The Russian presence in Ukraine presents a fierce puzzle for us Central European Jews. On the one hand, we have no love for Russian troops wandering around other countries, to say the least. On the other hand, the existence of Israel cannot really be ethically defended on any grounds that don't justify continued Russian occupation of Crimea; the population on the ground is Russian and they have no interest in living in a Ukraina that has developed a pretty serious dislike for them, also to say the least. Those people live there perhaps through the machinations of previous generations of politicians, but not through any fault of their own.
The analogy to the Israeli Jews (not to mention their claim on the West Bank) is obvious.
I wonder if it isn't this analogy isn't behind the surprising tendency of the American right to be soft on Putin. Of course, there's also the always-be-opposite-of-Obama thing, but Obama could be attacked for being insufficiently belligerent too.
Anyway, the way I look at it is like this. The Russians are not going to give up Crimea.
I doubt anybody in Washington is really surprised by this. The words "territorial integrity" are used in international circles as if they were a high moral principle, but that is and always has been self-serving BS that all existing powers defend against all potential separatist movements. In fact, borders are, obviously, artifacts of convenience, mostly the convenience of the incumbent powers, and have always shifted as power shifts. Of course the US must pay lip service to it.
To the extent that a conventional military matters at all anymore, Russian access to the Mediterranean is enforced only by their presence in Crimea, and they are not going to give it up. They filled the peninsula with their own nationals to enhance their claim in the event of a Ukrainian government that was not compliant to their needs. That's the card they have in their hands. To expect them not to play it is naive.
To turn around and act as if this were reasonable is a bit bizarre. The real issue here is not just whether Crimea is Russian but whether Putin's imperialism is an improvement over Communist imperialism.
The sheer corruption of Putin's puppet government in Ukraina should surprise nobody. But its exposure does Putin no good, and is what should give us more than a little hesitation in supporting him.
It is convenient that Moscow has lost its communist ideology, but to start treating them as friends and allies doesn't make the right look pretty. We have to bluster about this and then let it slide. But we don't have to look happy about it.
The Republican capitulation to oligarchy is clear enough, but to cozy up to the level of contemptible corruption in the Russia of Putin is nauseating.
The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.
- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)