Russia tightened its grip on Eastern Ukraine this weekend, as military personnel wearing no insignia but identifying themselves to journalists as Russian security forces, seized border guard stations throughout the Crimean Peninsula. The Russian parliament has granted President Vladimir Putin the authority for broader military intervention in Ukraine. The semi-autonomous Crimean parliament has formally requested reunification with Russia, while denouncing the recently installed Ukrainian government in Kiev. Whether Crimea remains part of Ukraine or becomes re-annexed by Russia will be the subject of a referendum later this year. Despite Putin’s claims that military garrisons are the work of “local defense forces” and not the Russian Army, most governments in the West are convinced the coup has been planned from Moscow. The economic and diplomatic consequences to Russia could be severe. The United States and the European Union have threatened economic sanctions, expulsion from the G8 and other actions in retaliation. So, why would Putin risk international outrage, and possibly even a shooting war, with the west over the Crimea? What makes this peninsula in the Black Sea so important to Russia? University of Wisconsin historian David McDonald specializes in Imperial Russia, and is an observer of post-Soviet politics. He joined Monday Buzz host Brian Standing on Monday, March 10th.
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