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What I do not understand about the current crisis in Crimea is how this invasion could be successful without anyone firing a gun.

  • Weren't there Ukrainian soldiers stationed in Crimea? Maybe the soldiers were already all ethnic Russian or Crimean?

  • If there were some, then how could it happen that they "just gave up"? Were they badly outnumbered in every single base?

  • Or did they receive a surrender command from Kiev?

Maybe I'm missing something, but I naively assumed that if random armed people assault a military base, the soldiers will try to defend it.

10 Answers 10

6

This article explains a lot of what happen with Ukraine army in Crimea and elsewhere.

To highlight some good points:

  • Ukraine army is dramatically underfunded:

    How bad is it? Only 1 in 10 Ukrainian troops staring across the border at Russia are protected by body armor. The country has lost at least three helicopters trying to take a better look at the setup of pro-Russian militias and can’t afford to replace a single one.

  • ...when Russian forces fanned out across Crimea in March, the military didn’t react because the military couldn’t react. The country’s tanks, trucks, jets and ships were in such bad repair that many weren’t operational.

Now, imagine if Ukraine still possessed nukes...

18

When the Russian soldiers first deployed in the Crimea, Turchynov feared that any provocation would lead to a full scale war, a war he'd have very little chance of winning. He compared the situation with the Russian deployment in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which started under the same general pretense of protecting the Russian citizens there):

"Russia has sent forces into Crimea ... they are working on scenarios which are fully analogous with Abkhazia, when having initiated a military conflict, they started to annex the territory," Turchinov said in televised comments.

The war with Georgia lasted five days and Russia remains in control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, although the United Nations and most countries regard them as still part of Georgia.

Source: Reuters

Both wars ended with devastating defeats for Georgia, and it's understandable that Turchinov would want to exercise caution, and try for a diplomatic solution instead of directly antagonizing the Russians.

Furthermore the Russians didn't stop at sending troops into Crimea, they also moved troops near East Ukraine. Kiev, at that point, had a legitimate fear that any provocation could have lead to a full scale invasion.

  • From what I've heard, ukrainian government feared sending troops to Crimea would left border with Russia without protection. – Danubian Sailor Mar 18 '14 at 13:20
  • Your answer is good. But when saying Turchinov, you probably mean Turchinov's government/cabinet/team, not Turchinov himself. As actually, according to the 2014-02-28 NSDC transcript, Turchinov was the only of the NSDC members who voted positively on question about imposing martial law. – Sasha Jan 16 '17 at 15:37
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The Ukranians have not surrendered. There is currently a stand-off between Russia and the Ukraine, which is attempting to be solved diplomatically.

Klitschko told The Associated Press that "of course" he is afraid of Russian aggression, but said the standoff over Crimea shouldn't be solved "on a military level."

"We must do everything so that not a single drop of blood is spilled,

Nations do not always retaliate against acts of aggression, because it will cause a full scale war. Saber rattling is quite common amongst nations as a form of "extended diplomacy." Even though the US is much stronger militarily, it has often ignored direct attacks on its troops, planes, or naval ships, so the relative strength of one's military is not always relevant. Many times the tension will simply de-escalate. The reason to attempt this should be quite obvious- that many people die in wars and they should be avoided.

I see only one example of a direct attack on a base near Sevastopol.

According to early reports, members of a pro-Russia militia used a truck to break through the gate of the base. The truck got stuck at the gate, and Russian soldiers climbed over it. Some 70 Ukrainian troops were said to still be holding out in the bunkers. The militia troops who broke through the perimeter demanded the Ukrainian soldiers surrender.

Negotiations were currently under way to resolve the situation last week.

The Ukraine and Russia have treaty agreements and had a good relationship before this incident. If the Ukrainians fired on the Russian troops, that would very likely end any hope of a good relationship between the new Kiev government and Russia. It might even cause a war and Ukraine would be very outnumbered and might lose many people in such a war. Russia has 30,000 troops in the Ukraine already.

Putin called for Russian troops to return to bases, so there might be signs that a diplomatic solution is possible.

  • These are good reasons not to fight back but do you have any official or unofficial source that says this IS the reason here? – SoylentGray Mar 17 '14 at 22:13
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    Although Russia does have troops in Ukraine, I wonder how you came up with the specific number of 30000. Also a war between Russia and Ukraine is a propaganda-imposed myth. As well as Russia, a decent part of Ukraine's population does not acknowledge the new government. If the tensions keep escalating, Russia is likely to support the anti-government movement militarily, but a war between two nations is impossible, simply because half of Ukraine would immediately align itself with Russia. Sadly, a civil war I see as a probable scenario. And in such a scenario Russia will be forced to intervene. – Nikita Volkov Mar 18 '14 at 9:56
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There are several reasons why Ukrainian soldiers didn't fight in Crimea

1) A historical and cultural bond with the Russians

2) A lack of sufficient support from the local population

3) An uncertainty caused by Kiev’s echelon of power

4) A lack of success even if they had tried to fight

1) If you are familiar with the history of the USSR you are likely to know that the Crimea had been part of the Russian Federation until 1954. So, you see that Ukraine did nothing in this respect as Crimea was presented to Ukraine by Russia. It’s a good thing to remember that you can’t really consider something to be yours if you haven’t earned it yourself. Among Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea were ethnic Russians and simply those who didn’t consider Russian soldiers enemies. As they know it well: politicians screw things up and after that make others scape goats.

