TBR News June 12, 2017

Jun 12 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2017: “The business with the Ukraine is typical. The CIA, ever eager to put pressure on a Russia laden with oil and gas, engineered the first Orange Revolution.

When the public later voted in a pro-Russian president, the even-diligent CIA organized a revolt and put in someone more to their liking.

Two major assets of the Ukraine were, and are, the off-shore oil fields south of the Crimea and the very important naval base at Sevastopol, also in the Crimea. As usual, the CIA lost out, ergo the sanctions and heightened harassment of Putin’s Russia now in progress.

Putin, it must be said, knows the games (and also knows just what the CIA and other agencies are plotting) and he moved in quickly with the result that the CIA could not get the naval base for the US Navy or the oil for their friends in the trade. The truth is always much more interesting than the official disinformation that we see as daily fare in the captive media.”

Table of Contents

  • National Illusions and Global Realities
  • The Larsen C ice shelf collapse hammers home the reality of climate change
  • The politics of theft in Kyiv
  • Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet in Russian-Ukrainian Relations.
  • In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves
  • US Wanted Crimea for its Own Naval Base 

 National Illusions and Global Realities

June 12, 2017

by Lawrence Wittner


For as long as they have existed, nations have clung to the illusion that their military strength guarantees their security.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that the military power that one nation considers vital to its security fosters other nations’ sense of insecurity. In this climate of suspicion, an arms race ensues, often culminating in military conflict. Also, sometimes the very military strength that a nation intended for protection ends up emboldening it to engage in reckless, aggressive behavior, leading to war.

By the twentieth century, the devastation caused by wars among nations had grown so great that the general public and even many government officials began to recognize that a world left to the mercies of national military power was a dangerous world, indeed. As a result, after the mass slaughter of World War I, they organized the League of Nations to foster international security. When this proved insufficient to stop the march of nations toward World War II and its even greater devastation, they organized a new and stronger global entity: the United Nations.

Unfortunately, however, bad habits die hard, and relying on military force to solve problems is one of the oldest and most destructive habits in human history. Therefore, even as they paid lip service to the United Nations and its attempts to create international security, many nations slipped back into the familiar pattern of building up their armed forces and weaponry. This included nuclear weapons, the most effective instruments of mass slaughter yet devised.

Not surprisingly, then, although the leaders of highly militarized nations talked about building “peace through strength,” their countries often underwent many years of war. Indeed, the United States, the most heavily-armed nation since 1945, has been at war with other countries most of that time. Other nations whose post-World War II military might has helped embroil them in wars include Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran.

Given this sorry record, it is alarming to find that the nine nuclear-armed nations (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) have ignored the obligation under the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to divest themselves of nuclear weapons and, instead, recently embarked on a new round in the nuclear arms race. The U.S. government, for example, has begun a massive, 30-year program to build a new generation of US nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the United States well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This program, slated to cost $1 trillion, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants.

However, as the nuclear powers renew their race to catastrophe, the non-nuclear powers are beginning to revolt. Constituting most nations of the world, they have considerable clout in the UN General Assembly. In late 2016, they brought to this body a resolution to launch negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Critics of the resolution maintained that such a treaty was ridiculous, for, ultimately, only the nine nuclear powers could negotiate their disarmament―not an assembly of other nations. But supporters of the resolution argued that, if the overwhelming majority of nations voted to ban nuclear weapons―that is, make them illegal under international law―this would put substantial pressure on the nuclear powers to comply with the world community by acting to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

To avoid this embarrassment, the nuclear powers and their allies fought back vigorously against passage of this UN resolution. But, on December 23, 2016, the resolution sailed through the UN General Assembly by an overwhelming vote: 113 nations in favor and 35 opposed, with 13 abstentions.

And so, on March 27, 2017, a diplomatic conference convened, at the UN headquarters in New York City, with the goal of crafting what the UN called a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” Some 130 countries participated in the first round of these negotiations that included discussions with leaders of peace and disarmament groups and a range of experts on nuclear weapons. But the nuclear powers and most of their allies boycotted the gathering. In fact, at a press conference conducted as the conclave began, Nikki Haley, the US representative to the United Nations, and representatives of other nuclear powers denounced the proceedings.

Perhaps because of the boycott by the nuclear powers, the UN negotiations went forward smoothly. On May 22, Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica, president of the conference, released a first draft of the UN treaty, which would prohibit nations from developing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons. The UN conferees plan to adopt necessary revisions and, then, produce a final treaty for a vote in early July.

To publicize and support the treaty, peace and disarmament groups have organized a June 17 march in New York City. Although dubbed a Women’s Ban the Bomb March, it is open to people of different genders, ages, races, nationalities, and faiths. It will assemble in midtown Manhattan, at Bryant Park, at noon, after which the marchers will head for Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, near the UN headquarters, for a rally.

As this treaty directly challenges the longtime faith in the value of national military power, typified by the scramble for nuclear weapons, it might not get very far. But who really knows? Facing the unprecedented danger of nuclear war, the world community might finally be ready to dispense with this national illusion.


The Larsen C ice shelf collapse hammers home the reality of climate change

Collapsing ice shelves will further accelerate global sea level rise

June 12, 2017

by John Abraham

The Guardian

Very soon, a large portion of an ice shelf in Antarctica will break off and collapse into the ocean. The name of the ice shelf is Larsen C; it is a major extension from of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and its health has implications for other ice in the region, and sea levels globally.

How do we know a portion is going to collapse? Well, scientists have been watching a major rift (crack) that has grown in the past few years, carving out a section of floating ice nearly the size of Delaware. The speed of the crack has increased dramatically in the past few months, and it is nearly cracked through.

Project Midas provides frequent updates on the Larsen C shelf. You can read a summary there, which reports:

In the largest jump since January, the rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown an additional 17 km (11 miles) between May 25 and May 31 2017. This has moved the rift tip to within 13 km (8 miles) of breaking all the way through to the ice front, producing one of the largest ever recorded icebergs. The rift tip appears also to have turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving is probably very close.

The rift has now fully breached the zone of soft ‘suture’ ice originating at the Cole Peninsula and there appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely.

When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable than it was prior to the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbor Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.

Why does all this matter? Well it is important for a number of reasons. First, when an ice shelf melts or collapses, it can unpin other ice that is sitting on land, which allows it to flow more quickly into the ocean. It is this secondary effect – the loss of ice resting on land – that changes the rate of sea level rise. Loss of a major ice shelf can also activate ice that rests on bedrock topography that makes it fundamentally unstable – ice that, once moving, will move faster and faster, until a large region is afloat.

The entire Larsen Ice shelf, which is the fourth largest in Antarctica, covers nearly 50,000 square km (20,000 square miles) according to reporting at ABC science. The ice on the land upstream of the shelf is enough to raise sea level, eventually, by ten centimeters. This is not, by itself, a major threat to the world’s coastlines, but it reveals the path that other, even larger areas are likely to take in the future.

One of the warning signs that a dangerous warming trend is under way in Antarctica will be the breakup of ice shelves on both coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula, starting with the northernmost and extending gradually southward. These ice shelves should be regularly monitored by LANDSAT imagery.

Why is the ice shelf going to break off and collapse into the ocean? Since large calving events are so rare, and since our measurements in and around ice shelves don’t go back in time far enough, it’s hard to say whether this is a natural progression, variability, or a result of human activity (or more likely a mixture). A major reason may be human-caused warming, which has led to melting from both above and below in nearby areas. The Western Antarctic (the parts south of the U.S.) is warming quite quickly, faster than most of the planet. In addition, warmer waters can reach underneath the ice shelf and can melt it from below.

That being said, there are vigorous discussions within the scientific community about how much, if any of this can be attributed to humans. Some scientists think there is strong connection; others are much less sure and see little or no evidence that humans are the cause. From my vantage point, part of this relates to our limited ability to measure what’s going on, and part of this is a common sticking point of whether an absence of evidence is evidence of an absence.

I’ve heard from multiple differing views on this very topic while preparing this post. From my research and experience in climate science as well as in many other areas of research where risk analysis and evidence are weighed, we should assume that human-caused warming is having an effect. In fact, is has to be having some effect. We can measure the incredible amount of heat that is being stored in the oceans as well as the increase in temperatures that have occurred over the Western Antarctica and changes to the ocean currents in the region – there must be some implications to the health of the ice. The real question, in my mind, is how much of the effect is humans? That is something a lot more research will be required for answering.

