Crimea’s Case for Leaving Ukraine

Exclusive: Virtually everyone in Official Washington is condemning Russian “aggression” in Ukraine and demanding a belligerent U.S. response to Crimea’s desire to secede and join Russia, as a new Cold War hysteria grips U.S. pols and pundits, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

If you were living in Crimea, would you prefer to remain part of Ukraine with its coup-installed government – with neo-Nazis running four ministries including the Ministry of Defense – or would you want to become part of Russia, which has had ties to Crimea going back to Catherine the Great in the 1700s?

Granted, it’s not the greatest choice in the world, but it’s the practical one facing you. For all its faults, Russia has a functioning economy while Ukraine really doesn’t. Russia surely has its share of political and financial corruption but some of that has been brought under control.

A map showing Crimea (in beige) and its proximity to both the Ukrainian mainland and Russia.

A map showing Crimea (in beige) and its proximity to both the Ukrainian mainland and Russia.

Not so in Ukraine where a moveable feast of some 10 “oligarchs” mostly runs the show in shifting alliances, buying up media outlets and politicians, while the vast majority of the population faces a bleak future, which now includes more European-demanded “austerity,” i.e. slashed pensions and further reductions in already sparse social services.

Even if the U.S.-backed plan for inserting Ukraine into the European Union prevails, Ukrainians would find themselves looking up the socio-economic ladder at the Greeks and other European nationals already living the nightmare of “austerity.”

Beyond that humiliation and misery, the continuing political dislocations across Ukraine would surely feed the further rise of right-wing extremists who espouse not only the goal of expelling ethnic Russians from Ukraine but Jews and other peoples considered not pure Ukrainian.

This troubling racist element of the “inspiring” Ukrainian uprising has been mostly airbrushed from the U.S. media’s narrative, but more honest sources of news have reported this disturbing reality. [For instance, watch this report from the BBC.]

What’s Wrong with Secession?

And, despite what you hear from the U.S. government and the mainstream U.S. media, it’s not at all uncommon for people to separate themselves from prior allegiances.

It’s especially common amid political upheavals, like Ukraine’s neo-Nazi-spearheaded coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych – after he signed an agreement on Feb. 21 to relinquish much of his power, hold early elections and order police to withdraw.

Though this agreement was co-signed by European nations, they stood aside when neo-Nazi militias exploited the police withdrawal and overran government buildings, forcing Yanukovych and many government officials to flee for their lives.

Then, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, the rump parliament “impeached” Yanukovych but did not follow the procedures laid out by Ukraine’s constitution. The overthrow was, in reality, a putsch.

But American political leaders and journalists have pretty well expunged that inconvenient history, making the crisis simply a case of black-hatted villain, Russian President Vladimir Putin, bullying the white-hatted “pro-democracy” coup-making heroes of Ukraine.

U.S. politicians and pundits now cite the Ukrainian constitution as some sacred document as they argue that Crimea has no right to hold a popular referendum on leaving Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation. President Barack Obama says a Crimean plebiscite would be illegitimate unless Crimea gets permission to secede from the national government in Kiev as stipulated in the constitution.

In other words, the Ukrainian constitution can be violated at will when that serves Official Washington’s interests, but it is inviolate when that’s convenient. That situational view also presumes that some normal constitutional process exists in Kiev when one doesn’t.

More Hypocrisy

This U.S. government/media hypocrisy on the Crimean vote is underscored, too, by Official Washington’s frequent role in advocating and even mid-wifing secession movements when they correspond with U.S. foreign policy interests.

Fifteen separate nations emerged from the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 as U.S. politicians celebrated. No one seemed to mind either when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

That same decade, U.S. officials helped negotiate the dissection of Yugoslavia into various ethnic enclaves. Later in the 1990s, the U.S. government even bombed Serbia to help Kosovo gain its independence, despite centuries of deep historical ties between Serbia and Kosovo.

In 2011, the U.S. government supported the creation of South Sudan, carving this new oil-rich nation out of Sudan. The supposed motive for breaking South Sudan loose was to stop a civil war, although independent South Sudan has since slid into political violence.

The Obama administration disputes allegations of U.S. hypocrisy about secessions, calling these comparisons “apples and oranges.” But the truth is that all secession cases are unique, a balance of history, pragmatism and politics. Very seldom are they simple and clear-cut.

In Crimea, the case for secession from Ukraine seems strong: Crimea is populated mostly by ethnic Russians; many people speak Russian; and they have historically viewed themselves as part of Russia. If a large majority of the voters prefer joining Russia, why shouldn’t they?

Perhaps the case for Crimea’s secession would have been weaker if the Western nations hadn’t so eagerly embraced the putsch in Kiev. If the Feb. 21 agreement had been enforced – clearing the way for Yanukovych’s orderly departure – Obama’s argument might make more sense. The constitutional procedures would have remained intact.

