Montana Politics

Things to know about the Crimean Peninsula

As Crimea increasingly appears to be the most dangerous flashpoint in the unfolding situation in Ukraine, it’s worth knowing a few things about the region. In order of importance, in my opinion, are a few of them.

1. Russia has the right to place soldiers there. While the recent re-deployment is threatening and uncalled for, it is not, strictly speaking, illegal. Russia has always maintained a military base in the Crimea and has signed agreements about the stationing of troops there to protect it. This is why Ukraine has not yet acted.

2. The Russian occupation doesn’t match its stated goals. Russians are a majority in the Crimea, and the local government and local armed forces are friendly to the Russian cause. Claims by the Putin government to be protecting their ‘citizens and compatriots’ are dubious at best. The thirty some percent of the population that is Ukrainian, Tatar, or some other ethnicity is in much more danger than the ethnic Russians. Moreover, danger for Russians in the rest of the country can only increase as a result of Russian hostilities – Russia seizing Crimea to protect Russian citizens in Kharkov makes about as much sense as the US invading Tijuana to protect Americans in Cancun – the danger from nationalism only increases with hostile acts.

3. Russia has no legal claim to the peninsula, and in fact is legally bound to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 guaranteed as much, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its massive Soviet-era weapons stockpile. Russia has certainly violated the letter and spirit of this agreement by using military force to attempt to remove Crimea from Ukraine.

4. There is, however, a pretty good international precedent for such actions. Should the majority of Crimea vote for independence and Ukraine be forced to accept it, Ukraine would be in no better position than Serbia was regarding Kosovo to reject that decision. Russia will undoubtedly bring this up if there is a debate in the UN (both sides here would be hypocrites, however, as Russia still refuses to recognize Kosovar independence even after 108 other nations have).

5. Ukraine has showed impressive restraint thus far – the current Ukrainian government has thus done better than Saakashvili’s government in Georgia did at avoiding a war they can’t possibly win. This is also contradicts the Russian characterization of the Kiev government as one of bloodthirsty nationalists.

6. Saying Crimea is a ‘historically Russian province’ is a bit misleading. Until 1944, Crimea was inhabited by Crimean Tatars, remnants of a Khanate that ruled most of Southern Ukraine (indeed, the word Ukraine comes from the word for frontier, and the famed Ukrainian cossacks were granted semi-autonomy in exchange for holding the border with the Muslim Tatars). Crimea had consistently sought independence and had the status of an independent SSR until World War II, after which the vast majority of the Tatars were shipped to central Asia and replaced with Russian-speakers. (Similar displacements removed other ethnic minorities from Ukraine and greatly decreased the Ukrainian population, again making room for more Russians to move in). I don’t say this because I think it invalidates the claims of over a million Russians currently living in Crimea, but many are appealing to the authority of history to ‘prove’ that the Crimean peninsula belongs to Russia. It belongs to Russia by the exact same claim that settlements in Palestine ‘belong’ to Israel.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Pop quiz: Who was it said “Yes, I am an ardent anti-imperialist. And glad not to be a liberal, if being a liberal means to accept our country’s drive to hegemony. And the conclusion that I draw from looking at Polish Wolf’s attempt to bad-mouth me in public is that he is OK with the CIA and the NED destabilizing Ukraine, because somehow the outcome will be better than what they now have. He is an imperialist sympathizer.” ?

    Someone not allowed to post here?

    New low, PW. New low.

      • Reminds me, you are second only to PW in the high art of pontificating without requisute curiosity to begin to know what you’re ralking about. You might srart by reading non-sterile history and reading non-american journalism. Everything thT is going on in Ukraine is easily knowable, and you know none of it. You’re boring!

        • If I bore, leave. That seems like a relatively simple proposition.

          Before you do, though, please enlighten us benighted souls and explain “everything” about Ukraine. We hunger for the wisdom you’ve accumulated from your position so close to the conflict.

          • I wrote at length about it, great game and all Steve Kelly also a good source. Not too many people see outside the American indoctrinary system, you know, Putin demonized, neo-Nazis now fighting for democracy in your world view, such as it is. You certainly don’t. If you have no breadth or depth, if you are not well-read in both war and post war history, and if you sit here an pontificate anyway, well yes, yer really, really boring.

