Behind the Crimea/Russia Reunion

Exclusive: Official Washington marches in propaganda lockstep about Crimea’s decision to rejoin Russia two years ago, with references to a Russian “invasion” and a “sham” referendum of Crimea’s voters, but the reality is different, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

With high symbolism Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Crimea “to check on the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which will link the Crimean peninsula and continental Russia,” the Kremlin announced on Thursday.

As the Russians like to say, “It is no accident” that he chose today – marking the second anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea three weeks after the U.S.-sponsored coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, and just days after a referendum in which Crimean voters approved leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia by a 96 percent majority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9, 2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol from the Nazis. (Russian government photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9, 2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol from the Nazis. (Russian government photo)

The 12-mile bridge is a concrete metaphor, so to speak, for the re-joining of Crimea and Russia. When completed (the target is December 2018), it will be the longest bridge in Russia.

Yet, the Obama administration continues to decry the political reunion between Crimea and Russia, a relationship that dates back to the Eighteenth Century. Instead, the West has accused Russia of violating its pledge in the 1994 Budapest agreement — signed by Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain and the U.S. — “to respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine,” in exchange for Ukraine surrendering its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

Did Moscow violate the Budapest agreement when it annexed Crimea? A fair reading of the text yields a Yes to that question. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances, including alarm among Crimeans over what the unconstitutional ouster of Ukraine’s president might mean for them, as well as Moscow’s not unfounded nightmare of NATO taking over Russia’s major, and only warm-water, naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea.

But what is seldom pointed out is that the other parties, including the United States, seem to have been guilty, too, in promoting a coup d’etat removing the democratically elected president and essentially disenfranchising millions of ethnic Russian Ukrainians who had voted for President Viktor Yanukovych. In such a context, it takes a markedly one-dimensional view to place blame solely on Russia for violating the Budapest agreement.

Did the Western-orchestrated coup in Kiev violate the undertaking “to respect the independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine? How about the pledge in the Budapest agreement “to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by the Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty.” Political and economic interference were rife in the months before the February 2014 coup. [See’s “Who Violated Ukraine’s Sovereignty?”]

Did Ukrainian President Yanukovych expect to be overthrown if he opted for Moscow’s economic offer, and not Europe’s? Hard to tell. But if the putsch came as a total surprise, he sorely underestimated what $5 billion in “democracy promotion” by Washington can buy.

After Yanukovych turned down the European Community’s blandishments, seeing deep disadvantages for Ukraine, American neoconservatives like National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland pulled out all the stops to enable Ukraine to fulfill what Nuland called its “European aspirations.”

“The revolution will not be televised,” or so the saying goes. But the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch in Kiev was YouTube-ized two-and-a-half weeks in advance. Recall Nuland’s amateurish, boorish – not to mention irresponsible – use of an open telephone line to plot regime change in Ukraine with fellow neocon, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, during an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4.

Nuland tells Pyatt, “Yats is the guy. He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know. … He has warned there is an urgent need for unpopular cutting of subsidies and social payments before Ukraine can improve.”

Arseniy Yatsenyuk (aka “Yats”) was quickly named prime minister of the coup regime, which was immediately given diplomatic recognition by Washington. Since then, he has made a royal mess of things. Ukraine is an economic basket case, and “Yats” barely survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence and is widely believed to be on his way out.

Did Moscow’s strong reaction to the coup, to the danger of NATO setting up shop next door in Ukraine come as a surprise to Nuland and other advisers? If so, she ought to get new advisers, and quickly. That Russia would not let Crimea become a NATO base should have been a no-brainer.

Nuland may have seen the coup as creating a win-win situation. If Putin acted decisively, it would be all the easier to demonize him, denounce “Russian aggression,” and put a halt to the kind of rapprochement between President Barack Obama and Putin that thwarted neocon plans for shock and awe against Syria in late summer 2013. However, if Putin acquiesced to the Ukrainian coup and accepted the dangers it posed to Russia, eventual membership for Ukraine in NATO might become more than a pipedream.

Plus, if Putin swallowed the humiliation, think of how politically weakened he would have become inside Russia. As NED’s Gershman made clear, not only did American neocons see Ukraine as “the biggest prize” but as a steppingstone to ultimately achieve “regime change” in Moscow, or as Gershman wrote, “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

Russian Equities

In a formal address in the Kremlin on March 18, 2014, the day Crimea was re-incorporated into Russia, Putin went from dead serious to somewhat jocular in discussing the general issue:

“We have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. …

“We are not opposed to cooperation with NATO … [but] NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors.  Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way around.”

A little-known remark by Putin a month later (on April 17, 2014) was unusually blunt in focusing on one of the main reasons behind Moscow’s strong reaction – namely, Russia’s felt need to thwart Washington’s plan to incorporate Ukraine and Crimea into the U.S. anti-ballistic missile deployment encircling Russia. Putin was quite direct:

“This issue is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.

This is a serious bone of contention, with far reaching implications. In short, if the Russian military becomes convinced that the Pentagon thinks it has the capability to carry out a strategic strike without fear of significant retaliation, the strategic tripwire for a nuclear exchange will regress more than four decades to the extremely dangerous procedure of “launch on warning,” allowing mere minutes to “use ‘em, or lose ‘em.”

