For no particular reason, thoughts on Crimea.
One thing I’ve liked about working in the Facebook London office is how international it is. So I’ve talked about the Crimea thing with Russians, Ukrainians and even one Crimean. It’s really interesting to get insiders’ views on foreign affairs; it’s much different than just hearing things secondhand from the media.
In terms of what I’ve learned from them, Fresh Air had an interview with some expert and it was surprisingly accurate, or at least very much in line with what my Russian / Ukrainian coworkers told me.
The interesting thing is many Ukrainians find Crimea useless and annoying. They’re poor, so somewhat supported economically by the rest of Ukraine. And their population is very Russian, which skews the entire nation’s politics. Most of the country leans pro-West. Crimea leans pro-Russia. So there are not a few Ukrainians who think it wouldn’t be that bad if Crimea left – they’d be getting rid of a drain on resources and a drag on forming stronger ties to the West.
The only thing they value in Crimea is some base or port, can’t remember which. That base or port is valuable because Russia gets access to it in exchange for low natural gas prices. That deal is already off and Russia’s gouging Ukraine now. The other concern is that Russia won’t stop there. Crimea first, who knows what’s next.
Another complication is that there’s an ethnic Tatar minority in Crimea (that I think has the longest ties there), They’re Muslim. And my Crimean coworker is actually Tatar. The USSR treated Tatars horribly. There’s a real concern that Russia would do the same. So they’re one group within Crimea that’s very wary of going back to Russia.
It’s also not true that Crimea is solidly pro-Russia, even among the Russians there. The election to join Russia was (obviously) rigged. The issue is that Ukraine is in some ways a better Russia. Russian is spoken everywhere, it’s culturally similar, and there’s actually a very free press and free elections. It’s like Russia with more freedom. So even many of the Russians in Crimea are wary of joining Russia. But it’s impossible to say how many because the election was rigged.
So it’s a super complicated situation. Many Ukrainians don’t really care about Crimea save the precedent it would send in losing it. It’s unclear how many Crimeans actually want to join Russia. And in the middle of it all are the Tatars. So what should the EU / US do? Who knows.