Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's Just Not the Same

Russia's advance and (probably illegitimate) annexation of Crimea stunned world leaders. Since the initial invasion, there have been countless comparisons of Russia and Vladimir Putin to some of history's more nefarious characters and events - most notably Hitler in the late 1930's and the former Soviet Union. However, its hard to see much similarity with either one.
Crimea's vote for annexation was almost certainly not without help from Moscow. There was absolutely no way Putin lets Crimeans hold a free election on this topic; he's not exactly known for exercises in democracy, and a lost election would be nothing short of embarrassing.
Putin, however, at least put on a show; The Nazis definitely didn't. Their march across Europe was bloody and violent, the opposite of Russia's advance into Crimea.
Also, comparisons to the Soviet Union and a "new Cold War" don't exactly hold water. The Cold War was a struggle between democracy and communism; not opposition to territorial annexation. The West's problem with Russia's have nothing to do with ideology and a larger struggle for the hearts and minds of the world. Instead, they take issue with territorial grabs and a violation of international norms. This isn't the start of a new Cold War, it's the world standing up against geopolitical bullying and aggrandizement.
Russia's move into Crimea could be the start of something new, however. Russia is most likely looking for a role on the global stage; the one they left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Will antagonizing the West and flexing muscles in Eastern Europe make Russia a player once again? Probably not.

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