The Russian-Ukrainian crisis over Crimea is forcing Turkey into a delicate balancing act: Ankara feels a need to be seen as a protector of the peninsula’s Tatar minority, yet it does not want to vex Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin in a way that complicates Turkish-Russian economic arrangements.
After offering a coldly efficient example in Ukraine of the use of hard power, Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin is turning his attention to shoring up Moscow’s soft power capabilities, namely keeping his vision for Eurasian unification on track. There are signs, however, that his Eurasian aspirations will be more difficult to fulfill than his Crimean land-grab.
Reaction in the South Caucasus to Russia’s armed occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula is conforming to a predictable pattern: the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan are staying silent, while officials in Georgia are offering full-throated criticism of Kremlin behavior.
Scenes of Russian troops taking control of Crimea might well lead one to believe that Russian leader Vladimir Putin holds most, if not all the cards in the unfolding Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Yet the Russian leader’s Crimea gambit should be seen as a reflection not of his strength, but of his feelings of insecurity.
At its easternmost tip, the border between the Crimean peninsula and Russia runs through a channel, where a forty-minute ferry ride connects the Ukrainian city of Kerch to the Russian side. In recent days, travelers to Kerch have been met by soldiers toting automatic weapons who don’t seem inclined to leave anytime soon.
While leaders of the Euromaidan movement strive to consolidate their authority, not all Ukrainian citizens are buying into the new order in Kyiv. In particular, Russian-speakers in Crimea, which only became a part of Ukraine in 1954, have become the focus of international attention for their defiance of the new authorities in Kyiv.
Two crosses fashioned from red roses mark the spot where a car bomb killed three people last December in Pyatigorsk, Russia, roughly 170 miles east of Sochi. Just weeks later, assailants murdered six local men and left their bodies in cars surrounded by explosives on the edge of the city.