2) Local population of Crimea at least 80 percent have hated new Ukrainian Government since the first day of that gorvernment and have been calling them Kiev’s Junta as the procedure of impeachment wasn’t performed in accordance with constitution hence Turchinov commited a crime by becoming an acting-president as Viktor Yanukovich is still the President of the Ukraine even though most of the countries of the WORLD don’t admit it. It doesn’t change the truth.

3) As I said, politicians make others scape goats. That is why the militants in Crimea didn’t have clear instructions and commands on what to do as Turchinov himself wasn’t sure what to do.

4) Suppose Ukrainian militants had started bloodshed would have they succeeded in doing so? Of course not. They were wise enough to feign some patriotism and get away with it.

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    The other points make sense, but point 2 is too partisan to be acceptable without strong references. – o0'. Apr 22 '14 at 9:29
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    Well, I suppose it would be much more convincing if I could have brought you here in spirit and you could see everything with your own eyes. But it's impossible. However, it's an irrefutable fact that there weren’t any large demonstrations supporting Ukrainian militants in Crimea. There weren’t any protests significant in number in support of Crimea remaining part of Ukraine which makes point 2 not so groundless as it might look at first glance. Here is my website covering different aspects of the conflict in Ukraine. ukr-news-spot.at.ua – user1425 Apr 25 '14 at 9:06
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„U.S. Told Ukraine to Stand Down as Putin¹ Invaded.“

I heard this idea from many analysts in Ukraine, but it was kind of unproven opinions.
Till recently, when this article on Bloomberg appeared, explaining everything in details.

Sorry for a long quote, but it really answers the question completely. Markup is mine.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces took over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in early 2014, the interim Ukrainian government was debating whether or not to fight back against the "little green men" Russia had deployed.
But the message from the Barack Obama administration was clear: avoid military confrontation with Moscow.

The White House's message to Kyiv was advice, not an order, U.S. and Ukrainian officials have recently told us, and was based on a variety of factors.

  1. There was a lack of clarity about what Russia was really doing on the ground.
  2. The Ukrainian military was in no shape to confront the Russian Spetsnaz (special operations) forces that were swarming on the Crimean peninsula.
  3. Moreover, the Ukrainian government in Kyiv was only an interim administration until the country would vote in elections a few months later. Ukrainian officials told us that other European governments sent Kyiv a similar message.

  4. But the main concern was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    As U.S. officials told us recently, the White House feared that if the Ukrainian military fought in Crimea, it would give Putin justification to launch greater military intervention in Ukraine, using similar logic to what Moscow employed in 2008 when Putin invaded large parts of Georgia in response to a pre-emptive attack by the Tbilisi government. Russian forces occupy two Georgian provinces to this day.

There are more proofs and direct speech of U.S. officials within the article.


As the article suggests, the U.S. official have feared that a horde of 125 million¹ (out of 140) would demand a greater war.


¹ The recent edit #3 to this answer has removed a crucial section explaining the logical fallacy of "Putin invaded" and also the origin of "125 out of 140 million" numbers. Leaving this as it is to avoid any disputes.

  • This answer seems good, but what's the point of citing data from a propaganda channel? – o0'. Aug 24 '15 at 10:54
  • @Lohoris, Bloomberg seems to be a reputable channel to me. This very article has been reprinted by several other agencies. Personally, I read it on Deutsche Welle first. I agree, however, that (1) this is a leak; and (2) this leak looks very timely (e.g. the facts may be known before, but leaked only now). But again, can we deny the facts mentioned within? – bytebuster Aug 24 '15 at 11:42
  • Just imagine if Trump had done this. – K Dog May 25 '17 at 15:32
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    @SamIam, some words about silent editing out a crucial section of the answer may appear helpful. Edits are generally supposed to improve answers, but after this one, a reader may be wondering what 125 million stands for. – bytebuster May 25 '17 at 15:40
  • @SamIam I completely agree with bytebuster here. Editing another's person answer should be accompanied with a comment at least. Ideally a comment should come before an edit. – jjdb May 30 '17 at 9:17
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There is a good joke from that time: Russian troops in Crimea: Surrender! We surrounded your base. Crimean Ukrainian troops: Russians never surrender!