What we are really concerned about isn’t just this breaking event that will occur quite soon. We are more concerned about the rest of the Larsen C ice shelf. Will it disintegrate now that the protective shelf is gone? If it does disintegrate, will the ice up-land follow suit, and flow into the oceans thereby further increasing sea levels?

When people ask, how much will sea levels rise by 2100, my answer is “1 meter.” Why do experts think this when we’ve only had a fifth of that over the past 100 years? Sea level rise is accelerating – it’s getting faster and faster as the accumulated heat from greenhouse gases takes hold. Part of the reason for the acceleration is phenomena like ice shelf loss. It may take a while for an ice shelf to melt but when it does, the losses occur quickly.

Just a week or so after President Trump withdrew from the world’s best hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, the consequences keep stacking up. One of the unstoppable consequences of melting ice and rising seas is the inundation of coastal communities. In the USA, Miami is our bellwether city. It is a large city, is built on the coast, and it will be devastated by rising seas. You cannot build a sea wall around Miami – the porous substrate means that water will just soak up from below. As Miami deals with a devastating 1 meter of sea level rise by 2100, they can thank their Senator Marco Rubio along with Donald Trump.

Marco Rubio has long argued against taking action on climate change and he has even supported anti-environmental decisions made by Trump. Now, because of rising sea levels, even very high tides are causing flooding in Miami. I cannot imagine what another 1 meter of sea level will do. But, certainly there will be a lot of money spent and resources lost dealing with this problem that could have been avoided.

The politics of theft in Kyiv

The owners of a fitness club in Kyiv lost control of their firm when another one, with political connections, walked in and took over. It is one of many examples of corruption that is undoing Kyiv’s move westward.

June 12, 2017

by Jo Harper


The trouble started at the end of 2016, when the Ryabchenko family – which owns the Sofiyskiy Fitness Center – was told by a company unknown to them called BF Group that they were in default on a $15-million (13.8-million euro) loan.

Property rights to the club – which the BF group said were collateral on the loan – were then seized and the BF Group took over the mortgage and the property rights of the club.

Officers of the Security Police of Ukraine and security guards hired by BF Group are now sitting inside the building behind welded bars.

The BF Group is run by Yuriy Hryshchenko, an aide to People’s Front MP Andriy Ivanchuk.

“On May 24 they entered with 30 armed policemen, blocked all entrances, did not let our lawyer in, barricaded themselves inside our office with all the accounting and all operating documents inside, and then literally carried my mom and me out of the premise,” owner Iryna Ryabchenko told DW. “They’ve simply stolen our home.”

Ryabchenko says BF Group won’t even agree to rent the space to her sports club while the dispute is being resolved. She claims that the BF Group told her it would make the building the People’s Front headquarters.

Property is theft

The case highlights a growing trend in Ukraine.

“This a huge trend,” Ryabchenko says. “Paper ownership deeds are replaced by electronic ones where anyone can have access and change owners of property, companies, land etc. All you need is a corrupt notary that has an access key to the registry. All of them do it. Private property is not protected,” she says.

SkyMall, ZhytomitskinLasoshi and Hotel Lybid have all also faced similar questions.

In April, Ukraine’s battle against entrenched corruption appeared to take a step forward when a senior state energy executive was detained shortly after an ally of former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was taken into custody.

But the IMF, US and EU have voiced concern that continued corruption threatens to undo Ukraine’s pro-Western trajectory and disillusion the population after the downfall of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

L’etat c’est moi

“By showing that when one party controls the ministry of justice, internal affairs, prosecutors and justice they become the law. They become justice,” Ryabchenko says.

“Narodnyi Front [the People’s Front] controls it all. Whatever they want they get,” she goes on.

“They don’t care about scandals in Ukraine, they care what they look like to the outside world, to Europe or the US where their families live and where they keep the money stolen out of Ukraine,” she adds.

“I believe the time for this type of dealings was supposed to be gone with Yanukovich. Too many lives were lost for people worse and more selfish than Yanukovich to come to power. It’s a betrayal of our trust,” Ryabchenko says.

“They want Europe to continue giving money, so they need to keep appearances and care for their image and reputation outside of Ukraine.”

“Our criminal charges filed have not been reviewed or investigated in over six months. All we have left are courts, where money and pressure from the ruling party are a huge factor in decision making.

The law is an ass

The Ryabchenkos have been trying to convince the courts that the right of ownership was transferred to BF Group illegally and that the case was based on forged documents.”

Judges when they see cameras are more reluctant to do completely illegal things,” she adds.

Ryabchenko, with Efenes Properties Limited, in a parallel court process, appealed the court decision about granting BF Group ownership arguing that their claims about Ryabchenko’s loan debts were based on forged documents.

The appeal was satisfied on May 24. Despite this, BF Group claims the Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine issued a final ruling on May 29 stating that Sofiyskiy was in default on a loan. However, this case cannot be found in the state register of court decisions – there’s only an invitation for the May 29 court hearing.

Ryabchenko says she and her lawyers didn’t get any invitation to the hearing and didn’t attend and she doesn’t even know if it actually took place.

The next day after the court decision on refusing BF Group in ownership due to the falsification of documents, on May 25, police and the company’s representatives stormed in and occupied most of the building – about 1,300 square meters.

BF Group CEO Hryshchenko said BF Group was the rightful owner of the property and that the premises would be exploited in accordance with its proper use – as a sports and recreation center, but under a different brand name.

“Let them pay their debts to the banks first,” Hryshchenko said.

And so it goes on.

Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet in Russian-Ukrainian Relations.

September 1995

by Victor Zaborsky.

Center for Science and International Affairs.


The breakup of the Soviet Union has brought about numerous controversies among successor states. Russian-Ukrainian relations are seriously affected by such controversies. The range of conflict areas in the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is rather large — the two nations have differences on ethnic, political, economic, territorial, and military issues. It has been especially difficult for many Russians to accept the secession of Ukraine. In imperial Russia, Ukraine was considered a sub-division of a larger Russia. The Bolsheviks rejected this idea and, through the Soviet era, officially acknowledged the existence of Ukraine as a separate East Slavic nation. At present, Russia has been trying to gain its role as the “elder brother” of Ukraine, while Ukraine, having gained formal political independence, wishes to establish its new identity. The search by both Russians and Ukrainians for their identities, and both Kiev’s and Moscow’s wishes to make as many political, economic, and military gains as possible from the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, are the main characteristic features of the relationship between the two states. Due to the large set of conflict areas in bilateral relations, and having domestic instability and a lack of democratic institutions in both states, the Russian-Ukrainian disputes are likely to be long-term ones.

In 1992-93 the two most controversial issues in the Russian-Ukrainian relationship were the disputes over Ukraine’s denuclearization, and provisions to Ukraine from Russia. Since early 1994, the division of the Black Sea Fleet and developments in Crimea have become the dominant (or, at least, very significant) aspects in Russian-Ukrainian relations. The Crimean peninsula has become an arena for the duel between Kiev and Moscow on political, economic, military, and territorial disputes. The upcoming Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine was supposed to settle these disputes. However, it was decided by negotiating delegations led by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Evgyeniy Marchuk in October 1994 to give this treaty a status of a “frame-work,” leaving disputes over Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet unsettled. In this paper, I discuss the role and significance of the disputes over the Black Sea Fleet and Crimea within the context of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Russian-Ukrainian Relations: A General Outlook

Ukraine’s Independence

In Kiev in November 1990, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk signed a friendship treaty in which Russia and Ukraine recognized each other as sovereign states. It was a tactical alliance between two provincial leaders, who were demonstrating their opposition to Gorbachev’s rule and fostering the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In a referendum on December 1, 1991, more than 90 percent of the Ukrainian population voted for independence, and within a week, Yeltsin recognized Ukraine’s independence unconditionally.

