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Can Russia intervene militarily in Ukraine?
The US Defense Secretary Charles Timothy Hagel addressed a news conference on Thursday, February 27, 2014, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. He asked Russia to be transparent in its ongoing military exercise, which it announced only on Wednesday, and also to respect Ukraine?s sovereignty. Formally, on the same day, the White House and the State Department urged restraints from all the concerned sides.

Moscow disapproved of Kiev's new leadership saying that only 'a government of winners' has been set up. Russian foreign ministry was also critical of Western nations which according to it were supporting only the nationalist Ukraine leaders. Later, on Thursday ousted President Viktor Yanukovych resurfaced in Russia and claimed that he is still Ukraine's legitimate head of state.

Yanukovych, who at present is apparently under Russia's protection, had not been heard from since he fled Kiev last Saturday. He argued in a statement distributed on Thursday that his opponents had reneged on a power-sharing deal they had signed with him on February 21, 2014. The Russian government- which had tactically refused to endorse the deal at the time, even though it did not then completely disapprove of call for some fundamental structural changes in Ukraine- now says it agrees with him and wants its terms to be reinstated.

Yanukovych held a press conference on Rostov-on-Don on Friday, February 28, 2014; his first since he was ousted. He spoke in Russian and all that was usual: he praised Russia, denounced the West, denied any wrongdoing and wished Ukrainian people well. But significantly he maintained that Crimea Peninsula should remain an autonomous part of Ukraine with special agreement vis-?-vis the Russian Federation.

Many believe it is the end of his political career in Ukraine and he was just trying to save his skin from his possible prosecution in International Criminal Court for his alleged role in the killings of protestors in the Independence Square in Kiev as demanded by new government and many protestors in the country.

In addition, there is ongoing dispute in the Autonomous Republic of Crimean Peninsula where gunmen have occupied two airports and local Parliament building and raised Russian flags in the city of Simferopol. This is considered by many to be an act of Russian agencies. Russians have also formally deployed few of its troops there. Ukrainian authorities consider it as the violation of its sovereignty and have requested United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to monitor situation in the Crimea Peninsula.

The US officials said on Friday, February 28, 2014, that Russian troops had entered Crimea, as the US President Barack Obama warned that there will be costs for any military intervention and vowed to stand by the Ukrainian people. Obama said he was deeply concerned by reports of military movements that would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people and would constitute a clear violation of international law. The Ukrainian authorities have claimed that at least 21 Russian fighter jets have crossed the border into Ukraine.

After the impeachment of Yanukovych there is rising dispute between the Western Catholic Ukrainians and the Eastern Orthodox ethnic Russian people. Even though Crimea lies south of the Ukraine its majority is ethnic Russian and Russia deploys its Black Sea Fleet there near the city of Sevastopol.

Russia's probable intervention and even its expectations about Ukraine should not surprise any major power of the region as even the young and modern Russians, as a majority, regret dissolution of erstwhile Soviet Union except agreeing to adjust to newer form of economic doctrine. But then in Ukraine this is always possible as the region is very complex in its relationships.

In the meantime in Ukraine, Russia has withdrawn the multi billion-dollar aid package with which it had pulled the now-deposed Ukrainian president away from the European Union (EU). The Russian Defense Department has mobilized Russian forces bordering Ukraine as per a big geo-strategic game-plan. 

Russian health officials are even questioning the quality of Ukraine food exports. This is a message to Kiev: We can shut down your agricultural exports today, your natural gas supplies tomorrow. We can make you broke and we can make you freeze. These are the views of Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer in an Op-Ed published in February 28, 2014 edition of the newspaper.

But I think slightly differently not because the Russian Federation would not wish so but because it cannot. It's a bit difficult to expand Russian territories so simply. I do not think the Russian Federation will choose this opportunity to realize its nationalist dream about regaining its lost glory of the former Soviet Union era, instead it will do so to polarize the region and let people adjust to the consciousness of the modern times. 

But in any case if it so tried, it would lead to an open and direct confrontation between the West and the Russian Federation. I do not think that it is that impending but I am equally sure that Russia did not ?yield? to the some demands of Western Ukrainians for nothing.

The fact is that it was a shrewd 'strategic pause' from Russian government side though it might have realized by now that it was a huge miscalculation. Its supposed support for ethnic Russians from what it calls 'fascist violent forces' may not lead to the end its desires and wishes. Russians might have underestimated the power of the West or about the nationalistic flavor among the Ukrainian people.

Even 'non-democratic' countries are now using protests and popular public support to implement their foreign policies. In this regard it remains a fact that there is some measurable significant support for Russians among the Ukrainian population though not as much as anticipated by Moscow.

Even though Ukraine is a cleft country, as described by deceased Harvardian Samuel P Huntington, and it definitely gives Russia a heavy say in its matters but violating Ukraine?s sovereignty is not that simple as said. The Western Europe, in that case, may renegotiate all its treaties and agreements with Russians, particularly the economic ones.

The world would repeat itself into gloomy regression. I think that it would be economically sapping or minimally discouraging for Russians to try attempting taking Crimean Peninsula under its direct control. May be Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to undermine nascent democracy in Russia by acting in this rather irresponsible way.

The Pentagon cannot and shall not do anything in that case, at least militarily. There is no question of the NATO reaction either on that count. The fact is that in and around Russian naval territories there is little that the Pentagon can do unless and until its and its allies interests are not under direct threat.

The Ukraine dispute is no case about direct threat to European and American strategic interests; it is about competition between the Westerners and Russians to have majority stakes in the poorly divided nation. Even though in China?s present might there is explicit US-led West?s hand, but if militarily China goes Russian way then the Pentagon cannot fight a war with China in latter?s naval territories. Then China can invade Taiwan rather easily.

Also, in tune with the present trends in international politics, adding territories is not a way to increase one?s power, more so, if doing so is utterly disputed and condemnable by other major powers of the globe. But at the same time Russia would review all its agreements with Ukraine if pro-European political parties are overwhelmingly elected to power in the proposed May 2014 elections.

Reviewing would meaningfully depend on the voting patterns in the West and the East Ukraine and also in Crimea. If Russia does not review its economic-security engagements with Ukraine, as the case may be, it will be humiliated even internally but if it does so, it could push Ukrainian people more towards Europe and add to its divisionism and woes on multiple counts.

Ultimately the Russian and Western stakes in Ukraine would depend on the relative distributions of its population among loyalists and nationalist and the country could become a Northern Ireland in Caucasian region with probably a long way to go before its problems are redressed. That shall pose a big challenge to the EU and its desired expansion plans into the east like that to the Russian Federation as well as to the US.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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