            You’re right. I need to get out of this stupid blog! So do you. me, to get away from your and PW’s tunnel vision, and you just to travel a bit.

            • Typical. When you are asked to provide your in-depth knowledge, you retreat to personal attacks.

              I’m really curious to hear your analysis that is clearly better than what I have read. Have a link to these insights?

      • South Ossetia wasn’t a country. Georgia’s actions were entirely in line with their sovereign right to enforce their rule within their borders. By your logic, the US is innocent in the Vietnam war because North Vietnam ‘started the violence’ by attempting to impose its government on the South. The parallel with Kosovo is almost perfect. The important difference is that while Serbia was given multiple opportunities to withdraw from Kosovo before the bombings began in earnest, Russia jumped straight into an invasion of undisputed Georgian territory. That, of course, doesn’t erase the fact that Saakashvili made an unforgivably enormous error that Ukrainian leaders are currently avoiding. Nor does it affect the veracity or relevance of anything stated in the post.

        • what was Georgia’s actions? did those actions include killing people? why was lethal force justified? and if the territory is undisputed, as you claim, then why the beef in the first place?

          • I don’t know that much about Georgia, but your questions are all good ones. Yes, people were killed in South Ossetia. The justification of lethal force depends on whether you privilege state sovereignty or human rights. Under international law, yes, it was absolutely justified – South Ossetia is not sovereign, and yet armed groups were trying to assert that it was. Georgia thus had the right to use military force to put them. down. I ‘claim’ the territory is disputed, which is somewhat incorrect – in fact, there was no dispute under international law; the territory belonged to Georgia, and legally still does. The ‘beef’ is over whether Abkhazia and South Ossetia are independent or not – but that was not legally disputed. Furthermore, the dispute was not between Georgia and Russia, but between Georgia and an internal insurgency. Georgia did not initiate hostilities against Russia; they legally (though foolishly and perhaps unethically) initiated hostilities against an internal insurgency. Russia then responded by invading Georgia, an action which has no legal basis in international law.

  • Good post.

    Putin now says the deposed Ukrainian head honcho asked for Russian intervention, which if true provides a fig leaf of legal and political cover for the Russian presence in the Crimea.

    Whether Russia’s action is legal is one question. Whether it’s a mistake is another, and I would argue, more important, question. I don’t think the answer will be crystal clear until events unfold further.

  • Why are we all acting like we can do something? The only one I see that can do anything is Putin. He else has that much power over there?

    The EU? I don’t see them doing anything. The UN? How will they enforce anything? The US? We don’t want to be over there anymore than we wanted to be in Syria, and they’ve got kids dying over there.

    I wonder if this would be such a big thing without the oil in the Black Sea. Also, seems most of those people in Crimea want the Russians there. Doesn’t that count for anything?

    Our economy loses $60 billion to potholes each year. Let’s focus on putting our money there.

    • Greg –

      The US can very easily intervene in the crisis – we don’t need Russia for anything, unlike Europe. Bypass the IMF, lend Ukraine 15B directly. Prevent a disastrous default. As to Crimea – Russia is violating their written agreements, and they need to pay a price for that, but I agree that Ukraine’s claim to Crimea basically exists only on paper now, and attempting to hold it contrary to the will of the people is foolish.

      • I think lending money to Ukraine is kind of like lending to family members – don’t expect to see it again.

        I’d much rather Putin have that chess piece. What good does it do us?

        Strong people dictate history and that’s Putin. I don’t see any strong people in the West right now.

        • “Do Russian troops have a right to be in Crimea?

          Russia’s take: Yes. A treaty between the neighboring nations allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops in Crimea, Russia’s U.N. envoy said Monday, adding that Yanukovych requested that Russia send military forces.

          Ukraine’s take: No. Russian troops amassing in Crimea and near the border with Ukraine are an “act of aggression.”

          United States’ take: No, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game. The consequences of military action “could be devastating,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said Monday.”

        • Check the link in the post – the signatories are not to use either economic coercion, threats of force, or force in any attempt to abridge Ukraine’s territorial integrity. So far Russia has used 2 of 3.

