The ongoing crisis in Ukraine threatens at best years of regional instability and at worst Europe’s bloodiest war in two decades, but there are broader geostrategic casualties, too. While news media across much of the world are rehashing clichés regarding the possibility of a mid-twentieth century-style ‘cold war’, we at Mediolana believe that the Really Important Insight emerging from this crisis is the fragility of the two largest directly interested parties: the United States and Russia.
- The US risks being exposed once again as a rapidly fading hyperpower. Its response to the crisis has been limited to threatening sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Crimea – but it is standing on shaky ground.
- The most recent Iraq War is proving problematic insofar as its legality is at best highly contentious. It involved the invasion of an internationally-recognised sovereign state that had not attacked the United States; the world being aware of both this and its dire outcome places the US in a position of questionable legitimacy.
- Economically the United States is in no position to pursue another military campaign, and is unlikely to be for the foreseeable future. Again, its much-publicised battles with its own debt ceiling have done little to instil confidence in its ability to pursue complex and costly international interventions.
- Prima facie, Russia could stand to gain territorially and in terms of regional influence from the Crimea Crisis: at the very least, one would expect the emergence of a highly autonomous Crimean region federated – de facto if not de jure – to what is already the largest country in the world by land mass.
- However, in the context of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, Russia’s possible seizure of Crimea looks at best opportunistic and at worst bordering on the desperate. It is a show of military force and power at a time when the Ukrainian street has proven that it is capable of effecting political change – and could perhaps have echoes in Moscow.
- While the average Muscovite is considerably better off in many respects than their counterpart in Kiev, the Russian Federation remains a country that according to all respected international indices is corrupt and poorly-administered. It is also a country where information technology is spreading with speed – and as the Swedish author, speaker and economist Kjell A. Nordström has noted, authoritarian governments rely in part on controlling information, something that is almost certainly going to be increasingly difficult to do worldwide.