I don’t know enough about Ukraine, Russia, or Crimea to comment intelligently on the current conflict. What I can say is that reading news coverage about Crimea has not been helpful for learning more. The Wikipedia article on Crimea, on the other hand, shows and explains a lot better why this territory of 2.5 million people (fewer than the Boston metro area) has become the subject of a dispute. Unlike news media coverage, Wikipedia explains that this territory was part of Russia until its 1954 transfer to Ukraine (then a Soviet Republic) and then in 1991 was “upgraded” to an “Autonomous Soviety Socialist Republic” shortly before the Soviet Union collapsed. Since the Soviet Union broke up there seems to have been a dispute regarding governance that was never fully resolved and that few in the West were aware of.
My only criticism of the Wikipedia article is that it says that Crimea is about 10,000 square miles in size but does not compare that to a U.S. state or a European country. It turns out that this is roughly the same area as Massachusetts or Vermont and about 15 percent smaller than Belgium.
Can anyone come up with an article from a mainstream newspaper that includes the above facts for context?
[And separately does this conflict show that we are over-investing in our military? Our president has asked Russia to withdraw her troops from Crimea but the Russians are not complying. For about ten years we have tried to get the Afghanis and Iraqis to do what we said and they did not comply. I suppose that it is always possible to argue that it could have been worse without the investment, e.g., "The Mexicans and Canadians would have invaded if we didn't spend so much." (see these charts from the Washington Post) But that reasoning would also support a military budget of 50 or even 80 percent of GDP ("you can never be too safe" and "would you really risk your freedom just so that you could buy a new Honda Accord or move your family from an apartment into a house?"). Wikipedia (my source for everything now!) says that there are about 2.2 million Americans in the military, either active duty or reserve. Compared to the other countries that actually isn't too crazy huge (sortable table in Wikipedia), but it is crazy expensive and it is tough to think of a situation where we'd want to send 2.2 million Americans somewhere to fight a war.]