The more I learn about the situation in the Ukraine, the more I think some kind of intervention is necessary. For one thing, Russia has broken the terms of the Budapest memorandum, in which Russia agreed to respect Ukraine’s territory. The USA and the UK have the responsibility to do something, and presumably that involves more than John Kerry tweeting about how mean Russia is being. I really hope the Obama administration is doing more about this than it appears, but I kind of doubt it. I don’t think Obama has the spine to stand up to Putin, which is probably going to end up disastrously for Ukraine. I hope I’m wrong, though.
Putin feels entitled to expand the Russian territory, particularly to the Ukraine (and Belarus, presumably, but more on that later), considering Ukraine, and Crimea in particular, has a large Russian minority. I’m guessing that this is happening now because of the recent unrest in the Ukraine over the Russia-aligned government’s rejection of the agreement with the European Union. Many Ukrainians wanted Ukraine oriented more towards the West than towards Russia, and if the already succeeded in removing the pro-Russia president and replacing him with an ally of former pro-Europe prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. These events must have been troubling for Putin, as his influence over Ukraine was being threatened. So, Russia invaded with the justification that the Crimeans wanted it to. Belarus, at this point, seems pretty firmly in Russia’s pocket, so it would probably be pretty pointless for Putin to invade it. In fact, Belarus is basically a relic of the Soviet Union, ruled by the dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
Russia is unquestionably an enemy of the West, and this looks like it has the potential to escalate into something bigger. At the very least, Putin can’t be led to believe that he can brazenly break treaties like this and not have a severe backlash. And that is another thing: Obama has proven himself to be a weak leader, so he mustn’t have been expecting much of a response from Obama. I’m not a fan of the EU, but it is better than Russia, and having Ukraine as an EU ally is preferable to having it as a Russian ally. I also think a more Western orientation would benefit Ukrainians with more freedom.
Also keep in mind that there continue to be tensions between Russia and Georgia, not to mention how incredibly unstable the Caucasus region is. I still think there is a potential for World War III to erupt. World War I started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, resulting in Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, an ally of Russia, the UK, France, and the other Allies. However, that probably wouldn’t have been enough to start World War I if there wasn’t already so much tension in Europe.
Despite wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the past few decades have been relatively peaceful. But there is a lot of tension in the world right now, and I doubt that it is going to be resolved peacefully. There is potential conflict between North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, Israel and Iran, etc. Relations between Greece and Turkey, while more amiable than in the past, are still not that good. Not to mention the continued presence of radical Islamists and terrorists in Western Asia and North Africa, which, by the way, also have a presence in Russia.
Russia is composed of 83 federal subjects, of which 21 are “republics.” The republics of Russia are areas that were historically inhabited by ethnic groups other than Russian. Several of these are majority Muslim, including Chechnya. There has been conflict in Chechnya for over a decade, and there continues to be insurgency there, as well as in Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia-Alania, and Kabardino-Balkaria, all of which (except North Ossetia-Alania, which is majority Christian) are majority Muslim republics in the North Caucasus. There are also two separatist regions in Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia is majority Muslim, nor is Georgia. Russia recognized both Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, causing Georgia to sever its diplomatic ties with Russia. As far as I can tell, this was the reason for the Russia-Georgia war in 2008.
The Caucasus is a very unstable region in general, which probably has something to do with how ridiculously diverse it is, in addition to the political situation of the region. Linguistic relationships are a good indicator of ethnic relationships, so I will use them to demonstrate the ethnic diversity of the region. The three independent Caucasian republics are Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani languages are all unrelated to each other. Georgian is a Kartvelian language, which isn’t related to any other languages except for a few small languages spoken in the region. Armenian is an Indo-European language, a very large language family which also includes most of the languages spoken in Northern India (such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and Gujarati), the Iranian language-speaking countries (such as Farsi, Pashto, and Tajik), and Europe (such as English, German, French, and Greek). Azerbaijani is a Turkic language, closely related to Turkish. However, it is even more complex North of the Caucasus, all of which is Russian territory. There are two language families native to the region: the Northwest Caucasian languages and the Northeast Caucasian languages. There is theorized to be a relationship between the two families, but it hasn’t been proven. The Northwest Caucasian languages include Abkhaz and Circassian (which is spoken in the Russian republics of Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria). The Northeast Caucasian languages include Ingush (spoken in Ingushetia), Chechen (spoken in Chechnya), and various languages spoken in Dagestan, including Avar, Dargwa, Lezgian, and others. Dagestan itself is incredibly diverse, with over 30 different languages spoken. In addition to Northeast Caucasian languages, Kumyk and Nogai, Turkic languages, are also widely spoken, as are Russian and Azerbaijani. In Ossetia, an Iranian language, Ossetian, is spoken. There is also the Karachay language of Karachay-Cherkessia, which is Turkic; the Balkar language of Kabardino-Balkaria, which is also Turkic; and a bit farther north, the Kalmyk language of the Republic of Kalmykia, which is Mongolic. Kalmykia is also a Buddhist region, the only one in Europe.
The politics of the region are also very complicated. Armenia is a close ally of Russia, and it is also technically at war with Azerbaijan and has no relations with it, due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian-speaking region within Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan and Turkey are very close allies, and Armenia and Turkey are, of course, not (largely due to the Armenian genocide, which was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, but the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia also contributes to this, due to the close relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan).
There is also a separatist region in Moldova, Transnistria, that is supported by Russia. This issue has caused relations between Moldova and Russia to deteriorate. Russia currently has a military presence in Transnistria, and Transnistria is considered to be heavily influenced by Russia. In 1990, there was a war in Transnistria that ended in a ceasefire, and this is currently a frozen conflict. Transnistria is heavily populated by Russians and Ukrainians, in addition to Moldovans. However, a cyrillic alphabet is used to write “Moldovan” (which is the name given to the Romanian language in Moldova) there. Furthermore, the flag of Transnistria resembles one you would find in the Soviet Union, although it claims to be a democratic country (which, of course, is disputed).
If World War III were to break out, here is how I think it might happen. An unholy alliance between Russia, China, and Iran might form (and there are already close relations between those countries). This alliance might also include North Korea, Armenia, Cuba, and depending on how the current uprising here ends up, Venezuela. I also think it is possible that Greece’s troubled relationship with Turkey might cause it to align with Russia et al, depending on the fate of the EU and whether or not the Golden Dawn becomes powerful in Greece (the Golden Dawn seems like it would be a natural ally of Russia). This would leave Turkey as a US ally, although the large Kurdish population in Turkey is an issue because of the Iraq War, which resulted in the establishment of Iraqi Kurdistan and its recognition by Iraq as an autonomous region. Turkey would presumably not like to see the same thing happen there. United States relations seem to be much warmer with Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan also seems pretty friendly towards Israel, while the relationship between Iran and Azerbaijan, both of which are majority Shiite Muslim countries, has deteriorated recently. In addition to the Caucasus, Ukraine would probably be a major site of fighting. As would Western Asia and Northern Africa, of course, possibly Moldova, Korea, India and Pakistan, the South China Sea, and maybe even Cyprus.