Since that time, Ukraine has been an independent state, though many Russians are reluctant to recognize that fact. The prior integration of Ukraine and Russia for more than three hundred years has brought about very strong political, ethnic, economic, cultural, demographic, and psychological challenges to Ukraine’s independence. The “elder-younger” brother syndrome and the propagation of Russian culture and language as “higher,” as well as a historically-claimed Russian mission civilisatrice have produced a paternalistic Russian view of other peoples of the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukrainians and Belarussians. These historical stereotypes, built up over centuries, are unlikely to disappear overnight. According to Roman Szporluk, “most Russians apparently never took the “Ukrainian Question” [whether Ukrainians are an independent ethnic entity with a right to national sovereignty or if they are just one ethnic branch of a larger, Russian ethnicity] seriously, and, accordingly, regarded the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as a fiction. They continued to think of Ukraine as a part of a larger and more real Russia.” Most Russians, including powerful decision-makers, can hardly reconcile themselves with the idea of a free and independent Ukraine. The threats of Russia’s attempts to re-absorb Ukraine were acknowledged as late as 1992 by US Ambassador Strobe Talbott who commented that:

The brutal fact is that many Russians — notably including Russians that we would consider to be good guys, liberals, reformers — in their government, do not accept the independence of Ukraine. And Ukrainians know that. That is one reason why Ukrainians know there is no state on the face of the earth that has more need for security guarantees against Russia than Ukraine

Opposition to an independent Ukraine has been expressed in the statements or actions of numerous Russian politicians, which are aimed at either the re-creation, in some form, of the old Soviet Union, or re-establishment of Russian hegemony in the region. The most extreme statements against Ukrainian independence have come from Russian nationalist parties and organizations. The most significant representative of the radical imperial nationalists is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal Democratic Party. According to Zhirinovsky, there is no Ukraine and there is no Russian Federation; there is only one big Russia. Despite his eccentricity, Zhirinovsky clearly represents a trend in Russian nationalism which is anti­-reformist, chauvinistic, revanshist, and anti-Western in nature. Sergei Baburin, one of the leaders of the National Salvation Front, was quoted in May 1992 as telling the Ukrainian Ambassador in Moscow that, “either Ukraine reunites with Russia or there will be war.” Of great concern in Ukraine are trends within the Civic Union, a coalition of the “industrial lobby” headed by Arkadiy Volsky, the Democratic Party of Nikolay Travkin, and Communist Party of Russia, headed by Gennadiy Zjuganov, such as difficult economic, political and even military pressure used against Ukraine if it does not voluntarily reunite with Russia.

On the whole, Yeltsin has been quite careful to avoid making statements which could evoke negative reaction in Kiev, but it is quite obvious that he has not welcomed Ukraine’s independence. Yeltsin has been quoted as saying that, “Russia reserves the right to review the borders with those republics that declared themselves independent.” Sergei Stankevich, President Yeltsin’s political adviser, suggested to Western diplomats in the spring of 1993 that they not bother opening embassies in Kiev as they would soon be downgraded to consulates. Stankevich also cautioned against establishing political-military ties too close to Ukraine. A senior official in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry replied that, “Russia’s attitude toward its neighbors can now be compared to Germany’s in 1939.”

Many Western observers and Russian politicians have argued that concerns about extreme’ statements or actions emerging from Russian politicians are exaggerated or unjustified. However, most observers, scholars, and politicians in Ukraine feel otherwise. “It cannot be stressed strongly enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire,” states Zbigniew Brzezinski, “but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” The Ukrainian political elite shares these considerations and opposes the idea of any Russia-centered “confederation.” Russia, with its imperialist mentality, could be viewed as the natural, historical enemy of an independent Ukraine, and there is no reason to believe that in the near future Russia will abandon its traditional view of Ukraine as an integral part of Russia.

What Does Ukraine Mean to Russia?

In addition to the psychological trauma caused by Ukraine’s secession, Russia has other geopolitical and strategic reasons to regret this fact. First, Ukraine shares borders with highly populated regions of the Russian Federation, such as Central, Central-Rich-Soil (Centralno­-Chernozemny), and the North Caucasus.. Thus, the geographic and demographic links with Ukraine extend to the very heart of Russia and spread to the rest of the Russian territories.

Second, the Black Sea and Azov Sea ports in Odessa, Il’ichovsk, Nickolaev, and Mariupol were very important economically for the former Soviet Union. These ports provided more than 20 percent of export supplies to the Soviet Union. Trans-European gas pipelines “Brotherhood” (“Bratstvo”) and “Union” (“Sojuz”), and the oil pipeline “Friendship” (Druzhba”) run across Ukrainian territory. For the former Soviet Union, these facilities had significant importance as economic links with European states, and remain very important for Russia today. Ukraine’s independence would, to some extent, separate Russia from Europe. Thus, one of the Russian objectives is preventing Ukraine from creating a new trading network in Europe that will bypass or compete with that of Russia.

Third, Ukraine had been making a substantial contribution to the Soviet economy. For example, in the former Soviet Union, Ukraine had been producing about 40 percent of steel, 35 percent of coal, and a considerable share of food products. According to UNESCO’s estimations, Ukrainian scientific and technical capabilities comprise more than 6 percent of those of the world. Despite the current economic difficulties in Ukraine, its industrial, agricultural, and scientific potential would add to those of Russia, should it be under Moscow’s direct or indirect control.

Fourth, Ukraine played a significant role in the Soviet military-industrial complex. Some experts assert that 25 percent of all Soviet armaments had been produced in Ukraine. All of the Soviet SS-24 missiles were manufactured at Ukrainian enterprises. Thus, Ukraine’s secession breaks cooperation links in the military-industrial complex of the former Soviet Union, which may affect Russia’s defense industry. Since the Russian economy has inherited military-oriented features, restoration of cooperation with Ukraine within a single military-industrial complex is one of the top priorities for the Russian leadership. Most Russian politicians speak about “restoration of the old economic cooperation,” which, in fact, had been servicing mostly the military-industrial complex of the former Soviet Union.

Fifth, Ukraine is the critical region for Russia’s military strategic interests in South-Western and Western Europe. In fact, overnight Russia has been thrown back to its seventeenth-century borders, with rather limited access to the Baltic and Black Seas. Re-establishing some form of “confederation” with Ukraine under Moscow’s command would give Russia access to the vital sub-regions of Europe and create the superpower image that Russia has been striving for. Ukraine has a large-scale military infrastructure which serviced more than one million of the former Soviet troops. Some elements of this infrastructure are vital for Russia; for example, Sevastopol, the key naval base of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet. In fact, the city of Sevastopol was originally created as a military naval base. Protecting Russian military-strategic interests in Southwestern and Western Europe without Ukraine would require Russian creation of a completely new military infrastructure, which is extremely costly and may not be adequate for Russia’s aspirations in the region. That is why Russia is very sensitive to the loss of Ukraine as a military-strategic area, and makes attempts to maintain its strategic presence in the Black Sea and control the port of Sevastopol as a key naval base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Russian Military Threat: Exaggeration Or Reality?

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia has sought to limit national armies of the newly independent states to essentially symbolic and nominal forces integrated under Russia’s command. Despite this Russian policy, Ukraine has made serious efforts to build up its independent military. Although initial estimates of the size of armed forces located on the territory of Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union varied, it was not until January 1992 that a more realistic accounting of 726,000 was obtained. It was generally agreed that a force of this size had to be reduced; Ukraine needed a smaller, more affordable force for its defense. On October 19, 1993, the Rada approved the end-strength of 450,000 personnel for the Ukrainian armed forces. This would be one of the largest armies in Europe, which might be undesirable for the countries neighboring Ukraine. Nevertheless, when estimating Ukraine’s military power for preventing an external threat, one cannot fail to see Ukraine’s deep military vulnerability from the Russian side.

The Ukrainian political and military elite have generally accepted that from a strategic perspective, one should not completely reject the potential threat of Russia’s military aggression. These considerations prompted the former Rada and former Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov to incorporate a major change into the final draft of the military doctrine of Ukraine. While the original version stated that “Ukraine does not consider any state its adversary,” the final version of the document declares that “Ukraine will consider its potential adversary to be any state whose consistent policy constitutes a military danger to Ukraine.” A large number of the former Rada deputies had been unhappy with the statement that Ukraine had no enemies, since they believed that there clearly was a potential threat from Russia.

