Things are moving fast in Ukraine. There are reports that Russian troops have taken control in Crimea, surrounding its airports and other key parliamentary buildings. The request for Russian intervention came from Crimean officials, who appealed to Vladimir Putin to defend Russian interests in the peninsula. Whatever reassurances were offered to Washington, the Russian president opted for a muscular display of authority, in defiance of the Obama Administration.
Recently ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych surfaced in Russia after fleeing Kiev last week, asserting he is still the duly elected head of state. Citizens with even a casual interest in foreign affairs try to understand the Euromaidan protesters or pro-Russian proponents. Sympathizers recall Cold War history by advocating for Ukrainian self-determination. To all appearances there is a sense of urgency in this crisis, an urgency that may baffle Americans attempting to understand it.
One way to get a handle on these disruptions is to look at the pressures that undermine successful global models of governance. The fall of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of Imperialism in the late 20th century. These are well known examples on any world history syllabus. Harvard instructor Dr. Niall Ferguson rose to prominence in his studies on the collapse of Empire and the convulsions to order which followed, and his ideas may offer some insight into why there are so many sectarian brush fires to douse. It isn’t solely attributable to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90’s.
Free market financial systems have also taken a direct hit in the great recession, and traditional capital models are under strain due to the increased efficiency of digital technologies; the transition is painful, despite co-dependency with older industrial and manufacturing assemblies. Entire categories of skills are becoming expendable, and ideologies which used to offer a reasonable metric for societies to thrive have stopped working. Some of us may be fortunate enough to discover the solutions which will follow in the wake of tumultuous austerity and strains to political systems we know.