I complain vociferously about the lack of Ukraine experts out there. Seriously, people, being a Russia expert (and there are certainly few enough of even those) is not the same as being a Ukraine expert. When I wrote my dissertation on Ukrainian politics, I’m pretty sure I encountered just about all of them in my research. Here are two articles from two bona fide Ukraine scholars, one in Canada and one in America. They were instrumental in my research, and I have great respect for both (and they probably do not know that I exist).
Article #1 explores some of the reasons for Ukraine’s passivity in responding to the perceived occupation of Crimea by Russian military and the Crimean secession movement. First, and foremost, there is the fragility of the interim government in Kiev (which, in my opinion, is hardly less stable than most of the elected Ukrainian governments, but that is a different discussion). And then of course, there’s the issue that Crimea, with its very Russian history, tends to be fairly anti-Ukrainian, while Ukraine tends to see Crimea as Russian and is therefore mostly ambivalent towards it. Top it off with the fact that Ukraine has to pay enormous subsidies to keep Crimea’s agricultural and tourism sectors afloat, is periodically plagued with the thorn its side of the Black Sea Fleet, and a domestic population that includes a strident pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine movement as well as a bit of Islamic insurgency, and well, no one would really miss Crimea all that much in the long run. Eastern Ukraine, however, would be a different beast entirely.
Article #2 explores the costs to Russia of annexation – not just of Crimea, but of southeastern Ukrainian oblasts [provinces] (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhiya, Kherson, and Mykolaiv). Basically, all of these regions are home to huge loss-making industries: coal in the south-east, and tourism/agriculture in Crimea. Can Russia’s economy, whose growth is slowing, support the acquisition of a large number of dependent oblasts? Probably not. Motyl also attempts to spin Ukraine’s presumed defeat in a landwar as a positive, claiming that the Ukraine that emerged from the conflict would be more homogeonous, unified, poised for economic expansion and European integration, etc. This is a fairly nationalist argument and smacks of Roman Dmowski’s post-WWI vision for Poland, but perhaps I’m a bit sensitive to the homogeneity remark.