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May 8, 2021

Russia : The stake of Crimea (I)

On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a speech in front of the Duma, announcing the “reunion” of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia. The international community immediately condemned the Russian action as an annexation, a severe violation of international rules of conduct in relations between states. At that time, Putin had declared that “everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride”, as Crimea was the place  “where Prince Vladimir was baptised”, and the Orthodoxy assumed at that time was “the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus”. He also brought up Sevastopol, “that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet”, Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge, names deeply connected to Russian national identity.

Why did V. Putin occupy / annex Crimea following an unconstitutional referendum vigilantly supervised by the Little green men? Because it was obvious that, once Crimea was occupied, although it legally belonged to Ukraine, the conflict with the West was impossible to avoid, and violating international laws – despite of the referendum organized at a startling speed – could bring Russia nothing but negative publicity. Both Russian and foreign experts sought various explanations for Putin’s daring initiative, that put the West in the position to react by invoking international laws (notwithstanding that Ukrainian society was instantly antagonized by being confronted with the division of the country and the forceful occupation of one of its regions).

From the very beginning, the Occident declared, while openly condemning the flagrant offence committed by Russia and the constant position of denial of territorial annexation, that there is no military solution to the crises. Therefore, a war was excluded. But did Russia actually want war? Numerous Western and Russian experts pointed our that Putin’s fear of Ukraine eventually joining NATO was the determining factor in the action of occupation he undertook, showing full contempt for international regulations and treaties Russia had previously signed. This hypothesis is confirmed by statements made by Putin himself. He declared in April 2014: “Our decision on Crimea was partly due to … considerations that if we do nothing, then at some point, guided by the same principles, NATO will drag Ukraine in and they will say: ‘It doesn’t have anything to do with you.’”

Another hypothesis of wide circulation both in Russia and the West refers to the fact that Russia allegedly intended to redefine global order; instead of a mono-polar order based on the hegemony of the United States, he wanted to establish a multi-polar order having Russia reinstalled in the club of grand powers and responsible of global affairs. This hypothesis was also confirmed by official statements, made both in Russia and in the West. Especially that, ever since the start of this major crisis, Western officials qualified Russia as “a grand regional power”, not a global one. V. Putin openly admitted at the reunion of the Valdai group, on October 24, 2014: “But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War,/…/took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.  The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition. /… / Ukraine/…/is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts that affect international power balance, and I think it will certainly not be the last. From here emanates the next real threat of destroying the current system of arms control agreements.”

The response of the West came quickly. We will quote hear the position expressed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who pointed out in his speech at the reunion on security in Munich, at the beginning of February 2015, that, considering these motivations, Putin’s actions will face the decisive resistance of the alliance: “Russia bears the responsibility for the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves. Nobody forced Russia to annex Crimea. And nobody is forcing Russia to destabilise Ukraine.So we call on Russia to change course. /…/ A constructive NATO-Russia relationship would benefit the Euro-Atlantic community and the entire international order. But international rules must be respected – not rewritten. And certainly not violated. We will not compromise on these principles. We will stay united and steadfast. And we will continue to work for the day when Russia recognises that there is no future in confrontation.”. And General Martin Dempsey, the Head of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out in his reply to Putin’s anti-Occidental speech at the reunion in Valdai, in October 2014, that “Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia in general are pushing the limits because they don’t believe the international order was crafted in a way that met their national interests/…/Putin and Russia express a sense of victimization following the collapse of the Soviet Empire”.

Another hypothesis was that the annexation merely corrected a mistake or betrayal committed by Bolshevik leadership who, in 1954, illegally gifted Crimea to Ukraine and all Moscow was doing was fixing this mistake.

“After the revolution”, V. Putin declared on March 18, 2014,  “the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons /…/ added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. /…/in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. /…/What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes.”

Why would Russia correct this error by violating international order? Why did it not attempt negotiations with Ukraine, why was the referendum not organized following the stipulations of the Ukrainian Constitution, considering even the fact that Russia was a warrantor, by a treaty signed in 1994, of the territorial integrity of this country. Obviously, Russia answered these questions posed immediately in the international environment by claiming, for the consumption of internal and international credulousness alike, that a coup d’etat had taken place in Kiev, on February 21, 2014, promoted by Banderist (Fascist) elements and manufactured by opportunistic Occidental forces, involving large sums of money and vast actions of manipulation and that the Russian population which was a majority in Crimea (due to immediate expansion to Eastern regions, where destabilization was immediately started and referendums were prepared, similar to the one that occurred in the peninsula) was insecure of its future under given circumstances. Russia immediately declared that her duty was – thus launching a new doctrine in the international environment, due to cause immediate concern among neighbours that had numerous Russian minorities – to defend “Ruskyi mir”, the Russian communion. Crimea thus became a starting moment of a major crisis in Europe, the most terrible crisis since the end of WW2. As we speak, the crisis is following its course.



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