Am I the only person experiencing a sense of disconnect watching the people in Crimea happily waving their Russian flags and then hearing the White House and European leaders condemn them and imposing sanctions on Russia for aggression?
Here’s the story as I see it.
The democratically-elected President of Ukraine was overthrown by a revolution. You know I’m not a fan of revolutions. This one wasn’t as bloody and violent as many, but the revolutionaries were armed with guns and petrol bombs and nearly a hundred people were killed. I’m not saying that the Ukrainian police behaved well, but attacking armed police with firearms is inevitably going to lead to people getting killed. Not widely reported in Western media was the fact that a neo-Nazi organization was prominent in organising the anti-government protests and violence.
As a result, the government of Crimea invited Russian forces into Crimea for “protection”. Russia did not invade – this is not like Czechoslovakia or Hungary where a puppet Soviet government asked the Russians to put down popular rebellions. The Russians didn’t shoot anyone. Remember that the majority of people living in Crimea are ethnic Russians who speak Russian. Many people in Crimea supported President Yanukovych and believe he is the victim of a coup.
The recent referendum showed overwhelming support from the people of Crimea to become independent of Ukraine and join Russia.
And the response of the West? To condemn the referendum and insist that the unelected government of Ukraine is legitimate. And now the West is imposing sanctions on Russia. Is that really going to calm things down? Does anyone really believe that Crimea is going to stay part of Ukraine?
The European Union could have solved this problem at any time during the months leading to the revolution. It was clear that Ukraine was divided between a trade deal with the European Union and a deal with Moscow. So why insist that Ukraine had to choose between East and West? Ukraine’s interests are obviously best served by having close trading alliances with both the EU and Russia. The EU could have allowed that to happen. Instead it insisted on exclusivity, forcing Ukraine to choose and playing into Putin’s hands.
Sure, Putin’s a bad guy. We all know that. But the West provoked this particular problem and the West is now fanning the flames.