This week the people of Crimea celebrated the fifth anniversary of joining the Russian Federation. People across Russia shared their joy. Centuries of common culture and history made the reunification more like a homecoming. Crimea’s important role in defeating Nazi Germany’s genocidal assault on Mother Russia eight decades ago gives it a cherished place in Russia’s modern history.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and several dignitaries were in attendance of the ceremonies held on the Black Sea peninsula. Two power stations were opened underlining the energy independence of Crimea and its future integral development with Russia.
Earlier this year saw the opening of a 19-kilometer road and rail bridge – the longest in Europe – across the Kerch Strait from Russia’s mainland to Crimea at a cost of nearly $4 billion.
While Russian people celebrated the landmark event this week, there was a strange absence of news on the topic in Western media outlets. There was not even much air given to pejorative Western claims against Russia for “annexing” Crimea. Yet such claims have animated official Western concerns over the past five years. Perhaps negative Western media coverage this week would have appeared bizarre and untenable – given that most of the Crimean population were rejoicing the anniversary. Better to just ignore it then, for the Western media that is.
The United States and European Union governments did, however, introduce new sanctions against Russia to coincide with the anniversary. Nevertheless, those new sanctions seem hollow and lacking in conviction.
Western policy has made itself a hostage of its own irrational position over Crimea. Washington and its European allies insist that Russia “annexed” the peninsula and that Moscow must return the territory to Ukraine. The Western powers have implemented five years of ongoing economic sanctions against Russia and have plunged relations with Moscow back into the permafrost of the erstwhile Cold War years.
But the Western rational is bereft of historical or factual appreciation. It is in denial that Crimea’s relations with Russia long predate its relationship to the state of Ukraine. Crimea, which was handed over to Kiev’s administrative control by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 for political reasons, only ended up in Ukraine as an accident of the Soviet Union’s later dissolution.
The people of Crimea are ethnically Russian and Russian-language speakers. Back in March 2014, they also held a constitutionally organized referendum on the question of joining the Russian Federation. The referendum was passed with an overwhelming majority. Russian troops were present because of a long-held arrangement allowing Moscow to station forces there. There was nothing illegal or malicious about Russian military presence in Crimea at the time of the referendum, as Western media imply.
Western governments and media rarely if ever acknowledge that background history or facts. They also completely ignore another crucial factor – that a month before Crimea’s referendum, Ukraine was violently taken over by an illegal coup d’état. That coup – glossed over in the Western media as a “pro-democracy movement” – overthrew an elected government in Kiev and ushered in a regime packed with Neo-Nazi followers of Stepan Bandera and his World War II collaborators with the Third Reich. Today, the Kiev regime is riven with corruption, gross human rights abuses and paramilitaries glorifying Nazism.
Given that horrific context of turmoil in early 2014, the people of Crimea had every right to repudiate the monstrous events in Kiev – events that the US and European Union were directly responsible in fomenting.
This is why Russia will never relinquish Crimea. The cultural bonds and comradeship are too strong. The peninsula is also a strategically vital location for Black Sea security and protection of Russia’s southern flank. One shudders to think if it had somehow come under the control of the NATO-backed, anti-Russian Kiev regime.
Western demands on Russia over Crimea are futile. Washington and its European allies have chosen to go down a path to nowhere over their spurious and duplicitous position. It is not Russia that has created the conflict over Ukraine, it is the Western powers through their unconscionable meddling. Yet, they seek to address their problem-making by continually sanctioning Russia. Don’t the Europeans in particular realize that they are only shooting themselves in the feet? The sanctions they have implemented are inflicting much greater damage on their own industries, exporters and farmers than they are on Russia’s. Indeed, all signs are that Russia’s economy has become more independent and strong as a result of Western sanctions.
Western powers need to come to their senses and drop their self-defeating charade over Crimea. They need to look in the mirror and realize that they have directly caused much of the conflict and corruption in today’s Ukraine. Russia can’t solve their own problems.
Here’s another reason why Western powers don’t have a leg to stand on over Ukraine. It is their rank hypocrisy and utter unscrupulousness.
This week, the Trump administration announced that it was going to “fully recognize” Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. The US move is a blatant violation of international law and Syrian sovereignty. Unlike claims about Crimea, Washington’s complicity over Golan is a real, unabashed annexation, as testified by UN resolutions and international law. Presumably, the European allies will meekly acquiesce to the broad-daylight theft of Syria’s land, as they do with so much else their American taskmaster does.
Washington and European vassals have no authority to castigate Russia over Crimea or Ukraine more widely. They have no historical intelligence, no facts and no integrity. And, in light of the unfolding Golan scandal, they have no moral authority either.
Crimea was a landmark event. Yes, it pivoted Western relations with Russia into a fraught condition. But, more significantly, the event has manifested a point of principle on which Russia is not backing down from. Crimea, Syria, Venezuela are proof of Russia’s international principled policy. The Western powers are the ones in disrepute. And they use sanctions to give themselves a veneer of righteousness.