For the night of 11 March 2014
Russia: In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Russia's Foreign Ministry cited Kosovo's secession from Serbia as the precedent for Crimea's secession from Ukraine. "The Russian Federation will respect the results of the free vote of Crimea's people during the referendum."
Comment: Today's statement is the first to refer to Western action to secure the secession of Kosovo as the precedent for Russian action to secure the secession of Crimea, after Sunday's referendum.
The Russians consider that the US and the Europeans have no moral high ground when it comes to fracturing eastern European states. Russian memories are long.
Ukraine: The Ukraine government said it needs to rebuild the armed forces. In parliament, the acting defense minister said that of some 41,000 infantry mobilized last week, Ukraine could field only about 6,000 combat-ready troops, compared to over 200,000 Russians deployed on the country's eastern borders.
The prime minister said the air force was outnumbered 100 to one. Ukraine needs to establish a new National Guard to protect the country and its population, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said. Ukrainian security authorities said 30,000 Russian military personnel are in Crimea now.
Comment: The disparity in capabilities and manpower between Ukraine and Russia is almost comical. Russian forces in the western district could overrun as much of Ukraine as they choose and would likely encounter no conventional military opposition.
The worrisome development in the past two days is that Russian media seem to be exaggerating the extent of lawlessness and of right-wing harassment of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. The trend in Russian media appears to justify, if not encourage, Russia in sending troops to protect other districts of Ukraine, in addition to Crimea.
Crimea: Crimean authorities invited European observers to monitor Sunday's referendum. Crimean lawmakers on 11 March also adopted a declaration of independence, Interfax reported.
Comment: The declaration of independence indicates the Crimeans finally figured out the sequence of action required for a plausible secession As Texas did before it joined the United States, Crimea will declare independence and then apply to join the Russian federation.
Libya: Not so fast. The North Korean-flagged tanker supposedly seized by Libyan government forces yesterday, in fact, slipped through the Libyan blockade into open seas. Yesterday's reports of government forces and pro-government militias seizing the ship were exaggerations by the Libyan Prime Minister.
Apparently the government ships and militia craft attempted to restrict the tanker's movements to coastal waters. The tanker broke through the cordon and sailed for deep water. The navy and militia ships and craft did not pursue, allegedly because of bad weather. More likely because of poor seamanship. The tanker escaped.
Late on 11 March, the Libya Herald reported that Libyan government forces fired a missile at the tanker and set it on fire.
The parliament voted no confidence in and dismissed the prime minister whom it blamed for the failure. He not only claimed the ship to be in Libyan custody but that Italian naval ships assisted. Italy denied the claim.
Comment: Official comments about the rebels selling oil suggest the primary reason for the dismissal was the loss of revenue. The cargo was valued by one news analyst at more than $20 million. The defense minister is the new acting prime minister and apparently is responsible for the order to fire a missile at the tanker.
In firing on the tanker, Libya has made a strong point about its intentions and capabilities to halt illegal oil shipments. It also showed that it cares more about preventing an illegal oil shipment than about the environmental consequences of sinking a fully loaded oil tanker in the Mediterranean Sea.
Special Comment: Malaysia is a modern wealthy country that, with British and Commonwealth help, defeated a communist insurgency more than 40 years ago. It was a long hard fight.
Malaysia's state religion is Islam. Its leaders pride themselves that no Islamist terrorist attacks have taken place in Malaysia. Malay elites are strongly pro-UK and mildly hostile to Americans. Educated Malays have become increasingly and openly more devout since 1979.
Malaysia is tolerant of Islamists. It is a place where they can go to ground, rest, plan and prepare attacks, provided they cause no trouble in Malaysia. A suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the capital, was a production site for Pakistan's A.Q. Khan's nuclear weapons proliferation syndicate.
This background, based on decades of watching Malaysia, helps explain Malaysia's pathetic and almost criminal lack of cooperation with international efforts to find the missing Boeing 777-200 passenger aircraft. The NightWatch hypothesis is that the Malaysian authorities suspected terrorism, but did not want to share that suspicion to avoid losing face.
Almost three dozen ships from 9 or 10 countries wasted their time searching in the wrong place and senior Malays knew it. For at least three days the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the government failed to come forward with radar tracking information in their possession that the aircraft was not lost over the South China Sea, but over the northern approach to the Malacca Strait - off the west coast of Malaysia. They have not explained their behavior.
It is premature to conclude the missing aircraft was involved in an act of air terrorism. If the aircraft was downed by terrorist action, it would be an embarrassing first for Malaysia. The failure to provide timely and accurate information for the international search is inexcusable. Malaysia has lost face.
End of NightWatch for 11 March.
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