But the haste with which Washington and Brussels recognized the coup government – with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s choice for Ukraine’s leadership, neoconservative favorite Arseny Yatsenyuk, named interim prime minister – shattered the formal political process of Ukraine.

That was followed by the post-coup rump parliament passing measures, often unanimously, that targeted the political security of ethnic Russians in the country’s east and south. Combined with threats from the neo-Nazis who have grabbed significant power and favor a purified Ukraine for ethnic Ukrainians, the nation confronts a potential civil war.

In such a case – with the prospects of ethnic cleansing and the violence that would surely follow – the most reasonable solution might well be to hold referenda in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine on whether the people in those areas want to stay attached to the Kiev regime. If the people in those regions want independence or association with Russia, why should the United States ratchet up a new Cold War to prevent that?

If what’s left of Ukraine wants to join the European Union — and if the EU would want it — then those Ukrainians could vote for their future, too.

Democracy means little if populations are compelled to remain part of an undemocratic regime that has seized power in the capital by force and demonstrates hostility toward outlying regions. Since such a predicament now exists in Ukraine, the best-imperfect solution could be to dispatch international observers to Crimea to monitor the plebiscite and verify whether the popular vote fairly reflects the people’s will.

[For more of Consortiumnews.com’s exclusive coverage of the Ukraine crisis, see “The ‘We-Hate-Putin’ Group Think”; “Putin or Kerry: Who’s Delusional?”; “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy”; “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis”; “Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many?”; “A Shadow US Foreign Policy”; “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine”; “Neocons and the Ukraine Coup.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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19 comments on “Crimea’s Case for Leaving Ukraine

  1. Joe Tedesky on said:

    Why now? I can’t help but ponder over the timing of all this in the Ukraine. It surly seems odd that while Russia has been playing the grand peace maker that all hell should suddenly break loose in the Ukraine.

    Maybe my gut feelings are all wrong, but this terrible Putin guy was instrumental in avoiding all out war in Syria. Dealing with Syria also helped slow down the escalating saber rattling with Iran. Is Putin being punished for his peaceful interruption in regard to Iran and Syria?

    Lastly, I think the American Media’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics was disgraceful. The Cold War has reared it’s ugly head, and this is worst than sad.

    • Because Ukraine was trying to make a deal with Exxon about off shore oil in Black Sea. Ruth Russia’s influence, Exxon couldn’t pay Ukraine pennies on a dollar.

      • bjmaclac on said:

        Nuland has been through the usual (governemnt/corporate) revolving door in regards to her current position and past executive at Chevron, which was one of the oil companies eager to break ground for fracking in Ukraine.

  2. snehnesne on said:

    I wonder if the author or editors can elaborate on the choice of the word neo-Nazi which is used fairly frequently in this article. It’s a pretty loaded word and I think the rationale for that choice could have been explained in the article or the reader could have been referred to another article that explains the foundation for characterizing that group with that language. Thanks.

    • Dr. Frans B. Roos, Ph.D., J.D. on said:

      neo-Nazi

      (plural ne·o-Na·zis)
      noun
      1. modern-day advocate of Nazism: a member of a modern-day movement that promotes the idea that a supposed race of Aryans is superior to all others and that genocide is justifiable
      2. white racist: a member of any modern-day group or movement of white people who hold racist views, especially those involved in violent attacks on people of color

      -ne·o-Na·zism, , noun
      Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

      • Tom Clements on said:

        Neo-nazi is a propaganda term used by Russians to denigrate
        countries, people or organizations who don’t agree with them.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      I see your point. Some might say Mr. Parry is being too charitable by calling these people “neo” Nazis. Perhaps that’s the politically correct nomenclature these days. Those with a historical axe to grind might criticize Mr. Parry for using an oxymoron. Since these are genuine, original Nazis, the prefix “neo” somewhat softens the grave error made by the Neocon perpetrators of this regime change. Ukrainian nationalists of the OUN under the direction of notorious Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera were recruited into the Roland, Nightingale and Galician divisions of the Waffen SS in support of Hitler against Stalin. Many of them worked as guards in death camps and participated in atrocities against Poles and Jews. A few of the originals are still alive, and their sons and grandsons are among the thugs parading in Maidan Square wearing “Totenkopf” Nazi death’s head logos, SS “lightening bolt” runes and swastikas. Some of them sport the popular “88″ logo which stands for “Heil Hitler”. Yorash and Tiahnibok, the leaders of the right wing parties, have announced their determination to insure “Muscovite Jews” have no role in the government, and “Negroes, Jews and Russians will not rule Ukraine”. Check out some of the articles by Max Blumenthal, Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Francis Boyle, and Dr. Paul Craig Roberts.

      But if you don’t believe them, you can always contact the Simon Wiesenthal Center and ask for information about Stepan Bandera, their hero and ideological mentor.

