Russia, Ukraine and Crimea: a predictable crisis?

How much could we have seen the Crimea crisis coming? NATO Review talks to security experts and asks whether there were enough clues in Russia's previous adventures - especially in Estonia and Georgia - to indicate that Crimea would be next.

Full video transcript

Russia, Ukraine and Crimea:

a predictable crisis?

When Russia

annexed Georgia’s regions

of South-Ossetia

and Abkhazia in 2008,

some western politicians warned

that Russia wasn’t finished yet.

We said it would be more at that time.

No one listened.

By the way, we mentioned Crimea.

We mentioned Transnistria.

So Crimea is gone. Transnistria

maybe not, but who can exclude it?

The Russians have

learned lessons from 2008.

Unfortunately,

the Western countries less.

Many Western countries were anxious

to keep the relationship

with Russia stable.

The reaction

to the Georgian invasion, I think,

was number 1: very weak,

and number 2: rather surprising.

We told then, in 2008:

Let’s be consistent.

Let’s do what we decided.

Let’s implement

and let’s stick to this, you know,

because we made

very good statements at that time,

very good demands.

We can have a look.

The documents are available.

In meetings, communiqués...

spending some time to draft.

And in two months

we’re back to business as normal.

Some feel the West’s reaction

may have fostered more confidence

in the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.

Calculations of a guy

who has got his KGB history,

who is a judo sportsman,

in that sense makes use

of the strength of the opponent

by throwing him over,

who has his history of dealing

with the gangs of Petersburg,

and as somebody mentioned,

a history of having been

a hooligan in his youth.

The general perception in Moscow is

that the West is weak.

I’m not trying to psychoanalyse Putin,

but that is the general feeling

in the political class.

I actually would concur with that.

You’re looking at the most

un-Atlanticist, to put it mildly,

American administration in decades.

You are looking

at a EU which is consumed

by its own problems

and which actually is not ready

and not willing

to engage in any kind of major,

coordinated foreign policy action

with players like Russia.

So, it’s very conducive

from the point of view of Mister Putin.

Regardless of Russia's motivation,

the Russian moves in Ukraine

may have backfired

in terms of what was intended

and what has actually happened.

If you look back to mid December,

people in the Kremlin

were thinking and were saying:

Ukraine is in our pockets.

Yes, the Crimea

is in Russia’s pockets,

but Ukraine is

far from being in Russia’s pockets.

I think that Russia’s influence

in Ukraine and Kiev,

has dwindled to nearly zero.

And I suppose that this is

the law of unintended consequences

that Lilia Shevtsova

so eloquently speaks about.

It is about creating narratives,

which in the end have their own logic.

Sometimes you can control them,

sometimes you can't.

And I think that this does create

funnily enough or tragically enough,

more instability in Russia,

not only externally,

but possibly domestically.

What is clear

that what some describe

as the mistakes

of the approach of 2008,

have not been repeated in 2014.

And that at least is to be welcomed.

This time

the reaction was there, is there

and I hope very much

that there will be a stronger reaction

if it goes farther.

Non-action is provocative.

No decision is provocative.

This is a signal

and this should be realised one day.

It really should be learned.

But sometimes

we need many, many lessons.

Many, many wake-up calls

to be woken up,

which is sad, but this is reality.

Russia, Ukraine and Crimea:

a predictable crisis?

When Russia

annexed Georgia’s regions

of South-Ossetia

and Abkhazia in 2008,

some western politicians warned

that Russia wasn’t finished yet.

We said it would be more at that time.

No one listened.

By the way, we mentioned Crimea.

We mentioned Transnistria.

So Crimea is gone. Transnistria

maybe not, but who can exclude it?

The Russians have

learned lessons from 2008.

Unfortunately,

the Western countries less.

Many Western countries were anxious

to keep the relationship

with Russia stable.

The reaction

to the Georgian invasion, I think,

was number 1: very weak,

and number 2: rather surprising.

We told then, in 2008:

Let’s be consistent.

Let’s do what we decided.

Let’s implement

and let’s stick to this, you know,

because we made

very good statements at that time,

very good demands.

We can have a look.

The documents are available.

In meetings, communiqués...

spending some time to draft.

And in two months

we’re back to business as normal.

Some feel the West’s reaction

may have fostered more confidence

in the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.

Calculations of a guy

who has got his KGB history,

who is a judo sportsman,

in that sense makes use

of the strength of the opponent

by throwing him over,

who has his history of dealing

with the gangs of Petersburg,

and as somebody mentioned,

a history of having been

a hooligan in his youth.

The general perception in Moscow is

that the West is weak.

I’m not trying to psychoanalyse Putin,

but that is the general feeling

in the political class.

I actually would concur with that.

You’re looking at the most

un-Atlanticist, to put it mildly,

American administration in decades.

You are looking

at a EU which is consumed

by its own problems

and which actually is not ready

and not willing

to engage in any kind of major,

coordinated foreign policy action

with players like Russia.

So, it’s very conducive

from the point of view of Mister Putin.

Regardless of Russia's motivation,

the Russian moves in Ukraine

may have backfired

in terms of what was intended

and what has actually happened.

If you look back to mid December,

people in the Kremlin

were thinking and were saying:

Ukraine is in our pockets.

Yes, the Crimea

is in Russia’s pockets,

but Ukraine is

far from being in Russia’s pockets.

I think that Russia’s influence

in Ukraine and Kiev,

has dwindled to nearly zero.

And I suppose that this is

the law of unintended consequences

that Lilia Shevtsova

so eloquently speaks about.

It is about creating narratives,

which in the end have their own logic.

Sometimes you can control them,

sometimes you can't.

And I think that this does create

funnily enough or tragically enough,

more instability in Russia,

not only externally,

but possibly domestically.

What is clear

that what some describe

as the mistakes

of the approach of 2008,

have not been repeated in 2014.

And that at least is to be welcomed.

This time

the reaction was there, is there

and I hope very much

that there will be a stronger reaction

if it goes farther.

Non-action is provocative.

No decision is provocative.

This is a signal

and this should be realised one day.

It really should be learned.

But sometimes

we need many, many lessons.

Many, many wake-up calls

to be woken up,

which is sad, but this is reality.

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