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Sun Mar 2, 2014, 03:42 PM

After thinking, my conclusion: Putin has signalled he wants the northern option

Russia's actions in Syria and the Ukraine are not unrelated (nor are our responses). Putin has spent the past decade or so solidifying his position in the Caucuses. Since NATO holds the Dardanelles still, there's two ways out of there to the west: a northern or southern route. The northern route hits NATO influence in Ukraine, and the Southern route hits it at the Mediterranean coast of Syria.

Both routes are problematic (frankly, I think a better option for Russia is east into Chindia, but that would involve the whole Turkic crescent, which he wants nothing to do with). But he probably has the strength to get one of them. He can either ship petro out into the Med through Syria, or straight into Europe through the Ukraine, but NATO isn't going to let Russia's influence expand on both sides of the Black Sea at the same time. He's signalling he wants Ukraine, which leaves NATO's control of access to the Med from the Black Sea intact. Putin knows this makes us more likely to accept it, because it keeps the Dardanelles as a meaningful asset (which he doesn't need; Russia has no desire to steam a fleet into the Mediterranean).

(Side note: whenever something like this happens, it's always good to fire up Google Maps and look at where mountains are -- it generally explains a lot.)

Anyways, just my two rupees from the cheap seats in South Asia...

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 03:53 PM

1. Good logical analysis I came to the same conclusion from an oil based economic perspective.

Not to mention they have always wanted full control of crimea back since Ukraine's independence.

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Response to Drew Richards (Reply #1)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 03:56 PM

2. I mean, sure, we can't overlook national-pride stuff like that

I think Russia would love to have the Crimea, though I also think they know that the days of outright territory annexations are over. But, certainly, that might have had some impact on this decision.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:00 PM

5. Yes, Russia will not directly annex Crimea... not immediately.

Crimea will have a referendum and declare independence. In a few years, they'll hold another referendum and join the Russian Federation. These moves are completely transparent, but at this point, we can't really stop it. Welcome to Col War 2.0. Putin has wanted it for years. Now he has it. Fuck him.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:36 PM

12. The West stupidly destabilized the Ukraine, and now Russia is taking back what was theirs anyway.


Hardly another Cold War.

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Response to reformist2 (Reply #12)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 05:56 PM

13. AH yes... a Putinista...

just ignore the tremendous corruption of Yanukovych, his willingness to kill his own people, his impeachment and now you endorse the illegal seizure of Crimea in violation of treaties by Putin "because it was theirs anyway."

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Response to Recursion (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 06:42 PM

15. I don't know how much of a reader you are, but here's an energy analysis from

the Congressional Research Service. It's published on the website of the Federation of American Scientists. It's a pretty good read explaining Europe's gas dependence on Russia and Russia's geopolitical influence as a result.

From a Russian Government publication:
Russia’s “National Security Strategy to 2020,” released in May 2009, stated that “the
resource potential of Russia” is one of the factors that has “expanded the possibilities of the
Russian Federation to strengthen its influence in the world arena.”24

Example: Russia's South Stream pipeline was originally designed to end in Austria. When the EU blocked a bid to allow Gazprom (Russia's gas company) to buy a 50% stake in the Central European Gas Hub, Russia changed the pipeline's ending location to Italy, leaving out Austria.

Example: While building pipelines that circumvent Ukraine, Russia continues its long-standing efforts to
gain control of Ukraine’s pipeline system. In fact, Russia is using Ukraine’s fear of the potential
impact of Nord Stream and South Stream on transit volumes and thus associated revenues
through Ukraine’s pipeline system to try to secure control of those pipelines cheaply. Gazprom
officials have strongly encouraged Ukrainian leaders that they should sell control of Ukraine’s
pipelines to it while they can get a good price.27 Otherwise, they say, Gazprom may find it more
profitable to build and use South Stream rather than modernize Ukraine’s aging system. Ukraine
has offered Russia joint operating rights over the Ukrainian pipeline system in exchange for a
reduction in the price of gas for Ukraine’s domestic consumption and guaranteed transit volumes
through Ukraine’s pipelines. The two sides are currently negotiating over the proposal. In the
meantime, Ukraine has sharply reduced the amount of gas it imports from Russia, provoking
Russia to demand that Ukraine pay a $7 billion fine for allegedly violating the terms of the
current “take-or-pay” agreement between the two countries.