    • A huge part of the organization behind the protest was done by Svoboda party and a paramilitary grout Right Sector. Their affiliations to Nazism trace back to 1991, when Svoboda first formed under the name Socialist Nationalist Party of Ukraine. Their logo was wolfsangel. They then formed Right Sector, but since have officially cut ties with them. Unofficially, they are linked. Svoboda often attends Right Sector’s allies, for example. When they realized that people weren’t going to vote for someone who’s openly neo-nazi, they changed tactics. They are now saying they want Ukraine for Ukrainians, “Russia-Jewish Mafia” out of the political offices and soon, but they don’t call themselves neo-nazis. As a result, they gainer 10.44% of the votes in the 2012 election. A lot better than .16% the first time they ran. Proves that the word is more toxic than the idea behind it.

  3. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Joe T. makes a good point. “Why did this happen now?” The answer is, “Because Washington’s stooges can’t win a free, fair election.” Even if Crimea secedes, the remnant Ukrainian population is unlikely to support the Nazi regime without coercion. No matter how they play their cards, the western finance oligarchs who orchestrated this debacle cannot make it look like a legitimate government. In essence, they are saying, “Voting is unconstitutional. Elections must be prevented to preserve democracy.”

    “Austerity” is a financial euphemism for “preemptive foreclosure”. The bank takes not just your house, but your car, your clothes, your furniture and garners your paycheck. It’s a loan in which collateral is repossessed before the payment is due. It’s variously called usury, loan-sharking and extortion when performed by private citizens. When the IMF does it, it’s called a “Financial Aid Package”. The substantial penalty for early withdrawal usually includes a “no fly zone” a “regime change” or “crippling sanctions”.

    The western politicians who are trying to polish this turd invoke “constitutional” principles. They work for the international finance oligarchs who would make billions by privatizing Ukrainian public assets and squeezing endless interest payments from loans that will cripple the average citizens. Defense contractors stand to lose billions if NATO doesn’t put missile bases on Putin’s doorstep.

    Meanwhile, America’s version of “Pussy Riot” in the State Department feign righteous indignity as the back-up singers for Hillary’s howling hypocrisy. As the Nazis in western Ukraine resort to Gestapo methods to retain their grip, martial law or a version of it will be implemented. There will be no elections. American Neocons will have a Casablanca moment: “We’re shocked, SHOCKED to find that Nazis are patronizing this establishment!” The EU bankers will scatter like roaches when the light turns on. Putin may give them a courtesy call: “Hey Europe, how’s a big F-U sound now?” The game is over, and Putin won. Merkel, who’s no doubt still smarting over her tapped phone, is thanking her lucky stars for the Northstream Pipeline. Her travel agent is probably looking into scenic vacation packages on the Crimean coast. I hear it’s lovely in May…

  4. Jonny James on said:

    Although I have harshly criticized Mr. Parry for making excuses and apologizing for the war criminal, lawless Obama regime- I must commend Parry for great work in recent days surrounding Ukraine.

    He is doing a fine job to expose the Orwellian nonsense, hypocrisy, hubris and even insanity of foreign policy discourse in the USA.

  5. Mike Caetano on said:

    According to reports in the Toronto Star, the Guardian and Aftenposten of Norway, the present prime minister of Crimea was also installed in a coup. So if you were living in Crimea you wouldn’t have much of a choice about the legitimacy of your nominal leader.

    “Democracy means little if populations are compelled to remain part of an undemocratic regime that has seized power in the capital by force and demonstrates hostility toward outlying regions.” Indeed! I’m sure the Tatars would also agree.

    ———

    “Strip away the propaganda from the chaos in Crimea, and this much is certain: last Thursday morning a political farce played out here in the regional capital. It started with anonymous gunmen storming parliament house in a bloodless pre-dawn raid. By sunrise, the Russian flag was flying high above an occupied government house. Lawmakers were summoned, stripped of their cellphones as they entered the chamber. The Crimean media was banished. Then, behind closed doors, Crimea’s government was dismissed and a new one formed, with Sergey Aksyonov, head of the Russian Unity party, installed as Crimea’s new premier.” (Meet ‘Goblin’ – Moscow’s man in Crimea, Toronto Star, March 4, 2014)

    “According to witnesses, the men dressed in fatigues stormed Crimea’s regional administrative complex in Simferopol at 5am on Thursday. They hoisted a Russian flag above the parliament building. About 120 men were holed up inside, armed with heavy weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles, witnesses said. They threw a flash grenade in response to a journalist’s questions. Calls to region’s legislature rang unanswered, and its website was down. [...] The gunmen barricaded doors into the parliament building with wooden crates. Police sealed off the area on Wednesday, as a crowd supportive of the seizure gathered outside. Two people died and 35 were injured during clashes outside the building on Wednesday between pro-Russian demonstrators and Muslim Tartars.” (Crimean parliament seized by unknown pro-Russian gunmen, The Guardian, 27 February 2014)

