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The limitations of the "statist paradigm" so long the staple of mainstream academic political and international studies programmes, are clear when one considers:
  1. How fluid and recent many state boundaries have been, and
  2. How "artificial" and arbitrary many state boundaries have been, in the wake of world wars or imperial withdrawal.

So it's a low bar to set oneself to argue that the statist paradigm needs to be replaced or at least augmented by another.

The "civilisational paradigm" which Huntington posits as an alternative seems to be mostly an eclectic mix of religion and language, jointly labelled "culture" and which seems no less arbitrary in the dividing lines Huntington chooses to highlight and ignore.

How are "civilisational" boundaries different from the old imperial ones, or at least the outcomes of religious and world wars imposed on many disparate peoples? How many people actually understand the arcane theological differences between different strands of orthodox and "western" Christianity - a split itself the product of wars and imperial decline - and which occurred many centuries ago?

It took huge repression, in the form of Stalinism, to bind the many disparate statelets of the Soviet Union together, and it is hardly surprising that they went their separate ways with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and which also exposed the internal tensions within those states as so clearly demonstrated by Ukraine.

Putin is now playing the ethnic Russian card in an attempt to retrieve Khrushchev's "gift" of Crimea to Ukraine, thereby securing nationalist Russian brownie points for himself and also, usefully, shoring up Russia's dominant military position in the Black Sea.

However in so doing he is also weakening the ethnic Russian/orthodox positions in Ukraine, the basis for Yanukovych's electoral supremacy. I expect Ukrainian nationlists now to assert their dominance in the rest of the Ukraine, by all repressive means necessary to secure their national "sovereignty" against "Russian interference" and "disloyal" ethnic Russian/orthodox elements in their midst.

Russia will pay lip service to the plight of Ethnic/Orthodox Russians in Ukraine, but with the Crimea already in his pocket Putin could proclaim a major victory and leave "his countrymen" to their plight within the Ukraine.

If the Hotheads on all sides take over, Putin might be tempted to annex further parts of the Ukraine, Obama will be pressurized to offer NATO membership and protections to the rest of Ukraine, and the ethnic cleansing circus will begin - all in the service of allowing some people economic and political dominance over others in the name of whatever linguistic, religious, ethnic and social differences which come conveniently to hand

Hopefully Obama and Putin are having some sane conversations in the background: "the west" will not intervene in the takeover of Crimea and will discourage/prevent ethnic cleansing/separatist tendencies in the rest of Ukraine. NATO membership will not be expanded, but, if the remaining majority wish closer ties with the EU, that will be permitted, on condition that "liberal democratic freedoms" and a degree of regional autonomy are also allowed.

This could all end reasonably amicably, or it could become the focus of a new Syria and worse - the focus of a new regional or world war. A "free and fair" referendum in the Crimea could provide legitimacy to the Russian annexation, but it will be at the cost of Russian dominance in Ukraine if a new cycle of cold or hot war is not to begin.

(I make no claims to expertise in matters Ukrainian, I offer the above as a hypothesis which I am happy for others to shoot down in the name of a greater understanding of the crisis).

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 3rd, 2014 at 03:12:59 PM EST

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