Gaining reliable security guarantees from Russia has been a vital issue for Ukraine since the very first days of its independence. Russia’s readiness to provide Ukraine with security guarantees was initially announced by Yeltsin at the January 15, 1993 meeting with Kravchuk in Moscow. Yeltsin stated that “Russia guarantees the preservation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the defense of its borders … within the framework of the CIS … from nuclear attack.” Ukraine found Yeltsin’s statement unsatisfactory because of Russia’s pledge to respect Ukrainian borders “within the framework of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States].” Ukraine has consistently opposed close ties with other members of the CIS, mostly because Russia has used the framework as a means to subordinate the former Soviet Republics. Russia’s commitment to its obligations under the Trilateral Statement of January 14, 1994, stating that Russia will respect Ukrainian sovereignty, have been found unsatisfactory by many Ukrainians as well.

Ukrainian experts are almost unanimous in saying that Russian-Ukrainian bilateral arrangements could be useful, but not sufficient to guarantee Ukraine’s security. To this end they suggest that Ukraine enter European security arrangements. The former President Kravchuk believed that “Ukraine’s membership in such European institutions as CSCE, NATO, and the Western European Union (WEU), would provide sufficient national security guarantees for Ukraine.” Some scholars believe that “it would be most reasonable and beneficial (for Ukraine) to move toward the European Community together with Russia, and finally to be integrated into the non-military structures of NATO.” Ukraine signed a document to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in February 1994 that is in accordance with this trend. According to the former Foreign Minister Zlenko, Ukraine’s participation in this program “would be in three directions: primarily, these are joint military personnel exercises and training; participation in peace-keeping operations; and the development of these peace-keeping operations.”

On the other hand, many Ukrainian experts argue that “the transition to a new relationship with Russia requires Ukraine’s non-participation in military-political or military arrangements together with Russia.” The presumption for such an approach is that any military alliance with Russia would be dominated by Russia, and that Ukraine would suffer Russia’s strong influence. These considerations have resulted in Ukraine, withholding its participation in the Tashkent Treaty on Collective Security.

It is quite obvious that the Ukrainian leadership exaggerates concerns about a Russian military invasion, trying to present Russia as a predator state. The goal of such a policy is for Ukraine to get as many military, economic, and political advantages as possible from the West. Policymakers in Kiev believe that for the United States and Western Europe, Ukraine is too important geopolitically for its absorption by Russia to be tolerated. Alexander Motyl describes the situation as follows:

Although the possibility of war is not as far-fetched as one would like it to be, it would not work to Ukraine’s disadvantage. Indeed, the emergence of a genuinely hostile Russia would translate into Ukraine’s rapid integration into European economic and security structures and its concomitant transformation into a client state of the United States. As an East European version of South Korea, Ukraine would become the recipient of large-scale Western — in particular, American — military and economic assistance that would guarantee its stability, if not its prosperity. …Russia’s aggressiveness, therefore, could be Ukraine’s salvation.

These comments present a correct evaluation of some Ukrainian policymakers’ considerations, although the supposed West European and American response to Russia’s military hostility towards Ukraine is disputable. In case of rising Russian-Ukrainian controversies, the United States could try to mediate disputes and encourage the CSCE to assure minority rights on both sides of the border. It could encourage Ukraine and Russia to undertake joint economic development in heavily Russified Eastern Ukraine and nearby Russia. But it is unlikely for the United States to make Ukraine its arms supply “client state.” The U.S./ Russia-oriented policy regarding Ukraine’s denuclearization and Washington’s reluctance to provide specific security guarantees for Ukraine leave little hope for such a scenario. The U.S. obligations under the Trilateral Statement of January 14, 1994, are the maximum assurances Ukraine has received from the United States.  Also, it is unlikely that Western Europe will integrate Ukraine into its economic and security structures in the near future. At present, Ukraine’s sinking economy makes full-scale economic cooperation with Europe impossible. Ukraine’s participation in NATO’s Partnership For Peace program is the highest level of Ukraine’s involvement into European security structures so far.

Newly elected President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, like his predecessor Leonid Kravchuk, has been bargaining on many provisions of the upcoming Russian-Ukrainian Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation. Security guarantees for Ukraine is one of the provisions which stalemates the signing of the treaty. Since the very beginning of negotiations on the treaty, Russia has been clear about its opposition to clearly-defined obligations regarding Ukrainian territorial integrity. In the 1990 Russian-Ukrainian treaty, it was stated that both states had no territorial claims on each other. Nevertheless, at the present stage of negotiations on the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, Russia is insisting on downgrading this commitment to a very unclear and vague pledge to respect Ukrainian sovereignty. This serves as a vivid example of the Russian leadership’s inability to reconcile itself with Ukraine’s independence and its intention to reserve room to maneuver in the future.

The threat of Russia attacking Ukraine by tank assault or air strikes and use of artillery is unlikely at present. According to the former Defense Minister of Ukraine, Vitaliy Radetsky, a war between Russia and Ukraine is “impossible,” and predictions of such a war are “mere speculation.” Indeed, it is hard to imagine Russia attacking Ukraine by means of, say, a massive tank assault. Russia’s own economy could hardly sustain such a venture; some reporters comment that “controlling Ukraine (after an invasion) would require an army of occupation far larger than the one driven out of Afghanistan. Raising such an army would sap Russia’s resources.” In addition, there are numerous political and economic disincentives for a military invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, the unpredictability of domestic developments in Russia and its foreign policy leaves some doubts as to Russia’s wise and balanced policy towards Ukraine.

Defining the Fate of Crimea

The Crimean Constitution — Reaction In Kiev and Moscow

The Soviet leadership ceded Crimea to Ukraine in February 1954. But the majority of its population is Russian; many residents are retirees from the Black Sea navy. Only about 26 percent of the population of Crimea is comprised of ethnic Ukrainians. Autonomist and separatist sentiments in Crimea increased in parallel with the sovereignty movement in Ukraine in 1990-91, and the January 1991 referendum in Crimea reflected a support of proposals for autonomy. In September 1991, the Crimean parliament declared its sovereignty albeit as a constituent part of Ukraine. A slight majority (54 percent) of voters in Crimea supported Ukrainian independence in the December 1991 referendum.

On May 5, 1992 the Crimean parliament declared its independence, and on May 6, 1992, it voted for a Constitution establishing the independence and providing dual citizenship with Russia for the Crimean population. Also, the Crimean parliament passed a resolution calling for a referendum on independence from Ukraine. The Verhovna Rada of Ukraine responded by declaring the independence declaration invalid. It instructed the Crimean parliament to reverse its decision and review some provisions of the Constitution, or face direct presidential rule from Kiev. At the same time, the Republican Movement of Crimea, a Russian-inspired organization, was very active in gathering the requisite number of signatures needed to hold a Crimean referendum on independence from Ukraine. The Kiev leadership, including chairman of the Crimean parliament Nikolay Bagrov, did their best to prevent escalation of the conflict. Their efforts resulted in a compromise between Kiev and Simferopol. Kiev made certain concessions, adopting the Act on Division of Powers Between Authorities of Ukraine and Republic of Crimea.

The Act has granted Crimea wide-ranging powers to determine its own foreign economic relations, as well as social and economic policies. It also proclaimed the peninsula an autonomous integral part of Ukraine, and stated that the territory can not be transferred to another state without the consent of both the Ukrainian and Crimean parliaments. For its part, the Crimean parliament abandoned its claims for complete independence and dual citizenship. The revised Constitution of Crimea was adopted on September 25, 1992.

The dispute between Kiev and Simferppol was an encouraging signal for Russian officials, who were irritated by Ukraine’s independence and its consequences, particularly Ukraine’s stance on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. In January 1992, Vladimir Lukin, then chairman of the Russian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, suggested that in order to pressure Ukraine to give up its claim to the Black Sea Fleet, Russia should question Ukrainian control over Crimea. This statement was followed by a resolution of the Russian Parliament to investigate the circumstances of Crimea’s transfer from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. Finally, the Russian Parliament passed a resolution in May 1992 declaring the 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine illegal. In February 1993, the former Russian Vice-President Rutskoi stated that the International Court of Justice should decide whether Crimea belongs to Russia or Ukraine. This suggestion was supported by Russia’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Leonid Smolyakov, who commented at a press conference in early 1993 that Russia had received 20,000 requests for Russian citizenship from Crimeans and that if Crimea should vote to become independent, the Russian government would support the move.

