Russia Analyst: Putin May Content Himself With Crimea
Although the referendum in Crimea is a breaking point in the Russian-Ukrainian standoff, it will not necessarily mean war, says Vladimir Juškin, the head of a Tallinn-based think tank.
Juškin, head of the Baltic Center for Russian Studies and a frequent commenter on Russian strategy, likens the referendum to Hitler's Anschluss in Austria ans says Ukraine will see Russia as an enemy after March 16. But he adds that there is little scent of war in the air.
Juškin says Ukraine's patience is related to hope that the West will start pressing Russia harder as the weather gets warmer and energy demand decreases.
"That would be the right time to open American shale gas imports to Europe, consider cancelling the oil embargo on Iran," he told uudised.err.ee.
The third thing that can hurt Russia is banking, as Russian politicians keep their money in Western banks.
Curently neither Ukraine nor Russia have fielded full combat troops. Instead, professional special forces and airborne units are present, but it seems neither side is authorized or prepared to fire the first shot, he said.
"If they are airborne troops, they are likely peacekeepers who have served on numerous missions and know how to deal with calm inhabitants. They possess self-confidence and restraint. The same thing is said by Ukrainian troops, they have orders from Kyiv only to fire if engaged," Juškin said.
The date of the Crimea referendum has been put off twice already, which the analyst sees as a sign that no war is in the offing,
"The Kremlin has already accepted that it will only annex Crimea. They see the process has been started in the south and east, there is a standoff between separatists and local authorities. But it is not as tense […]. [Russia] will likely not succeed in prying off a bigger piece and thus they will confine themselves to Crimea."