Why the Russia-Ukraine Standoff Will Not Blow Up.

Ukraine continues to be in the midst of a tense stand-off between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops holding Crimea. Putin has claimed that the armed infantrymen posted outside Ukrainian military bases are not Russian troops, but merely Pro-Russian local militias. No matter the case, it is clear that he is in control of these forces.

The world waits with baited breath. Will the crisis in Crimea blow up into the first European war of the new millennium?

I say “Probably not.”

“Probably” not. There is always the chance that some unexpected event could cause the situation to blow-up. This is how World War I began. All it could take is one overly-jumpy Ukrainian or Russian soldier to fire a few rounds and kill someone. This could set the wheels into motion.

Moments like this can be pivotal points in history. I once heard pivotal points in history described through the metaphor of a handgun: “The gun is loaded and cocked. Everything is in place and ready. All that’s needed is for someone to pull the trigger. It doesn’t matter who pulls, it doesn’t matter why they pull; all that’s needed is for someone to pull.” I believe this is an accurate description.

However, the bugger of unexpected events is this: you cannot expect them. Barring any unexpected “wild cards” of a pivotal nature, I do not think that Russia will enter into official war with Ukraine.

Bottom line, the Russian government relies on exporting natural gas to Europe for half of their yearly revenues. If the European market were to suddenly cease buying Russian natural gas, the entire Russian economy would crash.

Below is the Russian “Export Map” for 2011:

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Russian_Export_Treemap_%282011%29.png

What are the major Russian exports? Petroleum. Gas. Coal. Minerals and metals. Things pulled out of the ground. All other sectors are comparably tiny. Contrast this with the United States’ export map:

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/United_States_Export_Treemap_%282011%29.png

Beyond natural resources, the Russian economy produces next to nothing that the world values. The only major Russian technology exports that anyone can think of are firearms and military equipment. That’s about it.

As I have discussed before, the Russian Federation is the world’s largest banana republic.  If those oil and gas exports stop, or even slow down, then the Russian government has some serious problems on their hands.

Examine these charts:

https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/03/20140304_natgas.png

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/03/20140304_gas.png

The European Union relies on a great deal of Russian natural gas. In the east, Russia practically has a monopoly on natural gas. If anything happens to the supply of Russian gas in these nations, a large number of Europeans will get very upset, very quickly. EU leadership does not want Russian gas supplies cut off.

Thus goes the Great Game. Both the European Union and Russian government desire influence and control over Ukraine. They both have active interests in gaining a foothold over Ukrainian internal affairs. In this regard, they oppose each other. However, they also share the need to buy/sell natural gas between each other. Neither wants to reach the point where the gas stops flowing into Europe.

Therefore, I doubt either party is seriously interested in precipitating full-scale war. That does not mean it absolutely won’t happen. But it means that nobody is actively looking for a fight. Putin is flexing a little muscle, and I do not think much more will come of it.

 

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