Russia has been repeatedly rebuffed – or diddled – when it has suggested bilateral talks on this key issue. Four years ago, for example, at the March 2012 summit in Seoul, Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev asked Obama when the U.S. would be prepared to address Russian concerns over European missile defense.

In remarks picked up by camera crews, Obama asked for some “space” until after the U.S. election. Obama can be heard saying, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Putin claims to have seen no flexibility on this strategic question.

What Coup?

The Obama administration and its stenographers in the mainstream U.S. media would like the relevant Ukrainian history to start on Feb. 23, 2014 with “Yats” and his coup cronies deemed the “legitimate” authorities. To that end, there was a need to airbrush what George Friedman, president of the think-tank STRATFOR, publicly called “the most blatant coup in history” – the one plotted by Nuland and Pyatt in early February 2014 and carried out on Feb. 22.

As for Russia’s alleged designs on Crimea, one searches in vain for evidence that, before the coup, the Kremlin had given much thought to the vulnerability of the peninsula and a possible need to annex it. According to the public record, Putin first focused on Crimea at a strategy meeting on Feb. 23, the day after the coup.

Yet, given the U.S. mainstream media’s propagandistic reporting on the Ukraine crisis, it is small wonder that the American people forgot about (or never heard of) the putsch in Kiev. The word “coup” was essentially banished from the U.S. media’s lexicon regarding Ukraine.

The New York Times went so far as to publish what it deemed an investigative article in early 2015 announcing that there was no coup in Ukraine, just President Yanukovych mysteriously disappearing off to Russia. In reaching its no-coup conclusion, the Times ignored any evidence that there was a coup, including the Nuland-Pyatt phone call. In regards to Ukraine, “coup” became just another unutterable four-letter word.

Last year, when Sen. John McCain continued the “no coup” fiction, I placed the following letter in the Washington Post on July 1, 2015 (the censors apparently being away at the beach):

“In his June 28 Sunday Opinion essay, ‘The Ukraine cease-fire fiction,’  Sen. John McCain was wrong to write that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea without provocation. What about the coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, that replaced President Viktor Yanukovych with pro-Western leaders favoring membership in NATO? Was that not provocation enough?

“This glaring omission is common in The Post. The March 10 World Digest item ‘Putin had early plan to annex Crimea’ described a ‘secret meeting’ Mr. Putin held on Feb. 23, 2014, during which ‘Russia decided it would take the Crimean Peninsula.’ No mention was made of the coup the previous day. …” (emphasis added)

And so it goes. More recently, in Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy magnum opus in The Atlantic on Obama’s foreign policy, there were two mentions of how Russia “invaded” Crimea, two allusions to Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, but not a word about the coup in Kiev.

Invincible Ignorance

In Catholic theology, the theory that some people can be “invincibly ignorant” can lessen or even erase their guilt. Many Americans are so malnourished on accurate news – and so busy trying to make ends meet – that they would seem to qualify for this dispensation, with pardon for not knowing about things like the coup in Kiev and other key happenings abroad.

The following, unnerving example brings this to mind: A meeting of progressives that I attended last year was keynoted by a professor from a local Washington university. Discussing what she called the Russian “invasion” of Crimea, the professor bragged about her 9-year-old son for creating a large poster in Sunday School saying, “Mr. Putin, What about the commandment ‘Thou Shall Not Kill?’” The audience nodded approvingly.

This picnic, thought I, needed a skunk. So I asked the professor what her little boy was alluding to. My question was met by a condescending smirk of disbelief: “Crimea, of course.” I asked how many people had been killed in Crimea. “Oh, hundreds, probably thousands,” was her answer. I told her that there were, in fact, no reports of anyone having been killed.

I continued, explaining that, with respect to Russia’s “invasion,” what you don’t see in the “mainstream media” is that, a treaty between Ukraine and Russia from the late 1990s allowed Russia to station up to 25,000 Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula. There were 16,000 there, when a U.S.-led coup ousted the democratically elected government in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014. (I had grabbed the attention of the audience; yet stares of incredulity persisted.)

In contrast to Crimea’s bloodless political secession from Ukraine, the Ukrainian government’s “anti-terror operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the coup authorities in Kiev has killed an estimated 10,000 people, many of them civilians. Yet, in the mainstream U.S. media, this carnage is typically blamed on Putin, not on the Ukrainian military which sent to the front neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias (such as the Azov battalion) contemptuous of ethnic Russians. [See’s “Ukraine Merges Nazis and Islamists.”]

A few weeks before the professor’s remarks, after a speaking engagement in Moscow, I had a chance to do a little souvenir shopping on the Arbat. The behavior of the sales people brought me up short. It was decades since I had served as a CIA officer in the Soviet Union; the shopkeepers then were usually taciturn, allergic to discussing politics, and not at all given to bragging about their leaders.

