“Eighty percent of the world’s problems are the fault of British mapmakers,” quipped the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy. Or words to that effect anyway; the precise quotation eludes our best efforts to find it this morning.
And who could argue? The Brits drew arbitrary lines in the sand to create something called “Iraq” in the 1920s. Thirty years earlier, they drew another arbitrary line through some mountains in south Asia that today marks the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The big news today falls into the other 20% that can’t be blamed on the Brits. Blame Soviet mapmakers for the mess in the Crimean peninsula — Russian territory transferred to Ukraine in 1954.
Armed forces — with no recognizable insignia on their uniforms — have taken over the two main airports. The Russians deny the troops are theirs. Meanwhile, gunmen have seized the regional parliament building. Oh, and Ukrainians are now limited to foreign-currency withdrawals equal to 15,000 hryvnias a day — about $1,500.
Ugly, ugly, ugly. As a reminder, Crimea is the most Russian part of Ukraine, one of the two deep-red regions we showed in this heat map of language on Tuesday…
Of course, if you read The Economist, the divide between a Ukrainian-speaking Roman Catholic west and Russian-speaking Orthodox east is imaginary. “The real division among Ukrainians,” reads a flowery editorial in the new issue out this morning, “is not between east and west, but between hope and cynicism: between those who believe a better kind of government is possible and those who understandably think that, in their troubled post-Soviet nation, corrupt paternalism is the best they can do.” The solution? More Western aid, the better to checkmate the Russkies, natch.
We love reading The Economist’s editorials. They’ve got everything figured out: If the peoples of the world simply conducted themselves in keeping with the wishes of The Economist’s editorial board, we’d see an end to war, poverty and even psoriasis.
“We should anticipate that Crimea will soon declare some sort of ‘independence’ from Ukraine,” says our military affairs expert Byron King — bursting The Economist’s bubble with a splash of reality.
“Russia will quickly recognize the ‘non-Ukrainian’ status of Crimea and begin to make accommodation, whether a close association with a ‘sovereign’ state or even national incorporation as part of Greater Russia.
“Western interests will howl, but overall, this will be tit for tat with respect to how quickly the West recognized Kosovo when it broke away from Serbia in 2008.
“Russia told the world that Kosovo would set a bad precedent for future border disputes. Now that legalistic warning comes into play in a manner that the West will not like.
“Meanwhile, Russia will maintain its naval and other military access to the Black Sea, which is a strategic requirement for Russia that dates back over 300 years.
“Ukraine will become a much smaller state — perhaps even landlocked, depending on how much of the ‘north shore’ of the Black Sea region goes with Crimea. I anticipate that we’ll all be updating our map collections in the not-too-distant future.”
“Threats to our nation in cyberspace are growing,” warns Gen. Keith Alexander, head of both the NSA and the military’s Cyber Command.
The military, he told Congress yesterday, needs to boost its cyberdefenses. “Those attacks are coming, and I think those are near term, and we’re not ready for them… We have a lot of infrastructure — electric, our government, our financial networks. We have to have a defensible architecture for our country, and we’ve got to get on with that.”
OK, yeah, Alexander is pushing to feather the nest of Cyber Command, like any other self-interested bureaucrat — even one who’s on his way out the door, probably to a cush consulting gig with an NSA contractor.
Our point is that we fully expect Congress to heed his call — even after boosting Cyber Command’s budget 134% this year, to $447 million.
for The Daily Reckoning
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The military crisis in Crimea currently favors Russia. It's established a strong foothold in the region, and most of the people their identify themselves as Russian. So why is the US - which has no national interest in Crimea - so intent on taking sides in the conflict? Byron King explains...
Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.
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