Image depicted is from first slide from War Council on March 7, 2014. Image depicted is from first slide from War Council on March 7, 2014.

**NOTE: What follows is the set of introductory remarks from the War Council panel on the “Crisis in Crimea” on March 7, 2014.

By Captain Andrew Betson

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  On behalf of the Defense and Strategic Studies Program, the Department of Military Instruction, and our panelists, welcome to the third DSS War Council, “Crisis in Crimea.”  Former Ambassador to the Soviet Union recently stated, “I believe that nobody can understand the likely outcomes of what is happening unless they bear in mind the historical, geographic, political and psychological factors at play in these dramatic events.”  We have gathered this War Council for both an academic and professional purpose – to discuss American strategic options in reaction to these dramatic events, the second example of significant strong arm diplomacy by Russia is less than 6 years.

These things are hard to predict.  In “Foreign Policy’s” 2013 Failed States Index, in which they rank the strength of the world’s countries through categories such as Demographic Pressures, Human Flight, Human Rights, and Public Services, Ukraine scored 117, between Jamaica and Malaysia.  She was less than ten spots behind Brazil, it ranked higher than South Africa by four, and Russia by 37.  Nonetheless, about three months ago, pro-Western activists set out into Kiev Independence Square and across Ukraine in reaction to the now-ousted President Yanukovych’s rapprochement with Russia.

Yanukovych’s policies followed years of a decidedly western looking Foreign Policy for Ukraine.  On 23 May 2002, then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced that his country would pursue NATO Membership, to the chagrin of his pro-Russian PM Yanukovych.  After a run-off election in 2004, the country’s President Yuschenko and PM Iulia Timoschenko made clear their pro-Western policies on all fronts to the international community.

In June 2006, the “gas attack” served as a harbinger of things to come.  Russian President Putin announced that the oil market demanded that Gazprom, natural gas company controlled through majority shares by the Russian Government, must raise the price of natural gas for Ukraine by 360%.  Yuschenko threatened a raise in the rents for the Black Sea Fleet portage in Sevastopal to which Putin threatened a reexamination of ownership of the Crimean Peninsula.

A change in azimuth, though, marked economic woes in the country.  Ukraine was broke with no sign of recovery.  The Heritage Foundation’s 2014

Economic Freedom Index ranked Ukraine at 155th out of 178 countries (High being bad this time).  This landed them in the “Repressed” category just above Haiti.  This spiraling path seems to explain to some degree Yanukovych’s appetite for a $15 billion bail out.

By 22 February, weeks of tense protests resulted in the Ukrainian Parliament voting unanimously in favor of impeaching Yanukovych.  An interim President and PM were installed with elections scheduled for the future.

The world stood in awe, however, when on 28 February apparently Russian troops seized the Simferopol International and Sevastopol International Airports on the Crimean Peninsula.  Hence, thousands of Russian troops have entered the Crimean peninsula, neutralizing Ukrainian Naval and ground forces in the region.  And yesterday, the Ukranian Parliament voted unanimously to join the Russian Federation.

A “Sea of Fog” lies ahead.