The Era of Meshkov

The Strive For “Crimea’s Independence” — The Initial Stage

In early 1994, Crimea elected Yuri Meshkov as President. Meshkov, an ethnic Russian and former K.G.B. border guard, won overwhelming support from fellow ethnic Russians in a campaign managed by a reputed covert operative from Moscow. Meshkov’s pro-Russian position and claims for Crimea’s independence had complicated relations between Kiev and Simferopol, and between Kiev and Moscow. The first Crimean president expressed his views to reporters in mid-February 1994 as follows:

The main aspect of my policy is Crimea’s independence. Independence alone will allow us to solve our economic problems. The results of the presidential elections confirmed the population’s orientation to economic, cultural and other links with Russia, and to reunion with Russia….The Black Sea Fleet must be indivisible, belong to Russia and be based in Sevastopol which is an inalienable part of the Republic of Crimea.

On February 15, 1994, Meshkov sent the order addressed to the commander of Ukraine’s Navy, arguing that citizens of Crimea should undergo military service on the territory of the Republic of Crimea. In fact, this could be viewed as the beginning of raising independent armed forces in Crimea and inspiring secessionist aspirations. Representatives of Ukraine’s Navy stated that they are subordinated to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and to Kravchuk. Also, Meshkov’s statement about making the Russian ruble legal tender in Crimea was condemned by Kiev’s officials as “ill-conceived and premature.” According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Shmarov, “the budgetary relations (with Crimea) will remain largely unchanged, …and the Russian ruble will never be legal in Ukraine.”

Another area of controversy is Meshkov’s intention to call for a referendum on. Crimea’s independence. On March 10, 1994, Meshkov issued an order authorizing the so-called “public poll” on independence of Crimea. Kravchuk immediately abandoned the order and declared it invalid. In official statements, Kiev leaders argue that the idea of secession of Crimea runs counter to the Trilateral Statement of January 14, 1994, and to the provisions of the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. According to Vladimir Kryzhanovsky, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Russia, the idea of incorporation of Crimea into Russia through a referendum is the same as “the incorporation of Russia’s Kurile Islands into Japan on the basis of a referendum by the Kurile population.”

Restoration of the Constitution of May 5, 1992

The most obvious attempt to explore the ground as to Kiev’s and Moscow’s approach to independence of Crimea was made by Crimean leadership in May 1994. The idea to revise the Crimean Constitution was used as a touchstone to clarify the positions of both Kiev and Moscow. As stated previously, the provisions on Crimea’s independence, dual Crimean-Russian citizenship, and independent military units of Crimea were excluded from the original text of the constitution. In mid-May 1994, Yuri Meshlcov suggested the Crimean parliament should restore these provisions. In response, President Kravchuk warned that “(Kiev) will act decisively and consistently, proceeding from the fact that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine.” Despite this warning, on May 20, 1994, the parliament of Crimea overwhelmingly voted for the restoration of the text of the Constitution of May 6, 1992. Also, Meshkov refused to recognize President Kravchuk’s decree which transferred the Crimean Republic’s Ministry of Interior over to the Interior Ministry of Ukraine. The heads of the independent Crimean Interior Ministry, Security Service, and Ministry of Justice were elected. These developments caused a stormy reaction in Kiev. President Kravchuk and the Verhovna Rada immediately abandoned the May 20, 1994 resolution and called the Crimean parliament to bring its legislation into compliance with Ukrainian legislative acts. In his rather decisive statement, the former Ukrainian Defense Minister Radetsky pointed out that “Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine, and violators of the territorial integrity of Ukraine will be severely punished …. We will never give up Crimea.” Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Zlenko, in an address to the UN Security Council and other international organizations, stated: “Ukraine reserves the right, should the tension in the region escalate, to take all measures necessary for preserving the integrity of its territory. ”

Surprisingly, Russia was inclined toward cautious reaction to these developments over Crimea; there were at least three reasons for this. First, Moscow intended to get large concessions from NATO at talks about Russia joining the Partnership for Peace program. Russia did not want to risk ruining its slim chances of winning these concessions by being dragged into a messy Crimean venture. Second, the secession of Crimea and breakup of Ukrainian territorial integrity could set a precedent that would be extremely undesirable for Russia. Chechnya, Tatarstan, and other regions wishing to gain independence from Russia, could use the example of “independent Crimea” as an additional argument in their heated disputes with Moscow. Third, both Kravchuk and. Yeltsin seemed to realize that they would not be able to completely control the developments in Crimea in the event of military conflict there. (Alexander Kruglov, an extreme pro-Russian deputy in the Crimean Parliament, has said to a Radio Liberty reporter: “In case of emergency, Russia will instantly rise up. Yeltsin will be powerless, and he will implicitly do what he is told to do.”) Therefore, Yeltsin, while stating that “Crimea is a sovereign republic in Ukraine and has the right to its own policy,” added that he trusted President Kravchuk, and that developments in Crimea were solely Ukraine’s internal affairs. Kravchuk also was very careful and did not bring the resolution on direct presidential rule in Crimea to vote in the Rada.

The uncompromised approach of Kiev’s leadership, the reluctance of Yeltsin and the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries to damage relationships with Ukraine, and the Western support for the indivisibility of Ukraine forced Crimean leaders to start negotiations with Kiev. On May 26, 1994, both sides decided to set up a bilateral working group for working out a mutually accepted resolution of the dispute. However, reaching an agreement has turned out to be a very hard job. On July 21, 1994, the Crimean Parliament approved a draft law that would allow dual Crimean-Russian citizenship, ignoring the issue of Ukrainian citizenship and the Verhovna Rada’s resolution of February 24, 1994, stating that Crimea, “having no state sovereignty, is not entitled to have its own citizenship.” Crimean representatives insist on enacting the original text of the Crimean Constitution of May 6, 1992, and on the superiority of Crimean legislation in the peninsula. Negotiations between the Verhovna Rada and the Crimean Parliament over the peninsula’s constitutional standing remain deadlocked. On July 22, 1994, the negotiating team, led by Vladymir Stretovich, Chairman of the Rada Commission on Legal Policy, and Alexey Melnicov, Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Parliament, issued a protocol, in which the Ukrainian side called upon the Crimean Parliament to recognize the supremacy of Ukraine’s laws and to support Ukrainian citizenship. The same protocol also stated that “the Crimean Parliament working group does not deem it possible to adopt the suggested amendments.” Moreover, one of the members of the Crimean delegation, Sergei Nikulin, has said “(Up our sleeve), we have such a radical measure as the postponed referendum on independence.” In fact, the referendum would be a very powerful bargaining chip for Crimean leaders in the negotiations with Kiev, since most Crimeans would vote for independence from Ukraine.

“Crimea’s Advance To Kuchma”

The election of Russian-oriented Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has been welcomed by the Crimean leadership. Kuchma’s promise to improve Russian-Ukrainian relations, and particularly to deepen economic integration between the two states, won him 89.7 percent of the votes on the Crimean peninsula. In mid-July 1994, Yuri Meshkov addressed the people of Ukraine, saying: “I hope that the new President and all Ukrainian people will now recreate friendship and… the strongest possible union with Russia … and other CIS states.” In his public statements, Meshkov argues that Kravchuk’s strongly politicized approach toward Crimea put an obstacle in the way of Crimea’s economic recovery. Crimea, Meshkov says, “believes it is necessary to be torn off from an unreasonable economic system and to become attached to a rational one.” According to Meshkov, the Russian economic system is more rational than that of Ukraine, which might be true. Acting in compliance with Kuchma’s intention to strengthen Russian-Ukrainian economic relations, Meshkov might try to seek more independence in economic ties with Moscow.

Attempts to establish closer ties with Russia through developing bilateral economic cooperation have already been made. On May 13, 1994, the Crimean Republic signed a framework agreement on economy and trade with the Russian Federation. Kravchuk’s administration officials in Kiev stated that the agreement cannot be regarded as an international agreement since Crimea has no international status. They also noted that Russia did not obtain consent from Ukraine’s central authorities to conduct such relations with Crimea. Kuchma’s administration might encourage Russian-Crimean cooperation, as well as giving other Ukrainian regions more power in economic activities. Such developments could be rather helpful for the sinking Ukrainian economy. On the other hand, closer Russian-Crimean economic ties could give Simferopol additional arguments for seceding from Ukraine.

