“This situation is evolving by the hour, so my comments are tentative at best,” says Clayton State University Professor of History Dr. Christopher Ward of the situation in Crimea. As proof of this, he also notes that Russia’s military action in Crimea took everyone by surprise, including the President of the United States.
1. There are ethnic Russians in Crimea (who represent the majority of the population there) who are worried that the new anti-Russian language and pro-EU (read NATO) statements coming from the transitional government in Kiev signal an intention to marginalize the Russian population of Ukraine. Moscow knows this and has been encouraging these feelings in its official media outlets.
2. Moscow sees the current instability in Ukraine as an opportunity to extend Russian influence into another border zone as it has already done in Chechnya (always a part of Russia), South Ossetia (part of Georgia until 2008), and Abkhazia (which has been separate from Georgia since 1989) in response to a perceived expansion of EU-NATO-US power in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and now possibly Ukraine.
3. Many of the Russian troops occupying military and other locations in Crimea were already there -- Russia has a major naval base at Sevastopol, although in recent years more of the Black Sea Fleet has been transferred to the base at Novorossiisk, which is located in Russia proper.
4. The prospects for the G-8 Summit in June are unclear. Right now, it appears that several members may boycott the summit, and that Russia could be thrown out of the G-8.
A professor at Clayton State University since 2004, and an expert on Russian history, Christopher Ward earned his B.A. degree at Guilford College in North Carolina (1994), his M.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (1996), and his Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2002). In between earning his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, Ward was a visiting graduate student at Saratov State University (located at Saratov in the Volga River region of Russia), a merit scholar at Moscow International University, and a visiting scholar at the Russian State University for the Humanities.
He is currently Editor-in-Chief, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review (http://www.brill.com/soviet-and-post-soviet-review) and has also served as a faculty member at Methodist University, UNC Chapel Hill and Ouachita Baptist University. His book on the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway (BAM), “Brezhnev’s Folly: The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism” was published by University of Pittsburgh Press in June 2009 (ISBN # 9780822943723).