Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated publicly that Russia has no intention of invading eastern Ukraine. Should we believe him? The fact is that Russia has been moving armed forces into the regions surrounding Ukraine, videos of tanks being transported by railway have shown up on the news and legions of armed soldiers without Russian insignia have been photographed taking up positions around eastern Ukraine, estimates are that there are now some 200,000 of them. If Russia has no intention of invading eastern Ukraine why are they there? The Russian PM Medvedev in a visit to Crimea announced that some Russian forces will be withdrawn, but so far there is no evidence of that. Also, pro-Russian elements are acting violently in the cities of eastern Ukraine, Kharkov and Donetsk, causing civil strife and forcing the Ukrainian authorities to react.
In addition, the region of Transnistria is a potential second Crimea, since it is a breakaway region of Moldova, that is mainly Russian-speaking and largely ethnic Russian. Moldova is a Romanian-speaking country that was originally called Bessarabia (nothing to do with Arabia) that was taken by Russia and incorporated into the USSR. When Communism failed and the Soviet Union broke up, Moldova became an independent country, on condition that it did not re-combine with Romania. Its capital is Chisinau, formerly known as Kishinev. But the eastern region of Moldova across the Dniester River, known in Romanian as Transnistria and in Russian as Pridnestrovie, refused to join Moldova and declared its independence in 1990, although it has not been recognized. It is a sliver of land sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine and is, like Crimea, pro-Russian. It is quite conceivable that another referendum will be arranged and Transnistria will vote to rejoin Russia. Then Putin will send in the Russian Army to protect the Russians in Transnistria as he did in Crimea. That will leave Ukraine surrounded by Russian territory.
Meanwhile the Russian forces are consolidating their hold on Crimea and expelling all the Ukrainian forces. So that the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation is fait accompli, even though Pres. Obama has said that there can be no progress in dealing with Russia until Putin reverses the occupation of Crimea. Is this another “red-line” like Obama had in Syria, that turned out not to be such a red-line after all. It is clear that there is no way that Putin will reverse his historic move. The question now is whether or not Lavrov is telling the truth and whether or not Putin intends to send his troops in to “rescue” the Russians in Transnistria and eastern Ukraine. What would Obama do then?