There are two related issues that are particularly interesting to me:
- First, that this situation began when Ukrainian protests (partially led by pro boxer Vitali Klitschko) led to a coup d'etat of the elected prime minister, but very few western observers decried it as a coup.
- Second, that this crisis has taken all the Western attention away from every other international crisis, including Syria and Central African Republic. Or the fervor over Uganda's new laws. Everything has taken a back seat to what pundits have been dreaming about: a pseudo-Cold War crisis.
When a coup is not a coup...
It is continually frustrating that when a friendly-to-the-West leader is removed from power, it is branded as a coup, but when that leader is unfriendly-to-the-West, it is branded as some form of justice. In Ukraine, very few (English-language) observers are wringing their hands at Yanukovych's removal from power. Coup "wonk" Jay Ulfelder even called it a Just Coup (which led to an equally interesting introspection from the author regarding covering political science as it happens). This may seem overly pedantic to some, but ignoring a coup d'etat (or sanctifying it as a popular revolution) is a slippery slope. I am continually annoyed that a coup leader in Madagascar was able to rule for 4 years, not because I thought his predecessor was a saint but because the Malagasy people have (or had, at least) respect for the electoral process.
We as a global society need to think long and hard about how we react to removing rulers from power. There are plenty of reasons why we might support a coup d'etat in a place like Ukraine, but we need to admit to ourselves that we are doing exactly that. We should not veil ourselves in righteousness by redefining what is happening in real life.
Superseding other international crises
Sorry, Syria. Your incredible bloodshed lacks a directly-involved Great Power. France is involved in CAR, but that lacks the nostalgia of a Cold War standoff. Museveni and friends in Uganda are legislating and not invading. Nigeria and DRC are off the radar. Russia in the Crimea has taken the spotlight, and when Putin has the world's attention there is not time for anyone else.
If his actions in Ukraine are a feint, than Putin has drawn attention away from his ally al-Assad. If his intentions are more serious, than Putin has unintentionally distracted the world from places that already needed more international attention. I suppose this happens all the time, so I should not be surprised. But it is still frustrating...