If you don't want to read the entire paper there's a section titled "Russia's Role".

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42405.pdf


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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 03:59 PM

3. Interesting, and a view of how complex this whole thing is.

Need maps, you're right!

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 03:59 PM

4. Russia has no interest in sending a fleet into the Mediterranean, no

but they have an interest in sending oil tankers through the Dardanelles. Maintaining their naval base in Sevastopol provides protection for their commercial interests and oil exports via the Mediterranean (France, Italy, and the USA represent major export markets for Russian crude oil, to the tune of about 200K barrels a day; it's easier to ship from Black Sea ports via the Dardanelles to Livorno and Marseilles and Galveston Bay where there are tanker terminals and refineries).

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:02 PM

6. Not sure I agree.

Russia has long resented the Med being a "NATO lake." It's the main reason they have supported Syria so long and hard. They intend to make Their Syrian base the focus of a constant presence, operating from the now-secured home port in Crimea.

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:07 PM

7. That's a fair point

Hell, if we really wanted to "stop the madness" we'd just tell Turkey to close the straits until "order is restored" or whatever. But, yeah, that's not going to happen.

When was the Black Sea remilitarized? The formation of the Entente? It couldn't have been much before that because Russia's Black Sea fleet being portbound was the only reason it wasn't destroyed by the Japanese along with everything else at Port Arthur. Anyways, since then, the lack of Russian/Soviet control of the straits has always been a gentlemen's agreement: they could force it if they wanted to (then again Churchill thought the UK could in 1915, too so maybe I'm making the same mistake he did). My larger point is that if Russia maintains influence in the Ukraine, they don't need it in Syria, and so Assad is an albatross that Putin can cut from off of his neck.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #7)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:19 PM

8. The Syrian base is more symbolic than anything, anyway.

It's not capable of docking any of Russia's capital ships (the piers are only 100m in length, which is too small even for Russia's frigates). Their basing ability there is limited to corvettes; it's symbolic, in terms of actual force it's not any match for anything the Royal Navy and Marine National could put into the Med.

And the Black Sea Fleet was established in the late 18th century (but effectively bottlenecked and kept from operating in the Mediterranean post-1841 by the Straits Convention that kept Russian warships from sailing through the Dardanelles).

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:22 PM

9. Are they seriously that small?

I used to have a Jane's subscription and read that stuff voraciously (I was a Navy contractor in a shipyard for a while) but I must have missed that.

Also, there must have been a few instruments over time there, because the 1856 Paris treaty literally kept the fleet in its harbors, but by 1904 they were chomping at the bit in the Black itself wishing they could go get sunk with the Pacific fleet. Or maybe it's just the age-old issue of treaties' force fading with time?

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Response to Recursion (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:31 PM

10. The current convention on the Turkish Straits...

restricts the passage of warships of "non-Black Sea nations" and grants discretion over alowing transit to Turkey. Technically this means that under the agreement Russia (as a "Black Sea nation") has access to the Mediterranean and thus Atlantic via the Straits. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/naval-arms-control-1936.htm

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 06:03 PM

14. At THIS point yes....

... but there was significant construction before the civil war in Syria, and once Assad murders enough of his own people, the Russians will expand the base. You watch. Besides, its utility is as a resupply base, not as a home port. The home port is now secured in Sevastopol.

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 07:17 PM

16. It was due to be upgraded around 2012. Also, I thought it was significant because Russia could dock


nuclear subs there. That and that it provided a port with access to rail and highway lines for shipments. I could be wrong. I know Russia kept the lease renewed by forgiving debt owed by Syria to Russia for weapons shipments. Switch weapons for gas and you have the Ukraine/Black Sea Fleet situation.

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Response to Recursion (Original post)

Sun Mar 2, 2014, 04:34 PM

11. Thank you for a rational analysis

Rec

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