosphere is calm and everyone is carrying on their daily duties with some waiving Russian flags, others Ukranian.
When they are asked whether they are Russian, the troops do not reply. Since the takeover in Kiev, hundreds of such men have arrived in the Crimea and have occupied key strategic areas. Initially, they were there to protect the Russian speakers who form the majority of the province but the longer they are there the more this looks like a complete takeover of what to Vladimir Putin is a vital part of his nation’s identity. Russia has been accused by the Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of putting peace at risk in Europe. The US President Barack Obama has threatened Moscow with economic and political sanctions. Ukraine says that Russia has declared war on her, but could the highly dubious government in Kiev really risk more bloodshed against a far bigger and more dangerous bully than the one it fought for its freedom on her own streets? Russia has sent a message to the outside world – it wants to be treated with respect, and part of that includes no lectures on international law from nations that play fast and loose with its principles when it suits them. As for Ukraine, if it wants to continue with the current political state of affairs in Kiev, it will not only lose its cheap gas supplies but also the Crimea.