This time it was different. The sales people wanted to know what I thought of President Putin. They were eager to thrust two coffee cups into the shopping bag that I had filled with small gifts for our grandchildren. On one was emblazoned the Russian words for “polite people” under an image of two men with insignia-less green uniforms – depicting the troops that surrounded and eventually took over Ukrainian installations and government buildings in Crimea without a shot being fired. The other cup bore a photo of Putin over the Russian words for “the most polite of people.”

The short conversation that ensued made it immediately clear that Russian salespeople in Moscow – unlike many “sophisticated” Americans – were well aware that the troubles in Ukraine and Crimea began in Kiev on Feb 22, 2014, with “the most blatant coup in history.” And, not least, they were proud of the way Putin used the “polite green men” to ensure that Crimea was not lost to NATO.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst he headed the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch. In retirement, he helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


62 comments for “Behind the Crimea/Russia Reunion

  1. VJ
    March 24, 2016 at 20:11

    How much Putin pays “ex-CIA analyst” for these “articles”?

  2. Robert
    March 21, 2016 at 17:42

    When putsch comes to shove, McGovern always has a great sense of humor. (“The 12-mile bridge is a concrete metaphor, so to speak, for the re-joining of Crimea and Russia…”)

    Keep on writing, Ray. I very much enjoy your timely expertise, especially that of VIPS.

  3. Andy O'Brien
    March 20, 2016 at 17:29

    Bob Parry argues a decent case that Mr. Obama’s transgressions may have been tepid compared to what the impliedly crazier and totally amoral neocons or Responsibility to Protect crowd pressured on him. Does that make him a good leader, a decent human being? Not if standard is lesser depravity.

    Let’s see: does it count that he has presided of a deterioration of human rights, failed to prosecute torture, prosecuted against against innocents abroad in our name, that he’s reliably reported to have resorted to the same embarrassing depravity of the Bush administration, if perhaps to a lesser degree, in the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo, in the depraved treatment of Manning, the destructive attack agains Snowden, outrageous campaign against whistle blowers, ruthless attacks on journalists, moved the barbarity of drone warfare and targeted assassination to new extremes, and appointed that known liar, but Obama private ethicist, Brennan to have his way with the chronically amoral CIA?

    Do we think he’s not participated in the apparent lethal Boston Marathon false flag, the purported noble lie charade at Sandy Hook…?

    That Hillary, the Donald, Ted and others may yet outdo Obama’s abysmal performance should not be cause for praising him, even tepidly.

    Do we think he should not be called to account for his violations of national, international treaty law, and the Geneva Conventions?

  4. Chris Welzenbach
    March 20, 2016 at 01:36

    God, what a chaotic collision of opinion. Mr. McGovern simply stated the obvious.

  5. Donnie Corbin
    March 19, 2016 at 10:38

    I have one word for Crimea and Syria problems, “McCain” but nothing will happen to him he will just get another pardon! The father of ISIS!

  6. Brad Owen
    March 19, 2016 at 08:47

    I appreciate your work, Mr. McGovern. And how does it feel to report your analyses, day-in, day-out, and run into scenarios like you mentioned, with the Professor and her son at Sunday school? And over the ensuing years-to-come, we’ll hear analyses about the fulfillment of that famous description of The Plan, by that famous Fabian George Orwell, in his book “1984” (although carried out by Neo-Feudalists): PanEuropa will finally be achieved when “Regime Change” comes to Russia, and DeGaulle’s dream of “Europe; from the Atlantic to the Urals” is secured by the Synarchy Movement for Empire (the SME that FDR’s O.S.S. guys uncovered). Siberia is sacrificed to the Asia Group because it’s deemed too hard to hold against the Asians…and European Empires always coveted Africa anyway. This will become the SME’s “resource bank” instead of Siberia (Who wants to deal with the cold?…let the Cinese do it). So Khadaffi’s dream of Pan-Africa is squashed; and the “Zionist Deployment” blocks access-to-Africa, by the Asian Group, via the narrow “Middle East Isthmus”(so much for the big scary Zionista Plot). Meanwhile the RoundTable Group (Cecil Rhodes, Milner, et al) finally secures USA for the British Empire (now discretely named The Commonwealth), and is dragged back into the fold…securing for the English-speaking Tribe two Continents (Anglo-America and Australia) and two Island Groups (U.K. and New Zealand). Ibero-America will be kept for The Commonwealth as somewhat of a resource bank, but mainly to deny access to PanEuropa/Africa, and the Asian Group. TransPacifica will be “danced around” by The Commonwealth and The Asian Group. So that’s The Plan that would-be Emperors are working on, replete with endless Border Wars to keep the serfs pre-occupied.

    • Brad Owen
      March 19, 2016 at 19:49

      It is of paramount importance , to defeat The Plan of the Oligarchy and secure a peaceful developing World, for the Russian Federation and the USA to become stalwart allies and continue to pander to the Chinese “Win-Win” policies of Silk Road/World Land Bridge. The Chinese are now de facto Dirigists of Dr. Sun Yat Sen; no longer Fascist/Communist of the Chaing Kai Shek/Mao Tse Tung dichotomy. So are the Russians. Soon, we will be Dirigist too, when New Deal policies are re-instituted to bring an end to Great Depression II that we’ve been suffering for eight years now… And FDR’s vision will be realized, via the cooperation of the three Great Republics.

