Many regions in Europe have played ‘who the hell are we?’ over the years; Crimea and Ukraine being just two of them, depending on the political machinations or whims of the ‘main player.’
Ukraine has been a sensitive area re Russia’s/USSR’s security for centuries. Ukraine has been a conduit for invasion and the Crimea a strategically important warm-water port for the Russian navy. That Krushev ‘gifted’ the region back to Ukraine in the 50’s and then the said region became gradually Russianized,’ since the early 90s after the break down of the former Soviet Union, just added a pressure that was one day going to boil over, especially with the assistance of Putin in recent years to reclaim as much of the former Soviet Union as he can lay his hands on, legally or through substitute and devious plots, should come as no surprise.
The West can cry out all it wants but they have underestimated the importance of the whole ‘border regions of Russia as a buffer for Russian fears of a repeat of past historical events.
The so-called referendum taking place in Crimea today (and soon one in Eastern Ukraine!) will ‘show that the majority of citizens in the Crimea will vote for a return to Russia. How fair was the poll? One can probably assume that it was hardly an open discussion and the low turnout will signify little as large sectors of the population simply didn’t vote or saw it as a sham; take the Tartars for example. Of course the older citizens will vote for a return to the ‘certainty of the old Soviet Regime, and the promise of cheaper living and pensions that are double what they could expect from the Kiev Government. Any chance that the later government had of winning the hearts of Crimeans was lost after 20 plus years of non-action on the ‘social benefits’ front, so Russia appeared to be the ‘caring’ choice for many Crimeans.
What are we left with? We have simply gone back to the past. The West’s choices---probably very little they can do. Democracy after all is only as good as the promises it delivers. Kiev, nil, Russia—well, who knows?