    “After the demonstrations had continued for several weeks, the masked soldiers entered the Crimean parliament building. The elected representatives who showed up were stripped and had their cell phones confiscated. No journalists were allowed in. Behind closed doors – while armed soliders were watching – they sacked the government, announced a referendum on independence from Ukraine and elected Sergey Aksyonov to be prime minister. In the elections in 2010, Aksyonov’s party, Russian Unity, won only 4 per cent of the votes and 3 of the 100 seats in the assembly.” (Voting fraud secured pro-Russian majority in Crimean parliament, Aftenposten, 09 March 2014)

  6. Som N Bhargav on said:

    It doesn’t behove the U>S> to talk of legality and morality. This International Villain has been responsible for breaking up sovereign nations, kidnapping or even murdering the Presidents and Prime Ministers of sovereign countries, invading scores of countries on the slightest pretext, planning and plotting coups, supporting bigot dictators. And all this in the name of ‘protecting U.S. interests’ So why cry if Russia has started asserting itself after about 25 years. Has U.S. forgotten the Cuba and Argentina as also Panama episodes in the name of American hegemony. On the same Reasoning, why Russia should allow an inimical activity in its backyard. Mark my words, Russia will get back on US in the coming decade and will revert back to its GLORY sans the dirty communism.

  7. Som N Bhargav on said:

    It doesn’t behove the U>S> to talk of legality and morality. This International Villain has been responsible for breaking up sovereign nations, kidnapping or even murdering the Presidents and Prime Ministers of sovereign countries, invading scores of countries on the slightest pretext, planning and plotting coups, supporting bigot dictators. And all this in the name of ‘protecting U.S. interests’ So why cry if Russia has started asserting itself after about 25 years. Has U.S. forgotten the Cuba and Argentina as also Panama episodes in the name of American hegemony. On the same Reasoning, why Russia should allow an inimical activity in its backyard. Mark my words, Russia will get back on US in the coming decade and will revert back to its GLORY sans the dirty communism.

  8. Paul G. on said:

    Another total catastrophe inspired by US meddling, confirmation that the US Government is like the Greek mythical character Medusa, gazing at her hideous face would turn the onlooker into stone.

    The consistent carnage left in the wake of US foreign policy comes out of the near psychotic level of arrogance which comprises the idea of “American exceptionalism” that forms the delusional bubble that much of the MSM and high level officials live in. And yet they keep bumbling on.

    Meanwhile everyone is trying to blame everyone else for the snipers. However, Hennady Moskal, who was deputy head of the SBU, the security agency, stated that the SBU and Interior Ministry were behind them. “In addition to this, snipers received orders to shoot not only protesters, but also police forces. This was all done in order to escalate the conflict, in order to justify the police operation to clear Maidan,” he was quoted as saying. Clearly a tactic only fascists would employ. Saturday, March 8, 2014 by Associated Press, his interview took place in the newspaper, Dzerkalo Tizhnya.

  9. Rehmat on said:

    Crimea neither belongs to Russia or Ukraine. It’s a Muslim land occupied by the Czarist army during the 19th century after decades of bloody wars. Today, 90% of surviving Circassian Muslims live outside Russia. About 700,000 Circassians live in Russia while the rest live in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kosovo, Libya and occupied Palestine.

    http://rehmat1.com/2014/02/08/sochi-olympics-and-the-forgotten-muslim-holocaust/

  10. Present Ukrainian regime is not a legally elected regime. It staged a coup to depose the legally elected leader and took over power by force to announce its desire to join NATO. Therefore the EU and US are pleased to support this illegal coup.
    For security reasons, Russia cannot allow a neighbouring nation to be a part of the NATO war machine, which has a gruesome record for attacking under false accusations to dismember nations in and around Europe and the middle east.
    Crimea was an independent state and still is a Republic which was gifted against their protests to Ukraine in 1954 by an ethnic Ukrainian leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Krusshev. Therefore, I cant see why this Republic cannot revert to its original alliance with Russia, if that is the people’s choice. This is not a case of carving out a new nation, like what the NATO forces did to create new nations Kosovo and South Sudan.

  11. genelson@shaw.ca on said:

    Putin will have lots of trouble at home when the people find out the real cost of the Olympics. I think this is his way of diverting his attention away from the Russian people. So he says Oh Hell how can I do this, so he says lets get the Russian speaking people of Crimea to join the Russian Federation….

  12. Putin will have lots of trouble at home when the people find out the real cost of the Olympics. I think this is his way of diverting his attention away from the Russian people. So he says Oh Hell how can I do this, so he says lets get the Russian speaking people of Crimea to join the Russian Federation….