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UPDATED: March 10, 2014 NO. 11 MARCH 13, 2014
The Ukrainian Crisis
Caught between Russia and the West, things will get worse before they get better
By Ding Ying

Diplomatic tactics

Observers suggest that Ukraine should accept the current situation until it has enough political and economic strength to make independent decisions.

Putin, in the meantime, has shown a mature diplomatic strategy of using both brain and brawn. "Putin has greater odds of winning this game," Xu predicted.

Yanukovych asked Putin in a letter to use force to help restore law and order in his turmoil-stricken country, Russia announced on March 3. And Moscow still recognizes Yanukovych, who was removed from power by the Ukrainian parliament last month, as Ukraine's lawful leader. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared that Yanukovych was still the "legitimate" head of state despite the latter's "negligible" authority. Moreover, Russia said its Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea is not interfering in Ukraine's internal political events and that there is no need to send Russian troops to Ukraine "so far."

The parliament in Ukraine's crisis-stricken Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted on March 6 to become part of Russia. It also scheduled a referendum for March 16 to determine whether the Crimean people themselves would like to remain part of Ukraine or to join Russia.

Crimea, a multiethnic region with a large Russian population, has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since Ukraine gained independence. Russia has maintained its only Black Sea naval base in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea.

"Putin adopted a smart diplomatic tactic in dealing with the Ukrainian crisis," said Xu. Russia will not militarily interfere in the Ukrainian crisis, but it will reserve the right to take military actions depending on the development of the situation, he added.

The West has expressed a strong reaction to Russia's actions. They prepared economic sanctions against Russia, and threatened to refuse to participate in the G8 Summit scheduled to be held in Russia's Sochi. Moreover, NATO announced on March 5 to suspend plans for the first NATO-Russia joint escort mission to neutralize Syria's chemical weapons. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on the same day that the United States plans to expand military cooperation with Poland and Baltic states to show support for its allies amidst the crisis in Ukraine.

Considering Crimea's significance to Russia, it is unlikely that Ukraine will be allowed to completely fall to the West, and Moscow will never give up its influence. There are still hopes for a political settlement, said Xu.

Xu explained that interactions among big powers revealed strong chances for a peaceful result. In a phone call with Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China believes that Russia can coordinate with other parties to push for a political settlement of the issue so as to safeguard regional and world peace and stability, and China supports mediation efforts by the international community that are conducive to reducing tensions.

U.S. President Barack Obama suggested an open relationship between Ukraine, Russia and the West. He said on March 5 that there is room for Ukraine to be a friend of both the West and Russia. Obama urged Russia not to interfere, while admitting that Russia has legitimate interests there. "There is the ability for Ukraine to be a friend of the West and a friend of Russia's as long as none of us are inside of Ukraine and trying to meddle and intervene, certainly not militarily with decisions that properly belong to the Ukrainian people," said the U.S. president.

"The crisis doesn't imply an inevitable divorce between Ukraine and Russia. But Ukraine must accept that it has historical, political, economic and military ties with Russia. It will take Ukraine a long time to create a model for coexisting with both Russia and the West," said Xu.

Sun believed Ukraine must ultimately find its own way to become strong and independent. "It's very hard to satisfy both Russia and the West at the same time," he said. "The Ukrainian people should be masters of their own fate."

Email us at: dingying@bjreview.com

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