However, sharp disputes over the Crimean militia, citizenship, and the bounds of Crimean autonomy continue to exacerbate tension between Kiev and Simferopol. Vyacheslav Lebedev, President Meshkov’s spokesman, stated in mid-August 1994 that the hopes of the Crimeans on these issues had not been met so far by Kuchma, and that about 90 percent of Crimean votes for Kuchma “were given in advance to the newly elected President,” and should be reciprocated by him later.

On November 17, 1994, the Verhovna Rada adopted a resolution nullifying all laws of the Crimean, Republic that contravene the Ukrainian constitution and its laws. The resolution called upon the President to annul the peninsula’s constitutional articles and laws that violate the Ukrainian constitution and instructed the National Bank of Ukraine to stop financing Crimean institutions that violate national laws.Responding to the Rada’s resolution, President Kuchma issued a decree in January 1995 nullifying numerous Crimean laws. The same day, the Crimean Parliament passed a resolution, suspending Ukrainian national laws in Crimea related to state property. This “war of laws” is likely to continue.

Constitutional Crisis — Meshkov’s Decline

The developments in the fall of 1994 have diverted Crimean leaders’ attention from secessionist sentiments, since they have been preoccupied with the internal political struggle for power. On September 7, 1994, the Crimean Parliament passed a resolution, urging to bring the Act on the President into compliance with the Crimean Constitution. This could have resulted in significantly curtailing the authority of the Crimean President. In response, President Meshkov, on September 11, 1994, issued decrees immediately suspending the Parliament. Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Victor Mezhak called for “an immediate take-over of the Parliament building and the arrest of the President,” and the Crimean Prosecutor General declared the suspension of Parliament to be unconstitutional. The showdown between the Crimean Parliament and the President seemed to be resolved when President Kuchma intervened and proposed a “zero-zero” solution in which each party would withdraw its attempts to nullify each other’s authority. In mid-September both sides accepted the proposal, but since that time there have many clashes between Meshkov and the Parliament.

The constitutional crisis leaves President Meshkov a figurehead in the Crimean government, and his ability to reverse these developments appears to be limited. Meshkov’s limited political authority is a consequence of the growing distance between him and significant factions of his “Russian” parliamentary block. Also contributing to Meshkov’s decline has been Crimea’s failing economy and allegations of corruption within his administration.

To investigate the situation in Crimea and to stop the constitutional crisis, the Rada sent its interim committee to the peninsula from September 16-20, 1994. After its investigation, the committee submitted a report to the Rada, and the Rada passed a resolution on September 22, 1994, urging “the Supreme Soviet of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to bring the Constitution and legislation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea into compliance with the Constitution and legislation of Ukraine by November 1, 1994.” Otherwise, the interim committee together with the Rada’s Commission on Legal Policy has “by November 1, 1994, to submit the Rada’s draft resolution on adequate measures, which derive from the Constitution and legislation of Ukraine.”

The possible development of the constitutional crisis in Crimea aside, so far there have been at least two consequences that are encouraging for Kiev. First, the prestige of Russia­ oriented President Meshkov has declined in Crimea. As of September 21, 1994, only 27 percent of the Crimeans supported Meshkov’s policy, while 56 percent of respondents have expressed their disappointment.  It could give Kuchma and the Rada additional arguments for demanding Crimea bring its legislation into compliance with the Ukrainian legislation. Failing that, they would take extreme measures against the Crimean authorities. Many deputies of the Crimean Parliament seem to realize how subversive the idea of Crimean independence has been with regard to the constitutional crisis. The speaker, of the Parliament, Sergei Tsekov, stated that Meshkov “has committed a crime against the people of Crimea,” and admitted that “the only way left (to end the constitutional crisis) is self-dissolution of the Parliament.” Leonid Grach, the Communist leader and one of the founders of the Crimean autonomy movement, also believes that both the Crimean President and the Parliament have to resign since they have become politically bankrupt  The fact that the Crimean Parliament appointed Anatoliy Franchuk as head of the Crimean Government in early October 1994, the election of the new Cabinet on October 13, 1994, as well as the Crimean newspapers’ reluctance to publish Meshkov’s new decrees have made explicit the distrust of President Meshkov and the former head of Government Evgeniy Saburov, appointed by Meshkov.

Second, Russian officials’ reaction to the developments in Crimea has been favorable for Kiev.. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who was present at the debates on the situation in Crimea in Verhovna Rada on September 22, made it quite clear that he was watching the debates on Ukraine’s internal affairs. It is likely that the Russian Foreign Ministry has decided, at least for a while, not to sacrifice establishing good relations with Ukraine for a bankrupted Crimean leadership which has been losing credibility in the peninsula. Also, taking into account the fact that the constitutional crisis in Crimea coincided with military conflict in Chechnya, Russian officials preferred to refrain from support of the Crimeans in order to discourage a separatist movement in Chechnya.

Prospects for the Russia-Ukraine-Crimea Triangle

Despite calls by Russian extremists to bring Crimea back to Russia, official Moscow will hardly have explicit territorial claims to Ukraine for several reasons. First, such claims would seriously spoil Russian-Ukrainian relations. Not only nationalist forces in Ukraine, but the Rada and President Kuchma would be extremely concerned about such Russian moves. Russia’s territorial claims to Ukraine would be additional provocation of Ukrainian nationalists, who for the last three years have been exploring the idea of a “threat from the East.” These developments could result in the weakening of Kuchma’s pro-Russian policy and would run counter to Russia’s interests. Russia still wishes to subordinate Ukraine economically and, potentially, politically, and is interested in preserving the pro-Russian policy of President Kuchma. The recent information about Ukraine’s readiness to restore economic cooperation with Russia, to make concessions on the division of the Black Sea Fleet and leasing Sevastopol, and to more closely integrate into the CIS collective security structures, is an encouraging signal for Russia. At the moment, territorial claims to Ukraine are the only issue which could stop the process of bringing Ukraine closer to Russia. Second, today the presumption of the inviolability of borders in post­war Europe is very strong. For so many years the two principles — inviolability of borders and the right of nations to self-determination — have been conflicting each other. The right of nations to self-determination, supported by many European states in the case of the former Yugoslavia, has been of much more negative effect so far. The issue of to whom Crimea belongs (to Russia, to Ukraine, or as an independent) may potentially affect the developments in the whole of Europe which may have far more serious consequences than those of the Yugoslavian case. So, it is more likely that in the Crimean case, European countries and the United States would give priority to the principle of inviolability of borders. The UN Security Council’s statement on the status of Sevastopol of July 20, 1993, as well as numerous statements of European and American officials, could serve as evidence of such priority. So, should Russia reclaim Crimea, it would face strong opposition by the world community and the CIS countries.

However, Moscow officials cannot openly ignore the hard pressure of the national extremists and their arguments, such as: (1) the fact that the majority of the Crimean population is ethnic Russian; (2) the reluctance of most Crimeans to be politically subordinated to Ukraine; and (3) the fact that Crimea never belonged to Ukraine before 1954 (although it is questionable that Crimea is the historic territory of ethnic Russians). Despite their extreme statements, Russian nationalists are unlikely to sincerely believe in the possibility that Crimea will be part of Russia. It is more likely that they want to evoke internal instability in Ukraine by keeping the “Crimean problem” unsolved and instigating ethnic Russians in Crimea to disobey Kiev authorities. Russian officials pursue the same policy, presuming that Ukraine, with numerous internal crises and instabilities, would be easier to subordinate economically and politically. Opening Russia’s consulate in Simferopol, granting Russian citizenship to the Crimeans, setting up a special permanent mission of the Russian Parliament in the Crimean Parliament as well as the Crimean Parliament’s representation in the Russian Parliament are being discussed in Moscow.

The recent Chechen war has had certain implications for the Russia-Ukraine-Crimea triangle. From the very first days of Russia’s military invasion in the Chechen Republic, the Ukrainian government has considered it an internal Russian affair. The Ukrainian leadership has presumed that recognizing Chechnya to be an integral part of the Russian Federation could facilitate Russia’s recognition of Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine and lessen Russia’s pressure over Crimean issues. However, there are certain doubts that Russia will meet Ukraine’s expectations.

Russia’s invasion of Chechnya has been supported by some factions of the Crimean Parliament which have been trying to use the Chechen war in order to enhance their political prestige. In mid-January 1995, the “Rossiya” faction submitted a draft address to the Russian President and the Russian Parliament which stated, “…actions against Dudayev can be considered a first step on the way of strengthening Russian statehood and (the) reunion of all Russian territories. It is time for Russia to put in order the situation in Sevastopol — the main (Russian) Black Sea naval base, and in Crimea in general.” Fortunately, this address lacked five votes to be adopted.

