[notice noticeType=”info” ]Photo: Orthodox monks pray next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava March 1, 2014[/notice]


Fears of a Russian military invasion in the Crimea are growing. Ukrainian border troops report that Russian tanks have already been deployed after Vladimir Putin obtained permission for intervention from parliament on Sunday. The G7 states have now interrupted preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi this summer. Some commentators urge the West to show restraint, others demand harsh sanctions against Russia


Avoid firing of the first shot

Sober-mindedness alone can prevent a war in Europe, the liberal daily Kainuun Sanomat (Finland) writes, praising the reserve of Western politicians:

For now Russia’s provocation is being met with rhetoric at the diplomatic level. In this situation that’s the smartest response, even when the other side violates international treaties. For the time being, harsh words are better than retaliation, because that would lead directly to a war in the second-largest state in Europe.

… War can be avoided in the Crimea and Ukraine as long as no shots are fired. The leaders of the major powers and the transitional government in Ukraine must now stay calm and rely on well-coordinated diplomacy. The first shot must be avoided.


The Brezhnev Doctrine of 2014

Russia’s threat to invade the Crimean Peninsula brings to mind the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the conservative daily Lidové noviny (Czech Republic) writes, and compares Vladimir Putin with Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader at the time:

Kiev’s struggle to free itself from Moscow’s sphere of influence is as much of a provocation for Putin as Dubček’s free press in Czechoslovakia was for Brezhnev. The decisive factor for Putin isn’t whether the Russian minority in Ukraine really is under threat.

… He wants to demonstrate that Russia calls the shots and that the sovereignty of other nations on its border is no more than a scrap of paper. This is the Brezhnev Doctrine of 2014.

… Anyone who puts in doubt what Moscow holds as inviolable is a legitimate target for intervention. That held for Czechoslovakia in 1968, for Georgia in 2008, and it holds for Ukraine in March 2014. The regimes may change in Moscow, but the Brezhnev Doctrine of limited sovereignty remains.


Hit Putin on the Achilles’ heel

It’s not enough to simply condemn Russia’s actions, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino (Switzerland) writes, and calls for economic sanctions:

The US has greater and more concrete room for manoeuvre than the EU, which as always is divided on what should be done, not least because the US isn’t dependent on Russian gas.

… Washington’s most effective weapon is shutting Russia out of its banking system and threatening to impose financial sanctions. This would be hitting Putin where it hurts, and perhaps deter him from giving the order to invade Ukraine.

… Even if the tanks date back to the communist era, Russia’s economy, unlike that of the Soviet Union, depends on Western investment and trade with the West. Perhaps this is an argument that Putin won’t turn a deaf ear to?


Crimea is not a new Georgia

The situation on the Crimean Peninsula can’t be compared with the conflict between Russia and Georgia that led to the war in the southern Caucasus in 2008, political scientist Tihomir Bezlov argues in the daily newspaper 24 Chasa (Bulgaria):

Georgia lies in the Caucasus. Ukraine by contrast shares a border with Poland and signed the Budapest Memorandum with the US, the UK and Russia which guarantees its sovereignty in return for giving up its nuclear weapons. Now the Ukrainians are wondering whether Russia would take the risk [of a military invasion] if they still had their strategic nuclear weapons.

… Is the West willing to make concessions again after Georgia? On the other hand Russia is perhaps far more concerned about who rules Ukraine than who rules Georgia. Hard times lie ahead for everyone.