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Russia moves to cement renewed global role

Warsaw residents stage a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, March 6, 2014, to demand sanctions against Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his government for the military incursion in Ukraine’s Crimea region. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Although Russia’s international role witnessed a sharp decline over the last few years, Moscow’s recent resurgence is now challenging Washington in Syria, where world powers are engaged in a fierce confrontation over the country’s deadly conflict. For Washington, the response to “Russian resistance” in Syria should take place in one of Moscow’s vulnerable spots, hence the U.S. intelligence intervention in Ukraine’s crisis and American attempts to push the international community to take a stance against Russia under the pretext that it is planning to invade a neighboring country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin realized from the first moment that there was an international plot to curb his influence and threaten his geostrategic, military and economic interests, starting with Ukraine. This country has represented the focus of Russia’s plans since it became part of the Russian empire under the manifesto of Catherine II on April 8, 1783, which put “the Crimean peninsula, Taman and the whole Kuban area under the Russian state.”

Since then, the natives of the Crimean peninsula have been granted freedom of movement, religious belief and opinion.

At the time, a small Russian fleet defeated the Ottomans there. This heralded the birth of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Crimean peninsula became the arena of the bloody war pitting Russia against France, the Ottoman Empire and Britain.

During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied the entire peninsula except for the harbor of the city of Sevastopol until the Soviet Union was able to recapture it in 1944.

Russia therefore draws a red line around the Crimean peninsula, a place where Russia’s Black Sea fleet docks and which represents a vital passageway for Russia to Ukraine and out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Some 300 ships are docked in the harbor of Sevastopol along with 26,000 Russian soldiers.

Russia pays Ukraine $7 billion a year and gives the country a 30 percent discount on its gas exports in return for renting the sea port.

Putin has also proposed providing Kiev with financial aid worth $15 billion to help it resolve its financial problems in return for Ukraine not joining the European Union or NATO.

This is because Russia would fall under a geographical siege and military threat if the West gains influence in Ukraine.

Putin is doing all that he can to keep Ukraine under Russia’s influence, particularly in light of his country’s newfound role on the international stage due to the Syrian crisis.

Observers expect that events in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, comprehensive peace in the Middle East and Israel’s status in the region will lead to the formation of a new international system.

In another indicator of U.S. efforts to curb Putin’s influence, a strong opposition is gaining ground in Venezuela against President Nicolas Maduro, who is loyal to Russia.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

For Washington, the response to "Russian resistance" in Syria should take place in one of Moscow's vulnerable spots, hence the U.S. intelligence intervention in Ukraine's crisis and American attempts to push the international community to take a stance against Russia under the pretext that it is planning to invade a neighboring country.

This country has represented the focus of Russia's plans since it became part of the Russian empire under the manifesto of Catherine II on April 8, 1783, which put "the Crimean peninsula, Taman and the whole Kuban area under the Russian state".

Russia therefore draws a red line around the Crimean peninsula, a place where Russia's Black Sea fleet docks and which represents a vital passageway for Russia to Ukraine and out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Putin is doing all that he can to keep Ukraine under Russia's influence, particularly in light of his country's newfound role on the international stage due to the Syrian crisis.


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