    • Shelia
      March 20, 2016 at 04:27

      Bravo, Brad Owen. You have read the history of the British Empire and Lord Milner with Carroll Quigley’s “Anglo-American Establishment” and “Triumph and Tragedy.” It was the Round Table Group that established the Foreign Affairs clubs in the US and Canada to bring back the US into the British fold via the “English speaker peoples.” Since the Civil War did not achieve their goals, this was the British Plan B. Meanwhile, the Tory press mad sure that the US and Russia were separated via articles on Siberia, ignoring prison conditions in the western US ant the time. Amazing work, but not surprising, from an empire that had survived so long. Also, WWI took out the British rivals, Russia and Germany. It also gave us Hitler and a total of 100 million dead, 27 million of which were in Russia in WWII. It is no wonder that the Russians have no use for opponents on their borders. Constant invasions do that to you.

      • Brad Owen
        March 21, 2016 at 04:28

        Yeah, it leaves me numb, almost willing to turn my back on these web sites…but it’s hard to stop watching an on-going train wreck. The USA’s historic mission (for the English-speaking Tribe at the very least) was to supplant Imperial Oligarchy with republican Democracy, and “unfettered” Capitalism (controlled my the Imperial Oligarchy) with the American System of dirigist political economy. This Mission is completely defeated…and now comes the Collapse of epic proportions, 5th century Roman Empire-style, of the entire Trans-Atlantic System (Empire) as built by The City and The Street. This greatly impacts both Domains of the Round Table Group, and the SME Group. Our one chance to save the humanity of PanEuropa and The CommonWealth is for USA to reach out to Russia in strong alliance and, together, co-operate with China and Her Asian Group, in “Great Projects” (Silk Road, World Land Bridge, Space Programs that lead to developing the Solar System, etc…). The on-coming collapse is most unnerving though. Almost nobody seems to see it though…THAT is what’s unnerving.

  7. Bob
    March 19, 2016 at 08:08

    Consortium continues its tradition of one sided coverage of the issue with articles that read like Russian propaganda. The old 5 billion line which was rated “pants on fire” false by politifact and others, Taking the referendum vote without question. Highly irresponsible. Here is one real quote from an named source:

    Antonina Danchuk, 30, who lived in Simferopol and studied Greek and English at its university, described the referendum as fake. “It’s illegal,” she said. “My Crimean friends who are there are afraid to go out and build their own Maidan. They’re not voting. People with Russian passports are being allowed to vote.”

    Not that this proves anything either. I just wish we’d get more actual Crimean people who have left the country and can speak freely to straighten out this story. I don’t believe either side.

    • MG
      March 19, 2016 at 16:07

      Gallup poll with the Broadcasting Board of Governors on legitimacy of March 16 Crimean Referendum:
      “asked Crimeans if the results in the March 16, 2014 referendum to secede reflected the views of the people.
      A total of 82.8% of Crimeans said yes.
      When broken down by ethnicity,
      93.6% of ethnic Russians said they believed the vote to secede was legitimate,
      while 68.4% of Ukrainians felt so.
      Moreover, when asked if joining Russia will ultimately make life better for them and their family,
      73.9% said yes while 5.5% said no.”

      • AndJusticeForAll
        March 19, 2016 at 22:08

        MG you forgot to mention that it was done shortly after annexation and that source of news suddenly shifted from Ukrainian channels to all russian channels, bc russians start jamming Ukrainian news and overflowing news with anti-Ukrainian propaganda. The gallup poll just demonstrated how efficient is russian propaganda.

        • MG
          March 20, 2016 at 06:18

          The same Gallup poll says:
          “«Crimeans Say Loss Of Ukrainian TV Channels Had No Effect»
          Fewer than two in 10 respondents in Crimea (19%) said that the cessation of broadcasting of some Ukrainian TV channels changed their news gathering habits.”

          If you consider that other people dumb and so much affected by TV, may I ask what kind of TV are you watching?

    • David Smith
      March 20, 2016 at 11:27

      Bob, if that is your name, I agree with your confession that your comment doesn’t prove anything, but you do loudly assert the referendum was “fake”. Unfortunately for everyone, it is the fallacy of tortured argumentation that won’t go away, and like asserting ” global warming is a hoax”, rests firmly on ignorance, in your case ignorance of history. Seven months before Ukraine declared independence, a referendum in Crimea reaffirmed its status as an Autonomous Region within the Soviet Union. This alone renders the assertion “Crimea was part of the Ukraine” invalid, and calls into question the legality of Ukraine taking Crimea with it into independence from the USSR. It does give one a clear idea of the general will of the population of Crimea. Post-1991, the history is complex, a 1992 Crimean constitution declaring Crimea an Autonomous Republic, the Ukrainian government unilaterally declaring the Crimean Constitution void, even an attempt at direct rule by decree by the Ukrainian President. Clearly, the present status of Crimea has been a long time coming and reflects the post-1991 historical trend, constant reassertion of Crimean Autonomy and constant attempts by Ukraine to void previous agreements, finally catalyzed by the Maidan Episode, and is a return to a historical stasis disrupted by Nikita Kruschev(sp) circa 1954.

