20 May 2014

Ukraine 5/20: Lessons Learned

An excellent column from War on the Rocks, discussing the lessons learned from Crimea, and the lessons we can't learn from it, too.

The most important set of lessons that Russia’s annexation of Crimea has taught other countries may be political in nature, and apply especially to the other former Soviet states. First of all, having Russian bases on the territory of one’s state makes an invasion much easier to carry out. Russian naval bases in Crimea were used as a beachhead for covertly moving Russian forces into Ukraine. Since the number of troops actually based in Crimea was significantly lower than the maximum of 25,000 agreed to between Russia and Ukraine in the 1997 treaty that regulated the status of the Black Sea Fleet, Russia could even claim that the increase in the number of Russian troops in Crimea did not violate the relevant treaty.* This precedent should be a concern to Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and other states with Russian troops stationed on their territory.

Second, former Soviet states need to watch out for Russian agents and collaborators working in their security and military forces. One of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of Ukraine’s military and security response in Crimea and subsequent covert activities in the country’s east is that that Ukraine’s secure communications channels are almost certainly compromised by Russian agents. Most other former Soviet states most likely have similar problems, though perhaps not to the same extent.

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