Could Russia and Ukraine be headed toward armed conflict over the Crimea peninsula anytime soon? I certainly don’t think so, but in this article by Andreas Umland, he speculates that conflict could be closer than it seems, as the hawkish elements are gaining ground in both countries. Another war between Russia and a smaller neighbor is indeed a terrible thing to imagine for everyone involved, and a situation that must be avoided at all costs.
Moreover, after the de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Russian territorial expansion would make the leaders of such countries as Belarus, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan have second thoughts about their alliance with Moscow. Together with other Russian allies in Europe and Asia, these countries were conspicuously silent during and after the Russian-Georgian War of August 2008. None of them has recognized the independence of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Another Russian intervention on the territory of a neighbour might lead even those few international partners that Moscow still has today to look for security and cooperation elsewhere. If there were a war in Crimea, Russia might be able to take back that treasured peninsula. But the price would be thousands of Russian and Ukrainian deaths and far-reaching international isolation for years, if not decades, to come.
While these scenarios sound fantastic today, they would becomefeasible once blood has been spilled. Groups who stand to gainpolitically from a Russian-Ukrainian escalation are on the rise in bothcountries, so the likelihood of an escalation in- rather thande-creases. Against this background, the leaders of both Russia andUkraine should keep reminding themselves what the outcome of a militaryintervention by either of them would inevitably be.