What do you want, Putin?
I shouldn’t be writing this. Exams are just around the corner and I haven’t so much as dented revision. I really should be reading a textbook (doesn’t Using Political Ideas sound perfect for late-night perusal?) or going through lecture notes, consolidating knowledge – what knowledge? – or doing something vaguely productive. But hey, it’s Sunday night; clearly none of the above are happening.
So rather than just stare at a Facebook screen (all my flatmates are actually working), I thought I might as well write. I live in permanent fear that the peculiar style of academic writing will one day leave me unable to tap out a blog post without attempting to ‘put forward a thesis’, or whatever it is we’re meant to do. And no one wants that, so I’d better keep this up.
What’s been going on? Well, the situation in Ukraine is wildly oscillating between crisis and improvement, chaos and order. Today, Eastern Ukrainian’s voted on a referendum on independence. It seems likely to pass, which could lead to all manner of madness. It seems unlikely that the West will stand for a splitting of the country, nor the expansion of Russia’s boarders. Crimea was one thing – Russia’s annexation of the territory could favourably be viewed as the correction of an historical anomaly – the infringement of Ukraine proper would be quite another.
Not that it is clear what anyone could do about it. The West is, after all, the birthplace of the principle of self-determination (revision fact: it was one of Wilson’s fourteen points at the writing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Aren’t you impressed?). It could hardly deny people this right because its exercise is inconvenient.
Luckily, Putin seems to think the prize of Crimea and an unstable, disintegrating Ukraine is enough to secure him some support at home. He condemned today’s referenda, calling them illegitimate. Quite what he is planning for Ukraine is unknown, but at least he does not seem to be gunning for all-out war. Cold comfort, perhaps, but better than the alternative.
So no, unlike in the exam essays I have been planning, here I offer no conclusion. The Ukrainian situation is simply a mess, and it is unlikely to be straightened out any time soon. Let’s just hope Putin can revel in his acquisition of Crimea for a bit longer and leave everyone else alone. I don’t want to have to learn about a new Cold War, especially if it’s hot.