A Crimea Primer

Once again The Onion nails it, capturing the U.S. milieu of the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine as “pitting…those who have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about and those who couldn’t care less.”  By reading this you are definitely not in the latter group; consider this an attempt to mitigate our collective ignorance from inside the former category. But seriously–the issue in the Crimea is that 46 million people are being held hostage in a tug of war reminiscent of the Cold War, igniting national passions, military alternative plans, and diplomatic overdrives.

The Crisis Situation

  • Start with this FAQ on Russia’s takeover of the Crimea by Joshua Keating, including answers to questions about what Russia may intend, why Crimea is important, and a Western response. [Slate]
  • The CFR Backgrounder, “Ukraine in Crisis” explores the crisis, Russian concerns, international law, and policy options [CFR]
  • Ukraine is a diverse country according to Glenn Kates [the Atlantic], but is more like a brother to Russia via Akos Lada [Monkey Cage]
  • Revealing the crisis in maps [NYT]

What’s the Deal with the Crimea?

  • Follow the history, boundary changes, and government of Crimea from 1783 to the present in six NatGeo maps.  300 Years of Embattled Crimea History in 6 Maps.
  • Why the Tartars are the Biggest Victims [Slate] and one parliamentarians’ perspective on the lack of quorum for the vote. [RFERL]
  • On “irredentism,” the effort to reunify a ‘lost’ territory from R. William Ayres and Stephen M. Saideman [Monkey Cage]
  • What Crimeans really want: Russian dictatorship [FP]

The Blame Game

  •  Kristof makes that case that blaming Obama is misguided from  Senators Graham and McCain, Rep. Mike Rogers, WaPo and WSJ. [NYT]
    Anne Applebaum on how the West enables Russia’s corruption [Slate]
  • Are we using sloppy thinking in assuming the worst from Putin? Professor Stephen Cohen of NYU offers a different view of Russian intentions. [TNR]  And “some things are not wrong just because Russians happen to believe them.” Charles King further explains the Russian “interpretive frame.” [NYT]
  • Hitler and Stalin blamed the Jews and today Putin blames Fascists in Kiev, writes Cohen, as “Ukraine Fights for its Truth” [NYT]

Big Picture

  • Could Putin’s strategy really just be be made up on the fly?  [Atlantic] … or is there a much larger strategy, as Stephen Hadley suggests [WaPo]
  • Strategist Stephen Walt asks why would Putin go along with a US/EU “engineer[ed] ouster” of a democratically elected pro-Russian leader anyway? [FP]
  • Why Russia’s takeover complicates China’s own governance [PRI] and results in a split [The Cable FP]
  • Dennis Ross thinks that decisive US leadership could help  Middle East framework negotiations [CFR] or possibly even outmaneuver Russia over Syria [Best Defense FP]
  • Germany’s economic ties to Russia limit its leverage [FP]
  • Read up on the neighborhood.  Charles King’s suggestions on what to read on the Caucasus. [Foreign Affairs]


  • Timothy Snyder on how fostering “peace and democracy” in Ukraine requires starting with the truth; the crisis wasn’t a “fascist coup” [NYRblog]
  • Try the Mylovanov Proposal, or reforming Ukraine’s internal political system through decentralization via Timothy Frye [Monkey Cage].  Meanwhile, Ukrainian electoral politics fail to create viable alternatives [leMondediplo]
  • Increasing national gas exports = a tool against Russia. [NYT Editorial]
  • How Western economic sanctions hold leverage over Putin [NYRB] [World Affairs]
  • Consider Austrian neutrality, negotiated from 1945-55,  as a useful model [The National Interest]
  • A breakup is unlikely as long as level-headed statesmanship prevails [American Interest]
  • How this ends by Henry Kissinger [WaPo]
  • NEW Convene Western Powers to Stop Russia [The National Interest]

Updated Must Reads


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