      • AndJusticeForAll
        March 21, 2016 at 22:51

        David, you so desperately trying to disprove that fake was not fake like your life depends on this. what is in it for you?

        • David Smith
          March 24, 2016 at 09:03

          Ad hominem fallacy.

  8. AndJusticeForAll
    March 18, 2016 at 23:57

    Lets summarize. Nuland with Yats with support of a few hundred right sector ultras with wooden shields and a few invisible CIA agents conceived and utilized within a month flawless coup with only evidence of a phone call and hundreds casualties from right sector and overthrown legitimate president and government. The president and government were totally cooperating with Russian FSB for years, had thousands of police forces and criminal elements under their wing with several hundreds AK’s on hands, controlled communication lines and mass media, had Russian intelligence guiding them and troops on the boarder ready to intervene.

    However, as we know now. It took russians roughly 25000 troops and 500 hundred fully armed special forces, hundreds of armed vehicles, entire Black Sea Fleet, years of monitoring, planing and preparations to annex peninsula with only a few thousand Ukrainian troops that did not know what the heck is going in on. And Putin said he start reacting only on Feb 23d.

    Is this really what all of you believe?

    • March 19, 2016 at 05:10

      Well, let’s not forget the little matter of Victoria Nuland’s boast of the U.S. having poured $5 billion into the Ukraine to finance pro-Western opposition groups in the10 years leading up to the coup. The U.S. has channeled, and is channeling, U.S. taxpayers’ money to sow the seeds of unrest in a huge swath of former Soviet republics. The fact the corporate media doesn’t report this is probably why you haven’t heard about it. Perhaps you might be a little less complacent about your hard-earned income being squandered in this way if Russia had been doing the same in Canada and Mexico.

      Oh, I forgot, no need for Russia to undermine democracy in Mexico, the U.S. is already making a fine mess of things there too.

      • AndJusticeForAll
        March 19, 2016 at 08:18

        Bryan you are mistaken and let me demonstrate you how budget of $500 millions per year buys you almost nothing in Ukraine in terms of politics. Lets look at corruption level in Ukraine. For last several years. A head of local district transport police in regional center city like Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa, Donetsk was collecting at least $100,000 per month in bribes to send up the chain in Kyiv. Say in those cities there are like 5 districts. Lets get top 10 cities. We are getting $5 millions per month and around 60 millions per year. This is only a crude estimate of transport police. Look in their news almost every other day new police discovers conversion centers laundering at least $100,000. Sons of Yanukovich and Pshonka were collecting in bribes millions per day. You add custom, IRS, medical, banks and you easy swallow Nulands $500 millions in bribes and achieve nothing, money just disappear. You said about opposition groups. Look who is in parliament, the same faces that were there more then 10 years. Svoboda did not even get there. What is the right sector? couple of hundred of people marching around. So after 10 years of investment in opposition groups there are no groups, no mass media that is totally biased pro-western. Where are all those money?

        At the same time look what russia was doing. I can see their investments. RT, lifenews, annanews, zillions of network groups in vkontakte, sponsoring left and right wings in Europe, conducting conferences of neo-nazi in St Peterburg on regular basis, Dugin pure fascist is going time to time to EU at those meetings and was consulting Putin sometime ago. Markin (Rodina), Tsarev (Party of Regions) are in Moscow. Entire communist party of Ukraine was supported and guided by FSB. I can see where they put their money.

        Efremov was holding Lugansk region in his packet or at least he thought so. Where is he now? Hiding in Kyiv with junta. Where is Akhmetov sponsor of Party of Region? He is in Zaporozhya. The entire governing body of Party of Regions change the name to Opposition Block and moved out of so called rebellion region. Were they suppose to lead anti junta movement? A bunch of so called separatists at leading positions in Special Regions of Dontesk and Lugansk Districts (ORDILO) sent their kids to Kyiv to live among the junta and right sector. Do you see how ridiculous the myth about junta is? And this article is once more asking you to chew the same old gum that was aired by RT and lifenews since 2014 over and over and over.

        • David Smith
          March 20, 2016 at 13:04

          You lost Crimea, you are about to lose Donesk/Lugansk. The efficacy of Ukrainian incoherance is impressive.

  9. historicus
    March 18, 2016 at 23:07

    It might be good to have a little historical perspective as well. The Crimea was occupied by British troops for almost two decades, following the Crimean War, in which former bitter adversaries Britain and France flexed their military might together for the first time, selecting a weaker neighbor to attack on the flimsiest of provocations.

    In so doing they laid down the pattern for the terrible German wars to come in the next century.

  10. David Smith
    March 18, 2016 at 22:33

    The statement, repeated several times, in this article that “Russia annexed Crimea” is absolutely false. Crimea was severed(a precise term) by the Russian SSR and attached to the Ukrainian SSR in the status of an Autonomous Region. Under international law an Autonomous Region within a sovereign state may choose to secede and declare itself a sovereign state. IMO, if it can declare independence, it can also choose to join another sovereign state, but that is a question for an expert in international law, as I am not aware of any precedents. It should be noted that the Crimean Rada(legislature) voted in 2008 to secede from the Ukraine. I am merely a layman, so I am unfamiliar with established procedure for an Autonomous Region to secede, but it must require a referendum, as this is what happened in 2014. I have looked, and cannot find any objections by experts on international law regarding the Crimean Autonomous Region’s secession. I am perplexed that a former CIA officer would misspeak himself on this absolutely critical issue, as “to annex” is a very short step from “to invade”.

