The Ukrainian protesters may have made a strategic decision to launch their independence drive in a more forceful way while the Olympics in Sochi, Russia are underway. That would make sense. President Putin and Russia are not likely to send tanks into the Ukraine as long as the Olympics are in progress as it would have severe repercussions for Russia. The Ukrainian army is also not likely to intervene in the confrontations as long as the Olympics are in progress for the same reason. However, events are now starting to spill out of control for the Ukrainian central government.
A major escalation of the confrontation has occurred in the Western-leaning city of Lviv, Ukraine. Lviv is near the Polish border. The second link and third link detail that protesters have taken over government buildings in that city and that some Ukrainian soldiers are apparently siding with the protesters. The fourth link reports that Ukrainian protesters have taken over a weapons armory in Lviv. This argues that the protesters are ready to fight for their independence, and that a civil war like that in Syria may be in the offing. However, there are two major factors working against the cause of the Ukrainian protesters.
The fifth link includes details about how dependent European nations are on Russian energy supplies coming into Europe from Gazprom, the Russian energy company. It is winter in Europe. Do you think that European nations will “go to the mat” for the Ukrainian protesters against the Ukrainian government and Russia when Russia could easily cut off energy shipments to Europe in retaliation and let part of Europe freeze? The fifth link is long, but you can go to page 10 and see a map of which European nations are heavily or partially dependent on Russian natural gas supplies. The real bottom line is: Is the EU ready to send tanks into the Ukraine and wage war against Russia to help the Ukrainian protesters gain independence? I think the clear answer is “no.” On the other hand, do you think Russia is willing to send tanks into the Ukraine to keep it from slipping into the EU? The answer is very likely “yes.” The answer to these questions indicates how the Ukrainian civil strife is likely to end.
Russia has another huge reason for being unwilling to allow the Ukraine to slip into the EU or any kind of European dominance. The major Russian naval base for its Black Sea fleet is at Sevastopol, located in the Ukrainian Crimea (last link). The Russian fleet is based at Sevastopol on a long-term lease, but a high Russian naval officer has said Russia will stay there “forever.” Sevastopol is under a strange kind of blurred joint sovereignty divided between the Ukraine and Russia. However, if the Ukraine were in danger of slipping into the western orbit, I think it is a certainty the Russian military would seize large swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine to protect Russia’s vital access to the Black Sea, and from there, to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Nations do go to war to protect vital interests, and keeping the Russian fleet based at Sevastopol is a very high Russian national interest.
For the above reasons, the strategic situation does not look good for the protesters. However, they have one thing in their favor. Currently, Russia has succeeded in making the USA the international “bad guy” because of Obama’s widespread (and I’d add, reckless) use of the NSA to spy on the entire world. If Russia intervenes militarily in the Ukraine, Russia could become the “bad guy” in the world’s eyes, and Putin does not want that to happen. For that reason, an acceptable compromise may be possible. If the Ukraine is divided into a European-leaning Northwestern Ukraine and a Russian-leaning Eastern and Southern Ukraine, a civil war may be averted. On the other hand, the European and American positions vis-à-vis the Ukraine are so weak that Russia could choose to intervene militarily to assert Russian dominance over all of the Ukraine if necessary and expose the USA and Europe as “paper tigers.” Doing so would make Belarus, Kazakhstan and the other “-stan” nations in Central Asia more submissive to Russian interests and directives. Russia may decide that dominating its “near abroad” nations is also a vital Russian national interest which justifies Russian intervention in the Ukraine if necessary.
Biblically, what we are witnessing is the jostling of nations and peoples into the rival alliances prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 to come into existence in the latter days of our age. Western Ukraine has a strong historical attachment to such nations as Poland and Lithuania (now NATO nations), and they yearn to renew that association. Whether that will be allowed by Russia to happen remains to be seen.