GLOCAL March 2014 - Page 23

It is unclear what will happen if the Crimea referendum goes ahead as planned. Two status options are possible, should, as is expected, those who vote repudiate Ukraine. The first is the choice presented on the current ballot, namely that Crimea be „reunited with Russia as part of the Russian Federation.‟ The „re-united‟ frame primes voters to view Crimea as natural Russian territory, as if a nostalgic past overrules and negates the present. The Russian Federation has to officially accede to this outcome. Should this not happen immediately, Crimea may join the ranks of post-Soviet de facto states. Will Putin take Crimea? Public opinion surveys my colleagues and I have conducted over the last few years in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia reveal residual Russian residents in these territories to be deeply regretful about the collapse of the Soviet Union, trusting of the Russian leadership, and supportive of local Russian troop presences. Only amongst ethnic Abkhazians , and Georgians in Abkhazia, is there an aspiration for a future other than integration into the Russian 21 Like Karadžić‟s gambit, the move is deeply polarising, exploiting local ethnic factors to serve a larger geopolitical goal. While ethnic Russians are a majority in Crimea, not all necessarily see themselves as proRussia and anti-Ukraine. Russian ethnicity and language primacy does not mean dis-identification with Ukraine. The Russian invasion and referendum, however, is forcing a binary choice on residents, a choice depicted in stark terms on at least one referendum poster as one between Russia and Nazism. Crimean Tatar leaders, recognizing the geopolitical coercion behind an ostensibly democratic procedure, are calling for a boycott of the referendum. Page years, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly regards it as a „cobbled together country.‟ Even more blatantly than Milošević, he has intervened with Russian military forces to pre-emptively protect the local ethnic Russian population from a supposed „fascist‟ threat (though there is no evidence of ethnicised violence). Sponsoring a local strongman as the new prime minister of Crimea, Russian forces have engineered an extra-legal referendum on 16 March, to give a democratic imprimatur to Russia acquiring Crimea.