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Crimea of national security

Analytics | Roman Yakovlevsky | 22-08-2016, 15:50

Crimea of national securityThe fears of those remembering that in August something always happens in Russia to make the whole world tremble, be it a coup attempt in Moscow or the Georgian war during the Olympics, have finally been proved well-grounded. This time in August, again the Olympic one and in the wake of the Presidential elections in the U.S., a worrying chain of events unfolded in the annexed Crimea. Their possible consequences are still to be grasped, both in the West and in the East.

On August 10, President Putin accused Kiev of nurturing plans of invading the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula, bringing the evidence provided to him by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). On the Western side the first one to react to this dangerous standoff was Linas Linkevičius, the Head of the Lithuanian MFA. He claimed that the Moscow-voiced accusations resembled him the methods used by KGB when the potential victim was blamed in most atrocious crimes in order to find some pretext for repressing him. Vilnius also called for the EU member states and governing bodies to exert a harsh reaction to the Russian allegations.

“It is crucial that the EU and the whole international community not indulge in sleeping and getting immersed in the Olympics hype, but keep their watch on what’s really going on”, said the political director of the Lithuanian MFA, Rolandas Kačinskas, whereas the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt mentioned that “the Russian Federation often makes claims far from the reality in order to distract popular attention from its own illegal deeds”.

One has to keep in mind that Vilnius remains one of the staunchest critics of the Moscow‘s policies, so its diplomatic activity is recognized as efficient by many observers in Ukraine. A similar estimation, though not without a shade of imperialistic arrogance, can sometimes be heard from the Russian side as well. The proponents of Putin’s Ukrainian policy perceive any denunciation of it as “the State Department’s plots”, which they believe to be the source of all the Ukrainian and other worries alike.

The meetings within the framework of security councils that were held in Moscow and New York in the immediate aftermath of the events might suggest that a big trouble now stands on the verge of the European home. Kiev asked almost all major international bodies for help, putting special emphasis on the OSCE, Council of Europe and the EU. NATO that has recently confirmed its interests in the Ukrainian security at the Warsaw summit, can hardly spare its attention to the matter. The fact that the Ukrainian leadership introduced an advanced alert status of the country’s armed forces and other bodies charged with maintaining state security, also speaks in favor of the gravity of the Crimean crisis. Meanwhile, President Putin has held a briefing with the members of the Russian State Security Council which discussed additional measures to be taken to bolster security of the Crimean people andthe infrastructural objects of vital improtance in order to prevent “terror acts” on the Peninsula. The official press release issued by the Kremlin stated: “Scenarios of counter-terrorist security on the land border, in the offshore area and the Crimean airspace have been extensively discussed”. Such a statement made some commentators admit the possibility of pinpoint anti-terror operations by the Russian special forces outside the Crimean territory within the borders of Ukraine.

It is now evident that the Crimea, left outside the confines of the “Normandy format” which deals exclusively with Donbass and Luhansk “republics”, has again moved into the focus of the global attention. Hence the UN Security Council’s special meeting, gathered upon exigent requests of official  Kiev, must have provoked a vivid interest among the Council members. According to the information provided by the Ukrainian Representation at the UN, the meeting was held in the format of a closed-doors consultation, where the Ukrainian side “provided exhaustive information about the ongoing crisis in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine”, having been supported on the Crimean issue especially. At the same time, the Russian party contented itself with repeating its already well-known interpretations of the situation.

The Russian diplomats claimed Kiev is not concerned with seeking for ways of peaceful conflict resolution, as it “intends to resolve the problem by use of force, and from now on terrorist methods as well”. Moscow’s position may be neatly summed up in the following statement by the MFA: “We would like to warn Kiev, as well as its foreign mentors, that the damage inflicted to the Russian side and the death of the Russian servicemen will not pass without consequences”. This statement reminded many of the warnings addressed to official Tbilisi before the 2008 war, making them suggest that the chances for military escalation are on the rise. Some pro-Kremlin and independent analysts believe that in case the Ukrainian conflict enters into a hotter phase, the “Georgian scenario” might be played out that implies the substitution of Poroshenko for a more docile leader that would at least make an effort to fulfil the obligations imposed by Russia.

The return of Crimea to the agenda of the UN, EU, OSCE etc. should be favored by Kyiv where the reintegration of the peninsula remains an issue on the table. However, some other important considerations are present as well. The latest uncompromising stance of Sergey Aksyonov, Head of the Republic of Crimea, who called for hanging the “Ukrainian subversives”, might mean that he plans to use the turmoil to justify reclaiming the earlier volumes of financial aid from Moscow diminished since the elimination of the Crimea’s federal district status. As Aksyonov now has to claim funds in Rostov instead of Moscow, he may hope to persuade the central government that this situation is threatening to the federal security interests.

The observers did not hesitate to emphasize that Putin, threatening to withdraw from the “Normandy framework” in the aftermath of the Crimean events, “forgot” the Crimea’s absence in the Minsk treaties. He also abstained from mentioning the peacemaking role of his Belarusian colleague, often mentioned by his European counterparts. So one should not exclude that the renewed emphasis on the Crimea may trigger Moscow to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” from Ukraine along the lines of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. After a series of Putin’s blietzkrigs in the post-Soviet space his unpredictability came to be taken much more seriously in the West- or at least the Western leaders pretend to by retaining the anti-Russian sanctions package.

It is also interesting to know how the Russian allies, particularly the strategic one, Belarus, would react to the recognition of these two protectorates’ independence. The Minsk strategists are well-known for reminding the West of its neutrality, which however, applied to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, looks more like imitation. The position taken by the Belarus delegation at the latest PA OSCE session in Tbilisi where it abstained from voting on the Ukrainian resolution, was taken notice of in Moscow and Kyiv alike, as well as in the Western capitals where some hopes are still attached to the predictable results of the Legislature chairmen reshuffle. By the way, nothing has been heard since long of its working ties with the Ukrainian Rada. Recently, a news that appeared on of the Belarusian pro-government ressources, aroused a great deal of interest in Ukraine; it stated that Belarus, despite its neutrality int he Ukrainian crisis, had already taken adequate steps to face the ensuing national security threats. The guard of the southern part of the Belarus border had been strenghtened, a new redaction of the Military doctrine, taking the recent developments into account, had been adopted, and the Southern Operational command created.

It is known that until now the Armed Forces of Ukraine has such a command headquartered in the city of Dnipro. However, officla information on the new command with the same name created in the Belarusian armed forces remains undisclosed for masses. Just as the reaction of the Ministry of Defense on its creation.


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Roman Yakovlevsky

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