Flash point

The political and military situation in the Crimean peninsula has been deteriorating  fast and the outcome of the referendum in which the Crimeans  are reported to have  voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia has deepened the crisis and aggravated the confrontation. According to reports there was a 95.5 per cent vote in favour of a merger with Russia.

Since Crimea was a part of Russia till the middle of the last century and there is an overwhelming majority of Russian-speaking people there, the result is not unexpected. But Ukraine, of which it is a part now, and the western countries and the US, which have supported the country’s plan to develop close association with Europe have not accepted the legality of the referendum. President Obama has  rejected it and threatened to take retaliatory actions against  Russia.

Russia has also bolstered its military strength and is in no mood to let the west dominate the traditional area of its influence on its western border. The area is also of strategic importance to Russia because its Black Sea fleet, which gives it an opening to the  Mediterranean, is based in Crimea.  Russia’s area of domination in East Europe has progressively shrunk ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union and Moscow is unlikely to compromise on a major security issue.

President Putin has stated this in no uncertain terms. Questions of legality take a back seat when national interests are involved, especially when the players are super powers. But the latest flash point of confrontation has the potential to derail the political and strategic balance that has existed in Europe for the last many years.

In the present volatile and hot situation there seems to be little scope for an international initiative to cool it down. The debate in the UN Security Council last week did not yield any positive result, with Russia vetoing a draft international resolution. Proposals for an international mechanism to explore a political settlement and a financial package for the economically struggling Ukraine did not find acceptance. The threat of sanctions may not have much of an impact on Russia.

If the present confrontation continues it can lead to a civil war in Ukraine, which can go out of hand with others getting involved.  All parties to the evolving situation will have to ultimately reach a political solution.

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