Ukraine and Crimea

I’m trying to wrap my head around this Ukraine situation. I haven’t been paying a huge amount of attention to news lately, so I only get bits and pieces of it at a time. I seem to recall having difficulty the last time something happened in Ukraine, too. If I’m understanding the incredibly obtuse explanations from the media correctly, it’s something like this:

Grossly simplified, Ukraine is made up of two basic ethnic regions. The western side is more of a Ukrainian ethnicity, while the eastern side is more of a Russian ethnicity. The people of Crimea in the southeast, a penninsula sitting smack between Ukraine and Russia, want to leave Ukraine. I don’t know why, but I guess because they speak Russian while the rest of their country speaks Ukrainian. I’m not sure if the Crimean people want their own country, or if they just want to become part of Russia. The latter would make more sense, since they would probably be a shambles by themselves.

Unfortunately in these modern times, you can’t just up and decide to move your land from one country to another. The Ukrainian government doesn’t particularly want a big chunk of their territory to disappear. It would look bad on their yearly evaluations or something. Also, presumably, whatever revenue and resources come from Crimea would be lost.

Complicating matters is that the U.S. and Russia are on opposing sides. Russia seems fine with the idea of Crimea becoming Russian. The U.S., perhaps sympathetic because of its own Civil War, is firmly behind Ukraine. If Crimea left for Russia, it would be a big political black eye for us, as we would "lose" to Russia, and we certainly can’t have that.

To put this in terms more Americans might understand, it’s a bit like this hypothetical situation: California decides to leave the U.S. for Mexico. California is filled with Spanish-speaking people, right? I think so. Anyway, the U.S. obviously wouldn’t allow that to happen, because we set a rather harsh precedent during the Civil War that no State would be leaving the Union, or else. In this analogy, Ukraine is the U.S., Crimea is California, and Mexico is Russia.

It’s entirely possible that analogy is totally wrong, but it sounds good to me. (In reality, Mexico may not want California, given its generally horrible financial state.)

I have no strong feelings about the politics of the situation one way or another, which is to say that I don’t care if Crimea is part of Ukraine or part of Russia. I just feel horrible for the people living in that area. And as a U.S. citizen I don’t particularly want to get involved in a potential Ukrainian civil war, especially with Russia on the other side. Can’t we spend a little time not being involved in a conflict somewhere in the world? Just for a change of pace?

I’ve said before that I couldn’t conceive of how the Civil War came about, but this looks like a living example of it happening right before our eyes. Still, I can’t comprehend being so passionate about one’s national identity that one would be willing to start shooting people over it. That seems like an incredibly Middle Ages attitude to me. (Actually the entire concept of national identity in general seems obsolete, with the explosion of cross-border communciation possible through the Internet.)

Anyway, as of this writing, Crimea has essentially voted to become part of Russia. Of course, Ukraine (and the U.S.) doesn’t recognize their authority to make that decision. Let’s hope they find a way to resolve everything without creating a lot of innocent dead people.