The issue of Crimea is likely to be a “time bomb” in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Anti-Ukrainian Russian extremists evoke nationalist sentiments in Crimea, while Ukrainian nationalists try to give political priority to the exaggerated “Russian threat” in Crimea. Crimean politicians could renew their claims for more independence from Kiev and ask Russia for protection. In such circumstances, the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia would suffer pressure from Defense Ministries and parliaments. High military officials in Kiev could call for preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine by military means, and generals in Moscow could urge the Russian Army to protect Russians in Crimea. Deputies in both parliaments could use the dispute over Crimea in their political maneuvers and struggles for power.

Division of the Black Sea Fleet

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Newly Independent States (NIS) has brought about the problem of division of the Soviet military forces. The division of the ground and air forces of the former Soviet Union did not provoke serious controversies among the NIS. The division of the Soviet Navy, in general, was also quickly and easily resolved. The only unresolved issue in terms of the division of the former Soviet Armed Forces remains the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the fate of the Black Sea Fleet. The dispute involves military hardware — six cruisers, 34 frigates and destroyers, 18 submarines, 106 small combat vessels, and 140 support and miscellaneous ships — as well as large operating bases, mainly Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula.

Chronology of the Dispute

Debating the Idea of the Divisibility of the Black Sea Fleet

At the very early stage of the dispute, the Russian-Ukrainian rivalry was camouflaged by the idea of subordination of the Black Sea Fleet to the CIS Joint Armed Forces, as established by the Minsk Agreement on Strategic Forces of December 30, 1991; this legally-binding agreement defined all but ground forces as part of the strategic forces which were to be under unified CIS command. However, President Yeltsin’s decree on March 16, 1992, creating a Russian Defense Ministry, was the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian dispute over the Black Sea Fleet. Kravchuk responded by signing the decree in April 1992 providing for the formation of a Ukrainian navy on Ukrainian territory which would contain the Black Sea Fleet. This decree was followed by Yeltsin’s proclamation that the entire fleet was under Russia’s jurisdiction. However, this “war of decrees” was soon suspended, and the process of bilateral negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet issues began.

The first attempt to resolve the problem was made at the Yeltsin-Kravchuk summit in Dagomys on June 23, 1992. Then, for the first time, Ukraine displayed its regard for a certain portion of the Black Sea Fleet as its own, and the rest of the Fleet as a fleet of a foreign state on Ukrainian territory; Russia tried to prove that the whole Black Sea Fleet was a part of “strategic forces” which should be under joint CIS (i.e., Russian) command. The presence of tactical nuclear weapons on its ships and planes, and its important role in defending the CIS from a maritime sector were presented as arguments to emphasize the strategic nature of the Black Sea Fleet. After numerous intensive consultations, Presidents Kravchuk and Yeltsin agreed, on June 17, 1993, to divide the Black Sea Fleet equally, starting in September 1993 and completing the division by the end of 1995. By that time the Black Sea Fleet was supposed to be under the CIS command. Ukraine made this concession, since it did not want to have a “Crimean front” in addition to miner’s strikes in Donbas, which were caused by economic troubles. At that Moscow summit, the status of Sevastopol was not resolved.

This arrangement between Yeltsin and Kravchuk was welcomed neither by Black Sea Fleet officers, nor by the Russian Parliament. In late June 1993, a group of 120 fleet officers stated that the Black Sea Fleet could not be divided, and that they would not carry out the agreement. They also urged the Ukrainian and Russian parliaments to reject this agreement. This was the first sign of fleet officers becoming a separate independent power in resolving the dispute over the Black Sea Fleet. These officers’ sentiments were supported by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, who suggested a revision of the agreement between Kravchuk and Yeltsin. He also proposed that the Black Sea Fleet become the joint Russian-Ukrainian fleet.

Russian Parliament’s Resolution on Status of Sevastopol

Encouraged by such developments, the Russian Supreme Soviet voted almost unanimously on July 9, 1993, to declare Sevastopol, the main city in Crimea and the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, as Russian territory. Dmitro Pavlychko, the Chair of the Rada’s Foreign Affairs. Committee, stated that this resolution of the Russian Parliament equaled a declaration of war on Ukraine. Kravchuk called for ignoring this decree of the Russian Supreme Soviet. Yeltsin publicly rejected the resolution, and on July 20, 1993, the UN Security Council stated that the resolution of the Russian parliament on the status of Sevastopol was “incompatible” with the existing November 1990 border agreement between Ukraine and Russia and with the “purposes and principles” of the UN Charter, and was therefore “without effect.” Deputies of the Russian parliament rejected the resolution of the UN Security Council. Aggravating relations between Russia and Ukraine was hardly the main idea of the Supreme Soviet’s resolution. More likely, it was a challenge to President Yeltsin, who was in a strong general confrontation with the Supreme Soviet at that time.

Russia’s Pressure, Kravchuk’s Policy of Concessions

The Russian-Ukrainian summit in Yalta in early August 1993 seemed to clarify the issue. The decision was made to set up both Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea Fleets, and during the transitional period, to put the Black Sea Fleet under the dual Russian-Ukrainian command. However, Russia has tried to maintain unilateral command over the Black Sea Fleet, ignoring the protests of Ukrainian officials. Black Sea Fleet commanders, most of them ethnic Russians;, were in favor of an indivisible Russian Black Sea Fleet, and supported Moscow’s moves; this was not surprising, taking into account the fact that about two-thirds of the crew and four-fifths of the officers of the Fleet are Russian.

Afterward, Russian pressure against Ukraine occurred, and resulted in the appointments of a new Defense Minister of Ukraine and a new commander of the Ukrainian Navy. These developments took place following the Russian-Ukrainian summit at Massandra on September 3, 1993. The Russians and Ukrainians put out conflicting reports on what had actually been decided; Russia claimed that Ukraine had agreed to sell its portion of the Black Sea Fleet and to lease Sevastopol to Russia to pay off its energy debt to Moscow, while Kravchuk said this solution to the problem had only been proposed, not agreed upon. Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Morozov was highly critical of the outcome of the summit, and issued a statement to that effect. He opposed any proposal to sell off Ukraine’s portion of the Black Sea Fleet, and any solution that would allow Russia to continue leasing bases in Crimea. Such an approach ran counter to Kravchuk’s policy of concessions to Russia, and was one of the reasons for Morosov’s resignation. In October 1993, Colonel General Vitalii Radetsky, formerly the commander of the Odessa Military District, was named Ukraine’s new Defense Minister. Radetsky was considered more flexible than Morozov with regard to the Black Sea Fleet issue.

Almost immediately after Radetsky’s nomination, a new commander of the Ukrainian Navy was appointed. The former commander, Borys Kozhyn, had been considered too uncompromising toward Russia over the Black Sea Fleet, and it was reported that pressure had been applied by Russian commanders in the fleet to have him removed. In April 1993, the Russian Ministry of Defense had agreed to release Rear Admiral Vladimir Bezkorovainy from his duties in the Russian Navy (he was a commander of Russia’s elite Northern Fleet nuclear submarine flotilla), at the request of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. On October 11, 1993, Kozhyn was replaced with Bezkorovainy, who was believed to be more flexible than his predecessor on the Black Sea Fleet issues, and it was therefore hoped that progress towards the division of the fleet would be accelerated. The appointments of Radetsky and Bezkorovainy were more favorable for President Kravchuk, who believed that Ukraine should make some reasonable concessions to Russia to avoid a confrontation between Kiev and Moscow. “Facing a stronger adversary, one should think how to avoid conflict,” said Kravchuk at the press conference following the Massandra summit. Kravchuk also believed that some vessels which are not in use by Ukraine could be sold to Russia to pay off Ukraine’s energy debt and to get money for building new vessels.

