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UPDATED: March 21, 2014 NO. 13 MARCH 27, 2014
Compromising Over Crimea
Moscow's absorption of Crimea may trigger a new "cool war" between Russia and the West
By Ding Ying

Future 'cool war'

What's done is done. Neither Ukraine, nor the West, can change Crimea's determination to join Russia. Observers predicted the relationship between the West and Russia will enter a "cool war" stage, which will be much weaker than the previous Cold War. If all related parties remain committed to finding a political solution, regional stability is still promising.

The international community is worried that the referendum on the Crimean Peninsula will trigger a domino effect in east Ukraine, as many pro-Russia cities may choose to follow Crimea's suit and apply to join Russia. In his speech on March 19, Putin said that Moscow did not seek and did not need to split Ukraine. "On the contrary, we will do everything to build civilized good-neighborly relations, as is accepted in the modern world," Putin promised.

"There are still possibilities that such a domino effect might occur," Li said. According to Li, the result of the upcoming Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections will decide whether or not such a situation will happen.

Li stressed that if eastern Ukrainian regions can share in the political process of Ukraine after the elections, wherein Russia still can have a say in the country's events like the West, Russia will not further intervene in Ukraine's domestic political affairs. However, if pro-Russia forces are excluded after the elections, Moscow might continue to push forward east Ukraine's intention of joining Russia, Li added.

There will be very little danger of military conflicts in Ukraine over Crimea, Li said. "First of all, the West doesn't have so many interests there. Without assistance from the West, Ukraine doesn't have the ability to confront a strong power like Russia," Li claimed.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on March 19 that the United States would not take military action in Ukraine against Russia. "We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine," Obama said in an interview with KNSD, a California-based broadcaster.

"I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge, for us to engage Russia militarily would not be appropriate and would not be good for Ukraine, either," Obama said. "What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we've got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message."

In response to the Ukrainian crisis, the Obama administration has focused on providing economic aid to Ukraine and imposing sanctions against Russia. Obama announced sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials who the United States said are responsible for threatening Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity on March 17. He indicated that further sanctions could be on the way.

Unlike the Cold War, which featured a complete confrontation in political, economic and military aspects, the scope of the "cool war" is limited, said Li. "Against the background of globalization, it is impossible for Russia and the West to cut all connections between them," he said, adding that the two sides will remain alert to each other in the foreseeable future.

Li also noted that current economic sanctions against Russia will not be as effective as the West expected. "Europe is still in demand of Russia's natural gas, and the trade volume between Russia and the United States is not big enough to validate the sanctions," Li explained.

Gao predicted that there is still a possibility that the West and Russia could reach a short-term compromise—for example, supporting Ukraine establishing an administration that both of them can accept. However, Gao said, the Crimean crisis will greatly influence relations between the West and Russia, while their game over Ukraine will continue. He suggested that Ukraine should maintain a balance between Moscow and the West, which he said will be a rational and practical choice.

The international community should make constructive efforts to defuse the tension, spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hong Lei said on March 19. "We believe that this issue should be resolved politically under a framework of law and order. All parties should exercise restraint and avoid taking actions that may sharpen the dispute," said Hong. Under the current circumstances, a political settlement should be sought on the basis of respecting all parties' reasonable concerns and legitimate rights and interests, he added.

Yang Chengxu, a senior research fellow with the CIIS, said that Ukrainian people shouldn't be forced to choose a side between the West and Russia. Beijing is willing to offer its suggestions to help Ukrainian people get out of economic recession and political instability, he said. China, which has contracts with Ukraine totaling over $10 billion, surely hopes Ukraine will remain stable, he added. "China takes a fair and just attitude in the Crimean crisis, which is in favor of Ukrainian people's long-term interests," Yang stressed.

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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