    • AndJusticeForAll
      March 22, 2016 at 07:26

      David, you are may be coherent, but your lack of basic jurisprudence lead you to a maze from which you cannot get out. I will help you. A mere word accuracy is not a major decisive factor. When case is in court judge will consider all provided substantial evidence and will be conducting multiple tests to characterize not only events, level of damage and responsibilities of involved parties, but conduct, intentions and capabilities. Collection of evidence has begun.

      • David Smith
        March 24, 2016 at 09:33

        AJFA, the subject of my comment was the status of an Autonomous Region under International Law. Stick to the topic, or stay off the thread. Your comments are a mass of Fallacies of Informal Argument, and your incoherent statements fail, absurdly, to rise to the level of Unsound Propositions.

        • AndJusticeForAll
          March 28, 2016 at 21:04

          Your statements are irrelevant and have mistakes in defining the status of Crimea. They are irrelevant because on February 27 2014 Ukraine was recognized internationally within its borders including Crimea. Particularly it was recognized by Russia when they signed Common Wealth Agreement, Budapest Memorandum in 1994, Agreement of friendship, collaboration and partnership in 1997 and extended in 2010. All these agreements superseded anything what happened in 1954, 1991 or invented by you in 2008. So, status of Crimea was undisputably territory of Ukraine and covered by Ukrainian Constitution. It was undisputable, because there was no any on going trial in international courts regarding the status of Crimea. Why is the date important, because on February 27 2014 Russia has began conducting military operation on the territory of Ukraine resulting in annexation of Crimea on March 18 2014. It was a military aggression as defined in the resolution 3314 (XXIX) of UN General Assembly, December 14 1974. Russia is a member of UN and thus is bound by it. Conduct of russian troops included blocking Ukrainian military bases, airports and water line by military ships. Any territorial gain is not valid.

    • VJ
      March 24, 2016 at 20:30

      ===Under international law an Autonomous Region within a sovereign state may choose to secede

      This is a stupid lie.

      • Pixy
        March 30, 2016 at 09:21

        No, it’s not.

  11. Regina Schulte
    March 18, 2016 at 21:41

    Thank you, Mr. McGovern, and God bless you for “telling it like it is” for us. I am not naive about the sneaky and underhanded ways our government goes about working its will in other nations. Hence, I’ve read with a very cynical eye all the reportage concerning this affair.
    Your report is for me the most transparent and believable narrative of events and description of the situation. I feel that I now know the truth.

  12. Vierotchka
    March 18, 2016 at 20:26

    Since it was not an initiative by Russia but a decision of the Crimean population, and not really an annexation, Russia did not violate its pledge in the 1994 Budapest agreement, in my opinion.

  13. Erik
    March 18, 2016 at 19:50

    The US push to make trouble on the borders of Russia should motivate Russia to seek military alliances on the doorstep of the US, explicitly attributing this to the US right wing provocations on their doorstep. This would teach the US about the foolishness of allowing its right wing to provoke foreign wars so as to pose as protectors, a lesson of great value to the US.

    • dahoit
      March 19, 2016 at 12:55

      Could you imagine the uproar from the MSM serial liars if Russia tried what we do in Canada or Mexico?
      The media are our enemy.

      • VJ
        March 24, 2016 at 20:27

        ===what we do in Canada or Mexico?

        builded the factories?

  14. incontinent reader
    March 18, 2016 at 19:48

    Superb article.

  15. R. Millis
    March 18, 2016 at 18:47

    Unlike the savvy Russians, there is no society anywhere in the world more dumbed-down than the American culture. It’s estimated that about 90% of all Americans don’t have a clue about what their government/corporatists/military institutions are doing to others.

    Just to show you the level of geo-political/financial illiteracy, follow American trends: social justice for minorities (meaning they do NOT recognize how the 1% has caused intense poverty, unemployment, and the inability to pay for a university education), victimization mentalities and clustering themselves into little like-minded cellphone friends & relatives.

    As a result, American military/financial hegemony can do whatever they please.

    • RPDC
      March 20, 2016 at 19:42

      It’s greater than 90%. I’d guess that more people in the US are fluent in 3+ languages than US foreign policy.

  16. Joe L.
    March 18, 2016 at 18:45

    Ray, well I view the annexation of Crimea as a consequence of broken promises to Russia by NATO made during the reunification of Germany – as Der Spiegel reported (NATO’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?). In that article it is clear in declassified British and German documents that NATO did indeed promise not to expand eastward of Germany:

    On Feb. 10, 1990, between 4 and 6:30 p.m., Genscher spoke with Shevardnadze. According to the German record of the conversation, which was only recently declassified, Genscher said: “We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.” And because the conversion revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: “As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.”