On April 15, 1994, the Yeltsin-Kravchuk summit took place in Moscow. The two presidents agreed to start negotiations on the ownership of the fleet’s vessels and on Black Sea naval bases for Russian and Ukrainian navies. The bilateral negotiations on these issues started in Sevastopol shortly after the Moscow summit. Russian and Ukrainian experts have agreed that Ukraine would own 164 vessels, which constitute 18.3 percent of the Black Sea Fleet vessels. Another 31.7 percent of vessels (according to the Moscow agreement of June 17, 1993, Ukraine’s share of the Black Sea Fleet is 50 percent) Ukraine would sell to Russia for world prices. Ukrainian Defense Minister Radetsky offered to shape this arrangement in the form of an agreement, but Russian Defense Minister Grachev rejected the idea with a reference to the unsolved issue of naval bases.

Will Kuchma Justify Moscow’s Hopes?

It is quite obvious that, under different pretexts, Russia had been delaying resolution of the Black Sea Fleet problem until the presidential elections in Ukraine were over, because Russia preferred that Kuchma become President of Ukraine. The resolution of the dispute over the Black Sea Fleet before the elections could have raised the popularity of Kravchuk and decreased the popularity of Kuchma. Russian leaders believed that they could get more concessions from Kuchma than from Kravchuk, and for this reason did not hasten to sign an agreement with Ukraine. But surprisingly for Russia, Kuchma has not displayed any intention to make considerable concessions to Russia so far. The negotiations over the most crucial issue — leasing Sevastopol to Russia — remain deadlocked. Kuchma rejected the idea of granting “Russian federal status” to Sevastopol, proposed by the Sevastopol City Council. “The resolution of-the Council on recognition of Russian status of Sevastopol has no legal grounds,” stated Kuchma.

In fact, the most disputable issue at the moment is the fate of Sevastopol. Both Russia and Ukraine claim this key Black Sea naval base. Ukrainian experts reportedly have offered to lease naval bases at Feodosia and Donuzlav but by no means Sevastopol. As a last resort, Ukraine agreed to share the base in Sevastopol with the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine rejected the idea of leasing the city of Sevastopol to Russia, urging that only bases on Ukrainian territory, not Ukrainian cities, be leased.  In fact, in the dispute over the Black Sea Fleet, the Ukrainian stance is based not on the desire to own as many vessels as possible (most of them are too old to be combat ready), but on the desire of Ukrainian leaders to strengthen state sovereignty and international prestige. They believe that the relations should be based on a request to Ukraine to lease certain bases to Russia, rather than on direct territorial claims to Ukraine. Ukrainian politicians have been very sensitive to what they perceive as Russian officials’ rude words and deeds.

For its part, Russia takes its military presence in the Black Sea for granted, and leasing Sevastopol as the “restoration of historical justice.” The Russian delegation has been urging Ukraine’s navy to leave Sevastopol for another base, arguing that the Ukrainian fleet does not need such a big naval base, and that sharing the same base would complicate command and control of both fleets. Also, Russia insists on leasing the whole city of Sevastopol, arguing that maintenance and servicing of the fleet require the city’s infrastructure. There is one more consideration — for a long time Sevastopol has been viewed as the city of “Russian naval glory,” and the Russians are very sensitive to the idea of restricted access to the city. The Declaration on the Division of the Black Sea Fleet, adopted by the Russian and Ukrainian negotiating delegations in Kiev in February 1995, may be considered one step forward in solving the problem. The declaration states that the naval base in Sevastopol, but not the city of Sevastopol, could be leased to Russia. The base in Sevastopol is supposed to be under Russian jurisdiction. However, the declaration says nothing about the cost and duration of the lease. These issues are currently being discussed by Russian and Ukrainian experts. To become enforceable, the declaration must be approved by both Russian and Ukrainian presidents.

In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves

May 17, 2014

by William J. Broad

New York Times

When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.

Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.

Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.

“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”

Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.

In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.

William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.

Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.

“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”

The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.

Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.

The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.

Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.

Russia moved fast.

In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.

“I want to assure you that the Russian government will do everything to support projects of this kind,” Mr. Putin said at the signing, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.

In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.

“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.

Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.

At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.

“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”

Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”

Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.

Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.

As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

“There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”

The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.

Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”

Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.

US Wanted Crimea for its Own Naval Base 

March 21, 2015

macedonia online

The reunification of Crimea with Russia, which took place after a referendum a year ago, has been dubbed an “annexation” by NATO and has led to several rounds of sanctions imposed on Russia.

Misplaced US hopes

“NATO very much wanted to have a base in the Crimea, to have a base in Sevastopol, because that would have meant that Russia’s positions in the Black Sea would have been greatly diminished. America has long had ambitions for the Crimea, and now that has been blocked indefinitely,” Marcus Papadopoulos, British political expert and editor-in-chief of Politics First magazine, told media.

The United States considers the whole post-Soviet area as a geopolitical playground for rivalry with Russia, and the ultimate objective in this game is regime change in Moscow, according to Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs analyst.

High military ambitions and double play have always been features of US foreign policy. Thus, Trifkovic reminded that in 1990, then US Secretary of State James Baker gave guarantees to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on behalf of then US president George H.W. Bush that NATO would not advance to the East if the Soviet Union accepted Germany’s reunification. However, NATO saw two expansions afterward, and the Baltic countries are now the scene of the deployment of heavy US weaponry.

“So, anyone who thinks that NATO will virtuously refrain from turning Sevastopol into a US navy base, should look into this record. And if they still maintain that NATO did not have such intentions, meaning the United States, they live in a dream-world, in a fairy-land,” Trifkovic, who was the director of the Center for International Affairs at the Rockford Institute, said.

Sevastopol base in the Black Sea, which is of high strategic importance, has been under close US scrutiny for the last 20 years, according to Papadopoulos.

“Sevastopol is the most incredible navy base in the world. NATO’s ambitions in Eastern Europe have taken a major knockback,” Papadopoulos said.

Crimea as pressure tool: too comfortable to quit

The severe Western (US) criticism that Russia has been subjected to since Crimean reunification is a clear example of doubletalk in politics, if one recalls the situation with the separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

The precedent of changing internationally recognized borders in post-1945 Europe was set under NATO and EU auspices in 1999 during the Kosovo war.

“Of course, those who did it claim that Kosovo did not constitute a precedent, but they can huff and puff, the precedent indeed was created, and Russia’s right to re-incorporation of Crimea, which had been part of Russia since the time of Catherine the Great, was infinitely greater than the right of the Albanians of Kosovo to create their quasi-state, to which they never had any legal or moral claim,” Trifkovic told Sputnik.

Papadopoulos also noted that the United States broke international laws and destroyed the mechanisms of the United Nations “when they tore Kosovo away from Serbia and made it an independent state.”

The West does not consider Crimea’s referendum as a free and democratic vote, though as many as 96 percent of Crimean voters chose to break away from Ukraine and join Russia during a referendum.

Having obtained a comfortable tool to pressurize Russia, the West will not be willing to let it go even if the Ukrainian crisis is finally resolved.

“Crimea to them is a very handy tool with which to beat Russia and to continue sanctioning Russia, even if the Ukrainian crisis were to be resolved peacefully… I think the recognition by the Western powers is out of the question for the simple reason that they want to keep in their arsenal the weapon with which they can continue sanctioning Russia, criticizing Russia and demonizing Putin whenever they wish to do so,” Trifkovic explained.

Recalling the referendum

Remembering the day of the referendum, Trifkovic, who was an observer at the popular vote, spoke to some Crimeans to find out their preferences and feelings.

The observer remembers that people he spoke with after the vote claimed they accepted living as part of the Soviet Union, because they had no choice, and after Ukraine became independent – because they enjoyed considerable rights of autonomy.

“But with chaos in Kiev and illegal overtake of government, they felt no longer secure, and they certainly did not want to live under Banderist Ukraine, in which their identity and personal security would no longer be guaranteed,” Trifkovic continued.

In a documentary titled “Crimea. Way Back Home” released on Sunday by Rossiya-1 TV Russia’s President Vladimir Putin explained the motives behind Russian policy toward Crimea. He made it clear that Russia’s actions in the Crimea were defensive and primarily aimed to protect ethnic Russians and the Russian speaking people in Crimea.

“For the Americans and Europeans, it is very unlikely that they will recognize Crimea as being a part of Russia, but the reality is that it is a part of Russia, and nothing will ever change that,” the expert concluded.

Crimea became a Russian region following a referendum held March 16, 2014, in which over 96 percent of Crimean voters backed a move to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Crimea’s reunification with Russia followed the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.











No responses yet

Leave a Reply