          • You are most unstudied in these matters, no background, no curiosity, repeating American talking points. You’ve not left your comfort zone. It’s OK to be uninformed, as we all start that way, but not OK to posture as an informed person knowing nothing and timid about stepping out of bounds.

            And of course you’re a teacher. Why am I not surprised? That selection process is so interesting, the more boring and rote advancing.

            • Mark, on your travels what motel do you sleep at that you awake as the tongue wagging, judgmental schoolmarm? Do you really think that your attempts to shame people are effective? Are you really merely a slave to your ego?

              • I explained the phenomenon at my blog. It’s sad, but part of our authority structure. PW either internalizes the structure, or does something else for a living. You could stand to get out a bit Craig? I’ve never read an original thought from you.

                • Mark, you wrote, ” I want to be brief here, as I want not to care about this stuff.”

                  But yet here you are scolding and badgering others to accept your magnificence…. and quite upset when they don’t.

                • Apparently you don’t know what you write, as I quoted the SECOND line… the “yeah but” to all that followed there and continues here.

                  With apologies to Burt Bacharach,

                  What’s it all about, MarK?
                  Is it just for the moment we live?
                  What’s it all about when you sort it out, Mark?
                  Are we meant to take more than we give
                  Or are we meant to be kind?
                  And if only fools are kind, Mark,
                  Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
                  And if life belongs only to the strong, Mark,
                  What will you lend on an old golden rule?

                • You don’t read, never leave your comfort zone, never examine your assumptions, but demand to be treated as a person whose “opinions” matter. They don’t. They are the stuff of power of suggestion of others, just like PW and Don, nothing more, and not worth the time.

                • Mark, I have never made any such demands… unlike you and your boring persistence to have everyone genuflect to your intellectual dominance.

                  IMHO, everyone is entitled to their own opinions… even you. Just park that toilet plunger you use to shove them down the throats of others.

            • 1. I’m not a teacher
              2. Which fact above is incorrect? Not, which fact supports the standard American position – some do, some don’t. Which one is incorrect? If you can’t name one, I have to conclude that either you know literally nothing, or you know what I’m saying is right but feel a pathological need to disagree with me.
              3. I’m timid about stepping out of bounds because I don’t enjoy stating falsehoods or making absurd predictions. I’m aware those are two of your favorite things; pity we don’t share more hobbies.
              4. Nice work keeping the ‘say nothing substantive’ streak alive!

              • It’s not what you think you know, but what you don’t know. You have no insight. And you never will so long as you remains stubbornly incurious.

                Maybe not a teacher, but a student of Pogie. Same difference.

              • I too thought you were teaching, at least on a substitute basis. Just what is your profession these days?

  • Another thing to know about Crimea is that a lot of young people have no idea where it is or what it is.

    This is a Baby Boomer issue, harkening back to Cold War sensibilities. That crap ended when I was in 3rd grade or so, thank God.

    Please older generation, do not get us into another mess like you and your parents got us into for 50 years.


    • There is a massive internal struggle for power there, mass resignations, mutinies, and refugees headed for Russia, all fearing the new Democracy given them by NED and NATO. All unreported here, of course, typical of coup d’état. new regime takes control of information.

  • Remember when Obama gave Medvedev the “green light”?

    BLITZER: The president of the United States is in South Korea right now, had a
    meeting with the Russian leader Medvedev, and he was heard with an open mike – it’s always dangerous for these politicians or leaders to be talking near an open mike.

    He was heard saying this to Medvedev, the Russian president. Listen to this.

    BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

    DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.

    BLITZER: All right, in case you didn’t hear it: “This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.” That is a factual statement that the president is making. If he doesn’t have to worry getting reelected, he doesn’t have to worry so much about domestic politics.

    Is there anything wrong in – when in comes to national security issues, to be saying something like that to the Russian leader?

    ROMNEY: Yes, there’s something terribly wrong with that.

    It is alarming. It is troubling. The agreement that the president put in place with regards to nuclear weapons is one which I find very, very troubling already. The decision to withdraw our missile defense sites from Poland put us in greater jeopardy, in my view.

    The actions he’s taken so far, which he says are to reset relations with Russia have not worked out at all. Russia continues to support Syria. It supports Iran, has – has fought us with the crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran.

    Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage. And for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very, very troubling, very alarming.

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