Crimean peninsula potential flash point with Russia


Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, could be the next flashpoint in the new Cold War. And any violent disturbance in Crimea could provide the political seismic shock to split Ukraine itself along its existing fault lines of ethnicity, language and religion.

The Crimean peninsula is the only part of Ukraine where ethnic Russians are in a majority. Many of them are deeply resentful about being part of Ukraine and openly call for annexation by Russia. Moscow has fostered pro-annexation groups for years.

Vasyl Ovcharuk, a Ukrainian-Crimean political activist, said: "Moscow has laid the foundations for the occupation of Crimea with years of careful propaganda. It's like Hitler's excuse of helping the ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland as justification for the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. I have no doubt that, now that the Georgian conflict is over, Russia aims to take over Crimea.The level of hatred against anything Ukrainian here is astonishing. Many people have been attacked in the street for merely speaking Ukrainian. You can talk French, German, or Chinese here without problems but if you speak Ukrainian, people often come up and start insulting you."

For centuries, Crimea was the homeland of a Muslim people, the Crimean Tatars, until it was taken by Catherine the Great in the late 18th century. While in Britain the 1854 Crimean War is known because of the charge of the Light Brigade into "the Valley of Death", the port of Sevastopol today brims with proud emotion as the place which Russian forces, heroically but unsuccessfully, defended against the Anglo-French attackers, as well as the site of one of the bloodiest battles, also unsuccessful, against Hitler's armies.

In the Soviet era, Crimea grew as a naval base. And the peninsula, with its mountains, sweeping bays, beaches and Mediterranean climate also became a place of retirement for senior apparatchiks.


Hopefully no one will be sending a light brigade to its death anytime soon. What is somewhat remarkable about the charge of the light brigade is that the US Civil War had already demonstrated the futility of such cavalry charges against massed artillery. The machinery of warfare had made horse cavalry impotent. It gave the defense an advantage that it would have until the inventions of the tank and warplanes some 15 to 20 years later. It took a lot of futile charges in World War I to figure out the problem. It took World War II to get the full return of combined arms warfare.


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