    And yes Russia did break the Budapest Memorandum but to me it is also clear some of the signatories also broke their promises to Russia (US & Britain being the driving forces behind NATO). The US backed coup in Ukraine was just one step too far and, as you have rightly pointed out, threatened the national security of Russia, as it would have done to any state (Cuban Missile Crisis comes to mind). I just think what happened in Ukraine was one of the most “un-democratic” things that I have seen in my life and the US’ fingerprints are all over this disaster (USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, US Politicians etc.). I also find it unbelievable seeing that Ukraine is using Nazis and Islamists to fight the war in Eastern Ukraine, that is not going to turn out well – Mujahideen anyone? If the Ukrainian people had, in early elections as had been agreed upon, voted Yanukovych out of power – then all the power to them. Then if all of Ukraine had a referendum to join the EU, again all the power to them. But that is not what happened. I remember doing some quick reading on the coup that the CIA pulled off in Iran in 1953 (Operation AJAX) and I believe again there were actual protesters in the streets against Mossadegh but the CIA, I think Kermit, paid off some protesters and opposition government officials and we ended up with a coup. Also, I don’t find the notion of a coup in Ukraine far-fetched when another coup, pulled off by a graduate of the School of the Americas (now WHINSEC) located in Fort Benning, Georgia USA, occurred in Honduras in 2009 (along with USAID, NED, and others trying to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela in 2002). I just shake my head when I think of all of this underhandedness, that is not the world that I want to live in.

    • Joe L.
      March 18, 2016 at 19:05

      One other point that I find interesting about the Crimea story is that at the time I just remember almost all of western MSM were reporting that Crimeans were voting at gunpoint and the reported 82% voter turnout with 96% of them voting to rejoin Russia was completely dismissed. Then a year later or more we have Gallup, GFK and Pew Research polls, all trusted western polling services, basically in their information supporting the initial numbers that were reported. This also shows, as people keep screaming about Russian propaganda, how much propaganda our own news agencies are spewing.

      • VJ
        March 24, 2016 at 20:25

        I wonder how many prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp voted in the survey that they are fully supporting Hitler?

        • Pixy
          March 30, 2016 at 09:18

          Well, why don’t you go to Crimea and ask poor oppressed Crimeans yourself? You are in for a surprise.

    • Fran
      March 21, 2016 at 13:22

      I agree totally with this response and wish that more Americans were watching our state department and the policies that are being driven by the neo-con think tanks rather than by interest in the true circumstances that are behind conflict in this global community.I for one am tired of being lied to and tired of seeing what military might of the USA is inflicting on the world in our name.

  17. ltr
    March 18, 2016 at 17:30

    Thank you so much for this essay. The remark on supposed Russian caused casualties in Crimea by a Washington professor were astonishingly and inexcusably ignorant.

    • dahoit
      March 19, 2016 at 13:03

      Americans are the most out of touch with reality nation in this world,dumbed down by the zionist msm.
      Their agenda is Israel,not US,and the wealth that eternal war brings.
      Plain as day.

  18. Abbybwood
    March 18, 2016 at 17:15

    U.S. pledges to keep up sanctions against Russia until Russia returns Crimea:

  19. Bob Van Noy
    March 18, 2016 at 16:55

    As always, thank you Ray McGovern. I remember watching the Olympic coverage in Sochi and being stunned by the negative on air commentary about Russia and wondering what it was about. I found my go to guy on Russia, Stephen Cohen who was saying similar things as you have said here. At the time I remember thinking, unbelievable that the Obama administration would allow such negative diplomatic talk, but I have since learned that it was simply more of the same.
    As Hillary’s term at State becomes more apparent, its clear that she thinks as a neocon, approves of all of this Empire rubbish, and that, heartbreakingly, the good ole US is still up to its regime changing tricks. Both Hillary and Donald Trump are unacceptable candidates, so what’s next?

    Too, last week i read this from Sergey Lavrov about Russian History and his approach to the world and it made complete sense to me…

  20. Tom Welsh
    March 18, 2016 at 16:32

    “Yet, the Obama administration continues to decry the political reunion between Crimea and Russia, a relationship that dates back to the Eighteenth Century”.

    Precisely, 1784. The year when the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War, was ratified. It would be another four years before the US Constitution was ratified. Crimea has been part of Russia since before the USA existed.

  21. Eric Petersen
    March 18, 2016 at 16:12

    In 1989, Secretary Baker – and Helmut Kohl – both assured Gorby that if the Warsaw Pact was dissolved “NATO would not move one inch eastward.” (Since NATO was formed to counter any threat from the Soviet Union, and said union disappeared a few years later, NATO should have been disbanded – didn’t happen, it just started its march eastward.) The Budapest agreement wasn’t a treaty, rather a political understanding, and politics change. Ukraine remains a total financial basket case with Right Sector and other lovely fascist groups gaining power.

    • MG
      March 18, 2016 at 16:58

      Noam Chomsky commented on secretary Baker and Helmut Kohl with Gorby “verbal” agreement: “If you dumb enough to accept verbal gentlemen’s agreement with United States, it is your problem” – 04:20

  22. AndJusticeForAll
    March 18, 2016 at 15:34

    I am not aware was the date 02.22.2014 set by Nuland or Yats? And who put date 20.02.2014 on medal for Crimea Nuland?

