Speaking to Russia’s Slon.ru online newspaper, 81-year-old former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev praised Russian President Vladimir’s March 1 takeover of Crimea. Considered by the U.S. and European Union as an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Gorbachev called the annexation a “happy event,” suggesting Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev should have never given Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. Gorbachev praised democracy-in-action, allowing Crimea to pick Russia, not Ukraine, as their host country. Saying the March 17 independence referendum in Crimea “people really wanted to return to Russia,” Gorbachev showed that no matter how reform-minded, while presiding over the 1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union, he misunderstands the meaning of democracy. Like Putin, Gorbachev regrets the Soviet Union disbanded under his watch.
Annexing Crimea March 17, Putin sent a loud signal to the U.S., EU and especially NATO that Russian wouldn’t be deterred by idle threats from the West. Watching the U.S. and EU-backed revolution Feb. 22 while hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics, Putin made his move annexing Crimea only eight days after the closing ceremony. Putin was incensed watching NBC’s be-speckled Sochi anchor Bob Costas deviate from his sports script to denounce Putin’s repression in Russia. “While Crimea had previously been joined to Ukraine based on the Soviet laws, which means [Communist] party laws, without asking the people, not the people themselves have decided to correct than mistake,” said Gorbachev, wholeheartedly backing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Gorbachev sees nothing wrong with letting Crimeans decide their own fate.
Sovereign countries, even the U.S., are sometimes confronted with secessionist movements. If a poll were take today in Texas, it’s possible residents would vote of secede from Washington, knowing, of course, that it violates the federal constitution. Suggesting that, “this should be celebrated and not sanctioned,” Gorbachev ignores the rights Ukraine’s federal government to maintain it’s territorial integrity without some group, faction or area deciding they want independence. Putin’s move in Crimea had more to do with his authoritarian nature than any attempt to grant Crimeans their democratic wishes. With Kiev falling to an anti-Russian regime, Putin annexed Crimea, much the same way Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 “Six Day War,” as a buffer zone. Unable to assure the safety of Russia’s Black Sea navy base in Sevastopol, Putin seized Crimea.
Russia’s propaganda network RT harks back to promise made by former President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State James Baker before the collapse of the Soviet Union. “NATO is not to move one inch East,” Gorbachev told Baker in 1991. “I agree completely,” acknowledged Baker, signaling that the U.S. would not try to woo former Soviet republics into NATO’s orbit. British writer and scholar Tariq Ali insists that Western leaders don’t like strong Russian leaders like Putin. “When they [the West] get a leader in Russia who challenges them on three or four key issues such as the expansion of NATO, what they are up to in Syria, sanctions on Iran—then this particular leader has to be punished . . . “ said Ali, referring to Putin. Since seizing Crimea March 1, Putin doesn’t like when the U.S., EU or NATO, apply economic and travel restrictions to express their displeasure.
Russia’s RT insists that the West has only one maniacal goal: To seize control of former Soviet satellites. “There are not principles as such, the only principle for the West is to do what we ask you to do or not, if you do—fine. If you don’t—we punish you,” Ali told the Russia’s RT propaganda network Putin warns that if the U.S. or EU push former Soviet states to join NATO, the Kremlin would order the Russian Army to invade Eastern Ukraine. “It was as Cold War institution. After the end of the Cold Wars it [NATO] should have been disbanded like the Warsaw Pact,” insisted Ali, proving that NATO continues to have a role in constraining Russian expansion. Letting NATO influence deteriorate has given Putin license to do as he wishes in the former Soviet republics. If NATO were stronger, Putin would have thought twice about seizing Crimea in broad daylight.
Seizing Crimea, Putin proved that NATO’s no match for the Russian Army in the former Soviet republics. While praised by Gorbachev, Russia now faces economic and travel sanctions, not because the West seeks to punish Moscow but precisely because Putin violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Calling NATO a “military arm of the U.S. and EU carrying out actions checked by these governments in the name of the so-called international community,” RT gives the full Russian propaganda message. When you examine the facts, Russia invaded a sovereign country and now faces the consequences. Putin wants to believe he speaks for the “international community,” but only speaks for Russia’s self-interest. Whether NATO’s controlled by the U.S. or not, seizing sovereign states get the U.N.’s attention. Russia, not the U.S. or EU, must face the music.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.