It’s beginning to look like the situation in the Ukraine is best described as “complex”.
Many have held that the pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are nothing but puppets, acting at Moscow’s direction. While that could well be the case – and I’m sure Russia has a rather strong degree of influence on them – I’m not sure I agree that they’re “Russian puppets”. If they are, they seem to be pulling their own strings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently asked for east Ukrainian separatists to postpone the independence referendum scheduled for yesterday. However, those pro-Russian separatists refused to do so. They held the referendum anyway. (Results were suspect – reportedly they were heavily in favor of “independence” for parts of the eastern Ukraine, in spite of recent poll results showing a majority in favor of remaining a part of the Ukraine.)
It also doesn’t seem to be a simple “east/west” division within the Ukraine. In some respects, the country is indeed more-or-less divided into a western-leaning part in the west and a Moscow-leaning part in the east. That division is based both on politics and language (Ukrainian is the dominant language in the western part, while Russian is the majority language in the east).
However, other indications indicate that the situation is far more confused. Outside of the Crimea, legitimate and independent opinion polls show no clear preference for reunion with Russia. Even in the east, recent polls show that well over 50% of the population wants to remain a part of the Ukraine rather than reunify with Russia. But many (if not most) in the eastern Ukraine also say they don’t trust the new government in Kiev, either. (The population desiring to remain independent and trusting the Kiev government is obviously much higher in the western, Ukrainian-speaking portions of the Ukraine.)
Putin announced that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the eastern Ukrainian borders last Wednesday. A Pentagon spokesman indicated there had been no indications of such a pullback the following day.
Bottom line: this situation in the Ukraine is indeed All Fouled Up (AFU). Let’s all hope it doesn’t become FUBAR and end up being resolved by force.