  23. Airbrush2020
    March 18, 2016 at 15:10

    Very good article. When I look at controversial issues, I ask myself “how would I feel?” or “what would I do if I were in the other side’s shoes?”. With respect to Ukraine…if the majority of western Ukrainians want a pro-european government (and Yanukovich was working against their aspirations) then I applaud them for opposing the status-quo. With respect to Donesk…I understand their proclivity toward Russia and dissatisfaction with the coup. I applaud their back-bone to stand up for their rights. I don’t think I would appreciate Ukrainian tanks and troops shooting in my direction. Bottom line: Eastern and Western Ukraine have different views and aspirations and are pulling in opposite directions (so they should separate). With respect to Crimea: I would have done exactly what Putin did.

    The Solution? Ukraine should grant Donesk full independence to include land stretching down to Crimea. In return, Ukraine would receive the western 50% of Crimea back from Russia. Ukraine and New Ukraine would establish treaties regarding trade, travel, and political recognition. Then, they would shake hands and become good friends again.

    • AndJusticeForAll
      March 18, 2016 at 16:21

      how about this. Some neighbor mobsters get into your house and occupy say kitchen and drive way because they are scared that some other mobsters from other part of town will get your porch next to them. You defend yourself against them with a kitchen knife. Then a bigger mobster shows up with a machete and pushes you to a living room. Then they tell you they want your backyard too, because it was some time ago part of their property, but then was sold and added to your property. You agree to give them living room instead in return of 50% of your driveway. Your daughter kind of liked one of mobsters and stays with them to party and your son will be kind of hostage in their house just in case you go to other mobsters to talk. And the mobsters will be telling everybody around that you planned to get their porch and they did not have a choice, but to intervene. And if you want heat upstairs you have to pay them 5 times more than the real price. Smile and be friends with them.

      • MG
        March 18, 2016 at 17:15

        Well, if you try to brandish Wolfsangel in front of your home, don’t be surprised that your neighbors take precautions…

        • VJ
          March 24, 2016 at 20:16

          Russia can occupy Alaska because American Nazi Party exists in the US?

      • dahoit
        March 19, 2016 at 12:49

        Sold Crimea?No a gift from Krushchev?,a Ukrainian.
        A different story altogether.

      • David Smith
        March 20, 2016 at 13:40

        AJFA, are you suggesting Russia quintupled(5X) the price of natural gas to Ukraine? Given your verbose incoherance, I have to ask, although your succinct incoherance is equally obscure.

    • Vierotchka
      March 18, 2016 at 20:32

      The people of Crimea will never under any circumstance agree to allowing the western 50% of Crimea to go back to the Ukraine. Your suggestion/solution simply doesn’t hold water and betrays a significant understanding of the region and of Crimea.

    • JosephConrad
      March 20, 2016 at 03:52

      Ukraine is run by US funded NAZI thugs without Integrity or Honor. Isolate them in Gitmo.

      Turn the screws on Nuland’s little kingdom and starve it into submission.

  24. MG
    March 18, 2016 at 15:01

    «… pledge in the 1994 Budapest agreement — signed by Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain and the U.S. — “to respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine”…»

    In my opinion it is important to mention that at the same time there was the decision made in Clinton white house for NATO move eastward:
    “Why NATO Should Grow” by Strobe Talbott (August 10, 1995)

    which set up the chain of events, consequences of which we witness now.

    Dissenters to that policy predicted just that:
    “The Future of NATO in an Uncertain World” (self fulfilling prophecy)
    Senator Sam Nunn (June 22, 1995 — Norfolk, Virginia)

    And when it started in 1998, opinion of George Kennan – ”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war”
    May 2, 1998

    • Helen Marshall
      March 19, 2016 at 13:14

      We will be lucky if it is just a new cold war. Some of these folks are really anxious for a new hot war, which they think can be fought without affecting the US at all.

    • JosephConrad
      March 20, 2016 at 03:56

      Stop acting as if Crimea is a real issue. Americans should know better. Ukraine and Crimea and Syria are
      all about the US White Elite getting other people’s resources for nothing.

      The US must be seen as a world pariah before the 154 wars its funding and weaponizing spread to DC.

      • MG
        March 20, 2016 at 06:40

        Stop acting as if Crimea is NOT a real issue.
        When people start shooting at each other like in Donbass, be sure that issue is real as it only can be.

        From Cuba to Miami – 330 miles.
        Soviet missiles on Cuba precipitated Caribbean Crisis with nuclear weapons ready to fly.

        From Ukrainian border to Moscow – 350 miles.
        What any Russian administration should consider appearance of any military alliance there any different than Kennedy administration?

        • AndJusticeForAll
          March 22, 2016 at 06:53

          MG hold your breath, NATO is already within 390 miles away from Moscow in Latvia. And I will open a secret to you, Ukraine will not be part of NATO for a while do not be scared for poor russians. They have Kalinigrad from which they can cover with Topol a good portion of Europe.

          • MG
            March 22, 2016 at 10:44

            Still does not answer why Russia should behave differently than Kennedy administration.

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