Posted by occupymelbournenet
The Ukraine is becoming a complex and fast moving conflict with multiple factions having multiple agendas.
For the latest updates: https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPR
It seems that this conflict started as a proxy war between Russia/CIS vs EU/US, but additional home-grown factions soon saw their chance to enter the power vacuum. The Crimea has talked of independence so what you have is at least four factions.
Some might argue Russia is simply suffering from a bruised ego, but the conflict goes deeper than this. The former USSR states are attempting to for a new USSR called the CIS, a copy of the EU incorporating many of the former USSR states. You might be wondering why Ukraine is so important to Russia and the CIS in this plan. The answer is of course petrochemicals, not oil per se this time, but rather gas pipelines.
The Ukraine is strategically important have the majority of Russian gas pipelines to Europe, Without the Ukraine Russia has only one pipeline going through Belarus to deliver is gas to Europe. Giving Belarus a monopoly on gas delivery to Europe would make Belarus far too powerful for Russia’s liking, and far too powerful in a proposed CIS.
Russia is of course building other pipe lines to be less dependent on the Ukraine and Belarus, but these are massive projects and take significant time and resources to complete.
The gas deals are of course very controversial, Yukanovych and Tymoshenko were both implicated in dirty deals and skimming money off gas deals with Russia, and most recently (2010) the controversial Ukrainian decision to allow Russian to keep its black sea fleet in port of Sevastapol, on the Crimean peninsula until 2042.
Crimea has wanted Independence from both Russia and the Ukraine for at least a decade. The Crimean Economy is largely based on the two navies stationed there, (the Ukrainian and Russian) the industries that support the Navies. Tourism Is economically significant being a temperate ( and Russian speaking) beach side resort for many people of the CIS. The Crimean does not want to risk bad relations with Russia and the CIS, as the tourism money would disappear.
While Russia has other land that borders the Black sea, they have had their navy stationed In Sevastopol since 1783, briefly forced out by the Germans in WW2, so naturally feel they belong there. Sevastapol is part of the Ukraine so the Ukrainian navy feel it should belong there. As a deep water port the Crimean has some interesting advantages, because of its island/peninsula arrangement the Navy can quite easily surround and defend its port from land based attack, This makes it a natural stronghold, not something any navy would want to give up. The black sea flows through the Dardanelles past Gallipoli (which we all should know about) into the Mediterranean (of importance to the EU) and then to the rest of the world’s oceans.
This of course leads to somewhat strange situation of two navies both being stationed in the same place, almost a naval cold war.
So what this is about is the politics of the middle man.
For the Gas pipelines Ukraine and particularly Kiev are able to set the price (and quantity) of Russian gas entering the EU. Controlling this flow of energy and money between two powerful economic blocs makes for significant political power and significant risk of corruption.
For whoever controls the Crimea and Sevastopol controls the black sea and its ability to deploy naval and military force in the region. Controlling a geopolitically significant deep water seaport is an extremely powerful tool in diplomacy. Russia wants to build a gas pipeline under the black sea so will need to control the black sea to assure the project and hardly want the additional expense of building a new naval port as well.
An independent Crimea would be unlikely to create a naval fleet of its own and would likely take the highest bid to station any interested party, which could be almost anyone, Turkey, US, EU, Iran… This could become a geopolitical lottery, or just Russian Roulette.