PS: Most of the Ukrainian Crimean army just switched the sides, because of very simple reason - most of the people in Crimea are Russian or Russian-speaking and they support Russian identity compared to nationalistic Ukrainian identity. (Independently of why and how it's happen).

Links (in Russian) supporting the peaceful "change" of sides by Crimean army

Update: I was checking the official statistics on how many Ukranian miliatry force left Crimea. So, official Ukrainian statistics: more than 50% "just switched" the sides, or I would say took the oath to serve Russia. I repeat, those are Ukrainian mass-media, Russian mass-media report that only 20% voluntarily left Crimea.

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    (1) This post is based solely on sources which are completely dependent on Russian government, completely controlled by the Russian secret services, and quote each other. (2) National factor is only exaggerated by the Russian propaganda; in reality, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have people of all nations, including ethnic Russians, Jews, Rusyns, Tatars, Chechens, Byelarusians, Armenians, and many others — all jointly fight against the Russian invasion. (3) Oh, and -1 for not attempting to answer the original question. – bytebuster May 28 '17 at 19:37
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    What is the difference between Russian propaganda, Western propaganda and Ukrainian propaganda? Western folks are so cliche thinking, and deep down in their own propaganda. PS: actually it partly answering the question, and no need to describe the nations of Ukraine, my relatives still live both in Crimea and central Ukraine. So, sorry, I heard first person what happen, not from any biased mass media from whatever source. – chupvl May 28 '17 at 21:08
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    @bytebuster I remember having read a Western news report about the Ukrainian troops surrendering in Crimea, but I can't find the source any more. Btw, I can show you examples of 100% fabricated news on Deutsche Welle, which is also just a Western propaganda piece. The head of the DW even admitted publicly that their purpose is to provide counter-propaganda to RT and the like.. but this all gets off-topic here, so let's open a separate chat if you're interested in discussion. – jjdb May 30 '17 at 9:07
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    I am by default assuming any mass media source as a propaganda source. – chupvl May 30 '17 at 9:14
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    @bytebuster no disrespect, but you have very one-dimensional view here. Ukraine is a deeply divided country, and so is its politics. I remember before the Euromaidan, Yanukovych tried to reach an agreement with both the EU and the Eurasian Customs Union (or at least to raise the price for joining one trade union exclusively), which also resembles the power struggle between different oligarchic factions. Wouldn't you also agree that calling Poroshenko a marionette of the US in turn is a very narrow view of reality? – jjdb May 30 '17 at 13:33
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A few mitigating factors should be said in the defense of the Ukrainian National Guard:

  1. The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian forces had just fled the country, and as a result, standing orders were to remain in barracks. In the midst of an uphevel, having troops on the streets may not necessarily be calming things down.

  2. The number of Russian troops entering the country was pretty significant - not something that would have been covered by standing orders. Especially in light of the chaotic situation in Kiev, line soldiers are not authorized to start major manuevers without the go-ahead from above.

  • Any sources on the standing orders or the requirement that the troops have orders to defend? – SoylentGray Mar 17 '14 at 22:15
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Maybe the soldiers were already all russian ethnic or crimeans?

This. Most of population of Crimea including soldiers are Russian ethnics + Russia had military bases in Crimea (like US all over the world). I'd say Ukraine controlled Crimea only on paper. And Ukraine had tensions between western pro-west and eastern pro-Russian territories and this tension increased dramatically when pro-west citizens put down pro-Russian president. Crimea had not pro-west electorate. It cannot be called pure invasion from Russia, because no much troops were invading, it is more like internal Ukrainian pro-Russian separatism (with Russian support of course) after another one pro-western Ukrainian revolution.

  • +1, you are right. I'm just too lazy and do not care to find verifiable proofs, find it yourself. – dzu vog Jul 1 '17 at 6:29
  • But i hope you do realize that invasion without single shot is impossible without huge support of locals. – dzu vog Jul 1 '17 at 6:35
  • "without single shot": Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in action. "huge support of locals": Four civilian locals murdered by Russian okkupants in the first days of invasion. – bytebuster Jul 1 '17 at 8:01
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A new info has just emerged. According the words of Turchinov (the acting president after the coup), it was the Americans (namely, John Kerry) who pressed on Ukraine not to respond and assured them that Russians will not go far (literally "it is a local problem according to our information").

По словам Турчинова, покровительствовавшие хунте американцы советовали украинской стороне «не провоцировать Россию», опасаясь введения российских войск на территорию страны. «Помню свой разговор по телефону с госсекретарем Керри. Я ему объясняю, что у нас идет оккупация территории, идет реально война. А он мне: «Подождите, давайте мы будем разбираться, экспертов пригласим. Мы вас очень просим, не стреляйте, понимаете, русские ж только и ждут провокации, русские ждут от вас любого выстрела, чтоб разыграть Абхазский или Осетинский сценарий. Мы от вас очень просим выдержки. По нашим данным, говорит, это локальная проблема», — сообщает Турчинов.

This hints that the whole thing with Crimea could be a part of a wider American plan to earn Ukraine into the ranks of their allies, create a long-standing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and possibly isolate Russia internationally. The Russian government was acting more like passive perpetrators without understanding the long-term consequences in favor of short-term gain. Russia possibly would not take Crimea without previous assurance from the US that they will press on to Ukraine not to respond with force.

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    Is there non-russian-based source for this quote to ascertain its accurate sourcing? – user4012 Oct 28 '14 at 15:58
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    @DVK m.censor.net.ua/resonance/308694/… – Anixx Oct 28 '14 at 16:01
  • seems legit, thanks! You may want to add the link to the answer. – user4012 Oct 28 '14 at 18:15
  • +1 this is interesting, thanks! Since this is current news, I won't switch accepted answer for now, but I might do it in future. – o0'. Oct 29 '14 at 10:44
  • @user4012, russian = non-accurate in your opinion, I presume? And people still wonder why Russia "feels treated unfairly/threatened" in other questions with "opinion" like this surfacing in pretty much every discussion. – Oleg V. Volkov May 24 '17 at 17:20
-2

The thing is that the majority of the Ukrainian military, police, internal troops and other law enforcement were against those neo-nazi revolutionaries who disposed the president. What they wanted from the president when he was still in power was to give them permission to use more real force and weapons against the opposition. Yanukovich enjoyed full loyalty of the troops, at all levels, from top to the very bottom. It was only his cowardry and the pressure from the West that kept him from ordering suppression of the revolt.

Consequently, after the president was overthrown, the former rebels started mass scale actions aimed at the humiliation of the troops. In western cities the soldiers were forced to stay at their knees and ask for pardon and were beaten. In some cases the nazi militias even humiliated the traffic police while taking videos of these actions. Consequently, some most loyal and disciplined troops such as special forces "Berkut" were disbanded by the new government without keeping their rank, social benefits and pension. In Crimea they refused to follow the disbanding order and declared they now on subordinated to the local authorities (thus forming the core of the Crimea's own forces).

It should be noted also that the new government made a strong emphasis on that the Yanukovich, the police and army officers are guilty in suppressing the revolt. Some people threatened the military personnel that they were fixing all their actions so to prosecute them later. Given such charges, the new government is no longer in moral position to order a suppression of another revolt.

That said, the actions of Russia in this situation more look as a stab in the back. Suppose you are a soldier in the trench. And you are attacked from the back of your lines rather than from the enemy's positions. First you will think it is a joke, then you will think it is a mistake, then you will try to negotiate and finally you will be totally demoralized between the lines of enemy in the front and former supposed ally in the back.

Putin already made use of situations when the West pressed Russia's friendly governments, like those in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan the most hard, to gain certain concessions for Russia. The stronger the West presses on those countries, the more does Russia demand also. This way for example, Russia gained control of much of the Belarus's industry.

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    The sensations of the humiliations of the troops and neo-nazi revolutionaries are heavy charges, and until supported by facts, it sounds like a Kreml propaganda. "Berkut" was feared by civil population, as it was used for suppressing demonstrations, and was said (according to Ukrainian refugees) to be loyal personally to the Janukowycz, not to the government). – Danubian Sailor Mar 18 '14 at 13:17
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    @Łukasz this is the video of how they force the former troops to knees before the public in Lvov youtube.com/watch?v=tNiCcLX4H9k Regarding your allegations that Berkut had personal loyalty to Yanukovich, this is ridiculous, Berkut is an old special force remaining from the USSR while Yanukovich became president only 4 years ago. Berkut existed under presidents Yushchenko, Kuchma, Kravchuk. I understand your anti-Russian feelings given you are a Pole. – Anixx Mar 18 '14 at 15:54
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    Anixx you hit the nail on the head with your answer! Spot on! – user1425 Apr 21 '14 at 11:45
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    Sam I am, people don't write answers here in order to be upvoted in the first place. At least those who want to tell the truth as they know it. Anixx's answer is as honest as it could be and I, myself, participated in Crimean Status Referendum 2014 and can tell you that all international organizations didn't prove that it was illegal while most of the world trusts those organizations. That's is why it's not about proofs but more about beleiving in what you want to beleive. – user1425 Apr 21 '14 at 12:24
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    Indeed, the ones which you are fed with by the WESTERN media propoganda. Where can you get first-hand proofs? So what proofs are you talking about? The ones you want to beleive in. – user1425 Apr 27 '14 at 6:13

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